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Bohls: Alliance arises to stabilize college sports ... oh, but sorry, Big 12

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren joined the ACC and Pac-12 commissioners in announcing the formation of an Alliance among the three leagues, but he had no invitation for the surviving members of the Big 12. That alliance will help with scheduling games in football and basketball.

While I got ya, here are nine things and one crazy prediction:

1. Allies in arms. The commissioners of the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC held a press conference Tuesday announcing the, uh, very loose formation — no signed contract — of an alliance, so their 41 combined schools would schedule each other in football and basketball and use their collective voices on future governance issues. You can call it The Alliance or simply NOTTHESEC. An alliance is a good thing and could benefit the fans if it means more Oregon-Ohio State and USC-Clemson games. But is this new three-league merger of the minds at cross purposes with the ever-expanding, all-powerful SEC and simply a backlash? Are they not all equally aligned? Did the Pac-12 ask the SEC’s permission when it tried to pilfer four Big 12 teams, including Texas and Oklahoma, a decade ago? Did the Big Ten get the all-good OK from the SEC when it lured Maryland and Rutgers to its league? I think not. All’s fair. But yes it’s also every league for itself. Or, in this case, it’s the SEC for itself, other three Power Four leagues for themselves and the Big 12, well, what can we say? When I asked if the commissioners feared for the survival of the Big 12, the ACC’s Jim Phillips said, “We want and need the Big 12 to do well. The Big 12 matters in college athletics. The Big 12 matters in Power Five athletics.” Well, not really. If it truly mattered, those three leagues would have invited the The Late Eight from the Big 12 to join them, and they didn’t. … Those might be rolling their eyes when they are staring at the ceiling on so many sleepless nights. I heard respect for Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, but no strong suggestions about how the suddenly TV-poor league could survive and obviously no invitation for them to join the Alliance. It’s very clear the Alliance is chafing at the SEC expansion. Phillips even said the Alliance arose to help “stabilize a volatile environment.” He wasn’t talking about name, image and likeness. … Yes, this is about future governance as much as scheduling, and maybe the Big Three will try to slow down the runaway train that is the SEC and seek to temper any potential SEC moves to, say, more professionalize college sports and perhaps raise roster scholarship limits to 120 or more or increase regular season games to 14. Asked if the SEC adding OU/Texas prompted the Alliance, the Big Ten’s Kevin Warren said, “What that did, that allowed all of us to take a step back, take a step forward and see what will the next one to 15 years look like in college athletics? I wouldn’t say it’s a reaction, but you have to evaluate what’s going in. The last few months have shaken the beliefs of college athletics.” … Oh and they all said this isn’t about money, which means it’s about money.

Bohls, Golden: These eyes on Texas see questions, concerns but also some hope for Horns

2. Playoffs? PLAYOFFS? Yeah, we’re glad you asked. The aforementioned conference commissioners were asked if they supported a 12-team College Football Playoff that has been widely discussed. Phillips declined to answer, saying his league “hasn’t made a final decision about where we fall on that.” Warren and the Pac-12’s George Kliavkoff both said they endorse a 12-team field. “The Pac-12 is 100% interested in the expansion of the CFP, but the issue is in the margins,” Kliavkoff said. Isn’t it always? Like maybe restricting a single conference to, say, four berths so the SEC doesn’t grab, say, 10 of the 12 spots. Warren said he is “a big believer in expanding the CFP, a big believer in being methodical and doing our homework.” … It should be noted none of these three conferences were represented in the working group to study CFP growth because only the SEC’s Greg Sankey, Bowlsby, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson. The group meets again next month.

Jake Spavital has won just five games in his first two seasons as Texas State's head football coach but isn't feeling any extra pressure. He said he considers the 2020 season a virtual push because of the pandemic's effect on scheduling, games and recruiting.

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3. What pressure? Even though he’s only 5-19 after two seasons, third-year Texas State head football coach Jake Spavital said he doesn’t really feel any extra pressure to produce big. Even though his Bobcats went just 2-10 last season, they lost three games by two or three points, were tied with SMU late in the third quarter and led Boston College in the fourth. “I don’t sense any extra pressure,” Spavital told me. “Actually I don’t think there’s any pressure on any of us after the 2020 year and what everyone went through with COVID. We have a new athletic director (recently promoted Don Coryell), and he gets it. He just wants us to put ourselves in a position to start winning. Our kids have been very competitive. I think our kids fight. We’ve just got to stop beating ourselves.” … Know that Spavital continues to get job offers elsewhere, including the NFL, so it’s far too early to mistrust him at a school that has gone 12-48 the last five years under the watch of just-departed athletic director Larry Teis and retiring president Denise Trauth. … In Spavital’s mind, three plays usually dictate every game’s outcome. “We win the UTSA game if we kick an extra point,” he said. “We beat Georgia Southern if we don’t snap the ball over our punter’s head. At Boston College we don’t catch the ball on a wide open hitch route, and there was a weird roughing the passer penalty.” An onside kick play against SMU was critical as well. … The Bobcats play Baylor each of the next three years, Arizona State in 2024 and 2025, and Texas in 2026.

4. Where did all the quarterbacks go? Aside from Spencer Rattler, Sam Howell and Brock Purdy, there’s hardly a big-name quarterback returning. And that may be as big a reason as any the CFP race could be more open than ever. Of the top 24 passers from a year ago, 13 are gone. It will be fascinating to see some of the young breakout stars because it’s largely a blank slate for the most part.

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler is considered a Heisman Trophy frontrunner, but Daily Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel said "the jury is still out" on the Sooners star that some think could be next year's No. 1 overall pick of the NFL draft.

On Second Thought Ep. 230: Texas QB battle; Berry Tramel on the Sooners’ title hopes

5. Will the real OU stand up? Berry Tramel’s one of our best go-to sources on all things Oklahoma. The Oklahoman columnist was our guest on last week’s “On Second Thought” podcast and told us he’s not quite as high on the Boomers as many of us. “They haven’t won a playoff game since most of the guys on the team were born,” Tramel said. “They’re on a seven-game losing streak. Now, are they better? Are they capable? Is their defense better? It looks like it. But I’m not going too far down the optimistic road.” … Tramel also points out Kansas State has beaten OU twice in a row “and did it with offense. Who else does Kansas State’s offense scare?” … As far as Rattler, Tramel said “the jury is out on whether he’s a superstar or not. With Baker Mayfield, you knew he was early. But they play West Virginia after Nebraska, so we’ll know pretty quick” just how good Rattler is.

6. Random hits. Did Bears fans really boo Andy Dalton last weekend? In a preseason game? Really? Is Chicago the new Philly? … So Tampa Bay's Tom Brady played all of last season with a torn MCL, and how many times was he on the injury report for that? The answer is zero. Shows you just what a mockery that injury report is. I’m guessing a bookie or two knew, however. And since the NFL once fined the Steelers a 100 large for failing to disclose an elbow injury to Ben Roethlisberger for one single week, wouldn’t it be entirely appropriate to fine the Bucs that amount multiplied by every game Brady played? If not, why have the report? … And while we're on the subject, we’d still love to see a weekly injury report for college football. All about transparency, right? … If Dak Prescott can’t brush his teeth or throw more than 20 yards downfield, are the Dallas Cowboys doomed to go 4-13?

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marquez Callaway is a fantasy football sleeper and is poised for a breakout year, though he won't have Drew Brees throwing passes to him. Star Saints receiver Michael Thomas is battling an injury.

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7. Latest fantasy tips. So Cat Vasquez, the American-Statesman's fantasy football expert, told our "On Second Thought" podcast that Saints WR Marquez Callaway and Broncos RB Javonte Williams are potential sleepers, QB Trey Lance will start at some point this year and Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb is "going a little too high," in drafts. He says "I love DeVonta Smith a ton." Podcast is available Thursday. ... Son John Tyler and I are in a keeper league, and we kept tight end Travis Kelce and running back Austin Ekeler. We love rookies Najee Harris and Justin Fields but aren’t wild about Zach Wilson or Julio Jones. I wouldn’t touch Jameis Winston with a 10-foot pole. Or a 20-foot pole. I wonder when Matt Ryan really tails off. I think Tua Tagovailoa could be a sleeper. I think Big Ben’s got something left in his tank. Watch out for the Chargers. Matt Stafford should flourish. DK Metcalf is about to blow up this league.

8. Scattershooting. While wondering whatever happened to former Longhorns quarterback Steve Clements from Huntsville, who lost out on a battle with Peter Gardere and transferred to BYU. Best friend Larry Carlson caught up with Gardere, last week’s target, and interviewed him for a future podcast for the Texas Legacy Support Network. Gardere, Mr. 4-0, said the most unusual spot he ever got recognized was in Argentina. He recalled that football coach John Mackovic banned him from playing baseball after 1993 — Gardere was an outfielder and catcher — and told him that even as a three-year starter, he’d have to win his job. Said Mackovic “charted every single pass in practice, even if it was against air.”

9. At the box office: Watched “Free Guy” because there’s so few interesting movies out now. I loved Ryan Reynolds in the Deadpool movies, but this one seemed so silly. Gave it five ducks.

Crazy prediction: Pittsburgh's running back Harris will be this year's NFL rookie of the year.