Cavalcade of Whimsy
Sept. 20, 2011, Part 2
- Part 1. Texas & OU Have To
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The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
The ten things I know for sure three weeks into the 2011 college football season …
10. The Real Sports exposé on the bowl system will be fantastic …
… and no one will care.
Real Sports is debuting Tuesday night with a big piece about how the bowl system is corrupt and how it’s a bad deal for the colleges and the sport in general. It’ll be hard-hitting, it’ll be informative, and it’ll finally shed some light on a system that desperately needs to be changed.
It’ll be followed up by a chorus of crickets.
The NCAA is still hovering around Stanley McClover, but the controversy ended a few days after all the allegations. No one cared about the piece that proved that college athletes should be getting paid.
No one cared about the Sports Illustrated article about Josh Luchs or the piece about the criminal element among questionable college recruits.
Ohio State, Oregon, and Miami were nailed by Yahoo, and all three are riding the storm out with sunny skies ahead.
Once again, it’s sad that the media has to do the legwork for the NCAA, and it’s even more depressing that no one’s acting on all the information.
Why not cheat? Why not keep the status quo? Why admit to anything? Unless you’re USC, you’ll get hit with a few vacated wins, a stern finger waving, and a disappointing scowl. All the Real Sports piece will do is frustrate fans who really would like to see the college football world get cleaned up, and it’ll annoy everyone else who just wants to enjoy the season.
The timing is off. We’ve all been hit by college football controversy fatigue and all anyone wants to do is look ahead to this week’s games. The piece would work far better in early December.
9. It’s time to change the pass interference call.
With more downfield passing and stronger, faster, better receivers than ever before, the 15-yard penalty for pass interference simply isn’t fair anymore. After all the abysmal play from corners throughout college football in the first three weeks – TURN YOUR HEAD – it’s finally time to start rewarding the offenses that want to take more shots down the field. College defensive backs already get several breaks compared to the pros and can be far more physical and far more obstructive. They shouldn’t be rewarded for mauling a receiver on a 50-yard play and getting penalized for 15.
8. The Heisman race is non-existent.
Cam Newton wasn’t in the Heisman race last year at this time, and it was all but set that Denard Robinson was going to be the man, so it’s really, really, really early, and there’s still plenty of time for someone to emerge and do something epic. At the moment, though, zzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Robinson might have been great against Notre Dame, sort of, but he’s been painfully inconsistent connecting on 18-of-42 passes for six touchdowns with four picks. Andrew Luck will be the No. 1 pick and is the best player in college football, but is he having a better season than Kellen Moore, Robert Griffin, or Russell Wilson?
Marcus Lattimore is starting to look the part, but he already has 87 carries in three games; the wall is coming soon. Who’s No. 2 in the nation in rushing? San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman.
Maryland’s Danny O’Brien leads the nation in passing, and while Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden has put up the most yards, they’ve come with six picks.
Quick, name the two most productive Big 12 receivers so far. Ryan Broyles? Not even close. Justin Blackmon? Hardly. Texas Tech’s Darrin Moore and Baylor’s Kendall Wright are 1-2 respectively in yards per game.
So let’s wait. The expansion discussion is more interesting anyway.
7. The Big 12 season is going to be awesome.
And here’s your anti-superconference argument.
A league race is better when everyone plays everyone instead of the gimmicky conference championship format in a 12-team conference. Two divisions creates inequalities, and there were times when some teams from the old Big 12 North missed out on Oklahoma, Texas, or both. The North was the power division when the league was first formed, and sometimes teams missed out on having to play Colorado, Nebraska, or Kansas State. Those days are gone, and now the Big 12 should be fantastic theater each week.
Granted, the only team of note left from the North is Missouri, but every week will be a wild battle with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Texas all unbeaten, Texas Tech fully jelled, and Baylor putting up a bazillion yards every time out. At the moment, the league is a combined 23-2 with Missouri gagging away the Arizona State game with a missed field goal and Kansas getting blown away by the Georgia Tech running game.
Sure, there have been some cream-puff games, but Iowa State beat Iowa; Oklahoma State throttled Arizona; Texas beat UCLA and BYU; Baylor beat TCU; and of course, Oklahoma beat Florida State. Now, it all sets up for a whale of a round-robin season.
6. Texas and Florida just aren’t that bad.
The Longhorns and Gators weren’t given much thought in the preseason rankings with most believing that 2010 was the start of a slide. Neither mega-program appears to be quite back to national title form, and there’s still an adjustment period going on, along with a lot of tweaking at key spots, but the reality is that both programs are 3-0, both have been tested, and both just aren’t that bad.
Texas has finally settled its quarterback situation with Case McCoy looking like the real deal, and more importantly, it seems to FINALLY have a franchise running back again in freshman Malcolm Brown. The defense hasn’t been a rock, and it still has to show it can get to the quarterback now that Will Muschamp isn’t kicking everyone’s butt, but the D is allowing just 259 yards per game so far while giving up just three touchdowns.
Florida is in better shape with more of the pieces in place, and its defense appears ready to become truly special again under the new coaching staff. Muschamp’s bunch leads the nation in run defense, is allowing just 209 yards per game, and it’s just scratching the surface on how good it can become. The offense is getting a great start out of the line, the speed and flash out of the backfield is there with Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, and John Brantley showed against Tennessee that the Charlie Weis attack is starting to click.
The big games are coming. The Gators have to face Alabama, at LSU, at Auburn, and Georgia in a four game stretch, and Texas has to deal with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weeks. Neither team will get through unscathed, but neither one is as bad as it was last season.
5. The Big Ten sort of sucks.
Too much gets made out of bowl game results, but they do tend to tie up all the preconceived notions and beliefs in a nice bow. After a rocky non-conference season, the Big Ten will need to rock in the post-season to save a little face.
It’s not Wisconsin’s fault that Oregon State is so God-awful, and blowing away Northern Illinois in Chicago might have been more impressive than it seems, so the Badgers get a pass for now.
Illinois was in a fight against Arizona State, but it came up with a win by shutting down the high-powered attack a week after it throttled Missouri, and Michigan’s struggles on defense against Western Michigan and on offense against Eastern Michigan are glossed over by the Notre Dame win.
That’s about it.
Penn State doesn’t have a quarterback or a passing game of any sort. It should’ve lost to Temple and it didn’t have a prayer against Alabama. Michigan State was outplayed in every way by Notre Dame; Northwestern beat an awful Boston College team but lost to Army; Purdue lost to Rice a few weeks ago and should’ve lost to Middle Tennessee; Indiana lost to Ball State and Virginia; Iowa lost to Iowa State and needed an all-timer of a comeback to beat Pitt; and Minnesota lost to New Mexico State.
By the way, rewind that for a second. Indiana’s loss to Ball State and Minnesota’s loss to New Mexico State were a special brand of awful.
Nebraska might be 3-0, but its defense hasn’t shown up yet, there’s no passing game, and if and when Taylor Martinez starts to have injury issues, the offense has nothing else to rely on. The Huskers had way too many problems putting away a mediocre Washington team that made things interesting late.
Throw in Ohio State’s curious decision to not complete more than four forward passes against Miami, and all of a sudden, the Big Ten really, really stinks. However, it might not be quite as bad as …
4. The Pac-12 sort of sucks.
Losing to LSU isn’t anything to get in a twist over, and it’s theoretically possible that Oregon’s 40-27 loss In Dallas might have actually been the national championship, but the Ducks have holes.
Stanford looks terrific, and Utah blew away BYU, but the league as a whole just isn’t that good.
As I fought with Pac-10-now-Pac-12 fans last year, playing a bunch of tough non-conference games doesn’t mean much if you don’t win them. With Oregon losing to LSU, Arizona State losing to Illinois, Washington losing to Nebraska, Washington State losing to San Diego State, Arizona State losing to Oklahoma State, Colorado losing to Hawaii, UCLA losing to Houston and Texas, and Oregon State losing to Sacramento State and Wisconsin, it’s hard to take anything that comes out of the conference too seriously.
USC struggled way too much with a Minnesota team that lost to New Mexico State a week later, Cal’s win over Fresno State simply isn’t a big deal, and Oregon blew away a Nevada team that needed everything in the bag to beat San Jose State. Arizona State beating Missouri was impressive, even though it took a missed field goal to survive, and that’s about it for the big wins. When the league’s second-best win over a BCS team might have been Stanford’s victory at Duke, that’s a problem, however …
3. Stanford is probably better than you think.
I’ll fully admit that I have a hard time buying into the idea of Stanford as being good enough to play for the national title only because it’s Stanford. Jim Harbaugh changed around the program, and new head man David Shaw has kept the attitude and the production rolling.
This isn’t some finesse, West Coast offense team that wins games on smarts and tricks; this is a smashmouth program that thumps teams with a bag of knuckles, and when it doesn’t, it has one of the 15 best NFL quarterbacks to rely on to keep the attack moving.
The run defense has been dominant, and while San Jose State, Duke, and Arizona aren’t exactly Wisconsin when it comes to pounding away, ranking second in the nation in run defense is a testament to how physical the now Shayne Skov-less linebacking corps is and how great the pass rush has been. The Cardinal is second in the nation in tackles for loss and fifth in sacks, while the offensive front is beating everyone up and keeping Andrew Luck clean.
The tests are coming. It’ll be a shock if the Cardinal isn’t 7-0 going into the trip to USC, and it’ll be a bit stunning it it’s not 9-0 when Oregon comes to town. With the way the team is playing, and with the toughness and production on both sides of the ball, everything is setting up nicely for an epic showdown on November 26th with …
2. Notre Dame is going to play in the BCS Championship in 2013.
The Irish teams that went to the BCS under former were a mirage. The average 2000 team rolled to a 9-2 season and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl before T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson put an end to all the silliness.
The 2005 Irish team would’ve played for the national title if it wasn’t for the Bush Push in the loss to USC, and it would’ve been stomped by Vince Young, while the 2006 team was exposed by JaMarcus Russell and LSU in the Sugar Bowl. It seemed like Charlie Weis had set the foundation for something special, but he managed to get a slew of high end recruits without bringing in enough decent talents for the base. Jimmy Clausen and Sam Young were big names, but the overall depth of the classes wasn’t there.
No matter what you think of Brian Kelly and the disastrous way he handled – or didn’t handle – the controversies of 2010, he’s a phenomenal football coach whose 2011 team is really, really good. More than that, with this year’s recruiting class he has the pieces in place on the lines that Weis, Bob Davie, and Ty Willingham never had.
True freshman Aaron Lynch showed a glimpse of his potential against Michigan State with a strong all-around game and a key sack. In Stephon Tuitt, Ishaq Williams, and sophomores Prince Shembo and Louis Nix, this is going to be a killer of a defensive front once it spends a season or two growing up.
The growing pains will continue next season with Michael Floyd and Manti Te’o almost certainly gone to the NFL, and with most of the secondary and three starters on the offensive line leaving, but in 2013, quarterback Tommy Rees will be a senior, the freshman running back combination of Cam McDaniel and George Atkinson should be established, and the receivers should be in place for the offense to fly.
And because looking ahead two years from now isn’t crazy enough, the schedule also looks relatively favorable with Michigan State, Oklahoma, and USC at home, Arizona State in Dallas, and the lone tough looking road date comes early at Michigan.
Of course, Notre Dame will probably get to the national title game and lose as the SEC comes up with its eighth title in a row after rolling on when …
1. The winner of the Alabama/LSU game will win the 2012 BCS Championship game
I don’t know yet if Alabama‘s offensive line can run block against a defensive line with a pulse. I don’t know if Trent Richardson can tear off yards in big chunks against anyone but North Texas. I don’t know if the wildly inefficient Tide quarterbacks can produce when the pressure is on. I don’t know if Jarrett Lee can be counted on to go through an entire season without a big meltdown game of three. I don’t know if the LSU passing game can find a bit more pop or explosion. I don’t know if Les Miles really has what it takes to get a team through a season unbeaten. However, I do know that the 2011 national championship will be decided in Alabama on November 5th.
No, the SEC isn’t the be-all-end-all everyone wants to make it out to be, but it’s okay to separate the idea that the league might be pedestrian in the middle with elite teams at the top.
Oklahoma is terrific, and it showed against Florida State that it could get down and dirty, but LSU has the lines to do it better in a one game national title shot. Alabama’s defense will be tested, and it would be nice if there were a few more sacks – even though that’s the norm on Nick Saban teams – but no one will throw on this secondary, and no one, including LSU, will be able to pound away on this defensive front.
But here’s the kicker, and I’ll save this for another day, what if Alabama loses a tight game at Florida, but goes on to win the SEC title? Or what if LSU loses at Alabama but still ends up winning the SEC title? Are you going to be happy with either a one-loss SEC champion not playing for the national title if Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Boise State, and/or any two non-SEC teams from BCS leagues go unbeaten? Probably not.
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.
- A thank you to Arizona’s Tevin Wade, for being one of the only defensive backs in America who figured out that if you turn your head on a deep ball, you might be able to make a play.
- Last week I remarked that the Minnesota loss to New Mexico State was one of the worst losses ever by an FBS school. That was trounced by Western Kentucky’s pitiful performance in the 44-16 loss to Indiana State. The Sycamores hadn’t beaten an FBS team since 2001 and hadn’t won on the road against anyone outside of the Missouri Valley Conference since 2004. Against Penn State, ISU gained just 170 yards with almost all of them coming in the fourth quarter, while allowing 245 rushing yards and five scores. WKU turned the ball over four times, allowed 435 yards of total offense, and was blown away in a brutal third quarter.
- I’d like to welcome aboard the official team of the Cavalcade of Whimsy – FIU. The Golden Panthers are 3-0 after stunning UCF in what should be the toughest test left on the slate aft beating Louisville two weeks ago. Duke has to come to Miami, and the toughest road date might be at ULM. By adopting FIU, I now looking forward to a welcoming visit from the Golden Dazzlers.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: The Hard Knocks retrospective … Underrated: Bill Belichick, A Football Life
2) Overrated: Games held up by the weather … Underrated: The punchy announcing tandem of Ron Thulin and J.C. Pearson during the 3:30 am finish of Oklahoma State’s win over Tulsa
3) Overrated: North Carolina’s vacated wins for 2008 and 2009 ... Underrated: 2011 North Carolina
4) Overrated: Counting the stats for the Baylor win over Stephen F. Austin that was cut short by bad weather ... Underrated: Not counting the stats for Michigan’s win over Western Michigan
5) Overrated: The last several Ohio State recruiting classes ... Underrated: The notion that an Ohio State team full of top high school athletes couldn’t simulate Miami’s speed in practice, as Craig James suggested.
“Oh, bull. I'll bet you our next meal that I can get you gambling before the day's out.” … Sit back, strap it down, and enjoy Captain Fiu’s Magic Ride.
1) Western Michigan +14 over Illinois (but Illinois straight up)
2) Notre Dame -6.5 over Pitt
3) UCLA +4 over Oregon State
… and a bonus, because I’m already chasing
4) Oklahoma State +3.5 over Texas A&M
5) Oregon -15 over Arizona
- Record So Far: 2-4 SU, 2-4 ATS
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 2011 … 1) Kellen Moore, Boise State, 2) Denard Robinson, Michigan, 3) Robert Griffin, Baylor
Sorry this column sucked, it wasn’t my fault … I’m begging the Big East to take me if the Big 12 goes belly up. I’m not hopeful.
- Part 1. Texas & OU Have To
Pick A League