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Morning Coffee Talks Streaks, Beanie Wells, Resume Ranking, and Thayer Evans

Streaking.  Since his team's frustrating 12-0 loss to Oklahoma in 2004, Mack Brown has embarked on a hell of a run which includes 43 wins against just 7 losses, a 4-0 bowl record and (counting this year) 3 berths in the BCS. (Kirk Bohls has more on the bowl success here.) And far more important than losing any one recruit to Oklahoma, Mack Brown has during that same time won 3 of 4 over Bob Stoops and -- with the Sooners losing their entire offensive line in '09 (and maybe Bradford) -- should be favored to make it 4 of 5 next October.

54b is right -- this is a hell of a time to be a Longhorn -- and that's why I, for one, rather hope Bob Stoops doesn't run for the NFL hills. Not only do I love how 2009 sets up for Texas against Oklahoma, but with Will Muschamp on staff (and in waiting for the top job) and Garrett Gilbert looking like an ideal fit for the pass spread Colt McCoy has perfected, this is the best I've felt about Texas football in... well, ever.  

One last little tidbit for the cherry on top: The only reason we're talking about a run of remarkable success right now is because Mack Brown and Texas turned a corner in 2008. And the only reason that big change came about (from the pre-Holiday Bowl workouts to the Will Muschamp and Major Applewhite hires) is because... Texas bottomed out with a second-straight loss to Texas A&M in November 2007. Translation? Thank you, Aggie. 


Shonn Greene's Fiesta Bowl influence.  Iowa running back Shonn Greene pasted South Carolina on New Year's Day, then promptly announced he's done with collegiate football and on to the NFL. "And I should care why, PB?"  You shouldn't, really, but before Texas fans summarily dismiss the Big 10 (and possibly, by extension, Ohio State), do consider that the Big 10's lone bright spot this bowl season was an Iowa team that featured a hell of a tailback only matched in game-changing power and speed by -- you guessed it -- Ohio State's Beanie Wells.

Make no mistake about it: He's the single most important player in this year's Fiesta Bowl. Check the game logs and see for yourself: When Beanie was absent (at USC) or contained (at Penn State), the Buckeyes offense was bad. When Wells is trucking, the pressure is off Pryor and the true freshman is a tremendous asset to the offense as an efficient passer and occasional runner. 

Question 1: Should Will Muschamp sell out to stop Wells and the OSU rushing game, making the true freshman Pryor beat the 'Horns through the air? As a baseline philosophy, I'd say yes. 

Question 2: Will Texas' defensive coordinator do that? I think he will. One of the reasons I'm among the Most Optimistic about Will Muschamp as a future head coach for Texas is that he has demonstrated over and over a fundamental understanding of the art of strategy. In my two decades of watching football, the common characteristic I see among the best defensive game planners is a fundamental ability to (1) diagnose properly an opposing offense's strengths and (2) tailor a game plan specifically to deny those strengths, in a way that (3) makes life most uncomfortable for the opposing quarterback. 

Though the ability to adjust when the game plan isn't working is critical, what separates the best DC's from everyone else is their ability to understand and actualize that basic formula. Bill Belichick does this better than anyone else in the NFL. I'm not sure anyone does this better than Will Muschamp in college football.

Lest you think I'm just indulging my tendency to get lost in big picture points: I think this speaks to why Will Muschamp's defense in 2008 has done so well keeping points off the board, even when allowing a fair number of yards gained. "Stats are for losers" isn't a quote speaking to the lack of value in metrics; it's a quote that speaks to his philosophy that some offensive gains hurt a defense more than others. And for Muschamp, he doesn't want the opposition to beat Texas doing what it does best. We saw, for example, Muschamp hyper-commit to taking away Dez Bryant, and though the price we paid was hunks of yardage to Kendall Hunter, the Cowboys had trouble getting points.

When looking at defending Ohio State, then, I have to believe Muschamp's core philosophy heading into this game will be to take away from Terrelle Pryor the benefits to his game of Chris Wells. Easier said than done, but I'd count on that strategic goal informing our defensive tactics from the get-go. If Ohio State's offense is to succeed, bet on Will Muschamp wanting it to be because Pryor is playing MVP football.


One last wallop of the horse carcass.  I hope you didn't waste four hours of your life watching the Orange Bowl, but if like me you did, I wonder: Did you have trouble figuring out what it was about Cincinnati that we were supposed to like? Or, to cut to the chase, did you see anything in Cincinnati that would lead you to think the Sooners' victory over the Bearcats should have counted for much in helping elevate OU over Texas on a voter's ballot?

I'll be honest: I'm a little torn on my adherence to the "resume ranking" ballot-ology. On the one hand, I watched so much Big 12 football this year that I feel 100% confident that Texas' victory over Oklahoma was no fluke, that the Longhorns would win that game 7 or 8 times out of 10, and that I can and should trust my "scouting" judgment to more accurately sort through the conference than I could just by applying a strict resume ranking. Put another way: I think the resume approach gets Texas vs Oklahoma wrong.

And yet, on the other hand, the source of my concern is that I can't say the same thing about my judgment as pertains to all 119 Division 1 football teams. That is, I didn't watch enough of every conference/team to elevate my own judgment over that of the resume approach, which is most "fair" when (1) you can't possibly watch all the teams and (2) so many never play one another. 

What to do? No easy answer, but I will say this: If college football had a playoff and a selection committee comprised of hyper-informed participants (including a couple from each conference who could add "power polling" meat to the resume skeletons), we'd have a better system. 

Anyway. Dead horse, I know. 

Dead Horse 2: The MSM's lackadaisical Thayer Evans reporting.  Hell, while we're on dead horses: Thayer Evans "responded" to Mack Brown's dismissive take on his bullsh*t article by saying "The article speaks for itself. We will continue to follow the story." I want to make a few points about this Evans "response":

  1. One of the problems with the MSM is that there's no middle ground between "reporting" and "opining." So black and white is the divide that a news agency which reports Evans' response has to awkwardly insert his "response" quote without anything further. As a general rule, this is fine: Fundamentally, the reporter's job is to pass on the information, letting the reader draw conclusions. But the rule is too rigid when it disallows a reporter to frame as fact what is only technically an opinion. In the present case, the rules of journalism disallow the reporter to write what is factually true (that Evans' response is no response at all, dodges the question, is ambiguous, and makes no sense given the full context of the inquiring reporter's query), leaving the bewildered reader wondering whether the reporter is brain dead, bored, incurious, or.... oh, right. Trapped by a stupid rule of journalism.
  2. Seriously: When the reporter pings Thayer Evans for a response quote about a story in which Evans' article is the alleged problem, and the response quote is, "The article speaks for itself," how is that non-response the beginning and end of the reporting? Is it reporting at all? We hear a lot about the financial problems of news reporting agencies because of the decline in advertising and upswing in competition, but it can't be emphasized enough that this kind of "reporting" leaves readers dissatisfied. It's not just that there's more competition: The competition appears to have a pulse. What's sad about it is that the reporters with institutional backing are the ones best positioned to access certain kinds of information and analysis. They can, should, and must do better.
  3. Finally, since the MSM is either incapable or unwilling to do it, let me provide the questions that need answering: 

    First, Mr. Evans, the "article speaks for itself" does not in any way, shape, or form speak to the question I'm asking: "Why is your article, as it presently speaks, not bullshit, as so many contend?"  

    Second, when you say you're continuing to "follow the story," do you mean that you're continuing to follow this story, which is about you being accused of having an agenda and being totally full of it? Or do you mean that you're following something else? If the latter, what? Offshore betting in the Himalayas?

    Third, and I apologize for going over your head here Thayer, but Mr. Times Sports Editor, if I might ask you: I've tried to speak to Evans about his story, about Mack Brown's response, and about McFarland's subsequent hedging on some of the "facts" reported in the story, but Evans just issued an incomprehensible response. What does your paper have to say about these things? Do you care at all? Is Evans' statement the statement of the paper? 
  4. This isn't rocket science, is it?