Cavalcade of Whimsy - 10 Hidden Storylines
North Texas QB Daniel Meager
North Texas QB Daniel Meager
Posted Sep 11, 2007

North Texas? Daniel Meager? The Mean Green might not be very good, but the new offense, after what it did to SMU, could quickly become worthy of national attention. This, along with several other hidden storylines, the Michigan meltdown, and more in the latest Cavalcade of Whimsy.

Fiu's Cavalcade of Whimsy

a.k.a. Frank Costanza's Festivus Airing of the Grievances

By Pete Fiutak   
What's your beef? ... E-mail with your thoughts  
Past Whimsies
2006 Season | Preseason Part One, Part Two | Week 1

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … Michigan RB Mike Hart guaranteed it would be better this week. There was no question in his mind. Then he found out that Chad Henne was hurt, and then he wasn’t so sure. 

By now, you’d think Michigan fans would be used to being out of the national title hunt in mid-September … I have nothing against Michigan. It’s hard to hate the only place in the world where my McLovin fake ID ever worked. However, the meltdown theater in the aftermath of the 0-2 start has been a guilty pleasure to watch unfold. From the disgruntled fan base, to the grouchy player interviews, to the angry coaches, to the constant in-game shots of fans looking like Beavis when a Michael Bolton video comes on, this is becoming far more entertaining than the actual Wolverine games.

Cue the Chumbawamba ... All that was missing from Lloyd Carr’s instantly classic “nothing can keep me down” rant was 1) him banging a shoe on the podium while screaming that he’ll bury Notre Dame. 2) Stuart Smalley coming out to give him a hug, make him look into a mirror, and say, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me."

Figuring out combunatorial mathematics, hooking up with Minnie Driver, and getting Ben Affleck and Robin Williams another good role would be far easier than solving the problems in the Michigan secondary  … (Lloyd Carr calls Mike Hart into his office, shows him film of the first two games, and shows him his stats)

CARR: Look here, son.

Hart, who had been looking away, looks at Carr.
CARR: (cont'd) This is not your fault.

HART: (nonchalant) Oh, I know.

CARR: It's not your fault.

HART: (smiles) I know.

CARR: It's not your fault.

HART: I know.

CARR: It's not your fault.

HART: (dead serious) I know.

Carr comes around his desk, sits in front of Hart.

CARR: It's not your fault.

HART: (tears start) Don't (bleep) with me, Lloyd. Not you.

Hart shoves Carr.

CARR: It's not your fault.

HART: I know.

CARR: It's not...

HART: (crying hard) I know, I know...


Carr takes Hart in his arms and holds him like a child. Hart sobs like a baby.  After a moment, he wraps his arms around Carr and holds him even tighter. We pull back from this image. Two lonely souls being father and son together.

Maybe he should be doing more yelling and saying the word Michigan more … Unfortunately, Carr will end up being remembered by many Michigan fans as the guy who lost to Appalachian State and failed to get to the national title game in a BCS world. It’s amazing how his résumé gets dumped out the window, while Bo Schembechler, especially now that he’s gone, is hailed as such a legend despite not doing many of the things Carr's been able to achieve.

Carr, unlike Bo, has a national title. Carr is the only Michigan head coach to win four straight bowl games. Carr has gotten his team to the Rose Bowl in three of the last four years, and while Michigan lost all three, one was to a Vince Young-led Texas team, and two were to the current USC juggernaut. Carr got the Wolverines to within a whisper of playing for the national title last year. Last year. Not ten years ago. Bo almost never had teams within shouting distance of a championship. History will treat Carr far kinder than the present.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to watch last week’s Oregon game again … Here’s a quick history lesson to possibly use as a reference if the Wolverines turn this around. In 1980, Michigan struggled in its opener, winning 17-10 against a miserable Northwestern team that ended up going winless. The Wolverines lost at Notre Dame, and then lost at home to South Carolina, for a rough 1-2 start. They then reeled off nine straight wins including a Rose Bowl victory over Washington. Wolverine fans can dream.

And maybe, just maybe, they play better when their uniforms don’t make them look like a bunch of militant peapods from space … Maybe, just maybe, Oregon is really, really good. Everyone has just assumed that Michigan stinks and lost to an average team.

Cut to a shot of Michigan students looking like they did when they received their rejection letters from Northwestern.  

I guarantee I'll get more butts in the house … “Come early, be loud, wear black.” Throw in a request to bring a foot-long roast beef sub and a few movies about gladiators, and the University of Cincinnati has ripped off my personal ad for its 2007 football slogan.

However, you could send off a fix-it-yourself kit for hernias after carrying these things out to the dumpster … I know, I know, I’m a horrible human being for not taking the labels off my water bottles, falling asleep during Al’s flick, and for crashing the Exxon Valdez, so consider this my penance in the current wave greenness.

To all sports information departments out there, there’s no need whatsoever to keep cranking out the ultra-heavy, generally unused media guides you put together. The NCAA put page restrictions on these monstrosities a few years ago when they were getting truly out of hand, mostly citing them an unfair recruiting advantage for the big schools that could afford to put together and mail out the football version of War and Peace. But now, everything’s online anyway, or at least it should be. Florida has the right idea by sending out CDs with all its information on it.

“Do you mind if we dance with yo dates?” … If you like games played in the 50s, here are two to watch out for this week. Central Michigan got blasted by Kansas 52-7 in week one, pummeled Toledo 52-31 in week two, and now plays a high-octane Purdue team that blew past Toledo 52-24 in week one. The Rockets, who can't play any defense, get Kansas this week in what should be a wild shootout.

It could be worse. He could look like Joan Cusack … Sorry Louisville fans, but the scandal is about to get out. Star quarterback Brian Brohm, thinking that spiking his hair would be a decent disguise, will soon be ineligible after the NCAA figures out he’s moonlighting as “Chad” the AllTel guy.

The blind squirrel finds a nut, part one… Everyone likes to point to Ryan Leaf, the number two pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, taken one pick after Peyton Manning, as being the biggest bust in NFL history, or at least close. At the time, there was a major split on Leaf and what kind of a prospect he truly was. I’ve got a new entry for the discussion.

There was no waffling in 2003 when Detroit took Michigan State’s Charles Rogers with the second overall pick. Considered as sure a thing as could possibly be, Rogers saw his career get cut short thanks to injuries and a Rashaan Salaam/Ricky Williams-like affinity for wacky tobaccy. Now Rogers is trying to make it in the CFL after no one in the big league wanted him. It’s a shame, since his legacy should be as one of the greatest college players ever, and not as an all-timer of a bust.

Cut to a shot of Michigan students looking like they did after seeing what the girls at Michigan State look like.   

The blind squirrel finds a nut, part two … With the way Kyle Wright’s can’t-miss career at Miami has missed, Kirby Freeman has bombed when given a shot, and with Jimmy Clausen’s Notre Dame debut so rocky, it’s interesting to note just how well the top quarterback prospects have panned out in recent years and if they’re actually worth all the trouble. Sort of like drafting in the NFL, if you miss at the top, you’re scrambling, and exactly like the NFL, you’re throwing up prayers past the first several prospects. Even so, note how bad some of recent years were, and what an all-timer 2006 might turn out to be. Here are the top quarterbacks in recent classes.
2006: (based on CFN rankings at the time). 1. Mitch Mustain, Arkansas (he will be the next great USC QB), 2. Matthew Stafford, Georgia, 3. Tim Tebow, Florida, 4. Jake Locker, Washington, 5. Jevan Snead, Texas (now at Ole Miss)
(noteworthy: 9. Josh Freeman, Kansas State, 10. Juice Williams, Illinois, 13. Demetrius Jones, Notre Dame, 17. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

2005: 1. Ryan Perrilloux, LSU, 2. Mark Sanchez, USC, 3. Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee, 4. Harrison Beck, Nebraska (now at NC State), 5. Jake Christensen, Iowa
(noteworthy: 18. Chase Daniel, Missouri, 27. Colt McCoy, Texas, 53. Matt Grothe, South Florida)

2004: 1. Rhett Bomar, Oklahoma, 2. Chad Henne, Michigan, 3. Anthony Morelli, Penn State, 4 Xavier Lee, Florida State, 5. Matthew Tuiasosopo, Washington
(noteworthy: 6. Stephen McGee, Texas A&M, 7. Brian Brohm, Louisville, 8. Drew Weatherford, Florida State, 10. Kirby Freeman, Miami, 16. Nate Longshore, Cal, 20. Erik Ainge, Tennessee, 24. Sean Glennon, Virginia Tech, 29. Curtis Painter, Purdue)

2003: 1. Kyle Wright, Miami, 2. Chris Leak, Florida, 3. Robert Lane, LSU (ended up at Ole Miss), 4. JaMarcus Russell, LSU, 5. Tommy Grady, Oklahoma (now at Utah)
(noteworthy: 8. Dennis Dixon, Oregon, 10. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame, 17 Blake Mitchell, South Carolina)

2002: 1. Ben Olson, BYU (now at UCLA), 2. Tyler Palko, Pitt, 3. Trent Edwards, Stanford, 4. Reggie McNeal, Texas A&M, 5. Vince Young, Texas
(noteworthy: 13. Brandon Cox, Auburn)

2001: 1. Brodie Croyle, Alabama, 2. Joe Mauer, Florida State (yes, that Joe Mauer), 3. D.J. Shockley, Georgia, 4. Matt Leinart, USC, 5. Derek Anderson, Oregon State
(noteworthy: 6. Kellen Clemens, Oregon, 13. Kyle Orton, Purdue)

But I’ll draw the line if there’s a crackdown on the Michael Irvin Memorial Parade of Hot Miami Chicks lined outside the dorm ... Could I play for new Miami head coach Randy Shannon? Here are his basic team rules: 1) No names on the uniform. No biggie since they’d probably spell Fiutak wrong. 2) No hats in meetings. Do visors count? If not, this means I have to shower every morning, and that could be an issue. 3) No cell phones. That should be a life rule, not a team one. 4) No guns. It’s amazing this has to be a rule. 5) Minimum 2.5 GPA. Thanks a lot Miami, I’ll catch you down the road. I’m sure Steve Spurrier will let me on his team. 

This week on Great Moments in Sports Gambling History … Kevin Mims. Someone, somewhere “invested” in Nevada plus the five points against Northwestern. The Wolf Pack were leading for most of the second half, and appeared to have the game well in hand, but the Wildcats came up with a wonderful final touchdown drive to take the lead by three with almost no time left on the clock. No biggie, right? A deep kickoff meant Nevada had to start just outside its own goal line. Mims came up with the safety on a sack, and that someone, somewhere had to have thrown a mega hissy-fit when the once-certain +5 became a push.

But the networks have no problems finding ways to get cameras trained on the cheerleaders … Every year I crank out this rant, and ever year it falls on deaf ears. With all the emphasis on instant replay, high definition in the booths for the officials, and doing everything humanly possible to get the calls right, how can there not be permanent cameras set up on the goal lines and sidelines? If tennis can have the technology nearly perfected to make line calls, then so should the NFL and major college football. It didn’t turn out to matter, but ESPN, with cameras hanging from every wire in the stadium, and from Mike Ditka’s ego, failed to get a proper shot of San Francisco 49er WR Arnaz Battle on the goal line when he fumbled the ball into the end zone late in the win over Arizona. In the Miami – Oklahoma game, are you 100% sold that on the opening score of the game, Sooner WR Malcolm Kelly had crossed the goal line before Miami’s Randy Phillips stripped it? It just doesn’t make any sense to not put eyes in the most obvious places.

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Ten interesting tidbits, players and teams that you probably don’t know about, but need to in order to become the person you’ve always wanted to be.

10. Hawaii running the ball
Colt Brennan really is good, but it helps the Heisman campaign when the offense fails to even pretend to acknowledge the running game. Hawaii running backs carried the ball twice, twice, against Northern Colorado, while three quarterbacks combined to throw it 59 times. Against Louisiana Tech, the Warriors gave it to their tailbacks nine times. Brennan has been the only one who runs the ball, and that’s when he’s being chased.

9. Hawaii’s defense
I’m not dogging Hawaii; this is one of the nation’s most fun teams to watch. However, this team doesn’t play any defense and would get ripped apart on the road by anyone in the shouting distance of the top 25. Louisiana Tech is not exactly, well, Hawaii, when it comes to offense, ran for 223 yards and four touchdowns, while Zac Champion threw for 187 yards and two scores while seemingly making every key throw. Up until the final broken up two point conversion, the Warrior D was always a step out of place. Up next is UNLV as part of an extended stay on the Mainland.

8. Short week theory
Throughout the year, keep an eye on how teams do on Thursday nights following a hard-fought game. Last week, it took Texas Tech a half to finally get the machine rumbling in the win over UTEP. SMU beat North Texas, but had a nightmare of a time (more on that in a moment). The Red Raiders and Mustangs played last Monday afternoon. Florida State and Clemson played last Monday night, and it took a while for both teams to get going on Saturday. The Noles got pushed way too hard by UAB, while Clemson, well, Clemson had no problems after a sluggish first few minutes. West Virginia goes to Maryland on Thursday night.

7. Pac 10 quarterbacks
No one has better quarterbacks right now than the Pac 10. The Big East could enter the discussion when talking about the top tier teams, but outside of the problems at Oregon State, the Pac 10 is loaded, meaning this will be a fascinating year. The emergence of Jake Locker at Washington and week one play from Stanford’s T.C. Ostrander means every team is going to have a fight each week against a good playmaker under center. USC’s John David Booty might end up winning the Heisman, but by the time the season is over, don’t be shocked if Washington State’s Alex Brink, Arizona State’s Rudy Carpenter, Oregon’s Dennis Dixon and Cal’s Nate Longshore have better years. Throw UCLA’s Ben Olson and Arizona’s Willie Tuitama into the mix, and the league is loaded.

6. Texas Tech vs. Rice
For those of you interested in stat watching, keep an eye on Texas Tech’s visit to Rice. Baylor QB Blake Szymanski threw for 412 yards and six touchdowns on the awful Owl secondary, and now the nation’s second ranked passing attack rolls into town. If things are clicking, and head coach Mike Leach keeps his foot on the gas, 600 yards and seven touchdowns are more than possible.

5. The possible resurgence of Michigan State
Considering the way UAB pushed Florida State and Bowling Green beat Minnesota, Michigan State’s wins over the two shouldn’t be glossed over. .Head coach Mark Dantonio’s tough, disciplined team has only committed seven penalties, good for fourth in the nation, and has gotten great play from a good trio of running backs. Considering Pitt’s injury issues and Notre Dame’s problems, the Spartans could be 4-0 before the showdown at Wisconsin.

4. Houston RB Anthony Alridge
He has only played one game this year, but Alridge already showed against Oregon that he might be the most dynamic player in America with 205 rushing yards, 88 receiving, and 32 yards on kickoff returns to make him the nation’s leader in all-purpose rushing. The former receiver is now a bolt-of-lightning running back, and is quickly becoming the hot underground star among the NFL scouting types after tearing off a 4.26 on Houston’s pro day.

3. Oklahoma’s offensive line
Phil Loadholt, George Robinson, Jon Cooper, Brandon Walker and Branndon Braxton. Right now, this is the best front five in America, and it’s giving Sam Bradford all the time in the world to look like a star. Did you notice Miami’s Calais Campbell on Saturday? Exactly. Teams are going to have to come up with funky ways to get into the backfield against this group. It’ll only get better against Utah State, Tulsa and Colorado before facing Texas.

2. The most productive linebackers you’ve never seen
Colorado’s Jordan Dizon might not be much of a pro prospect at only 6-0 and 225 pounds, but there aren’t any better tacklers in America. The senior made 280 stops coming into the season, and he currently leads the nation with 35 tackles, highlighted by a head-butting afternoon against Colorado State's Kyle Bell, making 20 stops in the win.

Illinois senior J Leman has 275 career tackles with ten games in double-digits last year. This season he’s started off with 31 tackles, highlighted by a 20-stop performance against Missouri. While he’s big and tough, he’s not all that fast. Even so, he’ll be a late first day draft pick who hangs around the league for ten years.

1. The North Texas Mean Green offense
North Texas had one of the nation’s most abysmal offenses over the last two years, and was brutal when it came to throwing the ball, averaging just 115 passing yards per game last season with only one game over 200 yards. In comes legendary Texas high school head coach Todd Dodge, whose spread passing attack dominated over the last several years. The offense didn’t do much in the 79-10 loss to Oklahoma to start the season, and then it went ballistic against SMU.

The numbers aren’t real, even in a world with Colt Brennan. 601 passing yards from Daniel Meager. 18 catches for 327 yards and two touchdown from Casey Fitzgerald. Ten catches for 133 yards and a score from Brandon Jackson. Korey Washington, the number three receiver, caught eight passes for 70 yards. Considering no one in the Sun Belt throws the forward pass with any regularity, it’ll be interesting to note what the attack does in the opener against Florida Atlantic this week. It’ll also be interesting to see how long Dodge sticks around Denton before taking his act to brighter lights.

Cut to a shot of Michigan students looking like they did when they received their rejection letters from that one dream Ivy League reach.   
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated:
National champion Appalachian State ... Underrated: National champion Florida
2) Overrated: The need for head coach June Jones to wear a lei, even when he’s in Ruston, Louisiana  … Underrated: Hawaii’s “haka” dance
3) Overrated: Michael Vick  ... Underrated: Texas A&M’s Reveille missing the Fresno State game for snapping at a handler
4) Overrated:
The outcomes of NFL games ... Underrated: NFL Red Zone Channel
5) Overrated:
Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel ... Underrated: Josh McDaniels and Dean Pees
My Heisman ballot this week would be (remember, this is assuming the season ended at this very moment based on what has happened so far) … 1) Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma, 2) Colt Brennan, QB Hawaii, 3) Pat White, QB West Virginia. 4) Steve Slaton, QB West Virginia, 5) Marlon Lucky, RB Nebraska
You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools/But that's the way I like it baby, I don't wanna live forever” … The three lines this week that appear to be a tad off. (1-2 last week, so as always, enjoy these just for pure amusement.) … 1) Nebraska +10 over USC, 2) UTEP +6.5 over New Mexico State, 3) SMU +3 over Arkansas State
Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … 
Had I known I wouldn’t have an offensive line in front of me, a running back to hand off to, or decent receivers to work with, I would’ve stayed in the limo and blown right past South Bend.