Cavalcade of Whimsy - The Monopoly Is Over
UCLA RB Raymond Carter
UCLA RB Raymond Carter
Posted Sep 2, 2008

From the new ESPN/SEC deal, to coaches on the hot seat, to the insane suggestion of the Big 12 being better than the SEC, week one of the season is over, and Pete Fiutak takes a look at it all in his 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? ... Fire off your thoughts  
Past Whimsies
2006 Season | 2007 Season
Preseason Cavalcade

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … Rick Neuheisel declared that there’s no more football monopoly here. After what the coaching staff pulled off against Tennessee, he might be right.
“Good evening. Here is the news for Parrots. No parrots were involved in an accident on the M1 today when a lorry carrying high-octane fuel was in collision with a bollard. That's a bollard and not a parrot. A spokesman for parrots said he was glad no parrots were involved.” …
The challenge flag needs to be thrown on ESPN’s 15-year, $2.25 billion deal with the SEC. It’s one thing for a league to have its own network, like the Big Ten has, but it’s another to have one of the major media outlets be so intertwined both financially and logistically with one single college football conference. ESPN is it. This is the big bad boy on the block, and now that it has become ESPNSEC, all other leagues will be fighting a tough uphill battle to compete.

ESPN is an entertainment company, not a news service. It’s going to be all SEC football, all the time with shows, promos, and everything the big menace can do to milk every last dime out of this relationship. You can guarantee that the first three college football news items are always going to be SEC related, tied in to a slew of promos for other SEC shows, while the recruiting advantage will become even more unbalanced than most already think it is. And then there’s the money factor. $2.25 billion, when the trickle down effect occurs, means the SEC teams will have better facilities, better coaches, and better overall programs than anyone else can possibly come up with. In other words, if you’re a Big East or ACC team with national title dreams, take care of business now.

“You never trust a big butt and a smile” … Depending on which side of the fence you swing on, it was either a brazen, groundbreaking choice that might seem a bit radical, but could turn out to pay off in a big way, or it was a reckless, irresponsible selection that comes across more like a bad punch line. The interview process wasn’t nearly lengthy enough for some, while others champion the radical nature of the move considering new ideas are so desperately needed.

The high-level experience factor is an issue; there really wasn’t any to throw into the equation. The pro side praises the pick, mainly because they have to, even though they would’ve ripped the selection to shreds had it been made by the other side, while the naysayers are slightly worried that a new superstar might have just been unleashed on the scene. There were many safer, veteran prospects out there that could’ve come in and ensured a win right away, but this is a shot for the stars that was either pure genius or total madness. Yes, a year later, Minnesota fans are still trying to figure out the hiring of Tim Brewster.

And they’d probably think Vice President Cougar has something to do with Washington State … There’s no more myopic group of people on the planet than football coaches. They know their team, the team they’re playing this week, and that’s it. Anniversaries? Forget about it. The names of their children? Barely. The two running mates? Yeah, right, unless you’re talking about Davis and Spiller. I always ripped on coaches for this until I passed over to the other side this week. During Barack’s big speech, I literally spent six seconds wondering why Obama would alienate Florida, Tennessee and Alabama fans by saying, “You can’t truly stand up for Georgia when you’ve strained our oldest alliances.” Sadly, I’m not joking.

President, schmesident. OU might have lost a shot at the national title … It’s a toss-up in the You Lost, Move On battle between Oklahoma fans when asked about the 2006 loss to Oregon, Tennessee fans and the Charles Woodson-over-Peyton Manning for the Heisman debate, and the PUMAs who can’t accept that Hilary actually lost. If you really like a candidate that much, then vote that way. Want Hilary? Write her in. Want Romney, Gordon Riese, Daffy Duck? Vote that way. You have a better chance of winning the lotto 629 times than you do of making a spit of difference in the national election. There is no wasted vote unless you vote for me. I can’t say Ahmadinejad.

Maybe it was because I was a bit off kilter after playing the CNN “Historical Night” drinking game … I heard someone ranting and raving throughout the off-season that the Big 12, for this year and this year only, might actually be the better conference from top to bottom than the SEC. Oh wait, that was me. That’s why pencils have erasers. After the way Texas A&M did next to nothing in the loss to Arkansas State, and with Alabama embarrassing Clemson, Vanderbilt thumping a good Miami University team, and Kentucky stuffing Louisville, I humbly submit the paperwork back into the SEC is King lounge. I vow to never stray again.

You watched, and then you went back to looking for clips of skateboard kids crashing into things … While much was made of the pirated video that got close to 80,000 hits on YouTube of a Julio Jones touchdown catch in an Alabama scrimmage, give some credit and some love to John Parker Wilson. Jones made the play, but that throw was off Wilson’s back foot on a flick of the wrist 50-yard bomb that landed right on the money.

As opposed to Trevor Bennigan, who just gave up and left everyone hanging … It’s amazing that Alabama was able to move on offensively after losing, as Lou Holtz said, offensive coordinator Major Applebee.

McCrosky: Bad news, the fog is getting thicker.
Johnny: And Leon's getting laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrger.” … Note to quickly expanding Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema: State Street Brats offers a fine selection of salads and grilled sandwiches, too. There’s no need to go the Double Red Brat route, and definitely move past the Brat and Burger on one bun. The fantastic Badger head coach appears to be on his way to being Bill Parcells in more ways than one.

I believe Kobayashi has set the record with 19 consumed in three minutes … Last week I whined about a few bowls yelling at me for not including the sponsor every time the bowl was mentioned. However, I do solemnly promise to always, always promote anything you’re doing if it involves runty dogs, the word wiener, and a sponsor with the word Wienerschnitzel in the name. Once again, the Holiday Bowl (sorry, the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl), will have races to crown San Diego’s fastest wiener dog at the 12th annual Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals. There’s no truth to the rumor that the winner will be a four-point favorite over the Pac 10 team.

Maybe Jim Harbaugh was on to something … According to several reports, the Michigan players are having a hard time picking up the Rich Rodriguez offense. I can understand the problems with getting the timing down to run it at full speed, but aren’t Michigan players supposed to be smart?  How many young players rocked the Casbah right out of the gate when RichRod was at West Virginia? So basically, not only is Michigan football bad right now, but the players just aren’t very bright. If you’re one of the self-proclaimed Leaders and Best, I’m not sure which one makes you grumpier.

“Dooley pantsed you. That's what he does. And when it happens, you pull up your pants and move on.” … It’s never a nice thing when someone gets fired. Fans might want to see inept and mediocre coaches get let go, but there’s more to it than that. There are the assistant coaches, who aren’t getting the mega-dollars the head men are, who have to uproot their lives and move their families to find work again. I used to feel bad for everyone involved when a head coach gets canned, but no more.

If you want to be a football coach, you’re going to be fired and you’re going to live a vagabond life. Job security is always going to be an issue, and if you have a family, it’s going to be moved around every few years unless you’re really, really lucky. You know exactly what you’re getting yourself into, and you know exactly what you’re going to put your family through.

I’m also under the belief that a weak or mediocre employee is being done a disservice by being kept around. Better to cut the cord and let the person figure out what else life has to offer rather than stringing the situation out to the inevitable conclusion. That’s why Clemson has to fire Tommy Bowden.

Oh sure, Bowden has done great things at Clemson, and he’ll still probably lead the team to the ACC title and a BCS bowl, but if the overall goal is to win a national title, then this just isn’t working out. Clemson can realistically set the expectations way too high considering the history, the recruiting base, the fan support, the facilities, and the mediocre BCS conference. If you think Bowden can’t get you to where you want to be, then move on. He’ll get a great gig somewhere else, while you need to find the right guy to take you where you need to be.

Fine, so the stats are a bit puffed up after a meaningless late drive. At least it was meaningless to those who don’t “invest” … Uh, Missouri, you do know that was Juice Williams who just threw for 451 yards and five touchdowns on your defense, right? Fortunately, things get easier … yeah, right. Of course Mizzou will beat SE Missouri State, but the RedHawks just threw for 387 yards in their opening game win over SW Baptist. Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick is one of the WAC’s up-and-coming quarterbacks, Buffalo’s Drew Willy leads the nation in passing efficiency after his performance against UTEP, and then the Big 12 season kicks in with all of the league’s great quarterbacks to deal with. Good luck with that.

Many are asking the same about the Mariners … Is Washington going to win a game? Considering Stanford doesn’t appear to be a doormat this year, this has quickly become a legitimate question. The Huskies weren’t remotely close to being competitive in a 44-10 loss to Oregon, and it’ll take a miracle to come within two touchdowns against BYU this week and four touchdowns of Oklahoma in two weeks. Find the sure-thing win on the schedule for a young team trying to find itself: BYU, Oklahoma, Stanford, at Arizona, Oregon State, Notre Dame, at USC, Arizona State, UCLA, at Washington State, at California. Ty Willingham’s bunch will probably beat the Cardinal and should be able to come up with wins over a team like Oregon State or UCLA at home, but this could be an epic disaster if the team plays like it did in Eugene.

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Ten things I’m grouchy about this week.
10. Flashing score alerts for baseball scores during college football
Baseball is great from April through mid-August. Now it’s football season, and I don’t care if the Rays are up 7 to 3 on the Orioles. If Babe Ruth is up in the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the World Series and the Chicago Cubs need one out to win it all, then you can flash a SCORE ALERT … SCORE ALERT … SCORE ALERT at the bottom of my TV screen during a college football game. That’s it.
9. College Football Live fan feedback
Krusty: “What’s that say … talk to the audience!? Oh-ho God, this is always death.”

Have … a … point. One of my favorite parts of this job is hearing from the fans and getting a sampling of opinions and views from all across the college football landscape. I know firsthand how many interesting, knowledgeable fans are out there. That’s why there’s no need for ESPN’s College Football Live show to post Brad from Omaha’s musing about how Nebraska football is back. Oh, and by the way, Utah’s Brian Johnson deserves some love. Fans have the potential to make the show better and smarter, but that means the softball questions and chest-thumping quotes have to go.

8. Southern Utah WR Tysson Poots
I blame the people at Ellis Island (who screwed up the family name of Fintak and made it into Fiutak) for not forcing my great-grandparents to change their name to Poots after they got off the boat, and I blame my parents for not giving me a cool name like Tysson. If Chad Johnson can legally change his last name to Ocho Cinco, then I can change my name to Tysson Poots. Then I’d get all the chicks.
 7. The Heisman watch
The Heisman discussion is exhausting enough (and sort of pointless, at least until November) without starting it now. Give the season a month or so to breathe and then we can all start getting into the preliminary Heisman talk. No, after one week, Arizona QB Willie Tuitama isn’t in the Heisman hunt. Neither are Juice Williams or Rudy Carpenter. On second thought, let’s just give it to Navy RB Shun White and move on.

6. Supposed top pro prospect quarterbacks
There was a time two years ago when Mel Kiper put up his rankings with Troy Smith as a possible No. 1 overall pick to the Oakland Raiders. According to the NFL scouts in the know, at the beginning of last season, Kentucky’s Andre Woodson was supposed to be a sure-thing first round draft pick. He went 198th overall and was cut by the New York Giants (and assigned to the practice squad). This year we’re supposed to believe that Louisville’s Hunter Cantwell is the best senior quarterback prospect out there, and then he comes out and leads the high-powered Cardinal offense to a big, fat zero in the loss to Kentucky. Just because a guy is tall, big, and can throw far that doesn’t mean he can play in the NFL. Cantwell has a delivery that starts sometime around Brian Brohm’s sophomore season.
 5. GamePlan
The Midwest part of the country, which got the Michigan State – California game, was supposed to have the Clemson – Alabama game on one of the GamePlan channels. Nope. Because the Tiger-Tide game was supposedly national, and was offered on some Hi-Definition channels, it got screwed up and fans who were waiting all day to see the most hyped primetime matchup, and paid for the right to do so, missed out.

 4. Assuming games are over
As Kate Bush would say, Don’t give up, please, don’t give up. The announcers were all but out getting a sake and seltzer early in the fourth quarters of the Illinois-Missouri, Michigan State-Cal and Utah-Michigan games. While the teams that were down all ended up losing, they came back to make things extremely interesting. With 11 minutes to play and Michigan driving, down 25-10, the announcers were going into filler mode about how Utah might go unbeaten and be a BCS buster. Don’t bury the games until they’re done.
 3. The Just For Men, “It’s Time” ad  
In case you haven’t seen the commercial, two cute young girls give their dad a box of Just For Men hair coloring solution and suggest it’s time for the old man to get rid of the gray and go out to get his groove on. The guy colors his hair, gets a date with a next-level babe, and the daughters are happy. I want to know the backstory. Did mom finally succumb to the advance of the FedEx man? Did everything change when she heard Samantha Ronson spin? Did the parachute not open? Why are the daughters so interested in daddy getting some yee-ha time? The world demands an answer.

Studio types sitting in the comfy chairs
Forgetting that the not-so-slim types (cough, John Saunders, cough) don’t exactly get their positives accentuated when they’re not sitting behind a desk, the new quirky schtick of putting the studio guys in comfy chairs, like they’re just a bunch of regular guys shooting the breeze about the day in college football while watching nine games at once, is way too forced and goofy. First of all, the ABC and ESPNers that did this kept their suit jackets on (and buttoned) while looking about as natural and comfortable as a pair of double-Ds on a 95-pound girl. Secondly, if you’re doing the same thing the rest of us are, why are we listening to you?
 1. The fumble through the end zone/touchback rule
I’m not quite sure what the answer is, but it seems like the offense gets penalized way too harshly when a runner loses the ball through the end zone. It happened a few times this weekend with the biggest one coming at the end of the Oregon State – Stanford game when Beaver
WR Darrell Catchings fumbled the ball through the end zone trying to stretch the ball over the pylon with 47 seconds to play. Stanford got possession and held on to win. The rule doesn’t make a whole bunch of sense. You don’t lose possession if you fumble it out of bounds, so why such a tough penalty if it goes through the end zone? It’s not like a player gains any sort of an advantage. If there wasn’t any change of possession, spot the ball where the player fumbled it. The defense shouldn’t get a monster payoff for the runner dropping the ball.

Random Acts of Nutty … Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa).
 - North Texas gave up 471 yards of total offense in a 45-6 loss to Kansas State. Next up for the Mean Green are Tulsa, LSU and Rice. Those three teams put up a combined to put up 1,526 yards in week one. Let’s put the over/under at 1,700 total yards over the next three games. Fortunately for UNT, FIU is on the slate to follow.
- Speaking of big numbers, UL Lafayette’s run defense is about to get pasted. The Ragin’ Cajuns gave up 427 yards to Southern Miss in the opener, and now it faces Illinois, Kent State and Kansas State.
- Sorry Nick Saban, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t come out and roll over a team with national championship dreams like Clemson had and then try to get everyone to keep their expectations in check. You don’t get that luxury. You’re supposed to win every time out now. That’s what you get paid for, and that’s life as the head football coach at Alabama.
- Officials, here’s the deal. You can call all the celebration penalties you want to when they’re obvious and warranted, but you have to swallow that whistle, even if a player sets off fireworks and makes balloon animals, on the really big plays.
- Something to put on the backburner as the season goes on; how is the BCS going to find ten BCS conference teams if there isn’t a “buster” like a BYU or Utah in the mix? Remember, only two teams from a BCS conference can get in, which screwed the Big 12 last year and the Big 10 two years ago. There shouldn’t be a problem finding two SEC and two Big 12 teams for the big money games, but it could be tough to come up with a worth second ACC, Big Ten, Big East or Pac 10 team if needed.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
 1) Overrated: Georgia losing Trinton Sturdivant ... Underrated: Georgia losing Jeff Owens
 2) Overrated: Erin Andrews … Underrated: Stacey Dales
 3) Overrated: Throwing four interceptions in the first half ... Underrated: Norm Chow
 4) Overrated: Hard Knocks this year ... Underrated: The first three Hard Knocks series
 5) Overrated: Gustav ... Underrated: Having to go through this same drill every time a storm is on its way for the rest of our lives.

“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. I’m always, always going to go 1-2 with these picks. It’s what I do, and I refuse to ditch the bit. I press on.… 1) Iowa -27 over FIU, 2) Miami +22 over Florida, 3) Memphis -3.5 over Rice

Last Week: 1) Colorado State +11.5 over Colorado (lost), 2) Boston College -10 over Kent State (win), 3) Western Michigan +14 over Nebraska (lost)

Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … Florida Atlantic head coach Howard Schnellenberger called the column soft. It fired me up, but in the end, he was right.