Cavalcade of Whimsy - The 2009 Top Ten!?
Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray
Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray
Posted Oct 28, 2008

2008 was so, well, this year, but that doesn't keep Pete Fiutak from taking the first look at the ten best teams of 2009. From analysis of the steroid issue and online gaming to Nebraska sell outs and Rich Rodriguez, check out the latest 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
- Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I got this job by winning a kicking contest at halftime of the Texas Tech – UMass game a few weeks ago.

“Some stupid zombies riding piles of Kleenex down the street? Big deal.” … It’s no longer 1957 and Mary Sue Sweetiepie isn’t going to be swept off her feet by buying her a large glass of fatty chocolate liquid. It’s time to quit thinking that homecoming means anything to anyone actually involved in the game itself. The players certainly don’t give a hoot about it, and only the oldest of fans actually attach some notion of extra pride because of the designation. Yes, there was a time when being someone’s homecoming opponent got a team fired up, but not anymore. There’s no need to play the disrespect card when it comes to this unnecessary and antiquated tradition.

And if you still don’t think America knows enough about you, just buy up a half hour of prime television time ... College coaches need to take a cue from the political campaigns and make sure they get as much face time as humanly possible no matter what the situation. What’s the best time for America to get to know a head coach? On the way to the locker room.

It happens at every halftime. The sideline reporter tries to get a few comments from a head coach as the teams run off the field, and the coach gives vapid answers as quickly as humanly possible so he can be off to adjust and prepare for the second half. Instead, coaches should use this time to stay on camera as long as he can. There’s nothing the coach can say in the locker room that’s more important than the television time he’ll get in every recruit’s living room. When it comes to recruiting and perceptions, nothing is bigger than being able to show off the personality. I’m convinced this helps Pete Carroll immeasurably. He’s always cool, polite, and confident in these moments, and he always speaks like he has an answer to fix the problems.

The message to you, Rudy, is to stay away from anything with gravy … ESPN’s Todd Blackledge has to slow down on his Taste of the Town bit in a big hurry. He needs to lose a little weight before getting back to his other gig as the lead singer of The Specials.

“I heard that one myself, Bob. Hell, I even thought I was dead til I found out I was just in Nebraska.” … 1962. That’s the last time Nebraska didn’t have a sell-out. The Huskers have gone 295 games in a row in front of a packed house currently putting 85,104 red butts in the seats each and every week. Take a look around the college football landscape and the second anything goes slightly askew with most power programs, there will be a few tickets to be had here and there and a few empty patches in the stands. Not Nebraska. Along with the bar set by Joe Paterno for the most wins by a D-I head coach at one school, this sellout record is another one that won’t be broken in our lifetime.

“I was ordering some fish for you, Audrey and Mom.” …
As the adage goes, it doesn’t matter who the hottest woman in the world is, somewhere there's a guy sick of schtupping her. On the flip side, I’ll find you 10,000 guys ready to step in and fire. It’s more than a little odd, considering her situation, that Christie Brinkley has reprised her tour de force Vacation performance in the DirecTV ads running every commercial break. Basically, she wasn’t bringing home the groceries, the husband, being of a high enough caliber to bag a Christie Brinkley in the first place, allegedly, er, uh, missed being cooked for, and he sampled some of the take out with the hot nanny. And now there’s Brinkley back in her role trying to seduce a married Clark Griswold. The white patent leather shoes are on the other foot.

“I'm sorry, but he knew about our getting hit on three big machines in a row and he did nothing about it. That means, either he was in on it or he was too dumb to see what was goin' on. Either way, I cannot have a man like that working here.” … Because there are actual real world issues to deal with, like our country going into the financial tank, you’re not going to see any grandstanding promo hearings on steroids any time soon like we had last summer when it came to baseball. But trust me; they’ll come soon enough.

Some NFL players are currently getting nailed for using masking agents, and it’s being hailed by some as proving that the drug testing system is working. Whatever.

When was the last time you heard of a college player getting nailed for steroid or human growth hormone use? Either no one, no one is juicing up, or maybe, just maybe, the druggies remain three steps ahead of the tests with their undetectable use. And to make things even worse, the NFL, who has to be the standard bearer on this to set the tone for college and high school football, is getting worse and worse at its reporting on the topic.

When the biggest voices, like ESPN’s Tom Jackson, who played in the 1970s on the same defense as Lyle Alzado in an era when shooting up was the norm for many, say things like, “I’m old school. Just play the game,” it shows a glaring head-in-the-sand ignorance that continues to prevail from the top down. To make matters worse, there’s Mike Ditka, a doorknob who gives doorknobs a bad name. He was as iron fisted as they came in demanding his players suck it up and play through injuries, and then he went on and ran a foundation for injured former players that was inept at best, borderline criminal at worst, saying he never really saw steroid abuse as an overall problem. He was a part of the 1970s Dallas Cowboys as a player and a coach and he didn’t know of anything going on? He knows who's doing them. You know, deep down, who's doing them. A few players getting nailed for periphery use should be the fuse that sets off the bomb, but it won't be.

It's time to start making this a bigger deal, I keep trying, and it's time the NCAA became even more proactive on the subject. Eventually, people will care about this problem and all the talking heads are going to get self-righteous after the fact. Until then, let’s hope the college game can step up teach the pros how to do this right.

“You wanna make it right? Then when you go to nationals, bring it. Don't slack off because you feel sorry for us. That way, when we beat you, we'll know it's because we're better.” …  Do you really think the Big 12 or SEC champion will be the slightest bit nervous about playing Penn State? Oh sure, if the Nittany Lions get into the national championship game the opponent will say all the right things and pay the proper respect, as it should against a defense this good, but you know the internal memo, after seeing the Ohio State game and after getting through a real conference war, will be “bring … it … on.”

Oh yeah, and the overtime system is better, too, nyah-nyah ...
To anyone out there, especially the NFL fans, who actually believes the pro replay system is better than the college version, look at what happened in the Atlanta – Philadelphia game. Atlanta was down 20-14 and was going to get the ball back with 2:22 to play. The punt appeared to be muffed, Philly recovered, and put it away with a Brian Westbrook touchdown run. Only, the punt wasn’t muffed or mishandled. It never touched the returner and the officials got it wrong. It wasn’t under two minutes, so it wasn’t an automatic review, and Atlanta couldn’t challenge because it was out of time-outs. Meanwhile, the college replay system has remained seamless and relatively painless. Most importantly, it’s getting the calls right. That’s the whole point. There’s no nobility in a missed call.

“Nyet! Nyet! He beat me. Straight up. Pay him. Pay that man his money.”… If you’re a Republican “investor,” here’s a small silver lining for you before the upcoming clean sweep apparently coming next Tuesday. With an Obama White House and a Democrat controlled congress, you’re going to be able to wager on a sporting event again.

There's word that an Obama government will be trying to find as many creative ways as possible to raise revenue to not only bring down the debt, but to pay for social programs. There’s a better than 50/50 shot that online gaming will be legalized in the next few years, regulated, and taxed up the yang, bringing in billions of dollars. If McCain wins, forget about Internet poker or sportsbooks seeing the light of day ever again. McCain is from Arizona, along with Senator Jon Kyl, the major force behind eliminating the legality of on-line gaming.

“The SEC is going to lose at least six regular season non-conference games against BCS teams.” … I got hammered on that statement in a preseason column with angry SEC fans bombarding me from all sides, a few radio talk show hosts yelling at me for disrespecting the holiest of holy leagues, and Mike Mayock ripping on me during one of our early NFL Network gigs. After the Auburn loss to West Virginia, the SEC has lost seven non-conference games (UCLA over Tennessee, Louisiana Tech and Georgia Tech over Mississippi State, Wake Forest over Ole Miss, Texas over Arkansas, and Vanderbilt over Duke). When all is said and done, there could be even more. 

'Cause they stand on a wall. And they say "Nothing's gonna hurt you tonight.  Not on my watch." ... It’s a simple game. It’s all about the offensive lines. You can put mediocre skill players behind a great offensive line and the attack should shine, and great quarterbacks and receivers should go ballistic behind a great front five. With that in mind, looking back on our Preview, here were our top five offensive lines going into the preseason. 1. Oklahoma, 2. Oklahoma State, 3. Penn State, 4. Ohio State, 5. LSU. We had the Texas line 15th, Texas Tech’s 11th, Utah’s 20th, and Alabama’s line ranked 25th. Obviously this is hardly the be-all-end-all judgment on the lines,  but there doesn’t seem to be a clear relationship between the front five and a good team.

Rule change of the week … Up 21-14 with 8:49 to play, Colt McCoy dropped back against Oklahoma State, got rid of the ball, which was intercepted, and got popped in the face by Andre Sexton to draw a roughing the passer penalty. It was a personal foul that gave the ball back to Texas, who ended up getting a McCoy sneak for a touchdown two plays later. The late hit had nothing to with the pick. The rule needs to be changed that the penalty is tacked on for the team that just intercepted the ball, but it shouldn’t have to give the ball back unless the hit actually contributed to the turnover.

Basically, it’s a dollar for every turnover …
Rich Rodriguez might not be a beloved man by Michigan fans at the moment, but his contract appears to be a little light. Yeah, yeah, boo-hoo. We have a nation of people going under and here’s a guy making $2.5 million a year for six years, but that seems a bit light for an elite of the elite job like Michigan. Everyone knows Michigan was going to be low, it’s a place that deep down believes coaches should be paying the school for the honor to be working there. That’s part of the reason Les Miles didn’t jump ship immediately.

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength

2008 is so last year. What’s the 2009 top ten potentially going to look like? Remembering that things will change in a big hurry depending on who jets early to the NFL and who sticks around, here’s the first look anywhere for next year.
10. Boise State

It might be time to finally start giving the program the benefit of the doubt. The team that’s stopping everyone cold on the way to a second BCS appearance in three years comes back loaded. WR Jeremy Childs is probably off to the NFL early, but if he’s back, he’ll be on the preseason All-America lists. RB Ian Johnson will be done after what seems like 16 years in the program, but QB Kellen Moore is back as a seasoned sophomore working behind a veteran line. RBs Jeremy Avery and D.J. Harper are big-time playmakers to revolve the offense around, while corners Brandyn Thompson and Kyle Wilson will be as good a tandem as any in America. The defensive front seven loses some key players and some depth, but there are some great young linemen in Billy Winn and Ryan Winterswyk to get excited about.
This is a pick on brand name. In a horrible year for senior NFL quarterback prospects, Sam Bradford will almost certainly be gone along with four starters on the offensive line. The defensive front should remain intact, while the defensive back seven should be a killer with the loss of FS Lendy Holmes and LB/S Nic Harris the two big loses. The running backs will be the strength early on, led by DeMarco Murray.

8. North Carolina
Next year is when the Butch Davis recruiting classes are going to kick in big-time. The skill players will be the question mark if WR Hakeem Nicks leaves early, as he has the talent to do, but there are a slew of interesting players, like RB Shaun Draughn and WR Greg Little, who should shine with a bigger role. The quarterback situation will be fine no matter if it’s T.J. Yates, Cam Sexton or Mike Paulus running the offense. Losing SS Trimaine Goddard will hurt, but the rest of the ball-hawking secondary returns. The outside linebacking pair of Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter might be the best in America, but the strength of the team could be Marvin Austin and a loaded defensive front.
Now we’ll see just how good the recruiting really has been. The offensive line will lose C Bret Helms, OG Herman Johnson, and junior OT Ciron Black, will all be off to the NFL, while the defensive line will have to go a wholesale change assuming Ricky Jean-Francois is gone to the draft, where he should be a first round draft pick. LB Darry Beckwith will graduate, but the rest of the back seven should be solid. The real key will be the receiving corps. Will Brandon LaFell leave early? Even if he’s gone, QBs Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee should be strong with Charles Scott, Keiland Williams and Richard Murphy will be there to hand off to.

6. Georgia
All of the injury issues on the offensive line should turn out to be a good thing going into next year with all five starters returning. Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno will be top ten draft picks if they take off early for the NFL, as expected, but the cupboard won’t be bare. Joe Cox isn’t Stafford, but he’s not bad, and Caleb King will be a special back. A.J. Green is one of America’s best young wide receivers, and he’ll have a little bit of help with TE Bruce Figgins and WR Michael Moore. The defense will lose its share of players early to the next level, but the Dawgs should reload. And if CB Asher Allen, FS Reshad Jones, and if, miracle of miracles, Stafford and/or Moreno return, move the ranking up higher.

5. Alabama
Remember, 2009 was supposed to be the year when everything was supposed to come together. Everything started working a year early.
If Greg McElroy going to be ready to take over for John Parker Wilson, or will Star Jackson take over the quarterback reigns? Whoever’s throwing will get a loaded receiving corps to throw to, led by Julio Jones, while the running back trio of Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram, and Terry Grant will be devastating. The Achilles heel early on should be an offensive line that loses center Antoine Caldwell and will almost certainly be without Andre Smith, who should leave early and be the first lineman taken in the 2009 draft. Star FS Rashad Johnson is gone, but nine starters return.

4. Oklahoma State
This will be the “it” team of 2009. Everyone will jump on the bandwagon with a loaded offense that’ll get all the key parts back except for TE Brandon Pettigrew, who’ll likely be the first tight end taken in the draft. WR Dez Bryant, QB Zac Robinson, and RBs Kendall Hunter & Keith Toston will all return, but the key will be the offensive line where center David Washington is gone. Left tackle Russell Okung will likely leave early for the NFL, but if he comes back, he’ll lead one of the nation’s best lines. The defense will have to replace the defensive tackles and most of the secondary.
Tim Tebow’s dad is checking in to see exactly what the NFL buzz is. The results are mixed so far, but Tebow should be back if he’s assured he’ll be developed as more of a pro passer. Even if he’s gone, Cameron Newton and John Brantley can produce in his place. Certain to be off to the big leagues will be Percy Harvin, but there are a slew of good receivers coming back along with most of the top running backs. The O line loses the tackles, but should be great inside. And then there’s the defense. LB Brandon Spikes will leave early and DE Jermaine Cunningham will be tempted, but the rest of the D returns intact. The secondary that’s relying so heavily on sophomores will be a killer.
2. Texas
Colt McCoy has already said he’s coming back for his senior season, and he’ll have a slew of good young receivers waiting to step up to take over for Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby. The big key will be on offensive line that should welcome back four starters, only losing Cedric Dockery. Vondrell McGee, Cody Johnson, and Vondrell McGee will handle the running game. DEs Brian Orakpo and Henry Melton will be gone, but the extremely young secondary will be a year older and a year wiser. The real key will be defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. He’ll be on everyone’s head coaching short list, but there’s a chance he hangs around for another year and cherry picks from whatever job opening he wants at the end of 2009.
1. USC
This is a team three years in the making. Mark Sanchez is nuts if he doesn’t take off early for the NFL, but USC quarterbacks tend to stay as long as possible for seasoning. Even if he bolts, Mitch Mustain is more than just a fill-in, and Aaron Corp will certainly challenge for the job. Losing guard Jeff Byers will hurt, but everyone else returns on the offensive line including the backups. Receivers Damian Williams and Vidal Hazelton will be back along with tight end Anthony McCoy. The backfield will be devastating with Joe McKnight, C.J. Cable, Stafon Johnson and fullback Stanley Havili are all back for at least one more year, possibly two. The offense will have to put up a ton of points on the board until the defense comes around. Assume S Taylor Mays is gone early to the NFL, while CB Kevin Thomas could be gone, too. The linebacking corps is the biggest issue, replacing Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, while the defensive front loses star tackle Fili Moala and end Kyle Moore. It’s USC. There will be more defensive stars waiting to fill in.

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.

- If you’re a fan of a mid-level team that’ll get to six wins but could be lost in the bowl shuffle, root for the better teams in the Pac 10 to lose, and root against Arizona State, UCLA and Stanford. It’ll be a mild upset for any of those three to get to a bowl game, leaving open a few Pac 10 bowl spots.

- No, this year’s Kansas team isn’t the same as last year’s ultra-efficient juggernaut, but the 2007 team didn’t play anyone of note until the Missouri game. A loss. This year, KU has to play Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech from the South, and things haven’t been quite the same.

- Was Jeff Bower really that bad for Southern Miss? Larry Fedora has done a bit more for the offense, but the defense has hit the skids, along with the Golden Eagles. USM is on a five-game losing streak and has the nation’s 104th ranked defense.

- I don’t have records on this, but I have to believe Stanford has ever been a 30-point favorite against any Pac 10 team. The line is the Cardinal -30 over Washington State.
- The Big Ten has got to figure out how to get a fairer and more balanced schedule. Minnesota doesn’t play Michigan State or Penn State this year, and has Northwestern, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa to go.

- There has to be a moratorium on the suggestion that a team has to “outscore Texas” to beat the Longhorns. Lee Corso has been guilty of this twice, and I’ve heard it say two other times. Instead, say a team’s offense will have to outplay the Texas offense in a shootout.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Penn State promo song, “Its Your Time” ... Underrated: The ESPNU ad, “Reach For The Stars.”
2) Overrated: Illinois CB Vontae Davis… Underrated: San Francisco TE Vernon Davis
3) Overrated: Ohio State No. 1, Boston College No. 2, LSU No. 3 in the Oct. 21, 2007 BCS rankings... Underrated: Texas No.1, Alabama No. 2, Penn State No. 3 in the Oct. 26, 2008 BCS rankings
4) Overrated: Questions about when Paterno is going to retire ... Underrated: Paterno sitting by himself in the press box at halftime
5) Overrated: SEC East... Underrated: Big 12 South

“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: Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

“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.

2-1!!!! I break the grip of shame, at least temporarily, but not going 1-2! Ride the wave, baby. Ride the wave.

2-1 last week, 9-17-1 overall.

I press on by taking the three games I’m sure of  … 1) Texas A&M -3 over Colorado, 2) East Carolina -3.5 over UCF, 3) Indiana -2.5 over Central Michigan

Last Week: 1) Alabama -6 over Tennessee (WIN), 2) Central Michigan -3.5 over Toledo (LOSS), 3) Tulsa -21.5 over UCF (WIN)

Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … it was going to be better, but the hedge fund that T. Boone Pickens created to finish the renovations lost $123 million in four months.