Cavalcade of Whimsy
Nov. 27, 2012
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- Nov. 27 What should be the Big
Ten's next move?
The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
It takes a big man to admit he was wrong, and I am not a big man. However, needing to own up to my mistakes and slight miscalculations, welcome to my annual piece entitled, "Okay, Cunningham, I was wrrrrrr."
10. Western Michigan & FIU
Let's get the non-BCS misfires out of the way so we can move on to bigger and better things. With all 11 starters returning on defense, FIU was going to win the Sun Belt title with ease after starting out the season with a win over Duke and by challenging UCF on the road and Louisville at home. One 1-8 start later, with the lone win coming in overtime over Akron, the Golden Panthers went on to finish just 3-9 getting Sun Belt wins over South Alabama and Florida Atlantic.
Meanwhile, I spent half the summer pumping up Western Michigan to be what Kent State has turned into. Instead, unlike the Golden Flashes, the Bronco team loaded with veterans and blessed with a nice schedule couldn't stop turning the ball over and the defense couldn't seem to come up with a meaningful stop.
9. "Braxton Miller isn't going to last the season and Ohio State is dead if he misses any time."
When I asked Urban Meyer what Plan B was if Miller got hurt, he looked me in the eye, shrugged, and curled up his mouth as if to say, "I really don't know, and if that happens, we're sort of screwed." When the unthinkable happened and Miller went down against Purdue, Meyer had an answer in Kenny Guiton, who saved the dream season by leading the way to an improbable overtime victory. Miller bounced back and took shot after shot – getting particularly beaten up by Cal – on the way to 227 carries. He lasted though the Michigan game by getting down when he needed to, but he was never afraid to power for the hard yard. Now he knows the Meyer offense, and next year the Heisman hype will be off the charge in what should be another special season – if he can stay healthy.
8. Oregon State
The Pac-12 North looked loaded. Oregon was Oregon again, Washington was rising, Cal appeared to be improved, Stanford looked to be solid and Washington State was going to be dangerous with Mike Leach taking over. Thrown in a non-conference game against Wisconsin and a road trip to BYU, and the Beaver team that went 3-9 in 2011 with one of the nation's worst run defenses and an even worse running game wasn't going to go anywhere, right? There's no shame in losing to the Ducks and the Cardinal this season, and Washington came up with a nice performance in its home win, but overall the Oregon State defense improved by leaps and bounds on the way to a phenomenal year. The running game still stunk, but the offense stopped giving the ball away so much and the results came. Mike Riley should get consideration for taking a 3-9 team to 9-3 after this week's layup against Nicholls State.
Yup, I bought in. I thought that Gene Chizik's terrific recruiting class following the national title year was about to mature, and while I didn't think the Tigers were going to win the West, with the lone road games at Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt before the season-ender at Alabama, and with a nice four-game home stretch late in the year, I really and truly believed 9-3 was possible with an outside shot of screwing up LSU or Alabama along the way. Maybe Paul Rhoads is available for an interview.
Armed with experience and a light schedule, Arms was supposed to translate the expected resurgence into wins and a bowl appearance under terrific head coach Rich Ellerson. The idea was that the rushing offense was going to be so good and so dominant that it could make up for the problems and concerns on defense, and it did its job, leading the nation by a whopping 41 yards per game over the No. 2 rushing team. Only four other offenses – Air Force, Georgia Tech, Oregon and New Mexico – averaged over 300 rushing yards per game, and the Black Knights averaged 370. However, the passing offense was dead last in the nation by a mile and the defense and special teams weren't even close to being decent. Stony Brook held on to the ball for over 38 minutes in a 23-3 win, and blowout losses to Eastern Michigan and a slew of other MAC teams didn't help the cause. There were victories over Boston College and Air Force, and the season can still be a success to a certain extent with a win over Navy in a few weeks, but going 2-9 wasn't in the plans.
This was going to be the season that Jeff Tedford made a comeback. His teams were close to being good over the years, but the Bears weren't quite able to get over the hump and lacked the ability to come up with a really big win. This season they got a huge victory with a blowout over UCLA, but that was about it for the fun with a miserable five game losing streak to close out the year. Particularly galling considering Tedford's ability to coach an offense was its inability to score; the Bears came up with more than 17 points just once over the final five games and just six times all year.
4. "Teams that might disappoint"
Arkansas was on the preseason list of teams that could potentially disappoint, and so was Hawaii, NC State and SMU. However, there's a solid chance that five of the teams that could end up in the BCS. Notre Dame was only on the list because of the schedule that looked far more brutal before the season than it does now, and no one saw Stanford hosting the Pac-12 championship after losing Andrew Luck and two of the best offensive linemen in college football, Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro. And yeah, I did get it right that the Rutgers defense would be awesome and the offense would stink, but it has hardly been a clunker of a campaign with the Big East title there for the taking against Louisville this week.
"How are the Huskers going to be any better than 9-4?" Taylor Martinez upped his game in a huge way and the team managed to gut its way through close win after close win.
"No one gets on the right side of every close game two years in a row." Nine of Kansas State's 13 games in 2011 were decided by a touchdown or less, going 8-1 in those tight battles. All the Wildcats did was come back even tighter and more impressive – there wasn't much need to come through in the clutch with just two games decided by seven points or fewer. The Baylor game aside, K-State has been remarkable on the way to a probably 11-1 record, an outright Big 12 title, and a Fiesta Bowl appearance.
3. Penn State QB Matt McGloin & Wisconsin QB Danny O'Brien
When the Penn State players were being courted and recruited this offseason, after Matt McGloin said he was staying I asked without a hint of snarkiness whether or not he'd be the starter for any BCS conference team. And why not? Penn State's passing game was miserable in 2011 with McGloin completing just 54% of his passes for 1,571 yards and eight touchdowns with five picks – and three of those scores came against Eastern Michigan.
Meanwhile, I thought Wisconsin came up with a major score when Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien spurned the Nittany Lions to try taking the Badgers to another Rose Bowl. No one thought O'Brien was going to be Russell Wilson, but he was supposed to be a rock-solid game manager who'd be the perfect fit for an offense that only needed him to hit the third down throws.
O'Brien wasn't awful in his first three starts, but he wasn't decisive and he wasn't moving the offense. Joel Stave quickly took over, and when he got knocked out for the season, Curt Phillips ended up taking over. Meanwhile, a reasonable case could be made that McGloin should've earned All-Big Ten honors after a brilliant year. With little talent around him after the defection of Silas Redd and Justin Brown, McGloin threw for 3,271 yards and 24 touchdowns while scattering a mere five interceptions and running for five scores.
2. South Florida
With 17 starters returning to a team that lost five games by a touchdown or less including three in heartbreaking fashion, this was supposed to be the year all the breaks were going to go the right way. This was supposed to be the year Skip Holtz was going to take the Bulls to a whole other level. Nope.
Considered to have the right coach at the right program at the right time, USF was going to bust through a mediocre Big East and become a major player in a showcase season for the bigger, better conferences. Instead, after a promising 2-0 start and a nice road win over Nevada, the defense, particularly the pass defense, decided to take the rest of the year off with just two picks while getting torched time and again. Meanwhile, the offense was wildly inefficient and strangely ineffective on the way to a 3-8 record and a 1-5 Big East season. Playing the spoiler role for Pitt's bowl eligibility isn't exactly what the team had in mind going into December.
1. The Heisman race, No. 2 through 10
I was absolutely dead-on right in my call to take The Field in the Heisman chase, reasoning that RG3, Cam Newton, and even Mark Ingram to some extent came from out of nowhere to win it all. Of course, a Johnny Manziel/Manti Te'o/Marqise Lee battle was well off the radar, but there was some thought that Braxton Miller or Collin Klein could be in the mix. But that's a cop-out – most of the other nine candidates weren't even close.
I was right about Le'Veon Bell becoming a monster. He was No. 10 on my preseason list, and I wasn't crazy with Geno Smith at No. 9 or Marcus Lattimore at No. 8. I took a called third strike on Knile Davis and seven and Tyler Wilson at six, while Denard Robinson, Montee Ball and Landry Jones all failed to get close despite having terrific seasons. Matt Barkley was everyone's preseason favorite and was No. 2 on the list, and he's not even going to be in New York.
So what does it all mean? Next year, if you think your team might have a Heisman candidate, no matter how far-fetched it might seem, he probably has a chance.
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.
- Arkansas State is 8-3 with a shot at a ten-win season with a win over Middle Tennessee and in a bowl. Gus Malzahn, your one-year apprenticeship is up. You're going to get a call from the big leagues.
- Does Illinois have a guy in mind? There's no way the school is going to get stuck with a bunch of bad Tim Beckman paper, and there's no way the place will go through an exhaustive public coaching search without having all the ducks in a row. Don't be shocked either way regarding Beckman's future.
- Please, will everyone learn that Gary Patterson and Chris Petersen aren't interested in leaving their respective schools? Neither one is making any noise whatsoever about wanting to change jobs.
- I looked, and you're a better man than I am – not hard to do – if you can find a team that has lost three overtime games in four weeks like Wisconsin has.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Kent State going to the BCS … Underrated: Northern Illinois going to the BCS
2) Overrated: "I'm taking my talents to South Beach."… Underrated: "We're going to South Beach!"
3) Overrated: Stanford against UCLA last week ... Underrated: UCLA against Stanford this week
4) Overrated: The all-conference teams released this week ... Underrated: Waiting until after all the games have been played
5) Overrated: Cyber Monday ... Underrated: Taco Tuesday
"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."
… 42-26 ATS on the year. And thus concludes the Double Digit Home Dog portion of the program. Now it's on to the big games.
- UCLA +9.5 over Stanford
- Oklahoma State -4.5 over Baylor
- Georgia +7 over Alabama
- Texas +11.5 over Kansas State
Sorry this column sucked, it wasn't my fault … I won a national championship two years ago and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.
- Nov. 27 What should be the Big
Ten's next move?