- Kirk Bohls American-Statesman Staff
While I got ya, here are nine things and one crazy prediction:
1. Central Florida belongs. It’s downright criminal the 13-0 Knights were penalized for being in the American Athletic Conference and denied a chance at a national championship. It flies in the face of democracy and apple pie. Shouldn’t all 130 FBS teams deserve an equal opportunity to win the big prize? In the current format, a Group of 5 school has zero chance to get in the Final Four. The CFP selection committee ranked UCF a lowly 12th — I had the Knights sixth in my final regular-season AP vote. So college football must expand to an eight-team playoff. Six would be an improvement (with two byes in the first round for the best two teams), but eight’s better without diminishing the regular season at all. Do it, college football. Additionally, UCF pulled this off just two years after an 0-12 season and did it with a head coach distracted by a new job. I’ll be shocked if Nebraska doesn’t become nationally relevant in the next two years.
2. Lincoln Riley deserves tremendous props for leading Oklahoma to the CFP semifinals in his first season. Super job. However, he clearly should have kicked the ball deep with that 17-point lead instead of the botched squib kick that led to a 55-yard field goal before halftime and big-time Georgia momentum. He also didn’t distinguish with his play-calling in overtime when he didn’t maximize Baker Mayfield’s talents. I thought Mayfield played well, much better than Alabama’s Jalen Hurts and Clemson’s Kelly Bryant, who regularly had bad reads and didn’t see open receivers. I’m fine with Mayfield as a first-round pick because of his accuracy, moxie, leadership, mobility and ability to extend plays and throw on the move. … Nick Saban pooh-poohed the idea that he owns his former assistants even though he’s 11-0 against them. “Most of those guys were going to rebuild programs,” he told us Tuesday. “If they had our team, they’d probably have beaten us.”
3. I’m going to miss Malik Jefferson the person more than I’m going to miss Malik Jefferson the linebacker. He never quite became the second coming of Tommy Nobis — the late Longhorns great who for many of us will always be the face of Texas football — and was miscast as a middle linebacker, but he’s a stand-up guy who never shirked from responsibility or accountability. I predict he’ll have a fantastic NFL career and become the next Derrick Johnson, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him go into politics or public service of some kind after his athletic career ends.
4. Texas wide receivers had a bad year, and that’s on assistant coach Drew Mehringer. They did a terrible job of getting open for their quarterbacks after plays broke down. … Tom Herman must fix the offensive line and probably needs to move the overmatched Zach Shackelford out of center. Patrick Vahe should be tried there.
5. Wow, is Saquon Barkley ever good. I think he’s the best running back to enter the league since Adrian Peterson. Interesting that Penn State first looked at recruiting quarterback Trace McSorley as a safety, so it happens everywhere. McSorley should be a Heisman favorite in 2018.
6. Going to miss Iowa State linebacker/quarterback Joel Lanning, who I think epitomized college football in its purest form. I was thrilled that our Football Writers Association of America put the senior on our first-team All-American team. … The Big 12 represented itself well with a 5-3 record with almost wins by Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Only West Virginia did not play well. … TCU’s Gary Patterson proved once again how good a coach he is with another comeback win in the Alamo Bowl. A top 10 coach nationally. … Very cool and deserving that Mack Brown was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. He won two of the most dramatic Rose Bowls ever and had a soft spot for that game since his grandfather took his then-14 year-old mother to the Georgia-UCLA Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1943, the last time the Bulldogs played there before Monday.
7. Big home game for the Texas women’s basketball team on Wednesday night against ranked Oklahoma State. Karen Aston is more than a little familiar with Cowgirls senior Loryn Goodwin, a cousin of former Longhorn and current 49ers wideout Marquise Goodwin and the Big 12’s second-leading scorer whom Aston actually signed when she was coaching North Texas. Goodwin has been at four schools, including Butler and UTSA, and has scored 1,540 career points and ranks fourth nationally with four steals a game. “Loryn is the epitome of a competitor. “It’s just in her blood,” Aston said. “I recruited her when I was at North Texas because I was trying to turn that program around, and I was looking for proven winners. She seems to find a way to be successful in whatever she does on the court or in the classroom.”
8. Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to Longhorns basketball player Tyrone Branyan.
9. Loved “Darkest Hour” and think Gary Oldman should be the leading candidate to win the Academy Award for best actor along with Frances McDormand as best actress in her film. Gave “Darkest Hour” 8 1/2 ducks. The line of the movie came when the King of England over lunch asked Winston Churchill how he managed to drink during the day. Replied Churchill, “Practice.” Ben Mendelsohn, star of the “Bloodline” series, did a masterful job as the king and may be the most under-rated actor today. This movie proves politicians should never underestimate the courage of a nation united, and they should ride public transportation to work. … Gave “The Shape of Water,” a very creative movie, 8 ducks. Movie friend Pat Jones and I agree movie trailers reveal too much plot and rob much of the anticipation. My top five movies of the year, in order, were “Big Sick,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Mo.”; “Darkest Hour;” “Get Out;” and “Lady Bird.”
10. Crazy prediction: Mayfield will be drafted by the Chargers or Saints in the first two rounds.