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Del Olaleye: The week in college football

Nick Saban is never short on opinions. Even bad ones. Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

The week in college football:

The Kyler Question

What does Kyler Murray do? The Oklahoma signal-caller was drafted ninth overall by the Oakland A’s on Monday. Murray has waited a long-time to be the full-time starter on the college level after being one of the most decorated high school QBs of all time. That wait includes a transfer from College Station to Norman after spot duty at Texas A&M. His newly-minted status as a millionaire complicates his situation. Does the pull of playing college ball mean more to Murray than starting his professional career in baseball? Currently the prohibitive favorite to succeed Baker Mayfield, the Allen High School product says he will remain at Oklahoma and play football this season despite being a top 10 selection. Oklahoma opens the season against Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic Owls on September 1st.

Pac-12 will require their teams to win 6 games to be bowl eligible

In 2015 the NCAA instituted a rule that allowed teams with a 5-7 record to make bowl games. I’m sure they have some long and drawn out reason for allowing under .500 teams to make bowl games but it really is pretty simple. Too many bowl games and the fear of not having enough teams to fill all the bowl slots led to the change in standards. The Pac-12 decided on Monday to require their teams to win six games to be bowl eligible. The conference is the first to create a rule that asks their member schools to exceed the NCAA requirement to play in a bowl game. As you might imagine, a coach or two isn’t thrilled. Mike Leach has been the most vocal on the matter, "If we had a 5-7 team lucky enough to make a bowl, they could probably use the practice and the players would probably appreciate the chance to play another game," Leach said. "Why should we limit opportunities when other conferences aren't?

Nick Saban on SEC transfer rules

The coach of the Crimson Tide was a bit on the defensive after being questioned about why he didn’t allow one of his former players to transfer to the school of his choice. The player in question is Brandon Kennedy. He’s a graduate transfer with two years of eligibility remaining who would like to stay in the SEC. Saban wants no part of that and has blocked SEC schools as potential landing spots along with future opponents on the Tide’s schedule. Saban cites an SEC rule as the reason behind his restrictions.  

"I don't think it should be on me," Saban said of the criticism. "If we agree in the SEC at these meetings that we're going to have free agency in our league and everybody can go wherever they want to go when they graduate, that's what we should do."

Saban wants no part of that type of player freedom and judging by his own words wouldn’t be a proponent of more flexible transfer rules.

"When we make a rule that guys can transfer whenever they want to transfer, how are we supposed to get people to do what they should do?" Saban asked. The coach known for telling players to move on to make room for new ones is worried that players may grab some control back. Delightful.


 

 


 

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Framber Valdez injured his ring finger on Tuesday. Composite image by Jack Brame.

That sure escalated quickly. The news on Framber Valdez went from bad to vastly worse for the Astros with the fractured ring finger on his pitching hand concerning enough that season ending surgery is on the radar. Valdez is/was no sure thing to have been a first time quality full season starting pitcher, but seemed a decent bet after his maturity-driven albeit short season breakout 2020.

37-year-old Zack Greinke is the only member of the Astros' starting rotation to have thrown even 130 innings in a big league season. Greinke showed notable slippage in 2020. A by-product of the funky short season, or Father Time making a move? If Greinke further erodes, uh oh. It's all question marks behind him.

Lance McCullers got to the big leagues in 2015. Six years later McCullers has zero seasons under his belt in which he both pitched well and stayed healthy. If he hits that exacta in 2021 it's great for the Astros of course, greater for McCullers with free agency arriving at season's end. Particularly confounding with McCullers is that over his career he's been outstanding at Minute Maid Park, and basically sucked on the road. Career earned run average at MMP: 2.51. Career ERA everywhere else: 4.99. That's absurd. It's certainly not as if MMP is some great pitchers' park.

"Crafty" is typically applied to left-handed pitchers. Jose Urquidy seems a crafty right-hander. But since missing the 2017 season recovering from Tommy John surgery Urquidy has topped 100 innings worked once. Cristian Javier has some electric stuff and showed very well as a rookie. Javier has never thrown 115 innings in a professional season.

The odds are long against McCullers, Urquidy, and Javier all pitching well and staying healthy all season. Valdez didn't come close to making it to Opening Day. The best internal candidates to replace Framber (or anyone else) are Luis Garcia and the extremely-hyped thus far dud but still just 23 years old Forrest Whitley.

Woeful Rockets

It certainly isn't paying homage to James Harden that has the Rockets on a 13 game losing streak as they mercifully take their All-Star break. They're just that bad. Watching them is like watching a helpless fly tossed into a spider web game after game. Out of the break the Rockets play at Sacramento Thursday. The Kings are no good, but the Rockets are worse. A loss there all but guarantees matching the Houston Rockets' longest ever losing streak of 15 since the following night they play at Utah. If you care about them the Rockets are painful to watch. Hapless, helpless, hopeless. Their best shot at accelerating what might be a years long path back to relevance is to keep on stinking. The Rockets have the third worst record in the NBA. The three worst teams have equal chances at getting picks one through four in the draft. It's a 14 percent shot at number one, a 52 percent shot of being in the top four. The fourth worst team has a 48 percent chance of picking in the top four. If the Rockets are not in the top four, they lose their pick to Oklahoma City as a payoff of the awful Chris Paul-Russell Westbrook trade.

Watt signs with Cardinals

J.J. Watt could have least acknowledged "Of course the money the Cardinals offered had plenty to do with me picking them!" Off an 8-8 season in which they faded down the stretch the Cards have an interesting squad with some serious upside, especially if Kyler Murray makes a leap in his third season at quarterback. But no way are the Cardinals presently a first tier Super Bowl contender. We don't know for certain who Watt's other "finalists" were and what they offered. Seems a lock that none of them offered 23 million dollars guaranteed or two years 31 million total. Money is another scoreboard and J.J. is a huge winner on it. No one should ever blame a player for going for every dollar he can get. But Watt can't honestly say the best shot at a Super Bowl was his top priority then sign with a team which last had a winning season in 2015 and in Kliff Kingsbury has a guy who has accomplished nothing meaningful as a Head Coach at either Texas Tech or Arizona. Doesn't mean it can't happen in the desert, but there had to be better teams interested if a ring shot was of paramount importance.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Les Miles, what a slimeball. LSU, what a slimy institution in its handling of serial sexual misconduct in its football program

2. NBA All-Star Game Sunday. In 1993 more than 22 million people watched. Last year, 6.8 million. Not sure 5 mil watch Sunday.

3. Greatest ever NFL free agent signings: Bronze-Packers, Reggie White Silver-Buccaneers, Tom Brady Gold-Saints, Drew Brees

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