Cavalcade of Whimsy - Penn State's "Revenge"
Posted Sep 29, 2009

From Penn State's "Revenge" against Iowa to ESPN's coverage to a trend for the Oklahoma - Miami game to an exclusive inside look at the conversations in Tim Tebow's hospital room, here's the latest installment of the Cavalcade of Whimsy.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Sept. 29

Past Cavalcades
- 2008 Season | Sept. 1, Part 1 | Sept. 1 - Part 2
- Week 1 (The Bradford Shoulder) | Week 2 (Time To Boot the Big East?)
- Week 3 (The Ten New Stars)

Sorry if this column sucks, it's not my fault … Boy, I'll tell you what, they are a whole lot better than I thought. I knew they were good, but they beat the heck out of the column.

No, really, they're on the list. Really, check under Big East, capital B … 1) You can't be a BCS buster IF YOU PLAY IN A BCS CONFERENCE. South Florida has been around for a while and has been a regular on the bowl scene. It's not like Florida A&M stepped up and thumped Florida State; the Big East might actually be stronger than the ACC. As Bobby Bowden came out and said, USF can play with excellent speed and athleticism on both sides of the ball. Cincinnati has gone on the road to beat Oregon State and has to deal with a tougher-than-you-or-anyone-else-gives-it-credit-for Big East. If the Bearcats or Bulls go unbeaten, they're not a buster of anything and they deserve to be in the national title discussion. 2) You have to beat at least two teams from a BCS conference to have any voice whatsoever when it comes to BCS Championship talk. And if one of those BCS teams suck, like a Duke or a Washington State, the win has to be in a blowout. Houston, the spotlight is on. TCU, beating Clemsn isn't enough, and Boise State, getting Oregon at home doesn't do it.

"So you should ask yourself, with every decision that you make, Is this good for the company? Am I helping the best way that I can for the company? … Alright, ESPN, you have one year. You have one year before you get the BCS to prove to a very skeptical college football world that you're not going to make our beloved sport all ESPNy.

As the way-too-big mega-giant that controls the sports world, you've been open to shots and criticism, some fair, most not, from those trying to tear down the wall. You have done some things incredibly well (pre-1995ish Dick Vitale, pre-2000ish SportsCenter, ESPN Radio, the actual broadcasts of the games, NFL Draft coverage, instant post-game attention for the biggest events), and you have had some unmitigated disasters that you refuse to fix (Stuart Scott, Keyshawn Johnson, Mike & Mike in the Morning, giving Mike Lupica and Jay Mariotti a bigger voice, the ESPYs, post-1995ish Dick Vitale, SportsCenter becoming as credible to the world of sports journalism as the WWF is to honest entertainment), but for the most part you're batting a robust .483. You are at your best when it comes to your coverage of college football, and I'm afraid you're going to screw it up.

Rule No. 1 for a parent's sanity when it comes to taking care of small kids is to not try to fix something that isn't broken. Don't introduce the Outlaw Laser Robo-Geek if the kids are happy and content playing with a piece of string. ESPN, don't give us the unnecessary add-on when we're more than happy with how things are now. Don't try to ESPN things up by adding more bells, more whistles, and more noise to a college football coverage that thrives on an understated tone, set by the incomparable Chris Fowler, compared to the rest of your network. Most importantly, don't ruin the sports' credibility by making anyone question your motives and coverage. I've stated time and again what a New Coke-like colossal blunder it is to put the national title on ESPN instead of ABC, but there's a bigger issue at stake here beyond the sports' cachet value and that's the selection of the teams to play in that BCS Championship game.

It's one thing to slap on a muzzle to make the analysts as mushy as a ten-minute-old bowl of Quisp when it comes to the edgier topics (Barry Bonds, Ben Roethlisberger, anything to do with steroids, controversy, or anything that could affect the bottom line), and it's another to directly affect the outcome of a season. And with ESPN about to control almost the entire college football landscape next year, the analysis and the presentation needs to be under more scrutiny than ever and it has to be far sharper.

The BCS is a mess of a system mainly because the pollsters who account for the main part of the equation don't know enough about college football. When the voters aren't busy putting Texas Tech ahead of Houston and Cal ahead of Oregon, who do they get their info from? Late night ESPN highlight shows, and when it becomes ESPNSEC, after the network dropped $2.25 billion for a 15-year deal for the rights to show a bulk of the SEC games, take a wild guess at what conference is going to get the largest percentage of attention and analysis as time goes on.

ESPN is all about making money, and while there's nothing wrong with that, to a point, any chance of seeing a playoff or any real changes to the system aren't going to be made any time soon, even though the powers-that-be made a push to form some sort of improved post-season format. ESPN doesn't like to do anything that shakes things up once things start to work, and that's going to include college football.

Again, to be fair, ESPN generally does a great job, but I know exactly how all the ESPN analysts really feel about the BCS and I know they're all going to get a confidential memo ordering them to not say anything but glowing warm fuzzies about it. Yes, we had a discussion with Fox when it came to criticizing the BCS, and yes, we were told not to be over the top with negativity, but we were never told we couldn't point out flaws and things that needed to be changed as long as we were fair. The ESPNers aren't likely to be allowed the same freedom.

So to ESPN and all its wonderful college football talking heads, it's your job to spend the rest of this year toning up and sharpening up the analysis of all leagues and to fully understand your responsibility when it comes to defining and dictating the national perception of various teams and conferences. If there's a problem with the SEC, then say so, or we will call you out on it. If you're holding back when it comes to what you really think about the BCS, then say so, or we will call you out on it. And God help you if squash any sort of real news story, like you did with the Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault allegations, or we will not only call you out on it, but we will stop trusting you. That's fine when it comes to other sports, but college football is decided on opinions. Make yours count.

"Shut up, Dirk. I told you I got a plan. I got a good plan." … Hey, Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts, now that Thomas Jane is tied up doing his HBO series, Hung, Paul Thomas Anderson wants you to take over the role of Todd Parker in Boogie Nights 2

And good luck trying to concentrate in class with the ringing in the ears … Jacksonville Jaguar owner Wayne Weaver has stated publicly that his team would strongly consider drafting Tim Tebow in 2010, mostly because he'd like to sell more tickets for his floundering franchise that should be moved to Los Angeles. Going for the homer pick doesn't fill seats, winning lots of football games does, and now everything changes after the concussion.

There were question marks to begin with about Tebow's style and his ability to translate his skills to the next level, and now there's this. Considered a mid-to-late first round pick before getting hurt, now he might be seen as all but undraftable on the first day by many NFL teams. Shoulders heal, toes heal, even torn ACLs heal up and the knees often come back stronger. But once there are concussion problems, there's a quick downhill slide with each successive one being worse and worse. He's not going to be a Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, or Matt Ryan who can be thrown to the wolves from day one. He'll need time and seasoning, and with the concern about concussions every time he drops back, there might not be a payoff.

"Neither Mr. Burns nor Mr. Trickle have any significant cranial injury."
"Let's have that in English. Did they mess up their squash?" …
This just in, a secretly taped exchange with the hospital staff in Tebow's hospital room. "I'm sorry. I'm extremely sorry. We were hoping for a bendy straw for my juice and HBO. That was my goal, something that other patients have never had here. I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any patient in the entire hospital ask as much for the cherry Jell-O as I will for the rest of the stay. You will never see someone push a nursing staff for the Jell-O as hard as I will push everybody for the rest of the stay. Let's GO!!! We have 30 minutes for the rest of our lives before the Jell-O turns to liquid. COME ON!!! God Ble (pain medication kicks in) … Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb."

"Treasure … bath tub … treasure bath. I'm going to have a treasure bath!!! TREASURE BAAAAAATH!!! … Note to all NFL eligible juniors and redshirt sophomores who have top 100 draft pick ability. GET … OUT. The NFL is about to self-immolate in a fire of greed as everyone tries to get a little bigger slice of the pie. While the stuffed shirts try to work out the logistics, one thing that's almost certain to be a part of any new collective bargaining agreement will be a cap on the ridiculous cost of rookie salaries. There's an excellent chance that 2010 will be the last time that first round draft picks can jump on the generational wealth train without proving anything at the next level.

After Ed Dickson's third touchdown, the entire defense was on its back with clothes strewn about after being blown off. … Come on, people, how many times does Lucy have to pull the ball away before you realize that Cal will never, ever kick it? I guess if you have a signed document in your possession, you really can't go wrong. This year Cal's really going to kick that ball (running up to the ball)…. ARRRRRGH (lands flat on its back). Strange thing about the Cal Bears; they were never notarized.

It's Cal. There was adversity, and this program can't handle any sort of negative momentum. This was the team that lost to Maryland last year because it was a little sleepy. This was the team that had a No. 1 ranking there for the taking in 2007, lost to Oregon State on a Kevin Riley brain cramp, and went completely in the tank losing six of seven games. Good grief.

"While I was there, they beat it out of me that you guys were headed for Texas. They think you're in Texas! Look at this guy with his hair. I can't believe that." … Something to note if you're a trends investor: Oklahoma is leaving the friendly confines of Oklahoma to play Miami. Why does that matter? Since losing to USC in the 2005 Orange Bowl, Oklahoma has gone 16-13 in games played outside of its home state, counting games in Stillwater against Oklahoma State and at Tulsa. Meanwhile, since the stunning loss to TCU to start the 2005 season, the Sooners have gone 29-0 around home winning by a total score of 1,344 to 524, or an average of 46 to 18.

27 points against this Washington State team? Really? … In this week's episode of Pete Carroll career advice for Mark Sanchez, 17-of-30, 171 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and he ran for a score, in a 24-17 win over Tennessee. He's the first rookie quarterback since 1970 to win his first three games, and, oh yeah, he's a multi-millionaire. Pete, exactly why isn't Sanchez making the right decision to turn pro early?

And the kid blows the take by looking into the camera. … The Capital One people need to give proper credit to Auburn University for using the shot of 1971 Heisman winner, Pat Sullivan, for the prom picture in its ads with the reminiscing barbarians.

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 have me annoyed at the moment.

10. Penn State revenge
What, exactly, was Penn State looking to get revenge for? Daryll Clark threw the bad interception in Iowa City last year and the supposedly national-title level defense couldn't come up with a stop as Iowa marched for the game-winning field goal. And thank goodness for that, because we would've been treated to a Florida beatdown of the Nittany Lions in the BCS Championship instead of the classic battle between the Sooners and Gators. And there's also that little matter of the Nittany Lions soiling themselves in the first half of the loss to USC in the Rose Bowl, roving that Iowa saved the college football world from a national title disaster. No, there was nothing to get revenge for; that was the market correcting itself.

9. Nickelodeon's Worldwide Day of Play
I get it. Because we have a nation of fat kids who are fed nothing but sugar, salt, and bad parenting, Nickelodeon and Noggin staged its annual Worldwide Day of Play, putting their programming on hiatus, to encourage kids to get out of the house and do something with their lives. While that's nice, in theory, instead of a token gesture, why not come up with programs that show why TV is evil and why it's important to learn why skim milk and salads look like? Yeah, and I needed the electric babysitter for an hour so I could chill out and watch football.

8. Dr. James Andrews
It's a sprained shoulder. It's not a tear, it's not a joint issue, it's a banged up shoulder on Sam Bradford that would recover 100% if he spent the next few months analyzing the housing market in both Cleveland and St. Louis instead of Big 12 defenses. If he and his people are that concerned about the injury to miss class and go through the time and expense of going to Birmingham for anything other than to face the Crimson Tide, then he has his answer. There's a sure-thing $25-to-$40 million in the bank if he doesn't get hurt playing for the Sooners. Sam, at this point, you're an investment that's about to pay off big. You've outgrown Oklahoma football and you're now into the really, really fun world of Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez.

7. Turner Gill
To be fair, he tried for the Auburn gig and lost out. But any head coach with a sense of upward mobility has to always, always, always jump tothe next big thing until he gets one of the plum jobs. Gill was everyone's hot coach after taking his a woebegone Buffalo program to the MAC championship, but he stuck around, lost NFL-caliber RB James Starks before the season began, had to replace four-year starting quarterback Drew Willy, and now the team stinks. While former Ball State head man, Brady Hoke, is basking in the sun trying to turn around San Diego State, Gill just lost to Temple 37-13. It's hard to generate too much of a job-search buzz when you go 1-3 with a team that's 118th in the nation in turnover margin, 98th in scoring and 103rd in scoring defense.

6. Shaun King and Kordell Stewart
No. Next.

5. Jake Locker
C'mon, scouting types. It's time for your Ritalin. I love Washington QB Jake Locker as a college player. He's Tim Tebow without being all Tim Tebow, and he has proven that he can carry an entire program on his back and make it good enough to beat USC. But he's not there yet as a pro prospect. He had a nice game against the Trojans, but not a great one, yet the TV scouts, and even a few insiders I trust, all of a sudden have him rocketing up the charts into a possible first round pick. There's one minor problem … he can't throw a football. He's a good runner with 4.4ish speed, a phenomenal leader, and a playmaker who makes things happen in key spots, but he also has a nasty habit of throwing lots and lots of interceptions. Yeah, he's under pressure behind a mediocre line, but he's not nearly accurate enough to be considered anything more than a mid-round project at the moment. However, give one more year in a pro style offense, and under the tutelage of Steve Sarkesian, and he could be the hot prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft if he doesn't go and play baseball. On the flip side …

4. Dogging Jevan Snead
Red flags go up when a prospect didn't want to go one place (Florida) because he didn't want to compete with another superstar talent and he left a second school (Texas) because he wasn't good enough to win the job. However, Snead is now being way-too-quickly thrown off the bandwagon everyone has quickly jumped off of. He has had an extremely rocky start to the season, struggling with a 7-of-21, 107-yard, one touchdown day against South Carolina, but he also spent half the game with Eric Norwood sitting on his head. Don't dismiss him as a pro prospect quite yet. Even in some of the misfires he threw darts that Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, and Colt McCoy couldn't dream of coming up with, and he kept his cool even in a tough game when things weren't going right. Now he needs coaching, more reps, and more big games to prove he can get the job done on the field, and unfortunately, he might not progress the way he needs to under Houston Nutt.

3. Those unused minutes are being wasted by reading this column
The Brodie Croyle kid deserves that Nancy Pelosi-to-Joe Wilson look and the seething silence from his mom when he asked for more rollover minutes. You got yelled at three ad cycles ago about wasting your minutes, and now you're questioning a person with single-minded, Terminator-like focus when it comes to phone service and saving money? Here's the cell phone conversation he's having with that extra time.

Brodie Croyle: "Hey Dawg, what's up? My psycho mom just got on me again for minutes."
Dawg: "Dude, your mom's hot."
Brodie Croyle: "You think I need a haircut?"

Two minutes: gone.

2. The flu
Walgreen's. $25.

Instead of the hospital time, the Tim Tebow special flights, and the lost practice sessions from all the outbreaks of the flu, programs need to invest a few thousand and get their teams poked with venom. (No, you can't get sick from a flu shot … that's an old wives tale.) Of course, the H1N1 shot isn't out yet, but most of the outbreaks of sickness across the college football landscape appear to be the good old-fashioned regular flu variety. This is only going to get worse before it gets better, and eventually, some team is going to pay because it wasn't vaccinated in time. If players get The Swine, that's one thing, but no more whining about players being sick because the players were too dumb to get inoculated.

1. Charlie Weis hot seat
Stop treating every Notre Dame game like it's a make-or-break moment for his job. Despite what came down from on top of the mountain at the end of last year, Ol' Front Butt doesn't need to get Notre Dame to the BCS to keep his job, and he shouldn't have to.

The idea was to make Notre Dame competitive again and good enough to get to a BCS level, and along the way, Weis showed that his recruiting really did work. This year's team has major flaws, most notably in the secondary, but there's talent to burn on offense, at least as long as Jimmy Clausen is able to play on his injured toe. This is what you wanted, Irish fans, right? You wanted Notre Dame to become relevant again, and you wanted Weis to have a team that can legitimately look at the USC game this year as a possible win. You wanted your program to be on the right track, and Weis has accomplished that.

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.
- Speaking of Clausen, NFL scouts are going to take a very critical eye when it comes to the way Weis makes a quarterback great. Brady Quinn doesn't have much talent around him, but he hasn't exactly taken the Cleveland job by storm even though he was supposed to be NFL ready out of the box a few years ago.
- A dangerous team to look out for … Wisconsin. The offensive line is a wreck, but the running game is still productive and there's a real, live quarterback under center. Scott Tolzien is the difference between a 4-0 start and 2-2, and he allows the Badger coaching staff to not have to hide the passing game like it did over the last few years.
- Just like everyone knew who Keyser Söze was just 15 minutes into The Usual Suspects, everyone also saw Ole Miss sucking and everyone predicted South Carolina to win. Riiiiiiiight. We have proof in our Preview when we picked back in May that the Gamecocks were going to win (yes, we actually got one call right). The next big team that's about to get tagged: LSU.
- With the way Purdue has picked up its play now that Danny Hope has gone from being an assistant to the head man, Florida State should be wondering if Bobby Bowden is holding the program back with Jimbo Fisher waiting in the wings.
- The hottest quarterback you've never heard of: Troy's Levi Brown. He didn't do much of anything against Florida, throwing for 66 yards, but in the last two games against UAB and Arkansas State he completed 57-of-78 passes for 868 yards and four touchdowns in the wins.
- Arkansas has Ryan Mallett and the nation's No. 4 passing game. The Hogs are also 119th in the nation in pass efficiency defense and gives up 263 yards per game through the air. They host Texas A&M, who's No. 1 in the nation in total offense, averaging 574 yards per game, and can't play pass defense, even though the numbers might be positive against miserable New Mexico, Utah State, and UAB passing games. Gentlemen, this will be fun.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Meaningless baseball games in September … Underrated: Ozzie Guillen's rant after his players wanted to watch college football rather than play the Detroit Tigers
2) Overrated: Kansas basketball … Underrated: Kansas football
3) Overrated: Jesse Palmer in the studio ... Underrated: Jesse Palmer in the booth
4) Overrated: Ben Chappell ... Underrated: Bill Lynch showing the best arm on the team throwing his gum
5) Overrated: Florida State vs. BYU ... Underrated: Post-South Florida Florida State

"Ain't so bad." (Another hit from Lang) "Ain't so bad." (Another big hit from Lang) … The three lines this week that appear to be a tad off. Oh, come on. If Jimmy Clausen stays healthy I get the Notre Dame cover over Purdue, and I almost got a miracle when the Boilermakers bumbled a fumble late. I press on. … 1) Wisconsin +2.5 over Minnesota, 2) Central Michigan -7.5 over Ball State, 3) Army -6 over Tulane

Week 4 Results: 1) Army +10 over Iowa State (LOSS, 31-10 Iowa State), 2) Notre Dame -7 over Purdue (LOSS 24-21 Notre Dame), 3) Toledo pick over FIU (WIN Toledo 41-31)
… Record So Far: 3-9.

My Heisman ballot this week would be (if the college football season ended right now) … 1) Case Keenum, QB Houston, 2) Jimmy Clausen, QB Notre Dame, 3) Colt McCoy, QB Texas

Sorry this column sucked, it wasn't my fault …
a few grouchy Oregon fans asked me for a refund after the Boise State loss and after a disastrous start to the column. Chip Kelly paid it for me.