Cavalcade of Whimsy - The Upset Fallout
Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer
Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer
Posted Sep 30, 2008

After a weekend of wild upsets there's plenty to sort out. From Florida's play-calling to dealing with USC, and from Wisconsin's collapse to musing about the Phil Fulmer situation, Pete Fiutak tackles the wild weekend in this week's 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 | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I was wearing a black shirt while writing it. The blackout so freaked out and intimidated Alabama that it got up 31-0 before I figured out what was happening.

“Pressure? Here it's kill or be killed. Make no friends and take no prisoners. One minute you're up half a million, the next, boom. Your kids don't go to college and you've lost your Bentley. … Unless you can explain exactly what happens at the end of Trading Places, you aren’t allowed to have an opinion on the nation’s current economic crisis. The smartest economic minds in the history of the planet can’t even figure out how this all should work. Of far more importance, the smartest college football minds I know couldn’t see last weekend’s bizarre meltdowns coming, either.

Yeah, everyone I talked to and trust sort of liked Alabama over Georgia in a flip-a-coin sort of way, but no one gave a thought to Ole Miss over Florida or Oregon State over USC. If you’re a college football fan, you live for weekends like this. Even though a lot of “experts” and analysts saw their picks crash and burn, it was worth it. This last weekend is the reason why we love this sport.

With that in mind, here are five potential out-of-the-blue, screw-up-the-season upsets to look out for over the next few weeks. Three will be blowouts for the favorites, one will be close, and one will come true.
1. Oklahoma at Kansas State, October 25th
2. Alabama at Kentucky, October 4
3. Missouri at Iowa State, November 15th
4. Boise State at San Jose State, October 24th
5. USC at Arizona, October 25th
Marty: “Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?”
Nigel: These go to eleven ...
Instead of whining about the fewer number of plays per game thanks to the new time-clock rules, like Florida head coach Urban Meyer did this week before the Ole Miss debacle, why not just be better at calling the plays you actually have?

To many, comparing Meyer to LSU head coach Les Miles would be like comparing Chris Rock to Carrot Top, but on fourth and one on the Ole Miss 32, would you rather have Miles calling the play, considering how he’s made a living over the last few years on coming by gambling when the game is on the line, or would you want the ill-fated, Meyer-called, Tim Tebow power run?   

However, there should be a bylaw that puts USC into the championship game if Ohio State goes to the Rose Bowl …
There’s going to be an ideological and philosophical debate to deal with if USC wins out and there aren’t two clear-cut teams deserving of the national title spots. On the one hand, would you bet the ranch on anyone other than maybe an unbeaten SEC champion, like LSU or Alabama, or possibly an unbeaten Oklahoma, over USC in the BCS Championship game?

Knowing what you know about how Pete Carroll and his staff prepares the team for the really, really big games, come the end of the year, as long the Trojans win out, it’s going to be tempting to not give in and want to see them play for the national championship. On the other hand, USC lost to a mediocre Oregon State team. On the deserve scale, losing in Corvallis isn’t as bad as losing to Ole Miss at home, and it’s far better than losing at home to Stanford in 2007, but it’s still an unacceptable loss for a team playing in a struggling conference with national title dreams.

Now here’s the real debate. What if it’s Cal that wins out and not USC? Certainly losing at Maryland is just as acceptable as losing at Oregon State, and the Bears’ win over Michigan State might turn out to be just as impressive as USC’s win over Ohio State. Will Cal get the same respect that USC is certain to receive by winning out, or is it all about name brand name, glitz and glamour?

In this week’s Be Careful What You Wish For department (cough, Rose Bowl, cough) … Fine, I’ll say it. If Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers could run for 186 yards and two touchdowns on USC, what would a possible No. 1 overall draft pick like a healthy Beanie Wells do? Completely lost in the post-game haze of the 35-3 USC win over Ohio State was the way the Beanless-Buckeyes were moving the ball on the Trojans in the first half before the disastrous pick six thrown by Todd Boeckaman. No, Ohio State wouldn’t have won that game no matter what, but it would’ve been far more interesting with Terrelle Pryor and a healthy Wells in the backfield from the start.

If you think that’s hard, try finding Corvallis … Pure gold from Oregon State RB Jacquizz Rodgers after his tremendous performance against USC and how he did it. “I’m a small dude. They couldn’t find me.”

Now he’d be happy to get the lead role in that new Benji flick ... If you’re wondering why coaches always look for the bigger job and the better payday, look no further than the bizarre decline of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, whose career has gone into the tank faster than a post-Medellin Vinnie Chase.

Ferentz was the hot name on everyone’s list for top jobs, both college and pro, after going 31-7 from 2002 to 2004 with some marginally talented teams. A generally likeable guy who created a reputation of producing strong teams with tremendous offensive lines, the world was his for the taking. But instead of becoming another Bob Stoops and making the program into a perennial superpower, Iowa has struggled, mainly because Ferentz was never able to consistently bring in the next-level talent to sustain the success.

Since beating Nick Saban and LSU in a classic Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day 2005 (yes, a Big Ten team really did beat someone from the SEC), Iowa has gone 22-20, has gone 0-2 in bowl games, and has beaten just one decent team, 2005 Wisconsin in Barry Alvarez’s final game. After losing to Pitt and Northwestern in back-to-back weeks, and with a shaky quarterback situation and mediocre play on the lines, things don’t appear to be much better. Are you listening, Greg Schiano?

You take one down, pass him around, 98 spread quarterbacks left on the wall …. If you choose to run a spread offense, you can’t complain when your quarterbacks go down faster than your approval rating after being interviewed by Katie Couric.

West Virginia’s Pat White and Washington’s Jake Locker are just two of the high-profile superstars suffering hand/thumb injuries. Cincinnati just lost Tony Pike after starter Dustin Grutza got knocked out with a broken leg, Oregon is losing quarterbacks faster than it can change into yet another ugly version of its metallic pea and highlighter-yellow uniforms, and other spread teams, like Eastern Michigan, are trying to get their quarterbacking houses in order thanks to injuries. There’s a reason the NFL doesn’t run the spread, and it’s the same reason it didn’t run the wishbone back in the 70s and 80s. If you run the read-option spread offense, your quarterback is going to get hit and hit a lot. College teams need to be prepared with several backups at the ready.

“Why should I change my name? He’s the one who sucks.” … Just like you can’t name your kid Michael if your last name is Bolton, Jackson or Jordan, you can’t name your kid Rod if your last name is Stewart. It’s a good thing the Colorado star freshman is really good, rushing for 166 yard against West Virginia and 107 yards against Florida State.

Another 777 point drop in the market and that West Virginia buyout will end up being worth about five cheeseburgers and a Frosty … No matter what you think about Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez, the guy can coach. Half of the battle is about making adjustments, and he and his staff actually got the spread offense to work in the second half against Wisconsin with the most-unspread quarterback ever, Steven Threet. However, RichRod made a critical error that 95% of all coaches continue to make.

With just over ten minutes to play, the Wolverines were on an incredible momentum run as John Thompson took a tipped Allan Evridge pass into the end zone for a 20-19 Michigan lead. Rodriguez chose to go for two and try for a three-point advantage, just like the chart says to do. Coaches, repeat after me … you only go for two when you have to. You only go for two when you have to.

About six minutes later, Sam McGuffie scored on a three-yard run and Michigan, smartly, kicked the extra point for an eight point lead. The percentages are in your favor to make a team tie you on a two-point conversion. Of course, had Rodriguez opted for the extra point after the Thompson score, Michigan would’ve been able to kick the extra point to go up nine after the McGuffie touchdown and it would’ve been ball game. Instead, Wisconsin marched to a touchdown and had a shot to put it into overtime. Rodriguez was bailed out of his bad decision because All-America tight end Travis Beckum didn’t know where he was supposed to line up and got flagged on the key two-point conversion attempt.

Yes, a mighty wind's a blowing 'cross the land and 'cross the sea/It's blowing peace and freedom, it's blowing equality./Yes, it's blowing peace and freedom, it's blowing you and me.”Great job Arkansas of putting that extra prep time for Texas to good use. Thanks to Hurricane Ike, the September 13th game got moved to last week and the Hogs got blasted 52-10. That was supposed to be a week off, and now Bobby Petrino’s boys have a nice four-week stretch of Alabama (a 49-14 loss), Texas, Florida and at Auburn. There’s no truth to the rumor that Petrino wants to delay the game in Fayetteville in the hopes of Hurricane Laura taking a wicked about-face.

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Ten things I’m grouchy about this week.
10. The NCAA and Reggie Bush
How in the name of Kim Kardashian’s stupid onion has USC not been nailed with anything regarding the whole Reggie Bush investigation? How has USC, along with just about any other top 25 team you can swing Myles Brand’s hypocricies at, not had anything come down from the NCAA in any way? The last time we’ve heard from the NCAA on a large ruling was with the whole goofy Rhett Bomar vacated-wins fiasco at Oklahoma. That only came about because Oklahoma blew the whistle on itself. If you’re a midrange program trying to become a national player, you’re nuts not to cheat your tail off. The NCAA has decided not to mess with the billions of dollars that are rolling in from this golden era of college sports. Speaking of which …
9. Tim Tebow jerseys
Thanks to everyone at the Gainesville Quarterback Club for having me down there to speak last Tuesday. Walking around the Florida campus, it was all Gator football everywhere you looked, and it was all about Tim Tebow. No. 15 jerseys were everywhere, they were all over the bookstores, the students, and in ads for Gator football. Millions of dollars are being made off of Tebow’s talents at the school, on the networks, and by the NCAA. It’s time (annual rant alert). Let the players be able to do endorsement deals, and let them have agents. Don’t pay them, but let them use their name and talents to make some side money. It’s only fair, and eventually, the players will figure this out.

8. The Tina Fey bailout plan
Oh sure, the Sarah Palin impersonation is brilliant, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that Fey ruined Saturday Night Live when she was the head writer. Unbelievable timing and fortunate resemblances don’t excuse what happened to the show under her watch.
7. And it never, ever works
A team has come up with a momentum changing turnover around the opponent’s 38-yard line midway through the second quarter. What’s the knee-jerk line that comes from every analyst? “Here’s where you should try a quick strike.” This has been said time and again ever since there’s been televised football. Every fan is thinking the same thing, and so are both coaches. No, it’s not a bad thing to simply run your normal offense and hand it off between the tackles.

6. Travis Beckum getting on the field
This isn’t the NFL. If a kid is hurt, he’s hurt, and he shouldn’t be on the field playing. If he can play, especially in a big game, then get him out there. Wisconsin superstar Travis Beckum hasn’t been healthy all season long, and his absence was sorely missed for the first 55 minutes against Michigan. But when the team needed to go on a late drive to try to tie the game, Beckum was on the field and ended up catching two passes for 17 yards before getting flagged to an illegal formation penalty to screw up the decisive two-point conversion attempt.

Apparently, according to UW head coach Bret Bielema, the medical staff had given the O.K., but Beckum said his hamstring didn’t feel right before the game. This is where the adults have to step in and as the coach, Bielema should’ve either forced his supposedly healthy player to play, or if Beckum really didn’t feel right, then shut him down and don’t let him hurt himself further. If a player can play on a key drive, then he should be able to play the rest of the game, too.
5. And it’s pronounced Fyoo-tack, no Foo-tak
The guy’s one of the leaders in the Heisman hunt. It’s Missouri QB Chase Daniel, not Daniels. Also, it’s Ole Miss, not Old Miss, as in the name slaves used for the wife of a plantation owner, which is an issue because it was seemingly brought up in every article after the presidential debate.

4. Big Ten credit for Tom Brady
Oh, Big Ten, so now you want to take credit for Tom Brady. The Big Ten conference is running a promo during its games showing kids who want to be tough like former Minnesota running back Marion Barber or Iowa safety Bob Sanders, and it starts out with a kid saying he wants to “lead like Tom Brady.” It’s not like the Big Ten did any promoting of Brady when he was at Michigan. The guy followed national-title winner Brian Griese and was supposed to be pushed aside for wunderkind Drew Henson, but he ended up having a nice career going 20-5 with 5,351 yards, 35 touchdown passes, and two Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honors in 1998 and 1999. By the way, Ohio State’s Joe Germaine was the First Team All-Big Ten quarterback in 1998, and Drew Brees was the second teamer. Brees was the first teamer in 1999.
3. Miami vs. Florida State
This used to be college football. While it was sold as one of the marquee games of the season as recently as 2004, the matchup has fizzled over the last few years since Miami joined the ACC. This was supposed to be the yearly ACC title game matchup, but instead, Miami has become shockingly bad while Florida State has fallen from its unrealistically high pedestal. For roughly 15 years, this was more than just the best rivalry in college football, it was the best showdown in sports. Now it’s like the Rolling Stones in concert. The new stuff sucks and the old standbys are sort of sad.
2. Tyrod Taylor 
Where would Virginia Tech be right now if 1) Frank Beamer made the right quarterback call on day one and 2) there wasn’t the blocked punt by East Carolina? Completely glossed over by all the upsets was a very nice win by the Hokies at Nebraska last weekend. The 20-17 wins over Georgia Tech and North Carolina have been largely ignored, but those will turn out to look better and better as the season goes on. Against the Huskers, Taylor was calm, cool, and efficient completing 9-of-15 passes for 171 yards while running 15 times for 81 yards and a score. However, Taylor was redshirted to start the season and Sean Glenon completed 14-of 23 passes for 139 yards with two interceptions in the loss to East Carolina. Had the Hokies won that game, they’d be in the top ten right now.
1. Phil Fulmer 
I’m dusting off everything I said about Lloyd Carr over the last few years and applying it to Phil Fulmer, the embattled head coach at Tennessee.

If you believe your head coach isn’t getting the job done and should be fired, fine. I’m not one of these people who believe a college football head coaching job should be any more permanent or stable, beyond a reasonable amount of time, than any other job. For every Rich Brooks who pulled up out of the abyss to turn a program around, there are countless other coaches who were allowed to stick around an extra year or two and ended up making things worse. And if you’re Tennessee and you believe you should be a player in the national title race every year, then yeah, Fulmer, after 16+ years as the head man, should probably be replaced.

After all, the SEC arms race has gone nuclear with Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Les Miles, Tommy Tuberville, and Mark Richt presiding over national title-level monsters, and with superior coaching talents like Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino about to turn their respective teams into nasty killers. Tennessee can’t afford to fall behind. The word rebuilding doesn’t work in Knoxville. You know who’s rebuilding this year? LSU. Auburn. Florida, to a point. They’re all still in the SEC title hunt.

Tennessee is 1-3 with a win over UAB and losses to UCLA, Florida, and Auburn. The offense is cranking out a mere 341 yards per game, the passing game is non-existent, and there’s been little pass rush. These are not positive times.

However, that UCLA game, as bad as it looks considering the way the Bruins have gone into the tank, was a one-time thing. The UCLA coaching staff had been treating that game like the BCS championship for six months, and it took Kevin Craft and the Bruin offense to stand on their heads in the fourth quarter to pull off the upset. Florida, even after the loss to Ole Miss, could still play for the national title by winning out, and losing 14-12 at Auburn is absolutely nothing to get upset over.

Fans have short memories and high expectations. Remember, Tennessee 1) played for the SEC title last year and lost to the eventual national champion, 2) beat a solid Wisconsin team in the Outback Bowl, and 3) won ten games for the third time in five years. Also remember that Tennessee started out 1-2 last year and then tuned everything around with a shocking win over Georgia.

Fulmer is 148-48 as the Tennessee head man. The guy has won 76% of his games while coaching in the best conference in America for almost two decades. He has a national title, two SEC titles, has coaches in three other SEC championship games, and has kept Tennessee among the best teams in the nation. Of course, he hasn’t actually won an SEC title since 1998 and his bowl record is a mediocre 8-7, but he’s a winner who's going to be run out of town if he doesn’t get a big win soon.

Yeah, this is a rebuilding year with David Cutcliffe leaving his offensive coordinator duties and going off to Duke. Four-year starting quarterback Erik Ainge is gone. There’s going to be an offensive transition, even if the play appears, well, offensive. However,
with a defense this good, the team should turn things around and be 8-4, 7-5 at worst. 

It might be time for new blood and 17 years usually is too long for a coach to be in one spot, but just remember, whomever comes in, you’ll probably be happy if he ends up with Fulmer’s résumé when he’s all said and done.

Random Acts 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.

- The must-see game of the weekend that you should watch, but won’t: Rice vs. Tulsa. Rice is coming off a 77-20 win over North Texas and has one of the nation’s most dynamic offenses once it gets into a groove. Tulsa leads the nation in total offense averaging 601 yards per game. These two are going to throw about 1,200 yards of total offense and about 90 points on the board.
- Don’t get too hung up by the Big 12 having all those teams in the top ten and the top five. That’ll quickly change once conference play kicks in and the teams start picking each other off.
- Nothing against Toledo, but way to go FIU. The sad-sack Golden Panthers hadn’t won a road game since a 31-29 victory over UL Monroe in mid-2005 and had lost 26 of their previous 27 games overall. The offense hasn’t just been bad, it’s been among the worst in the nation by far, but it was able to come up with 35 points in the win over Toledo. Unlike the glee of a pro team bombing, it isn’t fun when a college team stinks. The FIU veterans are going to remember this win the rest of their lives, and for the fans who have stuck with the program, they deserve it.
- After making a great catch on the late touchdown against Michigan, Wisconsin WR David Gilreath chucked the ball as he popped up. It was an instantaneous act of excitement that should’ve been flagged according to the rule book. There wasn’t a penalty called, and why? Judgment. In the super-charged emotion of a huge play with potential Big Ten title implications, the official didn’t ruin a great game with a dumb penalty that would’ve defined the ending and overshadowed Michigan’s epic comeback.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Tim Tebow in the clutch ... Underrated: Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead, who originally committed to Florida before No. 15 committed, and then signed with Texas.
2) Overrated: CNN … Underrated: Dave
3) Overrated: The Purdue transition ... Underrated: The play of the Notre Dame offensive line
4) Overrated: Rosh Hashanah ... Underrated: Rush Hashanah marathon on VH1
5) Overrated: Florida going 81-9 in home games since 1994 ... Underrated: The Gators losing the two times I’ve ever been in Gainesville

“I hearby designate   Colt McCoy, Texas   as my First Choice to receive the Heisman Memorial Trophy awarded to the most outstanding college football player in the United States for 2008. To the best of my knowledge he conforms to the rules governing this vote.”

My Second Choice Is:
 Javon Ringer, Michigan State  
My Third Choice Is: Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

“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.

Now I’m not just losing, I’m losing in flames going 4-11 overall after my three picks last week weren’t even remotely close. These are desperate times, so I’m going Costanza. If every instinct I’ve had has been wrong, then the opposite would have to be right. Therefore, I’m going with the exact opposite of what I believe this week as I take the three teams I’m 100% certain are going to lose against the spread. … 1) Stanford +7 over Notre Dame, 2) Northern Illinois +16 over Tennessee, 3) Oregon +16.5 over USC

Last Week: 1) Arkansas State +1 over Memphis (LOSS), 2) Colorado +6 over Florida State (LOSS), 3) UCF -5 over UTEP (LOSS)

Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … USC quarterback Mark Sanchez got me in the huddle to fire me up after a lackluster start, but I could never figure out Oregon State’s draw trap play. Sanchez ended up whipping his mouthpiece in disgust as he walked off the field.