Monday Musings

Our publisher continues to struggle to come up with new things to say after each football loss. But heh, at least he didn't shoot the Easter eggs.

Since before the season I picked Iowa State to get shutout at Nebraska, and this week I picked them to lose 28-3 (they lost 28-0), we won't cover football that much this week.

On offense and special teams the play was so atrocious over in Lincoln that it would take finding a new level of spin control to find something positive to say. Thus, I'll save the negative stuff for my radio show instead of CN, which is designed to promote ISU sports and recruiting.

Defensively, I give the Cyclones credit for not giving up against a physical opponent that was continuously given more than favorable field position. The hitting never stopped, no matter how times the Blackshirts stopped the offense. However, before I throw out the bouquets of flowers let's point out that Nebraska played almost two-thirds of the game with a freshman quarterback and kept going for it on fourth down as opposed to kicking field goals.

The Huskers called off the dogs before halftime, because they knew they had a tough road game against Texas coming up and they didn't need more than two good quarters to dispose of ISU.

The last few weeks I've gone out of my way to spotlight the positives. This week, I'll just keep my mouth shut.

Say What?

I like Marty Fine personally, a lot. He's a good guy, and he's already got enough barbarians at the gate because of the anemic play on special teams and the offensive line this season, so he really doesn't need me piling on. Nonetheless, I have to wonder if the pressure is getting to him after reading this quote in Sunday's Des Moines Register:

"They don't talk about how nice the Easter eggs were. They talk about the guys who pulled out the gun and shot the Easter eggs. Today that was us."

Huh?

Is that a Yogism? Is that Zen? What in the world does that mean? Have you ever heard "they" say anything like that before?

I guess we should give Coach Fine a break. After all, if you're tired of hearing coaches spout off tried and true cliches than you've got a friend in Marty.

Media for Men's Basketball

On Tuesday we did live broadcast on KXNO from Iowa State men's basketball media day.

There certainly is a new enthusiasm surrounding Cyclone hoops these days. Gone are the scandals caused by Randy Brown, Steve Barnes, and Larry Eustachy. Of course, we're still left some questionable behavior courtesy of Tim Barnes and Jackson Vroman, but that's a topic for another day.

More than one returning player indicated to me they were actually looking forward to coming to practice these days, as opposed to always being on pins and needles wondering what mood so-and-so was in. That doesn't mean practice with Wayne Morgan is a cakewalk. In fact, guys are literally running until they puke right now. But this game is supposed to be fun for these young men, and it appears to be so again.

If enthusiasm, entertaining basketball, and improved recruiting accounts for anything than it appears ISU basketball is in good hands. Now, that's not to mean Morgan's predecessor should be vilified. There does seem to be some revisionist history going on in terms of Eustachy, who is the biggest reason why there are two Big 12 championship trophies displayed outside the basketball offices at Hilton Coliseum.

Many of you know I certainly wasn't a Eustachy fan, and I absolutely believe the university made the right decision by ridding itself of his dictatorial manner and the embarrassment caused by his moonlighting. However, as Jake Sullivan put it to me on the radio this week, it may have been time for a change because things were not right in Ames the past two years. But Jake still credits LE with teaching him a lot about basketball and life. Unfortunately, whether it was the personal demons he was dealing with or a lack of institutional oversight, or both, the basketball program had run amok under Eustachy's watch.

Now it's up to Wayne Morgan to pick up the pieces and re-establish discipline – as opposed to fear – in the program.

My Top 25

Ranking the top teams in college football this week.

  1. Oklahoma (8-0)…Sooners got a bit of a scare from Colorado. You can rest assured they'll be further tested by an Oklahoma State squad that has no fear of the nation's top team.
  2. Miami, Fla. (7-0)…Hurricanes head to Blacksburg, where they've hardly been impressive in their last two visits. If they win this week, they'll be back in the national title game for a third straight season.
  3. USC (7-1)…No offense in America has more weapons than the Trojans, and the scary thing almost every one of those players is a freshman or a sophomore! The Pac-10 title is on the line this week against Washington State.
  4. LSU (7-1)…Made a statement against Auburn and now controls the SEC West race. However, they'll get stern tests in November with consecutive road games against Alabama and Mississippi.
  5. Georgia (7-1)…Hardly impressive the past two weeks with consecutive squeakers against Vanderbilt and UAB, two of the worst teams in Division I-A. The 'Dawgs are on upset alert this week against Florida.
  6. Washington State (7-1)…The Cougars folded in South Bend and then dominated Oregon in Eugene. Which road team will they take to the Coliseum this week when they face the Trojans?
  7. Michigan State (7-1)…All alone in first place in the Big Ten, Jeff Smoker is the best human-interest story in college football, and archrival Michigan is coming to town. Things are well in East Lansing and basketball hasn't even started yet.
  8. Ohio State (7-1)…Thanks to Northwestern's upset of Wisconsin, the defending national champs now control their own destiny in the Big Ten. But they face a brutal schedule down the stretch.
  9. Florida State (7-1)…The Seminoles have already clinched a share of the ACC title, and there's still a month to go in the season! Since the computers love FSU, they're likely the next team in the Sugar Bowl if one of the top two squads lose.
  10. Nebraska (7-1)…The Blackshirts are back, but there's still plenty of questions about that offense heading into a key league road game against Texas in Austin.
  11. Oklahoma State (7-1)…There's no way the Cowboys can beat Oklahoma for a third straight year, can they? They've certainly got the offense to do so, but they won't catch the Sooners napping this time.
  12. Virginia Tech (6-1)…Many college football observers were stunned by the Hokies loss to West Virginia, but I wasn't. After all, whom had they really beaten? Without an upset of Miami they'll be relegated to another second-tier bowl game.
  13. Michigan (7-2)…The Wolverines now face a stern test at East Lansing, where they've won just once since 1991 and that was with the 1997 national title team. In their last nine quarters, Michigan has outscored the opposition, 118-24. How did this team lose twice?
  14. Iowa (6-2)…Still has an outside shot at a share of the Big Ten title, and with three more wins the Hawkeyes will head to another January bowl game in Florida. Not a bad follow-up to last season's magic carpet ride.
  15. Bowling Green (7-1)…College football's hierarchy is praising the Falcons after their dismantling of Northern Illinois because now only the elite will split the BCS riches.
  16. TCU (8-0)…The Horned Frogs figure to be favored in their last four games, but they've got no shot at the BCS even if they finish undefeated.
  17. Texas (6-2)…Boy, the Longhorns always look like a NFL farm club against the have-nots, don't they? Let's see if they're finally able to pick on somebody their own size this week when the Big Red comes to town.
  18. Mississippi (6-2)…The last two times the Rebels have started 4-0 in the SEC they had a Manning at quarterback. It looks like Ole Miss finally has a little defense to go with that passing attack.
  19. Purdue (6-2)…The Boilermakers had the misfortune of running into a finally motivated Michigan team in Ann Arbor. Despite the lopsided loss, they still have a solid shot at a Big Ten title if they can rebound and win out.
  20. Northern Illinois (7-1)…It took just one loss for that carriage to turn into a pumpkin. Cinderella has been exposed as a BCS pretender, but the Huskies are still one of the top 25 teams in the nation.
  21. Missouri (6-2)…Somebody forgot to tell Brad Smith his Texas Tech counterpart was supposed to be the Heisman Trophy candidate. Are you kidding me, a quarterback rushes for 291 yards?
  22. Tennessee (5-2)…The Vols may have salvaged their season with that quintuple-overtime instant classic at Alabama. Quarterback Casey Clausen is now 14-1 as a starter on the road.
  23. Florida (5-3)…The Gators are young, talented, and playing well away from the Swamp. Plus they know they own Georgia.
  24. Miami, Ohio (7-1)…With all of the talk about Northern Illinois and Bowling Green being the darlings of the MAC, the dangerous Redhawks have flown under the radar screen.
  25. Pittsburgh (5-2)…The Panthers are still a dangerous bunch, and they get the Hokies and Hurricanes at home this month. They'll have a large say in who wins the last Big East title that really matters.

Out—Auburn, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Utah

Honorable mention—26. Auburn (5-3), 27. Minnesota (7-2), 28. Louisville (7-1), 29. UCLA (6-2), 30. Boise State (7-1).

My Heisman Trophy Ballot

It's getting tougher and tougher to come up with five names to put on list of finalists. Here's my best guess at it this week.

  1. Jason White (QB-Oklahoma)…They only way he won't win it now is if he gets hurt – again – or the Sooners fall out of the top spot.
  2. Larry Fitzgerald (WR-Pittsburgh)…Wide receivers that don't return kicks never win the award, but his numbers are so dazzling you have to take notice.
  3. Jeff Smoker (QB-Michigan State)…If he beats Michigan this week he can go ahead and make reservations for New York the second weekend in December.
  4. B.J. Symons (QB-Texas Tech)…His video game numbers merit consideration alone, but quarterbacks on teams with more than two losses don't win Heisman Trophies.
  5. Tatum Bell (RB-Oklahoma State)…Second in the nation in rushing and scoring, but will sharing highlights with All-American Rashaun Woods cost him votes?

 

(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio each Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. on 1460 KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)


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