Cavalcade of Whimsy - The Envelope Please
Penn State LB Dan Connor
Penn State LB Dan Connor
Posted Nov 20, 2007

The finalists have been announced for most of the major awards, and Pete Fiutak tries to help the voters with who should win. Why Hawaii might belong in the national title hunt, the big weekend that was, 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 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8
Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11, Part 1 | Week 11, Part 2

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I was gearing up for the last 365 days for this to be the column that would define my season, and maybe my career, but I only came up with 91 yards of total offense and couldn’t tackle some guy named Beanie.

And these two were supposed to be this close this off-season to starting for their respective teams …
Was Oregon QB Brady Leaf on the punt coverage team when Antoine Cason took it back for a touchdown? Was Oklahoma QB Joey Halzle covering Michael Crabtree? Just checking.

Although it wasn’t quite as painful to watch as Dennis Dixon’s knee buckling … Watching the Arizona offense when it doesn’t work for extended stretches, like in the second half in the win over Oregon, is like watching old people … drive.  Oregon didn't lose the game, it fell asleep. Arizona, you might want to try a short pass when you're trying to kill a clock.

Bill, let the Oregon-Arizona and Oklahoma-Texas Tech games be a lesson to you when you have your pretty boy quarterback in the game when you're up by 40 against Buffalo … Oregon and Oklahoma fans will be what iffing this last weekend for the rest of their lives. Of course there’s a drop-off from Dennis Dixon to Brady Leaf, who doesn’t fit the offense at all, but it’s not like the Ducks had to go with an untested rookie. Leaf had thrown for 1,452 yards and nine touchdowns over his career and had played in plenty of big games before. It’s also not like Arizona is LSU. Even with a second string quarterback, if you can’t step up your defense and get enough out of the rest of the parts to beat a team that’s not going to a bowl, you probably weren’t national title material in the first place.

The same goes for Oklahoma. Joey Halzle can play, but the defense didn’t step up against the Red Raiders and the offense ran a mere 34 times behind one of the nation’s best offensive lines. If you can’t step up your defense and get enough out of the rest of the parts to beat a team whose only win of note came against Texas A&M, you probably weren’t national title material in the first place.

Fans of some teams would call it getting screwed. Hawaii fans would call it getting leid …
What has to happen before Hawaii gets a chance to be in the national title discussion? Work with me here.

I know, I know, the Warriors have played a schedule that’s slightly mushier than my late football season gut, and I know it took overtime to beat both Louisiana Tech and San Jose State, but in this improbable season when every conceivable bizarre occurrence has kicked in, why is it completely out of the realm of possibility that they could win the BCS Championship game?

Oklahoma loses its superstar quarterback and falls apart. Oregon loses its superstar quarterback and the offense soils itself. Hawaii loses its superstar quarterback and the defense picks up slack, and Tyler Graunke steps in and shines, in a critical 28-26 win at Nevada. The team is finding ways to overcome adversity to get the job done.

Let’s say Hawaii blows out Boise State and Washington (you know, the team that just ran over the same Cal team that beat Oregon in Autzen) to finish unbeaten. Let’s say LSU loses once more to either Arkansas or in the SEC title game. Let’s say West Virginia gets upset by Connecticut or Pitt. Let’s say Kansas gets annihilated by Missouri, and Missouri aloses to Oklahoma. Let’s say USC beats Arizona State. At that point, there would be just two one-loss teams, Kansas and Ohio State, everyone else would have at least two losses, and there would be just one unbeaten team.

I’m not suggesting for a second that Hawaii is a better team than Ohio State, LSU, or several other teams, but I also didn’t believe that Boise State could actually beat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Don’t you have to give Hawaii its shot if it’s unscathed and everyone else has major blemishes? In this crazy season, there’s something to be said for being unbeaten, and if you can't decide between a bunch of even teams, maybe the one team that didn't screw up should be in. Ehhh, don't worry about it. Boise State will probably end all the debate on Friday.

And then ask them if they think any of their offensive linemen are on steroids … I want to hook up all the coaches who voted in the latest Coaches Poll to a lie detector and ask them one simple question: Yes or no. Right now, on a neutral field, you’d rather face Florida, Boston College and Auburn than Hawaii?

And another Michigan receiver dropped a pass.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to watch that strange Robert Wuhl show …
Hmmmmmm, where have we seen this before? A team with a commanding lead in the Big 12 South steamrolling to the Big 12 championship game loses its star freshman quarterback to injury in an upset road loss, and then gets a rivalry game at home in what becomes a must-win or else its other main rival will take the spot in the title game. Replace Texas with Oklahoma, and Colt McCoy with Sam Bradford, and this year’s South race becomes eerily similar to last year’s.

Give us your tired, your poor, your slightly above-average teams looking for a payday  …
In yet another example of twisted BCS logic, the powers-that-be voted to expand the requirements to be an at-large selection. Before, you had to finish in the top 14 to be eligible, but with four slots to fill, and the Big 12, SEC and Pac 10 hoarding the high spots in the rankings, the BCSers quickly realized there might not be enough eligible teams to choose from and expanded it to 18. So instead of dumping the silly rule that only two teams from the same conference can get into the well paid exhibition games, the sphere of mediocrity has been expanded. Congratulations everyone, instead of seeing the Kansas/Missouri loser or Florida or Texas, you might get 20th ranked Connecticut. It should be cut-and-dry; if you’re in the top ten, you’re in. You earned it.

As opposed to the ill-fated “whatever happens in Lincoln, stays in Lincoln” line used during the Lawrence Phillips era …
About his job status, beleaguered Nebraska head football coach Bill Callahan quipped, “Whatever happens, happens.” No, he didn’t get that from catchphrase used around the Nebraska weight room in the 1980s.  

He’s already got the red wardrobe …
Just to throw it at the wall and see if it sticks, if you’re the good Dr. Tom Osborne, don’t you fire a call over to Nebraska alum Barry Alvarez to see if he’s getting a little bored of the athletic director life?

: “The only excitement for the Tribe provided by Rick Vaughn who set an American League record by throwing four wild pitches in one inning. Congratulations, Rick. For the Tigers, 5 runs, 9 hits, and no errors. For the Indians, one run, and let's see, one hit. Is that all we got, one (bleep) hit?”

Stat Man: “You can’t say (bleep) on the air.”

Doyle: “Don’t worry about it. Nobody’s listening anyway.”
You’re not watching Notre Dame football anymore, and why would you, but the broadcasts have evolved over the year into a must-listen. Tom Hammond is the consummate play-by-play announcer and a company man, able to get excited about a first down against Duke like that one play might be what sparks a BCS title run. Meanwhile, Pat Haden, bless his heart, is a brilliant man (he’s a Rhodes scholar) who’s too good a color analyst to be stuck doing these games, and over the course of the year he's started to get crankier and crankier. He knows he’s watching bad, bad football, but he can’t blast away on the Irish considering the situation he’s in. He’s objective, but you can almost hear him thinking, “I really, really wish I could tune into the SEC game on CBS.”

And another Michigan receiver dropped a pass.

But I’ll give the boo-ya network a bit of a free pass because it’s giving Kenny Mayne, easily the best sports personality going, more air time …
Don’t you dare, ESPN. Don’t you dare let your baseball people backtrack and rewrite their opinion on Barry Bonds now. All we heard from the talking heads during the chase for Hank Aaron’s record was apology after apology for Bonds while you all continually turned a blind eye to the facts. Now that Bonds has been indicted, the baseball experts all basically say they weren’t surprised.  No you don’t. You don’t get to have it both ways. If you’re a supposed expert analyst, there was no way to look at the Bonds home run chase as anything other than a shotgun wedding; you could try to be happy about it, but you knew things were going to come to a bad end. As I mentioned during the Michael Vick situation, there’s nothing more sky-is-blue certain than when the feds indict. They don’t do jack squat unless they have a slam-dunk case, and now all the ESPN Bonds-heads have to pay for their sins from last year.

And this will be the last time the barely six-foot Tiger star is ever compared to the Trojan legend …
Missouri QB Chase Daniel is Drew Brees in stature, background, arm strength, and smarts, but that’s for the NFL types to deal with in a few years. This season, with everyone doing everything possible to ignore the obvious that Tim Tebow is the best college football player in America, watch out for Daniel to make a big late run, sort of like Carson Palmer did in 2002. If you remember, this was before USC was USC again, and no one right of the Rockies had actually seen Palmer on a regular basis. However, his numbers were building and the USC athletic department did a great job of getting the word out, putting Palmer on a media blitz as the season was building towards the nationally televised showdown against Notre Dame. Palmer lit up the Irish for 425 yards and four touchdowns in a 44-13 win, and he went from being a bit of an unknown to a Heisman winner. The same thing might happen for Daniel. The buzz is now there, and if he’s amazing in a win over Kansas, and if he stars in a Big 12 Championship win, then he might steal the award at the last second.

And if he wants to give the award to Rex Grossman, that’s fine …
Would we even be talking about the Heisman race if Tim Tebow was a senior? It’s non-underclassman thing with some Heisman voters is in the team photo for the silliest biases in all of sports. The theory, at least traditionally, was that an underclassman would get his turn to win the Heisman over the next two years, and that’s penalized worthy players like Grossman in 2001 and Larry Fitzgerald in 2003. What if Tebow gets hurt? What if there’s a little bit of a shift in the offense and he doesn’t have the same type of season? If Tebow is the best college football player in America this season, then he should be honored for it.

Unfortunately, poor McFadden will have to settle for getting $25 million in the bank next April while living in Miami …
The Maxwell Award goes to the best all-around player, and based on talent, it’s hard to argue with Darren McFadden as a finalist, along with Tebow and Dennis Dixon. As good as he has been, he’s not going to lead the nation in rushing, he’s going to be well behind Tulane’s Matt Forte and UCF’s Kevin Smith, who will each finish with 2,000 yards, and he's not having the same consistent year Chase Daniel, Todd Reesing, and Glenn Dorsey are having. More on this in a moment.

Ohio State’s Vernon Gholston just got another sack.

How did this HBO show with some Katie Morgan person get on there? The DVR thing must be broken.
Do you want to delete Ohio State vs. Michigan?
- Yes, I want to delete
- No, I do not want to delete
- Oh dear Lord yes, please delete this and give me back the last three hours of my life so I can watch something better

Texas Tech fans, if you want to raise $10,000 for me for picking your Red Raiders to beat Oklahoma, I’ll sheepishly accept …
Really, what did Mike Leach say about the Texas game that was so horribly wrong? The Texas Tech head man was fined 10K for questioning the integrity of a Big 12 officiating crew after his team’s loss to Texas, and while you can’t do that, coaches should be able to blast away on officials if they really do think there are problems. Were there Austin residents officiating the game? Apparently. Were the calls in question really, really bad? Yeah. Does the overall officiating need to be better? Sure. However, he made the mistake when he threw the word bias in there. After the issues in the NBA, a coach can’t suggest that, but he should be able to call competence into question.

Although that Clausen guy really did look like a keeper this week …
I never want to hear a coach whining that he can’t recruit at a certain place. I don’t care if the limitations are geography, history, or anything else that can be used as an excuse. I don’t want to hear it, and why? Navy and Air Force. No one has tougher recruiting restrictions than the service academies, and it’s not even close. You’re complaining because star recruits might have to take an advanced math class once in school? Yeah, that’s a tougher recruiting barrier to get past than that whole you-might-die-in-a-war thing. Air Force is 9-3 and could potentially tie for the Mountain West top spot if BYU chokes down the stretch. Navy is 7-4 and going off to the Poinsettia Bowl. If those two programs can be successful, then there’s no reason Syracuse, Baylor or Duke can’t have a winning record.

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
With the voting season for the big awards upon us, I’m going to help out the voters with who actually deserves to get the prizes.

11. Lou Groza Award – Nation’s Best Kicker
Finalists: Jose Martinez, UTEP; Austin Starr, Indiana; Thomas Weber, Arizona State
The Vote Will Be:
1) Starr, 2) Weber, 3) Martinez
The Vote Should Be:
1) Weber, 2) Martinez, 3) Starr
Player Who Should Be A Finalist But Isn’t …
John Sullivan, New Mexico

Martinez has three misses, and while it’s not necessarily fair with two coming from beyond 50 yards, one was from 35. Weber’s miss came from 32 yards out and he has hit his two attempts from 50 and beyond. Starr has hit some big shots, but he doesn’t have any attempts from beyond 50 yards. Sullivan, nicknamed "The Widowmaker," has gone 7-for-7 from 40 yards and beyond and has only missed one kick since the season opening loss to UTEP. He has won four games for the Lobos despite playing with a torn ACL in his plant leg.

10. Ray Guy Award – Nation’s Best Punter
Finalists: Durant Brooks, Georgia Tech; Kevin Huber, Cincinnati; Brett Kern, Toledo
The Vote Will Be: 1) Brooks, 2) Huber, 3) Kern
The Vote Should Be:
1) Brooks, 2) Kern, 3) Huber
Player Who Should Be A Finalist But Isn’t …
Owen Tolson, Army

This one should be a slam-dunk. Brooks has been the best punter in America averaging 45.35 yards per kick with a whopping 29 put inside the 20 while forcing 18 fair catches. The second best punter, Army’s Owen Tolson, isn’t even a finalist. With a nation-leading (at the moment) 67 kicks, he keeps bailing the inept offense out of jams by averaging 45.46 yards per boot while putting 24 inside the 20. Kern is averaging 46.46 yards per put with 17 put inside the 20 while forcing 11 fair catches. Huber leads the nation with a 46.5-yard average, but he has ten touchbacks and forced six fair catches while putting 17 inside the 20.

9. Outland Trophy – Nation’s Best Interior Lineman
Finalists: Anthony Collins, OT Kansas; Glenn Dorsey, DT LSU; Jake Long, OT Michigan
The Vote Will Be:
1) Dorsey, 2) Long, 3) Collins
The Vote Should Be:
1) Dorsey, 2) Long, 3) Collins
Player Who Should Be A Finalist But Isn’t …
Sedrick Ellis, USC

Always sort of a nebulous award since it’s supposed to go to an interior linemen, yet offensive tackles are often thrown in the mix no matter where they line up, this should be a no-brainer as Dorsey has been the glue that’s been holding the LSU defensive works together. USC’s Sedrick Ellis has been terrific, but he’s fallen off the radar because the team hasn’t rocked. Jake Long has had a fine season, while Collins has been dominant. The KU line has had more to do with the team’s success than anything else, and Collins would be a fine representative. Long was the one constant on the banged up Michigan offense.

8. Davey O’Brien Award – Nation’s Best Quarterback

Chase Daniel, Dennis Dixon, Tim Tebow
The Vote Will Be: 1) Tebow, 2) Dixon, 3) Daniel
The Vote Should Be:
1) Tebow, 2) Daniel, 3) Dixon
Player Who Should Be A Finalist But Isn’t …
Pat White, West Virginia

Wait and see on this one. Right now, Tebow deserves to be the winner in a landslide, but if Daniel goes nuts in his final two games and leads Missouri to the national championship, he might get the nod. It might sound harsh, but Dixon doesn’t belong on here. He had a tremendous season, but he lost at home against Cal and the knee injury against Arizona does actually count as a strike. West Virginia’s Pat White has come through with clutch play after clutch play to get his team in the national title picture, while Todd Reesing of Kansas and Graham Harrell of Texas Tech would also be better choices than the Duck star.

7. Doak Walker Award – Nation’s Best Running Back
Finalists: Mike Hart, Darren McFadden, Ray Rice
The Vote Will Be:
1) McFadden, 2) Rice, 3) Hart
The Vote Should Be:
1) McFadden, 2) Rice, 3) Hart
Player Who Should Be A Finalist But Isn’t …
Matt Forte, Tulane & Kevin Smith, UCF

The Doak Walker voters blew this one. Forte has 2,000 yards and Smith is 55 yards away from hitting two-grand, yet they aren’t on the list while Hart, who missed crunch time late in the year, is. Hart wasn’t even the best back in the Big Ten this year, or second best, with Illinois star Rashard Mendenhall and Ohio State’s Beanie Wells each far more deserving. Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart and Texas’ Jamaal Charles should probably be in here somewhere. Rice has actually been under the radar with a quiet 1,612-yard, 17 touchdown season. McFadden will be the top pick in next year’s draft, but if we’re talking about the best backs this year, he probably doesn’t belong in the top three.

6. Biletnikoff Award – Nation’s Best Wide Receiver
Finalists: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech; Mario Manningham, Michigan; Jordy Nelson, Kansas State.
The Vote Will Be:
1) Crabtree, 2) Nelson, 3) Manningham
The Vote Should Be: 1) Crabtree, 2) Nelson, 3) Manningham
Player Who Should Be A Finalist But Isn’t … James Hardy, Indiana

This one is a no-brainer considering Crabtree blew up Oklahoma on national TV and has 125 catches for 1,861 yards and 21 touchdowns, but Nelson would be worthy of winning it in any other year with 107 grabs for 1,441 yards and ten scores. Manningham had a huge day against Wisconsin, but he should probably be no better than fourth with Indiana’s James Hardy, who’s second in the nation with 16 touchdown grabs, probably deserving to be third.

5. Thorpe Award – Nation’s Best Defensive Back
Finalists: Antoine Cason, Arizona; Jamie Silva, Boston College; Craig Steltz, LSU.
The Vote Will Be:
1) Cason, 2) Steltz, 3) Silva
The Vote Should Be:
1) Steltz, 2) Cason, 3) Silva
Player Who Should Be A Finalist But Isn’t …
Aqib Talib, Kansas

Easily the biggest gaffe among all the big awards, Silva, who had two monster games and has been All-ACC worthy throughout, but not deserving of being considered among the top three defensive backs in America, should be out and Aqib Talib of Kansas should be in. Almost no one dares throw at Talib, but he has four picks and has broken up 18 passes. Cason is slightly overrated, but there’s no beef with him being considered among the top three, while Steltz has been just a notch below Glenn Dorsey as the signature star on the nation’s number one team. He has been terrific all season long with ten-year NFL starter written all over him.

Butkus Award – Nation’s Best Linebacker

Finalists: Dan Connor, Penn State; Jordon Dizon, Colorado; James Laurinaitis, Ohio State.
The Vote Will Be:
1) Laurinaitis, 2) Connor, 3) Dizon
The Vote Should Be: 1) Connor, 2) Dizon, 3) Laurinaitis
Player Who Should Be A Finalist But Isn’t … Sean Lee, Penn State

James Laurinaitis is very, very good, but he wasn’t the best linebacker in the Big Ten last year, he’s not the best linebacker in the Big Ten this year, and he’s probably deserving of second-team all-conference status, even though he was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Again, there’s nothing wrong with him, but Dan Connor, Sean Lee, and Illinois’s J Leman were all better. While stats don’t always measure a linebacker, Laurinaitis made 39 solo tackles on the year. Jordon Dizon made 93 for Colorado. Connor made 66, Leman 65, and Sean Lee 50. Pitt’s Scott McKillop might be the best linebacker nobody noticed.

3. Bednarik Award – Nation’s Best Defensive Player
Finalists: Dan Connor, LB Penn State; Glenn Dorsey, DT LSU; James Laurinaitis, LB Ohio State
The Vote Will Be:
1) Dorsey, 2) Laurinaitis, 3) Connor
The Vote Should Be:
1) Dorsey, 2) Connor, 3) Laurinaitis
Player Who Should Be A Finalist But Isn’t … Chris Long, Virginia

It’s hard to argue with anyone in the top three, if you’re assuming the leadership of Laurinaitis held together one of the nation’s best defenses. There are about five pass rushers who could be in the mix, like South Florida’s George Selvie or Indiana’s Greg Middleton, and KU CB Aqib Talib and LSU S Craig Steltz should’ve gotten a little bit of consideration, but the finalists are fine.

2. Maxwell Award – Nation’s Best Player
Finalists: Dennis Dixon, Darren McFadden, Tim Tebow.
The Vote Will Be: 1) Tebow, 2) Dixon, 3) McFadden
The Vote Should Be:
1) Tebow, 2) Dixon, 3) McFadden
Player Who Should Be A Finalist But Isn’t … Glenn Dorsey, LSU

This should be obvious, but Maxwell voters are weird. Usually when there isn’t a clear-cut Heisman favorite, one player wins the Maxwell and one wins the big one. Voters might give this to Tebow, and then go into their anti-underclassman bias and go for someone like Chase Daniel, or even Dixon, for the Heisman. Again, Dorsey has been an invaluable warrior for the nation’s number one team.

1. Heisman – “The most outstanding college football player in the United States for 2007."
The Vote Will Be: 1) Tim Tebow, 2) Dennis Dixon, 3) Chase Daniel
The Vote Should Be:
1) Tebow, 2) Dorsey, 3) Daniel/Todd Reesing winner, 4) Pat White, 5) Daniel/Reesing loser

The race is still there to be won. Daniel or Reesing can take the bull by the horns and win it with the national spotlight on. Tebow deserves it, but it’ll be pulling teeth to get some voters to acknowledge his presence because of class and the three Gator losses.

Nuggets for the upcoming week, now made with white meat, at participating restaurants …

- How many Notre Dame fans would rather have George O’Leary as the head coach right now? He’ll be leading UCF to the Conference USA championship game.

- An early tip on something to watch for in the Army-Navy game: Army WR Jeremy Trimble. The school’s all-time leading receiver is coming off an 11-catch, 167-yard, two touchdown day against Tulsa, and he should go crazy against an awful Navy secondary.

- Iowa had a bowl game there for the taking. It had an apparently easy seventh win against Western Michigan in Iowa City on Senior Day, and then the defense didn’t show up. The offense struggled all year, but now the great second half of the Hawkeye season is thrown away by a strange letdown.

- The over/under on Miami net rushing yards vs. Boston College should be around 50. The Eagles are No. 1 in the nation against the run, allowing just 64 yards per game, while the Hurricanes were stuffed for -2 net yards last week by Virginia Tech.

- Early gift idea to ask for: XM Radio. Although I cursed it when I couldn’t find the Ohio State - Michigan game, and you don’t get the sports on the computer feed, it’s a godsend if you have to drive around on a football Saturday.

- Watch out for Arkansas QB Casey Dick as an X factor against LSU. He completed three of 17 passes for 29 yards with a touchdown and an interception last year against the Tigers, but he’s coming into the game hot after completing 14 of 17 passes or 199 yards and four scores against Mississippi State.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item …
The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Appalachian State over Michigan  ... Underrated: UL Monroe over Alabama
2) Overrated: Bill Belichick  … Underrated: Driving a giant Hummer while blasting Bad Company out of huge speakers
3) Overrated: No. 5 Donovan McNabb ... Underrated: No. 11 Donovan McNabb, as Stuart Scott called him
4) Overrated: Herschel Walker ... Underrated: Steve Spurrier
5) Overrated: ABC’s 25 Greatest Players of All-Time... Underrated: CFN’s redo of the 100 Greatest Players of All-Time, starting in January

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. 1) Tim Tebow, Florida, 2) Glenn Dorsey, 3) Chase Daniel, Missouri, 4) Pat White, West Virginia, 5) Todd Reesing, Kansas

“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 knew I should’ve given you Texas Tech over Oklahoma … 11-22-1 overall. Ugh. I press on.) … 1) Boise State +4 over Hawaii, 2) Buffalo +2 over Kent State, 3) Oklahoma State +12 over Oklahoma

Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault …
 yet again, I had a great column going, full of critical acclaim while being called a sleeper by many, and then, with everything on the line, I blew my chance to play for the ACC championship and now I need to beat South Carolina or I’ll be on the hot seat again.