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C.O.W., Part 2 - Peterson For Heisman?
LSU CB Patrick Peterson
LSU CB Patrick Peterson
Posted Sep 28, 2010

Ten things to be grouchy about this week, including the Heisman talk in September, Virginia Tech's loss to James Madison, and Up In The Air math.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Sept. 28 - Week Four, Part 2

By Pete Fiutak

- Sept. 28,  Cavalcade of Whimsy, Part One. Is Boise State the new Florida State or Miami?

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
The ten things about the world I’m grouchy about …

10. WAC targets
Texas State and UT San Antonio?! Really, WAC? THAT’S your next move? What’s the conference logo going to be, a cupcake?

Despite a lawsuit and lots of begging, the WAC is going to lose Boise State, Fresno State, and Nevada as it rockets toward total and complete irrelevance, and it won’t be long before Louisiana Tech jumps off the sinking ship. There aren’t a whole bunch of tricks that commissioner Karl Benson can come up with, outside of trying to expand further east and try to snag a few Sun Belt programs, but that would make travel a logistical nightmare. Geography and perception are battles Benson won’t be able to win, but the league has to try to do something to stay alive. UT San Antonio isn’t an FCS member yet and is looking to make the move up to the FBS level in 2014, while Texas State has been a decent lower level team and it’s looking to get bigger. Both schools get to make their pitch to the WAC, and considering beggars can’t be choosers, the WAC could quickly add these two to the mix. Yippee.

9. San Jose State third down conversion percentage
To me, third down conversion percentage and turnover margin are the two most underappreciated stats in football. If you win those two categories, you generally have a shot to stay in every game. Win those two by a lot, and you’ll probably win the game big. The nation’s leaders right now are Nevada (63%), Stanford (59%), Michigan (57%), and TCU (56.5%), and they’re a combined 16-0. Normal is around 40%, 30% is a problem, and 20% is complete and utter disaster. San Jose State has converted eight of 49 third down chances. Eight. 16.33%. The Spartans converted on 1-of-12 chances against Utah and 1-of-13 against Alabama. By the way, Tennessee isn’t far behind converting just 19% of the time.

8. Virginia Tech’s loss to James Madison
Enough with using James Madison’s 21-16 win over Virginia Tech as a reason to keep Boise State out of the national title. The loss only matters if the Hokies go into the tank and end up fighting to be .500, but that’s not going to happen.

First of all, JMU is one of the nation’s top FCS teams, currently ranked No. 3, and second, obviously Virginia Tech didn’t bring its A game, B game, or any game at all after the heartbreaking loss to Boise State just five days earlier. The Hokies ran for 238 yards and held JMU to just 235 yards of total offense, but three turnovers turned out to be a killer. It was obviously an aberration, and you know that. If Tech beats NC State on the road this week, it’ll be front and center in the race to win the ACC title with four of the final six conference games at home.

7. Up In The Air math
The numbers area little rough. Ryan Bingham brags at one point that he flew 350,000 miles in a year, and later, in one of the story’s key turns, he earns membership in the extremely exclusive 10 million mile club. For a character based on his love of being in an airplane, flying 350,000 miles is believable, but that’s pushing it. To reach that mark it would take 142 trips between New York and Los Angeles in a year, and considering he’s based out of Omaha, his company appeared to be almost exclusively domestic, and he stayed in hotels and at home enough to not travel every day, averaging 958 miles per day, every day, seems like a lot. But okay, let’s go with it.

At best, Bingham has probably been at his hatchetman job for no more than 15 years, and it’s probably more like ten. Giving him the benefit of the doubt and calling it 20 (or assuming he had other jobs that required him to travel a ton and allowed him to fly only one airline), at 350,000 miles per year that’s only seven million miles. Even with credit cards, various clubs, and bonuses, it would still be tough to tack on another three million. To reach the 10 million mile club, he’d have to average 350,000 miles a year for over 28 years.

6. Pac 10 championship Las Vegas
The Pac 10 is trying to figure out where to play its championship games starting in 2011, and it’s considering several options. Goal One is to avoid an ACC situation with only 15 people showing up, but the idea of letting the higher seeded team host it doesn’t seem to be too fair. The game should rotate up and down the left coast between Glendale, Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco depending on the participants, but Las Vegas is also being considered. Vegas is fun, but Sam Boyd Stadium only holds 36,800 and can probably only expand another 10,000 in a pinch. It just seems smalltime for a league looking to make the championship game a showcase event.

5. Dogging Baylor for being in the Big 12
Over the years, and more so now that expansion is still on the table for the Big 12 (especially with TCU such a hot commodity at the moment), it has been easy to poke a jab at Baylor after more than a decade of futility. There were political parts of the equation involved with when the school was included, but it didn’t seem so crazy at the time to include Baylor in on the fun. It might seem like ancient history now, but Baylor finished with winning seasons in five of its last six campaigns and nine of its last 11 as part of the old Southwest Conference, and it didn’t hit the skids until the year after the Big 12 was formed. BU has won more than four games just once in the last 14 years, but before joining the Big 12 it went 14 years without wining fewer than five.

4. Jake Heaps
It’s asking a lot for a true freshman to step in and produce at quarterback, but Heaps was considered the No. 1 recruit in the country by several services and he has yet to show it. It’s not his fault. BYU is rebuilding, the running game isn’t there to help him out, and injuries, suspensions, and the normal church missions have slowed down the team. However, Heaps needs to be better now that he’s the only option with Riley Nelson knocked out for the year with a shoulder injury. BYU is 116th in the nation in scoring and 117th in passing efficiency as Heaps is taking his lumps completing just 54-of-105 passes so far for 489 yards and a touchdown with an interception in four games. Up next is Utah State on Friday, and BYU’s season, and its future, considering it’s leaving to become an independent, hinges on Heaps starting to play up to the hype.

3. This isn’t Russia. Is this Russia?
It’s 3rd and four on a key drive and the receiver drops the pass across the middle. A quarterback has a target wide open in the end zone and he air mails his throw. Sebastian Janikowski or Garrett Hartley has a chip shot to win a game, and they miss. Common occurrences all, especially in the college game without the crispness and prep time the pros have, and what does the analyst always say?

“You’ve got to make that catch/throw/kick.”

It’s the type of typical coachspeak that’s easy to throw out there because it sounds helpful or observant, but it’s not. It’s not a constructive comment and it does nothing to speak of when the misfire happened. Of course the player knows he screwed up, and no one feels worse than he does and it doesn’t need to be pointed out. No one knows more that he had to make that play.

2. Patrick Peterson for the Heisman
I voted for Ndamukong Suh for the Heisman last year, because I thought he was the most outstanding player of 2009 at the time of the voting. Had the voting been done after the bowl games, I would’ve given the nod to Mark Ingram because he was the season’s signature player. It still would’ve been close.

I’ve also tried for over a decade to convince Peyton Manning lovers that Charles Woodson, by every measure possible, really did deserve the 1997 Heisman Trophy, but I haven’t been able to make a dent. In other words, I’m all for the idea of a defensive player being a part of the Heisman mix.

I’m not there yet with Patrick Peterson.

The LSU junior is the best corner in America and he’ll be a top five draft pick, and he’s having a whale of a year averaging a ridiculous 28 yards per punt return, 31.7 yards per kickoff return, and he made two brilliant picks against Mississippi State. The push is starting to come from LSU that Peterson deserves to be in the Heisman race as an all-around sort of selection, but again, I’m not there yet.

Woodson got the Heisman partly because of his brilliance as a returner and partly because he was a playmaking receiver at best, and a tremendous decoy at worst, but mostly he made every big defensive play needed to keep Michigan in the national title hunt. Peterson’s punt returns for scores turned out to be the difference against North Carolina and West Virginia, but to start talking Heisman, he has to be more of a game-changer on defense. He’ll get his chances, but for now, let’s temper the …

1. Heisman discussion

We have an all-timer of a brouhaha on the horizon if Boise State and TCU keep winning, the Pac 10 chase is more exciting than it’s been in a decade, the Big Ten race has the potential to be special, the SEC West is going to be a weekly war, and Nebraska, Michigan, and USC are all unbeaten, but instead of talking about real, live football, at least 30% of my time on various radio appearances becomes devoted to the Heisman race. Don’t get me wrong, I’m honored to be a voter and it’s always a fun, easy topic, but it’s September. Let’s take it easy.

Is the NFL discussing the MVP possibilities? Does basketball devote any energy to the issue in November? Is the baseball top guy crowned in April? Maybe there is a little bit of talk about the top awards in other sports, but it doesn’t take up nearly as much time as college football spends on its top individual prize. Considering all the philosophical debates that need to be waged, and all the conversations that need to be had for a sport without a playoff, devoting so much energy right now to a true beauty pageant seems like a wee bit of a waste.

Was Ndamukong Suh on the Heisman radar last year at this time? Did anyone know who Toby Gerhart was? Mark Ingram had a nice start, but he wasn’t within 50 miles of the Heisman discussion with Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy still alive and kicking.

I do love the speculation and I do think it’s fun, but it’s more useful a month from now. By then I’ll probably be thumping my chest over why Patrick Peterson is the only choice to win the honor.

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.

- My lazy, unresearched, meaningless question of the week. Have two BCS conference teams ever given up more points the week after a shootout than Duke and Wake Forest? The two smarty pants played a wild and thrilling 54-48 game on September 11th, with the Demon Deacons coming out on top. The week after, Wake Forest allowed 68 points to Stanford, while Duke gave up 62 to Alabama.

- I’ve been pumping up San Diego State for a few weeks, and now I’m the full blown Grand Marshal of the parade. While blowing away Nicholls State, New Mexico State, and Utah State is hardly cause to book a spot in a BCS game, the performance against Missouri is going to look more and more impressive as the season goes on. Second-year head man Brady Hoke has a devastating offense with QB Ryan Lindley a fringe pro prospect, Ronnie Hillman currently sixth in the nation in rushing, and the 1-2 receiving punch of DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown among the best in the nation. So far, the Aztec line has allowed just one sack.

- From the 32-31 loss to Florida Atlantic in the final seconds, to the Hail Mary to beat Troy, to the double overtime heartbreaker to Tennessee, no one is playing more fun games this year than UAB. I’ll be shocked if the UCF and UTEP games in the coming weeks aren’t entertaining.

- Ryan Mallett isn’t too tall any more than Drew Brees is too short. And no, Mallett’s stock isn’t dropping after the Bama loss.

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

1) Overrated: UCLA 34, Texas 12 … Underrated: Purdue 26, Ohio State 18 in 2009
2) Overrated: Jon Gruden’s “This guy”… Underrated: Jon Gruden’s “That guy.”
3) Overrated: Florida at Alabama, October 2nd, 2010 ... Underrated: Florida vs. Alabama, December 5th, 2010
4) Overrated: Reggie Bush giving back his Heisman ... Underrated: Reggie Bush getting hurt
5) Overrated: Kenny Powers ... Underrated: Kenny McKinley

“Tracy did mention we shouldn't let him gamble. Or drink too much.”… I got cheeky and I got tagged. I couldn’t leave well enough alone and pick my normal three games. I have to go for a fourth and take Southern Miss over Louisiana Tech, only to see the game get unnecessarily close after it seemed to be well in hand. On my greatest run ever since starting this lame bit (cash out and go to bed … NOW), I go back to the normal three games. … Week 3 Results: 1) NC State +8.5 over Georgia Tech (W, NC State 45-28), 2) Idaho -7 over Colorado State (L, CSU 36-34), 3) Arkansas State +11.5 over Troy (W, Troy 35-28), 4) Southern Miss -5 over Louisiana Tech (L, USM 13-12) … Record So Far ATS: 7-3

For this week … 1) Florida +9.5 over Alabama, 2) Indiana +10.5 over Michigan, 3) Northwestern -5 over Minnesota

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. … 1) Denard Robinson, QB Michigan, 2) Mark Ingram, RB Alabama, 3) Kellen Moore, QB Boise State

Sorry this column sucked, it wasn’t my fault … Everyone is watching, it’s still appointment television, and people like it more after losing Charlie Weis, but the column has still lost seven of its last eight outings.

- Sept. 28,  Cavalcade of Whimsy, Part One. Is Boise State the new Florida State or Miami?