Stay up-to-date with the latest news, press releases,
event updates and more.

Team Alert

John Harris: Championship Weekend is Upon Us

Championship weekend is upon us and it’s going to be one heck of a weekend. The CFP Final Four came a bit more into focus the past weekend, which then sets the dominoes in motion for bowl appointments, most importantly for all of us in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl (the Bowl).

The Playoff seems clear to me at this point.
The winner of Auburn-Georgia in the SEC Championship game is in the Playoff.
The winner of Miami-Clemson in the ACC Championship game is in the Playoff.
If Wisconsin wins, it’s in the Playoff.
If Oklahoma wins, it’s in the Playoff.

If Wisconsin loses, the Committee has to compare Alabama’s and Ohio State’s resumes, which isn’t going to be easy.
If Oklahoma and Wisconsin both lose, then Alabama and Ohio State may both be in.
If Oklahoma loses but Wisconsin wins, then Alabama seems to be the next best option to go in with Wisconsin, ACC winner and SEC winner.

In summation on the playoff, here are the possibilities as I see them ACC winner, SEC winner, Wisconsin & Oklahoma ACC winner, SEC winner, Wisconsin & Alabama ACC winner, SEC winner, Ohio State & Oklahoma ACC winner, SEC winner, Ohio State & Alabama

The entire situation is fluid, honestly. What if Wisconsin loses to Ohio State 38-37 in the wildest game of the day? Could the Committee take both Ohio State and Wisconsin? Probably not, but then again, who knows?

Now, how does this all impact the Academy Sports + Outdoor Texas Bowl. Well, on the Big 12 side, if TCU beats Oklahoma, then the Big 12 will more than likely get two teams in New Year’s Day Six Bowls. With two teams in New Year’s Day Six games, it moves every Big 12 team up in the pecking order, so to speak, which takes away an option from the Bowl. But, if Oklahoma wins, TCU may not be able to hold a spot in the top 12-14, which could keep it from getting a New Year’s Day Six bid. For the Bowl, that’s a great thing. For TCU and the Big 12, not so much, I suppose.

On the SEC side, with Alabama at 11-1, the conference is 99.9% guaranteed to get at least two teams in New Year’s Day Six games. A third team getting invited, like in 2014 (Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss), will create a domino effect for the Bowl, moving every team up in the pecking order.

So, even though the picture is clearer at the top, in some respects, the results on Championship weekend have far ranging effects for all bowls, including the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bowl on December 27th.

By: John Harris

Team Alert

Texas Longhorns and Their Long Road to Bowl Eligibility

After Maryland put a 50-burger on the University of Texas to start the season, there were major concerns in Austin that it would be a loooooong season for first year head coach Tom Herman. No one, and by no one, I mean NO ONE, saw that coming. Maryland had (most of its firepower was lost to injury this season) a ton of weaponry that it sprung on the Texas defense and it was a horrid look for the Longhorns to start the 2017 campaign, especially so after allowing opponents 31.5 points per game in 2016.

Fast forward about 12 weeks or so and take a look at the Texas Longhorns defensive unit now. After Maryland’s 50 point output, the Longhorns defense has yielded just over 20 points a game, which is a near impossibility in the offensively potent Big 12. It held nearly every offense on its schedule under that unit’s scoring average, with one unusual exception (Kansas). Against West Virginia, the Longhorns held West Virginia to a measly 56 yards on the ground (WVU averaged over 160 yards per game heading into the game) and 295 yards of total offense. The win over West Virginia also made the Longhorns bowl eligible after being shut out of a bowl in 2016.

The play of the Longhorns defense saved the season, so to speak. The offense had moments of brilliance this year, but it’s been inconsistent to say the least. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has turned around defenses at nearly every single stop on his coaching journey and now he’s done it in Austin as well. Because of the play of the Texas defense, Orlando, Herman and the Longhorns will be playing a 13th game this season and that’s certainly a step in the right direction.

By: John Harris

Team Alert


For the first time in 15 years, a day of college football will include three top-10 matchups. And the Big 12 is at the center of it.

The meeting between No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 TCU in Norman, Okla., joins No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 10 Auburn and No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 7 Miami as Saturday’s trio of top-10 showdowns. It’s the first day with three such games since Oct. 12, 2002.

Interestingly, that day also involved games featuring Oklahoma, Georgia and Miami, with each of those teams winning their respective games. The No. 2 Sooners defeated No. 3 Texas, 35-24. Georgia, ranked sixth, won 18-13 over 10th-ranked Tennessee. No. 1 Miami inched past No. 9 Florida State, 28-27.

All three of this year’s carry heavy College Football Playoff implications, as any losing team would suffer a severe drop in its playoff chances as a result. The Big 12 matchup specifically is a playoff elimination game, with either team at risk of suffering its second loss. The winner is best positioned for a run to the playoff and conference championship game, while the loser is likely out of the playoff but still capable of earning a spot in the Big 12 title game.

Georgia can help minimize chaos by defeating Auburn, while a Tigers victory would make the Iron Bowl with No. 2 Alabama a must-watch matchup for all those with playoff interests.

Norte Dame is hoping to knock a conference or two, including the Big 12, out of the playoff, while Miami is trying to keep its perfect season alive.

For the Big 12 to make the playoff, the winner of Oklahoma-TCU likely needs to also win the conference title. A 12-1 conference champ would be tough to leave out, so this weekend’s results in any of the three games will have a large impact down the line.

By: Nathan Ruiz, [view article]

Team Alert

Bedlam Will Be Bedlam

Oklahomans refer to it as Bedlam. Oklahoma v. Oklahoma State or Oklahoma State v. Oklahoma, depending on the shade of orange or crimson on your person. Over the past decade and a half, these two have met for not just bragging rights, but a potential spot in the Big 12 Championship game, a potential Big 12 Championship crown and/or a possible spot in the College Football Playoffs. This year is no different.

The Sooners will travel to Stillwater as the number five team in the country, with an outstanding win over Ohio State on the road but a heartbreaking loss to Iowa State at home. Since losing at home to TCU, the eleventh ranked Cowboys have won four in a row, prior to the Sooners visit on Saturday.

Iowa State awaits Oklahoma State next week, but there’s no Cowboy looking beyond the Sooners this week. Why? Well, it’s pretty obvious, but for there to be anything special left on the table for the Cowboys, a win over the Sooners is a necessity. Same for the Sooners. A second conference loss more than likely eliminates either team from the Big 12 Championship game race.

However, like a 1990s informercial…there’s so much more. Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph won’t step on the field at the same time, but they’ll engage in a back and forth showdown that could be one of the best quarterback shootouts in college football this season. Both are still in the running for nearly every single postseason award, including the Heisman Trophy. Mayfield is thought to be a frontrunner for the prestigious Heisman alongside Saquon Barkley (Penn State), but Rudolph can inject himself into the conversation with a Rudolph-like performance on this massive stage.

There’s a mullet. There are two transcendent quarterbacks. There’s hate. There’s a first year, rookie head coach. There’s hate, sports hate, though (I think). There’s Bedlam and this year, there will be plenty of it in Stillwater on Saturday afternoon.

By: John Harris

Team Alert

How the Unranked Iowa State Cyclones Defeated No. 3 Oklahoma

Matt Campbell’s Iowa State squad was undeterred, undaunted and ready to knock off the undefeated, the home standing, third ranked Oklahoma Sooners in Norman, mind you. Unfortunately, they were 31 point underdogs and the quarterback situation was seemingly a mess. Yet, when the clock hit all zeroes last Saturday, the Cyclones had upset Oklahoma 38-31 on the backs of two of the most unlikely quarterbacks to take snaps in 2017: one that had never started an FBS game and a starting linebacker that was a starting quarterback in 2016. Huh? Well, let me explain.

When starting quarterback Jacob Park was ruled out for the matchup with the Sooners, the Cyclones were left with starting Kyle Kempt. After waiting four long years, with stops at one FBS school, one JUCO stint and a walk on situation at Iowa State, Kempt finally got his chance under center. All he did was throw for 343 yards and three touchdown passes, including the stunning game winner to All-Big 12 star receiver Allen Lazard. Kempt had thrown just two passes in his two years at Iowa State and none in 2017. Of course, that was until Saturday in Norman. He was a star out of high school at Massillon Washington High School in Ohio and originally signed with Oregon State. After two years in Corvallis not getting on the field, he transferred to Hutchinson Community College where he didn’t even play football. He then decided to walk on at Iowa State and made history on Saturday two years after he arrived on campus.

When the Cyclones needed to give a different look or Kempt needed a rest, Campbell turned to starting linebacker Joel Lanning…to play quarterback. The senior was asked in the off-season to move to linebacker and he accepted the job after spending all of 2016 under center at quarterback. Throughout the first four games, Lanning wasn’t used at quarterback with the emergence of Park as the starter, but with Park out, Campbell had no choice but to use Lanning on both offense and defense. All Lanning did was post eight tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery on defense and complete two of three passing for 23 yards and register 35 yards rushing on nine carries. The days of two way players died long ago, but Lanning brought them back for at least one day, anyway.

The Cyclones now have to deal with that success and prepare for Kansas. However, with these two leading the way, Iowa State is in good hands, unusual though the path was for them to get there.

By: John Harris

Team Alert

Is Saquon Barkley the Best Running Back Since Barry Sanders?

Earlier this week, I was a guest on the Triple Threat, the top ranked sports radio show in the city of Houston. Ted Johnson, a three time Super Bowl winner with the Patriots and an All-American linebacker with the Colorado Buffaloes, asked me a question that really stumped me.

“John, is Penn State’s Saquon Barkley the best running back since Barry Sanders?”

My mind started racing. Barry Sanders won the Heisman Trophy in 1988 after the greatest rushing season in college football history, but that was nearly 30 years ago. There have been some great college running backs in that time, but were any of them at the level of Sanders? More importantly, were any of them in the class of Barkley?

Barkley strung together one highlight reel play after another on Saturday night in Iowa City against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Nittany Lions came from behind to win the game on the final play of the game, but they would’ve been upset had it not been for Barkley’s performance. He finished with 211 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown and recorded 12 receptions for 94 yards in addition. Tack on 53 yards on kick returns and he finished with a Sanders-like 358 all-purpose yards. On national television. On the road. In a must win conference game situation.

40 touches. FORTY is just phenomenal, but every single time he touched the rock, he produced a “did you see that kind of moment?”. Penn State blew out its first three opponents, so he had plenty of time to stock up for the matchup with Iowa.

He faces Indiana on Saturday in Happy Valley with another opportunity to show the nation that he’s not only the best back in the nation, but the best player in the nation. Perhaps the best since Barry Sanders too.

By: John Harris

Team Alert

67,000 Iowa Fans Start a New, Heartwarming Home Game Tradition

Back in the 1980s, fans around professional sports started a movement called the Wave. You’ve seen it. Fans standing intermittently throughout a Stadium; lo and behold, it looks like a wave of humans moving, hence the name.

Well, the good people of Iowa have started a new version of the wave and this one, oh, this one is special. It started on September 2 when the Hawkeyes took on the Wyoming Cowboys in the opening game of the season. During the first quarter, the Iowa fans, in unison turned their backs to the field and waved.

Just waved?

Yes, they turned and waved. Why? Kids.

Construction on the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital was completed in February 2017 and the upper floors overlook Kinnick Stadium. Kids of all ages, dealing with numerous complications and illnesses, occupy the rooms on the floors of the Children’s Hospital and the Hawkeye fans decided, all 67,000+ in unison, to pay their respects and wave hello to the kids watching from above in their rooms. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been one of the Hospital’s champions, donating over a $1M to the Hospital, so the tone from the top has consistently been one of generosity, support and, most importantly, love.

So, how did the Wave, Iowa style, come to be? Well, through social media, of course. Back in the spring, on the popular Facebook page Hawkeye Heaven, a follower named Krista Young suggested that that fans should wave to the kids in the hospital during a game at Kinnick Stadium. Levi Thompson, who runs Hawkeye Heaven, took the idea and ran with it and the smiles haven’t stopped coming from those kids at the hospital and the waves will never stop from the fans in black and gold…and the tears haven’t stopped coming from the parents sitting by the kid’s bed side.

The Hawkeyes are 3-0 and will face one of the best teams in the country, Penn State on Saturday night. They may take an L against a tough Nittany Lion team, but right now, the Hawkeyes are number one in a lot of kids’ minds and that’s all that really matters.

By: John Harris

Team Alert

Is Lamar Jackson a Potential Heisman Repeat Winner?

There hasn’t been a Heisman Trophy repeat winner since 1975. For you Millennials, that’s a long time ago, so long ago in fact, that it’s before cable TV was invented. You know, that cable TV that they’re seemingly cutting out of their lives going forward. But, I digress. The history of no repeat winner is so stark, and true, that heading into the 2017 season, no one gave Louisville mega-weapon quarterback Lamar Jackson a chance in Hades of winning this prestigious award again. Heck, analysts and national media didn’t even name him the 2016 Heisman winner a Preseason All-American at the position.

Yet after two weeks of the 2017 season, Jackson has everyone’s attention…again. He’s accounted for eight touchdowns and 1,010 yards of total offense. Oh, and he’s not thrown an interception, either. He led Louisville to wins over much improved Purdue and conference foe North Carolina in the process. Similar to the way that he started 2016, Jackson has strung together highlight reel plays and prodigious numbers as no other player has to start the 2017 season.

But, Clemson is up next. The defending champs just held Auburn to six points and sacked Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham ELEVEN times. That’s no misprint. ELEVEN. Last year in Death Valley, Jackson won the battle, but his Cardinals lost the war. He put up 295 yards through the air and 162 on the ground in one of the best games of the 2016 season, yet the Cardinals lost. This week, the Tigers come to Louisville and Jackson has a chance to ruin their visit and win over even more non-believers.

If he does, maybe the repeat Heisman bandwagon will start to fill up with converts.

By: John Harris

Team Alert

2017 NFL Draft Texas Bowl and Kickoff Alumni

The 2017 NFL Draft concluded Saturday after 253 picks, but it took just one pick for the Texas Bowl to be represented in Philadelphia. Texas A&M star Myles Garrett, who played in the 2015 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff and the 2016 Texas Bowl, got the first call of the draft from the Cleveland Browns. The 6-4, 272 lb. star was the consensus all the way throughout after playing his last game in Houston against the Kansas State Wildcats.

Along with Garrett, there were four other Aggies that played in both the 2015 Kickoff and 2016 Bowl game – wide receiver Josh Reynolds, guard Jermaine Eluemunor, safety Justin Evans and fellow defensive end Daeshon Hall, who opened the 2015 season in grand style with four sacks.

The four teams that played in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff and the Texas Bowl in 2016 accounted for 14 draft selections.

Houston had outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, cornerbacks Howard Wilson and Brandon Wilson. Oklahoma saw RBs Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, receiver DeDe Westbrook and linebacker. Kansas State had two players taken – Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jordan Willis and linebacker Elijah Lee. Texas A&M had five players selected, noted above. All in all, 14 future NFL draft picks came through NRG Stadium in the two bookend games in Houston in 2016.

Of those 14, three were taken in the first two rounds – Garrett, Evans and Mixon. All in all, six of the 14 were selected on the first two days, within the first three rounds.

That was just from the 2016 game. The Texas Bowl and/or the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff were represented by two of the top four picks (Garrett and Leonard Fournette, LSU – 2015 Texas Bowl) and three of the top ten (Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech – 2015 Texas Bowl). Tre’Davious White, LSU was the other Texas Bowl representative in the first round as Buffalo selected him at pick No. 27 after their trade with the Chiefs.

Who did the Chiefs trade up to get?

That’s right Mahomes. So, the Chiefs and Bills made that trade and the two players selected were Texas Bowl alums.

LSU led the way with former Texas Bowl teams with eight selections, led by Fournette at number four to Jacksonville, Jamal Adams number six to the Jets and White to the Bills at number 27.

It was a tremendous weekend for alums of one of the best bowl and kickoff games in the nation.

By: John Harris

Team Alert

John Harris on the LSU Spring Game: Canada’s Offense is No Joke

Mother nature might have played as big a role as any player or coach on Saturday in Baton Rouge for LSU’s annual spring game. Before the storm hit, though, the purple and gold assemblage got a chance to see what SEC defenses will learn in due time.

Matt Canada’s offense is no joke.

Shift, motions, tackle over, shovel pass RPOs, tackle eligible passes and numerous other wrinkles had some LSU fans wondering what, in fact, they were watching. And, as it’s only the spring game, LSU’s new energetic offensive coordinator has plenty in his back pocket for the regular season.

The days of true two back, 21 and 22, I-formation personnel are all but gone on the Bayou. The Tigers will throw a litany of formations and play schemes that SEC defenses have NEVER seen from LSU. There are split plays where one side of the formation runs one play and the other side runs another. Canada’s innovation will have heads spinning for a while and it may take a while for it to completely click.

When it does, though, whooo boy, look out.

Oh, did I mention that LSU has arguably the best running back in the nation? I didn’t? Where are my manners? When defenses focus completely on star back Derrius Guice, there will be lanes and openings for a myriad of other offensive stars, including receiver/slot/speed sweeper D.J. Chark, now donning Leonard Fournette’s number seven. Guice, though, stands to gain the most, in some sense, because he won’t spend his entire day ramming his 5-11, 212 lb. body into eight or nine man stacked boxes. He’s going to have as much space to exploit as any back in the country and that’s not a good thing for SEC foes. He’s also going to get more involved in the passing game as he did on the first drive of the game, catching a flat route well ahead of coverage, down to the half yard line. A false start penalty cost LSU’s gold team the touchdown, but it was a sign of things to come with Guice, like Pitt’s James Conner last year, as a key receiver in this scheme.

And, no, your TV wasn’t play fast forward either; the Tigers now play as fast as any team in the conference, sprinting up to the line of scrimmage after first downs and nearly every other play. Now, there’s a difference in playing fast and playing fast effectively. A team can’t just focus on the speed of play, but the efficiency and execution while playing fast. Canada learned that he can combine the innovation of his playbook with pace of play and make it dangerous combination for SEC defenses.

It’s going to be fun in Baton Rouge this season, that’s for sure, and it starts at NRG Stadium September 2nd, 2017.

By: John Harris