Ever since Lincoln Riley took the reins from Bob Stoops in Norman, I’ve shuttled between these two opinions. It’s been evident since Day 1 that Riley is an offensive genius. The only question is whether or not he can get the other side of the ball to a championship level.
When everything is clicking, the Sooners look like Clemson. When the defense falls apart, OU looks like Texas Tech. Oftentimes — like Saturday’s 38-35 loss to Kansas State, you get to see Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the same game.
Even with two turnovers in the first half, OU looked great. The defense forced four straight punts to start the game and Spencer Rattler showed why he was the top-ranked QB in the country coming out of high school. His arm strength is already markedly higher than Mayfield, Murray or Hurts, and those guys finished first, first and second respectively in the last three Heisman tallies. Occasionally Rattler will leave a ball high, but otherwise he’s very accurate, and we can assume that he’ll only get better under Riley. He has decent foot speed (nowhere near Murray or Hurts but more than Baker) and hopefully will develop better awareness of when to tuck it and run. I like that he keeps his eyes downfield but he did miss a couple opportunities to convert third downs with his feet late in the game.
Anyway, we know the Sooners will put up points every Saturday. What we don’t know is how many they’ll allow. Skylar Thompson looks like the guy who played quarterback at my high school. OU made him look like Jalen Hurts, throwing a couple touchdown passes to wide open receivers and powering his way into the end zone a few times with his legs.
The defensive lapses hurt OU on the offensive side of the ball as well. Smelling an upset, the K-State defense started zeroing in on Rattler, who was constantly on the run. Riley basically abandoned the running game because he knew the O-line was tiring and couldn’t overpower the Wildcats up front for 80 yards. The Wildcats started playing loose and the Sooners started playing tight. A blocked punt here, another pick there…the Sooners have gotten lucky and survived second halves like this several times over the past couple seasons, but not this time.
When the Sooners play like they did in the second half, they look a lot to me like Texas Tech with better athletes and cooler uniforms.
Come this offseason, OU may be looking like Texas Tech in more ways than that. Anyone else see what Kliff Kingsbury is doing in Arizona and think it’s only a matter of time before an NFL team drops a helicopter load of money onto Riley?
Like I said, it’s been obvious from the moment he stepped foot in Norman that Riley is an offensive genius. Kingsbury has done some cool stuff, but he’s not in Riley’s league as a play designer and establishing an offense that can be lethal on the ground or in the air.
I thought it was absurd that an NFL team would hire a college coach who won about half his games, but it makes more sense now. There are tons of lifelong NFL coaches who can coordinate a defense, and you’ll theoretically have as much defensive talent as any other squad. So an offensive guru like Kingsbury or Sean McVay can really give you a competitive advantage in a league where the margins are razor thin.
I know Riley loves being at OU. He’s very well compensated and seems to thrive on the recruiting grind that makes many college coaches want to move on to the NFL. But this might be the time for the NFL to steal him, with the NCAA showing its ineptitude on crafting a uniform schedule across major conferences and instituting draconian suspensions for pot smoking even when it’s legal in almost every state now. Riley riffed on that latter topic at his press conference this week.
I hope he stays in Norman, but if he takes a few more jobs he might be like my favorite NBA player, LeBron James. Yes, I know that was a crappy segue but I’m leaving it in. James just made the NBA Finals for the 10th time in his career. That’s a lot.
Debating whether LeBron is better than Jordan is silly, because they play different positions, different styles, and played in different eras. So I always say LeBron is my favorite player, just because I enjoy his well-rounded game. If you preferred Jordan, that’s completely fine. Just don’t let that take away from your enjoyment of what James is doing right now. This isn’t the 1950s, when the whole NBA consisted of about 8 teams and the Celtics had 60% of the talent in the entire league. Making 10 Finals in those days is still impressive — it’s not like those players could control what the rest of the league was doing — but this is a whole new ballgame. LeBron is definitely past his peak, but he’ll be a favorite in the Finals this year and there’s no reason to think he doesn’t have a run or three left in him after this. What a beast.
With this weird 2020 sports calendar, we have football, basketball and baseball all going strong at the same time. The MLB playoffs start this week, and I have to say I’m less interested than ever. It feels like the season just started. They let more than half the teams in the league in the playoffs. And no fans takes away a lot of the fun.
Tonight the Cubs clinched the NL Central, which is bizarre considering they’ve played 59 games, barely won half of them, and score about 1.3 runs per game. That last stat is an exaggeration but most of the lineup is hitting around .200. It’s hard to get into a team when it rarely scores outside of a home run and those aren’t exactly flowing bountifully. I’ll definitely watch the Cubs playoff games but I doubt I tune in for Indians/Twins or whatever the other first-round series are.
I was vehemently against the runner-on-second thing to start extra-innings games, but I actually like it. Still not a fan of the 7-inning doubleheaders although I understand why they did that for this year. Hopefully it goes away along with the Royal Rumble playoff structure but I fear those are here to stay. The almighty dollar demands it.