Cavalcade of Whimsy
Oct. 11, 2011, Part 2
- Part 1. Could there be a Bama/LSU rematch?
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The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
The ten reasons why college football has become wonderful again …
10. The Clemson offense
Last year at this time, a floundering 2-3 Clemson was struggling to get the offense moving with no pop or pizzazz whatsoever. Flash-forward 12 months, and one recruiting class and one year of maturation later, Clemson has become good enough and exciting enough to be thrown on the list of sleeper national title contenders.
A legitimate argument could be made for either sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd or true freshman receiver Sammy Watkins as the Midseason ACC Player of the Year. Boyd, despite getting hurt last week, has been nothing short of brilliant, completing 61% of his passes for 1,742 yards and 15 scores with just two picks, while running for 120 yards and three touchdowns. Watkins might be the most dynamic player in college football outside of Denard Robinson, averaging close to 17 yards per catch cranking out 141 yards or more in three of his last four games. Tight end Dwayne Allen is an All-America candidate, running back Andre Ellington has been excellent, and the offense has given the ACC hope to be on the national radar in November.
9. The Big 12
Kansas might be bad, but it’s fun-bad, giving up points and yards in bunches with the worst defense in America. It’s also averaging 460 yards per game on offense. The Jayhawks might be the weak link in the chain, but they’re not that bad compared to the bottom feeders in other conferences – (cough) The Big Ten (cough) - showing there really is life after losing Nebraska and Colorado.
The Big 12 has four of the nation’s top seven offenses – Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech – and seven of the top 25. Kansas State is last in the Big 12 in total offense, but it’s 5-0, while Iowa State and Texas have been interesting even with attacks that sputter a bit too much. Missouri and Kansas are the only two teams with losing records, and the Tigers are expected to finish with a winning campaign and a bowl bid. Of course, to get noticed a league needs stars at the top, and if all goes according to plan, as big as LSU-Alabama might be in a month, that’s how huge Oklahoma-Oklahoma State could be if the two are unbeaten in the equivalent of a Big 12 title game on December 3rd.
8. The brilliance of LSU and Alabama
Oklahoma is really, really good, but it showed a vulnerability in the tight win over Florida State. Wisconsin is really, really good, but it’s thin secondary hasn’t faced anyone who can throw a forward pass. Stanford is really, really good, but it hasn’t played anyone.
LSU and Alabama are at a whole other level.
There’s still a lot of season left to go, but Bama and LSU are each making cases to be considered among the best teams since the mid-1990 Nebraska squads.
Alabama needed a few weeks to hit its stride on the offensive line, and still no one has been able to mount any sort of a challenge. Despite playing Penn State, Arkansas, and Florida, Bama leads the nation in scoring defense and run defense, while blowing teams away in the first half to end the fun before it gets going. The total score in the first half of Tide games has been 116 to 20, and the Bama D has yet to allow a point in the second quarter.
LSU’s stats are a bit skewed because the D allowed a meaningless – yes, they were meaningless – 463 passing yards to West Virginia, but it’s been in command even in tight moments. The Tigers were up comfortably in the fourth quarter against Oregon, holding the high-powered Duck attack to 95 rushing yards. Just when it seemed like West Virginia was going to make things interesting, Morris Claiborne returned a kickoff for a score leading the way to 20 unanswered points. Mississippi State tied it at six in the third, and then the Tiger D put the clamps down and scored the final 13 points.
7. Case Keenum is back to being Case Keenum …
And Houston is back to being Houston. The Cougars lead the nation in total offense and passing offense averaging 604 total yards and 436 passing yards per game thanks to Keenum, who returned healthy and improved after suffering a knee injury early last year, throwing for 304 yards or more in every game with 2,309 yards and 17 touchdowns with two picks to up his career total to 124 touchdown passes, 15,895 yards, and 16,781 total yards. If Keenum stays healthy and averages 300 passing yards per game, he’ll pass Timmy Chang as the NCAA’s all-time passing leader sometime during the game against Tulane in early November. Also ready to drop is Graham Harrell’s record for touchdown passes; Keenum is only ten away. Meanwhile, the 6-0 Cougars should be favored in every game the rest of the way and could sneak into an at-large BCS discussion with a few miracles.
6. The Georgia Tech offense
After the goofiness of having its ACC title season of two years ago stripped away because of a few players’ ticky-tack dealings with an agent, and after a disappointing 2010, going 6-7 and losing five of the last six games, the Yellow Jackets have reloaded with one of the wildest offenses in America.
6-0 thanks to a running game that ranks fourth in the nation, the second-most efficient passing attack behind Baylor’s, and a defense that’s getting a good enough pass rush and strong enough play from the secondary to get by. The big tests are coming with Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Georgia still to deal with, and there’s a chance for another second half collapse, but for now, few teams are more exciting or more explosive with ten of Tevin Washington’s 41 completions going for scores with a ground game tearing off 6.5 yards per carry. Only Oregon and Air Force are averaging more. Wisconsin is one of two teams with more than 20 rushing scores – 21 – and Georgia Tech is the other with 27.
5. Oklahoma State
This is a great season for offenses with every conference boasting a few big-time attacks, but no one’s doing more than Oklahoma State and its breathtaking attack. By comparison, in Oklahoma’s record-setting 2009 season, before getting stopped cold by Florida in the national championship, averaged 54 points and 562 yards per game. The Cowboys currently lead the nation with 51.4 points per game while averaging 577.4 yards per game. How consistently explosive has the passing game been? 458 yards, 397, 369, 438, and 494, putting Brandon Weeden in the Heisman hunt – eventually. As the season goes on he’ll get in the chase and should get more recognition, but for now it’s up to four superstars who helped make college football wonderful again.
From Ohio State’s shenanigans, to Willie Lyles, to Stanley McClover, to the nervousness over expansion and realignment, to the way last season ended with a Heisman winner and a national title run that felt more like Barry Bonds than Cal Ripken, college football needed a positive. As always seems to be the case, leave it to the kids to clean up the mess created by a bunch of greedy adults.
Not only are the star quarterbacks of the 2011 Heisman show phenomenal players, but they’re the ideal representatives of everything college football can and should be. They’re the personalities and student-athletes to prove that the sport really isn’t all gloom, doom, and dollars, and they’re coming up with huge seasons on the field to match any and all hype.
4. Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson
It’s been easily forgotten how amazing Scott Tolzien was in the classroom and on the field. The Johnny Unitas Award winner was the perfect leader and everything schools dream about in a starting quarterback, and then Russell Wilson stepped on the Wisconsin campus and is doing Tolzien one better.
It’s not like Wilson has been a surprise – he’d probably be the ACC Player of the Year in a walk had he stayed at NC State – but he’s been unreal over the first five games leading the nation in passing efficiency completing 75% of his passes for 1,391 yards and 13 touchdowns with a pick, while running for 140 yards and two scores. A dream of a starting quarterback to fill in for a player like Tolzien, he’s seen it all and is making all the right decisions.
"I think his mind sets him apart from others and makes him special,” gushed UW head coach Bret Bielema. “Obviously, God blessed him with a tremendous amount of athletic ability, but his mind is second to none. He just continues to think ahead of the play."
But beyond his brilliant play over the first five games, he became an instant leader for a team that went from Big Ten title-good to a national title contender by being a leader from the start.
"His character fits our team. He’s very selfless,” said star center Peter Konz. “Work hard, don't put yourself above the team. If everyone does their part, the whole team will flourish and be successful, not just the individual. And he understands that."
3. Michigan QB Denard Robinson
Wilson could end up facing Michigan in the inaugural Big Ten Championship in an epic showdown of top quarterbacks. Robinson can’t stop throwing picks, giving away nine in the first six games, but if there’s an MVP for the first half of the season, no one’s been more valuable to an undefeated start than Shoelaces.
Technically fourth in the nation in rushing – the Western Michigan stats don’t count according to the NCAA – he really has 720 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, making up for his mistakes through the air by being 2010 Denard Robinson all over again on the ground. Unstoppable when needed, he cranked out 200 yards and three scores against San Diego State and 117 yards and two touchdowns against Northwestern.
Hacked Twitter accounts aside, he’s a fun player off the field and the catalyst for the rebirth of Michigan football.
“The kid's a competitor and he loves to play, he loves his teammates, and that's what Michigan football is all about,” said head coach Brady Hoke after the win over Northwestern. “He's a sharp guy; he's a tremendous energy guy and leader on our team”
2. Baylor QB Robert Griffin
Wilson and Robinson have been phenomenal, but Griffin has been the best player in college football over the first half of the season.
Griffin threw a bad pick late in the loss to Kansas State, and because of it, his Heisman stock has dropped. That’s like dumping Beyoncé as your girlfriend because he pot roast is a little dry.
Griffin has completed 80% of his throws for 1,520 yards and 19 touchdowns with a pick, and just when he seemed to be settling into his role as a passer, he showed off his world-class wheels with 107 yards and a touchdown on the ground against Iowa State.
Beyond just the must-see aspect of Baylor football – a program that’s never really had a must-see aspect to it – Griffin is a model for the program off the field, named to the Big 12 Academic Honor Roll six times and making the school’s Dean’s List twice. How bright is he? He graduated in three years with a degree in political science.
“Robert’s parents did an outstanding job of impressing upon him the importance of academics along with athletics," said co-offensive coordinator, Philip Montgomery. "Raised in a military home provided him with discipline and structure to help guide him in setting high goals and then working to obtain them. He understood at a young age that when you have some success, others will be watching what you do and he embraced that opportunity. He is always striving for excellence.”
1. Stanford QB Andrew Luck
Luck is on the top of all the Heisman charts because he’ll be the No. 1 pick in the draft and not necessarily for anything he’s done on the field so far, but that could quickly change. Stanford has played NOBODY, but still, Luck and the Cardinal have been flawless.
He’ll get his chances.
Stanford has Oregon coming up and the Heisman-maker against Notre Dame to finish up the regular season, but if the world ended right now, he’s probably win the award after completing 73% of his passes for 1,383 yards and 14 touchdowns with two picks. It’s not just the stats, though; he’s been the consummate leader who has turned every game into an ugly, easy blowout.
"He’s always on point but he has taken his leadership skills to another level,” said receiver Chris Owusu. “He’s constantly studying the next opponent and always trying to improve his skills. I think that’s what great leaders do – they are always trying to improve their skills and make the people around them better.”
The Architect could’ve been a Carolina Panther, but he put off the NFL for another year to come back and be a student. The First Team Academic All-Pac 10 selection really and truly does want to learn how to do more than throw a football.
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.
- Over a span of just over 88 minutes starting with the Michigan game and going through last week’s struggle against Purdue, Minnesota was outscores 95-0. Until Marcus Jones returned a kickoff for a score against the Boilermakers, going back to the loss to North Dakota State, the Gophers were outscored 123-13.
- Kansas has the nation’s worst defense after allowing 600 yards and ten touchdowns in a 70-28 loss to Oklahoma State. Up next is Oklahoma, who should be able to hit the 60-point mark for the second time in three games.
- Toledo’s Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens combined to completed 27-of-30 passes for 302 yards and four scores against Eastern Michigan.
- Really, Football Bowl Association. You really want to throw the stones at the glass house of the Playoff PAC leader that got tied into the Fiesta Bowl mess with campaign contributions? Two words: Real Sports.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: The Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Nick Toon against Nebraska … Underrated: The Taylor Martinez touchdown pass to Quincy Enunwa against Ohio State.
2) Overrated: FrankenBerry … Underrated: Count Chocula
3) Overrated: Utah without Jordan Wynn ... Underrated: BYU with Riley Nelson
4) Overrated: Putting Game 2 of the NLCS on TBS across from Chicago vs. Detroit on Monday Night Football ... Underrated: The ratings for the quickly canceled The Playboy Club
5) Overrated: Notre Dame’s 0-2 start ... Underrated: Notre Dame at 4-2
“If it were me, I'd bet everything. But that's me. I'm an aggressive gambler. Mr. Vegas. Come on. Go for it. Go for it. Yes, yes, there we go. I'm in.”
1) Miami University -3.5 over Kent State
2) Pitt -7 over Utah
3) Louisiana-Lafayette -8.5 over North Texas
- Record So Far: 11-6 SU, 10-7 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 1) QB Robert Griffin, Baylor, 2) QB Russell Wilson, Wisconsin, 3) QB Denard Robinson, Michigan
Sorry this column sucked, it wasn’t my fault … “Tell me, followers, how do you hurt someone who wanted nothing but the best for you and sacrificed pretty much everything?”
- Part 1. Could there be a Bama/LSU rematch?