Tramel's ScissorTales: Why there's still plenty of intrigue in 2023 Big 12 football schedule

Intrigue continues in Friday's ScissorTales mailbag over the 2023 Big 12 football schedule still not being released.

Tony: “Maybe you've already mentioned this possibility and I just missed it. This year, given the addition of new teams, there won't be a chance for round-robin play. What are the chances the conference exacts a little revenge on OU and Texas by not scheduling the annual Red River Shootout? In essence, the conference would be telling them that if OU and Texas want to continue the uninterrupted series, they must do so in 2023 as a non-conference game? Much as I love that game, I'd find it rather funny. If Texas is scheduled to be the home team, the conference could instead give Texas a home game against someone like UCF and make OU travel to, say, Cincy, if OU was the designated road team for OU-Texas this year.”

Tramel: First, a variety of reports, including from The Oklahoman, say the schedule hangup has nothing to do with the schedule itself. It’s all tied to negotiating an early exit of OU and Texas to the Southeastern Conference.

The Sooners and Longhorns can leave with no penalty in summer 2025. But a Big 12 source told The Oklahoman that both OU and Texas are negotiating to leave earlier, probably in 2024 but perhaps even this summer, though the latter chances are small. And the schedule release is somehow tied into the departure negotiations.

As far as the 2023 OU-Texas game, I wrote about this a year ago, that indeed the Big 12 could screw with the Sooners and Longhorns by not scheduling them to play.

OU and Texas indeed would scramble and schedule a non-conference game, and the networks actually would come out ahead, since that’s extra inventory.

Hard feelings would ensue, if such a schedule was set, but from a Big 12 perspective, who cares?

The Big 12 likely would not consider such a move for a variety of reasons. No reason to alienate the Sooners or Longhorns. Many of the Big 12 schools would like to keep scheduling OU and UT in a variety of sports. And the Big 12 would be seen as lacking professionalism in resorting to vengeful tactics.

Negotiations sometimes lead to strange results, but I don’t think the OU-Texas game is at all involved in the scheduling holdup.

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The List: Ranking the SEC/Big 12 Challenge

The Big 12/SEC Challenge has turned frustrating for Big 12 basketball. The event began in 2014, and the Big 12 won the first three challenges. But the Big 12 has won just once since 2016 and leads only 4-3-2.

The 2023 Big 12/SEC Challenge returns Saturday, with 10 games, and the Big 12 ought to prosper. This is the final year for the challenge. It is not scheduled beyond 2023.

The Big 12 likes to claim it’s the nation’s best conference, and most college hoops observers agree this year.

The Big 12 has won the last two NCAA championships – Kansas 2022, Baylor 2021 – and dang near won the title before that, with Texas Tech in 2019. DeAndre Hunter’s 3-point basket in the closing seconds of the championship game that year allowed Virginia to get into overtime, where the Cavaliers won.

This season, the Big 12 has six of the top 17 teams in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), the rankings used by the selection committee to gauge teams. And West Virginia is up to No. 24.

Meanwhile, the Southeastern Conference has just two teams ranked ahead of West Virginia – No. 2 Tennessee and No. 3 Alabama.

Here are the 10 Big 12/SEC Challenge games, ranked by competitiveness:

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1. Texas at Tennessee, 5 p.m., ESPN: The Longhorns, No. 8 in the NET, go against Rick Barnes, who coached UT from 1998-2015 and now has the Volunteers (No. 2 in the NET) riding high.

2. Arkansas at Baylor, 3 p.m., ESPN: Old Southwest Conference rivals. The Bears are 14th in the NET, the Razorbacks 26th.

3. Kansas at Kentucky, 7 p.m., ESPN: The bluebloods are headed in opposite directions. Kansas, No. 10 in the NET, has lost three straight and never has lost four straight in Bill Self’s 20 Jayhawk seasons. Kentucky is up to 32nd in the NET after scrambling from a horrid loss to South Carolina two weeks ago.

4. Auburn at West Virginia, 11 a.m., ESPN: The NET loves the Mountaineers, but Auburn is 33rd in the NET and has a much better record (16-4/12-8).

5. Iowa State at Missouri, 1 p.m., ESPN2: Old Big Eight rivals should put on a good show. ISU is ninth in the NET, Mizzou 49th.

6. Texas Christian at Mississippi State, 3 p.m., ESPN2: TCU is sizzling and up to No. 13 in the NET. Mississippi State is 59th.

7. Florida at Kansas State, 5 p.m., ESPN2: KSU star Keyontae Johnson transferred from Florida, where he also was a star until a heart ailment sidelined him for two seasons. K-State is 18th in the NET, Florida is 50th.

8. Alabama at Oklahoma, 1 p.m., ESPN: Rematch of the 2021 Big 12/SEC Challenge, when ninth-ranked Bama came to Norman and lost 66-61 despite the Sooners playing without star guard Austin Reaves. But OU, No. 65 in the NET, is reeling, while Bama is soaring.

9. Ole Miss at Oklahoma State, 7 p.m., ESPN2: The Cowboys, 47th in the NET, did not draw a tough assignment – the Rebels are 115th in the NET.

10. Texas Tech at Louisiana State, 1 p.m., ESPNU: The Red Raiders are huge disappointments, at 77th in the NET. But LSU is 133rd.

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Santa Clara Williams becomes dunk phenom

Santa Clara Williams didn’t dunk until his senior year of high school.

He’s a late bloomer. He says he grew about eight inches, from 5-foot-10 to 6-6, from his sophomore year to senior year at Perry High School in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert.

Santa Clara is making up for lost time.

Jalen Williams dunked five times in the Thunder’s 137-132 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday night, including a highlight-reel play in which he stole the ball from Hawks wizard Trae Young in the final 20 seconds and went coast-to-coast for a dunk that drew OKC within one point.

Williams now has 49 dunks in his rookie season. That ranks 34th in the NBA, and Santa Clara has the most of any guard. Memphis all-star Ja Morant, a renowned dunker, has 36 slams. Minnesota’s high-flying Anthony Edwards has 34.

According to, only four small forwards have more dunks than Williams’ 49 – Houston's 6-foot-6 Kenyon Martin Jr. (104), Utah’s 7-foot Lauri Markannen (78), Toronto’s 6-7 OG Anunoby (72) and New Orleans’ 6-9 Trey Murphy III (50).

Santa Clara – so named for his alma mater and to distinguish him from fellow rookie teammate Jaylin “Arkansas” Williams – was the 12th overall pick in the draft last summer.

Santa Clara was considered a raw prospect who rose up the ranks during the NBA Combine. NBA scouting comes early these days. Even to early high school years. No one paid attention to a 5-foot-10 sophomore in Gilbert, Arizona, who couldn’t dunk.

But Santa Clara said his dunking acumen came from “I think just growing. That’s really it. Just kind of growing, kind of hitting the weight room, kind of coming into my own. Just a lot of that was maturity, body wise. Just starting to lift. That was really it.”

Santa Clara’s little brother, Cody Williams, was just named a McDonald’s all-American and is a ballyhooed prospect headed to the University of Colorado.

“He’s on a completely different path,” Santa Clara said. “He was putting it between his legs (and dunking) at 15.”

I say let the kid talk when he’s dunked five times on the Hawks.

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Oklahoma City's Jalen Williams (8) hangs on to the rim after a dunk in the first half during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Atlanta Hawks at the Paycom Center  in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Jan.25, 2023.
Oklahoma City's Jalen Williams (8) hangs on to the rim after a dunk in the first half during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Atlanta Hawks at the Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Jan.25, 2023.

Santa Clara, at age 21 older than the normal first-round pick, is an all-around player. Solid offensively, solid defensively. His upside is more limited than the 19-year-olds the Thunder traditionally select in the first round, but Santa Clara already is on a higher plateau than most rookies. He stunningly was NBA ready when he arrived in OKC and seems like a cornerstone of the Thunder rebuild.

“I think the coaching staff and team kind of trusts me to go out there and just play hard,” Santa Clara said. “I think that covers up for a lot of mistakes I make. Just kind of keeping that in mind, just playing with confidence is my thing. I understand that there’s going to be highs and lows during the season. I’ve had good games and bad games. Kind of understanding that and just rolling with the punches.

“Just playing hard is kind of where I hang my hat. I’m talented enough to make the right play when I get it. Kind of play off the ball with these guys. So yeah, just playing hard, everything kind of falls into place for me.”

Santa Clara has started 31 of his 44 games, averaging 11.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game.

His steal of Young wasn’t even his best play of Wednesday night. With 1:23 left in the fourth quarter, Young drove the lane and floated a lob pass for a potential Hawk dunk. Santa Clara swatted the ball with his arm – he was credited with a steal instead of a blocked shot – and zipped upcourt for a dunk of his own, off a pass from Kenrich Williams.

Santa Clara finished with 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting.

“Even offensively tonight, he was on the gas a lot more,” Mark Daigneault said. “Tonight came out really aggressive. I thought he played with great force. Then obviously defensively, he continues to develop on that end of the floor. You add that to his size and toughness and intelligence, it bodes well for him.”

And Santa Clara dunks. I love dunks because they so rarely are missed. Dunks are the highest-percentage shot in basketball. When Williams gets a chance to dunk, he takes it.

Santa Clara is late to the dunking party, but he most certainly has crashed it.

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Tre Flowers can help Bengals reach Super Bowl

In October 2021, a question was posed in a Cincinnati Bengals coaches meeting. That questioned helped the Bengals reach the Super Bowl.

“What about Tre Flowers?”

Bengals coach Zac Taylor relayed the story, not even remembering who asked the question. But as the Bengal brain trust was trying to figure out how to defend tight ends, Flowers name popped up, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The former Oklahoma State safety, who made 40 starts at cornerback in 3½ seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, had been claimed by the Bengals off the waiver wire in October 2021. Soon enough, Flowers, who had yet to play for the Bengals, was given 14 snaps against Ravens tight end Mark Andrews, an old Bedlam Series adversary, and Flowers found a role.

By the AFC Championship last January, Flowers was instrumental in the Bengals’ plan. He had helped shutdown Chiefs all-pro tight end Travis Kelce a few weeks earlier, then again drew the assignment of dogging Kelce in the title game. While Kelce had 10 catches for 95 yards, those are acceptable numbers when playing Kansas City. The Bengals won 27-24 to reach the Super Bowl.

Now comes another Chiefs-Bengals AFC Championship Game, and Flowers again could be called on to help stymie Kelce.

Flowers has played in 15 Cincinnati games this season, with one interception and 27 tackles. He missed the Bengals’ playoff victory at Buffalo last Sunday with a hamstring injury but is expected to play in KC.

Cincinnati cornerback Mike Hilton has called Flowers “our tight end stopper.”

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The Cincinnati Bengals defenses lead by cornerback Tre Flowers (33) celebrates an interception against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half of an NFL football game in Cincinnati, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
The Cincinnati Bengals defenses lead by cornerback Tre Flowers (33) celebrates an interception against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half of an NFL football game in Cincinnati, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Flowers’ biggest role with the Bengals has been on the kicking units. But he’s a 27-year-old, fifth-year pro who has settled into just trying to help his team win.

“He sits right next to me in the meeting room and you can tell that he cares,” Bengals safety Jessie Bates told the Enquirer. “Tre was a starter for three years at Seattle and he could’ve easily come over here like, ‘Why am I not playing defense?’ But instead he comes in on packages, he does his job and then he goes and plays gunner (punt team) for the first time ever and makes huge plays in that aspect of controlling the field.”

Flowers, from the San Antonio metro powerhouse of Converse Judson, was a four-year standout at OSU, 2014-17. He was a fifth-round pick of the Seahawks in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Flowers is 6-foot-3, the kind of height the NFL craves in defensive backs.

Flowers made a key interception of a Tom Brady pass in Week 15, dropping into zone coverage from Flowers’ usual man-to-man assignment.

“We’ve expanded his role where he’s not just going in there and playing man,” Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. “Really happy with Tre.”

Flowers credits Anarumo for reviving his career after being cut by the Seahawks. And now Flowers is headed for another showdown against Kelce and the Chiefs, with a second straight Super Bowl trip on the line.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at 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: 2023 Big 12 football schedule delay tied up with future OU move to SEC