Texas and Oklahoma’s path to the SEC in 2024 has been cleared.
The Longhorns and Sooners have finalized an agreement with the Big 12, as well as its television partners, to exit the league one year earlier than scheduled, sources tell Sports Illustrated. Under the agreement, the schools would join the SEC in July 2024, in time to participate in the ’24 football season.
The agreement ends several months of discussions for an early separation and comes just days after negotiation snags seemed to trigger reports of an altogether end to talks—something refuted to SI by multiple sources last week. Turns out, the parties—specifically networks ESPN and Fox—restarted negotiations soon after the latest hitch and were steered toward a compromise by self-proclaimed dealmaker Brett Yormark, the brash Big 12 commissioner who seven months into his tenure has scored a lucrative victory for his legacy schools.
As might be expected, there are a lot of moving parts to this deal.
Texas & Oklahoma will leave Big 12 a year early & join SEC in 2024. OU & Texas will not pay an exit fee, but will forego $100 million in revenue from Big 12. In December, @ActionNetworkHQ 1st reported there was "growing momentum" for the schools to leave a year early
OU & Texas leaving Big 12 after this season to join SEC in 2024 by forgoing $100M of revenue distribution. Fox will receive $20M of that, sources told @ActionNetwork. Also, OU & UT will not receive full SEC share 1st year in league in 2024, sources said https://t.co/bHB2wROjMJ
Sources: A key part of the deal to let OU and Texas out of Big 12 early was a game flip of a non-conference match-up between Michigan and Texas. Texas will now visit Michigan in 2024 in Ann Arbor and Michigan will return the game in Austin in 2027. They’d been scheduled opposite.
It’s rare that you find an article provides its own tl;dr summary, but such is the case with Ross Dellenger’s lengthy exploration of the story behind why Oklahoma and Texas won’t be leaving the Big 12 early for the SEC (the gist being that the schools and the Big 12 have worked out a departure deal, but Fox and ESPN are in a pissing match). Read it all, or settle for the one-sentence conclusion that not only nails this particular situation, but all of college football for the past quarter-century:
“We’ve sold our souls to the devil,” says one athletic director, “but we love our paycheck.”
“They didn’t come out with any trick plays, nothing that we hadn’t seen or that they hadn’t shown on film, (but) they just completed a bunch of passes against misalignments,” Winters told DawgNation at Senior Bowl Media Day this week.
“It was the motions that discombobulated our secondary and got them confused.”
Don’t you just hate seeing a discombobulated secondary?
“They are a good team, there was talent there, but we could have saved ourselves a lot of those scores if we’d had gotten lined up,” Winters said.
It was 65-7, brother. That’s a shitload of lining up.
Riley had to be speaking and closing the deal with Clemson before the national championship game. Wonder how that distracted him. Only scoring 7 points when TCU averages 40 tells me this might be the case. Can't be distracted when playing an elite team. https://t.co/kdy88C0Gtg
ESPN update on TCU star tailback Kendre Miller, as pessimism looms over his ability to significantly impact the game tonight. Miller’s sprained right MCL was at just 50-percent health two days ago. pic.twitter.com/LbXwVGYKTk
There’s optimism from Georgia about star tight end Darnell Washington’s ability to play and impact the CFP title game tonight. The Bulldogs will be “intentional” about how they use him, per a source. Expect him to factor into UGA’s run game and 12 personnel packages. pic.twitter.com/dmotx2r3kH
To paraphrase Charlie Weis somewhat, Georgia doesn’t come into tonight’s game with a decided schematic advantage over TCU; it comes in with a decided talent advantage. Josh Pate does a good job summing up what that means.
Georgia doesn’t have to play a perfect game tonight to win. (Before you go there, that’s not the same thing as saying the Dawgs don’t have to play a good game.) TCU pretty much does have to bring their A game to win. I’m not saying that’s an impossibility — any given Saturday… er, Monday and all that — but that’s a tough reach in the most pressure packed game the Horned Frogs have played this season against the nation’s best team.
It’s hard to see a lot of common ground between Ohio State and TCU this season, but there’s one thing that gives me some pause for thought. Both teams came into their games against Georgia with questions, Ohio State’s fragility after a second loss to Michigan and TCU’s Cinderella status. If you’re the better team, you don’t want to give the other guys confidence by letting them hang with you early. That’s exactly what happened in the Peach Bowl, and it came very close to costing Georgia the game. TCU isn’t as talented as the Buckeyes, for sure, but here’s what giving them belief has meant this year:
TCU has played 7 games against ranked teams. All 7 were 4th-quarter games.
Five of the 7 were last-possession games.
The Frogs won’t be intimidated by the stage or the enormity of the moment. They’ve won on last-second touchdowns and field goals, and defending last-second throws into the end zone.
Well, they won’t if Georgia doesn’t let them have a lot of first half success, anyway. Job One means not letting them race out to an early lead.
Job Two means not making painful mistakes, like throwing two pick sixes. Remember, like Georgia against OSU, Michigan was in scramble mode for much of the game, and the Wolverines still wound up outgaining TCU in the course of scoring 45 points. The problem was their offense giving the Horned Frogs 14 points in a game they only won by six. (Georgia’s turnover only cost the Dawgs seven points in a game they won by one point.)
The upshot for opposing defenses is that there is no focal point and no sound strategy to account for the multitude of options Monken throws at them. How do you defend a scheme that can shift seamlessly from grinding between the tackles to running the Air Raid with the same core personnel? If there’s an answer other than “have better players,” no one has found it against this lineup yet. The Bulldogs have averaged north of 6.0 yards per play in every game this season except their 16-6 slugfest at Kentucky in which they came in at a mere 5.6 ypp while attempting a season-low 19 passes.
Kentucky dared the Dawgs to pound out a living on the ground and they did, rushing for 247 yards in a game whose outcome was never in doubt. Ohio State took the opposite approach, holding Georgia to a pedestrian 147 rushing yards (excluding sacks) on a season-low 24 carries, and finally succeeded in the process in putting the outcome of a high-scoring game on the much-doubted right arm of Stetson Bennett IV; Bennett responded with one of the crowning nights of his career, bombing the Buckeyes for 398 yards and 3 touchdowns passing on 11.7 per attempt.
Since I think we’re all in agreement that TCU doesn’t have better players, that leaves me wondering which poison they pick to defend Georgia’s offense. As I mentioned last week, one of the key developments that came out of the Peach Bowl was the demise of the “Georgia can’t win a shootout with Stetson Bennett” narrative. That doesn’t mean it’s a lock tonight, but much like establishing at least a semblance of a running game helps to keep a defense honest, the Horned Frogs can’t simply march in assuming Bennett can’t make them pay for putting the offense on his shoulders. Especially now that we’ve seen what a healthy Mitchell and Smith can bring to the table.
Job Four is to defend Max Duggan differently than J.T. C.J. Stroud. Stroud didn’t pose much of a running threat during the season, so Georgia’s approach against him was to get pressure forcing him out of the pocket. That didn’t work so well much of the time because Stroud turned in a career game. In any event, one thing you can’t say about Duggan is that he isn’t a running threat. Duggan didn’t have a great passing game against Michigan, but made up for much of that on the ground.
Duggan’s mobility and all-purpose grit-itude carried over from the regular season in full. As a runner, he accounted for 63 yards, 2 touchdowns, 7 first downs and a 79% success rate, nearly offsetting his negative EPA through the air…
Georgia can’t have that, nor can it have Duggan burning them in scramble mode throwing the ball. That ought to mean an opposite approach than the one taken in the Peach Bowl; the Dawgs’ front has to keep Duggan bottled up in the pocket. Containment is a key and it’s something I’m a little nervous about, considering how far down into the roster barrel they had to scrape with defensive linemen and outside linebackers as the Peach Bowl wore on.
Job Five is pretty duh (mainly because it’s a standing priority under Kirby Smart), too, although there’s perhaps a wrinkle. Georgia needs to be successful, as they have been all season, defending the ground game. And, yes, TCU has one.
TCU isn’t a dominant rushing team, by any means, but at a shade over 200 yards per game it makes a perfectly decent living. The Frogs have been productive enough, consistently enough to remain viable on the ground every time out, and to keep Duggan out of desperate passing situations as a result. The more the playbook remains open, the more aggressive the offense can afford to be as the night wears on. Pulling off that dynamic against Michigan was a major achievement, especially after the resident workhorse, Miller, left the game with a knee injury in the first half. (Miller is questionable to play on Monday night, per his head coach — a potentially huge absence that seems only slightly less huge after Demercado went off for 150 yards on 8.8 per carry off the bench.) Sustaining it against Georgia, owner of the nation’s No. 1 run defense and No. 1 individual run stopper, herculean DT Jalen Carter, will be a final-boss-level test.
Double that if Miller can’t play or can’t play at the level he was at before last week. The potential wrinkle I hint at is, does TCU take a page out of last week’s game plan from Ryan Day and just say, screw it, we’re throwing the ball until Georgia shows us they can stop us? I don’t have the answer to that, but I don’t think it’s too unlikely a decision.
Job Six? Tackle in the secondary to limit explosive plays. Matt Hinton points out that Georgia’s defense actually did one thing pretty well in pass coverage against OSU.
The silver lining for the Dawgs was that, as scorched as they were at the end of the night, they didn’t give away anything for free: Ohio State never managed to get over the top of the coverage or slip a tackle en route to a breakaway gain in the open field. The Buckeyes’ longest play, a 37-yard touchdown strike from Stroud to reserve WR Xavier Johnson, exploited a mismatch in coverage (Johnson was matched against a linebacker, Jamon Dumas-Johnson, with predictable results) but still required a next-level throw from Stroud.
As a team, they averaged just 4.3 yards after catch, their lowest YAC effort of the season outside of a windy, waterlogged win at Northwestern.
Guess what TCU’s receivers do well?
TCU, as you might have guessed, thrives on YAC: Davis (9.4), Johnston (8.9) and Barber (7.7) all rank in the top 15 nationally in average yards after catch among Power 5 wideouts with at least 40 targets, per PFF. Give them a step and a sliver of daylight, and they might be gone.
Georgia can’t eliminate those windows of opportunity entirely, but it can make them tighter than any opposing defense the Frogs have faced to date, and slam them shut ASAP with sound open-field tackling. (And, ideally, by not asking an inside linebacker to run vertically with a slot receiver.) If putting points on the board comes down to Duggan’s ability to string together sustained scoring drives, that’s a bet the Bulldogs can live with.
Agreed. I have a hard time imagining Duggan can throw the ball at as high a level as Stroud did last week, so if Georgia’s defense can make TCU work its way down the field instead of burning them with a bunch of explosive plays (and by now I’m sure you’ve heard that TCU has 3 receivers averaging at least 13.5 yards per catch, and the Horned Frogs lead the nation in plays of 50 yards or more and are 2nd in plays of 40 yards or more), that’s an unequivocally positive thing.
Listen, TCU is a good team. You don’t play in a national championship game without having a certain quality. And while they’re not the more talented team tonight, the question is whether they’re the better one. If Georgia does good work, they won’t be. I think the Dawgs do good work and cover.
A few more random thoughts:
It sure would be nice if Darnell Washington played.
Maybe we should keep an eye on TCU’s Darius Davis: “Davis is one of the nation’s most dangerous return men, with 5 career touchdowns on punt returns… The flip side of Davis’ explosiveness in the return game is his marginal ball security: PFF has him down for 5 career muffs.”
Comfort factor #1: Michigan chased TCU and came up short; Georgia chased OSU and won.
Comfort factor #2: Based on #1, this team has heard no end of taking TCU lightly from its head coach.
Is it harder to repeat as national champs, or to come out of nowhere to win a national title for the first time?
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