Cavalcade of Whimsy
Sept. 27, 2011, Part 2
- Part 1. The Syracuse Miss,
Texas A&M, & More
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The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
The ten big storylines going forward that have nothing to do with expansion, realignment, the NCAA, the Heisman, a playoff system, or whether or not Boise State deserves to play in the BCS Championship.
10. The buildup to Oregon at Stanford on November 12th and Notre Dame at Stanford on November 26th
Stanford isn’t going to lose at home against UCLA this week. It’s not going to lose to Colorado or Washington, and it’s not going to lose on the road to Washington State or Oregon State. Many will think the October 29th game against USC will be a fight, and it will be for about three quarters, but Washington will end up being the toughest test until Oregon comes down the road to Palo Alto in mid-November.
Oregon isn’t going to lose to Cal. It’s not going to lose to Arizona State or Washington State, and it’s not going to lose on the road to Colorado or Washington. The Ducks will struggle a bit against the Huskies on the road, but they’ll win every game by double digits to set the stage for one of the biggest games in Pac-8/Pac-10/Pac-12 history. If Stanford can survive Oregon, and can get by The Big Game against Cal, then comes the Heisman Maker, Notre Dame, with Andrew Luck getting a shot at securing the award against an Irish team that’ll come in 9-2 with a BCS shot on the line.
9. The job openings
UCLA is going to squeak by with six wins, but it’s going to take an upset or two to do it and it’s going to be close. Whether or not the Bruins go to a bowl, a loss at USC to close out the regular season will be the straw that breaks the Rick Neuheisel tenure’s back. UCLA will be seen by several top coaching prospects as a sleeping giant waiting to explode, and the program will go big time, really big time, to turn things around.
Arizona will be looking for a new head coach – 6-6 won’t get it done for Mike Stoops. Georgia will lose at Tennessee, to Florida, and at Georgia Tech, and while Mark Richt will be done, he’ll quickly find a good job somewhere. Ole Miss will certainly be in the market, and it’s a coin flip on whether or not Texas A&M will go into the SEC with Mike Sherman as the head coach after likely losing at least three of the five games against Arkansas, at Texas Tech, Missouri, at Oklahoma, and Texas.
But the real intrigue could be at Ohio State and Penn State. If the Buckeyes really do struggle – more on that in a moment – Luke Fickell might not be given much of a chance to show what he can do considering there’s a big whale floating around the coaching world. Meanwhile, Joe Paterno while might not want to give up his day job quite yet, he might have to finally make a move if he really wants to win …
8. The Urban Meyer sweepstakes
The rumors are running rampant, and Meyer’s deadpan style isn’t doing anything to turn down the flames.
There’s the Internet gossip that Meyer is buying a house in Columbus. There’s the inside word that Joe Paterno loves Meyer and sees him as the worthy successor to the throne. Either way, it’s appearing more and more obvious that 1) Meyer is itching to get back in the game, 2) Penn State and Ohio State are the only two mega-programs with a possible job opening big enough for one of the best coaches in all of football, and 3) the timetable is about to speed up.
No matter what happens this year, it won’t be fair to Luke Fickell is he’s not the head coach at Ohio State next season. He inherited a sinking ship with several holes needing to be plugged up, and he’ll get the time and the chances to make the program his as long as Meyer isn’t lurking. The NCAA doesn’t appear likely to drop a USC-like hammer on Ohio State, but Meyer isn’t going to make any sort of a move whatsoever until the fallout from the past 12 months is complete.
Meyer, an Ohio native, has stated that Ohio State is one of his dream jobs, but Penn State could be the better fit, and Paterno knows it. There aren’t any skeletons lurking in any closets, and even though Penn State will always be Paterno’s program, following his act will actually be easier than trying to duplicate the success Ohio State had under Jim Tressel.
If Meyer really does return to coaching, and if he really does come to the Big Ten, it could be a bigger storyline than Nebraska joining the league this year.
7. Mike Leach vs. Rich Rodriguez
Who wants the rehab project? There’s no question that Leach and Rodriguez can produce, and there’s no question that they’ll provide an instant shot in the offensive arm for any program take over. The concern is the toxic time; are they ready to get back into the spotlight?
Will Leach and/or RichRod be willing to take a stepping-stone job like New Mexico to get back in everyone’s good graces, or do they need something a little bit bigger? Is it better to take on a non-BCS program with promise, or a lower-level BCS program that isn’t going to topple the big boys on a regular basis?
Leach appears to be readier to jump back into the fun, but with him comes all the baggage and all drama and all the ego. He’s worth it.
Rodriguez might have failed to live up to expectations at Michigan, but his offense worked. Give him a fast quarterback, a faster running back, and bunch of smart offensive linemen with good quickness and an attitude and his teams will be among the best in the nation running the ball.
Neither one will get a top job quite yet, but their names will be in the mix for every mid-level opening over the next several months.
6. The battle for First Team All-America Wide Receiver honors
Last year was relatively obvious. Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles, and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery were the best receivers in America, with Blackmon and Broyles everyone’s All-Americans. This year, they have competition.
Jeffery has been a puzzling no-show so far this season, but at least five other receivers can throw their hats into the All-America ring to battle with Blackmon and Broyles for post-season honors. After the first month of the year, these five can claim they’re having as good or better seasons than the Big 12 superstars.
Clemson star freshman Sammy Watkins has been a do-it-all playmaker in big-time games, currently tied for the nation’s lead in touchdown receptions with six. Baylor’s Kendall Wright is putting up huge numbers on the other end of Robert Griffin’s passes; Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd is coming up with a phenomenal year on the biggest of stages week after week; USC’s Robert Woods has 41 catches in four games; and Mohamed Sanu of Rutgers leads the nation with 12 catches a game. 11 receivers already have 30 catches or more, and seven receivers are averaging 9.5 catches a game or more. Broyles led the nation last season averaging 9.36 yards per game. This makes the pass-happy NFL ecstatic, especially because …
5. THIS is the quarterback class everyone wanted last year
Cam Newton is a keeper, but he was hardly a sure thing coming out early last year. There were questions about Blaine Gabbert and whether or not he could adapt to the pro game, and Jake Locker and Christian Ponder were taken way, way, way too early considering their negatives. Meanwhile, Andy Dalton is being thrown into the fire at Cincinnati, and Colin Kaepernick is waiting his turn at San Francisco. Newton and Gabbert would be first rounders in any year, but Locker, Dalton, and Ponder would’ve gone tumbling down the draft if they were in the 2012 class.
Just as interesting as the hunt for the Super Bowl is the race to the bottom of the NFL standings to see who gets the architect of a franchise, Andrew Luck. However, USC’s Matt Barkley and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones are legitimate top five overall picks, at worst top ten, while Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden are all top 50 picks who are better prospects than Dalton and Ponder. The quarterback midsection in the 2012 class might be among the best in years with Arizona’s Nick Foles, Houston’s Case Keenum, Boise State’s Kellen Moore, San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley, Baylor’s Robert Griffin, Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson, and Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler all keepers who’ll be a backup on someone’s roster for a long, long time.
4. Is Temple for real?
Temple’s 14-10 loss to Penn State was a flat out choke. It might be unfair and it might seem harsh, but that’s what it was, and the Owls acted like it last week by taking it out on Maryland in a 35-7 blowout. Temple didn’t just have a good day against the Terps; it looked like it belonged among the big boys with speed, physical play, and the quickness to run with an ultra-athletic ACC team. Now it’s on to the MAC, and while Ohio is strong, Ball State is off to a hot start, and Toledo is good, there’s no one left on the schedule good enough to come within two touchdowns of the Owls.
Temple went 1-11 in 2006 and it’s very, very possible it could go 11-1 just five years later. Al Golden might have set the wheels in motion, but new head coach Steve Addazio is making everything work with the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense – remember, Penn State and Maryland are on the slate – and 22nd ranked rushing attack. But Temple does have the loss to the Nittany Lions as an anchor …
3. Could Houston belong in the discussion for an at-large BCS bid?
UCF and Southern Miss are two of Conference USA’s best teams, but they’re in the East and they’re not on Houston’s schedule. The Cougars will likely have to face either the Knights or the Golden Eagles if they run the table, and it’ll take a special kind of an upset to avoid 12-0.
UTEP, Marshall, Rice, UAB, and Tulane don’t have enough in the bag to keep up with the nation’s No. 1 passing game, and East Carolina and Tulsa haven’t shown the pop yet to outbomb Case Keenum and the high-flying attack. However, it took a comeback to win at Louisiana Tech, and SMU, ECU, Tulsa, and Marshall are all just good enough to beat the Cougars on the right day. If all works out according to plan, Houston could be just high enough in the rankings to potentially be the first Conference USA team to crack the BCS.
2. Just how bad is Miami?
If it’s not time to panic, but it is time to be worried. The Canes lost to a Maryland team that just got obliterated by Temple, the Ohio State win really might not have been that big a deal, and losing to Kansas State at home is a killer.
For all the excitement over what Miami might do this year in an us-against-the-world campaign, the production isn’t there so far. Granted, the Canes are a heartbeat away from being 3-0 instead of 1-2, but the run defense has been awful, the turnovers won’t stop flowing, and the defensive front is having problems.
After blowing away Bethune-Cookman this week, things get really ugly, really fast, with road trips to Virginia Tech and North Carolina followed up by a home date against a Georgia Tech team that’s running better than anyone in America. Home games against Virginia, Duke, and Boston College will help, but it could take an upset on the road at Florida State and/or South Florida just to get to six wins. But at least Al Golden came up with a win over …
1. Ohio State
Several key players will return from suspension, and once and a while the Buckeyes will look like the Buckeyes as they show they still have more talent than anyone in the Big Ten, but they’ll need to get hot in a hurry over the final month of the season.
A loss to Michigan State this weekend would be disastrous, with at Nebraska, at Illinois, and Wisconsin to follow and all three likely to be favorites. Considering how mediocre the offense has been and how off the defense has been from past years, it’ll take a lot of work to be better than 5-3 going into November, 4-4 is more likely, and 3-5 wouldn’t be shocking. Fortunately, Indiana, Purdue, and Penn State will be wins to calm everyone down, and then the heat will be on the Luke Fickell era if there’s a loss at Michigan to close out the program’s worst regular season since going 7-5 in 2001.
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.
- Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin is the hottest player in college football, but he’s getting a lot of help. Senior receiver Kendall Wright has been unstoppable, catching 12 passes for 189 yards and two scores against TCU, eight passes for 123 yards and a score against Stephen F. Austin, and making 11 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown against Rice.
- Clemson might be fantastic right now, but Florida State still has the inside track to the Atlantic title even with last week’s loss in Death Valley. The Tigers have to go on the road to face Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Georgia Tech, and get North Carolina and a suddenly-pesky Wake Forest at home, while the Noles’ remaining road games are at Wake Forest, Duke, and Boston College – all likely wins. Miami and Maryland are the only two teams left on the ACC schedule with a shot at making it close.
- Speaking of nasty schedules, Auburn is really paying the piper for several breaks in last year’s slate playing at South Carolina, at Arkansas, Florida, and at LSU – and that’s just the next four weeks. With a road trip to Georgia and a date with Alabama still looming, and with the way the Tiger D is playing, 6-6 might be a successful season.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: R.E.M. … Underrated: Getting any REM sleep during the football season
2) Overrated: Tyler Starr … Underrated: South Dakota DE Tyler Starr
3) Overrated: Googling names like Tyler Starr in the name of research ... Underrated: Explaining that the reason Tyler Starr is on the computer is because it was being used for a lame bit for the column
4) Overrated: Terrell Owens running on the beach in Hard Knocks ... Underrated: Cam Newton Under Armour ads
5) Overrated: Narration in Bill Belichick – A Football Life ... Underrated: Amber: “the future is something to look forward to, not to fear . . . He is a creative man of many interests . . . film, poetry, karate, music and dance . . . he is a man of passion and mystery . . .
“Oh, bull. I'll bet you our next meal that I can get you gambling before the day's out.” … Rule No. 1 in sports “investing” is to never, ever, EVER chase, especially after you get a gift from the gods and the chase works, going 4-1 last week missing only Notre Dame -6.5 over Pitt. I press on.
1) Wake Forest -1.5 over Boston College
2) Western Michigan +3 over Connecticut
3) Michigan State +3 over Ohio State
- Record So Far: 7-4 SU, 6-5 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) Denard Robinson, Michigan, 2) Robert Griffin, Baylor, 3) Kellen Moore, Boise State
Sorry this column sucked, it wasn’t my fault … I apologize to all South Carolina fans for such a putrid offensive performance.
- Part 1. The Syracuse Miss,
Texas A&M, & More