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Cavalcade of Whimsy, Part 2 - 10 New Stars
Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden
Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden
Posted Sep 21, 2010

Here are the ten relatively new big things about the college football world that you probably don’t realize are big things. (And no, Denard Robinson doesn’t count.)

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Sept. 21 - Week Three, Part 2

By Pete Fiutak

- Sept. 21,  Cavalcade of Whimsy, Part One. MSU's Wild Weekend

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Allegedly, I’m always grouchy and I’m always complaining, so this week I get all happy, happy. Here are the ten relatively new big things about the college football world that you probably don’t realize are big things. (And no, Denard Robinson doesn’t count.)

10. QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
Call him the next Chris Weinke. The 26-year-old former pitcher in the New York Yankee organization has the size and the big-time arm to be a major-league bomber. Most importantly, he has former Houston offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen running the attack. The Cowboys lead the nation in passing and are second behind Oregon in scoring averaging 57 points per game, and Weeden is going ballistic completing 74-of-101 passes for 975 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions so far. Both picks came in a win over Troy, and six of the scoring strikes came last week against Tulsa.

9. Fresno State’s Pass Rush
In 2009, Fresno State was next-to-last in the nation in sacks coming up with a mere 11 on the season after registering 18 in 2008. In just two games this year, the Bulldogs have found a new life with ten sacks led by Logan Harrell, the nation’s sack leader, on the inside and Chris Carter on the end. Both games were against mobile quarterbacks, and now it’s on to Ole Miss to face another runner in Jeremiah Masoli. By the way, the Boise State game is on November 19th.

8. CB Jarvis Phillips, Texas Tech
The biggest question coming into the season for the new Red Raider defense was whether or not Phillips could replace Jamar Wall at corner. The former high school quarterback has the size and some of the best wheels on the team, but he was supposed to need a little time. Apparently, he’s ready. The redshirt freshman leads the nation with seven broken up passes and four picks, including two against Texas with one going for a score. He made just one tackle against the Longhorns, but that’s not his job. He’s going to be counted on more and more to handle the top targets, and with a pick in each game so far, teams are going to have to stay away from him.

7. QB Greg McElroy, Alabama
You could’ve played quarterback over the first three games and the Tide would still be 3-0, but the great all-around team shouldn’t take away from the phenomenal play so far from the unsung leader. Everyone pays attention to the running game, and rightly so, and Julio Jones makes the highlight reels, but very, very quietly, McElroy is coming up with a whale of a season completing 72% of his throws for 705 yards and six touchdowns with an interception. His rating is an off-the-charts 200.03, and he leads the nation in passing efficiency. Defenses can’t beat the Tide by simply loading up to stop the run.

6. Cassidy Hubbarth, ESPN
It sucks to be a woman trying to break into the sports world, but it helps if you’re really, really attractive. There’s ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Lite, ESPN: Money Never Sleeps, and then further down the chain there’s whatever it is that Hubbarth and analyst Christian Fauria do. Fauria is fine in the analyst role, but he’s just another ex-jock talking head with the normal ex-jock talking head analysis. Hubbarth plays it straight in the emcee role, and while she’s serviceable, she’s about to grow into ESPN’s next big thing now that Erin Andrews jumped the Oprah. She’s destined to be the new favorite among the creepy element that tunes in because they think the pretty lady is talking to them.

5. QB Dan Persa, Northwestern
Northwestern wasn’t supposed to be able to quickly replace the production of Brett Basanez, and then Mike Kafka came in and played himself into an NFL backup quarterback. Kafka was supposed to have shoes too big to fill, and then came Dan Persa, a smallish dual-threat option who needed to hit the ground running, literally, to start out the year hot with two road games in the first three. The first player in Pennsylvania high school history to run for over 1,000 yards and throw for over 2,000 in the same season, he would’ve been an elite recruit if he was 6-4 instead of stretching to measure more than six-even, but height doesn’t seem to matter considering he’s throwing as well as any quarterback in the country. After three games against Vanderbilt, Illinois State, and Rice, he’s completing 81.5% of his throws for 769 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.

4. S Shiloh Keo, Idaho
Last year, the voters who have a say in the big awards ended up making Mike Iupati a Lombardi finalist just because NFL super-scout Gil Brandt raved about the big blocker. None of the voters actually saw Iupati play, but that didn’t seem to matter. This year, Idaho has another player worthy of national attention, but he’s not likely to get the same blind respect. Senior Shiloh Keo isn’t all that big, and he’s not a blazer, but he just might be the best all-around safety in college football. He’s tied for second in the nation in picks, taking away one in each game so far, and he’s a tackling machine on an improving (slightly improving) defense. With 314 career tackles, 11 interceptions, and a punt return average of 13.4 yards per pop, he’s the team’s top playmaker and a WAC star who’ll likely go in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

3. RB Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky
There are no real positives when a team is on a 23-game losing streak, but Western Kentucky has one of the most exciting backs in the nation to count on. New head coach Willie Taggart knows how to handle runners, taking the WKU gig after working as the running backs coach for Toby Gerhart and Stanford, and he has a prize. Rainey is the sole focus of every opposing defense, yet he’s fifth in the nation in rushing averaging 148 yards per game with 155 with a score against Nebraska, 184 and two scores against Kentucky, and 105 yards and two touchdowns against Indiana. A 5-8, 200-pound scooter, he’ll make an NFL roster eventually as a No. 3 back and a kickoff returner, but at the moment, he’s on a tear with five 100-yard games in the last six.

ESPN is too bloated, too vanilla, and too corporate, often sucking the life out of sports with its pandering, and general mediocrity, but sometimes being large is a plus. With, the technology and the ability of the big network is being used for good, creating a reason for keeping the old extra laptop. There’s no need to spend the money on GamePlan anymore with most of the top out of market games online (just like there’s no need to order any Mega March Madness package since CBS has all the tournament games online). The old computer can now be used like an extra TV to keep an extra eye on several games at once, and for those who got screwed out of Texas-Texas Tech or Notre Dame-Michigan State, since DirecTV apparently didn’t get the memo on the plan to stick one on ABC and the other on ESPN2, depending on the region, the game you were missing was online.

1. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
To everyone trying to jam Jake Locker down our throats as the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, welcome to the party. Andrew Luck is the best pro quarterback prospect since the 2004 class of Eli Manning, Phil Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger, and the national scrutiny will only increase over the next few months as questions about whether or not he’ll leave early will be the key to the draft (assuming there is one). At 6-4 and 235 pounds, the redshirt sophomore has the prototype size, arm, and smarts to have little bust potential and a limitless ceiling. He threw for 2,575 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions last year, highlighted by a 423-yard day against Arizona, but he got to spend his season handing off to Toby Gerhart. This year, he’s putting the Cardinal offense on his back completing 64% of his throws for 674 yards and ten touchdowns with no interceptions. A runner, he tore off 63 yards against UCLA and ran for 69 yards against Wake Forest, highlighted by a long, weaving, 52-yard score. With huge games coming up against Notre Dame and Oregon on the road, now the spotlight is on. If Luck is solid and if he pulls off wins, then the hype machine will get rolling.

Random Acts of Nutty … Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa) a.k.a. things I didn’t feel like writing bigger blurbs for.

- Without even pretending to do any research, I’m going to confidently state that Mississippi State has just become the first team to ever face Tigers three weeks in a row. The Bulldogs started out the year against Memphis, Auburn, and LSU, but at 1-2, they need to get on a roll to get to a bowl game for a chance to face Missouri or Clemson.

- The SEC isn’t all that great this year, but Tennessee might still be in trouble. After starting out the year 1-2, with the win coming against Tennessee-Martin, it might seem like the worst is over after home games against Oregon and Florida. Not quite. After this week’s UAB game, the Vols go on the road for four of their next five games with the lone home oasis against Alabama. Considering Kentucky isn’t bad and Vanderbilt has a pulse, a winning season could be almost impossible without a minor miracle.

- With all of Houston’s quarterback problems and with no one other than Southern Miss appearing to be anything decent, watch out for UTEP in the Conference USA title chase. The offense is playing well enough to overcome a lousy defense that gets nothing from the front line, but the big key is the schedule. The Miners don’t play a 2009 bowl team again until the end of October, and while November is set up for the annual UTEP nosedive (SMU, at Arkansas, Tulsa), the record should be strong with Memphis, at New Mexico, Rice, at UAB, Tulane, and at Marshall up next.

- The most fun game this weekend that you won’t care about: Arkansas State at Troy. Neither team has a pass defense and both like to bomb away. Troy is averaging 318 passing yards per game, while the secondary is allowing 315 yards per outing. ASU is averaging 334 passing yards per game and is 114th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. The final score might be 55-54.

- If tennis can use technology to show whether or not a ball hit a line, then why can’t someone invent something that indisputably shows whether or not a football crosses a first down marker or a goal line? Obviously there are several different parts to determining where a ball should be spotted, but in 2010 there’s no reason why major college football games and the NFL should be sticking with the antiquated chains and the official’s judgment when a few inches can determine an outcome.

- Back to the schedules, considering Ole Miss has decided to be bad at football, Fresno State has a shot to go on a major run. If the Bulldogs can win in Oxford, and if they don’t go all Fresno Statey and blow a game they shouldn’t, there’s no excuse to not be 8-0 (at Ole Miss, Cal Poly, Hawaii, New Mexico State, at San Jose State, at Louisiana Tech) before hosting Nevada. Beat the Pack, and the Friday night showdown against Boise State will rival any game on a national scale.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world

1) Overrated: The Yankees and Rays battling to win the division … Underrated: Kyle Parker’s happiness with his decision to play football after getting pummeled by Auburn
2) Overrated: Darrelle Revis, hamstring or not … Underrated: The Randy Moss one-handed touchdown catch
3) Overrated: Ines Sainz ... Underrated: A towel
4) Overrated: Forfeiting the Heisman ... Underrated: Forfeiting Kim Kardashian
5) Overrated: Boise State as a national title contender ... Underrated: TCU as a national title contender

“Tracy did mention we shouldn't let him gamble. Or drink too much.”… I know I’m letting you down. I’m sorry that I keep hitting these picks and for getting off to a hot start … it won’t last. The race is on between my picks and the gold market to see which will bust first. … Week 3 Results: 1) Purdue -16.5 over Ball State (L Purdue 24-13), 2) Alabama -22 over Duke (W Bama 62-13), 3) Texas -3 over Texas Tech (W Texas 24-14) … Record So Far ATS: 5-1

For this week … 1) NC State +8.5 over Georgia Tech, 2) Idaho -7 over Colorado State, 3) Arkansas State +11.5 over Troy, (feeling sassy, I have a fourth this week), 4) Southern Miss -5 over Louisiana Tech

If the college football season ended right now, this would be my Heisman ballot cast for the Most Outstanding College Football Player in the United States for 2010. In protest, I would’ve voted Reggie Bush No. 1, but he wussed out so now I’ll play it straight. …
1) Denard Robinson, QB Michigan, 2) Andrew Luck, QB Stanford, 3) Kellen Moore, QB Boise State

Sorry this column sucked, it wasn’t my fault … I was attacked by the Ohio Bobcat mascot just before the national anthem.. It’s okay. I still won 43-7.