Baylor, Oklahoma State talk 2022 after Big 12 thriller of 2021

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Baylor coach Dave Aranda and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy sat just a few yards from the end zone where the Big 12 title was decided in their championship game seven months earlier, on a dazzling tackle at the pylon by the Bears.

From a stage surrounded by empty stands, with the only noise coming from the hum of air conditioners inside cavernous AT&T Stadium, Aranda remembered the chaos of that moment. Gundy spoke later, saying the painful memory sometimes hits him when he wakes up in the middle of the night.

Now both are in charge of teams among the top three in this year’s preseason poll, and were clear about moving on while addressing the couple of hundred people on the field in front of them at Big 12 media days Wednesday.

“I think it goes back to just the task within a task,” Aranda said. “So to keep your eyes on that and to focus on what’s real, because I think this is way cool with the lights and all the people, and being asked questions can feel cool. But I think that’s really not real. What’s real is what’s happening day-to-day in your locker room, in your weight room, in your cafeteria.”

Baylor is the preseason favorite to repeat as Big 12 champ a year after entering the season eighth on that 10-team list. The Bears’ 21-16 victory at the home of the Dallas Cowboys was preserved when safety Jairon McVea knocked Dezmon Jackson out of bounds inches short of the goal line on fourth down with 24 seconds left.

The Cowboys had the better chance to qualify for the College Football Playoff, and the loss ended those hopes. Senior quarterback Spencer Sanders will play a big role in trying to get Oklahoma State in position again.

“You kind carry a chip on your shoulder for motivation, but you have no regrets, can’t hold yourself to that,” Sanders said. “You’ve got to let it go and move on. There’s nothing we can do about it now. I’m glad that we could respond in the right way.”

The Cowboys did that by rallying in the second half for a 37-35 victory over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Baylor set a school record with 12 wins – matching Oklahoma State’s total – by beating Mississippi 21-7 in the Sugar Bowl.

With Oklahoma’s 47-32 victory over Oregon in the Alamo Bowl, the Big 12 had three teams with at least 11 wins for the first time since 2008. And those are the top three teams in the preseason poll, OU a spot ahead of its Oklahoma rival with Texas voted fourth.

The Bears got the preseason nod despite deciding to change quarterbacks in the spring. Blake Shapen was named the starter over incumbent Gerry Bohanon, who transferred to South Florida.

“I think people expect us to walk out there and win 12 games or whatever, but it’s a blank slate,” linebacker Dillon Doyle said. “It’s a clean canvas, and we have to go beat Albany on whatever date we play that game (Sept. 3).”

Baylor’s expectations start with a defense that finished second overall in the Big 12 – behind Oklahoma State, which belied its offense-first reputation under Gundy, the former quarterback entering his 18th season at his alma mater.

Gundy, the dean of Big 12 coaches by far, was quick to mention the departure of linebackers Malcolm Rodriguez and Devin Harper, who combined for 25 tackles for loss on the team that led the country with 4.1 sacks per game (57 total).

“We’ve got guys that have to replace them,” Gundy said. “We like where they’re at. They just haven’t played in big games. We don’t know much about them. We have the same situation at corner. They’ve played some but haven’t been out there in big games.”

Trace Ford‘s return from a knee injury will help Oklahoma State’s depth with pass rushers, and Collin Oliver returns after leading the team with 11 1/2 sacks. Ends Tyler Lacy and Brock Martin also return after combining for 12 1/2 sacks.

The biggest change comes on the sidelines, with former Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason taking over as defensive coordinator. Jim Knowles left for the same job at Ohio State, where safety Tanner McCalister also transferred.

Still, it’s not anything new for Gundy, who has 16 consecutive winning seasons and is coming off his seventh with double-digit victories.

“We don’t really get out of our box much at Oklahoma State,” Gundy said. “We believe in being mentally and physically tough across the board. We try to put our players in situations that game days are like anything they’ve already been through in practice.”

The Cowboys will be motivated by what they went through in the Big 12 title game last year.


Alabama suspends freshman defensive back after drug arrest

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama freshman defensive back Tony Mitchell has been suspended from the team following his arrest on a drug charge.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Monday after the first practice of spring that Mitchell was suspended from the team “and all team activities until we gather more information about the situation and what his legal circumstance is.”

The Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrested Mitchell and another man, Christophere Lewis, last week on a charge of possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a post on the department’s Facebook page. Lewis also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.

“Everybody’s got an opportunity to make choices and decisions,” Saban said. “There’s no such thing as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You’ve gotta be responsible for who you’re with, who you’re around and what you do, who you associate yourself with and the situations that you put yourself in. It is what it is, but there is cause and effect when you make choices and decisions that put you in bad situations.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a five-star prospect rated the 34th-best player and No. 3 safety in the 247Composite rankings.

Mitchell was driving the vehicle during a traffic stop. After deputies smelled marijuana, Mitchell picked up a baggie of marijuana from the passenger floorboard, according to the department’s Facebook post.

Sheriff’s deputies found “an additional significant amount of marijuana, a set of scales, a loaded handgun between the passenger seat and center console, and a large amount of cash,” according to the department’s Facebook post.

Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey suspended after arrest

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey was suspended from the team after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, the team said.

The 23-year-old, who was a team captain last season, was booked at about 2:45 a.m. and released after posting $500 bond, according to online records from the Boone County Sheriff’s Office.

“We are aware of the situation involving Chad Bailey,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said in a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He’s been suspended according to Department of Athletics policy. We have high expectations for all of our student-athletes, on and off the field, and we will follow all departmental and campus policies.”

Bailey was Mizzou’s third-leading tackler with 57 stops last season. He started all 11 games he played, missing two with an injury. He’ll be a sixth-year senior this fall after opting to return for his final year of eligibility, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Missouri student-athlete handbook says any athlete who is arrested must serve a minimum one-week suspension.

Bailey was pulled over at about 1 a.m. not far from the Columbia campus for an expired license plate and lane violation, a police statement said. Bailey told the officer he had consumed alcohol and then performed poorly on a field sobriety test, the Post-Dispatch reported.