Berry Tramel Newsletter: Hello Sellout Crowd, welcome back football

Berry Tramel Newsletter: Hello Sellout Crowd, welcome back football

Sellout Crowd debuts Friday just in time for the OSU and OU football seasons. So as a sneak preview in this newsletter, I’m sharing a few of my weekly college football staples — game predictions, plus the upset specials and coach-on-the-hot-seat for the Big 12 and nation.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Aug 31, 2023, 10:48am CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Aug 31, 2023, 10:48am CDT

(Hi, Mike Sherman here. I’m the content director with Sellout Crowd. This post originated from Berry Tramel’s newsletter. You can sign up here. Enjoy!)

The older I get, the more I anticipate football season. It has nothing to do with the weather, though the thought of a 62-degree, crisp autumn day certainly lights a smile in us all.

But anymore, who knows what the weather will do? Might snow in October. Might broil in November. You can’t count on the weather. You can count on football to deliver, year after year, decade after decade

And so the anticipation mounts. Football’s coming. Football’s coming. Like the Wells Fargo wagon coming down the street — “I wish I knew what it could be. Prepaid surprise or is it COD?”—  we all emotionally sprint toward September, where the possibilities are endless, where anything can happen, even though it probably won’t.

Alabama is going to be better than Ole Miss. Oklahoma is going to be better than Kansas. Ohio State is going to be better than Purdue.

Still, we can’t wait for the rhythm of the season and the grandeur of the games. The walks to stadiums and the Saturdays in the Barcalounger, flipping channels in search of the next fantastic finish or shocking upset.

And in the Year of our Lord 2023, my anticipation has exploded. As football arrives, I’m doing something different.

Selloutcrowd.com launches Friday, when the fire of September arrives bringing not just football to fill our weekend days and our weekday nights, but a new platform for Oklahoma sports.

Some of Oklahoma’s best sportswriters and podcasters have joined me in this new venture, which is sponsorship-supported, no subscription required. We’re all tired of the subscription game; it’s a lot easier to get married than divorced, and the same with subscriptions.

That’s not an issue with selloutcrowd.com, courtesy of our sponsors.

Just go to our website and it’s all there for you. You can subscribe to email newsletters from me, my teammates or the Sellout Brand. You can even get updates by text.  

And what will you get from me on selloutcrowd.com? Many of the same things you’ve read over the years. Columns on the Sooners, Cowboys and Thunder. Researched analysis of players and teams, leagues and sports. Personality pieces, human-interest stories and inside scoops from reliable sources — I was the first to tell you that Bob Stoops was retiring from OU (that was mostly dumb luck) and the first to tell you that Lincoln Riley would be Stoops’ permanent replacement (that was the result of years of building sources) and the first to tell you that Colorado was committed to returning to the Big 12 (a little bit of both).

Plus, a new wrinkle – multiple digital shows a week. These video podcasts, some with Jenni Carlson sitting alongside and some with a prominent guest, related to Oklahoma sports, will give you a chance to listen instead of read, for those so inclined.

And it all starts Friday, just in time for the football seasons of the Sooners and Cowboys.

But that date is a bummer in some ways; college football kicked off Saturday with a few Week Zero games, and a host of games come Thursday.

So as a sneak preview in this newsletter, I’m sharing a few of my weekly college football staples — game predictions, plus the upset specials and coach-on-the-hot-seat items I include in both my weekly Big 12 Pregame and National Pregame collections.

Those traditions will return next week in full. For now, enjoy these abbreviated pregame items to help assuage the wait for the fire of September, for both the football season and for Sellout Crowd, which promises to make the former even more special.

Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen watches from the sideline as they take on the Connecticut Huskies in the second half at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

Big 12 pregame

Coach on the hot seat: Dana Holgorsen

After a rough start (7-13 his first two seasons) with the Cougars, Holgorsen has rebounded. Houston is 20-7 over the last two years.

But UH makes the move to the Big 12, and the Coog roster needs an upgrade. Will it come quickly enough?

Houston hosts upstart Texas-San Antonio on Saturday; the Roadrunners’ talent is comparable to the Cougars’. A loss would be a setback for Houston’s Big 12 era launch and put Holgorsen on shaky ground in Year Five.

Upset special: Wyoming over Texas Tech

Bob Simmons’ first OSU football team, 1995, went to Laramie, Wyoming, and played their mountain Cowboy cousins. Wyoming jumped to a 35-0 lead and won 45-25.

Laramie is a college football outpost that few are willing to visit. Since that pasting of OSU, Wyoming has hosted 10 power-conference teams in Laramie and is 4-6 in those games. Since 1950, Wyoming is 13-13 at home against power-conference opponents.

Wyoming beat Missouri 37-31 in 2019 and Ole Miss 37-32 in 2004.

Laramie is not an easy place to play. And Texas Tech opens its ballyhooed 2023 season Saturday in Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium. The Red Raiders are ranked 24th in the coaches poll, 26th in The Associated Press poll and are picked fourth in the Big 12.

Wyoming has a solid program under 10-year coach Craig Bohl. The Cowboys don’t get name brands to Laramie often, but when they do, they often capitalize. Tech is a 14-point favorite, but let’s go with the Cowboys in the upset.

North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) throws the ball against the Oregon Ducks during the first half of the 2022 Holiday Bowl at Petco Park.(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

National Pregame

Upset special: South Carolina over North Carolina

Steve Spurrier took to (not) joking that South Carolina and North Carolina ought to play football every year, and the winner got to be called “Carolina.” Spurrier coached South Carolina from 2005-15 and helped revive a once-glorious rivalry.

The Gamecocks and Tar Heels played 54 times from 1903 through 1991; they were Atlantic Coast Conference members together from 1953 through 1970. But the Carolinas have met just five times since 1991.

They play Saturday in Charlotte, a neutral site that thrice since 2014 has hosted the Heels and the ‘Cocks, including a Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

Some things you might not know about the Carolinas: South has been more successful than North in recent years — the Gamecocks are 43-44 over the previous seven years; the Tar Heels are 43-45. And USC has beaten UNC in four of their five meetings since 1991.

The game matches popular coaches with glittering personalities and OU ties. Mack Brown was OU’s offensive coordinator in the renaissance year of 1984 and was a major candidate to replace Gary Gibbs in 1994. Shane Beamer was Lincoln Riley’s assistant head coach in 2018-20 and likely would have been a prime candidate to replace Riley after the 2021 season, had Beamer not taken the Gamecock job the year before.

Both Carolinas have promising outlooks. North Carolina is ranked 20th by The Associated Press and 21st by the coaches; South Carolina is ranked 27th in both polls. Both have marquee quarterbacks — the Tar Heels’ Drake Maye is considered a top-three overall pick in the NFL Draft; the Gamecocks’ Spencer Rattler was OU’s all-Big 12 quarterback way back in 2020.

North Carolina is a 2½-point favorite. But Beamer has South Carolina on the rise. Let’s go with the Gamecocks, in the upset, as the real Carolina.

Coach on the hot seat: Rutgers’ Greg Schiano

Greg Schiano is a heck of a football coach. He had a winning record (68-67) in his first go-round at Rutgers, 2001-11, and was dang near the Tennessee coach, until Volunteer fans lost their minds and subverted the hiring.

Rutgers brought back Schiano, hoping he could rekindle the magic in the Scarlet Knights’ dubious odyssey in the Big Ten.

After some initial (moderate) success in the Big Ten, Rutgers had three winless conference records in four years (2016-19), then turned back to Schiano. And Rutgers went 3-6 in the Big Ten in 2020. But since then, the Scarlet Knights have gone 2-7 and 1-8 in conference.

Sunday, Rutgers hosts Northwestern, which is a mess of a program in the wake of a hazing scandal that cost coach Pat Fitzgerald his job.

Northwestern struggled mightily last season, finishing 1-11, but the Wildcats opened the year with a 31-28 victory over Nebraska.

Another Northwestern surprise could put Rutgers in another deep hole and make the Scarlet Knights wonder if Schiano can recapture the magic of the past.

College football predictions

Arkansas State at Oklahoma: Sooners 38-10. How much fun would this be if it was the Razorbacks themselves coming to Owen Field? Oh well, the Southeastern Conference is only a year away.

Central Arkansas at Oklahoma State: Cowboys 51-14. How much would this be if it was the Razorbacks themselves coming to Boone Pickens Stadium? Oh well, Arkansas indeed plays in Stillwater on September 7, 2024. 

Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Tulsa: Golden Hurricane 34-14. TU has a rough non-conference schedule in Kevin Wilson’s first year (Washington, OU), so let’s give the Golden Hurricane some grace for this game.

Colorado at Texas Christian: Horned Frogs 41-21. Deion Sanders’ Colorado debut comes on Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff. Will the nation still be interested two hours later?

Texas-San Antonio at Houston: Roadrunners 31-30.  It’s possible that UTSA has as much talent as do the Cougars. Don’t expect that to continue, but for now, this isn’t even an upset. UTSA is a slight favorite.

West Virginia at Penn State: Nittany Lions 48-14. Old Eastern independents played 41 times from 1940 through 1992, but not since. So now the series is revived, figures beleaguered Mountaineers coach Neal Brown?

Texas Tech at Wyoming: Cowboys 28-27. Upset special. Sort of a Lonesome Dove kind of road trip for the Red Raiders, who might be looking ahead to Oregon. 

Kent State at Central Florida: Knights 37-14. On Thursday night, the only Big 12 flag flying over a game is in Orlando.

Sam Houston at Brigham Young: Cougars 40-7. Sam Houston State likes to drop the “State” when it comes to football, which in this case makes for a nice matchup of American pioneers who won wars. 

Rice at Texas: Longhorns 49-11. The Owls might soon be the only Southwest Conference left-behind still not in a power league, if Southern Methodist gets an Atlantic Coast Conference invite.

Missouri State at Kansas: Jayhawks 44-17. Terry Allen coached the Bears from 2006-14, after getting fired by KU following the 2001 season.

Northern Iowa at Iowa State: Cyclones 24-20. ISU has trouble beating the Panthers even with all hands on deck, much less a roster ravaged by a betting scandal.

Eastern Kentucky at Cincinnati: Bearcats 42-13. Man, I wish Brett Yormark had cajoled the Big 12 into opening the season with each of the four newcomers playing conference games against the old guard.

Southeast Missouri State at Kansas State: Wildcats 48-18. For reasons I don’t understand, K-State often struggles early in the season against overmatched foes.

Louisiana State vs. Florida State in Orlando: Tigers 30-20. The winner is set up nicely for a College Football Playoff run.

North Carolina vs. South Carolina in Charlotte: Gamecocks 31-27. Tar Heel coach Mack Brown is 71 and seems older. Gamecock coach Shane Beamer is 46 and seems younger. 

Florida at Utah: Utes 27-17. Utah had Florida on the ropes last September before losing 29-26 in the Swamp.

Virginia at Tennessee: Volunteers 51-15. The Cavaliers are the only Power Five non-conference foe for the Vols, but Virginia might be Tennessee’s second-easiest game, behind only Austin Peay.

New Mexico at Texas A&M: Aggies 52-6. A border game only technically; it’s 753 miles from Albuquerque to College Station.

Ball State at Kentucky: Wildcats 38-6. Mark Stoops begins his – can you believe it? – 11th season as the UK head coach.

Middle Tennessee at Alabama: Crimson Tide 49-6. Blue Raider coach Rick Stockstill ranks fourth in Division I-A stability. This is his 18th year as the Middle Tennessee coach. Only Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham and OSU’s Mike Gundy have been on the job longer.

Massachusetts at Auburn: Tigers 56-10. Culture clash of the highest order. Mismatch is the same.

Western Carolina at Arkansas: Razorbacks 55-10. Six of the 14 SEC teams open the season against I-AA opponents.

South Dakota at Missouri: Tigers 37-14. When OU athletic director Joe Castiglione settles for I-AA foes, he likes those with states in the name. Maine, in 2024, for example.

Mercer at Ole Miss: Rebels 54-7. Mercer would not pass the Joe C. smell test.

Southeastern Louisiana at Mississippi State: Bulldogs 44-7. Look at all these mismatches this way – at least it means you won’t have to see them at the end of the year. 

Tennessee-Martin at Georgia: Bulldogs 54-0. A fight like this wouldn’t be allowed even on a prison yard, but college football is a little less civilized.

Alabama A&M at Vanderbilt: Commodores 47-7. Every SEC team plays a I-AA foe, but OU and Texas do not. The Sooners, of course, get back in that game next season.

Nebraska at Minnesota: Gophers 23-17. Strange fall for the Cornhuskers. Minnesota is part of the Big Ten’s rather large middle class. Nebraska is trying to rise to the middle class.

Northwestern at Rutgers: Scarlet Knights 21-20. Two Big Ten members that bring virtually no value to the conference television contract. I’d have my head on a swivel if I were them.

Ohio State at Indiana: Buckeyes 58-14. Just three years ago, the Hoosiers were 6-1 in the Big Ten and by rule should have been in the conference title game. The rule was changed, of course. 

Fresno State at Purdue: Boilermakers 34-31. Purdue’s Ryan Walters era — no, not that Ryan Walters — begins, and he’s handed a beast of a schedule, starting with the always-capable Bulldogs.

East Carolina at Michigan: Wolverines 41-12. The Pirates are the marquee non-conference game on Michigan’s schedule.

Toledo at Illinois: Illini 27-20. The Mid-American Conference, often Toledo, is almost always good for an upset or two every year. Could this be the game?

Utah State at Iowa: Hawkeyes 34-7. The magic number for Iowa is 25. The Hawkeyes must average 25 points a game for embattled offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s contract to be renewed. 

Buffalo at Wisconsin: Badgers 42-12. As a Big 12 loyalist, I wish Luke Fickell had stayed at Cincinnati. He’ll work wonders at Wisconsin.

Central Michigan at Michigan State: Spartans 31-13. Sparty was hit hard in the transfer portal, but not hard enough to lose to the Chippewas.

Towson at Maryland: Terrapins 45-3. These schools are 45 miles apart, but that doesn’t mean 45 minutes, what with Beltway traffic.

Boise State at Washington: Huskies 31-20. Great opening game. Boise State finished the 2022 season strong; so did UW, with seven straight wins to finish 11-2.

Coastal Carolina at UCLA: Bruins 34-24. South Alabama gave UCLA everything it could handle at the Rose Bowl last year, before the Bruins prevailed 32-31. Now it’s Coastal’s turn.

Washington State at Colorado State: Cougars 31-24. Could the Cougars and Rams soon be conference mates in the Mountain West?

Stanford at Hawaii: Cardinal 38-10. Could the Cardinal and Rainbow Warriors soon be conference mates in the Mountain West?

Oregon State at San Jose State: Beavers 44-14. Could the Beavers and Spartans soon be conference mates in the Mountain West?

Nevada at Southern Cal: Trojans 55-15. Could the Wolf Pack and, well, OK, just checking to make sure you weren’t sleeping.

Southern Utah at Arizona State: Sun Devils 59-14. The Kenny Dillingham era begins at ASU, with OSU awaiting next week.

Portland State at Oregon: Ducks 63-7. Portland State always will live in college football lore; that’s where Mouse Davis and his assistant, June Jones, perfected the run-and-shoot offense, with quarterback Neil Lomax.

Northern Arizona at Arizona: Wildcats 38-14. Did you know the state of Arizona has just  three public universities? Oklahoma has 14. These are two of Arizona’s three.

Clemson at Duke: Tigers 38-24. I know. Sounds like a mismatch. But Duke retains most of the core that went 9-4 a year ago.

Louisville at Georgia Tech: Cardinals 41-24. Louisville’s Jeff Brohm era doesn’t begin with this game, though this is his head-coaching debut with the ‘Ville. The Brohm era began 52 years ago, when he was born in Louisville and eventually played high school and college football there.

North Carolina State at Connecticut: Wolfpack 34-17. UConn came oh, so close to getting into the Big 12. Seems like most Connecticut faithful are glad it didn’t happen.

Northern Illinois at Boston College: Eagles 23-20. This likely is BC’s toughest non-conference game.

Old Dominion at Virginia Tech: Hokies 26-17. Since ODU revived its football program in 2009, after a seven-decade hiatus, the Monarchs are 2-2 vs. the Hokies. Not good for VPI.

Miami-Ohio at Miami-Florida: Hurricanes 59-10. I’m old enough to remember when we called Miami “Miami-Florida.”

Elon at Wake Forest: Demon Deacons 45-20. The number of Americans who believe Wake’s opponent is Elon Musk’s university? Well into the millions, I’d guess.

Colgate at Syracuse: Orange 49-23. It’s just 40 miles from Hamilton, New York (home of Colgate), to Syracuse. At least someone is keeping college football regional.

Wofford at Pittsburgh: Panthers 34-12. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi already ranks No. 2 on the Panthers’ all-time wins list, with 62. Narduzzi is ahead of Pop Warner (60), Walt Harris (52), Jackie Sherrill (50), Johnny Majors (45) and Dave Wannstedt (42). Only Jock Sutherland (111) has more.

Tennessee State at Notre Dame: Fighting Irish 40-7. History is made. Notre Dame finally relents and plays a I-AA opponent. It’s part of a Notre Dame initiative to reach out to historically black colleges and universities.

Army at Louisiana-Monroe: Black Knights 27-24. Army’s post-triple option era begins. The Cadets have scrapped the offense that ignited their renaissance.

Robert Morris at Air Force: Falcons 42-14. Air Force most assuredly has not scrapped the triple option.

Bryant at Nevada-Las Vegas: Rebels 38-13. Why is Bryant, the pride of Smithfield, Rhode Island, going across the country for what can’t possibly be a big payday?

Idaho State at San Diego State: Aztecs 31-0. Here’s a problem with western football. We quickly brand this game as a regional matchup. It’s 912 miles from Pocatello to San Diego.

South Alabama at Tulane: Green Wave 33-30. Oh, what a fun game. Mid-major showdown between good teams — and a sneak preview for OSU fans, whose Cowboys host South Alabama on September 16.

Louisiana Tech at Southern Methodist: Mustangs 33-14. Sonny Dykes has been head coach at both schools but is at neither now.

Akron at Temple: Owls 28-20. OU plays Temple next season. I don’t know if that’s enough to get you interested in this game.

South Florida at Western Kentucky: Hilltoppers 27-26. Doesn’t seem that long ago that USF was ahead of Central Florida in the mid-major scramble for relevancy. But UCF won that race.

Bowling Green at Liberty: Flames 35-23. Give Liberty credit for hiring well-branded coaches. Since the Flames became Division I-A in 2018, their head coaches have been Turner Gill, Hugh Freeze and now Jamey Chadwell, late of Coastal Carolina.

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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