Cavalcade of Whimsy - 10 Things to Watch For
Posted Oct 23, 2006

From Boise State possibly being tripped up to the best running back you've never seen to next year's "hot" team to sleeper Heisman candidates Mike Hart and Ray Rice, this week's Cavalcade of Whimsy highlights ten things to watch out for in the final stretch.

By Pete Fiutak    What's your beef? ... E-mail with your thoughts  
Past Whimsys
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Week 7

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … After disgracing myself with my last column, University of Miami President Donna Shalala and head football coach Larry Cooker felt a one column suspension was adequate.  

“I want rustlers, cutthroats, murders, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con-men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglars, horse thieves, bull-dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, (blank)-kickers, and Methodists!” … Let’s see if I have this straight. Miami shamed the team, the program, the legacy, and the university in one of the ugliest, most embarrassing on-field fights in recent memory, and the only one to get fired or booted in any way is a TV announcer?! The bulk of the suspensions came against Duke, one of the worst teams in America … how convenient.

Of course, when the NCAA had a chance to step in and make a statement, President Myles Brand had the audacity to claim, in regards to various fights, that “the NCAA from the national office can’t police all those sites.”  Then why are we supposed to believe the NCAA when it says it’s keeping college athletics clean from steroids, human growth hormones, terrorism, $100 handshakes, agents, and all the other things that it’s supposed to be watching out for? This non-ruling on the FIU-Miami incident sets the precedent for any program to get away with whatever it wants to.

And the Orange Bowl stands still won’t be full … In case you haven’t noticed, the Canes are on a four-game winning streak. As lousy as the team has looked, a win at Georgia Tech this week could set the wheels in motion for a huge second half of the season and a big turnaround. A loss would finally expose the team once and for all for being among the mediocre.

Six degrees of gagging … 1) Michigan State choked in a loss to Notre Dame.
2) Northwestern choked in a loss to Michigan State.
3) Dennis Green is the former head coach at Northwestern during one of the worst runs in college football history.
4) Green coaches the Arizona Cardinals, which choked to the Chicago Bears.
5) Tom Cruise, as Jerry Maguire, was the agent for Arizona Cardinal WR Rod Tidwell.
6) Kevin Bacon, as Capt. Jack Ross, choked against Cruise in his case of U.S. vs. Dawson and Downey in A Few Good Men

If you liked the Michigan State loss … You’ll love the next few weeks if you’re Northwestern. How does a bad season, with the pain of Randy Walker’s death and a five-game losing streak get worse? Welcome to a three-game stretch at Michigan, at Iowa, and Ohio State. If you think that’s bad, check out poor Utah State. The Aggies are 113th in the nation in defense, 116th in offense, and they close out with Hawaii (No. 1 in offense), Nevada (38th in offense), Boise State (16th in offense) and New Mexico State (No. 3 in offense).

Fortunately, he wasn’t doing an Oregon State Beaver game ... In an all-time classic by NBC color commentator Pat Haden in the UCLA-Notre Dame game, he tried to mention that Brady Quinn was trying to “change the snap count,” but he forgot to add the O in count.

If only Oklahoma had played a few games on TV for everyone to see … I’ve heard from more than a few sources that, inexplicably, some NFL scouts would like to see Adrian Peterson try to come back for the bowl game so they can get another look. To save time, let me help; he’s good. Yeah, there’s a question with his injury history and yeah, he runs too upright, but he’s a no-brainer in the top five.

But keep in mind, I thought Charles Rogers and Mike Williams were “can’t miss” … The top ten prospects for the 2007 NFL Draft (based on a combination of sure-thing talent, upside, and potential Pro Bowl ability). 1. Adrian Peterson, RB Oklahoma (Jr.), 2. Calvin Johnson, WR Georgia Tech (Jr.), 3. Brady Quinn, QB Notre Dame, 4. Gaines Adams, DE Clemson, 5. Joe Thomas, OT Wisconsin, 6. Leon Hall, CB Michigan, 7. Alan Branch, DT Michigan (Jr.), 8. Marshawn Lynch, RB Cal (Jr.), 9. Dwayne Jarrett, WR USC (Jr.), 10. Brian Brohm, QB Louisville (Jr.)

And they shouldn’t be allowed to wear the maroons until they find a running game … It’s 82-degrees outside, humid, and we’re in Tallahassee. I know, let’s wear all black uniforms to absorb more of the sun’s natural goodness. Didn’t anyone at Florida State consider that wearing all dark uniforms might make the team melt like a polar icecap against Boston College?

And while you’re at it, could you order up a running play to keep the clock moving? … The line for my Mr. Peabody Way-Back machine forms to the right for Nebraska to turn back time to bring out the Texas gameplan for the early season loss to USC.

Maybe Notre Dame can go max protect all the time … Second-guessers, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t dog Nebraska and Northwestern for being aggressive late and throwing the ball, with disastrous results, and also get on UCLA for going conservative. With that said, the Bruins, technically, did the right thing running the ball on Notre Dame to burn all the Irish timeouts and force Brady Quinn to go on a miraculous drive to win the game, but when you’re on the road and you have a chance to win the game with one first down, you do whatever you have to do to make it happen. If you’re Nebraska and are at home, you do whatever you have to do to make Colt McCoy come up with a long drive in a hostile environment with all the pressure on. If you’re Northwestern, you open up the passing game to start the second half, not to end it.

“It takes a big man to admit he’s wrong, and I am not a big man.” … Sometimes I’m dead-on right, like my call that Jack Black, after his brilliant performance in High Fidelity, would go on to be among the most annoying, no-talent ass-clowns in show business. Sometimes I’m get-that-guy-a-helmet wrong, like with an ill-advised “Kate Beckinsale isn’t all that hot” rant a few years ago. A few weeks ago, I told you that Georgia wasn’t nearly as good as its top ten ranking, and the next week, it got tagged by Vanderbilt. Get in early on the tech stock tip: Louisville isn’t that good. Call it my spider sense, my gut feeling, or my woman’s intuition, but there isn’t the same pop or explosion shown earlier in the season. The easy win over a mediocre Miami team stuck in everyone’s consciousness, but this has looked like a very, very beatable team ever since with little of the same offensive pop. Louisville isn’t just going to lose to West Virginia, but it’ll also lose to Rutgers, and possibly Pitt.

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
The season is going into its stretch run, and if longtime college football fans have learned anything, it’s that crazy things tend to happen when you least expect them. Here are ten predictions, some off-the-wall, some not, and some nuggets to watch out for.

10. Wisconsin is going to keep getting better and become the sleeper “hot” team of 2007
It’s unfortunate that the Badgers don’t play Ohio State late in the year. Not that Bret Bielema’s boys are better than the Buckeyes, but they would’ve provided the nation’s top team with one of its stiffest tests if the two could’ve played in November. This is a young, young, young Wisconsin team that’s starting to get on a roll with RB P.J. Hill, an emerging receiving corps, and a solid defense that’s third in the nation against the pass despite playing Purdue and Michigan. If they can get by a home date against Penn State and a road game against Iowa (the other two games are against Illinois and Buffalo) and finish 11-1, and if a quarterback appears ready to take over for John Stocco, this will be the chic hot team for next year.

9. Tulsa will finish 12-1 going into a bowl, and you won’t care
The defending Conference USA champion only had one tough game on the schedule, at BYU, and it lost 49-24 in early September. Since then, the Golden Hurricane has won five straight with the league’s best defense (by far) and an offensive line that’s allowed just four sacks. The winner of 13 of its last 15 games, Tulsa will blow through the rest of the Conference USA schedule and beat Southern Miss for the title.

8. Baylor will win two of three against Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma
It’s taken all year, but the Baylor passing game is starting to kick in. Texas A&M has been a bit shaky needing a few last-minute miracles to pull off wins, Texas Tech is as flaky as they come, and Oklahoma, which has to prove it can keep up the pace with a good offense, has an average secondary that could have problems with Shawn Bell winging it around.

7. Boise State won’t get into the BCS because …
It’ll lose to Nevada at the end of the year. Fresno State and Utah State might as well not even show up for their games in Boise, but the Broncos have been average on the road over the last two games against New Mexico State and Idaho. Nevada has a mistake-free offense and the rushing attack to potentially pull off the upset.  

6. The award for the best running back you’ll never, ever see play will go to …
Kansas senior Jon Cornish. Despite not having any threat of a passing game to take the heat off, Cornish is ninth in the nation in rushing with six 100-yard games. It would’ve been seven, but he got hurt in the first half against Oklahoma State after rushing for 55 yards.

5. Wyoming might not win the Mountain West title, but it’ll come very, very close
A 31-24 loss to Air Force a few weeks ago might turn out to be the killer in Wyoming’s title hopes, but since then freshman QB Karsten Sween has been a surprising force for the offense, while the D has been out of this world in Mountain West play allowing 25 points total to New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado State. The nation’s number one pass defense will give BYU all it can handle in a few weeks.  

4. You don’t know who Darius Reynaud is, but you will
Very soon, West Virginia will play a defense with a pulse. Pat White and Steve Slaton aren’t going to be shut down by anyone over the final five games, but they won’t be running amok on Louisville, Cincinnati, Pitt, South Florida and Rutgers like they did over the fist seven games. Junior WR Darius Renaud is the X factor as the third weapon in the system being used as a runner, returner, and top pass catcher. Expect him to get the ball in his hands more down the stretch, and expect him to be a key factor in the national title race.   

3. Ray Rice will get all the publicity we were saving for Garrett Wolfe
Now that teams have figured out that if you throw 19 guys at NIU RB Garrett Wolfe, he can be stopped, the spotlight for the sleeper Heisman candidate will end up on Rice. The nation’s No. 2 rusher has 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns with two, 200-yard efforts in his last three games. If he rips up West Virginia and/or Louisville and leads the Scarlet Knights to a win against either one, he’ll be in New York as a Heisman finalist along with …

2. Mike Hart will be right in the hunt for the Heisman in about two weeks
As the countdown and the hype kicks in for the Michigan-Ohio State showdown, watch for Mike Hart, the nation’s seventh leading rusher, to start to get more and more Heisman talk. He’s been the steadying force for the offense with seven 100-yard games and a 91-yard outing in the win over Wisconsin. His overall stats aren’t gaudy, but he’ll be seen as the star on the nation’s best team if Michigan beats Ohio State. If OSU wins and Troy Smith is merely adequate, the Heisman race is over. If Michigan wins and if Hart has a good day, he’ll be the front-runner unless Brady Quinn goes gonzo and beats an unbeaten USC team on national TV. However …

1. Don’t be shocked if our dreams will be dashed and Michigan and Ohio State both won’t be unbeaten when they play each other
Things never, ever, ever work out the way you really want them to. Well, almost never since we got the USC-Texas Rose Bowl we were hoping for, but the Big Ten has a way of throwing curveballs when you least expect them.
- In 1998, Nick Saban’s mediocre Michigan State team stunned the unbeaten Buckeyes 28-24 for their only loss of the year.
- In 1996, Michigan overcame a stunning loss to Northwestern to go on a three-game roll, only to lose to a Purdue team that finished 3-8 and to a good Penn State team before beating the unbeaten Buckeyes.
- The 1992 8-0-1 Michigan team tied Illinois at home the week before tying OSU.
- Most painful to Michigan fans, Jim Harbaugh’s 1986 team went 9-0 before losing 20-17 to Rickey Foggie and Minnesota the week before playing an OSU team that won nine straight.

Can Michigan lose to Northwestern or Ball State? No, but if Kellen Lewis and Indiana can play like they did against Iowa, that might be a strange road trip for a Wolverine team looking ahead to the big fish. Can Ohio State lose to Minnesota? How about at Illinois or at Northwestern? Of course not, right? Let’s play it out.

Don’t whiz on my back and tell me it’s raining … I’m watching the World Series because I have to. It’s been pounded in my brain since birth that because I’m an American, I have to watch the Fall Classic, even though I’d rather be watching NFL highlights on the third loop than have to sit through a series I couldn’t care less about. Honestly, how could any rational human being watch UCLA-Notre Dame, Alabama-Tennessee, Texas-Nebraska, and any one of about a dozen other college football games on what was just another Saturday, and then sit though a baseball game and not be bored to the point of wanting to take a cheese grater to the back of your thigh? But I digress.

At least college football knows how to do a controversy. I might have thought Bob Stoops and everyone around Oklahoma was nuts after the Oregon debacle, but at least they went crazy when they got screwed. In baseball’s biggest showcase, you have Kenny Rogers cheating his butt off by pulling a Lester Hayes on the ball. You have Tony LaRussa, who showed his true stripes by not calling out that red-headed chemical factory a few years ago, not jumping all over the Rogers pine tar controversy. You have umpires who, at best, missed the “clump of dirt,” and at worst, let it go by telling Rogers to wash it off. You have Steve Palermo, the supervisor of umpires, turning into a less believable mouthpiece than Nathan Thurm. This whole thing stinks. Everyone is either lying or indifferent, which I wouldn’t really care about, except that this is the World Series and I’m blowing my precious TV time watching it. Look baseball, it’s football season. If you want me to care, show your game has more integrity than the WWE. 

Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be with you (or vice versa).
- Let’s slow down on calling Clemson’s dynamic tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller the next Reggie Bush and LenDale White. I love the Tiger twosome, but we’re talking about two record-setting legends when referring to the former Trojans. If you’re going to give the national love to Davis and Spiller, you have to include the Arkansas tandem of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in the discussion.
- To Bob Seger: They’re called white strips. Look into them.
- I’m not so sure Jeff Samardzija doesn’t deserve as much Heisman hype as Brady Quinn, and I definitely know Pat White should be in the discussion as much as Steve Slaton.
- If you’re going to a Halloween party as Darth Moll, Boba Fett, or any other Star Wars character, you will never, ever, ever get any nookie.
My Heisman ballot this week would be … 1. Troy Smith, QB Ohio State, 2. Mike Hart, RB Michigan, 3. Pat White, QB West Virginia, 4. Ray Rice, RB Rutgers, 5. Colt Brennan, QB Hawaii

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated:
Man Law ... Underrated: Ted Ferguson
2) Overrated: Jared Zabransky … Underrated: Jeannie Zelasko
3) Overrated: Saw III … Underrated: An Inconvenient Truth
4) Overrated: Lou Piniella... Underrated: Lou Pinella, as spelled by the Chicago Cub PR department in its press release announcing its new manager
5) Overrated: Slash ... Underrated: Nigel Tufnel
Sheer hubris run amok … The three lines this week that appear to be a tad off. Dumb Oregon getting blasted by Washington State prevented a much needed 3-0 week. Going 7-11 so far, here’s the official kiss of death for three teams … 1) BYU -8 over Air Force, 2) Kentucky -2 over Mississippi State, 3) Missouri -2.5 over Oklahoma

Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … I had a good column going, but for the first time all day long I couldn’t get to Brady Quinn, and he picked it apart.