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5 Thoughts - Heisman Hypocrisy?
Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell
Considering all the love for Hawaii's Colt Brennan, why isn't Texas Tech's Graham Harrell in the Heisman race? Why USC will have to earn its way into the national title game, Rutgers running it up, the greatness of Boston College, and a scheduling idea to make life better, in the latest 5 Thoughts.
Week 1 |
Yeah, But USC Is Still
Good No Matter What
one has ever denied that USC hasn't been unbelievably good under Pete
Carroll. In the recent years when the Men of Troy didn’t have the best
team in America, it wasn’t far behind and was probably number two.
However, many fans, especially in the SEC, have had a bit of a gripe
over recent years.
“Yeah, USC might be amazing, but it gets to play in the Pac 10.”
That's nothing to beef about anymore.
The performances of Arizona and UCLA this last weekend notwithstanding,
the Pac 10 is stronger, by a long shot, than it’s been since USC started
its run of recent greatness, and while it still might not be better than
the SEC, this year, it’s not all that far off.
If you’re going to gush over Florida for whomping Tennessee, then you
have to give California the same love. Michigan might not be Michigan
at the moment, but Oregon was still unbelievable in The Big House,
and rolled this week over the same Fresno State team that took Texas A&M
to three overtimes. Arizona State has played at a ridiculously high
level early on, while Oregon State, UCLA, Washington and Washington
State, despite recent setbacks, all appear to be just nasty enough to
give the Trojans a push if everything breaks the right way.
Remember, the argument SEC fans like to make is that the long season is
a weekly grind. Sure, Florida might have been the league’s best team
last year, but it’s hard to get through unscathed when you have to play
Tennessee, then Kentucky, then Alabama, then LSU, then Auburn, and then
Georgia. That’s part of the reason why the Gators only beat Vanderbilt
25-19 after coming off that stretch. Now the same can possibly be said
for USC. The Trojans are better than everyone in the Pac 10, but it’s
not going to be easy when they’ll have to play at Oregon, then Oregon
State, then at California, then at Arizona State, and then UCLA. Can
they maintain their focus? They couldn't do it last year, and now the
league is far better. If USC gets through it without a loss, it'll have
truly earned its way to New Orleans.
A Little Love For
Two words to describe the Heisman hypocrisy:
Graham Harrell. When Hawaii gunslinger Colt Brennan is considered in
many circles to be one of this year's front-runners for Old Stiff Arm,
how is it that Harrell, an equally prolific passer in an equally
pass-happy offense, isn't even on the radar? Both entered the season
with résumés, throw about 50 times a game, and play for unbeaten
programs that'll likely be bowling later this year. In fact, Harrell has
faced a slightly tougher schedule so far, plays in the Big 12, and has
more yards and touchdown passes than Brennan, despite breaking in an
almost entirely new receiving corps. So why is he an afterthought to the
same people that are so quick to anoint Brennan? The harsh reality is
that too many voters and opinion-makers are lazy in these matters,
taking the obvious road rather than digging a little deeper for the
truth. I've got no beef with the people that want to champion Brennan
for individual honors. He's a statistical monster and much more than
just a system quarterback. However, if he's on your early short list for
the Heisman, be sure to at least mention Harrell, or be prepared to get
The Grass Is Currently Greener In Boston
3. So, if you’re Tom O’Brien, how do you feel this morning? You
finally get your first win…over a 1AA Wofford. Great, huh? Well, you
still don’t know if your team can beat a 1A team. You’ve lost your star
RB Toney Baker for the year. Then to make matters worse, you’re looking
straight up at your old school Boston College in the ACC Atlantic
Division standings (a team that beat yours 37-17 last week). You left a
school where you must have felt you couldn’t take them to the next level
for a mid-level ACC school on the downswing. Meanwhile, Boston College
is laying waste to ACC schools one week after the next. No team in the
nation had three conference games to start the year, yet BC took care of
business, convincingly. They’ve beaten last year’s champs (Wake),
O’Brien’s new team (NC State) and a solid Georgia Tech squad by a
combined 99-55 and should be 7-0 going into the Murderer’s Row at the
back end of the schedule. However, many thought that the Eagles
wouldn’t survive the first quarter of their schedule, much less
flourish. Like the coach who left for Raleigh.
noticed Troy throttle Oklahoma State, Florida Atlantic bomb its
way past Minnesota, or Utah obliterate UCLA knows that it’s
always, always dangerous when a BCS conference team has to
travel to a non-BCS conference team’s house. Ask Wisconsin how
easy it was to get by UNLV two weeks ago, and check with Texas
fans to see if they still have a pulse after struggling to get
by UCF. We’re talking about teams with national title dreams, or
at least BCS aspirations, that needed everything in the bag to
get out alive against teams like UNLV and UCF, not USC.
I have nothing against FCS (what normal folk still call D-IAA)
teams, and I love seeing the little guys rise up and have their
moments in the sun. Can they play with the FBSers? Some can,
since the starting 22 on most of the better FCS teams are
talented enough to hang with a lot of name teams (they just
don’t have the depth to go through the grind of a big conference
season). However, for every McNeese State over UL Lafayette or
Southern Illinois over Northern Illinois, there are plenty of
South Carolina vs. South Carolina States and Oregon State vs.
Idaho States to go around.
The real problem is the equality among the 119 FBS programs.
While many struggle to make money to pay for the rest of the
athletic department, along with its own expenses, many big boys
are fattening up on FCS cupcakes to get a sure win (and more
often than not, they are sure wins) in ugly blowouts that do
nothing for the college football landscape.
So here’s my proposal to make the world a better place on
Saturday afternoons. Non-BCS conference teams can schedule
anyone they can get; they need the home revenue. BCS conference
teams can only schedule a game against an FCS team IF they
travel to a non-BCS stadium in the same year. Georgia wants to
fatten up on Western Carolina? Fine, then that game against Troy
on November 3rd will be played at Movie Gallery
Stadium. Rutgers wants the easy payday win over Norfolk State?
That’s cool; then the date with Buffalo is at University
This would do three things: 1) Make big boys think twice about
scheduling the FCSers, 2) force the big boys to give the little
guy FBSers more big money paydays, and 3) potentially force the
big guys to show up in new places. UCF fans will forever be
talking about the day Texas came to town, and that’s a good
The Rutgers Rub In
Greg Schiano padded Ray Rice's stats late in a
win over Navy on Sept. 7. But after being criticized for a
bush-league move, the Rutgers head coach only seemed even more
determined to rub it in the face of an opponent.
Saturday against tiny Norfolk State, Schiano
called a bevy of timeouts in short succession while his team held a
45-0 lead at the end of the second quarter. NSU coach Pete Adrian
had a right to be upset, and the fact that the controversy was the
lead item in the Associated Press' (usually) bland game report shows
you how much this story matters. It overshadowed anything and
everything that Rutgers might have achieved in this game.
Okay, coach Schiano, it's time to throw down
some tough talk: before this season, you did the right things in the
right way for all the right reasons at Rutgers. After several years
of hard work--and justified patience from your athletic
director--you've gained the right results as well. You were a model
for all other coaches in every possible way.
But now, after two straight weeks of
stat-padding, with one of them coming in a classic paycheck game,
all the goodwill and political capital of Rutgers University's
football program are being thrown out the window. This on-field
controversy involving Schiano's methods (and motives) accompanies
the off-field developments concerning the unruly and unbecoming
behavior of the Rutgers student body at home games in Piscataway,
Coach, your reasoning after the Norfolk State
game was pretty lame. You said that as long as your starters are in
the game, you play the way you coach:
all-out, with a complete focus on performance
and excellence. That statement leaves a lot to be desired for a
number of reasons.
First, you can justify leaving your starters
in the game far longer than they should. If Ray Rice is on the
field, you think you can do whatever you want. So you leave Rice in
the game, and you do whatever you want. Twisted logic, to say the
Secondly, one would think that with backups in
the game, you would actually work harder as a coach. When
first-string players are competing against a grossly inferior
opponent, you don't need to trick up your playbook or complicate
your game plan. With dominant players, you can do the simplest
things and still score points. If that happens, then you can't be
accused of stat-padding.
But with backup players who need exposure to
live-action game management situations, it's justifiable to provide
trick plays and special strategies.
Second- or third-string players deserve the
right to work with the gadgets, exotics and wrinkles normally
reserved for the first teamers. If your bench-warmers get a full
playbook and a complex offensive package, no opposing coach could
argue: second-stringers don't get much work, so they need exposure
to everything. The logic is clear and convincing.
Long story short, you can't have it both ways,
Mr. Schiano: either you keep your first string in the game and don't
call the timeouts, or you put in your backups and call the timeouts.
If you were a really nice guy, you'd put in second-stringers and not
call the timeouts, but we'll be reasonable and ask for only one
action, not both. But you did neither: you kept in the first-team
offense AND called the three timeouts in a 45-point game against a
paycheck school whom you should treat with a little more respect.
It's not just Pete Adrian who should be angry at you; it's an entire
college football community that suddenly doesn't feel that Rutgers
is a feel-good story anymore.
Not with the embarrassing way in which you're
conducting yourself on gamedays, Mr. Schiano.