Fiu's Cavalcade of
Frank Costanza's Festivus Airing of the Grievances
What's your beef? ... Fire
2006 Season |
If this column sucks, it’s not my
fault … I wasn’t paying
attention and Notre Dame DE John Ryan crashed into me from behind.
“It takes a big man to admit he was wrong. And I am not a big man.” ...
Dressed in my tuxedo, I stand up and address all the parts of my
brain after picking Ohio State over USC.
“Life goes on. (laughter fills the room). A man becomes preeminent, he's
expected to have enthusiasms. Enthusiasms... Enthusiasms... What are
mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy?”
- Dames! (yells one part of my brain)
- Boozin'! (yells another)
“Baseball. (cheers and applause) A man...A man stands alone at the
plate. This is the time for what? For individual achievement. There he
stands alone. But in the field, what? Part … of … a … team.
- (all parts of my brain nod in agreement) Teamwork...Teamwork
“Looks, throws, catches, hustles. Part of one big team. Bats himself the
live-long day, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on. lf his team don't
field...what is he? You follow me? No one. Sunny day, the stands are
full of fans. What does he have to say? l'm goin' out there for myself.
But...l get nowhere unless the team wins.”
I then take a baseball bat and violently bash the part of my brain that
allowed me to take the Buckeyes.
Yeah, I picked Ohio State to beat USC. And Cindy Crawford has a mole.
While giving all due credit to USC for the fantastic win, Ohio State has
become a fascinating study in underachievement.
It’s like the program has become Chuck Knoblauch and can’t throw to
first anymore. It’s a brain lock and a basic malfunction, and it wasn’t
always this way. If you remember, there was a reason everyone handed the
Buckeyes the national title before the 2007 BCS Championship game
against Florida. This used to be a tremendous big-game program under Jim
Tressel with a win in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl win over Miami for the
national title, Fiesta Bowl victories over Kansas State and Notre Dame,
and yearly wins over Michigan.
I’ll excuse the loss in the 2008 BCS Championship, LSU was the better
team, and it was sheer hubris run amok against Florida as the Buckeyes
got fat, lazy, and tattooed by a great Gator team, but this loss to USC
was something different. Ohio State gave it a shot for about a quarter,
realized it wasn’t going to happen, and failed to adjust. USC knew it
was going to win, while Ohio State appeared to be hoping for the best.
Tressel said he has to give everything a hard look in the analysis of
his program after the USC loss. Here’s what he’ll find after the year’s
biggest non-conference game.
1) Terrelle Pryor. The inside word leading up to the game was that
Pryor was going to bring something special. The Buckeye coaching staff
had been waiting to unleash the freshman superstar and was going to use
him like Dennis Dixon or Vince Young, who had each beaten the Trojans by
running wild. There was one problem with this: it worked. It’s forgotten
in the post-game haze, but Ohio State moved the ball extremely well when
Pryor was in. However, Ohio State had to know that the USC coaching
staff was going to adjust. For some inexplicable reason, the Buckeyes
took out Pryor even when everything was going just the way the coaching
staff had wanted. You never mess with what works, and by halftime, the
window to use Pryor as mainly a runner had slammed shut. USC was winning
big and was going to be happy with Pryor as a passer in comeback mode.
2) Talent level. These things always change on the fly after the
workouts and the Combine, when everyone gets a chance to find the
pimples on the beauty queens, but as of right now, even after the loss,
if all the players who should leave early for the NFL end up jetting,
Ohio State fielded around 12-to-15 players who will be taken in the 2009
NFL draft, not including Beanie Wells. Around seven Buckeyes are
expected to go in the top 100 picks, and there are at least five others,
like Pryor, who saw time and will someday be drafted. USC has roughly
7-to-10 players who’ll go in the 2009 draft, with the mother-load going
pro in 2010 and 2011. In other words, it’s not a speed and athleticism
issue. This Buckeye team will keep the NFL heaven packed with fresh
3) Beanie. It did matter, and anyone who makes some off-the-cuff
statement about Beanie not being able to play defense is missing the
point. USC didn’t take the Beanie-less Ohio State running game seriously
unless Pryor was in. When Todd Boeckman was under center, the Trojan
defense pinned it ears back and sent the house to get to the immobile
quarterback, took its chances with its secondary, which didn’t work out
well early on, by the way, and let the middle of the defense deal with
the backup Buckeye running backs. If Beanie had played, USC wouldn’t
have been able to bring the funk every time Boeckman was in. This is a
running back who might be one of the first ten players taken in the 2009
Draft, if not No. 1 overall. Of course his absence, even as a decoy,
played a role.
4) The lines. And this is why USC
would’ve won even if Beanie had played, if Pryor had taken 80% of the
snaps, and if Ohio State had its head screwed on straight. The USC
offensive line that’s still trying to gel with a few new starters ended
up dominating the Ohio State front four. As Mark Sanchez put it after
the Virginia game, he had time to grill steaks back there. How many
times was Joe McKnight running for four yards before getting touched? On
the other side, Ohio State never adjusted to the USC blitzing or the
effectiveness of the Trojan defensive line.
“An Army without leaders is like a foot without a big toe. And Sergeant
Hulka isn't always
gonna be there to be that big
toe for us.”… I’m not quite
sure if Tressel is to be commended for keeping Beanie Wells out or if
this whole situation is even more bizarre and curious than it appeared.
For a guy with a bum hoof, Beanie looked awfully spry sprinting past
half his team into the locker room at halftime.
What happens when you get your officials from a Buffalo Wild Wings ad …
Officials are a different breed of cat, and you don’t get to the
D-I/FCS level if you’re not good and if you’re not fair and impartial.
However, the NCAA has to mandate a rule that forces a neutral
officiating crew to handle non-conference games. The integrity of the
games and every bad call comes into question whenever there’s a blip on
The first thing everyone pointed out after the Jake Locker celebration
fiasco against BYU was that the call was made by a Pac 10 officiating
crew, as if to insinuate that a Mountain West official would’ve made a
call he normally wouldn’t have to protect his conference’s team.
Fortunately, a potentially bigger officiating controversy never came to
light because of the final outcome of the Wisconsin – Fresno State game.
While several teams over the years have wussed out on their commitments
to play at Fresno State, Wisconsin honored its home-and-home contract
and played in a terrific watershed game for both teams late Saturday
night. In the week leading up to the game, Badger head coach Bret
Bielema called Fresno State head coach Pat Hill and asked if he wanted
to use Big Ten officials for the game in Fresno and WAC officials for
next year’s game in Madison. Hill said no, partly because this was the
biggest and most important home game in the history of the program and
he wanted every little advantage possible. He had seen his team be on
the wrong side of way too many calls over the years in other people’s
ball parks. So the tone was set from the start. If anything
seemed the slightest big askew, this game with potential BCS
implications was going to have a cloud of controversy.
Sure enough, with 3:17 to go in the third quarter of the tight battle,
Wisconsin, up 13-7 but with all the momentum on Fresno State’s side,
dealt a devastating blow by forcing FSU WR Devon Wylie to fumble on the
Bulldog 18. The Badgers recovered and was already in field goal range.
The play was reviewed, and as plain as the mustache on Pat Hill’s face,
Wylie caught the ball, took one step, then another, was blasted, dropped
the ball, and Wisconsin recovered. But the review was taking too long.
The announcers in the booth were wondering why, and Ed Cunningham, the
sideline reporter who was right in front of the play, commented that it
was clearly a fumble.
Not only had the replay official blown the call, but he reversed it
without any sort of conclusive evidence to show it was a fumble. It was
just the opposite; the camera had the perfect shot and the perfect
angle. Fresno State marched to a field goal and it was game on for a
tight fourth quarter.
Wisconsin eventually held on to win, but was flagged for seven penalties
for 53 yards while Fresno State was tagged twice for 15. There’s no need
for the hint of any impropriety or favoritism. Just use third-party
officials from now on and fans won’t have to wonder every time a bad
call is made.
Speaking of Badgers … Five teams not to sleep on. These five aren’t
getting a whole bunch of national play, but they’re looking sharp to
start the season and have the potential to rise up and do what Missouri
and Kansas did last season.
1) Wisconsin – That win over Fresno State was good. Really good.
There was a reason many were picking the Bulldogs to win, and it’s not
because they were at home. Wisconsin needs better quarterback play, but
the defense is getting healthier with the return to form of several
players who were injured throughout last year. Helping out QB Allan
Evridge is the return of All-American tight end Travis Beckum to full
strength. The offensive line is as good as it’s been in several years,
the backfield is loaded with good runners, and there’s enough speed and
athleticism to hang with the biggest of the big boys.
2) Oklahoma State – Fine, so beating up Washington State, Missouri
State and Houston might not seem like that big a deal, but this Cowboy
team is more than good enough to turn into more than just a fly in the
Big 12 South ointment. The defense isn’t going to be a rock, but the
offense will play with anyone thanks to a tremendous line, a steady
quarterback in Zac Robinson, a deadly running game, and a playmaking
receiver in Dez Bryant. There might not be enough in the bag to win the
South title, but there will be at least one big win over a Texas or
Oklahoma to make it close.
3) TCU – It’s been all about BYU and Utah so far on national scale,
but Gary Patterson’s club will have its shot to make some big-time noise
over the next several weeks. There might not be the flash or dash of the
Utes or Cougars, but the defense is aggressive and effective while QB
Andy Dalton has been sharp so far. This is the type of team no one pays
attention to until it’s 10-2.
4) Penn State – Lost in the headlines of the suspensions and
off-the-field troubles has been a dominant start by a loaded team with
enough talent to win the Big Ten title. This team is eerily reminiscent
of the 2005 squad that went 11-1 with an Orange Bowl win over Florida
State, except that this year’s team has more explosion in the running
game and the young, talented receiving corps is all grown up. Even with
all the losses on the defensive line, Penn State is allowing just 250
yards and 12 points per game.
5) Oregon – Don’t dog the close call at Purdue. Yeah, the
Boilermakers blew it by not getting a field goal in regulation to win
the game, but Oregon showed heart in a gut-check comeback performance
against a strong team with a tremendous quarterback in Curtis Painter.
Nick Reed deserves All-America recognition as one of the nation’s best
pass rushers, while Max Unger and the offensive line might be the best
in the Pac 10. The Duck running game lost Dennis Dixon and Jonathan
Stewart, but it’s better than ever averaging 323 rushing yards per game.
If they can keep a quarterback alive for more than one game, they’ll
have a legitimate shot at beating USC.
Maybe by then Michael Irvin will be able to break out of his shell after
all these years … Awwwww, poor Miami. Those soft and sensitive
Hurricanes had their feelings hurt by that mean Urban Meyer when he
allowed his Gators to kick a (gasp!) field goal in the final minute of
the 26-3 UF win a few weeks ago. How dare Florida actually keep trying
against an in-state rival with all those potential recruits watching?
Miami, the program known for its conservative, understated, IBM,
button-down style over the last 25 years deserves better than to lose by
23 instead of 20. In future blowouts, maybe Miami can politely ask the
other team if it wants to leave a bit early to go get blizzards at the
Oh, those Canes are going to get their comeuppance alright against that,
as Warren Sapp called Meyer, “classless dirtbag.” Just you wait, because
in 2013, when the teams are scheduled to play again, Miami will maybe
get to kick a late field goal of its own. Ooooohhhhh, that will be a
great day to be a Cane. Of course, by that point Meyer will be in year
three of rebuilding the Cincinnati Bengals and head coach Bronco
Mendehall’s butt will have to cash the check that Meyer wrote, but just
you wait. Miami will have its revenge, and then everyone can meet in the
middle of the field for a hug and everyone will be happy again.
Now if he had said “lipstick on a cougar,” then there would really be an
issue … I don’t like dumb people. More than that, I don’t like smart
people who have to waste their time, and use poor judgment, to appeal to
Michigan, we’re you really that upset about the “to Hell with
Michigan” comment from Charlie Weis? If you really need something like
that to get fired up and play your best, your team sucks. That was a
polite kiss on the cheek compared to what many Wolverine fans had to be
saying after the two early muffed kickoff returns that all but gave the
queen to the Irish. At least the comment drummed up a little attention
to what used to be the best matchup in the game not all that long ago.
The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed
by the feats of strength
Ten things I’m grouchy about this week.
10. John Parker Wilson
Did Alabama not run an offense under Bear Bryant? Not to dog QB John
Parker Wilson, but 6,321 yards of total offense seems a tad low to be
the all-time leader at a place like Alabama. Then again, it’s not like
J.P.W. beat Joe Namath or Ken Stabler for the record. Brodie Croyle
previously held the mark, and now Wilson is No. 2 behind Croyle for the
most passing yards in school history. The great Andrew Zow is now No. 3.
9. Not flagging defenders for celebrating
Considering the response I received for thinking it moronic to agree
with the flag being thrown on Jake Locker a few weeks ago for the
celebration penalty against BYU, we have a large segment of the
toe-the-line public that obviously never goes a mile over the speed
limit and always gets water at the drink machine when it’s just as easy
to hit the Sprite button. So why isn’t there any call to throw a flag on
99% of the big defensive plays? Every defender pops up and does a little
dancy thing to call attention to himself after a big hit or a broken up
pass, and it’s always party time whenever there’s a sack. I’m for
letting the guys play and allowing them to express themselves as long as
they’re not excessive, but I counted over 25 times defensive
celebrations that were far worse than what Locker did.
8. The resurgence of the former play-callers
I was going to rip on a few one-time superstar offensive geniuses who
relinquished their play-calling duties this year, but the three in my
wheelhouse had great weekends. Charlie Weis blew out his knee and blew
away Michigan, Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen pulled off the shocker against
Cal, and Steve Spurrier, despite the loss, coached a masterful game
against a far superior Georgia team. Of course, Rick Neuheisel might
have a word of two with Norm Chow about that trip to Provo.
7. The G2 Life
After decades of pumping their sugar-water on the world and fattening up
America’s youth, Gatorade has now come out with the lower-calorie G2
drink. The marketing campaign revolves around “living the G2 life,”
which from the looks of it means a lot of sitting around doing nothing,
and in the case of Alonzo Mourning, remembering when you had a career.
“You’re always an athlete. Hydrate like one.” The slogan should actually
be, “You’re too porky to drink the real stuff, so for now, drink the
lesser version, heal up, and hit the treadmill.”
6. Penn State vs. Georgia in the 1983 Sugar Bowl
The Big Ten Network shouldn’t be able to include Penn State’s classic
1983 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia in its series of the Big Ten’s Greatest
Games. Penn State was an independent team up until 1993. It’s like the
ACC trying to take a little bit of credit for the national title Miami
5. Yet another Texas superstar
The University of Texas in Austin is widely acknowledged as one of
the world’s leading institutions of higher learning. A top 50 school
according to the U.S. News & World Report rankings, it’s more
than just a place where people go to watch football. Even so, there has
to be some concern that yet another superstar football player has turned
out to be a little nuts. Ricky Williams set the bar high (with an
ongoing attempt to get higher), Cedric Benson gave it a run, starting
out by bawling on draft day, and now Vince Young quit on his team, got
hurt, and then appeared to be mentally unstable to the point of people
worrying about his safety. His press conference, when he explained how
he “hurted a little bit,” didn’t exactly help the UT academic
reputation. By the way, have Houston Texan fans formally apologized for
dogging the Mario Williams selection?
4. Viva Viagra cougars
I’d like to go one commercial break during a college football
Saturday without hearing the word erection.
So how does that first screening go for the real husbands of the trophy
wife models in the Viva Viagra ads (excluding, of course, the woman
whose TV husband dresses up in the bad tux) or the ads with the couples
who end up in separate tubs?
“Uh gee, honey. Great job. Uhhhh, yeah, you were, um, great. Yeah,
really believable. You seemed like you really wanted to, um, you know,
with him … yeah, it seemed like you two were a real couple. Remember
that time I got you those roses a few years ago?”
3. Waking up early
Cal. It’s not like the Pac 10 has this reputation for being a rough and
tumble slobberknocker of a conference, and then the Bears go out and
come up with a clunker against an inferior Maryland team partly because
it was hot outside and the game started early. Apparently, some of the
Cal players had been commenting on the heat and humidity at game time,
but the bigger issue appeared to be the noon start eastern time, or nine
on the left coast. College kids might be used to sleeping in late, but
football teams are different. Most get up way early to start workouts or
get to morning classes so they can go to practices in the afternoon, but
for some reason, Cal appeared to be a bit lethargic and sleepy in the
first half against the Terps. Cal’s Pac 10 brethren that got whacked by
the Mountain West didn’t have any time change excuses.
2. Norv Turner
A big hug and a balloon bouquet goes out to embattled NFL official,
Hochuli, who’s generally acknowledge as one of the best in the game, but
completely and totally whiffed
on a late fumble call in the San Diego – Denver game.
Down seven with one last chance to score, Bronco QB Jay Cutler lost the
ball in a clear fumble that would’ve sealed the win for San Diego. But
Hochuli blew the play dead calling it an incomplete pass, and Denver
went on to win. To Hochuli’s credit, he immediately took the blame for
the missed call and apologized for his mistake. After the tap dancing
done by the officials after the Jake Locker fiasco in the BYU-Washington
game a few weeks ago, hiding behind the letter of the law rather than
the spirit of the game, it was refreshing to hear an official own up to
an error and admit he flat choked. It was a sincere mistake and an even
more sincere, swift admittance of guilt, but that still wasn’t enough
for San Diego Charger head coach Norv Turner who whined after that the
situation still wasn’t acceptable despite the apology. It was a mistake
and the man didn’t try to hide from it. End of story.
1. Notre Dame
Missing the Ohio State – USC pick is one thing, a Trojan blowout was
hardly a surprise. The Notre Dame win over Michigan was the real stunner
among the big games.
For all the weeping and gnashing of teeth, Notre Dame is on a living,
breathing four-game winning streak. However, it’s a brutally ugly roll,
and the Irish might be wide open for a cruel dose of reality soon.
Remember, we went through this before when the Ty Willingham era first
started. The Irish wasn’t pretty, but it was winning thanks to a slew of
takeaways, big plays from the special teams, and getting every
conceivable break in the book. Of course, Notre Dame had something to do
with creating the good fortune, but it was all a mirage. As soon as the
breaks stopped, or started to go the other way, Ty’s group became
exposed as a mediocre team. That’s why it’s still hard to figure out the
The offense is awful, averaging 301 yards over the first two games. The
passing game is far more efficient than last year, but there’s no
running game. The defense came up with a few stops against anemic San
Diego State and Michigan offenses, but there’s been no pass rush and
problems against the pass. However, the O line hasn’t allowed a sack,
that was big against a strong Michigan pass rush, and the offense has
taken advantage of almost every opportunity. It was a dream world for
the Irish against Michigan. Two early Wolverine fumbles on kickoff
returns, 14 points, and Michigan had to play catch-up with an offense
ill-equipped to go on a big run with the passing game.
Even with all the problems, the 35-17 win has to be considered among the
big shockers of a shocking weekend, and it could be even more amazing if
the Irish beat a strong Michigan State team in East Lansing. This team
is starting to find a way, and confidence could make up for all the
other issues. If nothing else, Notre Dame football bears watching again.
of Nutty …
Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every
man want to be you (or vice versa) a.k.a. things I didn’t feel like
writing bigger blurbs for.
- Alright Big 10 bashers, if not this conference, then who? The SEC and
Big 12 are the top two, the Pac 10 stunk it up this weekend and the Big
East and ACC continue to be no big whoop. So isn’t the Big Ten the No. 3
league by default? There’s nothing wrong with Penn State, Wisconsin and
yeah, Ohio State.
- Remember, roughly 117 other teams would’ve likely lost to a fired up
and focused USC team in the Coliseum.
- There’s the classic line that the only person to ever stop Michael
Jordan was Dean Smith. I’m starting to get that feeling with Matthew
Stafford and Mark Richt. Against South Carolina, Stafford threw a ball
to A.J. Green up the right sideline that maybe ten current NFL
quarterbacks could’ve made. Stafford also showed off surprising
straight-line speed on a key run. However, with this Bulldogs team,
bombing away takes a back seat to the running game.
- Last week I said it was unacceptable for any man over 30 to wear a
jersey. Check that. Convinced by a few of the seasoned e-mailers, yes,
I’ll change the rule book to allow men over 65 to wear jerseys again.
Then it becomes quirky, and not sort of sad. On a similar note, I’m
still in negotiations with the wife to be allowed to date again when I
hit 85. She won’t budge off of 90.
- Hopefully one of the fine family of networks sucks it up and shows the
Temple-Buffalo game again. Like the classic 1984 Boston College Flutie
game over Miami, the Bulls’ win over the Owls was fantastic even before
the improbable game-winning Hail Mary to give UB the win. Bull head
coach Turner Gill and Temple head man Al Golden will meet someday at
different programs in a game of much greater importance and much more
national attention. These two are among the brightest young coaching
stars in line for far bigger gigs.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five
Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Tom Hammond and Pat Haden giggling during their call as
they realized Notre Dame football might be fun this year ... Underrated:
Kirk Herbstreit giggling when Ohio State was playing well in the first
quarter, and then taking a “here it comes” tone.
2) Overrated: Matt Leinart … Underrated: Matt Cassel
3) Overrated: The Beanie Wells situation ... Underrated: Needing armed
guards to move the KFC secret recipe as the company changed offices
4) Overrated: Suspended players ... Underrated: Penn State’s first
Lehman Brothers collapse ... Underrated: Not having any
money to invest in the first place
It’s ridiculously early, but … what the heck. My Heisman ballot
if I had to turn it in today would be: 1) Chase Daniel, QB Missouri, 2)
Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma, 3) Knowshon Moreno, RB Georgia, 4) Max Hall,
QB BYU, 5) Colt McCoy, QB Texas
“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. During these tough economic
times, you can count on me going 1-2 each week. You’ll do better than in
the stock market right now (I’m 3-6 after two weeks). I press on.… 1)
West Virginia -3 over Colorado, 2) Ohio +11 over Northwestern, 3)
Rutgers -5 over Navy
Last Week: 1) Western Michigan -7.5 over Idaho (Win), 2) Ohio
State +11 over USC (Loss), 3) Michigan over Notre Dame PICK (Loss)
Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … I was trying
to gleefully celebrate being done with writing it for the week and then
East Carolina police ruined my fun.