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Beyond the Fort: No ‘horns down,’ WVU’s Spavital to Texas State, and more

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

All eyes will be on Texas and Oklahoma Saturday morning as the Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship Game gets underway at AT&T Stadium in Arlington — a game that is likely set to determine whether or not the Sooners crack the College Football Playoff for a second consecutive season.

Of course, there are still other headlines to be had outside of the final Big 12 football game of 2018, even if the regular-season has come to a conclusion in seemingly a blink of the eye.

Here’s the latest roundup of Big 12 happening beyond Fort Worth:

No “Horns Down” at Jerry World

After penalizing West Virginia wide receiver David Sills as the beginning of November for flashing the “horns down” during the Mountaineers’ thrilling 42-41 victory at Texas, the Big 12 Conference isn’t loosening their grip as preparations get underway for the Red River Rematch that will determine a conference champion.

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said on a radio interview Tuesday that he had been informed by the Big 12 that players would be penalized on Saturday if they use the horns down gesture during the game as a taunt against Texas.

And who could have possibly imagined that the news wouldn’t go over well with fans on both sides, disappointed by the attempt to ease the tensions between one of the most storied rivalries in college football?

Let’s just say that Twitter won after the news was made public.

So yeah, no horns down this Saturday, folks. Unless Oklahoma players decide it’s worth the penalty yards every once in a while, that is. Hey, there’s never any telling of what may happen when two-bitter rivals go head-to-head on the same field.

The Big 12 coaching carousel is up and running

It didn’t take long to fire up the Big 12 coaching carousel after the regular-season concluded on Saturday. Less than 24 hours passed before it was officially announced that Kliff Kingsbury would not return in 2019 as Texas Tech’s head coach, marking the end of his six-season run with the Red Raiders. Texas Tech finished the 2018 season 5-7 after losing 5 straight to end the year and never reached more than eight wins during Kingsbury’s tenure. Even the 8-5 mark in 2013, his first season, wasn’t exactly celebratory occasion as the Red Raiders began the season 7-0 before dropping five straight prior to a bowl game victory. Where one of the best offensive minds in football lands next is to be determined (USC and the Dallas Cowboys — likely as an offensive coordinator — have both been frequently mentioned), but he won’t be on the sidelines when the Horned Frogs head to Lubbock next fall.

Elsewhere, news broke on Wednesday that West Virginia offensive coordinator Jake Spavital — who succeeded Kingsbury as the quarterbacks coach at Texas A&M before ultimately making his way to Morgantown — would become the new head coach at Texas State after spending two seasons with the Mountaineers. The news was quickly made official by the university after the reports began to spread.

Spavital’s arrival to West Virginia in 2017 coincided with quarterback Will Grier’s first year of eligibility with the team, and under his watch, the Mountaineers’ offense rose to becoming among the most prolific units in all of college football. Alas, 2019 will now see West Virginia both without Grier and Spavital, leaving Mountaineer fans wondering what could become of the offense that put up points in a hurry on almost every opponent this season.

And perhaps the most surprising move of them all? After a 5-season hiatus (or should we say retirement) former Texas head coach Mack Brown is back in the business after being introduced as head coach of North Carolina — who parted ways with Larry Fedora — on Tuesday.

Brown, who won a national title at Texas in 2005 and got the Longhorns back to the BCS title game in 2009, had a previous coaching stint in Chapel Hill form 1988-1997 before embarking on his run with the Longhorns in time for the 1998 season. So sure, it makes sense given his ties to the program, but going for a veteran, big-name rather than a young innovator? Sounds similar to a situation in Lawrence.

How long will round No. 2 of Mack last? Who knows, but heck, what a time is to be alive with the trio Brown, Les Miles and Chip Kelly all back in college football with the latest development this week. It’s now up to you, Bob Stoops.

Oh, and a former Big 12 coach lending a hand to Tom Herman?

It may not match the Red Rivers Showdown spying allegations from way back in the day, but Texas head coach Tom Herman is trending slightly in that direction after he confirmed on Monday that he had enlisted the help of former Kansas head coach David Beaty — who saw his team drop 40 points at Oklahoma in his second to last game with the Jayhawks — as the Longhorns prepare for their rematch with the Sooners.

To little surprise, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley was none too thrilled with the news, stating that he wasn’t a fan of the precedent that Herman is setting. The second-year head coach of the Longhorns defend his decision, however, suggesting that it was a “very common” practice for teams to seek advice from teams who have already played one’s upcoming opponent. Of course, the Longhorns already recorded a narrow 48-45 victory over the Sooners back on Oct. 6. But nearly two months removed from that matchup, it’s clear that Herman is expecting Oklahoma to have a bit of a different identity than it did back at the State Fair.