Cavalcade of Whimsy - Everyone Is Coming Back
Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett
Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett
Posted Oct 26, 2010

If the NFL doesn't get its act together, almost all the top underclassmen, like Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett, might have to come back. What would next year be like with almost all the non-seniors returning? The NFL and agents, Notre Dame's issues, and more in the Week 8 Cavalcade of Whimsy.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Oct. 26 - Week Eight

Past Cavalcades
- 2008 Season | 2009 Season 
- Jan 19, Part 1 - Oh those wacky coaches 
- Jan 19, Part 2 - The sucky 2009 season 
- Sept. 7,  The Marcell Dareus Issue
- Sept. 14, The Boise State Issue
- Sept. 21,  MSU's Wild Weekend
- Sept. 28,  Is Boise State the new Florida State or Miami?
- Oct 5, Oh, that wacky Les Miles
- Oct. 12, Why the Brett Favre situation matters
- Oct. 19, Is Oklahoma REALLY No. 1?

E-mail Pete Fiutak

- Week Eight Part 2 - What does each top team need to do to play for the national titlet? 

Sorry if this column sucks, it's not my fault … it's like being "the Germans in World War II. You have the binoculars, and it's like, ‘Oh, my God, the invasion is coming.'"

"Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I'm not Him." … (a phone rings) Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany: "Who is it?"
Delany's Secretary: "It's Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick on line two and he says it's urgent."
Delany (while playing Paper Toss on his iPhone): "Uhhhh, tell him we're in a meeting … with Pitt …"
Token Big Ten Administrator (passing by Swarbrick's office): "Tell him it's with Missouri."
Delany: "Yeah, yeah … Missouri. And tell him I'll call back after I'm done Skyping with Navy."
Token Big Ten Administrator: "And NBC."
Delany: "Yeah, NBC. Oh, and also tell him I'm taking a lunch with BYU tomorrow."
Delany's Secretary: "I'm sorry Mr. Swarbrick, but Commissioner Delany is out with the flu, I'll be sure to tell him you called. And yes, he did receive the balloon bouquet and basket of mini muffins."

Notre Dame, you should never, ever, EVER lose to Navy under any circumstances. Yeah, it's time. You need the Big Ten more than the Big Ten needs you.

But it's not quite as irrelevant as the shark-jumped swimsuit issue … Shhhhhh. If you listen very, very, quietly, you can just barely hear the sound of the complete and utter indifference to the Josh Luchs agent admission in Sports Illustrated two weeks ago. It had two days of play on all the talk shows and columns, and now we'll never hear about it again. NOBODY cares about agents or players getting a little somethin' somethin' under the table, except the NCAA. Learn from the silence. Really, agents aren't necessarily a bad thing.

"I know what you're thinking, 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn't I take the BLUE pill?" … Agents, improper benefits, a hypocritical NCAA, steroids, bully coaches, BCS minutiae, the lack of a playoff, players leaving early, academic integrity, recruiting, recruiting shows, recruiting analysts, recruiting daily updates, The Blind Side, pretentious columnists (cough), concussions, and injuries, especially the catastrophic kind.

Good grief.

Thank goodness for the games themselves to remind us all what the fuss is about. Remember, this is supposed to be a whole lot of fun, and that's what this season has been so far and almost certainly will be over the last six weeks.

No one cares about how the hot dog is made on game day, and no one should.

Auburn fans don't care about NCAA rules and regulations when they're sitting slack-jawed while a quarterback who's built like a 1970s NFL offensive lineman improbably skips and darts through the secondary for yet another phenomenal touchdown run.

Two states don't care about the agent issue when they're held breathless as Ricky Stanzi tries to lead Iowa to a possible game-winning score in the final seconds, only to come up short, in a heart-stopping loss to Wisconsin.

My sister-in-law can't name two players, hates competition in all forms, and goes to Missouri games because of the tailgating, and because Faurot Field is a three-wood from her house, but she let the "OMG!" texts fly when Gahn McGaffie took the opening kickoff for a score. My nine-year-old nephew certainly didn't give a flying hoot about the BCS implications for Boise State when his Tigers were pulling off the big upset over the Sooners. (Of course, leave it to Uncle Buzzkill to instantly point out that Mizzou was probably going to lose to Nebraska.)

Baylor fans get to give a big "EXPANSION THIS" to the rest of the Big 12, as their program is officially the second best in the state of Texas (at least for this week) behind TCU, and Western Kentucky fans aren't going to be talking about Josh Luchs this week after finally busting through a two-year losing streak.

After yet another phenomenal weekend, it's so much more fun to get lost in the joy of the games and blow off the other part of the college sports equation, and then comes this …

"You've taken care of the little fish. I will take care of the one that got away. Once Escobedo is gone, I will be in the position to help you."
… Because the NCAA hasn't found enough ways to screw over the leaderless college players, now it, along with the heads of some of the big conferences as well as the coaching organizations, is meeting with the NFL to tackle the agent issue. The one idea that has gained some traction is to punish offending college players by forcing them to serve a six-to-eight game suspension in their rookie seasons, to go along with a heavy fine, if they get caught dealing with an agent improperly while still a student-athlete.

(Heavy sigh.)

First of all, good luck trying to enforce this. The backstabbing from jilted agents would lead to a slew of problems based on innuendo and baseless accusations, which are normally enough to at least give the player the look of doing something wrong and earn a trip to Principal Goodell's office when the time comes. As far as finding an actual smoking gun, which the NFL would need to be able to take away a pro paycheck for six-to-eight games, it won't happen. The whole Roger Goodell suspension-without-conviction policy won't fly here, or else the players might have a whopper of a legal case.

Secondly, while the coaches might say they need to do something about the problem, the last thing they want to do is lose players to suspension, and even more, they don't want their program to be known for not being able to keep things under wraps. Agents are an issue at every school. You just don't hear about it.

And, of course, there's the practical side. Any agent worth his salt will build into the NFL contract the extra money needed to pay off the fine so his client doesn't miss out on any dough. While it might be a problem for the lower round picks, missing six games isn't such a big deal for them. However, if a Marvin Austin-type got penalized with a seven-game suspension, you had better believe his agent would make sure his client got it back in some way. Basically, suspensions and fines won't solve the problem.

Besides the obvious solution of letting college players have agents and use them to work in a regulated system, this is an easy fix.

Get rid of the ridiculous rule that forces players to go to college in the first place.

NCAA and NFL, you can't have it both ways. You can't force players to go to college when they don't want to be there, and then punish them when they take money and other benefits when they have no other viable options or job opportunities (and no, the CFL isn't a real choice).

The rule that a player has to be three years out of high school to go to the NFL isn't as silly as the made-up one-and-done process in hoops, but it's close. If a player wants money, let him leave for the pros whenever he wants to. I'm still amazed that players with pro talent don't leave midway through the college season to protect the investment, and eventually, some players will smarten up and will be off to work out in a pro facility while saving their bodies for the big league. Considering the concern about concussions now, you're crazy if you don't bolt. If you're a top 50 talent, someone will want you no matter how it looks when you leave school.

The NFL, as part of the appeasement process to the players for adding two games to the schedule and creating an 18-game season, should add five players to the active rosters while creating a more structured practice squad. Call it the Developmental Team and use it as a way to stash young talents who don't want to be in school, yet still need work on their game and their bodies. And then, if a college player still takes money from an agent despite the other options, then you nail him with suspensions and fines.

"You cause me confusion, you told me you cared/ He's calling these changes that last to the end/ Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies/ The past is the present, the future is mine." … We all love the NFL and no fan wants to see a lockout or a work stoppage next year. However, if you're a die-hard college and you want to see the 2011 season really rock, then hope and pray that the two egomaniacal sides in the NFL's collective bargaining dispute can't hammer it out until April of 2011.

Underclassmen trying to figure out whether or not they should come out early are extremely confused, and they don't always have the best advice or the proper guidance to work with. They'll be even more lost this year with absolutely nothing to go by if the NFL is still in turmoil, since the draft will be up in the air and the structuring of rookie contracts might not be fully settled. If there's some sort of a rookie salary cap instituted, or a slotting system like the NBA has, then some players might want to stick around since the days of the $60 million payday might be gone. And if there's any uncertainty whatsoever, then more players than usual should come back.

And what will it all mean in the college football world if the NFL is taking a year off (and it's looking more and more like there will be a stoppage of some sort)?

Ryan Mallett might return, making Arkansas a preseason national title contender. Mark Ingram might return to once again join forces with Trent Richardson in the Alabama backfield. Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones would be back to give SEC secondaries fits, but LSU's Patrick Peterson would be back to do his part for the Tiger defensive backfield. The Tide defense would be phenomenal with safety Mark Barron, end Marcell Dareus, and linebacker Courtney Upshaw back, while Georgia would have an anchor for a strong offensive front with center Ben Jones certain to stick. However, all the SEC attention would be paid to Cam Newton as he goes for his second Heisman.

UCLA's defense could be what North Carolina's D was supposed to be this year with linebacker Akeem Ayers and safety Raheem Moore the anchors. Clemson end Da'Quan Bowers would be in the hunt for all-timer honors, Cal running back Shane Vereen would make a push for 2,000 yards, and Illinois would be a player in the Big Ten title chase with running back Mikel Leshoure and linebacker Martez Wilson as the stars of a veteran squad.

Of course, some of these players are going to stay anyway, but for just one year, purely from a fan's point of view, it would be a whole bunch of fun to not lose anyone but the seniors to the big league.

"I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, I believe that there oughtta be a constitutional amendment outlawing astro-turf and the designated hitter, I believe in the "sweet spot", voting every election, soft core pornography, chocolate chip cookies, opening your presents on Christmas morning rather than Christmas eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last for 7 days." … Look, people, it's really not that hard. Do you honestly believe that Boise State, TCU, or Utah would go unbeaten in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 10, or SEC? If you say no, then the "they could beat anyone on a neutral field" theory doesn't matter. That's not the point.

"What do I think? I think this is the finest ball club I ever seen. Period." … With it looking more and more inevitable that Boise State will play in the BCS Championship, it'll be interesting to see how the talking heads start to spin this. Keep an eye out to see if there's any overgushing over the Broncos to try to sell the idea that they're worthy of playing for the whole ball of wax.

"You are a rabbit, and I'm going to eat you for supper. Now, don't try to get away! I am more muscular, more cunning, faster, and larger than you are, and I'm a genius. Why, you could hardly pass the entrance examinations to kindergarten. So, I'll give you the customary two minutes to say your prayers." … Everyone has been so quick to erect a special wing in the Lunkhead Hall of Fame just for Les Miles, but even the best minds in the business tend to melt down from time to time under the pressure.

Iowa's coaching staff totally blew the ending of the Wisconsin game by not spiking the ball and blowing the team's final timeout, which was desperately needed after Ricky Stanzi braincramped and threw a pitch to Adam Robinson who got tackled in bounds. If LSU did this against Auburn, there'd be calls for Miles to be canned. And then was Oklahoma's mega-gaffe.

It's impossible to argue with Bob Stoops' success at Oklahoma, but he's not infallible. For example, his inability in the past to sit key players when games were in hand, most notably Adrian Peterson, opened the door to a bit of criticism, but for the most part his tactical abilities and game management skills are among the best in the business. Against Missouri, though, he blew it by choosing to go for two when down nine with 6:06 to play, and then double-downed on the dumb by going for an onside kick after the conversion attempt failed.

You only go for two when you absolutely have to.

OU's defense could've come up with a takeaway, or a three-and-out stop, or the offense could've scored immediately on its next possession. There was too much time left to panic, and by kicking the extra point OU would've made it a one possession game and the pressure would've been on Mizzou to come up with a first down. The Sooner offense missed, and instead of trying to pin the Tigers deep, Stoops went for the impossible and the onside kick, and the game was over.

After all, LSU was involved. The game couldn't just end normally … After going up into the stands to celebrate with the clock still running down in the win over LSU, why wasn't Cam Newton flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct?

"Go and praise someone else's brat! Go on!" … Try to find any other aspect in all of sport with faster bandwagon jumpers than everyone who cares about the Heisman. Denard Robinson was ripping up college football over the first few weeks, and the Heisman race was over. He was doing things college football hadn't seen before, and then … thud. Taylor Martinez was hitting home run after home run, and the Heisman was his for the taking, and then … yoink. Cam Newton is having his name engraved on the statue as we speak. However, let's wait and see if he can get the Tigers to the SEC Championship. If he clunks against Alabama, the door might still be open.

But it only works if Digger is complaining about some team from the Missouri Valley Conference … I always love it when they do this during March Madness time. Without thinking too hard, you have two teams to choose from to play for the BCS Championship.

Team A: Ranked 12th by the BCS Computers
- Is 7-1 with the one loss on the road, by 14, to the No. 20 team in the BCS Top 25. - Has beaten one team currently ranked in the BCS Top 25 (ranked 19th).

Team B: Ranked 9th by the BCS Computers
- Is 7-1 with the one loss on the road, by ten, to the No. 5 team in the BCS Top 25.
- Has beaten two teams currently ranked in the BCS Top 25. One was against the No. 11 team, who was ranked No. 1 at the time by both human polls, and the other win came on the road over a team currently ranked 18th.

Which team deserves to be considered the top one-loss team in the national title chase?

Alright, now throw in two more teams into the equation.

Team C: Ranked 6th by the BCS Computers.
- Is 7-1 with the one loss on the road, by seven, to the No. 1 team in the BCS Top 25.
- Has beaten one team currently ranked in the BCS Top 25 (ranked 21st) by 22.

Team D: Ranked 11th by the BCS Computers.
- Is 7-1 with the one loss on the road to the No. 10 team in the BCS Top 25.
- Has beaten one team currently ranked in the BCS Top 25 (ranked 22nd).

Going strictly by the raw data, shouldn't the pecking order of one-loss teams, for now, be Team B (Wisconsin), Team C (LSU), Team D (Ohio State), and Team A (Alabama)? However, if Alabama wins out and beats LSU on the road, Mississippi State, and Auburn, and wins the SEC Championship game, this all changes. At the immediate moment, though, don't give the Tide anything they haven't earned.

Maybe, just maybe, UCLA can get another crack at Temple … The Pac 10 is far better than it's been in past years, but it still might only get five teams into bowl games and will leave some spots open. USC would be the sixth team, along with Oregon, Arizona, California, Stanford, and Oregon State, but it's ineligible. Washington has to win three of its last five games against Stanford, at Oregon, UCLA, at Cal, and at Washington State, to get eligible. It's not going to happen without a major upset, and UCLA has a similar issue needing to win three of its last five against Arizona, Oregon State, at Washington, at Oregon State, and USC. And then there's the curious case of …

"I've been out combing the high schools all day." … Arizona State, who has to win four of its final five games against Washington State, at USC, Stanford, UCLA, and at Arizona. Last year, Kansas State went 6-6 and missed out on a bowl game because it played two FCS teams (and lost to Louisiana-Lafayette). BCS conference teams, especially the mid-level ones like Arizona State and Kansas State, can never, ever, schedule two FCS teams, because then they have to win five other games to go bowling. ASU started out the season against Portland State (who had to be added after San Jose State backed out) and Northern Arizona, and now it'll almost certainly miss out on a 13th game. There's always a Sun Belt or MAC team that'll be more than happy to get a shot at a BCS team just for the asking. Search harder for the extra home cupcake.

And I'm still pushing for GameDay to come broadcast from my breakfast nook, but then Hardball with Chris Matthews, which is ripping off the live, college campus idea from GameDay, would want to show up … It's Year Two, Week Eight of my open lobbying of the ESPN College Football Final show guys to give me a helmet sticker and the signed T-shirt, suitable for framing. Why do I deserve one this week? I already voted. Go vote on Tuesday, unless you know more about the candidates on Dancing With The Stars than the candidates you're supposed to vote for. If you're swayed in any way by a political ad (from either side), I'm sure there's a nice fresh piece of bubble wrap for you just waiting to be worked.

- Week Eight Part 2 - What does each top team need to do to play for the national titlet?