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Cavalcade, Part 2 - 10 Unsung Things To Know
Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick
Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick
Posted Nov 17, 2009

Ten extremely interesting aspects to the 2009 college football season that you don’t care about, but need to go out of your way to pay attention to over the final few weeks.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Nov. 17, Part 2

- Nov. 17.. Part 1

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Ten extremely interesting aspects to the 2009 college football season that you don’t care about, but need to go out of your way to pay attention to over the final few weeks.

10. Rutgers and its turnover margin
It’s all about Cincinnati and Pitt in the Big East, but Rutgers has won seven of its last eight games with the only two losses coming to the Bearcats and Panthers. This hasn’t always been the smoothest of teams with inconsistency on offense thanks to a lousy year from the offensive line, but no one in the nation is better when it comes to turnovers. After taking the ball away four times in the 31-0 win over South Florida, and only turning it over once, the Scarlet Knights are +2.33 in turnover margin with 29 takeaways and a mere eight turnovers. How impressive is that number? Boise State is No. 2 at 1.70, and only seven teams are over 1. With the conference lightweights Syracuse and Louisville up next, before finishing out the year against West Virginia, Rutgers could very, very quietly finish the regular season 10-2.

9. SMU
For all the talk about Houston, all the respect given to East Carolina, and all the interesting games that teams like Tulsa, Southern Miss, and UCF have been involved in, SMU has quietly snuck up on the rest of Conference USA and could win the West. June Jones hasn’t exactly brought Hawaii to Dallas, but the passing game is solid, the team has played well in crunch time, and now, with Houston’s loss to UCF, the Mustangs will play for the title if they can beat Marshall and Tulane. While the team isn’t that great, the defense has been consistently mediocre, and got ripped up by UTEP last week, but the close wins are coming with five coming by eight points or fewer. On the flip side, SMU lost to Washington State and Navy in overtime. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but for a program that was among the worst in America just a few years ago, this has been all the long suffering fans could hope for.

8. New Mexico LB Carmen Messina
This has been an awful, weird year for New Mexico. A regular in the bowl picture under Rocky Long, Mike Locksley has come in and brought notoriety to the program in the wrong way with his infamous hitting incident. The Lobos are 0-10 with 14 losses going back to last season, but Carmen Messina has been a bright spot. The big-hitting 6-0, 210-pound linebacker leads the nation in tackles by far with 134, averaging 13.4 per game. No one is averaging more than 11.6, and only 16 players are averaging double-digit stops. He has had to be in on everything with a porous line in front of him, and he has come through with a huge year making 19 tackles against Air Force, 19 against Utah, and with ten stops or more in every game but two. New Mexico has a shot against Colorado State this week before facing TCU, and he’ll be a mortal lock to finish with more than 150 tackles.

7. Hawaii WR Greg Salas
Ho hum, another Hawaii wide receiver is putting up huge numbers, but what Salas is doing hasn’t been typical. Flying under the radar, at least compared to the well-publicized Freddie Barnes of Bowling Green, Salas has been more dangerous averaging 16 yards per catch while leading the nation with 1,360 yards on 85 grabs. Only six players are averaging more than 100 yards per game, and only two, Barnes and Missouri’s Danario Alexander, are over 120. Salas averages 136 yards per outing. The junior has picked up the slack ever since starting QB Greg Alexander was lost for the year, catching 26 passes for 383 yards and three touchdowns over the last two games including 16 catches against New Mexico State. He’ll get his chance to shine on a national scale against Wisconsin in a few weeks and with Navy coming to town at the end of November.

6. Western Michigan RB Brandon West
No player in NCAA history has gained more yards than West. The WMU senior passed former Memphis Tiger star DeAngelo Williams with 7,626 yards of total offense gaining 3,569 rushing yards with 24 touchdowns, 952 receiving yards and six scores, 3,088 kickoff return yards with a score, and 17 yards of punt returns and 12 yards and a score passing. With 140 yards rushing last week against Eastern Michigan, he passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the second year in a row. By comparison, the No. 2 active leader in all-purpose yards is C.J. Spiller with 6,860.

5. UTEP RB Donald Buckram
After missing most of 2008 with a shoulder injury, the 5-10, 190-pound junior, who ran for 348 yards last season, has been one of the nation’s biggest shockers. Second in the nation in rushing, he’s averaging 142 rushing yards per game with 14 touchdowns, rushing for more yards than Mark Ingram or Toby Gerhart, and is the only player in America with three 200-yard rushing days tearing off 262 yards and four touchdowns against Houston, and over the last two weeks, 234 yards and three scores against Tulane and 241 yards and a touchdown against SMU. He’s also one of just four players in NCAA history with 200 rushing yards and a 100 receiving yards in the same game (Tulane). Up next is Rice, who’s 103rd in the nation in run D giving up 192 yards per game, and Marshall, who’s giving up 156 yards per game.

4. Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour
Flying under the radar because he spent his career in the MAC, no one recruited him out of high school, Dan LeFevour is going to leave as the greatest player in the league’s history. Central Michigan still has some fighting to do, but it’s the favorite to win the MAC title for the third time in four years with LeFevour under helm. Over 49 games, he has completed 66% of his throws for 11,656 yards and 92 touchdowns with 34 interceptions, has rushed for 2,802 yards and 45 scores, and he caught three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. After struggling through last year with a shoulder injury, he has come back roaring with 18 touchdown passes and just five interceptions, and he has been running against with 13 touchdowns including four against Toledo. CMU still has to beat Northern Illinois to get to the MAC title, but if all goes according to form, LeFevour has four games left in his career. He’s worth checking out on Wednesday night against Toledo and on Friday the 27th against NIU.

3. Service academy defenses
Army, Air Force, and Navy are supposed to have quirky offenses to make up for the lack of talent, but because of the various recruiting restrictions, the defenses have always gotten by with whatever can be pieced together. No speed, less size, and needing to get by on want-to and hustle, this year, the service academies have real, live defenses that aren’t flukes. Air Force is seven in the nation in total defense, held TCU to 20 points and Utah to 23, with seven coming on overtime. Thos are the only two times this year the Falcons have allowed more than 20 points, helped mostly by a solid pass defense and the nation’s No. 1 pass defense. Army doesn’t get the help from its offense that Air Force and Navy receive, yet it’s 13th in the nation in defense, third against the pass, and allows just 141 rushing yards per game. The Knights have only given up more than 27 points three times, which isn’t bad considering the program is building, not rebuilding. Navy doesn’t have any pass rush, except when Jimmy Clausen is dropping back in the end zone, but it’s a solid 36th in the nation in defense allowing 338 yards per game, and has only allowed more than 27 points twice. One time came against Ohio State, the other in an overtime win over SMU.

2. Temple RB Bernard Pierce
Temple averaged a mere 95 rushing yards per game last year with the leading rusher, Kee-ayre Griffin, coming up with 394 yards. Bernard Pierce was on the radar this fall as a possible option, he wasn’t going to redshirt, but no one saw him being the type of talent who could carry the woebegone program to an 8-2 record with 1,308 yards and 15 touchdowns and with six 100-yard games in seven (with the one game under the century mark coming in a win over Army). He didn’t get much work in the first two games of the year, against Villanova and Penn State, and those were the team’s two losses. Dinged up, there was a thought that he might have needed a bit of a break, and then he ran 40 times for 212 yards and three scores against Toledo, 29 times for 267 yards and two scores against Navy, and 40 times for 178 yards and three scores against Miami. Slippery-quick, he finds was to tear off big runs with just a little bit of room to move, and he’s not afraid to use some power when needed. He has Kent State and Ohio still to play and if Temple can beat the Bobcats, it’ll be playing for the MAC title.

1. Nevada’s running game
One of the biggest disappointments to start the season, Nevada surprisingly fizzled against Notre Dame, Colorado State, and Missouri in three straight losses. And then everything started to come together, and Nevada is doing for the running game what Oklahoma did with its entire offense last year. To put into perspective what the Wolf Pack’s Pistol offense is doing, everyone is celebrating Georgia Tech’s option attack, and rightly so, as it’s tearing up the ACC averaging 314 yards per game. Navy and it’s always strong offense is third in the nation averaging 282.55 rushing yards per game. Nevada is averaging 353 rushing yards per game, almost 30 more than Georgia Tech, with 40 touchdowns.

Vai Taua has rushed for 1,059 yards and eight scores, QB Colin Kaepernick has rushed for 1,015 yards and 14 touchdowns, and Luke Lippincott has 866 yards and is a lock to hit the 1,000-yard mark. If that wasn’t enough firepower, Mark Lampford added 114 yards and a score against San Jose State, with the Pack getting 100-yard days out of four rushers. To take this to an even bigger extreme, the 978 rushing yards gained over the last two weeks against San Jose State and Fresno State are more than Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, Rice, San Diego State, Washington State, San Jose State, Texas Tech, Bowling Green, Miami University, and Duke have gained all year. Throw in Nevada’s 312-yard day against Hawaii, and the ground attack has gained more rushing yards in three games than 35 teams have gained all season long, while the 25 rushing scores in the last four games are more than anyone but Georgia Tech, Navy, TCU, Oregon, Michigan, and Stanford have scored all year on the ground.

Sure, that’s great, Nevada’s attack is ripping up the WAC, but Fresno State isn’t just another team, and after a destruction of New Mexico State next week, there’s the showdown at Boise State for the WAC title. That’s the real-deal moment, but as of now, this is as breathtaking an offense as any in college football this year.

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.
- The NFL types need to start looking at UAB QB Joe Webb as another Joshua Cribbs. The former Kent State rushing quarterback has been one of Cleveland’s few bright spots, and the Blazer star could be a similar factor at the next level. Webb has rushed for 1,158 yards with ten touchdowns and has single-handedly kept UAB in a bowl hunt.
- Comical moment of the weekend. Coming out of an ad break, with the final commercial for the AC/DC Box set highlighted by a few Bon Scott songs, the opening shot upon returning to the game was of the Wisconsin student section loudly chanting, “Let’s get wasted (clap clap, clap clap clap)” with the game against Michigan well in hand.
- In a year that’s lacking in Big 12 star power, Missouri senior WR Danario Alexander is stepping up his play with two straight 200-yard games catching 23 passes for 414 yards and four scores against Baylor and Kansas State. Iowa State and Kansas are up next.
- Sorry Kansas State, but because of your wussy scheduling, it’s your own fault for not going to a bowl game if you lose at Nebraska this week. The Wildcats have six wins, but two of them came against FCS teams, UMass and Tennessee Tech, to go along with a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. All Kansas State had to do was schedule one mediocre FBS team instead of two FCSers and it would likely be going to a bowl.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: James Van Der Beek … Underrated: James Vandenberg
2) Overrated: USC losing two of its last three games … Underrated: Pete Carroll and the young talent that’s certain to get better.
3) Overrated: The New England 4th down play vs. Indianapolis with 2:08 to play ... Underrated: The college football replay system
4) Overrated: The NCAA complaining about Michigan practicing too much ... Underrated: Jamal Lewis complaining about Eric Mangini’s practices being too long.
5) Overrated: Notre Dame/Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh ... Underrated: Harbaugh sticking around for two more years

The Ohio State game was like stealing, but … The three lines this week that appear to be a tad off. 1-1-1. BYU could play New Mexico ten times and win by more than 27 in nine of the games. I press on. … 1) Iowa -10 over Minnesota, 2) Kent State +13.5 over Temple, 3) Stanford -7 over Cal

Week 10 Results1) BYU -27 at New Mexico, (L BYU 24-19), 2) Iowa +17 at Ohio State (W OSU 27-24 OT), 3) Boston College -4 at Virginia (T BC 14-10) … Record So Far: 11-20-2.

My Heisman ballot this week would be (if the college football season ended right now) … 1) Toby Gerhart, RB Stanford, 2) Mark Ingram, RB Alabama, 3) Dan LeFevour, QB Central Michigan

Sorry this column sucked, it wasn’t my fault … I would’ve gotten it done sooner but I refused to fly in on a plane plastered with Boise State logos. I drove the 82 miles, instead.

 - Nov. 17.. Part 1


Cavalcade of Whimsy

Nov. 10 ... Part 2

- Nov. 10 .. Part 1

    The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Breaking down each conference race. Going into the homestretch, here’s how each one is playing out, what the scenarios are, and what to look for (without getting into every single bizarre scenario).

11. Sun Belt
Troy is the best team in the league and has a game advantage on Middle Tennessee and ULM, the two teams battling for the honor of being the Sun Belt’s No. 2. The Blue Raiders and Warhawks play on November 28th, but it’s going to take a major collapse from Troy to not be in the New Orleans Bowl. The Trojans have two Sun Belt games left, Florida Atlantic and at Louisiana-Lafayette, and have to come up with a split to win the conference title.
Projected Winner: Troy

10. MAC
Central Michigan is the best team in the league, but it still has some work to do to win the West. A flaky NIU Huskie team has the talent to run the table, even though it doesn’t have a passing game, and it’ll have its shot at the Chippewas on Friday the 27th. CMU can lose to either Toledo or Ball State (which it won’t) and still get to the MAC title game with a win over NIU. The Huskies have to beat Ball State and win at Ohio to set up the showdown in Mount Pleasant. Western Michigan and Toledo are out of the West race and all but out of bowl contention, while NIU has to get to eight wins, at least, to be assured of an extra game.

Somewhat shockingly, the East has become the more interesting of the two races. Temple freshman RB Bernard Pierce might be the MAC Player of the Year, while the Owl defense has done a fantastic job on the way to a 7-2 record and 5-0 run in conference play. However, to get to the MAC title game, the Owls still have to go to Ohio and beat the Bobcats on November 27th. Ohio suffered a bad loss to Kent State, and despite not having any offense, it’s in the hunt needing to beat NIU to set up the East deciding battle. Temple has to go to Akron and faces Kent State, who was in the thick of the chase before a disappointing loss to Akron. Kent State wins the MAC East by winning its last two games against Temple and Buffalo and getting 1) an Ohio loss to Northern Illinois and 2) a Temple loss to Ohio.
Projected Winner: Central Michigan over Temple

9. WAC

This is far more interesting than you might think. Nevada is running the ball right now better than anyone in college football is doing anything. The Pack offense has cranked out 559 rushing yards, 345, 313, 484, 312, and 517 in its last six games, and if it can get past Fresno State and a trip to New Mexico State, the Friday, November 27th game at Boise State will be really, really big. It’ll take a major miracle for Idaho or Utah State to beat the Broncos, who have to play NMSU after the Nevada game. Fresno State, who lost to Boise State, is still lurking. If the Bulldogs beat Nevada and Nevada beats Boise State, there would be a three-way tie for the conference title. Idaho, at 4-2, still has to play Boise State, but for all intents and purposes it’s out of the title chase.
Projected Winner: Boise State

8. Conference USA
It’s a total mess with everyone but Memphis in the hunt for the East title, but the West is clear. Thanks to UTEP’s annual November collapse and Tulsa’s loss to Houston, it’s now a two-way battle between the Cougars and SMU.

SMU wins the West by winning out and getting a Houston loss. The Mustangs lost the head-to-head battle with the Cougars but are tied in conference play at 4-1 with three games to play. SMU plays UTEP, at Marshall, and Tulane. Houston wins the West by winning out or by finishing tied with SMU. The Cougars face at UCF, Memphis, and Rice.

East Carolina has the lead in the East with the lone loss coming to SMU from the West. The Pirates win the division by winning out or finishing tied with Marshall or UCF. They still have to play UAB and Southern Miss from the East. For all intents and purposes, Southern Miss wins the East by winning out. Marshall, UCF, and UAB have to win out and get a lot of help, but basically, if East Carolina doesn’t lose two of its final three games, it’s in.
Projected Winner:
Houston over East Carolina

7. Mountain West
Give the Mountain West credit for getting better with the hope of being really strong in the next few years with Wyoming and San Diego State improving with new coaching staffs. Air Force has solidified itself as the No. 4 team in the mix, again, while the big three, TCU, Utah, and BYU, are once again the big three. The Cougars need Utah to beat TCU this weekend, and then they’ll have to beat New Mexico and Air Force before beating the Utes to win at least a piece of the title. Utah wins the Mountain West outright by winning out, but it has work to do needing to win at Provo even if it gets past the Horned Frogs. TCU has to split with Wyoming and New Mexico (not a problem) if it beats the Utes this week. Got that? Basically, TCU will win the title with a win this weekend, while the issue will still be in doubt if Utah wins.
Projected Winner: TCU

6. Big East
South Florida only has two losses, but it’s all but out of the equation with losses to Cincinnati and Pitt. West Virginia will win the Big East title and will go to the BCS by winning out (beating Cincinnati, Pitt, and Rutgers). The Bearcats and the Panthers each control their own destinies, too, and things will be a bit clearer after this weekend when West Virginia goes to Cincinnati. If the Bearcats win, the Mountaineers are out of picture and meaning the Big East title will likely come down to the UC-Pitt showdown on December 5th. The first tie-breaker is head-to-head, and that will be sorted out over the next few weeks. There’s no reason to worry about a three-way tie or a four-way doomsday scenario; they can’t happen without going back to the WVU-UC-Pitt round robin tourney about to kick in. It’s head-to-head at this point.
Projected Winner: Cincinnati

5. ACC
This is nice and easy … yeah, right. It’s the ACC.

- Clemson wins the Atlantic by winning at NC State or against Virginia.
- BC wins the Atlantic by winning at Virginia and Maryland and beating North Carolina, and by getting Clemson losses to NC State and Virginia.
- Georgia Tech wins the Coastal by beating Duke.
- Miami wins the Coastal with a win at North Carolina and over Duke, a Georgia Tech loss to Duke, and Virginia Tech wins over at Maryland, NC State, and at Virginia. Miami wins the three-way tie-breaker with Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.
- Virginia Tech’s situation is a mess and the conversation is over unless Duke goes crazy. The Hokies need Miami out of the mix and are only alive if the Blue Devils beat Georgia Tech and Miami and then lose to Wake Forest. - If it’s a three-way tie between Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Duke, Georgia Tech wins.
Projected Winner: Georgia Tech over Clemson

4. Pac 10
And you thought the ACC was a mess …

- Oregon wins the Pac 10 title outright and goes to the Rose Bowl by beating Arizona State, at Arizona, and Oregon State. If Stanford loses once, the Ducks go to the Rose Bowl if they beat the Wildcats and Beavers and lose to the Sun Devils.
- Arizona wins the title by winning at Cal, at Arizona State, at USC, and against Oregon.
- Stanford wins the title by winning at USC and beating Cal, and if Oregon loses once and Arizona loses twice.
- USC wins the title by beating Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona and if Oregon loses two of its last three games.
- Oregon State wins the title by beating Washington, at Washington State, and at Oregon, USC loses one of its final three games, and Arizona loses two of its last three games.
- The three and four-way tie-breaker possibilities go on for days, but basically, if Oregon beats Arizona, it wins most of the scenarios. If the Wildcats beat the Ducks, then let the chaos ensue. The Ducks need USC to keep winning to take care of teams like Stanford and Arizona.
Projected Winner: Oregon

3. Big Ten
Iowa at Ohio State. The winner goes to the Rose Bowl, but there can be a mutli-team tie for the Big Ten title if Penn State and/or Wisconsin win out and if the Iowa/Ohio State winner loses its finale (Iowa plays Minnesota and Ohio State plays Michigan).
Projected Winner: Ohio State

2. Big 12
- Kansas State wins the North by winning at Nebraska or by beating Missouri and getting Nebraska loses to either Kansas or Colorado on the road.
- Nebraska wins the North by winning at Kansas, at Colorado, and against Kansas State. - Colorado wins the North by winning at Iowa State, at Oklahoma State and against Nebraska, and if Kansas State loses to Missouri and Nebraska. The Buffs also win a three-way tie with Nebraska and Colorado. - Texas wins the South by winning two of its final three games against at Baylor, Kansas, and at Texas A&M. The Longhorns win the tie-breaker over Oklahoma State.
- Oklahoma State wins the South with wins over Texas Tech, Colorado, and at Oklahoma and by getting Texas losses in at least two of the final three games.
- Texas Tech wins the South with wins at Oklahoma State, at Baylor, and Oklahoma. Texas has to lose its final three games and Texas A&M has to lose once.
- Oklahoma wins the South with wins over Texas A&M and Oklahoma State and at Texas Tech, and Texas loses its final three games.
- Texas A&M wins the South with wins over Baylor and Texas and at Oklahoma, and if Texas and Oklahoma State each lose their final three games.
Projected Winner: Texas over Kansas State

1. SEC
Florida plays Alabama for the SEC title. Cut dry, and finally, an easy conference championship situation.
Projected Winner: Florida over Alabama

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.
- The under-the-radar shootout of the week: Troy at Arkansas. Ryan Mallett is coming into his own as the Hog quarterback coming off an ultra-sharp two game stretch going 37-of-43 for 847 yards and three scores, and he hasn’t thrown a pick in his last four games. Troy QB Levi Brown is fifth in the nation in total offense, hasn’t thrown a pick in his last six games, and has gone over the 300-yard mark five times in the last seven games and over 400 yards twice.
- After giving up 470 passing yards to Colt McCoy, watch out for UCF’s problems against Case Keenum and the Houston passing game.
- The World Series of Poker has as much to do with sports as Dancing With The Stars.
- Indiana will finish with a losing season, but it’s been close to having a big year. Three of the six losses came by a total of seven points, and another came in the strange loss to Iowa.
- Why isn’t anyone paying attention to Ryan Mathews, the Fresno State running back? He’s not just leading the nation in rushing; he’s leading it by a ten-mile wide margin averaging 162 yards per game, almost 27 more than the No. 2 runner, Stanford’s Toby Gerhart. His 7.12 yards per carry is tops among the nation’s leaders, and after ripping off 143 yards and three scores against Idaho, he has gone over the 100-yard mark in all nine games this year.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Every note of music played since April 5, 1994 … Underrated: Nirvana: Live at Reading (However, the fantastic mistake at the opening of Smells Like Teen Spirit, with Cobain blowing the start leading to an impromptu singing of Boston’s More Than A Feeling, is cut out. Seriously, if you like them at all, iTunes. Now. It’ll restore your faith in mankind.)
2) Overrated: Brandon Spikes … Underrated: Elizabeth Lambert
3) Overrated: Tony Pike ... Underrated: Zach Collaros
4) Overrated: Trying to force out Bobby Bowden ... Underrated: Forcing out Mickey Andrews
5) Overrated: Tiramisu ... Underrated: Furman RB Tersoo Uhaa

Head, meet oven. Oven, head … The three lines this week that appear to be a tad off. I really thought I had them last week, but after a wee bit of recent success, the gods pounded me with three big misses. I press on. … 1) BYU -27 at New Mexico, 2) Iowa +17 at Ohio State, 3) Boston College -4 at Virginia

Week 10 Results: 1) Kent State -3 over Akron (L, Akron 28-20), 2) Oklahoma -5.5 over Nebraska (L, Nebraska 10-3), 3) Duke +8.5 over North Carolina (L, UNC 19-6) … Record So Far: 10-19-1.

My Heisman ballot this week would be (if the college football season ended right now) … 1) Case Keenum, QB Houston, 2) Mark Ingram, RB Alabama, 3) Colt McCoy, QB Texas

Sorry this column sucked, it wasn’t my fault … Like Boise State, I tried to get several big boys to play me. I’d even go their place and ask for nothing in return. There weren’t any takers.

- Nov. 10.. Part 1