Cavalcade of Whimsy - Why OSU Will Win
Posted Dec 19, 2006

Ten reasons why Troy Smith and Ohio State will beat Florida and win the national title, the yearly holiday wish list for all 119 teams, the one thing most fans don't understand, and more in the latest Cavalcade of Whimsy.

By Pete Fiutak    What's your beef? ... E-mail with your thoughts  
Past Whimsys
Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5
Week 6 |
Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12
Week 13 | Week 1
4 | Week 15

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I was delayed because I had to ship my Heisman home after the man wouldn’t let me take it on the plane home. America was safer that day as the war on terror took a decided turn to the positive.

“We have a few items we want to straighten out first or you might be looking at three act-ors who really don’t feel like making a Geronimo picture. What we’re talking about is money. Real money. Amigo money. No dough, no show.” … Going into the bowl season, what’s the one thing I wish I could convey about college football to the average sports guy? What doesn’t Joe College Football fan completely comprehend when watching a game?

The money, and how the guys who are generating it get completely and totally screwed.

The tired old argument that the players get a scholarship, room, board, and perks isn't quite right and doesn’t apply to Troy Smith, Adrian Peterson, Brady Quinn, Darren McFadden or any of the other superstars that'll be heavily promoted over the next few weeks. Oh sure, if you’re a left tackle for Western Michigan, or the backup punter at Iowa, the scholarship is a sweet deal, but the heavy hitters, the ones who are the real reason many fans will tune in, get the shaft.

The average fan doesn’t grasp the dollars at play in the business of a college sports post-season. There's the $6.2 billion (with a big, fat B) paid by CBS for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. There's the $80 million Fox paid for the non-Rose Bowl BCS games for four years. There's the $500,000 per 30-second ad spot ABC is making on the Rose Bowl, and the estimated $1.8 million being asked for 30 seconds of ad time in all four Fox BCS games

Don't forget about the naming rights, like the $22 million paid by Chick-fil-A to change the name of the Peach Bowl, or the ad dollars made by the newspapers you’ll buy, pregame shows you’ll watch, and websites you’ll go to for info on the game. Also remember the millions in value for ABC's promos for the latest Emily's Reasons Why Not flop-to-be, and all the pumping up done for American Idol and other Fox shows.

While you’d probably watch the Rose Bowl and the BCS Championship no matter who was playing, the value of the ad dollars, and the revenue generated by the overall buzz, certainly goes up when it’s last year's Texas vs. USC showdown with Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Vince Young as opposed to a good, but not national-gripping, Ohio State vs. Florida matchup unless Fox pumps up Heisman winner Troy Smith in the promos.

Also, it's easy to forget how one player can mean millions. Is Notre Dame in the BCS without Brady Quinn? Think of the extra coin he's made for the school by getting it to the Sugar Bowl along with the extra ad revenue NBC has made by covering Notre Dame football. Fox is able to jack up the ad costs a bit because it's Notre Dame and not any other team.

Watch how all ESPN promotions for the Toyota (who's leaving the bowl sponsorship after 11 years because it's not paying enough) Gator Bowl will be about the battle of Steve Slaton vs. Calvin Johnson. How many more people are going to watch the Sheraton (sponsor since 2003) Hawaii Bowl to finally get a chance to see Hawaii QB Colt Brennan? The bowl list goes on and on.

In other words, the players matter.

Of course, you’ll say the players benefit because the top guys get to showcase their stuff for the NFL. Yeah, but what about all the guys who won't get the big, never-have-to-work-again Sunday paydays, like past national title winning quarterbacks Matt Mauck of LSU, Ken Dorsey of Miami, Josh Heupel of Oklahoma, and Danny Wuerffel of Florida? Scratch that; regardless of future income, the point is that everyone’s getting fat off the big games except for the players.

So as the bowl season starts and up comes the umpteenth ad for a 27-layer bowl of fat, a muddy truck, or a can of carbonated chemicals, just remember that
the networks are making a ton off those commercials you're watching, most of the coaches are getting major bonuses on top of their mega-salaries for being in the bowl, the athletic departments will come out ahead with future ticket sales and more interest in the programs, the advertisers are making millions by showcasing their products, the hotels, restaurants, and chambers of commerce in the major bowl cities are doing cartwheels, and the NCAA is rolling around in a bed of money like Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal while Sade plays in the background .

And Troy Smith, the star of stars this bowl season, can’t do a Nike ad.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat the course and sit behind the kid who doesn’t know the meaning a “power stripe.” … There’s no need to waste your time with the BCS Championship if you’re a devotee of trends and history. Ohio State is 0-7 against SEC teams.
- 1978 Sugar Bowl: Alabama 36, Ohio State 6
- 1990 Hall of Fame Bowl: Auburn 31, Ohio State 14
- 1993 Citrus Bowl: Georgia 21, Ohio State 14
- 1995 Citrus Bowl: Alabama 24, Ohio State 17
- 1996 Citrus Bowl: Tennessee 20, Ohio State 14
- 2001 Outback Bowl: South Carolina 24, Ohio State 7
- 2002 Outback Bowl: South Carolina 31, Ohio State 27

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
I appear to be the only one giving Florida a real chance at winning the national title and I’m sky-is-blue convinced it’s going to be a battle. However, I’m going with the Buckeyes, and here are ten reasons why.

10. Let’s relax a bit on that killer schedule
Yeah, yeah, Florida’s schedule was the best in the country (and I’ve been front and center on that parade), but it’s not like Ohio State wouldn’t have had, at worst, similar success with the same slate. Fine, so the cumulative effect of a tough schedule means teams can wear down late, and there are more chances throughout the long season to come out flat at some point and lose to a good team. Even so, Ohio State would’ve beaten Southern Miss, UCF, Kentucky, Alabama, at Vanderbilt, and Western Carolina with ease. Give the Buckeyes the home wins over LSU and South Carolina, a road game at Florida State, and a neutral site win over Georgia. At Tennessee, at Auburn and a neutral site date against Arkansas would join the LSU game as the real danger spots, but the Buckeyes wouldn’t lose more than one of those four and would be right where the Gators are.

9. Get pressure on Chris Leak and it’s over  
For all of Leak’s experience and savvy, he’s not always cool under fire when he’s getting popped. The Gator offensive line isn’t anything special, and the Buckeyes can generate a pass rush from several different areas including up the middle from tackle Quinn Pitcock and from the linebacking corps  This isn’t necessarily the humming-on-all-cylinders Florida passing game you might think it is with Leak throwing just eight touchdown passes with nine interceptions over the final eight games of the year. In other words …

8. This isn’t the fun ‘n’ gun
This is more dink ‘n’ dunk. Yes, there’s plenty of speed, talent and defensive athleticism in the SEC and Florida still found a way to win, but if you’re waiting for the Gator attack to explode for 35 points without getting scores from the defense, special teams, and a Percy Harvin play or three, you’ll be waiting a long time. No one’s thrown for more than 267 yards all year on the Ohio State defense, which is an issue since …

7. Tim Tebow is Florida’s most effective runner
Gator RB DeShawn Wynn will be as healthy as he’s been all season long, Kestahn Moore will get a few carries, and Harvin will get the ball in his hands several times in several ways, but as long as backup QB Tim Tebow is stopped on the short yardage plays and doesn’t come up with a momentum-changing run, Florida might be in big trouble. The Buckeyes are physical on the defensive front and Florida's ground game simply isn't good enough to take over if Leak and the passing attack aren't rocking and rolling.
6. Florida can’t outathletic the Buckeyes
Even by SEC standards, Florida is athletic with only LSU having equal all-around team speed (at least in the way it played week in and week out). Ohio State is just as fast. The Buckeye defensive back seven can move, the offensive skill guys can all fly, and Troy Smith is mobile enough to slide around and buy himself time to make plays, which will be a plus since … 

5. The Gator pass rush has been a disappointment
Even though Jarvis Moss isn’t Jevon Kearse, he’s a physical presence who’ll make a lot of money very soon at the next level. The same goes for Derrick Harvey. While this is a quick, lean defensive front that has the ability to generate pressure, it hasn’t happened as much as it should’ve. Smith is a smart enough decision maker to make plays even if the front seven gets into the backfield, the ball might be gone. The Florida defense might get to Smith, but it's not likely to hit him on a regular basis. As long as Smith doesn’t try to do too much and doesn't force his passes, the Buckeye offense should be fine.

4.  Ohio State in Arizona 
Jim Tressel ought to retire in the A.Z. Ohio State has made the greater Phoenix metropolitan area its home over the last few years beating Notre Dame in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, Kansas State in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl, and Miami, for the national title, in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. Don’t dismiss this; if a coaching staff, and everyone around the program, are comfortable and believe there’s something special about a place, even if it’s all just superstition, it matters. To take this even further for you historical nuts, Ohio State won the 1984 Fiesta Bowl over Pitt, but lost the 1980 Fiesta Bowl to Penn State. On the flip side, the last time we saw Florida in Arizona was in early 1996 when Tommie Frazier, Lawrence Phillips and Nebraska ran over the Gators for a 62-24 national title win.

3. Ohio State doesn’t screw up
It’s not like Florida turns the ball over all that often, but Ohio State almost never makes mistakes finishing ninth in the nation in turnover margin, averaging a mere 4.75 penalties for 42.83 yards per game, and is fourth in the country on third downs converting 51.3% of its chances. Meanwhile, Florida converts 43% of its third down tries and is 118th in the nation in penalties committing 8.46 per game for 64.46 yards.

2. Field goal kicking 
Uh oh. Let’s say Florida keeps this sucker close; can it rely on the kicking game? Senior Chris Hetland was sensational in 2005 hitting 13 of 16 shots, but he’s four of 13 on field goals this year, and oddly enough, 38 for 40 on extra points for the second straight season. While Ohio State sophomore Aaron Pettrey might not make anyone forget about Mike Nugent, he made eight of 11 field goals with his last miss coming in mid-September. (To be fair, he hasn’t been under any real pressure and hasn’t attempted a field goal since November 4th.)

1. Ohio State is number one for a reason
To start off with a fun stat, if you’re a trends believer, a one-loss team has never beaten an undefeated team for the BCS championship. the Buckeyes were a pillar-to-post number one with a balanced offense that was able throw when Texas shut down the ground game, and ran to support the passing attack throughout the second half of the season. They've played in pressure packed games against Texas, Penn State, Iowa and Michigan, and came out with wins. Troy Smith is a proven, big-game winner, while the defense was better all season long than it got credit for since all the attention was on the dynamic offense. And then there’s Jim Tressel. The Buckeye head man is 62-13 in his six years with a 5-1 record against Michigan while winning his last four bowl games after the stunning 31-28 defeat to South Carolina in the 2002 Outback Bowl. No, the 2006 Buckeyes aren’t 2005 Texas, 2005 USC, or 2004 USC, but it’s a solid team that should win the national title as long as it doesn’t screw up big-time.

The 3rd Annual
Christmas/Festivus/Hanukkah wish list for all 119 teams this holiday season. To ...
Air Force: Paul Johnson
Akron: The running game that showed up early in the season against NC State.
Alabama: Someone to actually want to coach at Alabama and is good enough to beat Auburn.
Arizona: An injury free Willie Tuitama and some semblance of a consistent offense.
Arizona State: Dennis Erickson to be the Dennis Erickson to make you know the name Dennis Erickson.
Arkansas: Mitch Mustain to realize that the system will fit him just fine if he’s actually any good.
Arkansas State: Just a little bit of a passing game to match the unstoppable ground attack.
Army: Paul Johnson.
Auburn: The team to live up to the expectations when there’s hype, and the hype to live up to the team when it’s a killer.
Ball State: A living, breathing cover corner and an offensive line to keep Nate Davis clean.
Baylor: Some blue-chip high school quarterback to realize he can throw for a bazillion yards in the new BU system.
Boise State: Oklahoma to go into the Fiesta Bowl with a mental attitude that it’s only playing Boise State.
Boston College:
The consistency Tom O’Brien was able to bring, and for Eagle fans to quickly learn how to spell Jagodzinski.
Bowling Green: The passing game of the Omar Jacobs era combined with the running game of Anthony Turner’s first year.
BYU: Games on a network other than CSTV so someone can see how good it is.
Buffalo: Patience, patience, patience, a Ted’s hot dog and a Bocce’s pizza.
California: A win that actually matters.
Central Michigan: QB Dan LeFevour to make up for the loss of Brian Kelly over the next three years.
Cincinnati: Brian Kelly to make UC a player as quickly as he took Central Michigan to the MAC championship.
An extra football to get C.J. Spiller and James Davis equal work.
Colorado: A pass of more than ten yards, and Gary Barnett’s success with Dan Hawkins leading the way.
Colorado State:
A healthy Kyle Bell, or an adequate number two back.
A run defense half as tough as the one from a few years ago.
Jim Grobe.
East Carolina:
A pass rush, or someone on the defense who can get into the backfield.
Eastern Michigan:
For the rest of the college football world to confuse Eastern Michigan with Western or Central Michigan.
Florida Atlantic:
A non-conference schedule that doesn’t automatically mean an 0-4 start.
FIU: As much fight on the football field as it showed in the brawl against Miami. A touchdown now and again would be nice.
An adequate field goal kicker.
Florida State:
An offensive coordinator who realizes it’s just fine to run the ball once in a while.
Fresno State:
A mirror, so it can finally see that it’s a WAC team.
Matthew Stafford to grow into the best of the SEC’s hotshot young quarterbacks.
Georgia Tech: Calvin Johnson to be in no hurry to be the number two pick in the draft.
A 9 a.m. start time so someone on the mainland will actually be able to watch the fireworks.
Someone to quickly step in and replace Kevin Kolb.
A coach who stays with the program for more than ten minutes.
Illinois: All the young, talented playmakers to succeed despite being coached by the Zooker.
Indiana: Kellen Lewis to be Antwaan Randle-El part two.
A couple of drives in a row without a turnover.
Iowa State: A cornerback who doesn’t know what every Big 12 receiver’s back looks like.
Kansas: A detailed diagram on how to provide the Heimlich maneuver (oh wait, that’s basketball). A settled starting quarterback situation.
Kansas State:
The Josh Freeman against Texas to be that Josh Freeman from game one next year.
Kent State: Mr. Peobody’s wayback machine to bring the offense of the first half of the season into the second half.
Kentucky: A shiny new secondary that won’t get bombed on in every way imaginable.
UL Lafayette:
A manual on how to throw the forward pass.
UL Monroe: Kinsmon Lancaster and the offense to start off 2007 like they ended 2006.
Louisiana Tech:
An invite from Conference USA.
To be the team on the road that it is at home.
One more year of JaMarcus Russell, and for Ryan Perrilloux to like it.
To have someone else make the We Are Marshall movie with Carrot Top, Morgan Freeman, Morgan Fairchild, or anyone other than Matthew McCaughnahey playing the lead role.
Maryland: A defensive front that can slow down the run and occasionally get into the backfield.
Memphis: A defensive stop.
Miami: CGI graphics to make it look like the Orange Bowl is full for home games.
Miami University:
The offensive line that doesn’t have to say, “whoops” every time the quarterback drops back.
Shawn Crable’s helmet to be nine inches to the left or right of Troy Smith’s head on the key fourth quarter tackle.
Michigan State: Mark Dantonio to finally break the program’s flaky streak, and two turnovers against Notre Dame instead of three.
Middle Tennessee: Bigger programs to ignore Rick Stockstill’s first season.
Minnesota: Some hot-shot prep running back to realize what Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber are doing at the next level and realize he can be a superstar under Glen Mason.
Ole Miss: David Cutcliffe.
Mississippi State:
More cowbell.
A November win over a team with a pulse.
At least one more year with Paul Johnson at the helm.
Nebraska: A win over a really good team.
Nevada: More playmakers to make Chris Ault’s “pistol” attack hum.
New Mexico: QB Donovan Porterie to grow into the type of quarterback to build the offense around.
New Mexico State:
All those Chase Holbrook passing yards to turn into points.
North Carolina:
Butch Davis the Miami version, not the Cleveland model.
NC State: Tom O’Brien to be as successful as he was at Boston College.
North Texas: To finally average more than two touchdowns a game.
Northern Illinois: To break through the MAC championship ceiling.
Pat Fitzgerald to turn into half as good a coach as he was a linebacker.
Notre Dame: Jimmy Clausen to be more Casey than Rick, and more Quinn than Powlus.
Ohio: A passing game to take the heat off RB Kalvin McRae.
Ohio State: The 2007 offense to replace its stars as quickly and effectively as the 2006 defense replaced all its lost starters.
Oklahoma: Gordon Riese, a pair of goggles, the middle of Owen Field, and 82,112 water balloons.
Oklahoma State: A T. Boone Pickens for the Oklahoma State general scholarship fund.
Oregon: A visit from What Not to Wear’s Stacy and Clinton.
Oregon State: A first half of the 2007 season like the second half of 2006.
Penn State: Anthony Morelli to throw for 200 yards against a living, breathing secondary.
Pitt: Defensive memory loss after the last three games of the season giving up 139 points to Connecticut, West Virginia and Louisville. 
Purdue: After the last two years, someone who knows how to play defense.
Rice: Another year of WR Jarett Dillard doing that.
Rutgers: Greg Schiano to realize that coaching in the NFL sucks.
San Diego State: Head coach Chuck Long to find another year of eligibility, and an injury-free season from Lynell Hamilton.
San Jose State: For 2006 to be the true beginning of the Dick Tomey era, and not the peak.
South Carolina: Some of the funnin’ ‘n’ gunnin’ Gamecock fans were hoping for over the last two years.
South Florida: Recognition as one of the Big East’s big boys.
SMU: Just a little bit of help for QB Justin Willis.
Southern Miss: More wins over anyone, any place, any time.
Stanford: Jim Harbaugh to get an injury-free offense to work with.
Offensive linemen, offensive linemen, offensive linemen.
TCU: More games against Big 12 teams (after going 4-0 vs. the league over the last two years.
Temple: As Axl would say, a little patience … yeahhhhh-eh.
Tennessee: David Cutcliffe to stick around as offensive coordinator for at least another year.
Texas: The next-level success of the program to have been more than just Vince Young.
Tulsa: Some semblance of a pass rush and a few tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Texas A&M: A schedule as favorable as this year’s.
Texas Tech: Consistency from QB Graham Harrell.
Toledo: For 2006 to be a one-year hiccup in the solid Tom Amstutz era (missing a bowl this season after going to four in five years).
Troy: The newfound offensive balance to mean newfound offensive production.
Tulane: New head coach Bob Toledo to pay as much attention to the defense as he will the offense.
UAB: More wins in close games (after losing six this year by eight points or fewer).
UCF: 2005 to not have been a total fluke.
UCLA: Head coach Karl Dorrell’s NFL desires to not screw up recruiting coming off the big USC win.
UNLV: The upgraded talent level to finally translate into production. A few first half scores would be nice.
USC: Healthy running backs who live up to their prep hype.
Utah: 2005 starting QB Brian Johnson to be back at 100% and operate the spread like it should be run.
Utah State: Cornerbacks who can stop the short to midrange pass, a pass rush, and double-digit points on a consistent basis.
UTEP: To finish the second half of a season under Mike Price without gagging.
Vanderbilt: QB Chris Nickson to just be scratching the surface and for WR Earl Bennett to stick in school for a full four years.
Virginia: Just a few ACC-caliber offensive playmakers to help out rising QB Jameel Sewell.
Virginia Tech: An introduction on how to complete a downfield pass.
Wake Forest: A way to bottle up and save the magic of the 2006 season, or to just get another down year from the ACC and every turnover to go its way.
Washington: QB Jake Locker and RB J.R. Hasty to hit the field running next year and be half as good as their prep hype.
Washington State: Trevor Hoffman. Games, seasons, whatever, this team needs to figure out how to close. 
West Virginia: Head coach Rich Rodriguez to stay at West Virginia because he really wants to and not because the Alabama gig just wasn’t right.
Western Michigan: The offense of 2005 and the defense of 2006 to converge in one big season.
Wisconsin: For the team to have as much success in the future against a real schedule as it did this year.
Wyoming: QB Karsten Sween to grow into the type of player the program can rally around for the next few years.

Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa)
- Just when we’re sending Samardzija and Posluszny off to the NFL, we get Jagodzinski as the Boston College head man. Actually, it’s easier than O’Brien, which I always screwed up as O’Brian.
- A note to all announcers, especially the lost-it-eight-years-ago John Madden: star players in a groove, like LaDainian Tomlinson, look like a man playing among boys, not a man playing with boys.
- L.T. is my number one all-time I-blew-it misread as a pro prospect after thinking there wasn’t enough tread on the tires thanks to over 400 carries his final year at TCU. I’m still right in my initial call that Danny Wuerffel will win as many Super Bowls as Peyton Manning.
- With Jevan Snead transferring to Ole Miss from Texas, and with Brent Schaeffer joining the club last year after his problems at Tennessee, it’s obvious the Ed Orgeron era is looking for a kick-start as quickly as humanly possible from anywhere he can get it. However, top quarterbacks sometimes take time to develop. Can the coaching staff be patient?
- It’s always a fascinating time when players wrongly jump early to the NFL. Is there a place for Arizona RB Chris Henry? I'm not exactly sure where Ohio State RB Antonio Pittman fits in at the next level. If you’re a sure-thing to go in the first three rounds, you leave early. If not, you stay as long as possible.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated:
Monday Night Football ... Underrated: Sunday Night Football
2) Overrated: “I don’t know what I want for Christmas” … Underrated: Asking someone to donate to a worthwhile charity instead of getting you a gift card you’ll forget you have.
3) Overrated:
The opening for the Michigan head coaching job in 2010 ... Underrated: Stanford’s new head coach Jim Harbaugh
4) Overrated: The opening for the Alabama head coaching job  ... Underrated: The opening for a new barista at my Starbucks. (Somewhere out there is some poor, unsuspecting soul who doesn’t realize how coached up he/she will be to get my drink absolutely right.)
5) Overrated:
Mitch Mustain, Ben Cleveland, Damian Williams ... Underrated: The Arkansas system
Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … 
Like Steve Spurrier’s wife, Jerri, I handwrote this column wishing the South Carolina recruits and their parents good luck. It’s now a violation of NCAA rules. 

Happy holidays everyone. I hope they don't suck.