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2006 Season | Preseason
Part Two |
If this column sucks, it’s not my
fault … like Texas A&M head
coach Dennis Franchione, I sold all my inside info in a newsletter to
boosters. That sucked, too.
And yet, 94% of America would be happy to tell you in length about every
little bump or bruise … Civil liberties, schmivel liberties. Oh
sure, you can send these kids out to smash into each other, get ‘em all
nice and concussed, and have their bones broken and their joints ripped
apart all for our twisted pleasure, but you can’t provide the inside
word on whether or not a player has a sprained ankle? I know, I know,
the whole right to medical privacy thing technically keeps sports
information departments from releasing injury info on the spot, but it
doesn’t always work out that way. We’re going to find out at some point
what the injury is, so the sideline reporter might as well be able to
clue us all in on why a top player is on the sidelines. Really, short of
getting hit in the store, is there any kind of football injury that’s
embarrassing enough to not report?
And for the latest example of an in-game injury that should be kept
under wraps, we go down to Erin … “Guys, Smith is out for the rest
of half after suffering from erectile dysfunction. As it turns out, he
was stressed out over midterms, a little worried and nervous about
today’s game, had a few too many beers, and he’s generally dissatisfied
with his current love interest. The trainers are working on him back in
the locker room, and he's expected to return. Back to you.”
And there wouldn’t be as much Bud Selig face time … Rip on the goofy
way college football determines a national champion all you want, but if
the overall goal is to come up with the fairest way to find out who the
best team is, I’ll still argue that the weird BCS setup is far closer to
getting it right than any other sport. For instance, the baseball
regular season should be enough to determine who the best teams are.
With a 162-game schedule, there’s nothing fluky about the records, and
with everyone playing as even a long schedule as could possibly be asked
for, there's no need for a gimmiky playoff. Of course, once you get into
a short series, all the grinding of the marathon doesn’t matter if an
inferior regular season team has two pitchers who stand on their heads
in a short series. The Chicago Cubs were the sixth best team in the
national league, and 13th best in the majors, but they're getting a shot
to win the championship. Considering how lousy the NL Central was,
that’s like saying the Mountain West champion this year belongs in a
college football playoff. If you had a one game playoff between Boston
and Cleveland (who tied with the best AL record), with the winner to
face Arizona in the World Series, then no one could reasonably complain
that the best team didn't win it all. I’m all for a four-team college
football playoff, but just remember why every fall Saturday is so
important, and how it could all get screwed up in a big hurry.
No, I’m not going to compare Jenni Carlson to Hannibal Lector …
Playing the role of Mike Gundy in the movie version of the Oklahoma
State story will be the young, Manhunter version of William
“Puke! That's a funny word. Puke. (laughing)
puke! Don't have to think about that.”
… Of course, you do realize that part of Gundy’s Howard Dean moment was
purely calculated. Talk about your masterful strokes of recruiting
genius, now Gundy can go into any recruit’s home, look a mama the eye,
say he’s going to take care of her boy, and she’s going to believe him
The overall media reaction, or overreaction, to the Gundy tirade has
been just as overblown as the event itself, and actually, most of the
post-rant analysis has missed the point. Just because Reid supposedly
does all the right things, that doesn’t necessarily mean the article was
factually wrong, and just because Gundy yelled really, really loud, that
doesn't mean he was right and Carlson was off in her analysis.
The tone of the article was irresponsible and way out of bounds. You
can’t do everything short of actually writing the words wussy mama’s boy
without getting a quote or confirmation from the coaches or players to
back you up, or without talking directly to Reid. You can't be that
sloppy, especially when you're probably right. Heck, I’ve heard the same
rumors and was told a lot of the same things about Reid that the
reporter, Jenni Carlson, fired away about. I’m not saying I can say with
100% certainty that any were true, but I'd heard several times about the
transfer talk, and I’m not even covering the team. It’s not like Carlson
was coming out of left field.
Mean-spirited, misguided, or not, there was a point that unintentionally
came from it. Reid was supposed to be the superstar recruit who turned
OSU into something special. He was supposed to be the face of the
program, and the one that everything offensively was going to be built
around. So what went wrong? Why did this multi-dimensional package of
next-level skills and talents go from being considered a burgeoning
superstar to a backup? Believe what you want about what is and isn't an
amateur, but millions of dollars and the jobs of plenty of people ride
on top recruits like Reid. There’s your story. That, and if the chicken
was any good.
What, no poker tournaments or no-name boxing to program? …
West Virginia vs. South Florida was one of the key games of the early
college football season to most fans, but it wasn’t even on the radar
for the rest of the sports world until the Bulls pulled off the upset.
What’s the indicator for how important a game is? If it’s on ABC in
prime time, it’s the sports event of the evening. If it's on ABC
nationally in the afternoon, it's huge. If it’s on ESPN in prime time,
it’s very, very big. If it’s on ESPN2, like the Mountaineer – Bull game,
especially when there’s some baseball game on the big channel, it’s an
afterthought. If it’s on Versus, CSTV, ESPNU or ESPN Classic, it’s as
relevant as an Elizabeth Hasselbeck musing about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“Well I'll tell you something my lad. When you're walking home
tonight and some great homicidal maniac comes after you with a bunch of
loganberries, don't come crying to me.” … I wondered a few weeks ago
about the need for a head coach to be escorted by a state trooper or two
when he’s walking on and off the field, like that’s when he’s at his
most vulnerable against all the enemies just waiting to attack. And then
there’s South Florida.
Before the West Virginia game, head coach Jim Leavitt led his Bulls out
onto the field with two officers running behind him. First of all, if
you were to rank all 119 D-I head coaches (fine, FBS head coaches) by
how good they’d do in an ultimate fighting tournament, I’d probably put
Leavitt number one, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald second, and Paterno
third. He’s the last guy anyone would want to try to beat up when
running onto the field. Second, there are roughly 75
frothing-at-the-mouth players running at full speed there to bum rush
anyone who came within 50 feet of the head man. And finally, let’s say
someone tried to throw something at Leavitt, or worse. What could the
cops do to actually protect him while running onto the field? Basically,
Leavitt was probably the safest human being in America at around 8:03
EST last Friday night.
It would only be better if John David Booty was in the SEC …
I openly admit to having the maturity of a
12-year-old. I’m sorry, but I can’t help but giggle a little to myself
every time the announcers call a play run by South Carolina QB Chris
Smelley, highlighted last week by, “that play was all Smelley,” after he
avoided the rush to make a throw. It only gets better on October 13th
when Auburn and QB Brandon Cox takes on Arkansas, led by QB Casey Dick.
Sorry, it’s just the beginning of October and I’m already punchy.
And for the latest
example of an in-game injury that should be kept under wraps, we go down
to Holly … “Yes, it turns out that Johnson is out after being
stricken with a case of beriberi. All he’s eaten at the training table
for the last six months is white rice, and according to team doctors, it
caught up to him in the second quarter. He’s been given some thiamine
tablets and should hopefully be back in the fourth quarter.”
No, I didn’t suffer a
concussion before writing this article. Yes, I do have to wear a helmet.
… Usually I fire this plea out
every year before September is over. There’s no place in football for
the helmet to helmet hit, with the latest frightening example coming in
Michigan State’s loss to Wisconsin, when Spartan defensive back Nehemiah
Warrick unloaded on the coconut of Badger receiver Kyle Jefferson in a
violent collision. A helmet-to-helmet shot like that, which would
lighten the wallet by tens of thousands of dollars in the NFL, should
mean an automatic ejection and a suspension from the following game.
Jefferson turned out to be fine, but that’s the kind of hit that could
get someone killed.
Speaking of needing to wear a helmet … If we’re talking
about Akron vs. Connecticut or Utah State vs. Utah, I could understand,
but it was Kansas State vs. Texas. It wasn’t exactly an under-the-radar
game, but the 41-21 Wildcat win in Austin didn’t exist according to the
pollsters. The Coaches’ and Harris polls each had KSU ranked behind
Texas, even though each only has one loss (the Wildcats lost at Auburn).
In the Harris, Texas is 17th, KSU is an unranked 28th. In the Coaches’
Poll, Texas is 16th. The Wildcats are unranked at 31st. But the APers,
they have the real poll, right? Forgetting its latest attempt to get
anyone to pay attention with LSU jumping USC for number one, the AP has
Texas 19th and Kansas State 24th. (Heavy sigh)
“We're ten hours from the (bleep)ing fun park and you want to bail
out. Well, I'll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation! It's a
quest!” … I’m going to keep whining about this until someone
actually does something. They can put a man on the moon, have a camera
on a blimp, and put peanut butter and jelly in the same jar, but they
still can’t put a frickin’ camera on the frickin’ goal line and on the
frickin’ sidelines so that 75% of the key frickin' plays can be properly
reviewed. On the big play at the end of the Cal-Oregon game, when Duck
WR Cameron Colvin fumbled the ball through the end zone, the definitive
shot wasn’t there because the best camera view appeared to come from the
three-yard line. In the West Virginia – South Florida game, not only did
it seem like Bull QB Matt Grothe was over the line when he threw the
55-yard touchdown pass to Carlton Mitchell, but Mitchell’s foot might
have been out of bounds when he made a cut to get into the end zone. The
Auburn-Florida and Alabama-Florida State games also had plays that
needed a better camera shot. If you're going to do replay, do it right.
With the sideline reporting done by Erin Andrews … Thanks to all
upstairs involved in making it rain in Austin and Seattle last weekend.
Wet Texas cheerleaders vs. wet USC cheerleaders. Discuss.
And for the latest example of an in-game injury that should be kept
under wraps, we go down to our sideline reporter Rob Stone … “In an
odd twist, Harris was diagnosed on the field with psuedocyesis,
otherwise known as false pregnancy. The star linebacker has morning
sickness, tender breasts, and sudden weight gain, but, being a man, the
trainers are saying it's highly unlikely that he's actually with child.
However, he’s convinced he’s pregnant because of his distended abdomen.
We’ll see if we can get more on this for you.”
But it doesn’t mean you get an extra hour of sleep
… In case you forgot, last Saturday was when
you set your clocks to the time of year when Oregon, Clemson and West
Virginia lose, showing once again how they’re not really the sleeper
national title contenders some made them out to be.
The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of
Even after all the big losses this weekend, everyone will still be
focusing on Florida vs. LSU and Oklahoma vs. Texas, and rightly so.
However, there are several major tests this weekend for some interesting
teams in the overall BCS picture, with this weekend being the time to
find out who’s the real deal, and who’s not. Here are the biggest “prove
it” teams coming up in the year's most pivotal weekend.
If you haven’t noticed, Virginia has been one of the nation’s
surprise teams over the last few weeks. Its one loss came to Wyoming in
a 23-3 opening day blowout. The Cowboys, at 3-1 with the lone loss
coming at Boise State, have the nation’s No. 4 defense, turning into a
rock against the run. This weekend they host TCU, who doesn’t have any
semblance of an offense, but has a killer D. With BYU and New Mexico
coming to Laramie, a win over the Horned Frogs might make UW the new
favorite in the Mountain West.
Real Deal or No Deal? … No deal overall, the offense is simply too
average, but it’ll be the real deal at home against TCU. The Mountain
West isn’t anything special, and with this defense, it’ll stay in the
title hunt the rest of the way.
9. Ball State
The opening day loss to Miami University appears to be forgotten, as
Ball State has cranked up the offense to average 491 yards per game
while scaring the pants off of Nebraska in a 41-40 loss. Nate Davis is
about to become the hot underground quarterback you must know about;
Husker fans can’t stop raving about him. On Saturday they get defending
MAC champion Central Michigan at home in one of the two dangerous
conference games left, the other being at Western Michigan.
Real Deal or No Deal? …Growing into the 100% real deal, at least at
a MAC level. Give Davis the rest of the year before he becomes 2008’s
hot non-BCS league star, sort of like Bowling Green’s Omar Jacobs became
a few years ago. There’s no defense whatsoever, but the Cardinals bomb
away, don’t make mistakes, and are getting fantastic play from the
8. Virginia Tech (and QB Tyrod Taylor)
Virginia Tech has gone back to being Virginia Tech, outscoring its
last three opponents 89-20 after getting crushed by LSU. Outside of a
road trip to Duke, the remaining ACC schedule is beyond brutal, playing
Boston College, at Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami, and at Virginia.
But first, the Hokies have to face a Clemson team desperate to right the
ship after losing to Georgia Tech. The Tech D has been solid, but the
offense is last in the ACC and 112th in the nation, needing freshman
phenom Tyrod Taylor to grow up quickly. While he’s exciting, he hasn’t
been accurate and hasn’t shown off enough of his rushing skills.
Real Deal or No Deal? … No deal on Tech, real deal by the end of the
year for Taylor. There hasn’t been much of a reason for Taylor to take
too many chances, but eventually, he’ll have to cut it loose against the
better teams. That’s when he’ll start to shine, even if he has a few
blowup, turnover-filled games. The team is fine, but it’s not the
special ACC title contender everyone assumed it would be.
Very young, but very talented, this was supposed to be a team that
had its ups and downs over the first month, and it had both, with
impressive wins over Oklahoma State and Alabama, along with a home loss
to South Carolina when the offense wasn’t working quite right. Over the
next three games, the Dawgs go away from The Hedges to face Tennessee,
Vanderbilt, and Florida. Win those three, and the East title will likely
be there for the taking with Auburn and Kentucky come to Athens.
Real Deal or No Deal? … Real deal. The running game is working
better than it has in a long time, with Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown
playing extremely well, while Matthew Stafford is quickly emerging as a
clutch playmaker. Beating Tennessee will open some more eyes.
6. Wisconsin vs. Illinois
Alright Illinois; now everyone’s watching. Starting with a great
second half in the near-miss comeback loss against Missouri, the Illini
have been terrific, highlighted by a 27-20 win last week over Penn
State. Everyone’s just waiting for Wisconsin to get nailed, sort of like
it appeared to be just a question of time before Texas was going to get
blasted by someone before losing last week. The Illini defense is great
at getting into the backfield, and the running game it rolling well, but
if Wisconsin is really a top five caliber team, it wins this without a
problem. Wisconsin doesn’t win anything without a problem.
Real Deal or No Deal? … Illinois is the real deal on defense, and
it can be the real deal on offense if RB Rashard Mendenhall keeps
getting room to move. If the offense is counting on QB Juice Williams to
throw 30 times, things won’t be pretty against the Badgers. You know
exactly what’s going to happen with Wisconsin. It’ll win ten games,
maybe 11, with a loss coming at Ohio State, it’ll go to a New Year’s Day
bowl somewhere in Florida, it’ll beat some midrange SEC team. Lather,
After thrilling late wins over Louisville and Arkansas, and the
team’s first 5-0 start since 1984, now the Wildcats have a shot at South
Carolina for the program’s first 6-0 start since 1950. With QB Andre
Woodson playing like a legitimate Heisman contender, and the offense
putting up points in bunches, this is becoming one of the big stories of
the season. At the moment, it’s still the only unbeaten team in the SEC
Real Deal or No Deal? … Possible real deal against South Carolina,
but no deal overall. Louisville and Arkansas are fine, but they’re no
LSU, Florida or Georgia, who UK still has to play, along with Tennessee
and a suddenly tough Mississippi State. The offense will be fine, but
the defense will be ripped apart by any above-average offense.
Lost in all the South Florida love, Louisville overhype, and focus
on West Virginia has been a stellar first five games from Cincinnati.
The program has won eight straight, with new head coach Brian Kelly
getting his team to play at a higher overall level than anyone else in
the Big East, outscoring teams 46 to 11, forcing turnovers left and
right, and getting some of the best special teams play in America.
Beating Oregon State was nice, but now comes the first real test, facing
a Rutgers team still wounded after last week’s loss to Maryland, and
still smarting after seeing its 9-0 start last year come to a crashing
halt with a 30-11 loss to the Bearcats.
Real Deal or No Deal? … A scary-good real deal. This is a horrible
way to phrase it, but think Wake Forest on steroids (no, I’m not saying
UC players are taking performance enhancers). The same formula applies.
Get good offensive line play, don’t screw up, play great special teams,
have an efficient passing game, and take advantage of absolutely every
3. Ohio State vs. Purdue
Purdue established itself as the best team in the MAC over the first
few games of the year, and came up with name wins over Minnesota and
Notre Dame, but now comes the two-week make-or-break stretch facing Ohio
State and Michigan. There’s still a date at Penn State down the road,
but there’s no Wisconsin, and no Illinois. The balanced offense is
lighting up everyone like a Christmas tree, but now it has to face an
Ohio State defense that’s not giving up jack squat, allowing just one
meaningful touchdown in five games.
Real Deal or No Deal? … Ohio State yes, Purdue no. The
Boilermaker offense is the real deal, and will give the Buckeye D its
first push all year long, but the defense is on the verge of being
exposed. Still stinging from the championship stinker, no one’s doing
cartwheels over Ohio State, but with Brian Robiskie lighting up
secondaries, and the loaded defense playing better than any outside of
Baton Rouge, this is a legitimate national title contender.
2. Kansas vs. Kansas State
Of course you’re more interested in the high-profile showdowns this
weekend, but this should be on your radar screen. Now we finally,
finally get to see Kansas play a living, breathing D-I (fine, FBS,
quit yelling at me) team after obliterating Central Michigan, SE
Louisiana, Toledo, and FIU (yes, that’s really the schedule) by a
combined score of 214 to 23. Outside of the punting game, which hasn’t
been used too often, there isn’t one single thing that’s gone wrong so
far. Kansas State should’ve beaten Auburn to start the year, and then
blasted Texas at Texas to make its statement as a Big 12 title
contender. Yeah, Colorado beat Oklahoma, but if the Wildcats win this
week, an 8-1 start is likely before going to Nebraska.
Real Deal or No Deal? … They’re both the real deal. Kansas State’s
defense has been stellar, with great line play on both sides quickly
making this a program to be feared in the Big 12 title hunt. Kansas
isn’t as good as it’s shown so far, but it’s very, very good. The
offense is going to be balanced and effective on just about everyone,
but the question mark is a secondary that was the worst in America last
year, and hasn’t faced anyone yet this year. It won’t face a passing
game this week, either.
The Tigers could be the high-riser this week if they beat Nebraska
impressively. Beating Illinois and Ole Miss was nice, but the rankings
appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach after being burned by a hot
start last year. The offense, under one of the most underappreciated
stars in college football, QB Chase Daniel, is fantastic, but the
defense has been merely average, at least for a full sixty minutes.
Beating an apparently average Husker team in Columbia by double-digits
is a must if the team is really that good.
Real Deal or No Deal? … Real deal this week, no deal next week at
Oklahoma. There are just enough holes on the special teams and in the
secondary keep this from being an elite team, but it’ll be in the Big 12
title race up until suddenly tough-looking season ending games against
Kansas State and Kansas.
Nuggets for the upcoming week, now made with white meat, at
participating restaurants …
- Yeah, it’s all kosher according to the rules, but there’s
something sort of chickenspit about calling a timeout from the bench a
nanosecond before the ball is snapped on a key field goal. Wisconsin’s
Bret Bielema started it last year, Denver Bronco head man Mike Shanahan
all but beat Oakland by doing it this year, and Florida’s Urban Meyer
tried it on Auburn, but to no avail.
- I’m tired of seeing Todd Blackledge eating. Going to the great
restaurants in every college town and making yummy noises over the food
is like Howard Stern interviewing lesbians; it doesn’t do me any good.
- If you’re one of these insane people who still believe you’d rather
have a human error on a call rather than wait a few minutes for instant
replay to get it right, then I can’t help you.
- One of the most interesting scorekeeping rulings of all-time happened
in the Indiana win over Iowa. IU QB Kellen Lewis picked up a fumble and
took it for a touchdown, and it was technically counted as a 71-yard
scoring pass to himself. I did some quick checking and couldn’t find any
longer self-to-self scoring pass.
- Watch out for Bowling Green against Boston College this week. The
Eagles are taking it a bit too easy over the last few weeks with a
cakewalk of a schedule, and Falcon QB Tyler Sheehan is on a roll. BC
will win, but it’ll be interesting to see if the team can turn it back
on when the real games kick back in.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated
aspects of the world
exactly like my Great-Aunt Rosemary ... Underrated:
Maryland QB Chris Turner going 14 of 20 for 149 yards in the win over
2) Overrated: Rutgers football team … Underrated: Rutgers professor
William C. Dowling
3) Overrated: Briana Scurry ... Underrated: Hope Solo
Moving into a top 50
draft spot based on one play ... Underrated: Florida
State WR DeCody Fagg against Alabama
Arizona’s win over
My Heisman ballot this week would be … I vote
based on a combination of three things: Most valuable player, most
outstanding player, and the signature player of the season. I might
wildly change my mind weekly, but it'll all out at the end. 1) Glenn
Dorsey, DT LSU, 2) Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech, 3) Matt Ryan, QB
Boston College, 4) Andre Woodson, QB Kentucky, 5) P.J. Hill, RB
“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. (0-3 last week. Ugh. 0-3. At least
I’ve been consistently bad, so you know what to do. 3-9 overall, so as
always, enjoy these just for pure amusement.) … 1) Louisville -14.5 over
Utah, 2) Wisconsin +3 over Illinois, 3) Florida +9 over LSU
Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … my column was
in the top ten, but I was looking ahead to next week’s better column,
and I totally choked.