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January 14, 2013

Ketch's 10 Thoughts From The Weekend

Perception is reality … except when it's not.

With the sunrise of National Signing Day just ever-so-slightly over the horizon, it's time to clear up some misperceptions about the current landscape in recruiting inside the state of Texas, while also pointing out the super showdown that will take place over the course of the next 13 months.

Let's start out with one of the major points that must be reinforced from the very start because it's critically important to the overall narrative of this opening section of the column. The point? Texas A&M isn't the new king of recruiting in the Lone Star State. Oh, the Aggies have a ton of momentum and they might yet take the crown away from Mack Brown, but it hasn't happened yet. That's not to say that it can't happen fairly soon if Mack and Co. don't raise the level of their collective performance in all areas, but stating that Mack lost his recruiting fastball in the Class of 2013 is very misleading.

Let's take a look at some numbers.

As I reported this weekend with the release of the updated Lone Star Recruiting Top 100, UT's' performance within the state is incredibly strong when you consider the numbers of its smaller class. In analyzing the numbers, you'll see that the Longhorns have commitments from five of the state's top 10 prospects, seven of the top 18 and 10 of the top 50. Meanwhile, the Aggies have commitments from three of the state's top 10 prospects, five of the top 25 and 14 of the top 56.

If you're one of those folks who believes that ol' Ketch hates the Aggies and his numbers must be skewed heavily in favor of the Longhorns, here's a second set of numbers to consider. In breaking down the Rivals.com Top 100 for the state of Texas, the Longhorns have commitments from five of the top 10, eight of the top 19 and nine of the top 50 overall. Meanwhile, the Aggies have commitments from three of the top 10, seven of the top 25 and 15 of the top 55.

For the most part, there's a fairly strong consensus about the upper-echelon players from the state of Texas. You're splitting hairs if you think otherwise. From an average star per commitment standpoint, the Longhorns in-state haul averages 3.86, while A&M's in-state haul averages 3.48.

The raw numbers don't emphatically declare any true winner, although you might give Texas a slight nod because of the overall value per recruit. The numbers don't take into account that the Longhorns were victorious in more true head-to-head battles, but they also don't take into account that most of A&M's success has come later, while the Longhorns' success was much earlier. The only things that need to be said are that both programs did an excellent job in-state and that it's tough to draw a conclusion from what it all means because of the circumstances involved.

What matters most is what happens in the class of 2014 and whether the dynamics in the state have changed to the point where the Longhorns are no longer the team selecting first in the pool of the elite of the elite. With a push of a mini reset button, we're going to start finding some answers about the dynamics that everyone is talking about as soon as pen is put to paper in early February.

That's when the heat in 2014 really increases.

Although the LSR Top 100 for 2014 is in need or a refresh, the data can still serve as a barometer for the climate we're headed for in 2014 with both teams already landing the kids in this state that are the hottest to trot for an offer from each school. The Longhorns have six commitments in the 2014 class thus far, and five of them hold early four-star rankings. As for the Aggies, they have six in-state commitments and four of them are rated as four-star prospects. The Texas commitments rank No. 5, No. 6, No. 8, No. 23, No. 33 and NR on the LSR Top 100, while the Aggie commitments rank No. 1, No. 2, No. 11, No. 14, No. 40 and No. 63 on the same list. The Longhorns have five prospects on the Rivals250 while the Aggies have four.

Therefore, things appear to be even as we begin the most important stretch of the 2014 recruiting. The Longhorns aren't behind, but they've lost a lot of the huge separation that they once had. The state hasn't been this competitive since 1999, Mack Brown's first full class in Austin.

Mack's task for the next nine months is to ensure that Kevin Sumlin doesn't do to him what Mack did to R.C. Slocum in his second season.

We're going to find in the next 60-90 days if Mack still has his recruiting fastball.

No. 2 - Scattershooting on the Longhorns …

… The Longhorns aren't a better football team without Brandon Moore, but his departure makes the numbers game at defensive tackle a little easier to figure out and opens up some playing time for possible true freshman A'Shawn Robinson. I really would have liked to have seen him on the offensive side of the ball before he left.

… Thomas Ashcraft will not return for 2013, thus ending the career of a brawler lineman prospect that just never panned out. He was supposed to be exactly the kind of guy that Stacy Searels would want but it never came together. It's pretty much all Mason Walters from that 2009 OL class at this point.

… Trey Graham and Barrett Matthews were the tight ends taken in that 2009 recruiting class.

… I'm getting the feeling that the quarterback depth chart in 2013 will look very similar to the 2012 depth chart.

… Darrell Wyatt deserves a medal for helping swing Mike Davis back to another year of college football. I don't know who Davis was listening to when he was back home in Dallas, but stop.

… The battle for playing time between Cayleb Jones, Marcus Johnson and Kendall Sanders this spring and summer represents one of the most interesting position battles of 2013 in my mind.

… The Longhorns need the right side of their offensive line to take a step forward that didn't occur in 2012. Mason Walters was supposed to be better. Josh Cochran was supposed to be better. Both need to get better.

… We can safely say Earl Thomas is the best defensive back that Duane Akina has ever produced, with or without a Thorpe Award.

… Eric Berry was not better than Earl Thomas in 2009.

… The Longhorns are down to 16 seniors for next year, still up from the single digit numbers of 2012.

… There's no reason the Longhorns can't take 25 in 2014 if they want, which makes the decision to take a smaller class. The numbers have been there for a while if they really wanted to bring in a few more impact prospects.

… I'm not in favor of any decision that sees the Longhorns pass on Nick Marshall. Stop playing scared poker.

… This is probably the weakest skill position class in the history of Mack's recruiting in Austin. Even with Tyrone Swoopes as a possible dynamic quarterback option, there are no running backs in the class at this stage, no true nationally elite game-breaker at receiver and zero national prospects at tight end.

… The Longhorns really need to keep A'Shawn Robinson and land Andrew Billings because the defensive line class is already light on edge pass rush skill and there's not any star impact punch without them.

… FYI, there was a lot of fuss over the naming of Mack Brown as the new AFCA president, but it should be noted that all kidding aside, it's just an honorary type deal and we probably shouldn't begrudge the guy a pretty nice honor. I was as guilty as anyone for that, so I'll fall on the sword. My bad. Like Baby's dad says, 'When I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong."

No.3 - Have the Longhorns hit rock bottom?

I didn't watch Saturday's game because life dealt me a hand that didn't include ESPNU on Saturday afternoon, which means I missed the 20-point beat-down in Ames that left Rick Barnes' team 0-3 in Big 12 play and probably on the NIT bubble.

Lucky me.

With a schedule that includes Kansas in a week, along with road games in Norman and Manhattan in the next four games, I'm starting to wonder what the lure of watching this team is going to be in a few weeks. College basketball has been a lot of fun in these parts for a long time, but this team is sucking the life out of the urge to watch the sport before March.

There's no player currently on the roster worth the price of admission and the youth on this team doesn't scream, "Watch me!" more than it screams, "Turn your head away unless you want to vomit."

I kind of have the feeling that the game at home against the Jayhawks on Saturday has a lot on the line for this team, including the attention span of its fan base.

No. 4 - As expected, the season comes to an end for the Texans …

Once upon a time, the Houston Oilers were a hell of a good football team that just wasn't better than the Pittsburgh Steelers. All these years later, the truest statement you can make of the Houston Texans is that they just aren't as good as the New England Patriots.

It's not a sin, but it's a fact that can leave a franchise a few steps short in pursuit of a Super Bowl.

Somehow, some way the Texans have to get better in 2013. The 2012 group was very good, but never quite great, which is the hard truth of the matter. It needs another piece or two on defense and increased weaponry opposite Andre Johnson at wide receiver (the Kevin Walter nonsense needs to stop).

The Texans need to take a hard look at Matt Schaub and ask themselves if he's the guy at quarterback they truly need to hitch their wagons to. Of the eight teams left in the playoffs this weekend, I thought the Texans had the weakest option at quarterback of them all.

I know he wasn't the biggest problem on the field for the Texans, but the score of the game was also 38-13 in the fourth quarter, so don't let those shiny 343 yards fool you because he was completely inadequate in this type of match-up.

As was Wade Phillips. Trust me, as a Cowboys fan I've seen enough sample size to know that his defense in recent history is not ready for anything Tom Brady brings to the table. I've known that fact since 2007.

The Texans' front-office has a lot to think about.

No. 5 - No hyperbole, Ravens/Broncos was one of the all-time classics …

As far as flat-out football entertainment, I'm not sure you can squeeze more into a game than we received on Saturday in Denver. The storylines were rich, the drama was out of this world and its impact on the totality of the 2012 season can't be understated.

And when it was over, the Ray Lewis Swan Song continued. I felt like I needed a cigarette … and I don't smoke cigarettes. I definitely wasn't quite ready to shift to the NFC side of the bracket when the game ended because there was so much going on.

I needed to see Ray's reaction. I needed to see Manning's reaction. I needed to see if Joe Flacco was dating Katherine Webb after emerging as the day's hero. I needed to hear John Fox explain his decision to sit on the ball at the end of regulation with two timeouts and one of the all-time great quarterbacks on his side. Oh, and I needed to see Justin Tucker in the aftermath of becoming the most popular kicker in the city of Baltimore's since Jim O'Brien beat the Cowboys with hippie hair.

Honestly, it was as good as football gets and when it was over with, I just wanted to keep drinking from the cup until it was bone-dry.

Here's a list of things in my head from the end of that game.

1. Tip of the cap to Joe Flacco, who was simply better than Peyton Manning on Saturday when things mattered most. While he has his ups and downs in the regular season, his play in the last two post-seasons has been superb and I can't say enough about his ability to pull a rabbit out of his hat with that Jacoby Jones touchdown pass in the final seconds, while also not making the critical mistake in a game that they would have lost if he had even made one. He's not a top-5 quarterback, or even a top-10 quarterback, but he's a guy that can be that guy when the moment calls for it.
2. Ray Lewis will not go quietly into the good night. He wasn't just a tackler on Saturday with a game-high 17, he was an impact player, which is pretty incredible considering he's basically playing with one arm. As long as the magic carpet ride continues, the Ravens are must-see TV.
3. I've never been one to pile on Peyton Manning, but his performance against the Ravens wasn't good enough. We all know that was a bad throw on his final overtime interception, but the fact is the Broncos scored only 21 points once you take away the special teams points, and that's on Manning's shoulders. There were moments of greatness and moments of Favrian head-scratching.
4. When Peyton Manning is your quarterback and you have the ball with two timeouts and half a minute, you run a play and try to see if there's something there to be taken. In roughly the same amount of time that the Broncos conceded to overtime, the Falcons were able to win their game on Sunday.
5. Jacoby Freaking Jones.
6. On the 1-10 worry scale before Tucker's kick, I was at a 1. I knew he was making that kick.

No. 6 - The Falcons steal victory from the jaws of defeat right after they nearly stole defeat from the jaws of victory …

The Falcons might not win the war, but they won a battle on Sunday, and for one day that was more than enough.

The action in Atlanta wasn't quite as good as what we saw in Denver, but it was still pretty damn awesome and I'm not sure I've ever seen an entire city and franchise release more internal pressure off its shoulders than the Capital of the South when Matt Bryant's game-winning effort sailed good. It reminded me of Steve Young in 1994, except there were 53 players, a dozen or so coaches and around 10,000,000 folks carrying that gorilla on their backs, and not just a single guy with a law degree that is related to Brigham Young.

Everyone together now … wooooooo-saaaaah.

I'm not sure if the Falcons are better than the Seahawks. In fact, I'm pretty sure that they are not, yet the bottom line is the bottom line and Matty Ice and the Gang are a single home game win away from the Super Bowl.

And the rest of the NFL is probably thankful that the Seahawks are out of the tournament.

A few more thoughts from this one …

1. It was cool to see Tony Gonzalez get his first career playoff win. I think everyone likes that guy.
2. My goodness, Russell Wilson is a beast. The guy was 24 of 36 for 385 yards and two touchdowns, along with 60 yards rushing … he was just beastly in bringing his team back. I've said it before, but I was wrong about that dude.
3. I've seen Matt Ryan make the same late-game comeback in the past and he did it with the same exact kind of deep throw to the left, along the sideline. If I remember that play, I have to believe the Seahawks had seen it on film, which makes the fact that he completed his first pass to Harry Douglas pretty incredible. I can't believe they let that happen.
4. I didn't think Atlanta could win the game without a big game from Julio Jones. Ryan deserves a big, "Attaboy!" from his critics.
5. Earl Thomas is so good.

No. 7 - So, about that Alex Smith fan Club in the Bay Area …

There are a lot of ways I thought the 49ers could have beaten the Packers this weekend but I didn't see the formula they used coming from a mile away.

Colin Kaepernick was better and more dangerous at the quarterback position than Aaron Rodgers and it was stunningly emphatic. I keep waiting for Kaepernick to show cracks and for a major flinch in a big-game moment, but he never stops responding. Part of me feels like I'm watching the NFL's version of Jeremy Lin and another part of me believes I'm watching the birth of something that could be pretty special.

Of course, it helps that he has a veteran workhorse in Frank Gore, an emerging superstar in Michael Crabtree and an offensive line that messes people up. Oh, and he has that defense. Nevertheless, Kaepernick is one of the top incredible stories left in the playoffs.

He's the IT guy in the league with one last step remaining and part of me still doubts him. I just can't believe that Kaepernick is a guy that can shove a football right up the backside of an Aaron Rodgers-led team. But, it's real and he's real.

He's one week away from being the Colin Football of the NFL.

No. 8 - One little Cowboys rant …

Jerry is really losing me.

I've been as much of a Jerry guy as there can be since Jimmy left a very long time ago, but I just can't take it any longer. The years and years and years of mediocrity have led us to a point where Jerry is finally getting mad.

Translation: He just scapegoated his defensive coordinator and running backs coach as some show of power and after all these years he might finally get rid of one of the worst cases of nepotism in recent NFL history.

Oh, and he hired a defensive coordinator that is so uninspiring to these eyes that I haven't spent five minutes thinking about how the current talent fits his new scheme. Once upon a time, I would have already spent a dozen hours crunching names and data.

Now I just feel like I'm watching a nice coat of paint being put on the Titanic.

Nice job, Jerry. I didn't think I could feel like this about the Cowboys.

No. 9 - Pop goes the culture because the culture goes pop.…

… Hottie of the Week: Miranda Kerr in a red dress…

… Sign that the Apocalypse is Upon Us: Miley Cyrus' Little Sister Noah Celebrates Her 13th Birthday ? at a Nightclub!

… Bless Instagram: Candice Swanepoel… wow… kinda NSFW… but…. oh wow

… Linking Lindsay: She's really quite special

… Internet Headline of the Weekend: Harry Styles Dumped Taylor Swift Because She's 'Asexual & Wouldn't Put Out,' Says Insider

… Jessica wins the red carpet : Just amazing

… I voted for Miss South Carolina, but Miss New York seems like a pretty cool Miss America. She plays the piano brilliantly.

… Randomness from the Golden Globes…

a. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey can host all future award ceremonies as far as I'm concerned.
b. I need to start watching Homeland and Breaking Bad.
c. I can see why Mark Sanchez might be distracted. Goodness gracious, you little Texas peach.
d. Kevin Costner gives a hell of an acceptance speech. I can see why Augie likes him.
e. Tommy Lee Jones' face is frozen in a permanent smile.
f. Just once in my life I want to chill for a night with Quentin Tarantino.
g. Jodie Foster looks great. Wait, did she just retire?
h. Nice job, Ben Affleck. Shove it up the Oscar's backside.
i. Moonrise Kingdom is a better movie than Beasts of the Southern Wild.
j. DDL for the win!!!!
k. Argo with a steal. Wow, I didn't see that coming.

… If I had a vote that mattered (Oscar-style)…

(These are my updated Academy Award picks based on movies I have actually seen in 2012.)

Top 5 Movies on see: Silver Linings Playbook, Zero-Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, Amour and The Impossible

Best picture

1. Lincoln
2. Argo
3. Les Miserables
4. Flight
5. Moonrise Kingdom

Best Director

1. Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
2. Ben Affleck (Argo)
3. Tom Hooper (Les Miserables)
4. Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)
5. Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)

Best actor

1. Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
2. Denzel Washington (Flight)
3. Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
4. Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
5. Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe)

Best actress

1. Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
2. TBA
3. TBA

Best supporting actor

1. Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained)
2. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
3. Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
4. Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths)
5. Alan Arkin (Argo)

Best supporting actress

1. Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
2. Sally Field (Lincoln)
3. Amy Adams (The Master)
4. Kerry Washington (Django Unchained)
5. Samantha Banks (Les Miserables)

No. 10 - The List: Favorite Music Videos

The Elton John List needs another week. I'm still locked into the early 70's.

Therefore, in an effort to tide you over until next week, I thought I would put together a list of my favorite videos from the MTV era of my life (1983-1993). This isn't a list of the best videos because Thriller would have to be at the top of the list, and I have to admit that it's not even my favorite video from the Thriller album.

Did I just say that? Let's get on with the list…

10. Here I Go Again

Tawny Freaking Kitaen. Don't get me wrong, I love the song, but I never turned the channel when Tawny Freaking Kitaen was on that car.

9. It Was a Good day

I could probably have a dozen rap videos on the list and in this slot, but this video symbolizes my high school years and watching Yo! MTV Raps every week.

8. Uptown Girl

Billy Joel was the man and his showing off of Christie Brinkley in this video proved it. Plus, there's the motorcycles, the breakdancing and Brinkley dancing terribly. There's a lot to appreciate.

7. Beat It

This is one of the videos that turned me into a Michael Jackson freak at the age of 7. I had the glove, the jacket and a million pictures on my wall. This video was tough to my eyes back then. This sucker could easily rank as high as No.2 on the list.

6. Living on a Prayer

When I was 10 years old, I came home from school and watched the MTV Top 10 Countdown every day. I'm pretty sure this video was in the No.1 slot for about 100 shows in a row.

5. When Doves Cry

We're in rare air territory at this point. This is my favorite Prince song and video rolled into one bad ass, all-time moment in music history.

4. Wicked Game

No woman in any music video haunts me more than the woman in this video. She is the sexiest woman in any music video I have ever seen. She needs to be in my forever top 5,

3. All Night Long

I can't help it… I as a sucker for Lionel and this video. It's one of my favorite guilty pleasures of all-time.

2. Let's Hear It For the Boy

This won't make a lot of sense to most of you, but when I was a kid and started watching music videos on cable, I just to stay up late at night to watch videos on HBO and this was a personal favorite. I can't really explain it.

1. Billie Jean

Thriller will be remembered forever as the greatest video of its time, but this was the game-changer for me. Those lights on the sidewalk, the dancing, the tiger… it's simple… G.O.A.T.

Previous Lists: 2-Pac, Aerosmith, Beastie Boys, Beethoven, Biggie Smalls, Boyz II Men, Chuck Brown, Jeff Buckley, Cartoon themes, Eva Cassidy,CCR, Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, The Eagles, Joe Ely, Garth, Al Green, Guns N' Roses, Hall and Oats, HBO Shows, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Ice Cube, Janis Joplin, Jodeci, Kool and the Gang, Led Zeppelin, Amos Lee, Bob Marley, Metallica, George Michael, Mo-Town, Bill Murray, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, Nirvana, One-hit Wonders from the 1990's, Outkast, Pink Floyd, Prince, Queen, Reba, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, Scarface, Sexiest Women of All-Time, Snoop Dogg , Bruce Springsteen, Gary Stewart , George Strait, The Strokes, TV Themes, UGK, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hank Williams Sr.

Previous Lists on Spotify: 2-Pac, Aerosmith, Beastie Boys, Beethoven, Biggie Smalls, Boyz II Men, Jeff Buckley, CCR, Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, Joe Ely, Al Green, Guns N' Roses, Hall and Oats, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Ice Cube, Janis Joplin, Jodeci, Amos Lee, Bob Marley, George Michael, Mo-Town, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, Nirvana, One-hit Wonders from the 1990's, Prince, Prince (After Hours), Outkast, Queen, Reba, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, Scarface, Snoop Dogg . Bruce Springsteen, Gary Stewart , George Strait, The Strokes, UGK, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hank Williams Sr.

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