Cavalcade of Whimsy - The Big Disappointments
Texas A&M RB Jorvorskie Lane
Texas A&M RB Jorvorskie Lane
Posted Oct 14, 2008

Who, along with Jorvorskie Lane's Texas A&M, are the biggest midseason disappointments? Who can't the big-time coaches lose to? Can coaches be recycled? All this and a lot more in the Midseason Cavalcade of Whimsy. Check out all the midseason reports and the halfway point All-America team on Friday.

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
- Week 5 | Week 6

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … the Kansas alumni are angry that my student section yells “rip his (bleeping) head off!” when I kick-off every column.

BOB: “Well, what would you say you do here?”
TOM: “Well, look, I already told you. I deal with the (bleep) customers so the engineers don't have to!! I have people skills!! I am good at dealing with people!!! Can't you understand that?!? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! …
 As the story goes, Tommy Bowden really did resign his post as the Clemson head coach; he wasn’t fired. Everyone was congenial, and there legitimately doesn’t appear to be any real issues in what was as clean a break as could be hoped for. Athletic director Terry Don Phillips made it emphatically clear that he didn’t intend to make a coaching change on Monday, but Bowden knew it was just a matter of time. Bowden’s a decent guy, he won a lot of games, and he graduated his players. Of course, when you’re at Clemson and you don’t win ACC titles, your time is limited. Once again, it’s more evidence to show what a horrible, horrible world it is to be a big-time head football coach.

Coaching tenures always end badly with anger and hurt feelings all the way around. Either a coach leaves because he’s seeking greener pastures or he’s canned. Almost no one ever resigns when things are going well.

Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez is one of the few who left a great situation on his own terms, and without aiming for another coaching gig. He’s just about the only big-time head coach in recent years who took off with the fan base still wanting more (again, without going to take another coaching job). Bill Snyder left Kansas State when the team was struggling. Lloyd Carr had been called to resign for years, even with a slew of success. Those situations are as good as it gets. Even Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden, arguably two of the five greatest coaches ever, aren’t about the scrutiny with a sizeable portion of their respective fan bases ready to move forward. Paterno even has his team in the thick of the national title chase and there’s still talk about what happens next.

Coaches are usually remembered more fondly when they’re gone. Even though Clemson should bring in a big-time head man who could finally get the program over the hump, Bowden will be missed in a lot of ways.

For 16 years, ever since the Hiss case, you've had a lot of fun. Just think how much you're going to be missing. You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.” … There’s a common misconception that the college football coaching fraternity is an old boys’ network. That’s the NFL, and it’s definitely the NBA. Once you’re out as a big-time college football head coach, you’re almost always out for good when it comes to getting another elite-level gig.  

Many think Bowden should be able to find another college head coaching job almost instantly, or whenever he’s ready, but does it really work to go through someone else’s trash? Coaches who get fired, or are strongly suggested to move on (count Houston Nutt in the latter category), rarely get another shot, and when they do, it almost never works. Getting fired from the pros (Pete Carroll, Steve Spurrier, Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis, June Jones, Mike Sherman, Dave Wannstedt) doesn’t count. I’m talking about the guys who were at one of the top college jobs and got fired, and not the ones who leave for other options.

How’s the Ty Willingham experience going at Washington? Remember when Mike Price was on the verge of jumping to a big gig somewhere after a little bit of early success at UTEP? (Message board discussion topic for the day: Where would Alabama be right now if Price had been able to keep the Tide job?) Ohio has been fine, but nothing special under Frank Solich. Hal Mumme is just now having a little bit of success at New Mexico State, and Bill Lynch is struggling at Indiana the year after taking over for the late Terry Hoeppner.

So out of all the coaches, there are just three retreads, guys where were fired from previous top jobs who are now working out. 3) Howard Schnellenberger, Florida Atlantic The Owls won the Sun Belt title last year but are struggling this season.
2) David Cutcliffe, Duke – Don’t scoff. At 3-2, this is already the best Duke season since 2003. The program hasn’t won more than four games since 1994.
1) Ron Zook, Illinois – He’s the one. This is the only real recent example of one program’s trash being another program’s treasure. Good luck finding that next big job, Tommy.

We have news for the beautiful people. There's a lot more of us than there are of you. I know there's alumni here tonight. When you went to Adams, you might have been called a spaz, or a dork, or a geek. Any of you that have ever felt stepped on, left out, picked on, put down, whether you think you're a nerd or not, why don't you come and join us? Come on. No one's really gonna be free until nerd persecution ends.” … If you’re a big-time head football coach, you cannot lose to 1) your arch-rival and 2) the smart, small schools your program has amassed a ridiculously lopsided record against. It doesn’t matter if a smart/small school has one of the nation’s better secondaries (like Vanderbilt), it doesn’t matter what its record is, and it doesn’t matter if the smart/small school has turned into a conference power with a league title and a 24-7 record over the previous 31 games (like Wake Forest). If you lose to the smart/small school, bad things happen and heads end up rolling.

You know Wake Forest and Vanderbilt can play, and I know Wake Forest and Vanderbilt can play, and the coaches who study their opponents on film certainly know that Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Stanford, and to a lesser degree, Duke and Baylor, can play. Good luck trying to sell that to Jim Bob Booster or Earl and Gladys RV, who are used to setting their watches to the annual layup.

193 yards of total offense, 56 rushing yards, and a loss to Arkansas. Oooooops ... Again, when you’re an Auburn and you lose to a Vanderbilt, the fan base gets grouchy. Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin got the boot because Tommy Tuberville couldn’t fire his players, or himself, and while the Tiger offense really does appear to be sputtering, remember one key element here … Auburn plays in the SEC.

I wrote something to this effect last year and it bears repeating. You can’t get all geeked up about the SEC being the be-all-end-all conference and then wonder why your team isn’t beating everyone 57-3. Auburn ran for 321 yards against UL Monroe and threw for 248 yards against Southern Miss. The O really wasn’t that bad, and just about everyone acknowledged that it was going to be a bit of a work in progress. The SEC season hit and, shock of shocks, the games became tight.

The SEC has seven of the top 21 defenses in America, and that doesn’t count LSU, who can obviously lay the lumber a little bit, and Mississippi State, whose D is much better than the statistics because the offense doesn’t provide any support. That also doesn’t include Vanderbilt, who’s currently 22nd in the nation in scoring defense. The one defense that doesn’t quite fit the SEC mold? Arkansas, and in game one after Tony Franklin, the offense struggled even more than usual despite facing the league’s worst defense (and it’s not even close).

Experience and bright, shiny appearances don’t always mean talent. You know, like Cougars Congratulations, you’re witnessing history. This might turn out to be the worst ever crop of senior pro quarterback prospects.

Before the season, according to most of the insiders, the top five senior QBs the scouts were looking at were 1) Purdue’s Curtis Painter, and now he’s on the verge of being benched. 2) Louisville’s Hunter Cantwell has completed just 57% of his throws with seven touchdown passes and six interceptions. 3) Clemson’s Cullen Harper has been benched for Willy Korn. 4) Missouri’s Chase Daniel is a fantastic college quarterback, but at around 5-10, isn’t seen as anything more than a second day pick and a backup at the next level. 5) Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell is also supposed to be a second day prospect, at best.

There’s a very real possibility that no senior quarterback goes in the first three rounds, and that’s being generous. Early entries can’t be blamed. The best quarterbacks in the 2008 Draft, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Brian Brohm, Chad Henne, John David Booty, Colt Brennan, and Andre Woodson, were all seniors. And that’s where the juniors come in.

Matthew Stafford, Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez, Nate Davis, and Colt McCoy could all use more seasoning as far their pro potential, but they’d all be taken ahead of any of the seniors in the 2009 Draft. The NFLers would love to get their grubby mitts on Sam Bradford, too.

Oh yeah, and there’s that little matter of the debilitating pain you’ll enjoy for the rest of your life ... Why should the underclassmen stay in school? NutriSystem and Dancing With The Stars. To all of the star players, get your degree so you’ll have something to do when football is over. Otherwise, you could be a Hall of Fame quarterback, the greatest receiver of all-time, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, or the winningest head coach in NFL history, and the best you can hope for is to publicly lose weight or to shake your booty for approval. It could be worse; you could be a washed up actor and enter the lost refuge of the damned, a.k.a. TotalGym commercials.

But for your parting gift you get a snappy visor … Who really wants to play quarterback for Steve Spurrier? There’s no proven track record of producing NFL talent and you can’t screw up. Ever. Even when you play well, that doesn’t mean you’re going to get to play. Stephen Garcia was excellent in the win over UAB, and the next week he was benched for Chris Smelley. Smelley was fantastic in the win over Ole Miss, struggled against Kentucky, throwing two interceptions, and Garcia was back in. Spurrier famously has had little problem with rotating his quarterbacks, for good and bad, and this year, more than ever, there can’t make a bad throw or a misfire without the quarterback looking over his shoulder.

And to the loser, you have to actually sit through the movie followed by an hour-long George Lucas symposium defending Jar Jar Binks and his dippy infatuation with aliens… Congratulations to the LSU band for winning a $25,000 prize for the band that came up with the best rendition of the Indiana Jones theme. Wisconsin’s band misunderstood the rules and played the theme from Alabama Jones and the Busty Crusade. The Badger band might have lost, but it got to see big breasted women making out with each other.

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Ten things I’m grouchy about with half the season gone. These are the 10 most disappointing aspects of the 2008 campaign.
10. Michigan
This is a program that’s just two years removed from having a semi-reasonable claim to a spot in the BCS Championship. This is a program that beat Florida to end last season. Of course, all the top offensive stars moved on, but this is Michigan; the self-anointed Leaders and Best.

Rich Rodriguez bet the ranch that he’d be able to get Terrelle Pryor, miscalculated that Pryor didn’t want to be the franchise from day one, even if he did want to be the starter, and was left without a quarterback. The offense is 109th in the nation, averages 18.8 points per game and can’t stop turning the ball over. Rodriguez will take Michigan to the top of the mountain again, but it’s obviously going to take a long, long while. Toledo had been shut out by Ball State and lost to Florida International, yes, Florida International, before last week’s stunning win over the Wolverines.
9. West Virginia
What happened to all that talk about this great coaching staff that was going to make everyone forget about the Rich Rodriguez era? Mountaineer fans are hoping for Bill Stewart’s recruiting prowess to kick in to get the program back to its previous high level, but this year, Pat White can’t stay healthy, the offense hasn’t scored more than 27 points against an FBS team, and the team struggled to get by miserable Rutgers and Syracuse teams. The Auburn game this week was supposed to be a big deal, but not anymore (that’s not necessarily WVU’s fault).

8. All things Miami
Wasn’t last year supposed to be the transitional disaster campaign at Da U? This might be a really young team, but on talent alone it should be better than 20-14 over UCF. To be fair, the defense has been fantastic. There’s tremendous athleticism and a ton of promise for the future, but the offense still stinks averaging 289 yards per game. The ACC is there for the taking this season, but Miami isn’t ready for prime time.

Meanwhile, Miami University was supposed to be the class of the MAC East. Instead, the RedHawks have been miserable thanks an offense averaging 85 rushing yards, 305 total yards, and 16.7 points per game. At 1-5 with the one win coming over Charleston Southern, this might be the nation’s most disappointing non-BCS team.
7. Ohio State vs. USC
Ohio State, even at 6-1, has been disappointing averaging a mere 321 yards and 24 points per game. The offensive line has been awful and the defensive front can’t get into the backfield. This was supposed to be a locked-in and loaded Buckeye team going into a national title-caliber showdown against USC, but Beanie Wells didn’t play thanks to a hurt foot, and Jim Tressel and his coaching staff were the only people in America who didn’t think Terrelle Pryor was the best option instead of Todd Boeckman. Even for USC the 35-3 win turned out to be disappointing after it clunked two weeks later in a 27-21 loss at Oregon State.

6. The Pac 10
When you’re a power conference and you’re getting beaten by the Mountain West on a regular basis, things aren’t going well. USC is on track to play for the national title, if it gets a little help along the way, and Cal is better than it’s being given credit for, but that’s about it. The rest of the conference can be wadded up into a big giant ball of inconsistent mediocrity (actually, that should be the title of this column).

Arizona State hasn’t come close to building on last year’s success, Oregon State got obliterated by Penn State and lost to Utah, Washington State and Washington have been miserable, UCLA can’t get healthy, and Oregon is having a nightmare of a time keeping its quarterbacks healthy. Overall, the league is 13-15 in non-conference play. By comparison, the SEC is 28-5 in non-conference play, the ACC is 32-10, the Big 12 is 38-10, the Big Ten is 31-10, and the Big East is 22-12.
Texas A&M 
Under Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M went to bowl games in three of the last four years, beat Texas in each of the last two seasons, and battled Penn State in a 24-17 Alamo Bowl loss last year. The Aggies can still beat Texas, go to a bowl, and come up with a big season, but they have to be better. A lot better. Under new head man Mike Sherman, the running game has gone from 13th in the nation, averaging 212 yards per game, to averaging a mere 126 yards per game. The loss of leader Stephen McGee for an extended stretch has been a problem, but the biggest issue is up front on both sides of the ball. Starting out the year with a loss to Arkansas State isn’t a plus, while the 41-23 loss to Miami and 21-17 win over Army showed just how far the team has to go. This is not the time to try to regroup and reload in the Big 12 South.

4. Georgia
And it’s not really Georgia’s fault. Thanks to a slew of key injuries, it’s been hard for the preseason No. 1 team to play up to its full potential. The offense has been a big sluggish over the last month, the secondary has been a problem, and the first half against Alabama was one of the biggest big game disasters of the season. At 5-1 it’s hard to be too down on the team, but it’s been underwhelming. It’s not the world-beater everyone thought it’d be. Even so, if the Dawgs win out, they’ll be in Miami playing for the national championship.   
3. Wisconsin & QB Allan Evridge
This was supposed to be the year the Badgers got to a BCS game. This has been the best program to not be in a BCS game over the last eight years, and now it’s going to be nine seasons since it went to the Rose Bowl.

Considering how miserable Michigan has been, the collapse in Ann Arbor is looking worse and worse, the defense couldn’t come through against Ohio State, and the Penn State embarrassment was part byproduct of the losses to the Wolverines and Buckeyes and part getting exposed. The entire team isn’t blameless, but the biggest issue has been the quarterback play. Allan Evridge, a senior who has been around the program long enough to know what he’s doing, doesn’t have a feel for the pass rush, hasn’t come through in the clutch, and he hasn’t used his running ability nearly enough.
2. Clemson
The team didn’t show up for the Alabama game and has yet to unleash its fury going 1-3 against FBS teams. The big concern coming into the season was the offensive line, but outside of the loss to the Tide, it hasn’t been all that bad. The defensive front was supposed to own space in opposing backfields, and it hasn’t happened with a stunning lack of a pass rush. A team with James Davis, C.J. Spiller, Aaron Kelly and Cullen Harper should be averaging more than 26.7 points per game. Take out the wins over Citadel and South Carolina State and the Tigers are averaging just 15.2 points per game. And now the program is undergoing an overhaul. 
1. Blowing off losses
USC had blown out Ohio State and had two weeks off to rest up and prepare for Oregon State. Clunk. Oh well, no big deal. Currently ranked fourth in the Coaches’ Poll, when, not if, Texas, Alabama, and/or Penn State lose, USC will slide into the national title game if it wins out.

Florida lost to Ole Miss, probably the SEC’s 10th best team, and maybe lower. Oh well, no big deal. Win the SEC title and finish with just one loss and it’ll be off to shoot for a second national title in three years.

Georgia got destroyed by Alabama (at least in the first half). Missouri lost at home to Oklahoma State, LSU got its doors blown off by Florida, and Kansas collapsed against South Florida. Oh well, no big deal. If any of them win out, they’re likely going to play for the national title. And that’s the problem with the system and it’s been the problem in the analysis of how the season is going.

The first BCS rankings come out next week and, unfortunately, the computer part of the system will remain relatively moot compared to the two human polls. The idea of the BCS is to be able to adequately compare the shape and landscape of a full season, but that doesn’t really happen since the humans who account for two-thirds of the equation will, as always, punish a late loss and forgive an early one.

If Texas loses a 34-31 shootout at Kansas late in the year, it’ll probably be dropped below a one-loss USC because the Oregon State loss happened early in the year. If Alabama loses at LSU, certainly a respectable defeat, it’ll likely fall below the Trojans and possibly a one-loss Oklahoma. How do we know this? Oklahoma lost in a near-even shootout against Texas this week and dropped from No. 1 to sixth behind Texas Tech and USC. Voters drop teams that lose, and that’s not always fair.

Here’s begging the pollsters to keep the USC loss to Oregon State, the Florida loss to Ole Miss, the Ohio State blowout loss to USC and the Georgia first half against Alabama in the discussion over the next six weeks. A loss is a loss. In the national title chase, the defeats can’t be blown off.
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.

- Is it possible to believe in Vanderbilt and still think it’s about to go in the tank record-wise? The Commodores should beat Duke to become bowl eligible, but I’ll make the call: that’ll be the only win the rest of the way. At Georgia, Duke, Florida, at Kentucky, Tennessee and at Wake Forest is the remaining schedule. The offense is too poor to get by the better teams and the breaks that helped the team through the first half of the season will slow down.
- In case you haven’t noticed, New Mexico State has quietly become halfway decent. The Aggies aren’t good enough to win the WAC, but with a veteran group, it’s good enough to make plenty of noise and get to a bowl game for the first time since the 1960 Sun Bowl. At 3-2 with the WAC lightweights (Idaho and Utah State) ahead, if the team that was good enough to beat Nevada shows up over the rest of the season, this will be a dangerous sleeper.
- Never mess around with anything when things are going well. Missouri’s Chase Daniel honored the late Aaron O’Neal, who died three years ago during a workout, by wearing the No. 25 against Oklahoma State. Of course the jersey change wasn’t the reason for the loss, but Daniel was hardly the same player. He was running more and was less patient than usual. The Tiger offense is at its best when Daniel isn’t on the move, and it always seems to struggle when the Heisman candidate tries to do too much. It’s not a coincidence that Daniel’s two best running games this year came against Illinois, which turned into a dogfight, and OSU.
- Army’s season has turned around just when the passing game has gone kaput. Over the last three weeks, Army has completed 5-of-13 passes for 47 yards, and was 0-for-3 in the win over Eastern Michigan.
- Is it more embarrassing for me or him when I can’t figure out who Frank Caliendo is impersonating?
- Oh how things can quickly change. East Carolina, a potential BCS buster just a few weeks ago, has lost three straight. The biggest problem? The run defense. After keeping Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Tulane and NC State in check, the Pirates gave up 220 yards to Houston and 202 to Virginia. The defense has allowed 1,071 total yards over the last two weeks.
Who doesn’t want to run the ball for Tulane head coach Bob Toledo? Matt Forte was a nice back who rolled to 2,127 yards and 23 touchdowns last year as Toledo used and used and used his workhorse in what turned out to become a great audition for the Chicago Bears. This year, 6-0, 210-pound junior Andre Anderson is turning into Toledo’s new star. Anderson has rushed for 852 yards and seven touchdowns so far with 255 yards and two scores against UTEP last week. Also a great receiver, he has 25 catches for 202 yards and a score.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy continually drinking and spitting out water at the end of the Missouri game ... Underrated: Erin Andrews spitting out her gum moments before interviewing Gundy
2) Overrated: Willy Korn … Underrated: Cullen Harper
3) Overrated: Ryan Reynolds, actor ... Underrated: Ryan Reynolds. Oklahoma linebacker, who’s out for the year with a knee injury
4) Overrated: Max Payne ... Underrated: Max Power
5) Overrated: The officiating in the 2006 Oklahoma – Oregon game ... Underrated: The officiating in the 2008 Oklahoma – Texas game

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

“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.

For the last few weeks I’ve gone Costanza. If every instinct I’ve had has been wrong, then the opposite would have to be right. I’ve been going with the exact opposite of what I believed by taking the opposite of the teams I was 100% certain were going to win against the spread. After fooling the gods to go 1-1-1 two weeks ago, my gimmick had caught up to me as I went 1-2 going against my beliefs to be 6-14-1 overall. I’m going back to using my own dumb brain.

I press on by taking the three games I’m sure of  … 1) Wisconsin +3.5 over Iowa, 2) Akron -3 over Eastern Michigan, 3) Cal over Arizona PICK

Last Week: 1) Nebraska +21 over Texas Tech (WIN), 2) Temple +9 over Central Michigan (LOSS), 3) Texas A&M +3 over Kansas State (LOSS)

Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … I threatened to take out Tim Tebow if I had a clean shot at him. Instead my hamstring, along with most of the column, was lame.