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Notes and Thoughts on Oklahoma State and the College Football Playoffs

On the Tigers and the Tigahs and what it means for OSU.



I drove home from the Texas Bowl on Friday night and got in about 3 a.m. after dropping Jackson off at his parents’ house. Mrs. Pistols kindly let me sleep a bit on Saturday morning as our children ran like Chuba wild in the living room and rain pounded the pavement outside.

All that to say, I was pumped to watch the College Football Playoffs on Saturday afternoon. Just eight straight hours of elite ball from three teams to close out another amazing CFB year.

Of course I can’t watch any college sports without looking at it through the lens of Oklahoma State and how the Pokes do things in Stillwater. So as I watched, some thoughts — both OSU-related and not OSU-related — began to percolate. Here are they are, in no particular order.

• I said after the Texas Bowl that a combined OSU-A&M squad couldn’t stay within 3 TDs of LSU. Now I’m wondering if the All-Big 12 first team could stay within 3 TDs.

• As I watched these games, it felt like OSU as a program is a long (long) way from where these teams are. And yet, I do wonder how much of it is QB play. LSU, Clemson and Ohio State have elite QBs. Like, maybe the three best QBs in the country. I wonder — and I genuinely mean this — what LSU and OSU would be like if you swapped Spencer Sanders and Joe Burrow.

• Not exactly breaking news, but the two ways to become a really good CFB team are to recruit the lights out or to recruit good enough and nail a bunch of QBs in a row. We think of those 2010 and 2011 OSU teams reverentially, but were they that much better or different than these last two teams other than Weeden > Sanders? I realize the offensive line back then was better (which is part of the QB point), but maybe it really is that simple for the Pokes. Maybe this Sanders-Illingworth five-year run will be a great one.

• I believe we have reached the point where a non-OU Big 12 team is going to have to go undefeated to make it to the College Football Playoff. This isn’t all that different than years gone by for OSU, but the Big 12 will almost always be viewed (in the near future) as “OU and everyone else.” If this is true, and if OU is viewed as uncompetitive in the CFP (and they are!) then there is no way any other B12 team is getting the benefit of the doubt in coming years over other conferences. No way.

• Related: The amount of luck it takes to go undefeated — for anyone in any league to go undefeated — is off the charts. So even if OSU (or Baylor or Kansas State or Iowa State lol) wins a Big 12 title in the next five years, the likelihood of them playing for a national one outside of the CFP moving to eight is as close to 0 percent as it’s been in a long time.

• Are we sure about Spencer Rattler? Like, sure sure?

• I thought about this Gundy quote a lot as I watched Clemson-Ohio State.

“We win 10, 12 games, and we can get in on these [five-star] guys. We would get in a little bit, but we didn’t finish,” Gundy said. “So right, wrong or indifferent, we’ve gone right back to know your area, find out who’s out there, this is what we’re looking for to fit our system. Do they like to play football? Do they have respect for themselves, which gives them a chance to be successful? Do they fit what we’re looking for? Do we believe in them? If so, we’re going to go for them.” 

That was from 2015. I wonder if Dabo Swinney has ever said that. It feels like Gundy is like, I just don’t want to deal with the drama and the effort it takes to get big-time talent. As a consumer of these things, that’s frustrating to hear, especially because the thing he’s not very good at is also seemingly the easiest thing to fix.

• But really, that’s a terrible quote. You’re essentially saying, “I refuse to do the thing that I know is vital to long-term success because we weren’t very good at it.” You can call it whatever you want to call it, but it’s kind of like giving up. I’ve been holding onto it for four years now.

• Clemson-Ohio State, by the way, felt like a title game. I loved it all. I found myself cleaning the kitchen at midnight after that game wanting OSU to be that good for just one year (maybe two). Every game is so meaningful. The big games are like prize fights. Man, when college football is great it is great, and I would love for OSU to be in the thick of it in a way they haven’t truly been for almost a decade.

• I’ve said it a billion times, but the Clemson thing kills me. I get that they’re more aristocratic than OSU historically, but the difference between their historical value and the level they recruit at (No. 1 nationally) is far greater than the gap between OSU’s historical value and the level I’m asking them to recruit at (top 25). Dabo just goes out and sells the pants off his program to anybody who will listen. It takes a self-confident, grounded person to go out and build what he built the way he built it.

• I guess this is part of my thing right now. Half of your deal as a head coach is to inspire — your players, other coaches, fans, everyone. That’s part of it. Dabo inspires. Lincoln is genuinely jacked to go get another top-10 recruiting class. I don’t need you to be a psychopath like Tom Herman, but when is the last time Gundy said something that had you feeling things? Maybe the post-2017 Bedlam presser? I wish we’d get that version more often.

• On that note, this isn’t something I get super fired up traditionally because I think it’s overvalued, but I noticed how locked in every coach in the CFP was. Fist-pumping big plays, amping guys up. It was refreshing. When is the last time we saw Gundy fist-pump a 50-yard TD to go up 14? I don’t need him headbutting players with helmets on, but man, Dabo and Riley have been in this thing literally every year and each time looks like their first. It was great. I loved it.

• There’s no real through line here for me. Just an amalgamation of thoughts I had while watching LSU try to end OU’s program and that unreal Clemson-Ohio State tilt. Felt like a different sport than the A&M-OSU game. If anything, I guess I left the night encouraged. Because while OSU probably isn’t going to start recruiting in Clemson’s atmosphere, I do believe they’re about to ride a nice little QB wave into the future. If they can somehow recruit 2 and 30 back to the program for another year then I, too, will have the excitement Gundy says he has after OSU’s 8-5 campaign.

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