Cavalcade of Whimsy - Did The Big Ten Clunk?
Posted Jan 10, 2008

Was the Big Ten REALLY as bad as it's being made out to be? Who's one guy who might actually make a playoff happen? Who the Heisman winner would be if the voting was done after the bowls, the steroid issue, and much more in the bowl version of the 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 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Dec. 17 
December 18 Cavalcade Part Two ... Every Team's Holiday Wish List

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I wasn’t even able to win my own division outright, much less my conference championship, but I feel like I should’ve been playing for the national title after destroying an overrated Hawaii team that had its head out over its skis. Because I didn’t get a chance to play for the whole ball of wax, I want to overhaul the column and push forward a playoff system. I'm also writing up a formal proposal to turn back time so I can then benefit from the new format.

The brake pedal is the one on the left …
Great, now I have to look like Mr. Big Ten again.

Has there ever been a backlash like the one against the Big Ten for having the temerity to lose a second straight national championship game? Columnists and radio talk show hosts across the country couldn’t shovel dirt on the league and Ohio State fast enough after the bowls, like getting whacked by LSU is like losing to Appalachian State or Duke at home.

Well, the Big Ten did lose to Appalachian State (Michigan) and Duke (Northwestern) at home, but that doesn’t mean the conference is somewhere between the MAC and Conference USA on a national perception scale, as a my-dog-just-died looking Kirk Herbstriet said. 

Look, if a fully healthy, fully rested LSU wasn’t the best team in America, it was a close number two, and you’d have been nuts not to think it'd probably beat any of the other 118 D-I/FBS teams on that Monday night in the Superdome. Georgia certainly would’ve given LSU a fight (and I sort of think Missouri would, too), but a 99% healthy USC is probably the one team that truly has a claim to being the best in the country. Also, the Big Ten shouldn’t be killed for getting blown out by a healed and fired up Trojan team in Pasadena; Illinois just so happened to be the team that got in the way of the speeding bus.

Second, to compare this year’s BCS Championship to last year’s is simply moronic. The Buckeyes were completely and totally outclassed, outhustled, outcoached and outplayed by Florida in every way shape and form in the Glendale debacle. Against LSU, they had several chances to turn the game around, but in the end, they just lost to a better team after battling hard for a full sixty minutes. This game was nowhere near as bad as the embarrassment against the Gators.

Third, the Michigan win over Florida and the Wisconsin and Michigan State performances have somehow been swept under the rug. The Badgers played Tennessee right down to the wire in a dead-even battle that just so happened to come out on the wrong side for the Big Ten. If nothing else, the game showed how there really isn’t a speed and athleticism disparity among the top teams. The Spartans, a lower division Big Ten team, played ACC No. 2 Boston College to the final moments in a loss. And, of course, Michigan got Chad Henne and Mike Hart healthy, and voile, the offense worked against the Gators.

No one’s saying the Big Ten is remotely close to being as good as the SEC right now. This year, I’d put the Big 12 number two, but in a sort of challenge, going from top to bottom, I’d take the Big Ten over the Pac 10 thanks to a better midsection, and I’d sure as heckfire put the league ahead of the ACC and the Big East. No, compared to several other teams, Ohio State probably didn’t belong in the national title based on the overall schedule, but if West Virginia had beaten Pitt or if Missouri had beaten Oklahoma, Jim Tressel would’ve likely been holding the crystal ball over his head while preparing to do future battles with the Les Miles-led Wolverines. This really wasn't a bad Ohio State team.

While we’re at it, let’s be honest here about all the outpouring of love going to the SEC for its bowl season. Georgia was terrific, no question about it, but every Big Ten bowl team would’ve beaten Hawaii. Every Big Ten bowl team, other than probably Indiana, would’ve beaten UCF (who lost to Mississippi State), a depleted Florida State (who lost to Kentucky) and Colorado (who lost to Alabama). With Arkansas mailing it in after Houston Nutt left and Darren McFadden ready to take his Escalade to the NFL, it probably would’ve lost to all the Big Ten bowl teams but Indiana and Purdue. I’d take Ohio State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan over Clemson, who lost to Auburn, but I would’ve taken the Tigers over Michigan State, Penn State, Indiana and Purdue.

On the flip side, I’d take USC, who beat Illinois, over every SEC team but LSU in the Rose Bowl, and the Trojan-Tiger game would’ve probably been a coin flip. With the way Oklahoma State came out with everything working in the Insight Bowl against Indiana, it would’ve likely beaten Mississippi State, Alabama, Arkansas and Kentucky, as would Boston College, who beat Michigan State. Yeah, all the SECers would’ve beaten Central Michigan (who lost to Purdue), but Texas A&M, who put up a mega-fight against Penn State, would’ve likely beaten most of the second-tier SEC bowl teams.

Again, I’m not saying the Big Ten is in the same ballpark as the SEC. The league just wasn’t as bad as you’re probably making it out to be.

And neither of them were against Stanford or South Carolina … It’s O.K., go to your happy place. Take a deep, cleansing breath, now another, now repeat after me: LSU is the 2007 national champion. LSU is the 2007 national champion.

Yes, LSU had two losses. Fine, if that's really your hang-up, then your national champion is either Kansas or Hawaii. Take your pick. As a guest on a show that will go nameless, it took four minutes of my life explaining to the host that Georgia and USC also lost twice.

“Roger, tell me what you want me to do?” “Bark like a dog (arf arf)... A big dog (woof woof) I know I've ranted on this before, but the process continues to be fascinating. While baseball is seen as tainted because of all the steroid and HGH abuse, no one is even asking the questions that need to be put out there when it comes to football players at all levels.

Has any reporter been able to take his lips off Brett Favre’s bum long enough to ask exactly how a player his age is able to play so many games in a row, through a slew of seemingly major injuries,
without being able to use potentially addictive pain killers or alcohol? I'm not accusing him of doing anything, I've asked several insider media types and there aren't any rumors of wrongdoing, but at least the topic has to be brought up so he can go on the record. Has anyone dared to ask how and why Terrell Owens has been such a "quick healer" considering the Andy Pettitte excuse? Is anyone pushing the envelope?

So many baseball players are now dragged through the mud after being called cheaters, but no one at any level of the national media has said boo about the NFL players, like Shawne Merriman, who've been caught in the past. Remember, “I’ve never tested positive” means absolutely nothing since current tests can't detect many of the human growth hormones, but Merriman actually got nailed for a banned substance, while most of the baseball players getting blasted right now, didn't. Eventually, someone is going to start looking into this, right? Sure, just like the media did its due diligence on that whole weapons of mass destruction thing.

Just wait. The same Hall of Fame arguments going on right now about Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be part of the NFL conversation within the next few years.

Aloha also means goodbye … For all of you who felt personally offended by Hawaii taking up space in one of your beloved BCS games, you might get your payback in a hurry. The program has always been hanging by a thread with almost no recruiting budget and some of the worst facilities in college football, but June Jones made it work. Now Colt Brennan has graduated, Jones if off to SMU, and star receivers Davone Bess and Ryan-Grice Mullen are jumping off the sinking ship and on to the NFL. In a clean sweep, Hawaii AD Herman Frazier was canned for not being able to keep Jones around. While Frazier has had his share of problems, he was hamstrung by Jones’s stunning insistence to not be paid in macadamia nuts and good wishes. SMU was offering Jones $2 million a year. That’s roughly Hawaii’s entire athletic budget.

That sound you heard was 11 Conference USA defensive coordinators updating their résumés … There’s no truth to the rumor that Jones finally accepted the Mustang job only after he was allowed to keep wearing those spiffy leis.
But then you wouldn’t have that all important week 17 ZZZZZZZZZZ … There’s winter, spring, summer, fall, football season, and whining about a lack of college football playoff season. Take the argument the other way. Really, outside of revenue, why do you need a playoff in the NFL? If you’re truly a playoff-head, then screw the regular season, take all 32 pro teams, have one big tournament, and then get on with your life.

This year, New England is the best team in the AFC. How do we know this? It went 16-0, beat Indianapolis in Indy, and oh yeah, it’s the number one seed.

Dallas is the best team in the NFC. How do we know this? It tied with Green Bay for the conference’s best record, beat the Packers, and oh yeah, it’s the number one seed.

New England and Dallas earned their way to the number one seeds based on what they did over an entire season. Now, anything less than a Patriot-Cowboy rematch of the regular season battle in the Super Bowl will be a fluke. The teams in the BCS had time to prepare, were fully healed, and were fresh. The beaten up, battered and bruised NFL playoff teams are shells of their true selves. 

But you’d probably have to drink a Pepsi product at the national championship If you want a college football playoff, there’s one man you need to pray to: Jerry Jones. He already stepped in and helped move along (cough, tampered, cough) the Bobby Petrino to Arkansas deal, and with his new state-of-the-art stadium being built, he’s starting to lobby for the Cotton Bowl to be part of the BCS. Love Jones or hate him, he deserves credit for getting things done.

Work with me here as I look into my crystal ball. The BCS stays in place as is with the four big-money bowls (Rose, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta) with the rest of the bowl system also staying put so the schools, not the NCAA, get the money funneled through them. Jones then works out a deal to make the Cotton Bowl, in his new stadium, the national championship in a plus-one format.


The Orange, Fiesta and Sugar each rotate with one getting the two highest seeded non-Big Ten and Pac 10 teams every three years, and then the other two bowls go according to the current format. The Big Ten and Pac 10, the ones basically putting the kibosh on all playoff ideas, face off in the Rose Bowl no matter what. That would 1) appease the Big Ten and Pac 10, 2) keep the cash cow rolling for all the bowls and all the schools, and 3) give the Big Ten and Pac 10 no excuse to not want a plus-one considering they'd have a huge advantage if they had the BCS No. 1 and/or No. 2 team. Watch and see how Jones works to try to make this happen.

“Get those brokers back in here. Turn those machines back on. TURN THOSE MACHINES BACK ONNNNN!” … O.K., NOW who wins the Heisman? Tim Tebow wasn’t bad against Michigan, but he wasn’t fantastic and his team lost. Also, that 20 rushing TD, 20 passing TD thing loses most its luster after Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour also hit the mark. Darren McFadden wasn’t bad against Missouri, but the Tigers’ Tony Temple was the star of the game. Chase Daniel didn’t do anything, and groundskeepers were still scooping up parts of Colt Brennan of the Superdome hours after the loss to Georgia.

Just like Brennan, and not Troy Smith, likely would’ve won the 2006 Heisman after the bowls, and Vince Young certainly would’ve won it over Reggie Bush after 2005 was over, it’s unlikely Tebow would’ve won after this year’s bowl season. My guess for what the Heisman race would’ve been like in a redo (remember, you still have to take the regular season into account): 1) Pat White, QB West Virginia, 2) Tim Tebow, QB Florida, 3) Darren McFadden, RB Arkansas, 4) Graham Harrell, QB Texas Tech, 5) Chase Daniel, QB Missouri

“For the record, if HBO puts you up in a hotel, they do not pay for your porn.”  …
No more whining and crying by the schools about barely breaking even, or possibly losing money, by going to a bowl game. If you want to turn a profit, don’t bring the band and dancer types. Then you'd save a ton on transportation, food, shelter, and “incidentals.” Basically, treat the game like you would any other road trip and you'll be fine. If you want to reward everyone involved in the program, and if you want the feel of a big game by bringing everyone, then by all means do it. Just don’t beef about the bottom line.

Yeah, that one flute is really doing a lot of good … I always get hammered when I say anything remotely negative about the bands, and I come from a relatively accomplished musical family so I know the work that goes into being at that level, but I’m sorry, there isn't a need for a marching band version of Stairway to Heaven. There’s a reason everyone goes to get a hot dog and throw a whiz at halftime. Bands are for home games as part of the college football tradition, but during bowl games, the networks would be far better served to run more halftime ads and cut down the breaks during the game than letting us in on the jazzed up version of Hot Stuff.

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Ten of random musings, thoughts, prayers, wishes, and favorite moments during the bowl season.

10. Ma Donovan & Pa Carr    
The two best reactions of the bowl season came within minutes of each other. ESPN kept cutting to shots of Wisconsin QB Tyler Donovan’s parents after every huge hit. Finally, the boo-yas were bitten in the butt for exploiting the moment when Donovan’s mom clearly mouthed the word “sh**” when her son got his leg twisted up and was writhing in pain. My favorite look of the entire bowl season was on the face of Lloyd Carr as Florida came out to the middle of the field before the Capital One Bowl and started stomping on the logo. Carr, coaching his final game, had a bemused grin that basically said, “I’m retiring and you’re doing this? Whatever.”

9. Play next year’s quarterback
If you're not happy with your bowl and are looking for a big improvement the following year, why play the senior quarterback for the entire game? Why not play next year’s starter and get him some work under pressure so he can hit the ground running? California got a huge day out of Kevin Riley, who stepped in when the team dying and completed 16 of 19 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns, and ran four times for 17 yards and a score, in the win over Air Force. Auburn did a perfect job of blending in the new with the old as Kodi Burns ran well and got the overtime winner against Clemson.

8. You expect miracles every year?  
The Boise State win over Oklahoma in last year’s Fiesta Bowl took on even more significance with many looking for the same magic from an underdog like Hawaii against Georgia. What’s been lost in the translation, and the way the game has by mythologized, was how it took one of the greatest called games of all-time with everything working the right way for the upset to occur. Once OU woke up and started trying, the Broncos pulled off miraculous play after miraculous play, and every trick in the bag to win, and they still needed overtime to do it. There will never be a game like that again, and it’s too much to ask for anyone to come up with a repeat. That includes Boise State, who lost to East Carolina in the Hawaii Bowl

7. America’s greatest fears might be realized  
Georgia, Florida, LSU, Auburn; the SEC is loaded for bear going into next year with the top teams picking each other off. Remember, you have to go back to 1998 Tennessee to find an unbeaten national champion from the SEC. Brace yourself. Oklahoma’s road games are at Washington, Baylor, Kansas State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. That’s not all that bad. Meanwhile, if USC needs time to jell, and/or Pete Carroll is coaching the Atlanta Falcons, a loaded Ohio State team could pull off the upset in Los Angeles. The Buckeyes will have the Big Ten’s best team by far and should run the table if they’re good enough to beat the Trojans. Just imagine the general grumpiness and the articles that would come out if it’s Ohio State vs. Oklahoma in Miami for the national title.

6. Rich Rodriguez

You wanted a change Michigan fans, and boy will you get one. Rodriguez said all the right things about knowing how to coach the talent in place and about how West Virginia threw the ball when it had good passers. And then last year’s superstud QB recruit and the main man going into this year, Ryan Mallett, decided to transfer, while top receivers Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham decided to leave for the NFL a year early. This should be a very, very interesting spring in Ann Arbor.

5. Florida State's heart     
Lost in all the self-righteous rhetoric from many who claimed the academic scandal at Florida State tarnished Bobby Bowden’s legacy was a whale of a performance from the guys who didn’t cheat on an exam. With no depth and half a team going against Kentucky, the Noles played their guts out in a tough Music City Bowl loss. The Wildcats should’ve won in a walk, but FSU battled down to the final play.

4.  Closed caption  
For those hard of hearing, and those who might work out while watching games with the closed captioning on, there’s always fun to be had seeing which names don’t translate well in the flow of a game. There’s a group of die-hard college football fans who have a regular e-mail chain going when the best mistakes come up. Ever since I was shown this I’ve been waiting for my first one of note, and I finally got it. Apparently, the University of Wisconsin, the place of brats, cheese, and Parthenon’s Gyros, is coached by Brett Bulimia. 

3. Every coach is a recruiter       
For every coaching change, the buzzwords were all the same for all the teams playing without their former leader … (Insert former coach here) is gone from (insert school here), and now there’s hope for the program as (insert new coach here) takes over bringing a new energy and a new vision to the team. Along with his innovative offense, he’s known as a great recruiter and will challenge the top teams for all the top talent.

2. Two out of three ain’t bad
Ricky Jean-Francois, the next-great LSU defensive lineman, was suspended for the regular season but came up with a great game against Ohio State. When asked on the winner's podium on the Fox broadcast about his season, the repentant sophomore stated, “I appreciate my school, my football and my family. I ain’t going to take it for granted no more.” And somewhere, an LSU professor temporarily lost his buzz.
1. The bowl season didn’t suck
Pooh-pooh the matchups all you want, and the children are right to laugh at the BCS, Ralph, but this wasn’t that bad a bowl season. There wasn’t the all-timer of a game that’ll be remembered two weeks from now, but it’s hard to argue with how things turned out overall when Utah beat Navy by three, BYU needed a blocked field goal to beat UCLA by one, East Carolina beat Boise State and Purdue beat Central Michigan on walk-off field goals, Boston College held on to beat Michigan State by three, TCU needed a sack to snuff out a final Houston drive deep in Horned Frog territory to win by seven, Oregon State-Maryland, Mississippi State-UCF, Kentucky-Florida State, and Penn State-Texas A&M were each decided by a touchdown, Alabama-Colorado and Cal-Air Force were each decided by six points, Auburn beat Clemson in overtime, Tennessee picked off a Wisconsin pass in the end zone to win by four, Michigan held on to beat Florida in a fun 41-35 shootout, Texas Tech roared back in the final minutes to beat Virginia on a last second field goal, and Kansas beat Virginia Tech by three. While the games might not have always produced riveting 60-minute theater, and they might not have always been played on the highest level, 17 of the 32 bowls decided by seven points or fewer as opposed to 12 last year, 16 in 2005 and 12 in 2004.  

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: DeMarcus Granger in a Burlington Coat Factory ... Underrated: 349 West Virginia rushing yards
2) Overrated: Ty Willingham, President of the American Football Coaches Association  … Underrated:
3) Overrated: Oakland Raider head coach Lane Kiffin ... Underrated: USC Trojan head coach Lane Kiffin
4) Overrated: What's the difference between Georgia, USC ... ... Underrated: ... and Jamie Lynn Spears? The Trojans and Bulldogs didn't get screwed.
5) Overrated: The GMAC and International Bowls ... Underrated: Eating a full dinner with a huge dessert, and then hitting the Chipotle to redeem a free burrito coupon because it's about to expire.

Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault …
it's the end of the season and I have a list of about 714 things I'm supposed to do now that my Saturdays are free. As always, thanks for actually reading my weekly pile of schlock and for all the feedback, comments and threats of bodily harm. (Cue the staged-sincere Hillary tears). For those who threw the kind words and thoughts my way, and to all the loyal readers of the site, I'm truly honored. Stay handsome.