BARNES’ AND COOPER’S NFR PREDICTIONS
Jake Barnes and Clay O’Brien Cooper set the 59.1-second National Finals Rodeo average record nearly a quarter of a century ago, back in 1994. Here’s what our in-house dream teamers think about who has the best shot of winning the average, and the odds of
-AKE ON 7+E N)R A9ERA*E
I like Clay Smith and Paul Eaves in the average. Clay’s not just going to throw when the barrier pops. He’s going to get a good start, and stick it on ’em. Then Paul’s going to rope ’em fast. And Paul’s not just going to set himself up for one shot. He’s going to have a little bit of defense going, too. I just think that they have a really patterned run. They have a lot of control and consistency together, and that’s what it takes to win the average.
Every year I say that record’s got a great chance of going down. It looks like it’s going to be broken, then something happens, and suddenly it’s stuck around for 24 years. Realistically, as fast as they rope steers now, averaging 5.9 seconds a run is not that fast in that little building. But it’s harder than it looks, when you’re roping steers in the 3s and 4s. I never think it’ll last from year to year, but it’s still maintaining. We shall see.
CLAY ON 7+E N)R A9ERA*E
I’d have to give the average edge to Chad Masters and Joseph Harrison, because Chad’s going to be going in there thinking about winning that average, and he’s won it three times the last few times he’s been there (in 2006 with Allen Bach, 2012 with Champ, and 2017 with Travis Graves). It’s hard to get Chad pulled off of his game plan, to where he’s going to make a mistake. Last year, Chad and Travis won the average, and you could tell after every run that that’s what they were trying to do.
I’d have to back Chad and Joseph up this year with Clay Tryan and Travis Graves. If Clay decides to turn 10 steers, he’s going to be tough. It’s just hard to compete for first in the go-rounds and turn enough steers to win the average. Your mindset and your game plan going in is one way or the other. You’re either going in there thinking you’re going to compete for first every night, or not. If you’re in go-round mode—and have it turned up that hot— it’s hard to turn nine or 10 steers in a row.
We’ve seen guys like Chad, Luke Brown, and Erich Rogers last year put on a clinic at the Finals. When those guys go there with the mindset that they’re there to turn 10 steers, they’re trying to be aggressive, but they’re not likely to miss. That’s different from coming with it over the chute every night.
I would like to add the Navajos to this year’s average conversation also. You have to watch out for Erich, Derrick (Begay), and (Aaron) Tsinigine, because they could upset everybody’s hopes and plans. Those boys are coming to beat you, and they don’t care who’s there or what’s going on.
As for that record, it just depends on how many of those guys show up with the game plan of trying to win the average. Derrick, Erich, and Spinigine are already thinking about going for the average. Whether they stay in that mindset or not is yet to be seen, but they all know how to set up a run. It’ll come down to who stays in it in the heat of the moment.
There’s a high-percentage chance that record will be gone if several guys decide that turning every steer is their priority. But it’s hard to stay in that mode. It gets exciting, and you get to watching the monitor riding down that tunnel. You’ve got a good one drawn, and it’s hard not to decide, “I’m going for it.” It’s a mental game. And it’s a Jake Barnes/Chad Masters type of a mindset that you have to stay in to get that job done.
“REALISTICALLY, AS FAST AS THEY ROPE STEERS NOW, AVERAGING 5.9 SECONDS A RUN IS NOT THAT FAST IN THAT LITTLE BUILDING.” —JAKE BARNES