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Oklahoma State football has reached a status that not too many programs achieve.
The Cowboys are disappointed with a mere Fiesta Bowl.
OSU’s 21-16 loss to Baylor in the Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday – determined on the penultimate play, when Baylor safety Jairon McVea ran down OSU tailback Dezmon Jackson, whose dive for the end zone came up a couple of inches short -- knocked the Cowboys out of College Football Playoff contention.
But the consolation prize was quite cool. A Fiesta Bowl date against Notre Dame, on New Year’s Day.
The Monday ScissorTales look at the Alabama-Michigan debate and check in with Baylor coach Dave Aranda, whose Bears won the Big 12. But we start with the Fiesta Bowl.
OSU has played the likes of Alabama and Ohio State in bowl games during the 2000s, but both came in seasons when the Crimson Tide and the Buckeyes were disappointments. Bama in 2006 went 6-6, then lost 34-31 to OSU in the Independence Bowl. Ohio State in 2004 went 7-4, then beat the Cowboys 33-7 in the Alamo Bowl.
'This is a barometer game for us': Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees impressed with OSU defense
That is not the story of 2021 Notre Dame.
The 11-1 Fighting Irish were ranked fifth by the playoff selection committee.
In fact, the loss to Baylor could have been a blessing in disguise for OSU. Alabama’s upset of Georgia in the Southeastern Conference title game meant both teams were ranked in the committee’s top four. Michigan was a virtual lock to make the playoff.
So if the Cowboys had beaten Baylor, if Jackson had found a few more inches and reached the end zone, an OSU-Cincinnati debate would have ensued.
The Bearcats are 13-0 and have a road win at Notre Dame.
OSU would have been 12-1 and would have had two victories over Baylor and a Bedlam win over now-16th-ranked OU.
Which team would have gotten the nod. Many believe Cincinnati. I sort of think OSU would have gotten the call. But we’ll never know.
Had Cincinnati been ranked fourth with OSU at No. 5, the Cowboys would have been placed in the Sugar Bowl, against Ole Miss. Nice game. Solid matchup. But been there, done that. The Rebels beat the Cowboys in the Sugar Bowl after the 2015 season.
Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl is a much spicier matchup.
“They'll be excited about playing Notre Dame,” Mike Gundy said of his squad. “I know all of us are, and it will be cool for our fans. And we should have a lot of fans out in Phoenix and Glendale (home of State Farm Stadium). In a matchup like this, with the No. 5 and No. 9 ranked team in the country in a big-time bowl like the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, I expect that we'll have lots of orange out there.”
OSU and Notre Dame never have met. A school like Notre Dame prides itself on playing a national schedule and meeting opponents of all ilk.
“You know, it's not a conference that we play a whole lot,” Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees said of the Big 12. The Fighting Irish in the 2000s have played nine games against Big 12 teams – they split series with Texas A&M in 2000-01, OU in 2012-13 and Texas in 2015-16; lost both games of a series with Nebraska in 2000-01; and beat Iowa State in the 2019 Camping World Bowl.
“When I was a player, we got to play Oklahoma a couple of times, and those were great matchups,” Rees said. “So we're definitely excited to get this opportunity — these are what bowl games are for, right? You get to play matchups you don't typically get to play. And for us to play in this big of a game against an opponent like Oklahoma State, who's nationally in the conversation every year, we're extremely excited for that opportunity.”
Well, OSU isn’t in the national conversation every year, but the Cowboys certain have improved their profile.
“I think it's cool,” Gundy said. “It's going to bring a lot of national recognition. We have a team (opponent) that ... ended up fifth in the country. And it will draw a lot of recognition across the country because of their history. But I'm excited about Oklahoma State and the way people recognize us now coast to coast. I think it will be a heck of a football game, a great matchup.”
In some ways, better than the matchup had the Cowboys won the Big 12 title, then been bypassed for the College Football Playoff.
'I’m just excited about being back there': OSU returning to Fiesta Bowl 10 years later, gets to face Notre Dame
Alabama vs. Michigan: Which should be No. 1
The disappointing results of college football’s Championship Saturday – upset losses by OSU and Georgia – left us with Alabama in the College Football Playoff. Bummer.
But gives props to Bama. The Crimson Tide was on the brink of playoff elimination at Auburn, yet rallied for a 24-22, four-overtime victory.
The only drama Sunday in the playoff selection show was the matchups. How would the committee rank Alabama, Michigan, Georgia and Cincinnati?
Some held out hope for Michigan as a No. 1 seed, with Bama and Georgia facing off in the semifinals.
The committee went with Alabama No. 1, putting the Crimson Tide against Cincy in the Cotton Bowl and Michigan-Georgia in the Orange Bowl.
Was that the right call? How should 12-1 Alabama compare to 12-1 Michigan?
I like to simply compare résumés. How do the Wolverines stack up with the Crimson Tide?
Michigan won at Penn State. Alabama won at Auburn. The Nittany Lions finished 7-5, the Tigers finished 6-6, and Penn State beat Auburn. But the game was in State College, Pennsylvania. That’s a wash.
Michigan won at Maryland. Alabama won at Florida. Both teams finished 6-6. That’s a wash.
Michigan won at home against Ohio State. Alabama beat Georgia on a neutral field. That’s close. Slight edge to Bama.
Michigan beat Iowa on a neutral field. Alabama won at home against Ole Miss. That’s a wash.
Michigan lost at Michigan State. Alabama lost at Texas A&M. That’s close, but a slight edge to Michigan. So overall, we’re back to dead even.
Michigan won at Wisconsin. Alabama won at Mississippi State. That’s a wash.
And those are the easy comps. Here is the remaining schedule for each team, all victories.
Alabama: beat Miami on a neutral field; Tennessee, Louisiana State, Arkansas, Southern Mississippi, New Mexico State and Mercer at home.
Michigan: won at Nebraska and beat Washington, Rutgers, Indiana, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois at home.
Of those remaining schedules, Alabama played the tougher teams – and the weaker teams. Tennessee, LSU and Miami are better than anyone on the Wolverine list, and that’s without even getting to 8-4 Arkansas. But Alabama also played the three worst teams – Southern Miss was 3-9, New Mexico State was 2-10 and Mercer is Division I-AA. Forget the comparison or even the discussion. Three games like that is embarrassing for Alabama.
Michigan’s two non-Power 5 Conference opponents were Mid-American Conference teams Western Michigan and Northern Illinois. Western went 7-5; Northern won the MAC.
So Alabama played the best (by far) and the worst (by far) in that comparison.
The Crimson Tide was a solid pick for No. 1. If you want to give Michigan brownie points for better game control, fine. The committee likes such distinctions. I’m not crazy about them, myself. So I don’t penalize Bama for close calls against Auburn, Arkansas and LSU.
Sounds like the committee didn’t either.
Dave Aranda talks Big 12 Championship Game
OSU’s loss to Baylor was well-told from the Cowboy side. But what about Baylor? What was the Bears’ perspective of that wild Big 12 Championship Game?
Here is selected parts of Baylor coach Dave Aranda’s post-game press conference from Saturday.
Aranda’s opening statement: “I remember the first time we played Oklahoma State and meeting Coach Gundy there at midfield during team stretch. He came on over and first thing he said was, 'It is really hard to win. It's hard to win in this league.' That's something that I think we all know, but just coming from him ... I look up to Coach Gundy and his career and the amount of times he's won 10 or more games and just being a stalwart there at Oklahoma State and the success he's had, for him to say that, I think it showed a lot.”
Tramel: For those of us that have known Gundy for almost 40 years – or have followed his career for almost 40 years – we never think about Gundy in those terms. Elder statesman. But that’s what he is. Gundy’s head-coaching seasons in the Big 12: 17. The conference’s other nine head coaches combined Big 12 seasons: 16.
Q. I remember at the end of last year you guys finished the season with Oklahoma State (a 42-3 loss) and you guys were a little shorthanded (due to Covid). I know it was frustrating the way that game ended. Can you contrast what you saw that day to where this team is now and how far it's come in that time?
Aranda: No. No. (Laughter.) I think there was times last year where I think everyone was frustrated, and then on top of that, then you just feel eyes on you, and everyone is looking to see how is this going to be handled, is something going to break? So then I think that adds like another layer to the already mess that you're in with the team, the outside eyes add to it. But I think it might have been around that time where I think the frustration with the players, I think some of them came in to my office and go, ‘You know, Coach, you need to cuss us out. You need to get after us and yell at us and all this...’ I think to be in that spot and then to be in this one is two different sides of the track.”
Tramel: I hope everyone respects Baylor for the end of 2020. Lots of teams called off the season and didn’t play out the schedule. Michigan skipped a game against Ohio State. But shorthanded Baylor stuck it out with a threadbare roster. Credit to Aranda.
Q. McVea has made quite a journey; what were you thinking when you saw that play considering where he came from six years ago as a walk-on?
Aranda: “With Jairon, if it's a Monday practice and we want to be able to have a full-speed practice and we don't have any helmets on or shoulder pads -- I think earlier in the year it was a struggle to get a full-speed practice. I think when you're dressed in that gear a lot of times people will look at that as a walk-through, so you kind of have to coach that and fight that. We were able to get that done throughout the year. A guy who always did it the right way was Jairon. When we wanted to have a Thursday practice and we wanted to try to get 20 mph, we'd wear our GPS and we wore it on kickoff and kickoff return and kind of hit those speeds, and we felt it was a good spacing between that moment and the game we're about to play on Saturday, it was a challenge to get guys to do that. McVea was always one that did. I think we all have people like that in our lives that no matter what it is, he's going to do it right and going to do it with a smile on his face, and it's just always there. I think sometimes you overlook people like that, and just when you see the ball rolling out and you see him in pursuit, you feel good that it was him.”
Tramel: Think about it. If Dez Jackson gets in the end zone, he’s an all-time OSU hero. Instead, a McVea is the same in Waco.
'You’ve got to earn that': How Brent Venables' time away from OU football prepared him to lead Sooners
Q. That last sequence, your defense is coming off the field and they have to line up quickly on the final play as Oklahoma State tries to get a quick snap and then get a stop three inches from the goal line. What's going through your head? Is that last sequence in slow motion? Take us through the emotion for you.
Aranda: “There was no timeouts left, so I'm fortunate that it worked out that way. I think it was pretty frantic on the sideline in terms of you couldn't hear. Just in the headset, you couldn't hear. I think defensively we thought it was 11 personnel on the field and so there's a call that went in for that personnel, and it ended up being a tight end instead of another receiver, it was 12 personnel (two tight ends), so the call -- you can play it versus that call, but there's a little bit more to do with it, and generally we don't do that, and so I think Terrel noticed that right away and tried to call time out, and we didn't have one. So then we're yelling and screaming and they're not hearing us, so they were coming on to see what they were yelling and screaming, so they come on over and said, go back out. I'm glad it all worked out.”
Tramel: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before in football. A team is granted a timeout, only for the officiating crew to realize no timeout was available. In basketball, that’s a technical foul. Even if football had a penalty for such a move, it wouldn’t have helped OSU, unless it was automatic first down. The Cowboys’ goal-line failures were not close to being solved.
Q. Generally speaking after a win like this, the coach gets an opportunity to sort of say, OK, here's why we deserve to be in the playoff. Now you guys are a little far out, but there are some things that could break. Here's your opportunity; do you want to make a pitch?
Aranda: “Yeah, I've never really done that. I don't know. I just think with this team and this year for me, so much growth, so much collective kind of coming together, I think we have struggled at times with just what's right in front of us. There's two losses on our record that I look at personally my responsibility for sure in it that we could have been more focused, we could have been prepared for a fight, and we weren't. You could really almost say three. So I think we struggle enough with things that we can control, and I think you look at just the dynamic just in young people of when the next tweet is coming through or have I checked my phone in the last two minutes and just all of that, I think plays a part. I think for me, getting across kind of how we do things and pound the rock and none of that really matters and keep the outside on the outside and let's focus on the inside, I think that is probably in its infancy, as much as I hate to say that, with us. I think it takes a lot of work. So I think per your question, I think all that on stuff that we can control. I'm sure it will all work out the way it's supposed to.
Tramel: The way it worked out, the committee had no decision to make. But I was surprised that Baylor stayed behind Ohio State. The committee loves the Buckeyes.
Q. Dave, last play of the game that Oklahoma State ran, camera catches you on the sideline and you're just looking like you are 90% of the time, stone-faced. Did you cut loose at all in the postgame celebration, and how much did you enjoy seeing those guys in there celebrating?
Aranda: “Yeah, I did not in the postgame. But I mean, I think our game with Oklahoma State was a week after this I want to say. I think it was last year. I just remember after that game, I think the very next day I met with our quarterback at the time and then met with all of our seniors and some of our vets on what their plans were, and their parents. It was all on Zoom. We couldn't have them together. So it was Zoom meetings. It was just very difficult. You try to build a team where everyone is tight and they trust you and they can be themselves around you and never could ever really get that. I think we've talked about feeling like a stepdad, and then when you go 2-7 after however many wins they had the year before and then you're talking about trying to stay a team when it's FaceTime or Zoom and they're with their family and it's critical questions which are for sure warranted, that's just hard. So for the guys that stayed, it's just way -- it's very strong, and it means a lot to me. For the staff that came, I think from the outside, I'm sure it looked really bad, and so for them to come -- I think of those guys. I think of the opportunities for the vets that came back. I think of the opportunities for our coaches. So I'm happy for them.”
Tramel: Dave Aranda is an android. I’m 72 percent convinced.
Q. Can you talk about your defense making three goal-line stands prior to the game-saving play, the two others where you held them to field goals, equally if not more important than the last play?
Aranda: “Yeah, you look at like a Jalen Pitre and just his focus throughout the week and he's sitting in the front row, he's taking notes, and a lot of the stuff we talk about is the same stuff, but he's still taking notes. He's there late at night after practices. You look at Terrel Bernard and he's right there with him. You're looking at guys who run to the football every time they're on the field. You look at the competitions that we have, the one-on-ones versus the offense, and sometimes you gear to the offense because we're not tackling those guys or we're not doing all this. It may be a tag here but the ball is spotted here because the momentum went because we have a manager that's a freshman in college that's spotting the ball. So like their ability to -- with all of that, just attack it in those moments, no matter if it was hard or it was unfair or if I'm tired or I was up studying for this test or if I was running around and I couldn't grab something to eat, when it came to football they were all in 100 miles an hour. I think those daily interactions trained them for opportunities like today. I don't think you make the most of those opportunities if you're not maximizing the daily trials, tribulations that come with just being a student-athlete.”
Tramel: If Aranda is trying to say his Bears were prepared, no one is arguing otherwise.
Q. Can you talk about when you knew (quarterback Blake) Shapen would have to start, and talk about how it is you took two quarterbacks this year that had never played before and won 11 games with those two guys.
Aranda: “Yeah, I think around Thursday -- I guess really after Wednesday's practice you could kind of sense it. I think up until then, I think there was still some uncertainty. There was improvement with Gerry, but I think there was some deeper throws where he could not transfer the weight like he normally does and get the ball there, and then I think there was movement that was well enough in the pocket but our stuff broke down and you could see that he was going to protect himself. It wasn't safe. Then as far as it goes with Blake, I think a lot of credit goes to Blake, and I think just his mindset and his ability to attack stuff. I think on the bus ride here from Waco, he got on the first bus. I think we had like six buses roll out or whatever it was. He got on the first bus and he's sitting and he realizes that he's on the third bus. I was standing outside and he came out, and he goes, they've got me on the third bus. I go, get your butt in there, let's go. Come on, bro. So Blake, his ability to, regardless of the situation, whatever is asked of him, whether it's go win this game, this conference championship, or go win this game on the road, or it's first bus, third bus, I think his personality is such that he sets his mind to it and he does it, and stuff doesn't seep in. He won't let it affect him, and I think that's way strong. I think that's uncommon. The other thing I'd say is Jeff Grimes and his leadership at the OC (offensive coordinator) position, I think he has a real fatherly approach, and I think Blake benefitted from that, and then I think Shawn has done an unbelievable job, Shawn Bell. I think Shawn is a rising star, and I think Shawn's relationships with his players and his love for them strengthens them. They don't want to let him down.”
Tramel: Bohanon’s injury was a Baylor blessing. Shapen is the better quarterback.
Q. You were coming through the tunnel there off the field, your players were mobbing you and they were yelling, I know you don't like attention, I know you don't like attention. And you just won the Big 12 and might soon be one of the heralded best coaches in America. How do you handle the attention that's going to come to you?
Aranda: “Yeah, that's a good question. I think some of this was -- you know, the only comparison really I have is when I was a coordinator, I think there's so much to learn, so you're always learning. I think when you really don't know what you should know, there's probably greater gains. But you're always learning. I think stuff is changing so fast on the outside, you have to evolve. But I think as a coordinator, once there was like success, and on the outside it was attention which is not always so great, but on the inside, you were afforded some -- I hate to say this because it's not real. It's real in the world we live in, I guess, but it's respect, I guess. I would like to say respect is kind of earned from how you treat people, so I'm not probably finding the right word. But a great example of there would be college coaches to visit at LSU or Wisconsin or whatever and they would be thinking they're going to learn all this stuff and then they get to meet me and I'm asking them more questions than they're asking me, and they're seeing how the staff meetings are held, everyone has input, everyone is kind of adding their piece to it, and it's not a dictatorship, but it's everyone pulling the weight. I think that's not what they envisioned. But I think it's easily acceptable when you win. I think I struggle sometimes with winning because you'd like it to be where people just see you and know you and they don't need that piece of it, but I think this winning probably helps with that, and just as a head coach now, I don't think respect is the right word, but it's -- I think it will probably help with that.”
Tramel: Aranda could be at Baylor for awhile. Like I wrote last week, the best jobs in college football are when you are at a school that is consistently at the top of a Power 5 conference. OSU and Baylor are primed to be the big dogs of the Big 12. Most schools can’t match that.
Mailbag: Brent Venables
OU’s hiring of Brent Venables got some fans fired up. Even some non-OU fans.
Tony: “I'm not even a die-hard Sooner fan and I'm excited listening to Brent Venables. Hell, I want to run through a brick wall for the guy at my young age of 63! Seriously, not only can you see the Stoops influence on him, but no one should downplay the Dabo influence on him, either. A lot of that talk about loving your players and seeing them develop spiritually is directly attributable to Swinney. Some may not like it, but Dabo was/is quite active in spreading the gospel of Jesus among his players. It worked for him at Clemson. Not sure how much of that will come into play with Venables, and if it does how it will play in Norman. But it is obvious to me that Dabo's influence on him was huge. I, for one, love that part of his "holistic" approach includes the spiritual.’ I think you are right about Venables waiting for the right opportunity, but I also think he waited for Dabo's whole-hearted approval and endorsement, which he apparently had for this move! It's a good day for Sooner nation and I hope they are hugely successful under Brent Venables!”
Tramel: Dabo Swinney is a heck of a coach, but I’m not a big fan. He seems to project the notion that God is a Clemson fan. I get lost in Revelations, and I’ve been known to skip some through Leviticus and both the Chronicles, but I haven’t seen the Scriptures tilting the Tigers’ way. With all that said, Tony seems right. Swinney does seem to have made quite an impact on Venables.
Classic Flick Pick: Stagecoach
John Wayne played a variety of leading roles in many B movies during the 1930s, many of them Westerns. But he wasn’t a household name.
Then came “Stagecoach.” John Ford’s 1939, big-budget Western was a smashing success, after Ford held firm on his desire to cast Wayne as the fugitive, but ultimately good-hearted, Ringo Kid.
The story of a stagecoach’s passengers as it journeys through Apache territory in 1880 is full of plots and interesting characters. Typical of movies then and decades afterwards, the Native American side of the tale is not told. If you can look past that, you’ll have a rousing Western portrayed by all kinds of stars.
Thomas Mitchell won a best-supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of the alcoholic Doc Boone. Claire Trevor, who would win a 1948 Oscar for “Key Largo,” plays a prostitute. The great John Carradine plays a Southern gentleman.
The storytelling is brisk, the action plentiful and the characters mostly endearing. And you can watch John Wayne’s coming-out party. The Duke went on to star in 142 films and become the ultimate example of a movie star.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Fiesta Bowl vs. Notre Dame a nice consolation prize for OSU football