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Cavalcade of Whimsy - The 10 Best Players
Alabama RB Mark Ingram
Alabama RB Mark Ingram
Posted Oct 20, 2009

Forget the obvious Heisman candidates and all the hype. Who really are the ten best players at the midway point of the season? Second guessing the second guessing of Urban Meyer's decision to let Tim Tebow play, USC's big win, and the return of the D.D.H.D. after a five-year hiatus, all in this week's Cavalcade of Whimsy.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Oct. 20

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)
- Week 4 (ESPN's responsibility)
- Week 5 (The incomparable Bobby Bowden) 
- Week 6 (The 10 big college football arguments)

By Pete Fiutak

- Part 2 - The Ten Best Players In College Football ... so far

Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault … A moment of silence for the tragic and senseless death of Connecticut defensive back Jasper Howard.

“Dr. Imhaus: Doctor. Austin Millbarge: Doctor. Dr. Imhaus: Doctor. Emmett Fitz-Hume: Doctor. [Imhaus exits] Dr. Marston: Doctor. Austin Millbarge: Doctor. Dr. Marston: Doctor. Emmett Fitz-Hume: Doctor. [Marston exits] Karen Boyer: Doctor. Austin Millbarge: Doctor. Karen Boyer: Doctor. Emmett Fitz-Hume: [amorously] Doctor! [Boyer exits] Jerry Hadley: Doctor. Austin Millbarge: Doctor. Jerry Hadley: Doctor. Emmett Fitz-Hume: Doctor. [Hadley exits] Austin Millbarge: We're not doctors.” ... If possible, I’ll try to write loudly so the various columnists and talking heads on both TV and radio can hear me all the way up in their ivory towers.

(clear throat … ahem … ) YOU … ARE … NOT … A … NEUROLOGIST. And if you are, you didn’t see the scans or the tests that Tim Tebow underwent before playing against LSU two weeks ago.

Guess who else isn’t a neurologist … Urban Meyer.

Apparently, Meyer, who was been vilified for allowing a player who was medically cleared by the doctors to get back on the field, was able to coach last week against Arkansas between book signings for Mein Kampf II and shooting videos for the Taliban. To many, he has become the evil embodiment of all that is wrong with the myopic Win-Game-Now attitude that all football coaches have, but it shouldn’t be up to him to determine the status of Tebow’s brain, and he isn’t going to know more than the doctors who examined the Gator star up until the moment he was supposed to step on the field against the Tigers. The criticism this last week hasn’t been fair, and it was focused on the wrong places.

Meyer is a football coach, and it’s his job to win football games for the University of Florida. Period. It’s not his job to know the health of his players beyond the “can he go?” question he asks the doctors in regards to every banged up player. It’s not his job to make his players into men; that’s the job of the parents and the players themselves. It’s not his job to create a family atmosphere, or whatever garbage is slung around the coffee table on a recruiting visit, it’s not his job to make sure his players are great students (no, really, it’s not), and it’s not his job to play doctor (at least not in the fun way). The job of determining whether or not Tebow could go on playing was and is up to the doctors, and if they say he can go, then Meyer is out of the equation.

Unfortunately, though, many team doctors put the best interests of the football team ahead of the health of the players, at least they do in the NFL, and if that’s the case with the Tebow situation, and they were more concerned about the Florida Gators than Tebow’s health and well-being, then they should be fired and they should be sued for malpractice. But if that’s not the case, and they determined according to their best medical judgment that Tebow could go back on the field, then Meyer did nothing wrong. He’s not Tebow’s dad, he’s not his doctor, and he’s not Tebow.

When, not if, Tebow suffers another serious concussion and has problems that will haunt him for the rest of his life, 5% of the blame will fall on the doctors, 5% of the blame will fall on Tebow’s parents, and 90% of the blame will fall on Timothy Richard Tebow.

Tebow isn’t some kid playing junior high and he’s not trying to fight through his senior year of high school to secure a scholarship. He’s a 22-year-old adult, and if he’s going to be praised for being the ultimate in responsible role models, then he has to also be held accountable for his own health and well-being. He knows exactly the risks he’s taking. He knows all the warnings and all the concerns. He knows that at any moment a celebratory head butt from a teammate or a blindside sack can turn the rest of his life into a nightmare of headaches and depression. His future and his health are on him. The future of the Florida Gator football program is on Meyer. However …

But he has as many national title rings as the legend … It’s not Meyer’s job to determine the health of a player, but he sure could’ve scored a ton of brownie points with future recruits by holding Tebow out for a few games by saying he “just wants to make 100% sure everything is fine, even if the doctors say he’s okay.” And playing Tebow looks a lot worse from a PR standpoint when you have a coach like Joe Paterno doing the opposite with his All-America linebacker, Sean Lee, who missed all of last year with a knee injury and is struggling to stay healthy this year. Paterno made the call to keep Lee out of the games against Illinois and Eastern Illinois because he didn’t want to “take any chances with his future.” Granted, playing Illinois and Eastern Illinois isn’t like dealing with LSU in Death Valley, but Paterno first and foremost wants the player to be fine. That’s why Joe Paterno is Joe Paterno.

“"Toodle-loo, dumb-dumbs!" ... Alright, kids, let’s put two and two together. In every game, now, there’s another player getting helped off the field with a concussion. It’s the front-burner issue at the moment and everyone agrees that 1) football will always be football and people will always watch and 2) there will always be concussions, and 3) something needs to be done about all the brain-smashing. So where are the improvements in the helmets?

Concussions can happen on the oddest of plays and in a variety of ways, it doesn’t always matter what kind of protection the player has on his head, but it’s time the NCAA takes the lead on it (because the NFL is doing everything possible to put the kibosh on the findings that its players are damaged for life from concussions) and make the Mark Kelso “pro cap” mandatory.

The former undersized Buffalo Bill defensive back was mostly known for his Great Gazoo-like helmet, which had an extra layer on the top to help prevent concussions. It worked, but it looked dorky and no player with any sense of style would be caught dead wearing one. No, they don’t look fashionable, but it also doesn’t look cool to sit in a dark room with a pillow over your head because the light of day causes blinding headaches. It also isn’t cool to suffer memory loss and severe depression.

"How do you shoot the Devil in the back? What if you miss?" ... 
I wasn’t able to get anyone from LSU to go on the record, and no one admitted to it, but none of the Tigers had any interest in severely hurting Tebow. It’s not that LSU’s defense took it easy on the Gators in any way, but no one was looking for the kill shot. Arkansas wasn’t going for Tebow’s head by any means, but it was interesting to see how the defense all but said, “screw this,” and was flying to provide a big hit whenever there was a chance.

“Yes, Houston, we copy. We just lost the moon. Okay, Freddo, shut those down.” 13-3 over LSU and 23-20 at home over Arkansas. Florida wanted to make an all-timer of a statement this season with an epic, dominant 14-0 national championship season, and while an unbeaten title is still more than possible, the all-timer discussion has ended before it can start,. Say goodbye to the program exorcising the demons of a 1995 Nebraska team that whacked the Gators 62-24 for the national title. No one came closer than two touchdowns of the Husker team that beat three teams that finished 10-2 along with the unbeaten (before the Fiesta Bowl) Gators.

But the league still, in 2009, has a franchise called the Redskins … the Red … Skins … AND THE LOGO IS A NATIVE AMERICAN … No matter what you think about the whole Rush Limbaugh act, and it is an act designed to maximize revenue based on shock value, politics should have nothing to do with the ownership of an NFL team. However, the whole St. Louis Rams/Rush fiasco came down to four words: “Barack the Magic Negro.” You do something like that and you don’t get to play with the big boy toys.

“Here's an idea. You give me half the money you're going to bet, we go out back, I'll kick you in the nuts and we'll call it a day.” ... We all have better things to do and we could all start out the new year with a nice afternoon nap, so let’s just give USC the 38-13 win in the 2010 Rose Bowl over Iowa now and we’ll go on about our lives. And then we’ll all brace ourselves for the annual ritual of whining from USC fans about why their team isn’t the national champion.

And no, the Faustian bargain has nothing to do with your disastrous former head coach … Notre Dame fans, it’s your call. You can keep Charlie Weis and assume the program really is headed in the right direction, or you can dump him now and roll the dice on Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly. Subquestion, what percentage of your rational mind wants Weis to loss a few games over the second half of the season to provide the ammo to let him go?

“Come on, y'all, we were all Cougars once. We're getting our butts kicked over there. I for one have had enough of this dang lawyer-ball. Haven't you?” … What happened to the “schematic advantage” and the national title-or-bust expectations under Weis? Where did all this happy, happy, joy, joy come from after merely coming close against USC? If Weis had acted like he did after the 2005 loss to USC like he acted after the 2009 loss, things would be much different now.

Somewhere, Jake Locker, A.J. Green, and Charles Scott had to be wondering the same thing … Work with me here. A player can get called for a celebratory unsportsmanlike penalty even if the play, technically, didn’t happen and got called back on another penalty. Against USF, Cincinnati’s Ben Guidugli got nailed with a 15-yard penalty for taking his helmet off when he thought he scored a touchdown, but the call was reversed, he didn’t score, and UC still had the ball on the 16 instead of the one. According to the letter of the law, and according to the officials and sticklers for the rules that always chime in and say that a celebration is a celebration, a helmet being taken off is always automatically a penalty. So, technically, why didn’t USC get nailed for an unsportsmanlike penalty when the players ran on the field and took their helmets off when it was later ruled that there was one second left on the clock? Of course it’s absurd, and of course the Trojans shouldn’t have been penalized, but the same could be said for Washington QB Jake Locker and his ball throwing incident against BYU last year and for Georgia’s A.J. Green and LSU’s Charles Scott’s actions at the end of their game a few weeks ago.

“Think big, think positive, never show any sign of weakness. Always go for the throat. Buy low, sell high. Fear? That's the other guy's problem. Nothing you have ever experienced will prepare you for the absolute carnage you are about to witness. Super Bowl, World Series - they don't know what pressure is. In this building, it's either kill or be killed. You make no friends in the pits and you take no prisoners. One minute you're up half a million in soybeans and the next, boom, your kids don't go to college and they've repossessed your Bentley. Are you with me?” You’ve been asking when the time will come and you’ve been patiently waiting for the sign of the gaming apocalypse to return. You’ve been charting it yourselves, but you realized that the conditions weren’t quite right … until now. Ladies and gentlemen, I think it’s finally time.

In 2004 I uncovered a bizarre trend called the double digit home dog, or the D.D.H.D. Columnists from a certain self-proclaimed “worldwide leader” used it in several articles and never provided the proper credit, and I was being carried on the shoulders of the “investing” community, like Ralphie after turning in his theme, after making a lot of people a lot of money (and not getting so much as a basket of mini-muffins as a thank you). The trend didn’t work the following year, or for the last few seasons, but all of a sudden, the D.D.H.D. has come back roaring.

Here’s the concept. Because of the malaise that sets in among the top teams in the middle of the conference season, with bigger games ahead and an apparent layup coming against a bad team, a home team that’s a double-digit underdog almost always defies logic and covers the spread. In 2004, the final tally was a jaw-dropping 51-21 against the spread, or an unheard of 71%.

Last week, the results were shocking …

- Purdue +13 over Ohio State (Purdue 26-18)
- Toledo +11 over Northern Illinois (Toledo 20-19)
- Utah State +10 over Nevada (Nevada 35-32)
- San Diego State +18 over BYU (BYU 38-28)
- Notre Dame +11 over USC (USC 34-27)

And the one loss, which ironically was Vegas …
- Utah -15 over UNLV (Utah 35-15)

That means the D.D.H.D went 5-1 against the spread last week. Obviously, don’t “invest,” there’s a reason the casinos and hotels in Las Vegas are so massive, but to chart for amusement to see if the theory is working again, here are the D.D.H.D.s … Missouri +13 vs. Texas, Baylor +10 vs. Oklahoma State, Rice +10.5 vs. UCF, Miami University +10.5 vs. Northern Illinois, Mississippi State +22 vs. Florida, New Mexico State +25 vs. Fresno State, and Hawaii +24 vs. Boise State. For the record, I like most of the favorites, but that’s the point … the theory, when it works, defies rational belief.

Stern was also found in the attic after missing for the last ten years …
Of course it was a hoax. The guy’s name is Dick Heene, the last name of one of the neighbors is Tool, another one is Bob Licko, and the kid’s name is Falcon. All that’s missing is Stuttering John and Jackie the Jokeman and you have a bad 1995 radio bit.

- Part 2 - The Ten Best Players In College Football ... so far