Cavalcade of Whimsy
Preseason ... Sept. 1, Part 2
The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
The ten aspects of the college football world that have disappointed, demoralized, depressed, or flat-out annoyed me before the season has even started.
Baylor fans are all fired up because their team doesn't suck after years of being the Big 12's doormat. Having a great head coach like Art Briles helps, and having the nation's most fun player, QB Robert Griffin, is reason for excitement, but it's not like the Bears are going to be in the Big 12 title game any time soon. The program might be far better than it's been in the past, but with a road game at Wake Forest to open the season, away games at Oklahoma and Missouri, and dates against Connecticut, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Texas, and Texas Tech, it'll be another losing campaign.
9. The concept of a "game manager" as a negative
A quarterback being called a game manager is usually the equivalent of saying an ugly girl has good posture. Until now, the game managers are the quarterbacks who don't have a lot of talent, don't do anything special, and are all but along for the ride whenever there's any offensive success. I never liked the concept, and it'll be my ongoing goal to change the term into a positive as the season goes on. Who's a great game manager? Sam Bradford. Peyton Manning is an all-timer of a game manager. Tom Brady, when Albert Haynesworth isn't sitting on his head, is the epitome of a game manager. Any quarterback who can properly read a defense, make the third down throws to keep the chains moving, and can check out of bad plays into successful ones should be considered a game manager. A bad quarterback should be called a bad quarterback.
8. Kansas State's inevitable hot start
Don't get fooled by the upcoming articles and stories about how Bill Snyder has brought back the glory at Kansas State after coming up with a nice first half of the year. The Wildcats begin the season with UMass, Louisiana-Lafayette, at UCLA, Tennessee Tech, and Iowa State. After going to Texas Tech there are home games against Texas A&M and Colorado, meaning if KSU is anything but truly awful, it should start the year 4-3, at worst, but will more likely be 5-2 before reality sets in. The hammer should drop beginning with the game against the Buffs, and then comes at Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and at Nebraska on the way to a 5-7 season complete with the type of collapse that made Wildcat fans so grouchy with former head man, Ron Prince.
And the horse? Is there anything in the world you hate as much as that horse?
While anyone involved with the ExtenZe ads has to be destroyed with great vengeance and furious anger, they're not as next-level awful as the whole NutriSystem gang led by Dan Marino, Jillian Barberie, and Mike Golic. The innocuous Get Back In The Game slogan should be replaced by It's Called Salad, Stupid, and they need to be in much better shape (with the exception of Barberie, who'd lose eight pounds if she took off the eye makeup) before they start chirping too much. Eat healthy, don't eat a lot, and work out. It's not that tough. That's not working? Then eat healthier, eat even less, and work out harder.
6. Forced cheering for the service academies.
Obviously, everyone respects and admires the men and women who serve in our armed forces, and now there's a group of fans who want to do more. Over the last few weeks there's been a movement afoot to try to get fans to cheer loudly and lustily for the visiting service academy teams as they enter the opposing stadiums. The plan, for example, is to get Ohio State fans to yell and applaud for Navy when they run onto the field as much as they will when the Buckeyes come out. It's certainly a nice gesture and the hearts are in the right places, but most of the players that I've ever come across at Army, Navy, and Air Force want to be known, at least on game day, as football players. I can't speak for any of the players regarding how much the cheering gesture would be appreciated, but I've always gotten the sense that outside of the Commander-in-Chief games when they play each other they'd rather get away from their day jobs for those three hours on the field. Even so, it will a memorable moment to start the year if the Buckeye fans can pull it off.
5. Ole Miss
Everyone's darling after finishing last year with six straight wins, finishing off with a Cotton Bowl win over Texas Tech and as the lone team to beat Florida, Ole Miss is getting a ton of preseason respect and is considered the favorite to win the SEC West, even though Alabama is No. 5 in the preseason rankings. Setting the bar even higher was the way the Rebels lost their four games, all by a touchdown or less, but the real selling point has been a schedule with the toughest road game likely to be at Auburn. However, don't be shocked if the South Carolina and/or Vanderbilt pull off an upset in at home before the Rebels have their showdown against Alabama, and wins aren't guaranteed just because the Tennessee and LSU games are in Oxford. Teams that have the bull's-eye on them tend to struggle, and Ole Miss could have problems now that it can't sneak up on anyone.
4. An expected drop-off at Georgia
How does a team lose the No. 1 draft pick, QB Matthew Stafford, and a first round RB in Knowshon Moreno and get better? It has everything else in place. The schedule is nasty with road games against Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia Tech, along with home games against South Carolina, Arizona State, LSU, and Auburn, and, of course, there's the date with Florida, but the team is going to be stronger and could be more consistent than it was last season. The offensive line is going to be special, the defense should be a rock up front, and the running game will be more than fine with several backs rotating to fill Moreno's shoes. And then there's the quarterback situation, with Joe Cox stepping in after spending the last few years as a solid understudy to Stafford. He's not Stafford, but he knows what he's doing and he'll be more than fine. The Dawgs won't go unbeaten, but they're more of a factor in the SEC race than they're getting preseason credit for.
3. An expected drop-off at USC
Mark Sanchez will be starting for the New York Jets instead of dealing with San Jose State in the season opener, the stars from the linebacking corps are gone, scary deep threat Ronald Johnson broke his collarbone, and CB Shareece Wright is academically ineligible. Throw in a true freshman at quarterback, and a tough schedule with six road games in the first nine including dates at Cal, Notre Dame, and Oregon, and the potential is there for USC to fall off its high pedestal. Whatever. It's USC. It loses one NFL-caliber player and replaces him with another. The second team would beat about 90 other teams, the O line and the secondary, even without Wright, should be the best in America, and the running backs are all back. It's also a team that should quickly rally around the idea that it could be vulnerable, and for the first time in a long time, Pete Carroll really might be able to throw out the No One Believes In Us rhetoric and make it stick. In two weeks the Trojans will get to make their statement against Ohio State (or vice versa), and it should define the early part of the season.
2. The Big Ten even with its great records
Don't be fooled. It'll be easy to assume Penn State will deserve the high ranking it'll get in mid-October helped by a non-conference schedule with Akron, Syracuse, Temple and Eastern Illinois. There's a tough game at Illinois, and the Halloween game at Northwestern could be trickier than it appears, but the Nittany Lions will be favored in every game until the regular season ender at Michigan State.
Ohio State plays USC, and no one else. The toughest road game, until the November 7th date at Penn State, is at Purdue. Iowa's toughest non-conference game is against Arizona at home, Michigan State goes to Notre Dame, but that's it, while Wisconsin's toughest non-conference game is at Hawaii. Northwestern's non-conference schedule is Towson, Eastern Michigan, at Syracuse, and Miami University, Michigan hoses Notre Dame, along with Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Delaware State, and Indiana starts off the season against Eastern Kentucky, Western Michigan, and at Akron.
The Big Ten will come up with excellent records and will look great on paper, but it could quickly be exposed in the bowl games. At least then the conference will play games against teams with a pulse.
1. Florida as a lock to win the national title
It's not enough for Florida to win the SEC championship, which would normally mean a successful season by almost any measure, and it's not enough to simply get to the national championship. Florida, from the players, to the coaches, to many of the fans, appears to be setting the bar almost unreasonably high. It's almost as if winning the national title with one loss on the record, like there was in the Florida's three recent championship seasons, would make the season a failure. That's a lot to live up to.
Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, and several other NFL caliber talents didn't come back to Gainesville for anything other than to make an all-timer of a statement and go down in history as the best ever. That's the same attitude the 2002 Miami Hurricanes had, and it's the same mindset the 2005 USC Trojans had, and both teams lost in classic national championship games when they had chances to repeat.
Florida is the overwhelming No. 1 team in America and has everything going its way to get to Pasadena, but with the pressure, the spotlight and with the attention as the favorite, the door will be open for someone to pull off the upset. If history is any indication, it'll happen.
Teams good enough to get into the national championship game, and are considered a decided underdog against seemingly unbeatable teams, tend to play tighter, with a better focus, and are hungrier. Since the BCS came into the picture, there have been four monster upsets when the game was thought to be a foregone conclusion.
- Florida over Ohio State for the 2006 national title.
- Texas over USC for the 2005 national title.
- Ohio State over Miami for the 2002 national title.
- Oklahoma over Florida State for the 2000 national title.
The season isn't over before it starts. You have hope Texas, Oklahoma, USC, and anyone else with dreams of playing for the title. History is on your side.
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.
- Best name in college football: TCU safety Tekerrein Cuba.
- Best unit of names: The Utah defensive tackles. Lei Talamaivao, Kenape Eliapo, Sealver Siliga.
- Coolest bizarre oddity: ULM linebacker Jason Edwards has 36 teeth and is called the X-Man.
- Coolest quirky personnel move: New Army head coach Rich Ellerson really will play 6-10, 283-pound offensive tackle Ali Villanueva at wide receiver, and yes, he will be used as a pass catcher.
- It's okay to rank Oklahoma No. 2. Really, it is. Just because the Sooners lost a tough national title game against Florida, and has stunk it up in other recent BCS games, that doesn't mean they don't deserve more consideration as the nation's second best team to start the season. I respectfully ask each and every pollster to give me five reasons why Texas is better than Oklahoma going into the year, and they can't use last year's Longhorn win in their reasoning. I also ask for them to name five players on each team not named Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford.
- I know he has been strong this preseason, but based on workouts and game film, I'm convinced that the only reason the Jets took Mark Sanchez with the fifth overall pick is because they think he's hot.
- Off the topic, my favorite TV sports quote this off-season came while watching a replay of the 1984 NBA Draft on NBA TV (I was really, really bored). From former St. John's head coach, Lou Carnesecca, who was being used as an analyst, on Louisville guard Lancaster Gordon, who was taken eighth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers: "His future is still ahead of him."
- Yeah, yeah, yeah, different sports and different physical demands, but if 17-year-old Federico Macheda can play for Manchester United, Julio Jones should be allowed to be on an NFL roster with tens of millions in the bank.
- Best fun stat from last year that didn't get much love: TCU gave up just two touchdown passes over the final eight games of last year, and one of them was on the last moment scoring play from Utah that defined the Mountain West season.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Tim Tebow as pro prospects … Underrated: Jevan Snead, Terrelle Pryor, and Jimmy Clausen as pro prospects
2) Overrated: Usain Bolt … Underrated: Ben Johnson
3) Overrated: NFL head coaches under 40 ... Underrated: Locking up veteran star college coaches with lots of dough
4) Overrated: Experience ... Underrated: Matt Barkley with an NFL caliber line in front of him
5) Overrated: Post-Off The Wall Michael Jackson ... Underrated: Preventing child abuse
"Do you gamble?"
"Every time I order out."
"Do you speak French?"
"Unfortunately, no, but I do kiss that way." … The three lines this week that appear to be a tad off. These picks were a complete and utter disaster over the last two years, but if you're an "investor," all you care about is a prognosticator going completely one way or all the way the other. So here we go … 1) Louisiana Tech +12 over Auburn, 2) Utah -20.5 over Utah State, 3) Colorado State +11 over Colorado
Sorry this column sucked, it wasn't my fault … I don't get four preseason tune-up games like the pros do, so I apologize for using week one like a light scrimmage, just like Iowa State is doing with North Dakota State, Temple is doing with Villanova, Kent State is doing with Coastal Carolina, Indiana is doing with Eastern Kentucky, Oregon State is doing with Portland State, Hawaii is doing with Central Arkansas, Michigan State is doing with Montana State, Northwestern is doing with Towson, West Virginia is doing with Liberty, Iowa is doing with Northern Iowa, Georgia Tech is doing with Jacksonville State, Pitt is doing with Youngstown State, Boston College is doing with Northeastern, Air Force is doing with Nicholls State, Wyoming is doing with Weber State, Mississippi State is doing with Jackson State, Marshall is doing with Illinois State, Houston is doing with Northwestern State, North Carolina is doing with Citadel, Virginia is doing with William & Mary, UCF is doing with Samford, Arkansas is doing with Missouri State, Florida is doing with Charleston Southern, South Florida is doing with Wofford, Duke is doing with Richmond, Louisiana-Lafayette is doing with Southern, Kansas is doing with Northern Colorado, Southern Miss is doing with Alcorn State, Texas Tech is doing with North Dakota, Arkansas State is doing with Mississippi Valley State, Kansas State is doing with Massachusetts, Louisville is doing with Indiana State, Vanderbilt is doing with Western Carolina, SMU is doing with Stephen F. Austin, Arizona State is doing with Idaho State, Fresno State is doing with UC Davis, and UNLV is doing with Sacramento State. Try to enjoy your week one anyway.
1, Part 1