* Have to hand it to Oklahoma and Sooners coach Bob Stoops. They showed up in a big way Thursday night at the Sugar Bowl as OU pounded Alabama. I have a hard time trusting the dedication in college football bowl games. So much time passes between the end of the regular season and the playing of bowl games. And there are often so many distractions with coaches leaving, players being suspended, etc. I don’t think teams are as engaged at times in bowl games as they are during the regular season.
* That said, Alabama got whupped. And shame on the Tide if it wasn’t completely ready for this one because the Alabama coaches and players should have realized they had something to prove after losing in heartbreaking fashion to Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
* I put little stock into most of the bowl games, but for OU this was monumental. For Stoops, this was monumental. The Sooners were starting to gain a reputation. But in beating Oklahoma State in the final regular season game and knocking off Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, OU has regained some of its swagger. The Sooners likely will go into 2014 as the Big 12 favorite with a dynamic quarterback, Trevor Knight.
* Where does Knight’s ascension leave Bishop Carroll’s Blake Bell? Great question. Bell will be a redshirt senior next season. There are questions about whether he will earn his undergraduate degree from OU this semester. If so he would, per NCAA rules, be allowed to transfer to another Division I school and enroll in a graduate program, provided its a program not available at Oklahoma, and be immediately eligible for his final season. Russell Wilson met the NCAA guideline when he transferred from North Carolina State to Wisconsin for his final season of eligibility three years ago.
* Are you having a great 2014 so far? I can’t really tell yet for me. But I’m hopeful.
* I think the Oscars this year are going to be amazing. I’ve seen so many good movies, and I haven’t seen them all. The one that’s staying with me the most is “Nebraska,” starring Bruce Dern. But I also loved “Saving Mr. Banks,” “12 Years a Slave,” and “American Hustle.”
* How about some early Oscar predictions? Mind you, I haven’t seen all of the potential contenders. So take that into account.
* Best supporting actor: Jered Leto, Dallas Buyers Club; Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave; Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips; Bradley Cooper, American Hustle; Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks. Prediction: Hanks isn’t getting a lot of run for best supporting actor, but I thought he was great as Walt Disney. so he makes my cut. Winner: Leto. I haven’t seen Dallas Buyers Club, but his performance is drawing raves.
* Best supporting actress: Lupito Nyongo, 12 Years a Slave; Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle; June Squibb, Nebraska; Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler; Julia Roberts, August: Osage County. Winner: Tough. For me, it’s either Nyongo or Squibb. I’ll go with Squibb, who in some ways stole her movie.
* Best actor: Chiwetel Ejiofer, 12 Years a Slave; Bruce Dern, Nebraska; Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips; Robert Redford, Out of Nowhere; Christian Bale, American Hustle. I’m leaving out some great actors here. How can Matthew McDonaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio not be nominated. It’s that kind of year. Winner: Ejiofer.
* Best actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; Sandra Bullock, Gravity; Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks; Jude Dench, Philomena; Meryl Streep, August: Osage County. Winner: I really like Bullock, but she should not win. And I’m afraid she might. But her performance was nothing like that of Thompson. And thought I haven’t seen Philomena, it sounds as if Dench was phenomenal. And then there are Street and Blanchett, two of the greatest. But I’ll go with Thompson, who was so good in Saving Mr. Banks.
* Best picture: Gravity; 12 Years a Slave; American Hustle; Nebraska; Captain Phillips; Saving Mr. Banks; Dallas Buyers Club; Philomena. Winner: I went with eight nominees and there could be as many as 10. But eight is enough. I think this is the year for 12 Years a Slave. And it’s a really tough year to pick winners.
* Is Cleanthony Early the best athlete to play on Wichita State’s basketball team since Maurice Evans? Certainly you would have to consider P.J. Couisnard, Jamar Howard, David Kyles and maybe one or two others. But Early’s height gives him an advantage. I think he is the best athlete since Evans and it’s fun to watch him really come into his own over the past several games.
* Early is playing with such confidence now and that’s something that wasn’t apparent early this season. I think it took him a while to get a feel for this team and to figure out where he fit best. And because the Shockers have so many other offensive weapons, it’ll be difficult for opposing teams to focus as much on Early as they otherwise might.
* Kansas State has really found something of late. The Wildcats have gone from being a potential disaster to an intriguing club that faces sixth-ranked Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum. I give Kansas State a puncher’s chance in that game. I know this: The Wildcats will punch.
* I watched a few Houston Rockets games during the Christmas/New Year’s break. I think I’m a Rockets fan, although I’ll still pull for the Miami Heat to win the championship. I like Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, James Harden and even Dwight Howard, a player I couldn’t stand when he was with Orlando and the Lakers. And Houston’s coach, Kevin McHale, is one of my all-time favorite players from his Celtics years.
* There must be a lot of hope in the college football world because of what appears to be a down year – finally – in the SEC. Of course, Auburn could go a long way toward changing that perception in the national championship game Monday night against Florida State. But I’m picking the Seminoles.
* My wife is taking down our Christmas decorations this weekend. I have to admit, it makes me a little sad.
* I had difficulty controlling my emotions during Saving Mr. Banks. That’s nothing new for me during a sentimental movie. Whatever you might think of my curmudgeonly ways, I’m just a softie.
* I’m always so hopeful at the start of a new year. Just give it a couple of weeks.
* I like Facebook more than I like Twitter. But I like them both. Let me put it this way: I enjoy the interaction on Facebook; I enjoy the immediacy of Twitter.
* Have a great weekend. Please.