ONE PLAYER: Trae (Trey) Young
As the Crimson and Cream Machine Twitter handle suggests as of January 2, Oklahoma is a basketball school until further notice because Sooner super frosh Trae Young is playing the game on a plane that does not exist in the reality we inhabit as mere mortals stuck in these frail earth-bound bodies. Young sees the game in a manner that is as desperately difficult to replicate as it is breathtakingly brilliant to behold. Just to remind the folks in Stillwater who runs this state, Young put up a near triple-double with 27 points, 10 dimes and nine boards in 33 minutes.
When Young shoots, it is not the net we watch. It is the orange arc of the ball as it leaves the Elder Wand that is his hand. Enchanted, spinning, spellbound—the ball sails, hangs, splashes through nylon that calls it home.
When Young runs the fast break, we are reminded that it is the symbol of the Winged Goddess Nike that adorns his uniform. A goddess of victory, sister to the gods Kratos (Power), Bia (Force) and Zelus (Zeal)—Young combines them all to arrive at a kind of excellence we feel fortunate to witness. To watch this teenager—yes, still just 19—play this game is to be reminded of what we, as human beings, are capable of.
To watch him play as a Sooner fan, is to be reminded how fortunate we are. For as he plays this game with the name of our state across his chest, he is the stand-in for us, fam. He shows the world what we might contribute to it, and we are both humbled and buoyed by that knowledge. He is not long for our colors, though. He’s the biggest story in basketball this year, and he has only so many games left at Lloyd Noble. I, for one, will watch them all.
ONE STAT: 87
The Oklahoma Sooners football program had won 87 straight games when it established a 17-point lead in any game, at any time. That streak ended Monday in the most dramatic College Football Playoff semifinal since its inception in 2014, and the first double-overtime game in Rose Bowl history.
To add insult to misery, this means the Georgia Bulldogs pulled off the biggest comeback in Rose Bowl history against Oklahoma, fam. The Sooners had gone 61-4 when scoring at least 24 points in the first half of games over the last decade prior to Monday.
To be sure, there were some high-points during the game—particularly when OU was up 31-17 at the half. (Never squib kick again, Lincoln.) Heisman winner Baker Mayfield broke Heisman winner Sam Bradford’s record (4,767) for total offense in season (4,938), and running back Rodney Anderson rushed for over 200 yards against a Bulldog defense that had only allowed two 100-yard rushers all season. But this game was lost because of conservative–even some times cute—play-calling in the second half, and an embarrassing showing by the Sooners defense, which leads me to this:
ONE COACH: FIRE Mike Stoops!
Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops insisted on using 3-man fronts in a scheme some people call a 3-4 defense; some call a 3-3-5 defense and what I call a TRAAAAASH! The Sooners gave up over 500 yards of offense, and over 300 yards rushing to a Georgia team that made no secret of its intention to run right into the teeth of Stoops’ front seven (and sometimes front eight).
Even when Stoops chose to load the box with eight men, though, UGA’s offensive line put on its big boy britches and cleared the way for running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb to run over the Sooner defensive line and linebackers like a lawnmower over artificial turf, fam. Michel and Chubb carried the ball a combined 25 times for 326 yards—13 yards per carry.
It was painful to watch.
UGA came out in information sets, saw Stoops put three men on the line of scrimmage and then checked to a run where Michel or Chubb careered into the second level and dragged defenders along like wedding car cans on Sooner Road.
Into the third quarter, the question became why did UGA throw the ball at all? Yes, Chubb broke about 9,326 tackles during the game, and the Sooners had three opportunities to wrap Chubb up and put him on the floor during his 50-yard score with 12 minutes and change left in the third.
But an OU defense getting skull-dragged isn’t new with Stoops. In fact, it’s six years old and coming up on first grade.
For the last half-dozen years, we’ve seen Stoops get outcoached. For the last three years, we’ve seen Mayfield become the defensive coordinator by outscoring other teams. And now, it seems, we’re stuck with Stoops for a seventh year after Lincoln Riley gave Stoops a vote of confidence Wednesday morning, according to OUDiehards.com
“Mike is a really good coach. I have a lot of confidence in him, as I do our whole staff,” Riley said. “To do what this staff and this program did this year with all the changes and all that, it’s unprecedented. People better remember that, too.”
No, Lincoln, it ain’t unprecedented, fam.
Getting mollywhopped in the biggest game of the season is no longer unprecedented at Oklahoma. We got beat in the national title game in January 2004. We got beat in the national title game in January 2005. We got beat in the national title game in January 2009. We’ve gotten beat in the semifinal twice in four years, and it ain’t because we can’t score. It’s because we have to outscore. Scoreboard says Georgia 54, Oklahoma 48, Lincoln. At the University of Oklahoma, 48 points ought to win you a football game—unless your defensive coordinator is Mike Stoops.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT:
The Central Florida Knights have gotten the shaft. They had every right to be in this College Football Playoff—more of a right than Alabama. After all, UCF at least won its conference title. But, more to the point, the Knights beat an Auburn team that beat both teams (Alabama and Georgia) who will play for the 2017 national title. This means Knights fans will (rightfully or wrongly) call themselves national champs because of that fact alone.
Yes, strength of schedule matters, and I’m not going to even pretend the American Athletic Conference is as tough to win in as the Southeastern Conference, Big 12 or Big Ten. Though UCF would probably Deebo the Pac-12 champs.
If nothing else, UCF has demonstrated for the weakness of a four-team playoff. The playoff needs to expand to eight teams. Put the five power conference champs, the best group-of-5 champs and two at-large bids (to shut Notre Dame fans up) into a tournament, and let’s get after it.
All 130 teams deserve a shot at the national title, especially if those teams are undefeated. Yes, you can only play the teams on your schedule. Well, let’s fix that. Put UCF on Alabama’s schedule in an eight-team playoff, and let’s scrap, fam.