Cavalcade of Whimsy
Season | Sept.
1, Part 1 |
- Part 2
1 (The Bradford Shoulder) |
(Time To Boot the Big East?)
- Week 3 (The Ten New Stars)
- Week 4 (ESPN's responsibility)
- Week 5 (The incomparable Bobby
Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I went over to Deion Sanders’ house. No I didn’t. Yes I did. Wait. No. Uhhh, what was the question again?
You’d think Ol’ T. Boone could buy Dez’s way out of this one … Talking to the NCAA isn’t like talking to a federal grand jury; you don’t go to jail for lying. So let me get this straight (and I’m still not sure I have this right); Oklahoma State superstar Dez Bryant talked to Deion Sanders, thought he was violating an NCAA rule by going over to his house, didn’t actually violate any rule, he told the NCAA that he didn’t have any involvement with Sanders, and now he’s ineligible because he “made a mistake by not being entirely truthful when meeting with the NCAA.”
So, basically, Bryant didn’t really do anything wrong, the NCAA isn’t really that upset, but its going through with the suspension anyway because it’s feelings were hurt. That makes sense, after all, there must be some (cough) semblance of honesty and (cough, cough) truthfulness, otherwise, college athletics will devolve (cough, cough, wheeeeez, Reggie Bush, cough) into a cesspool of hypocrisy.
”Charging a man for murder in this place is like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500.” … Really, NCAA? That’s what you’re going to tag Oklahoma State with?
It was painful to sit through. Like a Robin Williams interview. … Has there ever been a more uncomfortable game than the Florida win over LSU? We all had to watch, after all, it was the No. 1 team against the No. 4 team, but that was creepy. The game stunk, LSU was never going to score a touchdown, and despite the close score, it was obvious early on that Florida was going to win. Then it became an exercise of watching a player disguised as Tim Tebow try not to ruin his life.
He was medically cleared, a fact that seems to be lost in the whole debate, but that didn’t mean the situation was any less scary. This wasn’t even a little bit fun, with a pall cast over the game helped by the shadow of the America media waiting to pounce on the “see, we told you so” angle. Unfortunately, the rest of the Florida season might take on the same feel, and I don’t want to see the car crash.
”Well, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?” … Fine, I’ll ask … exactly how could Tebow’s status be a “gametime decision”? It’s not like an ankle injury that can be tested out in warm-ups, and it’s not like he could get a shot to take the pain away from a sore shoulder. Did the birds stop circling? Did the phone stop ringing? Did the stars magically go away? Was a continuous loop of “meow, meow, meow, meow” going through his head at 5:47 pm CST, and then ceased at 6:17? Did the bruise on his brain go from swollen and dangerous to reduced and healed at some point in the locker room? There really isn’t any such thing as a gametime decision on a concussion like that. Either the brain is fine or it’s not.
But will he get an AT&T commercial like Tyler Hansbrough? … Let’s assume that Tebow really is fine and he’s able to play the rest of the season without any further problems. As long as Florida keeps winning with Tebow under center, the next ten weeks will be spent trying to define his greatness and his place in the world. Let me help, and I’ll try to do it without the hyperbole and mythologizing that others will do.
First of all, for the purposes of this debate, the NFL doesn’t exist and you have to put aside your notion of what is and what isn’t a quarterback. What’s needed at the pro level and what it takes to be a star in college are two completely different things. In the NFL, a quarterback has 2.5 seconds to get the ball out of his hands, at best, and he has to throw to a covered receiver before the route is complete. In college, a quarterback on a good team gets time to look over the field and hit his open receiver. That’s why a mediocre NFL prospect can be a superstar in college (Ken Dorsey, Jason White, Danny Wuerffel) if he has a great line, a decent arm and is accurate. But it’s not always that simple. A talented NFL prospect might take more chances because he has the arm, the upside, and the desire to impress, and he might put his team in worse spots than the good college talent who knows his limitations. There’s also more of a rushing element for a college quarterback that isn’t a factor in the NFL. (Sorry if I’m doing See Spot Run here, but the obvious is getting lost in the discussion.) Was Tommie Frazier a more talented quarterback than Dan Marino? For the college game, yeah (and he won just as many Super Bowls, but I digress).
Running the ball does matter for a player like Tebow, and it has to be thrown into the equation. To run with the thought from CBS’s Gary Danielson during the broadcast of the LSU game, has there ever been more of a sure-thing than Florida with a 3rd and 3 with Tebow at quarterback? Since Steve Young was setting records at BYU, there has never been a better combination of running skills and passing efficiency at the collegiate level. Remember, we’re not talking about pro talent; Tebow probably isn’t on the list of the top 100 NFL quarterback prospects of all-time.
You also can’t go by the talent a player has around him. That’s like saying USC should be the national champion no matter what its record is because it has the best players. Peyton Manning played on one of the most talented teams in the last 25 years and won jack squat. Would 1982 John Elway have won a national title if he played on the 2008 Florida Gators? Maybe, but he didn’t. Florida doesn’t win the 2008 national title without Tebow’s brilliant fourth quarter against Alabama, and it certainly doesn’t beat Oklahoma without him.
And the final part of this is the era we’re in. In terms of the quarterbacks coming into the college ranks out of high school, there has never been a higher talent level than there is now. With all the camps, the advanced scouting, the pro-like training, and specialization compared to just ten years ago, if a player is among the best in the game now, he’s more refined, stronger, more skilled (again, for the college game and not the pros) than ever before.
I hate the act, too, and I hate the periphery stuff that has made him more than just a great quarterback, but it’s okay to hate the player and not his game. Throw in the Heisman he won, the other Heisman he should’ve won, the two national titles, the passing efficiency, the soon-to-be record for most rushing touchdowns by an SEC player (think about that one for a moment) and the potential for what lies ahead this year, and yes, go ahead and call Tim Tebow the greatest college quarterback of all-time.
Guilty as charged. I put a quarter in the jar every time I do this … Just like football analysts love to unnecessarily say the word football every chance they get, and they always love to use more words than needed (from ESPN’s Mark Schlereth: “Shaun Hill is exactly what the San Francisco 49er football team needs at the quarterback position.”), talking heads love, love to say TimTebow like it’s one word. The pros do this with BrettFavre, they can’t just call him Favre, and everyone has to throw in the Tim, like it makes the player sound a little more important. Once you notice this, it becomes nails on a chalkboard. I counted ESPN’s Mark May saying TimTebow 11 times in a 27 second analysis.
And that goes for you, too, John Crompton … Well hello, Tennessee. Glad you could join the 2009 college football season.
If only the program had nice weather, attractive coeds, and an interesting city to bring in talent off the farm … UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel has a superior offensive mind. You don’t get to the position he’s at without knowing how to make an attack go. UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow (also said like one word, NormChow, like TimTebow and BrettFavre) is a guru and one of the best developers of young quarterbacks in all of football. So how much must the UCLA offensive talent suck to be 114th in the nation in total offense, 104th in scoring, 101st in rushing, and 104th in passing? But the Bruins played a who’s who of defenses, right? Well, actually, yeah (this is me doing a 180-degree about-face mid-blurb as the research failed to support my bit). San Diego State is 33rd in the nation total defense, Tennessee is 12th, Kansas State is 53rd, Stanford is 54th, and Oregon is 16th. Up next is Cal, who’s 63rd in the nation in total defense but got lit up by Oregon for 42 points and lost to USC 30-3.
Fine, Al, but that ninth life is being used up … Well hello, Virginia. Glad you could join the 2009 college football season.
”There's an important phrase that we use
here and I think it's time you all
learned it. "Act as if". Do you
understand what that means? Act as if
you are the ***ing president of this
… Iowa fans, if you want your team to be taken seriously as a national powerhouse, you don’t rush the field when you beat a lower-ranked team. Sure, beating Michigan is fun and it’s a big moment in what’s quickly becoming a dream season, but this isn’t 1985 and this isn’t a Wolverine team with national championship aspirations. If the game was to win the Big Ten title, then yeah, go crazy, but for now, it was just a nice conference win over a team you were supposed to beat. Win the game, shake hands, and go take a soak.
”Reality used to be a friend of mine/Reality used to be a friend of mine/Please don’t ask me cause I don’t know why/But reality used to be a friend of mine.” … Ring, ring … ring, ring … ring, ring … Hello, Michigan? Yes, it’s reality calling. Did I wake you up? Oh, sorry. Hope you had a nice first few weeks. Sorry, but I have to go. I have calls to make to Iowa, Kansas, and TCU. Yes, I talked to Stanford already. Yes, I called LSU, too, but I really do have to go. What? No, I’m waiting to make that call on Friday morning to see who loses the Cincinnati vs. South Florida game. Mmmkay, gotta go … what’s that? Clausen … head over his skiis? You’re breaking up.
Those who can’t do, teach, and those who can’t general manage, analyze … Matt Millen gets a bit of a bad rap (who wouldn’t have drafted Charles Rogers?) and he really is a pretty decent analyst, but at least five times per broadcast I can’t help but think, “man, the Lions are still really, really bad.” Hearing him criticize is like getting diet tips from Oprah.
DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system!
HELP! HELP! I'm being repressed!
ARTHUR: Bloody peasant!
DENNIS: Oh, what a give away. Did you hear that, did you hear that,
eh? That's what I'm on about -- did you see him repressing me,
you saw it didn't you?
… Forget the social underclass and the downtrodden of our country (and many have), college football players form the segment of the American population in most desperate need for health care reform … and they don’t know it yet. They are in the worst possible situation at the moment. They lose their insurance once they’re done with school, getting a job is next to impossible in today’s economy, and getting health insurance on their own is out of the question because of their preexisting conditions. Being 23 with a concussion/shoulder/knee/ankle/all of the above on the personal résumé makes for a lot of red tape to cut through.
The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
The ten biggest arguments that have to be settled once and for all … other than the playoff debate. Every year the same issue come up and they all make for great message board and radio banter. Here is the definitive stance on each one for you to use to win friends and influence people. Great for parties!
10. Challenges and instant replay take away from the flow of a game
Give the Big Ten credit for getting it right when it comes to instant replay, and give college football a fist bump for instituting the system across the board. Meanwhile, the NFL has been too stubborn to realize that its challenge rules are far inferior to the college version. Why should an NFL coach have a limited number of challenges if he’s doing the officials’ job for them? There’s no nobility in a missed call, and while baseball blowhards like to pine for the purity of the game and the human element involved, a fair ball that’s called foul isn’t cute, an base runner called safe when he’s out isn’t quirky, and an umpire error isn’t a fun nod to the game’s history. A wrong call is a wrong call … period. If you don’t like instant replay, you’re probably an old person who’s too scared of an iPhone to realize how great it really is.
9. A player can never lose his job due to injury
In war, part of the reason a fallen man is never left behind is because there has to be some belief by the living soldiers that they’ll be taken care of and honored if they die. Football players have to go 100 miles per hour without fear of getting hurt or else they’re not going to play their best, and they have it in their minds that if they do get injured, they can come back and take over again once everything has healed. Coaches have to sell that concept to always ensure a maximum effort, but it’s not fair. Rule number one on a sports team has to always be that the best players play no matter what. It’s not fair to the other players, the fans, or the coaches to not put the most talented players on the field in a position to win. If an injured player is replaced by someone who does a better job, then that’s that.
8. The best teams of all-time could challenge for the national title in today’s game.
Older fans like to think that the teams they grew up loving and cheering for were special, and in their time, they were. But no, the most talented teams of the past wouldn’t stand a chance in today’s college football world. Yeah, some of the great national champions that were full of NFL talent could be competitive and could get to a bowl, but they’d get destroyed by the big-time programs of today. The biggest player on the offensive line of the 1980 national champion Georgia Bulldogs was 6-3 and 260 pounds. Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh is 6-4, 300 pounds and is as fast as any of the 1980 Georgia safeties. You think a 245-pound linemen could slow him down? Florida’s defensive end tandem of Carlos Dunlap (6-6, 290) and Jermaine Cunningham (6-3, 252) would blow into the backfield on every play and sit on Buck Belue’s curly head. With today’s scouting, training, and advancements in player development, there’s no way any national champion before around 1990 could hang around with the top teams of today. It’s a development thing, just like …
7. The (insert No. 1 college team here) could beat the (insert No. 32/worst NFL team here).
I get into this debate by e-mail at least three times a year. To make this as basic as possible, the best of the best college football teams maybe have 10-to-15 starters who’ll play at the next level, and there might be 10-to-15 reserves who might end up seeing significant time in the NFL. That’s being generous, and that’s referring to some of the great Miami teams of the last 20 years and maybe a few Ohio State and USC juggernauts. The St. Louis Rams have a 47-man roster full of grown men with matured bodies and ten times the practice, film, and training time that the Florida Gators have. Florida has plenty of pro prospects, while St. Louis has 47 pro players with others waiting in the wings being developed. The Oakland Raiders would go undefeated on the way to the BCS Championship and would win every game by 40 points.
6. Shrek is an all-time classic
Being able to understand the pop culture references doesn’t make a kids’ movie good. Shrek was a flaming pile of suck, Toy Story was drivel, and Up chucked. I searched for the saltiest pieces of popcorn I could find and shoved them under my eyelids during Madagascar 2 just so I could feel again. Movies for kids should be just for kids. Entertain them and get them off my back for 83 minutes while I take a nap. Movie studios, I’m an adult. Spend more time making better flicks for me, and quit worrying about trying to make me enjoy the movie about the squirrels.
5. College coaches can’t coach in the NFL
Did Bobby Petrino have Matt Ryan? Did anyone notice the garbage that Nick Saban had to work with at Miami? Bob Stoops couldn’t do big things if he took over as the head coach of the New York Giants, whose current head man, Tom Coughlin, cut his teeth at Boston College? Superstar college coaches are used to being in complete and total control of their little worlds, and they can recruit the players they need to when gaps need to be filled, but that doesn’t mean the best ones couldn’t produce in the NFL if they have good players around them. It’s all about talent. Either you have Peyton Manning as your quarterback, or you don’t. Either you have the Pittsburgh Steeler defense, or you don’t. Either you have Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, and Deion Sanders, or you don’t, which is why the argument begins and ends with three words: Barry Freakin’ Switzer.
4. Peyton Manning deserved the 1997 Heisman over Charles Woodson
It wasn’t a backlash against the hyped up Golden Boy, Manning, and it wasn’t some sort of Big Ten, East Coast bias thing. Charles Woodson was the best college football player in America in 1997 by any measure you want to go by. Michigan doesn’t win the national championship without him, while Tennessee lost to Florida and Nebraska by a combined score of 75 to 37. Woodson came up with the key pick to beat Michigan State, came up with the punt return for a score and an interception at the goal line to beat Ohio State by six, and he finished the year with eight interceptions and four touchdowns including a big interception against Ryan Leaf and Washington State in the Rose Bowl (which came after the Heisman was awarded, of course). Manning was great in his senior year, completing 60% of his throws with 37 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, but was he the MVP? No, not compared to Woodson. Was he the nation’s best passer? No, UCLA’s Cade McNown, Leaf, and Ohio State’s Joe Germaine were the top three in quarterback rating, and Manning wasn’t even in the top ten.
3. The players are already getting paid with a scholarship
I’m starting to come around on this a little bit after doing the projections on what it will cost to send my chicks to UCLA, North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, or a comparable school 13 years from now, and realizing that it might take a half a MILLION dollars to send them someplace to drink beer and hook up with creepy, Axe wearing boys for four years. (How is it that the Foo Fighters haven’t come up with a song called Smells Like Axe Body Spray?) And God forbid they’re actually smart and pretentious and start thinking about private schools. But is a scholarship, room and board really fair compensation for the money the players bring in? CBS did a 3.4 rating getting close to 11 million viewers for the Florida – LSU game. Did fans tune in because it was a big matchup? Not necessarily, Michigan vs. Iowa, because it’s Michigan, would normally be the bigger draw and got a 1.3 rating, 4.2 million viewers, for ABC. Everyone wanted to watch the return of Tebow. No. 15 made millions for CBS, and he has made tens of millions for the University of Florida and the SEC. If he had an agent and could do endorsement deals, how much would he be making if he could capitalize on his popularity? The value of a scholarship doesn’t being to cover what Tebow, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and other top players mean to their schools.
2. The non-BCS teams belong in the national championship debate
We all know why Utah wasn’t in the discussion last year (there were only two really good wins, Oregon State and TCU, before beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and there were too many close calls against mediocre teams), and we all know why Boise State isn’t on the radar this year (one win over Oregon isn’t enough to play for the national title), so what is going to take for a non-BCS team to finally play in the BCS Championship Game?
Yeah, it can happen. First, the 12-0 non-BCS team has to blow away everyone. A BYU one-point win over an Oklahoma team that lost Sam Bradford isn’t enough, and a Utah 31-28 win over Oregon State at home last year isn’t going to cut it. It’s going to take something extra, and it’s going to take a team playing at a high level for a full season. A letdown of any sort with a close win over a UC Davis is going to be a deathblow. The team needs to have a Fresno State-like schedule, with games this year at Wisconsin, Cincinnati, and Illinois, and it has to win all the games by at least two touchdowns. It might not be fair, but the non-BCSer has to be more than perfect and can’t allow even a sliver of doubt about the résumé.
Second, it’s going to take a lot of luck. One of the non-conference wins has to be over a top ten-caliber team, and the champions from the big conferences must have at least one loss. 2007 provided the perfect storm with LSU winning the SEC title with two losses and Ohio State everyone’s grudging national title opponent despite having one loss, and Hawaii still wasn’t close.
It could happen at some point, there would be a groundswell of support if anyone was close enough to the cup to be tapped in, but it’s going to take the right team at the right time. It’s not happening this year.
1. There should be a playoff
I said I wouldn’t get into the playoff debate, but it’s the big matzo ball that hangs over every college football season and it always is worth analyzing. Of course there should be one, and of course everyone wants one, but there’s one big problem … good luck agreeing on how it should be done. The health care debate has nothing on what kind of a fight there’d be over how to properly do a playoff system. Every day, ten different readers will write in with ten different opinions on how to create a better way to end the college football season.
Sports Illustrated, normally a publication with a more rational, realistic slant, is pushing its dopey 16-team idea that would never happen. We always argue for the CFN idea of the six BCS conference champions, the top ranked non-BCS champion, and one wild-card for Notre Dame, a Texas of last year, or a team that somehow slipped through the cracks. Anyone who doesn’t fit into the criteria for the eight slots doesn’t deserve to be playing for the national title, but that’s our belief. I’m sure I’ll get a slew of e-mails now explaining why this doesn’t work (and they’ll all be wrong), but that’s the point. This isn’t as easy as it might appear.
Too many teams dilutes the importance of the regular season, and then the college football season falls into irrelevance. Too few teams, and you’ll have even more barking. Who gets left out of the plus-one scenario last year? Utah? USC? Texas? If college football wants a playoff, it needs to do it right. It’ll happen someday, but you might not like the results.
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.
- It’s time to dismiss the notion once and for all that Texas Tech’s offensive pyrotechnics are about the players and not the system. Taylor Potts goes down, and in steps Steven Sheffield to throw for seven touchdown passes in a blowout of Kansas State. It’s not a knock against Mike Leach and the Red Raiders. It shows that his system really does work and that he’s a brilliant teacher.
- The two hottest quarterbacks in the country are in the ACC and they’re not who you’d think. Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis lit up Virginia Tech and NC State (two teams with great defenses) over the last two weeks completing 62-of-90 passes for 818 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions and a rushing touchdown, while Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner has thrown for 1,015 yards and nine touchdowns with three interceptions in his last three games. He was brilliant against Maryland completing 24-of-33 passes for 360 yards and four scores.
- Washington State is a BCS team, right? What BCS team has a road schedule like this? Starting with the September 26th loss to USC, here’s the six game stretch for the Cougars: at USC, at Oregon, Arizona State, at California, at Notre Dame, at Arizona. They end the year at Washington.
- For those of you who play college fantasy football, pick up Tulane’s Andre Anderson and pick him up now. The Green Wave play Houston, who allowed 134 yards and two touchdowns to Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon last week (and 330 rushing yards to the Bulldogs), and gave up 262 yards and four scores to UTEP’s Donald Buckram the week before.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Denard Robinson against Iowa … Underrated: Tate Forcier in the final three minutes of every other game
2) Overrated: Walk-off home run … Underrated: Walk-off overtime touchdown
3) Overrated: Watching backup quarterbacks after the stars take monster hits ... Underrated: Overprotecting Tom Brady and the other NFL starting quarterbacks
4) Overrated: Oklahoma vs. Texas ... Underrated: USC vs. Notre Dame
5) Overrated: The Harris Poll ... Underrated: A tree falling in a forest with no one around
”Ain't so bad.” (Another hit from Lang) "Ain't so bad." (Another big hit from Lang) … Oh COME ON. I bail on Army and then comes the overtime win over Vanderbilt. Wisconsin outplays Ohio State and gives up two pick-sixes, and Florida State plays its heart out for Bobby Bowden … on offense. You have to really, really try to be 1-2 every freaking week and I’ll continue to do so now, I’m sure. … 1) Texas -3 over Oklahoma, 2) Arkansas State +2 over ULM, 3) Notre Dame +10 over USC
Week 6 Results: 1) Wisconsin +14 over Ohio State (LOSS Ohio State 31-13), 2) Alabama -6.5 over Ole Miss (WIN Alabama 22-3), 3) Florida State -2.5 over Georgia Tech (LOSS Georgia Tech 41-14) … Record So Far: 5-13.
My Heisman ballot this week would be (if the college football season ended right now) … 1) Jimmy Clausen, QB Notre Dame, 2) Ndamukong Suh, DT Nebraska, 3) Case Keenum, QB Houston
Sorry this column sucked, it wasn’t my fault … Florida State alum, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist wished me luck and he signed the note, “God Bless You, Fiu!” The next day, Georgia Tech ran for 401 yards and six touchdowns in a 49-44 win.