5 Thoughts - Nov. 2
(What to do with BYU)
(The problem with the polls, and the new star QBs)
(The sleeper team to watch out for)
(The Big East apology)
(To Tebow or not Tebow)
(Bama vs. Florida ... already?)
(The pecking order for the national title)
(The Landry Jones era begins)
1. And Ian Johnson would return to
announce that his wife is pregnant.
Why not Boise State?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all know the reason why the
Broncos can't and won't play for the national title,
one win doesn't make an entire season and the WAC
sucks, but in a year when there's plenty of room for
debate, maybe it's time to at least open up the
discussion and consider the team on its own merits.
Boise State might play a lousy schedule and
it might be national title-good.
Let’s suppose for a moment that Boise State really
is one of the elite teams in America. After all, the
history of winning is there, the program has been
solid in bowl games, and the talent level has
undergone a massive upgrade from a decade ago when
this tremendous run began. While everyone is bending
over backwards to make excuses for an Iowa team that
was awful in a win over Indiana and a Michigan State
team that just got its doors blown off by Minnesota,
and Florida and Alabama certainly didn't pass the
eye-ball test in wins over Arkansas and Tennessee,
respectively, where's the break for Boise State?
After all, even though the light schedule has
everything to do with it, the offense really is
ultra-efficient, the defense really does have speed
and skill (Kyle Wilson might be the nation's best
cornerback), and unlike the other top teams, there
are no freebies when it comes to mistakes. This is
an air-tight team that's fifth in the nation in
turnover margin, fifth in sacks allowed, fourth in
punting, and up high in almost all the other top
If the pollsters in the Coaches' Poll can come up
with an argument (and they can’t, by the way) and a
justification for putting the Broncos fourth, and
the Harris types can put them fifth, then they have to at least acknowledge that a top two spot is possible and reasonable
if everything breaks right. But they won't, and
they'll vote Boise State out of national title spot
if push comes to shove, and it's not fair to the
system and it's hypocritical in the voting process.
Let's take the most likely of possible scenarios
that could work in Boise State's favor. Let's say
that Iowa loses to Ohio State, Cincinnati loses to
either Pitt or West Virginia, and TCU loses to Utah.
Actually, TCU doesn't really even matter in the
theoretical debate since it's ranked lower in the
combined human polls than Boise State, but it would
be a huge help for the Bronco title hopes. Then
let's say Alabama loses at Auburn at the end of the
regular season and then goes on to beat Florida in
the SEC Championship. All of a sudden, there's Texas
who's in the BCS Championship, because no one in the
awful Big 12 is touching the Longhorns, and a
one-loss Alabama would play for the national title
over Boise State. No one would really debate that,
but the scenario would be set up to have another
jilted team like 2008 Utah.
Okay, now what if Texas lost to a high-powered Texas
A&M team that has a nasty habit of playing tough in
the season-ending rivalry game, or gagged in the Big
12 Championship game? Stranger things have happened
over the years to ruin the season of an assumed
national title participant (like Texas A&M beating
Kansas State, UCLA beating USC, Colorado picking off
Chris Simms over and over again for a Big 12 title,
an 18-point underdog Tennessee beating a loaded
Florida and then losing the SEC title to LSU, West
Virginia choking to Pitt, and on and on). What
excuse are you going to make then for keeping Boise
State out if everyone else has a loss? The schedule?
Yeah, it's bad, but there's still that 19-8 win over
Oregon that can't be dismissed or swept under the
rug. That was a jacked up Duck team that had spent
the entire offseason yapping about starting out hot
and focusing on coming up with the big win. That was
not a case of Oregon taking Boise State lightly or
being unfocused in any way, shape or form. Oregon,
the same team that just destroyed USC and is running
its way to the Rose Bowl, was held to 31 yards
rushing, converted 1-of-10 third down chances, held
on to the ball for a mere 17:28, and was dominated
on both sides of the ball like it was an FCS team.
So while Boise State might not deserve a spot in the
BCS Championship based on its schedule, are you
really so sure the team couldn't play with
Florida or Alabama in Pasadena? And by how much did
you pick the Tide to beat Utah by in last year's
I'm not saying Boise State should play for the
national title over an unbeaten Florida or Texas,
but it might be time to stop assuming that this isn't
a worthy program if the craziness starts happening.
This is a team that's keeping its head when all
around it might be starting to lose theirs, and it
shouldn't be dismissed.
2. But it didn't quite get the job done on
the blue turf.
Jordan Holmes, C.E. Kaiser, Bo Thran, Darrion Weems, and Carson York. Who are five offensive linemen, who deserve more pub this week, Alex?
When the season began for Oregon, one of the biggest concerns revolved around a front wall that was undergoing an extreme makeover. How would the Ducks possibly replace all-stars Max Unger and Fenuki Tupou, and steady veteran Mark Lewis? Surely, the attack would suffer from inadequate blocking up front, right? Uh-uh. To the credit of offensive line coach Steve Greatwood and his rotation of wide-bodies, Oregon has soared beyond a 31-yard effort on the ground in the opener to lead the Pac-10 and rank No. 8 nationally in rushing. QB Jeremiah Masoli and redshirt freshman RB LaMichael James have been phenomenal, but they’d be the first ones to admit that none of their exploits would be possible without the work up front from the rebuilt offensive line. That was never more evident than in Saturday night’s 47-20 coronation over USC.
The Ducks didn’t beat the Trojans at Autzen Stadium. They bloodied their noses, consistently winning the battles at the point of attack. In short yardage, USC was no match for Oregon on the interior. On running downs, the Ducks rolled up 391 yards on 49 carries, a gaudy eight-yard average that’s usually reserved for teams from the state of Washington. Sacks? Not one.
No one denies that Oregon’s seven-game winning streak and ascent into the Top 25 stratosphere has been a total team effort that extends well beyond the recognizable entities, like Masoli and James. Just don’t forget the names of Holmes, Kaiser, Thran, Weems, and York when discussing America’s hottest team. Without the work of these faceless, unsung heroes, it’s unlikely the Ducks would be sitting in the Pac-10 driver’s seat.
33. No, he's not David Klingler or Andre
The Case for Case... and Against Tebow.
The Heisman Trophy isn't a favorite subject... not when the award is so politicized, popularized, and acutely akin to a high school student council election on far too many occasions.
"Hmmmmm... golden-boy quarterback (preferably a senior, but not always) on a team that's in the BCS National Championship Game? Sounds like the coolest guy! Great! Got my vote!" That's how Heisman votes go down in a great many instances.
So, with the race for the trophy now nearing the home stretch, it's time to inject some needed clarity into the competition.
Just what SHOULD define a Heisman winner? It is, after all, the "most outstanding player" in college football. What would one normally associate with the word "outstanding"?
Some safe answers: Excellence. Consistency. Value as a leader. Production. A Heisman aspirant--one who claims to be the most outstanding player in college football--should be excellent on a consistent basis, with a portfolio mixing intangible value and raw production, but mostly emphasizing the production.
According to this set of decidedly unofficial but common-sense criteria, one can make at least two conclusions:
1) Case Keenum truly deserves final-stage, first-week-of-December consideration for those who hold Heisman Trophy ballots (disclaimer: I don't).
2) Tim Tebow doesn't.
Before anyone - especially those in or near Gainesville, Fla. - gets huffy about this, let's pause for a second and recall that in 1975, Archie Griffin's second Heisman was shrouded in controversy, and was generally acknowledged to have belonged more to another running back, Chuck Muncie. Note that Griffin played for a Big Ten champion Ohio State team coached by the legendary Woody Hayes. Muncie, on the other hand, played for Cal, a program that still hasn't reached a Rose Bowl since the 1958 season. It would be plainly ignorant to contend that geography, visibility, and brand-name sex appeal didn't have more than a little impact on the final outcome of that '75 vote.
With that point as prelude, it needs to be said that if anyone is to be accorded the overwhelming and truly awesome honor of being a two-time Heisman Trophy winner, that man had better be a darn sight better than anyone else in the country. The politicization of the Heisman demands that the wealth be spread around unless the calculus of the race is too one-sided to ignore. This is what reasonable, moral and ethical people do when confronted with a flawed, imperfect, and highly subjective system for making determinations of appreciable import.
One doesn't have to lecture Tebow about the preciousness of the ballot he, a Heisman winner, holds. One does, however, need to make sure that other Heisman winners and ballot-holders - who are not held in check by overly strict accountability mechanisms - exercise due care in casting their votes.
Let's get down to brass tacks and compare college football's most recognizable player - the Archie Griffin of 2009 - with lil' Case Keenum, toiling in the outpost of Houston.
Tebow has been a rock for Florida in 2009. Big No. 15 can still get a tough third-down yard with more ease than just about anyone else in the sport. The Gators are undefeated, with Tebow providing ample leadership and a fair amount of production for his teammates... just not the most outstanding play of any FBS collegiate football player.
Tebow's UF offense has experienced tough sledding in more than a few games this season. The Tennessee game was a muted minimalist affair, and a 13-3 win over LSU was little different; Tebow committed some alarming mistakes against Arkansas, and propelled a pair of pick-six pigskins at Mississippi State.
To honor Tebow with a spot as one of five Heisman finalists is within the realm of reason, though there are surely five players who are having better seasons than this college football legend. However, to give Tebow even remotely serious consideration for a first-place vote is nothing short of ludicrous. (Thankfully, the global sociopolitical significance of the Heisman isn't weighty in the same way that a foreign-policy decision is.) It would be like giving federal bailout money to Goldman Sachs, allowing the rich - when struggling - to still get richer despite a clear awareness of a larger, countervailing reality.
If you want a player who has been consistently excellent, and whose intangible value is exceeded by his raw production, Case Keenum makes a fine choice for college football's most famous award.
Keenum did throw two interceptions against Mississippi State, and was somewhat spotty against Texas Tech, but in every game he's played, Keenum has delivered the goods as a performer first, and a leader second (but prominently so).
Houston has scored at least 29 points in every game against a tough schedule for a Conference USA club (at Oklahoma State, vs. Texas Tech, and at Mississippi State out-of-conference in addition to one, but only one, FCS cupcake). Keenum has completed at least 65 percent of his passes in every game he's played. Even though he threw two interceptions at Mississippi State, Keenum tossed four touchdown passes to carry his crew to the winner's circle. Yards are vastly overrated for passers, particularly when yards are tallied in losing situations by quarterbacks who are always throwing in a desperate attempt to catch up. With that said, Keenum's yardage totals are accompanied by considerable point production. Even more instructively, Keenum's video game numbers in Houston's one loss--at UTEP on Oct. 3--were, while inflated, not an indication of any weakness on the part of Keenum himself. That loss completely belonged to Houston's defense.
If one uses sensible and fair criteria, there's no doubt--none--that Case Keenum has a legitimate claim to the 2009 Heisman Trophy, and that Tim Tebow doesn't. This might come across as weary anti-Tebow sentiment, the product of Tebow's overexposure in all forms of media.
One would actually honor Tebow and pay that fine young man the highest compliment imaginable if one did not award him the '09 Heisman. One would also honor the sport of college football, in the form of its most prestigious individual prize, by handing out a Heisman based on a sober evaluation of a full year of football performances. Giving Tim Tebow a second Heisman for reasons largely unconnected to on-field assessments would only make a mockery of the award. Sadly, such an act would make it feel like 1975 all over again in the sport that is governed as poorly as it is loved deeply.
It's time to vote for this year's Chuck Muncie, and not make the same mistake twice. It's time to vote for Case Keenum, and at least partially amend an error first committed 34 years ago.
(PS--Advocates of Jimmy Clausen, Ndamukong Suh, and Eric Berry could make strong cases for their own candidates as well. Beyond that? Slim pickings.)
4. It would also mean Brian Kelly can stop shopping for houses
in South Bend.
Could Goliath hold the fate of David when BCS bowl bids are dished out in December?
IIn the history of the Bowl Championship Series, there have never been multiple non-Automatic Qualifiers to earn berths in the same season. For financial reasons, it isn’t expected to happen anytime soon either. This year, however, has been different. In a perfect storm, of sorts, for the mid-majors, there are two programs headed toward perfect regular seasons and a dearth of major schools looking like rock solid at-large choices. Boise State is five games from perfection. TCU is four wins away. If both continue to roll as heavy favorites, one, likely the Frogs, will be in while the other, likely the Broncos, will hold their breath and hope for a miracle. Despite the potential economic ramifications, it just might happen.
When TCU or Boise State earns a berth, three at-large bids will remain. The Big Ten, with Iowa, Penn State, and Ohio State all ranked, is probably going to nab one. The SEC will get another out of the Florida-Alabama loser. The final spot? It could be a 10-2 Miami or even a 10-2 USC ... or it could be the Goliath in the ointment, a 10-2 Notre Dame team. The mere suggestion of the Irish, sans any conference affiliation, earning an eight-digit payday is enough to drive some fans batty. However, it’s going to happen if it can navigate the final four games against Navy, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and Stanford. When it comes to the at-large bowl invitations, you need to always be following the dollar. To the respective committees, Notre Dame is a winning lottery ticket. Boise State or TCU is an over-leveraged tech stock. Whether or not you believe it’s fair, it happens to be a fact the way the current system is devised.
5.. Les Miles on line two.
By Michael Bradley
This is a tough one for me, because I am a graduate of Michigan, and I agreed in theory with the decision to bring Rich Rodriguez in to replace Lloyd Carr. Carr’s teams had achieved plenty of success during his tenure, most notably the ’97 national title. But the inability to beat Ohio State and the growing trouble the team had with the nation’s elite programs (and don’t try to give me the bowl win over a lesser Florida team as evidence to the contrary) had put Michigan in the position of becoming a sagging regional power that couldn’t handle the bully on its own block. I viewed Rodriguez as a window to a broader recruiting base and a means of elevating Michigan onto the same level as the more athletic, faster teams that had been competing for national titles – not to mention beating Ohio State more than once every five years.
So, that was the plan, and I was willing to give it a chance, no matter how much it angered the Schembechler crowd. (I wasn’t always a big fan of that bunch to begin with.) Nearly two years into this process, however, it appears as if the theory was sound, but the practice has been a disaster. Michigan needed to update its method of playing, if only to hang with the Buckeyes, who were culling every top prospect from the state, mixing them with imports from the region and owning the Wolverines. But the way Rodriguez has done it has proven to be disastrous and short-sighted. Case in point: during a season when the top teams in the nation are playing great defense, the Wolverines are rotten on that side of the ball. Truly horrific. Michigan is 81st nationally in total defense and eighth in the Big Ten. The Wolverines are too light along the front seven and have zero depth. Their secondary is easy pickings for any QB with a mildly accurate arm, and coordinator Greg Robinson insists on leaving these overmatched backs in single coverage frequently.
But that’s just part of the problem.
The vaunted Rodriguez spread offense has sputtered now that the opposition isn’t of the I-AA or Mid-American Conference variety. Granted U-M is playing a freshman QB, but the Wolverines can’t throw the ball with any regularity, and their ground attack has been squelched during a four-game losing streak by teams that recognize that the Wolverines can’t run successfully between the tackles. We had heard all sorts of stories about how Rodriguez’s second year at Tulane, Clemson and West Virginia brought big results. Well, Michigan faces a must-win situation against Purdue Saturday, or it probably won’t play in a bowl game. (Wisconsin and Ohio State loom.) Finishing 6-6 is not exactly what people had in mind when Michigan entered the ’09 season.
Now comes the tricky part: Do you cut ties with Rodriguez after two seasons, or do you risk a third campaign that doesn’t meet expectations? Michigan’s talent level doesn’t seem to be higher than when Carr left. In fact, other than defensive end Brandon Graham, a Carr recruit, there are no obvious high draft pick candidates on the roster, unless you consider senior tackle Mark Ortmann, another Carr conscript. Rodriguez is already in trouble, since the man who hired him, AD Bill Martin, is resigning after this school year, and the next guy in may not want him around. Worse, if the NCAA finds that Rodriguez and his staff violated practice limits, Michigan could go on probation for the first time, an embarrassment worse than any loss to Ohio State. (Well, maybe not any loss.)
Another year of Rodriguez’s tenure would bring in another recruiting class of light, fast players who don’t seem capable of standing up to the Big Ten’s rigors. Another year of spread offense at a time when defenses seem to be making headway in stopping it could keep Michigan behind the schematic curve. If this were Indiana, it would make sense to keep Rodriguez around, because building takes time. But this isn’t Indiana. This is the nation’s winningest program, and it has been leveled. Only a miraculous three-game winning streak that vaults the Wolverines to eight wins can save him now. Short of that, it’s time to cut bait, mend fences with former Wolverine QB Jim Harbaugh and move forward.