Bedlam ’16- A Legacy Game

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BEDLAM

We are Oklahoma.

There is Only One.

This Saturday, the University of Oklahoma football program will try for its 10th Big 12 championship.

But for this team, this is the ONLY Big 12 championship.

You see… Each team is separate. Each team is unique. Each team has its own identity. Each team has one season to leave a legacy.

For the 2016 Oklahoma Sooners, this is a legacy game.

A year ago, on Friday night before Bedlam, the members of the 2015 Sooners gathered together shortly before curfew. Players only. There had been tense, corrective, crisis-centered Players Only meetings in the past. But not this one. This one was about reflecting. On what it took to get there. On what this win would mean for our legacy.

 

ty-bedlam-15
An absolutely incredible feeling

 

We had one game. One chance to hang a conference championship banner in the indoor, where Sooners thirty years from now will stare in desperation as Schmitty calls the med ball count from his wheelchair.

In a tradition such as Sooner football, each team and each class of senior has an obligation: to uphold that tradition. A championship is evidence of a promise kept and a tradition upheld.

At Oklahoma, conference championships are not the ultimate goal. We strive to compete for national championships year in and year out. But, in a college sports environment where good is never good enough, it is crucially important that we celebrate and appreciate the successes, for they are exceedingly difficult to come by.

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So… Sooner fans…. Put aside thoughts of bowl games and playoffs for just a moment, and take time to appreciate the opportunity that this group of Sooners have in front of them on Saturday. Despite the 1-2 start. Despite the injuries. Despite all of the outside noise…. These young men are poised to win a conference championship and raise their banner.

That means something.

Between the Sooners and their banner are 60 minutes of football against a very good Oklahoma State Cowboy squad. For the next few days, that’s all that matters.

After that, we can all return to our prognosticating and criticizing and planning for the future.

But, until then…. BOOMER SOONER AND BEAT THE AGS!!

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Thankful

I count my blessings in people.

Material resources, tangible things, while they are necessary and should not be taken for granted, they aren’t what determine happiness. Wealth and happiness are not correlated. If that were the case, the happiest among us would be the CEOs and billionaires. If this were true, the people of Haiti that I have come to know and love would be the most miserable on Earth. It’s the people that truly matter, who should be celebrated this Thanksgiving and every Thanksgiving.

That’s what I am thankful for… For people.

I am thankful… For the incredible friends and family that God has surrounded me with.

I am thankful… For people that have sacrificed to allow me live in freedom.

I am thankful… For the people that have molded me into the man I am today, and for the ones that are going to shape me into the man I will be in the future.

I am thankful… For the people that see more in me than I see in myself, who dream bigger for my future than I can fathom.

I am thankful… For the people that love me enough to hold me accountable, that call me out when I am in the wrong.

I am thankful… For the people that have let me in, that have trusted me enough to be vulnerable with me and trustworthy enough to have that vulnerability reciprocated.

I am thankful… For the people that inspire me daily with the way they learn, the way they lead, and the way they love.

I am thankful… For the people that bring tears to my eyes, laughter to my voice, and joy to my heart.

I am thankful… For the people that evoke passion from me, that stir my spirit and bring out the very best in me.

I am thankful… For the people that make me think, that believe differently than me, that challenge me to reevaluate the way I view the world.

Above all else, I am thankful for my God.

Who has blessed me beyond all measure.

Who has granted me peace beyond understanding.

Who has withheld from me the things I thought I wanted in favor of the things that He knew I needed.

Whose plan for me is infinitely greater than my plan for myself.

Who continues to bless me when I don’t deserve it.

Who holds on to me when I run away.

Who restores my flimsy faith when it falters.

Who continually amazes me with His love, grace, and mercy.

Who died in disgrace so I could live in fulfillment.

Hallelujah! How great is Our God!

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

TD

TD’s Takeaways- Week 12

Boomer Blizzard!

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The snow sure looked like a lot of fun on TV. In person, I imagine it wasn’t quite as “cool.” Nevertheless, the Sooners took care of Business in Morgantown, adding a 28 point win on the road to the resume’. I was particularly impressed with the dominance of the offensive line, allowing us to keep the ball on the ground and only attempt 15 passes. Baker was incredibly accurate in the cold, despite being 9-15. Early on, he had three bad drops. Other than the drops, and a few lackluster drives in the third quarter, the offense performed exceptionally, putting up 56 points on the best defense in the conference.

The defense wasn’t quite as impressive, giving up nearly 600 yards of offense, with almost 400 of that being on the ground. But, though the defense did show cause for concern, some of the second half struggles were at least partially because of Jordan Evans’ injury. As the mike backer, Evans makes all the calls and sets others up to succeed. Losing him hurt for sure. Throughout the night, the Sooners played bend-but-don’t-break defense, surrendering an awful lot of yards, but forcing turnovers and holding the Mountaineers to under 30 points.

GBR

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I myself spent my weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska, where my brother plays for the Huskers. I was thoroughly impressed with the Huskers’ facilities, their athletic department, and their fan base. They have an impassioned following that packs out Memorial Stadium each and every Saturday. The facilities that former athletic director Tom Osborne and current AD Shawn Eichorst have built and sustained are the best that I have ever seen.

As for the game, the Huskers dominated the Terps from the start, despite playing without QB Tommy Armstrong. They now move on to face Iowa this week, in a game that could possibly affect the Sooners. Once again, Armstrong is questionable, but now there is a new twist. Ryker Fyfe is also questionable after injuring the wrist on his non-throwing hand. Ironically enough, if Armstrong and Fyfe are unable to go, it could possibly be my brother Zack that gets the nod at QB after switching back to QB from wideout after the accumulation of quarterback injuries. Selfishly, I hope that he gets a shot.

One-Track Mind

Last week, I wrote about “The Process.” The application point of that story was that the players cannot focus on the end result, but rather focus on what they can control. AKA They can’t pay attention to playoff chatter. But, I am no longer a player, so I am going to prognosticate and scheme and dream up wild scenarios as much as I so desire. So, here are my conclusions about the Sooners’ Path to the Playoff.

We have to be the best 2-loss team.

What does this mean? Who are the teams that I believe would get the nod before us if they have two losses?

  1. Ohio St– They beat us head to head by three scores on our home field. If the committee were to ignore this I would be indignant because of the implications for the future of college football. It would render non-conference scheduling pointless.
  2. A B1G Champ Penn State or Wisconsin– The Big Ten is the nation’s strongest conference this year, and winning this conference would put these teams in ahead of us. The possible exception would be Nebraska. If Wisconsin were to lose, and then Nebraska were to beat Penn State in the title game, I believe would get the nod before the Huskers due to Nebraska’s weak OOC schedule and humiliating defeat in Columbus.

All other possible two-loss teams (most likely from either the ACC or Pac-12) would not get a spot before a Big 12 champion Oklahoma squad with “quality losses”, a ton of starpower and momentum, and a dominating brand.

So what do we need to happen?

Luke Falk
The Hopes of Sooner Nation rely upon the arm of this man
  1. Washington needs to either lose to Washington State or the Pac-12 South champ. This one isn’t negotiable.
  2. Either Ohio St or Nebraska needs to win the Big Ten. We can’t have two Big Ten teams in the playoff, and if anyone other than these two teams were to win the conference, I think a second team would get a spot as well.
  3. If somehow Clemson were to lose to either South Carolina or the Coastal champ, that would give us some wriggle room. But I don’t see that happening.

As I see it, the playoff teams are going to be

  1. Bama- No matter what.
  2. Clemson
  3. Ohio St- If they beat Michigan Saturday. Even if they don’t, I still think they would be the favorite for the fourth spot if Washington loses.
  4. A one-loss Washington, OU, or a two-loss PSU/UW B1G champ

So, as a Sooner fan, who do you root for this week?

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Michigan State and Washington State! Most likely combo of upsets in my opinion.

Minnesota and Nebraska! This would put Nebraska in the B1G champ as the West rep.

Ohio St! I know there are those that say “Michigan needs to win out”, but I am adamant that we do not want to be compared to a team that soundly beat us at home.

South Carolina! Not likely, but possible. It’s not like Clemson has looked invulnerable.

Let the madness begin! It’s going to be a fun week to watch some college football!

Enjoy the Autumn Spectacle!

TD

The Process

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It’s Championship November. The time of the year where champions are proven and fakes are exposed. For teams across America, the goals are in reach. The end of the road is in sight. For the Sooners, it is so incredibly tempting to start crunching the numbers, comparing schedules, and dreaming up all the crazy scenarios that could put you in the playoff. The Prize is so close. It’s right there. How can you get to it? The answer is simple: Take your eyes off the prize.

Wait…

That’s not how it goes…

I know. Your parents… Your teachers… Everyone you ever trusted… They lied to you.

It’s not about The Prize. It’s about The Process.

But it’s the ultimate oxymoron. The formula doesn’t make sense. Stay focused on the what’s important, right? Don’t lose sight of your goals!

No. Focus on what’s next. Only pay attention to the details. Don’t think about The Prize. Tell yourself over and over again that it’s all about The Process, even when you don’t believe yourself, or when your excitement and ambition begin to take over.

That’s what champions do. Champions know that The Prize is IN The Process. You can only reach the end of the journey by focusing on the next step.

I learned this the hard way.

In 2014, we knew we were good. We had all the pieces. Everyone was coming back. There was NFL talent on both sides of the ball. Coming off of a Sugar Bowl victory, we were highly ranked in the preseason, and it seemed like everyone had us penciled into the first ever CFP. We worked hard. We had a great offseason. We knew that we had a chance to do something special.

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But we made a huge mistake. We made it about The Prize. No, not Coach Stoops. Of course,, he said all the coachly things. But we were dreaming big. We were dreaming of a national championship. It was Natty or bust…. And man did we bust. The first loss hurt, but I quickly realized it wasn’t over yet. Our dreams were still in front of us. Defeat #2 was debilitating, because I knew it just about put us out of contention. But, sure enough, I started postulating. I began to think of all the things that could happen for us to still have a chance to achieve the dream that we set out for so earnestly. But then came 3… and 4… and 5.

How did we go so wrong? We did everything right?

I made it about Prize.

Flip the script… 2015.

No expectations. No high rankings. No talk of a national title. But there was a buzz around the locker room. A chatter. But we weren’t talking about being Big 12 champs. We weren’t dreaming of a playoff spot, or scheming about a national championship. We were talking about beating them… All of them…as bad as we possibly could. Was the leadership very much aware of the stakes? Absolutely. Did we know what our ranking was? Of course we did. But the narrative being repeated from the top down was that this was about taking our respect. It was about dominance. It was about sending a message. It was about us being as good as we could possibly be from one week to the next.

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What were we focused on? We were focused on The Process, and that took us to The Prize.

But there’s another thing.

It’s not just that The Prize is IN The Process.

The Prize IS The Process.

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Kobe Bryant won his first NBA Championship and looked around the locker room in the midst of the confetti and champagne and thought “Now what?”

Ray Allen won his second NBA championship, and he woke up the next morning and went to the dentist.

There are countless similar testimonials from some of the most accomplished athletes in all of sports.

Why??

Fulfillment is not in the trophy. You find your joy in the journey. If you make it about The Prize, even if you do find it, you’ll be disappointed. It won’t make you as happy as you think it will. It cannot offer you fulfillment. A fleeting moment of glory, nothing more.

If you truly want to be happy, relish The Process. Make it your Prize.

By doing so, you just might end up with both.

It’s Winning Time, one play at a time.

Boomer,

TD

The Need to Fail

In my recent blog post entitled “Why Sports?” I briefly touched on what I believe is the most invaluable opportunity that sports have to offer: The opportunity to fail. Don’t take my word for it! Listen to the GOAT.

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Let’s reframe the way we think about failure. Failure of any magnitude, large or small, results in a number of immediate negative emotional reactions. Whether you’re 4 or 40, whether you strike out at a T-Ball game or you file for bankruptcy, you will experience feelings of despair, dejection, disappointment, doubt, and inadequacy.

Inevitably, there is a period of mourning and self-loathing, whether it be for a few minutes or a few years. In that crucial period, we all have a decision to make. Will you give up? Or will you get up? When you get up, the narrative changes. When you refuse to let your failure define you, you grab the pen and begin to author your own story. The transient emotions that are so paralyzing and inhibiting are replaced altogether. Though the pangs of failure in a success-hungry world are gut-wrenching, the refusal to succumb to a failure-identity plants seeds of strength that take root and last far longer than any short-term emotional reactions. Out of that soil sprout motivation, resolve, toughness, resiliency, compassion, perseverance, strength, and creativity. These characteristics, which would not exist without failure, are what lead to success and significance. When failure is viewed through this lens, as a necessary stepping stone to lasting success, we can learn to EMBRACE failure and PURSUE opportunities to fail! DO NOT FEAR FAILURE!

Wait…. Does failure even exist?

His Airness said it himself “I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. I cannot accept not trying again.” Kobe takes this concept to another dimension. The Mamba claims that failure “Does not exist.” While that may be a little bit of an extreme, here’s what one of the most unique minds I’ve studied means by this: Until you quit, you haven’t failed. What most call “failures”, Kobe regards as “setbacks” and “learning experiences.” As long as you learn something from a failure and press on, then the failure wasn’t even a failure at all.

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While I wholeheartedly endorse the premise that “The only true failure is giving up”, I do think that Kobe’s theory fails to address two variables of success that are of utmost importance: Time and people. In a way, his view partially validates some of the accusations has had leveled against him as a leader. The key assumptions that must be true for Kobe to be right are that 1. Time is infinite and 2. People don’t matter. Sorry Kobe, but some goals have a shot clock! He assumes that the only time constraint is death. That we can just keep trying and trying again until we get it right. In the real world, a lot of goals have time windows that they have to be accomplished in, and we can’t just “try try again” until we get it right. In a roundabout way, this principle ties into the other half of my problem. People matter, and in each relationship that we develop, whether it’s a minute-long meet and greet or a 60 year marriage, there is a finite period of time that we have to make a positive impact on that person’s life. Kobe’s failure-less reality is built on the principle that personal growth is the ultimate goal, and that everything else comes secondary to that. Under that premise, “as long as you learn, there is no failure”, checks out. But what if self-realization/personal growth is actually the penultimate goal? What if the true aim of my life is to positively impact the OTHER PEOPLE that God has placed in my path, people that are not permanently a part of my journey? Will continually learning and growing allow me to reach my primary goal? Absolutely. But which takes precedence? Do I impact others IN ORDER TO assist in my own personal growth and to take the next step in my development? Or do I learn and grow SO THAT I can better impact the world around me? It seems like simple semantics, but I believe the distinction is of tremendous importance. Purpose matters! Start with Why!

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Kobe is the man, and I believe he is spot on when he says that nothing is a complete failure where there is learning. Our definition of failure is linked closely to our definition of success. Is your view of “success” self-centered and focused on your own development and tangible goals? Or is your Success “others-centered” and reliant upon adding value to the world around you? I don’t think either view is wrong, but you can tell which side I fall on. Though I do believe failure does indeed exist, I agree that there is something to be learned from every failure.

Let’s rein it back in here

You… Me… We……… NEED TO FAIL. Failure is more than necessary; it’s absolutely vital. We need to fail like we need to breathe. Without it, we would never know success. As human beings, we should look for chances to challenge ourselves and test our limits! We should seek out opportunities to fail! What is so incredible about sports is that they give people (especially young people) a safe space to fail! A designated area where you can learn to fall (and then get back up) with minimal cuts and bruises. The similes are endless. Like riding a bike with training wheels, flipping into a foam pit, or mountain climbing with a harness. Sports allow us to fail with a safety net. They are an invaluable opportunity for our young people to master the art of perseverance. Because one day, we are all going to come face to face with failure in the real world, with no safety net, training wheels, foam pit, or harness. On that day, we need to already know how to fail: with grace and dignity, and how to respond: with determination and resiliency. Sports supply us with the simulated failure-experiences that we so badly need!

Don’t fear failure, embrace it!

If you aren’t failing regularly, then you aren’t dreaming big enough!

TD

TD’s Takeaways- Week 10

Sooners edge Cyclones in Ames, Eye Biggest Conference Test Yet In Baylor

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On Thursday, the Boomer Boys took on the Clonies on a short-week of prep, and managed to walk away with a rather pedestrian 34-24 victory. The offense still managed to put up a decent number of points and yards, but the Iowa St. D slowed down the Sooners much more than any team has since Ohio St. The lack of a true running back most definitely hurt the attack, as well as some protection issues involving both the offensive line and the backs.

Even though we all would have liked to have seen more points on the scoreboard, you gotta give credit where credit is due! A couple of guys deserve some BIG TIME PROPS for stepping up on the offensive side of the football! Obviously this starts with Dimitri Flowers, who was relied upon as our primary ballcarrier despite having ZERO CAREER CARRIES prior to this game. Unbelievable performance by Meeches Peaches! It was highly publicized that Dimitri had to replace Joe/Samaje at the tailback, but what no one seemed to ask was “Who replaced Dimitri at fullback?” The answer to that would be Connor Knight! Con played by far the most offensive snaps of his career, and he did it as a blocking fullback. This guy showed up on campus five years ago as a 210 lb receiving tight end that couldn’t block worth a lick, and now he’s out there in the backfield as a 250 lb blocking machine! I love it!

Defensively, though we did give up some frustrating big plays, there were some definite positives! Over these last 3 games, we have gotten a ton of production from fresh faces! Du’vonta Lampkin and Kenneth Mann have taken the first snaps of their career, and have done some good things for us. Caleb Kelly has continued to see his role increase, and his future has greatness written all over it.

For Sooner fans, it was a frustrating game to watch because of some blown coverages, missed tackles, and surrendered third downs. But, incredibly enough, when you look at the stat sheet, we actually held Iowa St below 300 yards of offense and well below their season average, which is impressive. Doing so with so many injuries and a short week of rest/prep is doubly impressive!

Now onto Baylor.

With the Bears stumbling into Norman after back to back embarrassing losses, it is tempting to go ahead and chalk this one up as a W mentally and start looking forward to the Showdown in Morgantown that looms large.

Let me do my best Lee Corso impersonation and say “NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND!”

The Bears pose a significant threat to the Sooners.

Why? OFFENSE.

Over the past several years, these guys have proved time and time again that they can score, and that particularly they can score on us. Their offensive style is what concerns me most. People tend to think that they are similar to Texas Tech. NOT AT ALL! Extremely different styles of offense. Baylor has a very physical run game, and they want to be a run-first team. The use the run game to set up their deep shots via play-action passes. Baylor throws more deep balls than anyone in the country, and that is something that we have had trouble defending this year. The vast majority of their passes are off of some sort of run-action, with 6 or 7 people in the protection. Because they don’t throw drop back passes, getting pressure is very difficult.

With our run defense being the strength of the unit by far, why am I concerned about Baylor’s rushing attack? It’s simple…. DEPTH. We are so incredibly thin up front, and I am concerned about them wearing us down. I do not currently know the projections of who is supposed to be cleared to play, but I know that if Dimon, Walker, Bledsoe, and Romar are all out, with Obo being a little dinged up and Jordan Wade playing 80% of the game, we are going to get worn out by the fourth quarter. If we can stuff the run and make them one dimensional, I think we will limit their offense enough to win. If not, it could be a barn burner.

On the other side of the ball, we should roll. They are not nearly as good on defense as they have been, and the talent drop off is extremely noticeable. They take a lot of risks with some exotic slanting techniques, and if they don’t get home, the consequences are severe. If we have both Joe and Samaje back, I expect a 50-piece. Even if we only have one, I still expect us to score more than enough points to win.

Big 12 Buzz

I think I picked every single game wrong this week. But here’s what I learned.

TCU is an enigma

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One week that can’t put up any points against a notoriously poor Tech defense, then the next week then blow the brakes off of Baylor to the tune of 62 points. They may be the spoiler when they head to Stilly soon.

Okie St wins again

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This game went about how I expected, but I thought Snyder’s Cats could limit the Fightin’ Mulleteers to one or two less scores. Mason Rudolph is playing the best football of his career. Crazy thought: If the Central Michigan fiasco is correctly called, then the Cowboys would probably be in the top 8 of the CFP rankings at this point. Wow. Will the Committee take into account the admitted officiating blunders of that game?

Texas MIGHT be getting better on defense

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At the beginning of the year, I thought Texas looked good. But then we all collectively realized that we were very wrong, and the defense was the biggest issue. I was outspokenly critical of both their scheme and personnel decisions, and privately I was even more scathing. These last few games, they have actually played….. decent defense. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but they kept Baylor and Tech both in the 30’s. Don’t get me wrong, they are still pretty bad. But they are better.

Kansas- WV

….. Nothing to see here!

National Spotlight

Fight On!

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I spent my weekend in Los Angeles, CA, enjoying the gameday life of a USC Trojan! While the city is a bit crowded and dirty for my liking, I did very much enjoy the fan experience. USC boasts a variety of neat traditions, and the atmosphere is palpably prestigious and dignified. The Coliseum, though very old, is a very unique venue. It feels as if you are walking into the Roman Coliseum itself. The problem is, they don’t fill it up. Not even close. I would say it was barely over half full at kickoff. When you’re located in a place like LA, the fanbase has plenty of other entertainment options when the team isn’t performing. Additionally, though the students go harrrrdddd at the tailgates leading up to kickoff, most of them don’t even attend the game.

From a stadium standpoint, the tradition of the Coliseum is awesome, but it is in serious need of a massive renovation. There are no permanent luxury seating locations for donors and guests, and no attractions that enhance the fan experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love the historic feel of it, but I believe with some additions and renovation it could be one of the premier venues in all of sports. But, as is, its bare-bones and lagging behind the rest of the CFB Blue Bloods.

From a team standpoint, no one is talking about the Trojans! Since making a change at QB, they have taken off and are really playing some good football. Oregon looked very overmatched, and I expect a change there soon, but that doesn’t take away from USC’s performance. They took their lumps early, but they are now hitting their stride. I think they are fully capable of upsetting the Huskies in Seattle this week!

Death Valley Shutout

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I know we’ve all been talking about it all year, but this Bama defense is unreal. LSU’s offense isn’t very good, but shutting out a top-tier team at home is an impressive feat nonetheless. I have seen nothing that makes me think Bama will be beaten this year.

Triggermen

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Sometimes, I think that we are underestimate the impact quarterback play has on a game. Like I just mentioned, USC’s quarterback switch has propelled them back into the conversation in the PAC 12 South. Lamar Jackson is beating people by himself. Jalen Hurts has consistently been Bama’s top playmaker all year. Now, let’s look at the other side: when QB play goes bad. Saturday, Trevor Knight got hurt in the first half against Mississippi St. They struggled on offense, and lost to the 3-5 Bulldogs. In B1G country, Tommy Armstrong got knocked out of the game, and what was already going to be a tough challenge for the Huskers became a nightmare blowout. My point is: QB play can make all the difference. Deshaun Watson is now dealing with a surgery, and I am very intrigued about how that may impact the chase for the CFP title going forward.

 

November is upon us! That means it’s winning time!

Boomer Sooner! Beat Baylor

 

TD