Cavalcade of Whimsy - More Bowl Week Musings
Posted Jan 3, 2007

From Ian Johnson's marriage proposal to Alabama's offer to thoughts on week two of the bowl season, it's 2007's first 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 | Week 16 | Bowl Musings, Part One

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … Like I’m supposed to assume a team is not only going to pull the hook-and-lateral on 4th and 18, but it’s also going to run the Statue of Liberty for the game-deciding two point conversion. What are we, twelve?  

Obviously we’re not talking about 1966 Texas Western over Kentucky in the NCAA basketball championship, or USA over the USSR in the 1980 Olympics, but … It’s not an overstatement to suggest the Boise State win over Oklahoma might turn out to be the most important college football game played in the last thirty years. Of course, there wasn’t social significance of any sort, but as far as leveling the playing field and getting respect for all 119 teams, and not just for the select few who happen to be in a certain six conferences, this was a watershed game.

Now all the “little guys” or “mid-majors” have something to believe in. They all have something to play for, and they’ll all get a little bit more respect from the voters when they come up with great seasons. To put even more oomph to this win, now the cry for a playoff will get even louder. Remember, Boise State wouldn’t have been involved in a plus-one format, and now, everyone would love to see what the Broncos would do against the Ohio State/Florida winner. However …

There’s a Mr. Wolf line I wish I could use here … Now that the world has gone Boise State crazy, let’s all just take a big, deep breath before drinking the full glass of Kool-Aid. It took four turnovers, every conceivable mistake, both mental and physical, three of the most impossibly clutch big plays you’ll ever see, and everything else in the bag to beat Oklahoma in overtime. Overtime. I’m not saying the Broncos can’t play, but Oklahoma isn’t Ohio State or Florida this year.

In a one game shot, Boise State can beat Oklahoma, Ohio State, Florida, or anyone else in America. This team was the real deal, and there’s nothing fluky about the Fiesta Bowl win. With that said, no way, no how do the Broncos go unbeaten with Oklahoma’s schedule. It wouldn’t have gone unbeaten in any of the big six conferences, so to just assume the Broncos deserve a shot at the national championship isn’t quite right. They wouldn’t be in this position if they didn’t play in the WAC.  

Thanks, dillhole, for ruining it for all of us who got drunk and thought the time just so happened to be right … Oh sure, Boise State RB Ian Johnson might be in love with the head cheerleader he asked to marry him on national television, and every woman might have swooned at the romance, but when he popped the question, every married American male collectively screamed at the TV, “You’re a sophomore in college and you’re the star running back. What in the name of late night Cinemax and Newport News catalogs are you doing?!”

I have to admit it, I always giggle a little bit when the guy in the psychiatrists office shrieks like a girl at the sight of an enchilada in the Taco Bell ad … I’ve now seen the Boise State fourth down hook-and-lateral to force overtime, and the Statue of Liberty play for the winning two-point conversion, about 43 times, and I kept rewinding and playing them over and over again. Every kid in America has tried running those plays 1,001 times in backyard games and they never, ever, ever worked.

But I can’t seem to get rid of that episode of Blue’s Clues without getting yelled at … How many people with a DVR or TiVo miss the ending of the Fiesta Bowl because it ran longer than the scheduled time, when it stopped at the top of the hour? The over/under on how long it takes before I absent-mindedly delete what’s labeled as my local Fox News broadcast, even though it’s actually the Fiesta Bowl overtime, is about 13 days.

“Some people (pause) need to be eliminated.” … So let’s get this straight. If Texas Tech’s Alex Trlica had missed the 52-yard field goal that forced overtime against Minnesota, or if any one of about 47 other things in the perfect storm of horrors that happened to the Gophers in the Insight Bowl, had gone the other way, then Glen Mason would still be the head coach. Instead, one epically awful half gets him canned. Nice logic, Minnesota.

Forget that Minnesota was a non-existent program before his arrival (unless you enjoyed the Jim Wacker years). Forget that Minnesota was a regular in bowl games under Mason, and had been solid. Forget that the team rallied with a gut-check ending to the regular season just to get to a bowl, and then was phenomenal in the first half against Texas Tech. If you didn’t want him as your coach, then fine. No big deal. But to knee-jerk it after that game doesn’t make any sense.
Oh sure, I’m Mr. Insensitive. Like it’s my fault the team can’t play west of the Rockies … It was certainly nice of Michigan to honor the memory and legacy of Bo Schembechler by imitating his team’s Rose Bowl performances.

Oh sure, I’m Mr. Insensitive, part two … The story of Clemson’s Ray Ray McElrath is one that speaks to the kindness of people and the good that can come from college football. McElrath became the legal guardian of his brother, Fahmarr, after having problems with their drug-addicted mother. Thousands of people have helped out with clothes, food, and all the other costs of caring for a kid, while the NCAA has given its blessing in this special case to allow what would normally be thought of as improper benefits. So why can’t other college players have the same luxury, and why does it take something so extreme to realize that what’s right is right? Why can’t all players get financial help from outside sources for anything they want? The NCAA did the right thing in McElrath’s case, but it’s also admitting, without admitting it, how screwed up its rules are.

Oh sure, I’m Mr. Insensitive, part three. I’m not the one parading him around the country instead of letting him finally rest in peace … What was longer, Gerald Ford’s presidency or the never-ending procession of staged events to honor his passing? No offense to a decent former president who lived longer and better than most of us can only dream of, but I drew the line at the Gerry Ford All-Star ‘70s Celebrity Tribute with Charo, Mr. Bill, JoAnne Worley, Arte Johnson, The Unknown Comic, and a special appearance by Shields and Yarnell.

If you’re counting on Joey Harrington to finish anything, you leave for Alabama … What’s with this bizarre notion that Nick Saban has to “finish the job” with the Miami Dolphins? So, he’s supposed to stay until Miami wins a Super Bowl? Fine, then what? Brian Billick finished the job at Baltimore and Jon Gruden finished the job at Tampa Bay, and their job security hasn’t exactly been rock solid. If you’re a coach, you go where you want to go, especially if you’re in the NFL.
Does that make Bob Stoops, Mike Torrez? … Talk about your Bucky Dent of coaches, Saban was decent, but nothing special, at Michigan State, had one amazing year, along with a bunch of good ones at LSU, hasn’t taken Miami to the playoffs, and now he’s being offered half of Alabama. Somewhere out there, Pete Carroll and Jim Tressel are checking their deals and going, “hmmmmmm.”

Laws of physics, schmaws of physics … This all-timer gem from Brian Baldinger when referring to how high the announcing booth was in the Cotton Bowl: "We hear the hits before we see them.” Also, this beaut from Chris Rose at halftime of the Fiesta Bowl: "Can Boise State hang with OU? In a word, you bet."

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Ten random thoughts and polite musings from week two of the bowl season.

10. With under five minutes left, you go for it
Even after a full season, coaches still didn’t quite understand just how quickly the time moves in the final few minutes. Unless you have your full three timeouts and your defense is rocking, you need to give it a shot on fourth down or you probably won’t get another chance. That’s especially true if you need two scores.

9. Do people really care that much if Joe Paterno is in the booth or on the sidelines?  
So he calls the game from the third deck instead of on the field. Whoopee. It’s still his team.  

8. Why you play if you’re an NFL prospect
Dwayne Jarrett. Almost certainly a first round draft pick before the Rose Bowl, he upped his stock immensely with an 11-catch, 205-yard, two touchdown day against projected top ten corner Leon Hall and Michigan. He probably moved up from 20-to-25 to 15-to-20 and made millions in doing so.   

7. Death of the myth 
Are we know officially done with the SEC is faster garbage? If you’re a top 25-caliber team, you have guys who can move. All the top teams can run, jump, and fly. Some teams, like Auburn and Arkansas, tend to put smaller, quicker players in key areas to be faster, but as Penn State and Wisconsin showed, you can be big and fast. And then there’s USC, who goes at a speed somewhere between supersonic and warp.  

Sort of like the 19th Who farewell tour
Lately, every year in college football has “the best” of something. The 2006 Rose Bowl was the best game ever. This year’s Michigan – Ohio State battle was supposed to be the best ever. I get it, and I’m never a fan of the overhype. With that said, if you can come up with a better New Years Day than this one, good luck. There was a three-point Auburn Cotton Bowl win over Nebraska, a wild, three-point West Virginia shootout win over Georgia Tech, a three-point Wisconsin Capital Bowl win over Arkansas, a Penn State fumble return for a score to beat Tennessee in the Outback, a second half jaw-dropper from the USC offense in the Rose Bowl win over Michigan, and, arguably, the most thrilling final five minutes in college football history in Boise State’s win over Oklahoma..
5. The basket of mini-muffins is on the way to Mason with a return address saying Columbia, Missouri
Quick, what happened in Missouri’s bowl game? With the glut of games, you probably completely forgot about the Tigers’ Sun Bowl collapse to Oregon State in what would’ve been the choke of the post-season if it weren’t for Minnesota collapse and Navy’s heartbreaking late-loss to Boston College. The heat isn’t exactly on Gary Pinkel, but his team had better come out rocking in 2007.

4. Fortunately for Minnesota, no one saw the game
If a team blows a 31-point lead and no one sees it, did it really happen? Thanks to the NFL Network, and whatever contractual obligations it had with ESPN, not only did most of the country not have a shot at seeing the fantastic Insight Bowl, many weren’t able to even see highlights. The network is in about 41 million homes at the moment, along with the number of DirecTV subscribers. If you can find a copy of the game, it’s worth viewing. It’s a classic from start to finish.

3. The better quarterback theory
Because of the rust and the pressure of the national spotlight, the teams with the better, more experienced quarterbacks usually win. They’re able to pull off comebacks a bit easier, while they’re also less prone to make the big, game-changing mistake. Go right down the line and there were very few exceptions to the rule, and in most questionable cases, the quarterbacks were dead even. Houston’s Kevin Kolb is better than South Carolina’s Blake Mitchell, Purdue’s Curtis Painter is better than Maryland’s Sam Hollenbach, Nevada’s Jeff Rowe is better than Miami’s Kirby Freeman, Tennessee’s Erik Ainge is better than Penn State’s Anthony Morelli, and Nebraska’s Zac Taylor is better than Auburn’s Brandon Cox. That’s it. The lesser quarterback won in five out of 28 bowls so far, and in those cases, they played relatively well. With that in mind, Notre Dame vs. LSU should be interesting if only to see if JaMarcus Russell plays well enough to punch his ticket to the NFL. Western Michigan has the advantage over Cincinnati, Southern Miss the advantage over Ohio, and Ohio State the advantage over Florida.

2. Paul Johnson is the best head coach in college football. Period. 
Boston College should’ve killed Navy. Talk all you want about the distractions from Tom O’Brien leaving for NC State, but that shouldn’t have made up for the talent gap. There are few Midshipmen who’d make the Eagle two deep, yet it was a battle right up until Reggie Campbell put the ball on the turf for BC’s miraculous win. The Eagles had a month to prepare for the option and still couldn’t handle it. More amazingly, the Navy defense held its own up until the final drive. Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe is the coach of the year, and there were great jobs done up and down the board this season, but no one does more with less on a consistent basis than Johnson. I’d like to see what June Jones and Mike Leach could do with five-star talent, but I’d much rather see what Johnson’s option would do with a slew of top recruits. Which leads me to …

1. Bowl games are about the coaches
In the grind of the season, coaches have to prepare on the fly and get into a groove when it comes to preparation, but it’s on the players to keep focused through school, girlfriends, and the daily routine. It’s different when it comes to the bowls.

The matchups, by design, are supposed to be nearly even, and with weeks upon weeks to prepare, and all the extra practices, it’s up to the coaches to use that time to scope out every trend and tendency possible and get the team ready. Sometimes during the season a team can be flat, tired, and beaten up; there’s almost nothing most coaches can do if the team just doesn’t have it. There’s no excuse for bowl games.

Nine times out of ten, the losing team, or the heavy favorite that got pushed to the wall, like Texas and Boston College, got outcoached. Outside of Navy’s Paul Johnson and Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe, and maybe Tulsa’s Steve Kragthorpe, name the coach of a losing bowl team that you’d rather have over the winner.

More provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa)
- According to reports, there was no pizza served at the Bowl.
- Oh yeah, Lorenzo Booker. That sound you heard on December 27th was millions of Florida State fans yelling and shaking their fists at how the coaching staff misused Booker’s talents for four years.
- Dick Vermiel made more than his share of bloopers as the color commentator for the Insight Bowl, but he was also terrific. He needs to get back into a higher profile announcing gig, and he has to ditch the Coors Light ads. It’s hard to listen to him now and take him seriously.
- Houston had a fourth and goal from the 50 in the Liberty Bowl against South Carolina. It would’ve been cool to see the Cougars try to convert that instead of playing it safe.
- A little revolution now and then is a good thing. I’d really like to know all the underlying subplots between Cal senior QB Steve Levy and head coach Jeff Tedford. Late in the Holiday Bowl win over Texas A&M, Tedford called for a kneel down, but Levy chose to hand it off to little used Bryan Schutte for a three-yard touchdown run prompting a war of words on the sideline including what looked like an “F-bomb you” from Levy.
- Minnesota, two words: MAN COVERAGE. Two more words now: Defensive coach.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated:
$32 million for a football coach ... Underrated: $32 million for the best professors available
2) Overrated: Carmen Electra … Underrated: The chick on the couch eating the Grilled Stuft Burrito
3) Overrated:
Brett Favre’s weepfest ... Underrated: Mike Leach choking up
4) Overrated: Shawne Merriman  ... Underrated: Jason Taylor
5) Overrated:
Stacey Keach ... Underrated: Boston College interim head coach Frank Spaziani
Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … I asked Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga to give me until 10 a.m. this morning to finish it. He told me I still owed over $25 in late fees for Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.