Cavalcade of Whimsy - 10 Bowl Storylines
UCF RB Kevin Smith
UCF RB Kevin Smith
Posted Dec 4, 2007

From the SEC - Big Ten challenge, to the potential upsets to UCF's Kevin Smith shooting for the all-time single season rushing record, there are several big storylines going into the bowl season. These and more from the wild final weekend of the regular season 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 | Week 12
Week 13

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I recently had the number one column in the country. I beat Kansas, beat Illinois, lost to one other column, admittedly one of the best in the country, twice, and had the sixth-highest rated column after last week, but now Kansas and Illinois are in the VIP lounge while I’m sitting out here figuring out why I just tipped the bartender $2 for opening a bottle of beer.

Usually they like to be kissed first … Who feels more victimized after this weekend, Missouri or Pitt WR Oderick Turner. Did Turner once hook up with the wives of the officials doing the Pitt – West Virginia game? He got hit with two phantom holding calls that cost the Panthers big plays that would’ve made the 13-9 final much, much worse. Meanwhile, all Missouri did was finish sixth in the final BCS rankings with wins over Illinois and Kansas only to be left out of the fun.

With that said, it’s not like Missouri missed out on the playoffs. It’s not like it’s being denied a shot at the national title, and it’s not losing a dime since it’ll get the same share of the pot with Kansas making the BCS. The program doesn’t necessarily need the extra exposure after being in the spotlight on two straight everyone’s-watching primetime games. If it’s so ticked off at being left out of the show, then it needs to go out and blast Arkansas by 20 in the Cotton Bowl.

"Two orders of split plea soup to go, please." Let’s nip this one in the bud right here, right now, so we can dismiss the topic and go on to more useful, important banter. Oklahoma can beat West Virginia 85-3 and USC can trounce Illinois 184-14, but there will still only be one national champion. I don’t care what the AP, CFN or the Opelika-Auburn News says, the winner of the LSU – Ohio State is your national champion for 2007. The only team that could have any beef whatsoever is Hawaii if it beats Georgia in the Sugar. Everyone else, go unbeaten and then you can talk.

Those who don’t learn from the Irish are doomed to end up like them … Is Michigan not going after Les Miles harder because it’s trying to save money? Miles is now an elite, national title-level head college football coach who commands, and deserves, $3+ million a year, but Michigan athletic director Bill Martin might want a coach to take an I-get-to-coach-at-Michigan-yippee discount. Ask Notre Dame how that worked out when it low-balled Urban Meyer.

But he's absolutely, positively not going to take the Miami Dolphins' job ... Les Miles emphatically stated he was going to be the LSU head coach next year. Well, yeah, the national championship is in 2008.

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto
I’ve been the lead lobbyist in the Computers, Yes! campaign when it comes to the BCS. Not only should the computers count for far more than 1/3rd of the final vote, but they should have more say than the humans … if there’s a correct formula in place. Well, no more. I’ve tried. I’ve tried in vain to complain about how the humans are the kink in the chain because they simply aren’t informed enough to put together an educated ballot, but after the final computer rankings came out, the system is due for another oil change.

The six computers combined had Virginia Tech ranked No. 1 (which is actually not that bad a call based on who the Hokies beat and where), LSU No. 2, Ohio State No. 3. No real problems there. Arizona State is eighth and USC ninth despite the Trojans beating the Sun Devils in Tempe. USC lost to Stanford, so at the end of the day, that’s probably kosher. The real problem is with the Big 12 with Kansas ahead of Missouri who’s ahead of Oklahoma.

If the computer formulas dictate that Missouri deserves to be ranked ahead of Oklahoma, considering the Sooners lost to mediocre Colorado and Texas Tech teams that the Tigers beat, I’m fine with that. However, you lose me when it comes to Kansas.

The Jayhawks played the nation’s 109th best schedule while Missouri played the 26th toughest slate. The two losses to OU ended up counting more than the one Kansas head-to-head loss than Missouri, and that’s hard to argue away. There isn’t one single reasonable reason to have KU ahead of Mizzou, but the Billingsley and Sagarin formulas spat it out that way. Now I’m asking; why should these two computer formulas be trusted from here on after such a colossal gaffe?

“’Tis but a scratch” … One of the key things to watch for this bowl season will be the injured teams getting time to heal up. Last year, John David Booty was banged up and was a sitting duck in the loss to UCLA, and then he got healthy and danced around the pocket like Baryshnikov in the win over Michigan. Michigan will get Mike Hart and Chad Henne back at almost full strength. Wisconsin was decimated on both sides of the ball at the end of the year, and now it’ll be healthy again, led by the return of P.J. Hill. UCLA will finally have time to get its skill players together. And, of course, there’s LSU, who should finally be the team that ripped through the first part of the year before all the injuries struck.

And take an extra shot for every time Dan Fouts’ voice had a little lilt whenever Oregon did something decent. … Looking to spice up your holiday season? Forget that key party idea you were originally going to work with and find a tape of the Oregon State – Oregon game to play The Civil War drinking game. Every time Dan Fouts or Tim Brant say the words civil or war, drink. It was one of the few times when the call of a great game became a distraction.

“Pork bellies, which is used to make bacon, which you might find in a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.” From Mike Patrick in the Pitt – West Virginia game when the Panthers were going for a field goal: “This would put the Panthers up by six. This would mean West Virginia needs a touchdown.”

“I'm not being defensive! You're the one who's being defensive! Why is always the other person who's being defensive? Have you ever asked yourself that? Why don't you ask yourself that?” As Les Miles so openly displayed with his little pre-SEC Championship performance, coaches are awful, awful at PR and even worse when it comes to lobbying (even though his move actually worked).

It’s now become one of my favorite holiday traditions. After the regular season, I put a log on the fire, curl up on the coach with a warm blanket and hot cup of tea, and watch the coaches try to sell the world on why their undeserving teams belong in the national title game. Of course, their position depends on what’s actually happening to them this year.

My favorite performance this season was from Georgia head coach Mark Richt, who knew he didn’t have a leg to stand on since his team couldn’t even win a tie-breaker to play for its own conference title, but he had to appease the fan base by trying to fight the good fight. He had a smirky look on his face that basically said, “I know you’re not buying this, but I’ll throw it at the wall and see if it sticks.”

Suddenly, it’s the equivalent of being the hottest chick on The ViewThat USC-is-hot theory doesn’t fly now that the conference has turned into a quivering bowl of mush. First of all, kudos to the poll voters for not forgetting that USC lost to Stanford. In his lobbying efforts, Pete Carroll should’ve just come out and said, “We lost at home to the Cardinal, we’re better now, and now we’re going to throttle Illinois in the Rose Bowl.”

Second, to Pac 10 fans who bashed us for some perceived bias that isn’t there, you have to allow the possibility that we actually were watching this year and saw through the smokescreen. At least Oregon has an excuse. What’s Cal’s?

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

Ten huge storylines to make the bowl season more interesting and to improve the quality of your life.

10. Show up time for the Big East  
Big East fans liked to chirp about how their conference went 5-0 in the bowls last year. Well, the Big East was supposed to do that after being heavily favored in all the lousy bowl matchups. West Virginia played a reeling Georgia Tech without its starting quarterback, and Louisville getting Wake Forest in the Orange. The games are better this year, and now it's put-up time for the conference. While Cincinnati is stuck playing Southern Miss in the Bowl and Rutgers is going to Toronto to deal with Ball State in the International, the rest of the league has a shot at making a big statement with West Virginia playing Oklahoma in the Fiesta, Connecticut facing Wake Forest in the Meieke Car Care, and South Florida facing Oregon in the Sun.

9. Did the BCS get the right teams in the right places?  
Illinois vs. USC sounds nice because of the Big Ten – Pac 10 ring, but a Georgia – USC Rose Bowl would’ve gotten everyone’s juices flowing. Almost no one really seems to care about Kansas playing in the Orange Bowl after it didn’t even win its own division, while a Missouri vs. Virginia Tech battle would’ve had a big-time feel. When the non-BCS New Year’s Day games look far, far more appealing than the BCS games, something is wrong, and now the selection process will come under fire if the big games are yawners.

8. Pac 10 pride  
After stinking it up over the second half of the year, the Pac 10 has a chance to make amends with a good showing in the bowls. Forgetting about the impending USC coronation over Illinois, Oregon needs to flip the switch back on against South Florida in the Sun, Cal needs to come remotely close to playing up to its offensive talent level against Air Force in the Armed Forces, Oregon State needs to show that it really is as good as it looked at the end of the year by wiping up Maryland in the Emerald, Arizona State needs to prove it belonged in the BCS by beating Texas in the Holiday, and UCLA has to beat BYU for a second time when they play in the Las Vegas. Anything less than a 4-1 bowl record would be bad for the league, 3-2 would raise a few eyebrows, and 2-3 or worse would be disastrous.

7. The eyes of Texas are upon Mack Brown  
After a second straight disappointing season without a Big 12 title, and with losses to Texas A&M, Texas could use a boost. The defense was gouged over the last month, it took historic performances from Jamaal Charles to beat Nebraska and Oklahoma State, and Texas turned out to be fourth in the overall Big 12 pecking order. Considering Arizona State was in the mix for a BCS game, a big win in the Holiday Bowl would do wonders for Brown and Texas, while a loss would mean the first four-loss season since 1999.

6.  New blood

What teams are going to show up and play like the bowl is the biggest game of their lives? Going to the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl isn’t that big a deal to Florida State compared to Indiana going to the Insight. Florida Atlantic is a first timer going to the New Orleans Bowl, Michigan State will be jacked up to be back in the bowls against BC in the Champs Sports, Mississippi State is going to play hard against UCF in the Liberty, and Ball State will certainly be pumped to face Rutgers in the International. Of course, Kansas, Hawaii and Illinois in the BCS will add some interesting storylines to the mix.

5. Where are the wacky upsets going to come from?  
Boise State beating Oklahoma was obviously the signature shocker from the last bowl season, since everyone has forgotten that Ohio State was an 8-point favorite over Florida, but that wasn’t the only stunner coming from out of left field. Kentucky, a 10-point dog, beating Clemson in the Music City was technically the biggest upset of the bowl season. On a much, much smaller sale, Troy blasted Rice, a 7-point favorite. The bowl upset usually comes when the favorite doesn’t really care, while the underdog plays its guts out, so with that in mind, watch out for Southern Miss, in head coach Jeff Bower’s final game, as an 11-point underdog against Cincinnati, Indiana as a 5.5-point underdog against Oklahoma State, and Michigan, in Lloyd Carr’s last game, a 10.5-point underdog against Florida.

4.  Prove it time      
In this craziest of seasons, the new kids on the block have to actually show they belong among the top players in the game. Kansas has to prove against Virginia Tech that it wasn’t just a very good team with an easy schedule. Connecticut has to show against Wake Forest that has the potential to be among the better teams in the Big East. Missouri has to prove against Arkansas that it belonged in the BCS all along. Most of all, LSU and Ohio State have to prove they were the two best teams in America over Oklahoma, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Missouri, and everyone else.

3. Kevin Smith       
The UCF junior is 181 yards away from setting the record for the most yards gained in a single season. So how good is Mississippi State’s run defense? It held Darren McFadden to 88 yards, but gave up 206 rushing yards in the loss to Arkansas. It’s allowing 159 yards per game, but Smith will be given the ball 40 times in an attempt to carry the Golden Knights to its first bowl win.

2. The Big Ten – SEC challenge
Big Ten bashing has gone from being fashionable to the norm, but the world conveniently forgets how Wisconsin beat Arkansas in the last Capital One Bowl on the same day Penn State beat Tennessee in the Outback. For those of you who keep clamoring for a type of inter-conference matchup like the ACC and Big Ten have in basketball, this bowl season gives you your chance as Michigan and Florida face off in the Capital One, Wisconsin and Tennessee play in the Outback, and, of course, Ohio State plays LSU. The Big Ten doesn’t have to necessarily win the series, but it needs to be more than just competitive.
1. Is Ohio State going to suck again?   
A weary, skeptical nation is going to assume that poor, slow Ohio State is going to stink it up in a second straight national championship. Don’t count on it. Last year was an aberration, there’s no way the team will come in unprepared again, but it might not matter. The Buckeyes can play their best game, but if LSU plays up to its full capability, it’ll win in a blowout. That’s not going to be an indictment of OSU; it’ll be just a healthy LSU finally showing up like it’s supposed to.

Nuggets and tidbits, now made with white meat, at participating restaurants …
- One of the key pro-LSU arguments was that it didn’t lose in regulation. Like losing two games in three overtimes is better than losing late in the fourth quarter. It sounds like a nice theory, but it doesn’t hold water. If there wasn't a college football overtime, the games would’ve been coached differently, especially by Les Miles. You think he would’ve ever played it safe and gone for a tie?
- Verne Lundquist the new and improved Keith Jackson. He’s old school enough to make a game feel important while still sounding fresh and relevant, unlike Jackson at the end of his run. He might be the best in the game.
- That holiday popcorn tin sitting on the desk of Dave Wannstedt comes from Cal as a thank you for taking all the focus off a clunker of a regular-season ending loss to Stanford.
- After the way the Big 12 season finished up, does Chase Daniel really deserve the first-team nod over Sam Bradford?
- With Mike Sherman getting hired immediately at Texas A&M and without much of a process, and with Turner Gill the only minority candidate within earshot of one of the head coaching openings, until Bo Pelini got the Nebraska job, the Black Coaches Association will have a busy offseason.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Dave Wannstedt getting a three-year extension ... Underrated: Karl Dorrell
2) Overrated: Getting left out of the BCS  … Underrated: Bobby Bowden taking Florida State to its 26th straight bowl
3) Overrated: Evil Knievel ... Underrated: Playing with house money
4) Overrated: Hawaii’s 13-game winning streak ... Underrated: Mount Union’s 36-game winning streak
5) Overrated: The BCS games... Underrated: The non-BCS January 1 games.
To the best of my knowledge, he conforms to the rules governing this vote … at least from the one time I saw him play … I’ve always been an anti-voter registration guy. If you’re not smart enough to figure out how to register to vote, you’re probably not smart enough to make an informed decision on a candidate. For every two people who don’t vote, my vote counts triple. I’m now asking for the Heisman people make it harder for the pathetically uninformed to be able to vote.

If you turned in your vote before last Saturday, you’re out. You can’t possibly make a call on the Heisman race before everyone has had their say (this also goes for those publications and conferences that jump the gun with their all-star teams before their seasons are over).

If you voted for Colt Brennan just because of the numbers, you’re out. Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell threw for 1,124 more yards, seven more touchdowns, and had a higher completion percentage against better competition.

If you take career statistics or past season performances into account, you’re out. As the soccer guy in the shaver ad says, "I never fink about yesterday." Or as Roger Federer put it, "Yesterday is history. Just a nice mammary." Last year doesn’t matter and next year isn’t a promise to anyone. You’re supposed to vote for the ‘most outstanding college football player in the United States in 2007.”

If you never saw Kevin Smith play, or have to look up who he is, you’re out.

If the LSU game was the only time you saw Darren McFadden play, and you voted for him just because of that performance, you're out.

With that in mind, I struggled way too much before hitting Process when I filed my Heisman ballot. Before last Saturday, I was waiting to see what Chase Daniel and Pat White were going to do. I put a lot of stock in the MVP aspect of the award and give credit to the guys who lead their teams to a title. If Daniel had done to Oklahoma what he did to Kansas and got Mizzou to the national championship, he’d have been my one. After the Pitt loss, White was out.

To me, Tim Tebow’s all-timer of a year deserved the number one vote. I spent the last week hearing from the Tebow bashers, but the last time I checked, a five-yard touchdown run counted as much as a 45-yard dash. Tebow was the one who got the team in a position to score from close range in the first place. If what he did was so easy, how come no one else in the history of the game could do it? Florida didn't run up the scores nearly as bad as it's being made out, and it's not like past Heisman winners didn't have stats laced with garbage. Remember, Herschel Walker, Shaun Alexander, Emmitt Smith, Bo Jackson, Jamal Lewis, George Rogers, and every other all-time great SEC running back didn't get the touchdown runs in a season that Tebow did, and they didn't have to throw.

My second choice was Colt Brennan. There’s pressure, and then there’s coming through to pull off a win that’ll double the school’s football budget. With all that happened throughout the season and throughout last Saturday, completing 82 of 103 passes (80%) for 937 yards and ten touchdowns against Boise State and Washington to lead Hawaii to a 12-0 season sealed it for me.

The third slot went to Kevin Smith, and yeah, the numbers had something to do with it averaging 5.9 yards per carry (Darren McFadden averaged 5.67) with 2,448 yards and 29 touchdowns. He cranked out 217 against NC State, 149 against Texas, and he carried his team to a title with a breathtaking 284-yard, four touchdown day against Tulsa.

I wish there were four choices on the ballot, but there were only three so I had to leave out Darren McFadden. If you want to argue that he deserved to be a finalist, I won’t put up a fight.
“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. (2-1. I’m on fire. I close out  the regular season 13-23-1 overall, so to make it up to you, here are ten picks for the bowl season to get to .500.) … 1) Michigan +10.5 over Florida. 2) Hawaii +10 over Georgia, 3) Wisconsin +3.5 over Tennessee, 4) Missouri -3.5 over Arkansas, 4) Navy +9.5 over Utah, 5) New Mexico -3 over Nevada, 6) East Carolina +11.5 over Boise State, 7) Texas -1 over Arizona State, 8) Boston College -3 over Michigan State, 9) TCU -4 over Houston, 10) Oregon State -4.5 over Maryland
Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … I was trying to concentrate on the column, but I lost all focus and had to call a press conference after Kirk Herbstreit reported that I accepted the Michigan job..