Travis Haney is a national college football writer for ESPN, a former beat writer for OU at the Oklahoman, a lover of the Masters (like me), and all around great dude. You can follow him on Twitter here and read his Insider stuff for ESPN here.
1. Your job is to kind of look at various programs from a national perspective. How does OSU fit into the national landscape of college football in 2012? Are they a top 10 program? Top 20?
I think it speaks to the job Mike Gundy has done that OSU could lose Weeden, Blackmon, some linemen and it’s still a team ranked, oh, somewhere between 15-20. That’s pretty strong, right? Winning a conference title, and a BCS game (even if it was fluky), was a big deal as far as building a program reputation. Of course, playing in the BCS title game would have only advanced that, but that wound is probably still infected. It really is a process for a school like OSU, which has a lot stacked against it (in-state power, location, etc.).
We use this guy Brian Fremeau’s efficiency ratings to see how a program has done the past five years, and he has Oklahoma State (45-17) at No. 7. That’s strong. So I’d say it’s safely a top-15 program, on the rise and doing well. If it can start a true freshman at QB, win seven, eight, nine ballgames in 2012 and move forward, it’s in good shape to stay there or advance. They’re doing everything right, as best I can tell – on the field, recruiting, media. For a “startup,” so to speak, it has been impressive.
2. You covered OU last year, what’s on thing you feel like Mike Gundy does better than Bob Stoops?
Wow, that’s baiting me against my former beat isn’t it? Nah, Mike is certainly better with the media, not that anyone cares about that. It’s always been ironic that Gundy is known across the country for a run-in/rant with a reporter, but he’s far more affable and accessible than Bob is. Beyond that, I see Mike as more open to new ideas, more open-minded to adjust and adapt.
Bob seems to have a mentality that his way was good enough to win a title in 2000, play for a couple others, so how dare anyone cross anything he says or does. I think that’s changing as time goes on – and more time passes since that 2000 championship – but winning a title that early in his career changed him in some ways that might not have been beneficial in the long run. The chase for a championship is a lot more healthy, in a lot of ways, than trying to win another. If that makes sense.
3. You’re high on Texas this year, why are they better than Oklahoma State?
Better up front defensively. Backs are good, though not quite as good as OSU’s. QBs are more experienced, which might sound funny to some but I keep reminding people that Ash, as a freshman, just kind of got thrown in there. Let’s see what he looks like after knowing for a full year that he was going to be the guy or play more.
The corners are just as good as OSU’s, and that’s really saying something. Push at linebacker, though I really like Jordan Hicks. OSU’s better in special teams – and that might be an area in which the Cowboys can really shine, helping them to wins. I know you didn’t ask for a position-by-position breakdown. I just think UT is better than people seem to want to believe, because of the QB position. While those guys aren’t going to evolve into Vince Young, now or ever, they’re surely efficient enough to win games.
I think they’re tougher and stronger up front on both sides of the ball is my answer. That said, the game being in Stillwater, I’ve circled it as a big one for both teams as they try to ascertain if they’re Big 12 contenders or not.