Cavalcade of Whimsy ... The Ten Best Players
Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree
Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree
Posted Oct 9, 2007

Or the ten best players who deserve a bigger spotlight after a huge first half, led by Texas Tech's record-setter Michael Crabtree. USC and UCLA's lost weekend, the best game of the year that no one noticed, 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
2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … taking a cue from John David Booty, I air mail most of my key attempts when I’m trying to make something happen. Unfortunately, I don’t have the excuse of a broken finger.

Fortunately, the team could go hang with Snoop Dogg after, and three breaths later, the Stanford loss never happened … I know how it works, and I know one play can mean everything, but think of it this way. If Mozique McCurtis gets a hand in there at the last second on the game-winning touchdown pass and the ball hits the ground, USC might still be ranked number one, or at worst, number two. Mark Bradford made the catch, and now everyone seems to be screaming for USC to be out of the top 25. I’m not necessarily arguing, but it goes to show just how wacky the entire ranking system can be.

If only the USC D line could’ve gotten that sort of a push … Even though you can’t call it in that situation, no one seems to be talking about how Bradford, technically, should’ve been nailed for offensive pass interference on his scoring grab.

No, you still don’t deserve a rematch against Ohio State in the 2007 BCS Championship game … Michigan fans, stop thinking you got screwed for getting knocked out of the top 25 after the loss to Appalachian State, while USC is just an impressive win over Cal from being right back in the thick of the national title chase. Your all-timer of a loss came at the beginning of the year when there was nothing else to go off of, and you’re forgetting how bad the home loss to Oregon was. Nebraska might stink, and Washington might not be that great, but USC does have a few wins under its belt.

You’ll know things have gotten out of hand when gets rolling … Leave it to USC to upstage everything UCLA does. The Bruins can’t even come up with the college football version of Evan Almighty without being one-upped by USC’s Gigli.

Mark Harmon has to be looking for a gig … How can UCLA not have a slew of four-star, 6-4, power-armed backup quarterbacks with names like Blake Balls or Chaz Osborne or Dirk Dangerwood or Spiff Rockwell from high schools with names like San Mission Rancho or Viejo De La Mater?

You didn’t watch Notre Dame beat UCLA because you were too busy watching the Florida-LSU classic, or you had an eye on Ohio State’s clinic against Purdue, or you were checking out Missouri against Nebraska, or you got into Stanford’s all-timer against USC. So you don’t have to try to find a replay somewhere, let me describe the experience of watching the Irish and Bruin offenses. Take a pen. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, an ordinary Bic will do. Preferably black. Stick it in your ear and push. Just when you hit something hard, give it a quick shove until you feel a crunch or a pop, and then keep pushing until it’s inserted entirely in your skull, while leaving a little room so you can still catch some tones from the Notre Dame fight song.

There’s no truth to the rumor that Karl Dorrell sent Pete Carroll the Chocolate Indulgence Basket from FTD for taking the focus away …
Again, you probably didn’t see the game, so you have no clue just what a horrific performance UCLA came up with. Notre Dame generated 94 passing yards and 46 on the ground. That’s 140 yards of total offense, and the Irish still won by 14. Do you have any clue how hard that is to do?

But before you jump on the anti-Dorrell bandwagon, remember that UCLA is still 3-0 in Pac 10 play. Yeah, the losses to Utah and Notre Dame were brutal, but a win over California in two weeks would make everything go away.

To be fair, it was a night game in Baton Rouge. The thinking probably wasn’t, um, uh, clear … No one seems to grasp how our beloved BCS works. For some reason, everyone seemed to make a big deal out of how the LSU crowd went nuts when it was announced that USC had lost, and LSU players and coaches admitted to being even more fired up when the news came across. LSU was ranked number two in the polls that mattered; USC losing didn’t matter. Being ranked two is like being ranked one. You get the invite to the VIP lounge.

Florida vs. LSU was good, but … it wasn’t Akron vs. Western Michigan. Completely ignored was the most exciting finish of any game this year in a battle that would’ve been hailed as one of the best ever if two powerhouses had been involved.

Down 38-24 with less than five minutes to play in a wild shootout, Akron got a 51-yard touchdown catch from Jabari Arthur. The defense came up with a stop, and WMU, choosing to play it safe, took a safety with 15 seconds to play to make it 38-33. On the free kick, Alphonso Owen took the kick, ran about ten yards, and tossed it to Andre Jones, who took it the rest of the way for the score and the improbable win with no time left on the clock.

“I thought the Generals were due! He's spinning the ball on his finger!  Just take it, take the ball!” … Oh, will someone, somewhere, please, please throw a football more than five yards down the field. I don’t get it. The post pattern has gone the way of Steve Spurrier’s Florida visor, and outside of Oregon’s blasting of Michigan, no one’s spread is taking any consistent shots down the field. Why aren’t defenses daring quarterbacks to throw the deep ball? Most spread quarterbacks can’t do it on a consistent basis. 

Maybe it was all a marketing play, like New Coke … It became official last Saturday night at 10:19 EST. Nebraska’s slip into mediocrity is now complete. While keeping Frank Solich might not have been the overall answer, athletic director Steve Pederson now has to feel like he's knee deep in a major mess he can't get out of. Sort of like watching Chuck.

However, it’s not nearly as sharp as the June Jones lei … Someone get a note to LSU head coach Les Miles that it’s not 1992. It’s only O.K. to sport the mock turtleneck after the hi-top fade as been trimmed. Also, it’s Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and not Ann Arbor in early November. Even with all the unnecessary clothes, with all those fourth down calls, Miles was the coolest customer in the building.      

You try to match up with Neon Bodeaux at defensive end, Ricky Roe at safety, and Butch McRae as a deep threat receiver … Your 2007 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Pete Bell’s 1993 Western University Dolphins. Discuss.

And you also have to claim Gerry DiNardo … No, SEC fans, your league doesn’t get any credit for Illinois’ success just because Ron Zook once coached at Florida. Stop e-mailing me that the Illini turned good because of Zook’s former association with your league. If that’s true, then the Big Ten gets credit for Nick Saban.

At least ol’ John L. beat the Wildcats ,,, the weather is getting crisp, the leaves are starting to turn, I’m starting to put on my winter weight, and Michigan State had a letdown loss in a game it should've won by 20. Now I know it’s fall. 

Whatever happened to that promo ad with Brohm, Slaton and White around the Heisman? … We’re still several weeks away from being able to discuss the bowl picture, but let me beat the rush and throw out a preemptive whine that everyone else will soon get in on. There needs to be an overhaul of the bowl tie-ins. At the moment, there are way too many spots for MAC and Conference USA teams, not enough for the Big 12 and Big East, and there aren’t any at-large bids if Navy is bowl eligible.

The MAC gets three spots and Conference USA gets six, while the Big East gets five, and the Big 12 gets eight. At the moment, it looks like West Virginia, South Florida, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Connecticut and Louisville will all be bowl eligible. Unless two get in the BCS, one of these teams will be left out. It’s worse for the Big 12. Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Kansas State will all likely be eligible. Even if the league gets two in the BCS, one of these teams will be out. Two will be out if only the champion gets to the Fiesta Bowl.

I’m all for the smaller guys getting paid and getting their moments in the sun, but when you hear the complaining about the matchups being less than scintillating, you’ll know why.

Upon further review, that Texas A&M offensive game plan really did suck … What’s slower, Emmitt Smith trying to get out an uninformative point about some NFL game, or the Miami defense reacting to anything North Carolina tried to do in the first half? Discuss.

You have a message from McLean Stephenson, Shelly Long is on line two and Wayne Rogers is on hold … NC State is 1-5 with the only win coming over Wofford. The defense is 114th in the nation against the run, the offense is 102nd in both yards and scoring, and the team is dead last in turnover margin. Meanwhile, Boston College is fourth in both polls. There’s no truth to the rumor that Wolfpack head coach Tom O’Brien also sold his Google stock in 2002.

Sorry, but it's hard to look tough when you're dressed like Grimace ... The new shows are here, the Halloween decorations are up, Starbucks is trying to push some pumpkin latte thing, and Clemson is going into the tank. Now I know fall is here.

And I don’t have Brian Brohm to bail me out … With ten minutes left in the column, I’ve lost my edge and fire after seeing most of the Louisville fans duck out early, like they did in the loss to Utah.

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength

In this wildly improbable season, a new crop of teams have become major forces in the national title race, and a slew of new superstars have emerged to shake up everything we thought we knew about the Heisman race, the All-America campaigns, and the season as a whole.

Darren McFadden, Mike Hart, Colt Brennan, Tim Tebow, James Laurinaitis, Matt Ryan, P.J. Hill, Sedrick Ellis, Glenn Dorsey, Steve Slaton, Pat White, Brian Brohm, and Andre Woodson are undeniable superstars who get the lead billing week in and week out. While they’ve been among the top players in America, and belong on any list of the nation’s best, there have been others who’ve been just as good, if not even better, but without the same fanfare. In part one of the midseason recap (part two coming next week), these are the ten (plus one) best players of the 2007 season who need to be included on any list of top stars.

10. Kansas State senior WR Jordy Nelson
There are others with more all-purpose yards, but no one has been as good in the big moments as Nelson, a former defensive back who led the Wildcats in catches last year despite having knee problems. So far this season, he’s been explosive, with 52 catches for 634 yards and three touchdowns in five games, while completing two passes, both for touchdowns, and returning four punts for 172 yards (a 43-yard average) with a very, very big touchdown against Texas.  

9. California senior C Alex Mack
On a team with a tremendous array of home run hitting stars, it’s Mack who has as much to do with making everything go as DeSean Jackson, Nate Longshore, or Justin Forsett. Cal has allowed just four sacks in 166 pass attempts, and Mack, who’s absolutely destroying everyone so far, has been the leader of the great line.

8. Troy senior S Leodis McKelvin
He made his biggest national splash as a punt returner, with 136 yards and a score on five tries against Oklahoma State, but he’s also been the team’s second best tackler with 34 stops, has broken up five passes, and has been consistent throughout as the last line of defense, thanks to a rough year start from the defensive front. Along with being a standout defender, he’s averaging 21 yards per kickoff return, and leads the nation in punt returns with a 25.6-yard average with two touchdowns. How good has he been? The number two punt returner averages 20.75 yards per try.
UCF junior RB Kevin Smith
Who leads the nation in rushing? It’s not Hart, McFadden or Hill. Smith is cranking out 172 yards per game with 11 touchdowns despite being the focal point of every single defensive scheme. 217 yards and two scores against NC State. 149 and two against Texas. 124 and three against Memphis. 223 and three against UL Lafayette. 147 and one score against East Carolina. He’s a big, quick runner who has taken the Knights on his back.

6. Michigan State senior DE Jonal Saint-Dic
There was an off-season buzz about Saint-Dic, a raw JUCO transfer who was originally considered for a role as a possible pass rushing specialist, and it's all been warranted. All he has done is make 28 tackles while being tied for second in the nation with seven sacks, third in the country in tackles for loss with ten, and leading the way with six forced fumbles. Right now, he’s the second most dangerous defensive player in college football behind ...
5. South Florida sophomore DE George Selvie

30 tackles, 18 tackles for loss (leading the nation) and 10.5 sacks (also leading the nation). Not bad, considering he almost switched over to center last year. He was dominant as a freshman, making 84 tackles and 5.5 sacks, and now he has become unblockable.

4. Illinois junior RB Rashard Mendenhall
The world has started to get a glimpse of Mendenhall over the last two weeks against Penn State and Wisconsin, but his big game came on the road against Indiana, running for 214 yards and a touchdown. Others have more yards and more scores, but Mendenhall has also turned into more of a receiver, to go along with the responsibility of carrying the offense. Oh sure, Juice Williams is a dangerous runner, but he can’t throw. Everyone’s keying on Mendenhall, and no one’s stopping him.

3.. Colorado senior LB Jordon Dizon
He’s only 6-0 and 225 pounds, but he just might be the best tackler in America. Statistically, it’s not even close, making 51 solo tackles, with no one else making more than 40, while averaging 13 stops per game. He started off the season making 20 tackles against Colorado State, becoming personally acquainted with Ram RB Kyle Bell, and has been terrific ever since. More than just a run stopper, he’s becoming better and better at getting into the backfield.

2. Missouri junior QB Chase Daniel
Daniel was fantastic over the last three games of last season, throwing for 996 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions, but the Tigers lost two of them. Now, Daniel is not only a master of the high-octane Mizzou offense, but the team is also winning. With 1,712 yards, 15 touchdown passes, four interceptions, and three touchdown runs, highlighted by a 401-yard day against Nebraska, he’s quickly becoming the “it” quarterback. More importantly, the Tigers are 5-0. If he can pull off a win at Oklahoma this week, then his stock will go through the roof.

1. Texas Tech redshirt freshman WR Michael Crabtree & Texas Tech junior QB Graham Harrell
First, let’s get this out of the way. SMU, UTEP, Rice, Oklahoma State, Northwestern State, and Iowa State. We’re not exactly talking about a murderer’s row of opponents so far. It doesn’t matter. If you’re going to give the Heisman love to Colt Brennan to start the year, then it has to shift over to Harrell after the junior completed 74% of his passes for 2,726 yards (454 per game) with 28 touchdown passes and three interceptions in the first six games. Last year, Brennan threw for 5,915 yards and 58 touchdowns in 14 games. If you project Harrell’s numbers out to 13 games (the regular season plus a bowl), he’ll throw for 5,906 yards and 60 touchdowns. He won’t hit those marks with the competition ahead getting tougher, but he’s still been amazing so far. But not as strong as his battery mate.

Redshirt freshman Michael Crabtree was one of the biggest receiver recruits Mike Leach had ever brought aboard, and if you’ve ever wondered what a top-shelf talent would do in this offense, you’re finding out. He’s 6-3, 222 pounds, physical, quick, and fast. And he also scores touchdowns. Gobs of them.

The numbers are beyond ridiculous. 70 catches, 1,074 yards, 17 touchdowns. To put this into perspective, his first six games alone would’ve made put him 17th in the nation at the end of last year in receiving yards. Only Rice’s Jarett Dillard, with 21, caught more touchdown passes last year than Crabtree has so far, and no one else had more than 15. You want bizarre? Project the numbers out over 13 games, and he’ll catch 151 passes for 2,327 yards and 36 touchdowns.

Nuggets for the upcoming week, now made with white meat, at participating restaurants …
- There’s an old adage that says officials are doing their jobs correctly when you don’t notice them. The same goes for offensive linemen. Did you hear LSU’s Glenn Dorsey get his name called much against the Gators? Junior guard Jim Tartt didn’t do it all by himself, but he had a whale of a game.
- Don’t let the 41 points Virginia Tech scored against Clemson fool you. The offense is doing nothing, even though QB Tyrod Taylor showed glimpses of what he’s going to become. The Hokies are 113th in the nation in total offense, and now the defense has to press on without injured star linebacker Vince Hall.
- Watch out to see how Texas A&M survives the rest of the year. Talk about your killer second half, the Aggies play at Texas Tech, at Nebraska, Kansas, at Oklahoma, at Missouri, Texas. Thanks so much, Coach Fran. It’s been fun.
- Would Minnesota still be this horrible under Glen Mason? Tim Brewster and his staff had better pull a rabbit out of a hat in a big hurry, or at least get the defense to come up with a meaningful stop.
- IWith all due respect to Florida, it's offense isn't exactly diverse at the moment. This week will be the first real test for the LSU defense against a high-powered offense.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Future Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh ... Underrated: Future Michigan head coach Les Miles
2) Overrated: AP votes for Appalachian State after week one  … Underrated: No AP votes for Stanford in this week's poll
3) Overrated: Stanford 24 – USC 23, and USC ranked seventh in the Coaches’ Poll ... Underrated: 4-1 Oregon 55 - Stanford 31, and Oregon ranked eighth in the Coaches’ Poll  
4) Overrated: Stanford 24 – USC 23, and USC ranked seventh in the Coaches’ Poll ... Underrated: 6-0 Arizona State 41 – Stanford 3, and ASU ranked 13th in the Coaches’ Poll
5) Overrated: Wisconsin ranked 15th in the Coaches’ Poll ... Underrated: Illinois ranked 19th in the Coaches’ Poll
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 I’ll sort it all out at the end. 1) Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech, 2) Chase Daniel, QB Missouri, 3) Matt Ryan, QB Boston College, 4) Mike Hart, RB Michigan, 5) Glenn Dorsey, DT LSU
“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. I can pick everything else, but I can’t get these right, so you know what to do. 4-11 overall, so as always, enjoy these just for pure amusement.) … 1) Purdue +5.5 over Michigan, 2) Wisconsin +6.5 over Penn State, 3) UAB -3.5 over Tulane
Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … as TCU star defensive end Tommy Blake would say, I feel like I was putting too much pressure on football, and I wasn't taking care of myself as good as I should have been. I had to pay attention to Fiu. Not the football writer. Just Fiu.

And they have to deal with dopey writers and media people like me … Using Blake’s quote wasn’t intended as a shot in any way.  The Horned Frog All-America defensive end has been out with an undisclosed medical issue, as he said he had to get away from football because of the overall stress in his life. It’s an absolute shock that more players don’t need to take a personal leave of absence. If a college player is doing things the right way, at least the way the idealists would like him to, he’s a full-time student, full-time college football player, while dealing with all the pressures that come from being 18-to-22 years old, trying to figure out a career path, trying to make time for that date in the malt shop with Mary Jane Sweetiepie, and trying to juggled it all at once. Put the pressure of being a team leader on top of that, and the gig isn’t as easy as it might appear. Get better, Tommy.