Monday Musings

In his latest column, our publisher expresses his extreme displeasure with Iowa State's latest humiliation at the hands of Kansas State.

Please tell me this is rock bottom.

In an all-too-forgettable season with all-too-many disappointments, Saturday's 45-0 thrashing at the hands of unranked Kansas State reached a new low.

The Cyclones went with their third starting quarterback of the season in Waye Terry, and then pulled him after an interception in the third quarter. Why did they do that? Everyone knows how much I love Austin Flynn, but I didn't agree with that decision at all and thought it was unfair to Terry.

Here's why.

You just took two full weeks of practice during a bye to decide that Terry finally deserved his shot, right? So after all that preparation you give him less than two-thirds of a game? That doesn't make any sense to me at all. Sure, he made a few mistakes in the game. However, it was the first start of his career, and it came against an opponent that has dominated Iowa State for the last decade. What did everyone expect, Eli Manning right out of the box?

Terry showed he has some nice physical skills but lacks seasoning. That should come as a surprise to nobody. And let's face it, it's not like he got a lot of help from his teammates. Let's recall the first drive of the game:

On the first play, Terry was sacked. The second play was a running play that went nowhere. On the third play, he throws a beautiful ball about 75 yards in the air to Lance Young. Unfortunately, Young gave up on the route midway through and never made a play for the ball.

But let's not single out Young, because this highly acclaimed wide receiver unit dropped a plethora of passes—again. The offensive line, as Ben Bruns pointed out in the post-game radio show, blew basic blocking schemes on more than one occasion—again.

Bruns is right. These guys just don't make plays. When you watch the game from the pressbox it's amazing to see the amount of big plays – on both sides of the ball – the Cyclones let slip from their grasp over the course of 60 minutes. Why does that happen? Well, I no longer think just saying it's injuries and the brutal schedule is accurate. So, is it scheme, a lack of preparation, a lack of technique, a lack of confidence, a lack of leadership, or all of the above? I'm frankly not qualified to answer that question. Hopefully the coaches who are know the answer to that question.

After not getting shutout in 12 years, the Cyclones have now been held scoreless the last two weeks. They haven't had a lead in a game since September 27th! A segment of the fan base has written off the season, as evidenced by the showing at Jack Trice Stadium. Sure, it was an announced crowd of 40,000+. But take away the no-shows and purple-clad K-State fans and there was probably 7,500 people less than that. Heck, even the pressbox was only half full.

I think what frustrates everyone the most is that, going by the final score each week, there doesn't seem to be a lot of progress being made. Every week seems like an exercise in futility.

Every week the offensive line struggles. Every week we watch the tired defense give up chunks of points and yards in the second half. Every week we watch at least one special teams mishap. Every week we watch a new quarterback. And every week we watch upperclassmen that should know better not make plays when they are available.

I will always unabashedly support Dan McCarney, and outside of something scandalous there's nothing that could persuade me to think he's not the right man for the job. His success at ISU is unprecedented, and nobody in this state does a better job of turning boys into men. He's one of the best things to happen to the university in recent memory.

However, something is missing right now and it's up to Mac to find out what that is and correct it. Something isn't being communicated to the players, or the players aren't accepting what's being communicated. On a team that has gone to three straight bowl games and won 23 games over three years in the Big 12, the best defensive player shouldn't be a true freshman. The best running back shouldn't be a redshirt freshman.

Before pronouncing final judgement, let's wait and see how the Cyclones respond over the final three weeks. There are opportunities for victories, and a chance to build momentum for 2004. Unfortunately, there's also an opportunity for the players to mail it in and play out the string.

Either way, it is going to be an interesting offseason.

A Bad Omen

After Kansas State scored to make it 28-0, a horrible burning smell began to permeate the pressbox at Jack Trice Stadium.

That led me to wonder if I had finally discovered what it smells like after you've just shot the Easter eggs?

Bruce Speaks Up

In the weekend edition of the Ames Tribune, ISU athletic director Bruce Van De Velde took aim at the athletic budget cuts announced by school president Gregory Geoffrey last week.

This year the school will cut about $500,000 from the athletic department budget in response to the money shortfall from the state. By contrast, the University of Iowa is only taking $170,000 away from its sports programs.

That prompted Van De Velde to question last week whether or not the university is willing to support athletics enough to maintain membership in Division I competition, let alone the Big 12. Van De Velde also said the Hawkeyes "value athletics" as opposed to his administration.

Considering the controversies Bruce has found himself embroiled in, and has had thrown at him, taking such a strong stance opposite the boss who holds the key to your job security is striking. When Dr. Geoffrey took over at ISU, there was a whispering campaign that he was not favorable towards athletics. Now, given the cuts he set forth last week, a lot of folks are believing their worst fears have been confirmed.

It will be interesting to see Dr. Geoffrey's first public reaction to Van De Velde's comments. Will he think Bruce is just engaging in public posturing, or will he consider that his athletic director is correct in surmising that making ISU's smallest in the Big 12 athletic budget even smaller could have a crippling effect?

I also wonder how Cyclone Nation feels about those comments. Feel free to let us know on our message boards.

My Top 25

Ranking the top teams in college football this week.

1. Oklahoma (10-0)…I know the Aggies have been struggling all season, but you just don't hang 77 points on Texas A&M. The Sooners are a harmonic convergence of great personnel, outstanding coaching, and determination to finish the job. And finish the job they will in New Orleans on January 4th.

2. USC (8-1)…The Trojans had a big week, even though they didn't play. With three of the one-loss contenders losing, they're even more in the driver's seat now for the right to lose to Oklahoma in the BCS championship game.

3. LSU (8-1)…Hard to believe, but despite their lofty ranking the Tigers aren't even in first place in the SEC West Division. That team would be Ole Miss, the squad LSU travels to face in two weeks. But first is a road trip to Alabama, where the Tigers almost never win.

4. Ohio State (9-1)…The defending champs are still very much in the thick of the national title race if they can win out because of their strong strength of schedule. OSU is tied with Purdue and Michigan for first place in the Big Ten, and those are its final two opponents.

5. Michigan (8-2)…Where would the Wolverines be if it weren't for their two knucklehead efforts against Oregon and Iowa? Ranked second in the country, that's where. They better not get caught looking past underrated Northwestern this week while awaiting the Buckeyes.

6. Texas (8-2)…Now that's the Texas team I thought we'd see heading into the season when I ranked them No. 1. Is that the Rose Bowl making bedroom eyes at the Longhorns and their Lone Star State fan base?

7. Mississippi (8-2)…The Rebels notched their biggest road win in decades at Auburn, and now get two weeks to prepare for a visit from LSU. Ole Miss is the only team in the SEC, in either division, that is undefeated in conference play.

8. Georgia (7-2)…Because the SEC decided to let the BCS, and not their crooked member institutions, decide who represents the East Division in its conference championship game, the Bulldogs are back in the driver's seat.

9. Tennessee (7-2)…Phil Fulmer might have saved his job from Steve Spurrier with that big road win at Miami. Amazingly, Vols' quarterback Casey Clausen is now 15-1 in his career as a starter on the road.

10. Washington State (8-2)…The Rose Bowl could be faced with an interesting dilemma, because the Cougars will share the Pac-10 title with USC if they win their final two games. Does the Granddaddy stick with its traditional Big Ten/Pac-10 matchup, or listen to ABC-TV and go with the Longhorns?

11. Texas Christian (9-0)…The Horned Frogs are probably going to finish undefeated. And for that they'll be rewarded with a trip to beautiful downtown Memphis for the Liberty Bowl.

12. Purdue (8-2)…It's been a while since a Big Ten team dominated Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes the way the Boilermakers did on Saturday. But they'll need to play even better in Columbus this weekend if they want to upset Ohio State.

13. Pittsburgh (7-2)…Panthers now control their own destiny in the Big East race after a thrilling win over Virginia Tech. However, they should be very, very wary of this week's trip to Morgantown because West Virginia is playing inspired football.

14. Virginia Tech (7-2)…The loss to Pittsburgh will probably end up costing the Hokies a $15 million berth in the BCS. It definitely cost them their last chance at a Big East Conference title.

15. Miami, Fla. (7-2)…The Hurricanes are coming apart at the seams. They're not executing, returning to their old undisciplined ways, and getting a low quality of play at quarterback their program isn't used to.

16. Florida State (8-2)…Happy 74th birthday, daddy! Tommy Bowden guided probably saved his job by guiding Clemson to the stunning upset. But he also cost his papa a shot at another national title.

17. Florida (7-3)…Strike up the band because the Gators finally won a home game at the Swamp! The Gators would be on upset alert this week against a desperate South Carolina squad, but they're awesome on the road.

18. Nebraska (8-2)…It comes down to this week's game against Kansas State for the Big 12 North Division title. The Huskers haven't lost at Lincoln in this series since the Eisenhower Administration, but that streak will end.

19. Minnesota (9-2)…The Gophers are playing for more than just Floyd of Rosedale this week, they're playing for history. A win would give them their first 10-win season since 1905 and first New Year's Day Bowl appearance since 1960. However, they may have to go without their starting quarterback.

20. Iowa (7-3)…Three road games outside of the state of Iowa for the Hawkeyes, and three ugly losses filled with penalties, turnovers, and uncharacteristic special teams breakdowns.

21. Michigan State (7-3)…Back-to-back reality checks for the Spartans against Michigan and Ohio State have them in a free-fall. This week they face an equally desperate Wisconsin squad on the road.

22. Northern Illinois (9-1)…The Huskies have rebounded nicely since their loss to Bowling Green two weeks ago, but now they're on upset alert at Toledo this week in a key MAC game.

23. Miami, Ohio (8-1)…After a surprisingly easy rout of Bowling Green, the Redhawks get one last crack at Marshall before the Thundering Herd bolt the MAC for Conference USA.

24. Kansas State (8-3)…The Wildcats didn't end up having the season they expected to, but with a rare win at Nebraska this week they can still make it to the Big 12 Championship game. And considering that game is in Kansas City, anything can happen once they get there.

25. Bowling Green (7-2)…The Falcons are no longer the team of the moment after playing poorly against MAC-rival Miami, but if they win out they could get a rematch against the Redhawks in the conference title game.

Out—#21 Oklahoma State (7-3); #23 Missouri (6-3).

Honorable mention—#26 Boise State (8-1); #27 N.C. State (7-3); #28 Oklahoma State (7-3); #29 Texas Tech (7-3); #30 Connecticut (8-3).

My Heisman Ballot

The top five candidates for the award this week.

  1. Jason White (QB-Oklahoma)…A statistic you may never see again in your lifetime: White had more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (two) in the 77-0 rout of Texas A&M.
  2. Larry Fitzgerald (WR-Pittsburgh)…After being shutdown for three quarters, he carried his team in the fourth quarter for their biggest win in a long time.
  3. Eli Manning (QB-Mississippi)…He's got the stats, name recognition, and his team is undefeated in the SEC.
  4. Chris Perry (RB-Michigan)…Nation's leading rusher had the week off, but he should thrive this week against a young Northwestern defense.
  5. Phillip Rivers (QB-N.C. State)…Senior quarterback with great numbers, he could back on the radar screen by beating Florida State this week.

Bowl Projections

Here's how I think the bowl game matchups will go based on my prediction of how the season will unfold. Of course, given the season ISU is having many of you may not care about these. But since I had to put them together for my radio program anyway, I figured I might as well publish them on the site.

Sugar Bowl—USC vs. Oklahoma

Fiesta Bowl—Ohio State vs. Georgia

Rose Bowl—Texas vs. Michigan

Orange Bowl—Pittsburgh vs. Florida State

Humanitarian Bowl—Boise State vs. Connecticut

Peach Bowl—Clemson vs. Florida

Capitol One Bowl—Mississippi vs. Purdue

Outback Bowl—LSU vs. Minnesota

Cotton Bowl—Kansas State vs. Tennessee

Gator Bowl—Miami, Fla. vs. N.C. State

Silicon Valley Classic—Washington vs. Fresno State

Liberty Bowl—Utah vs. TCU

San Francisco Bowl—New Mexico vs. Boston College

Sun Bowl—Iowa vs. Oregon State

Independence Bowl—Arkansas vs. Northern Illinois

Music City Bowl—Wisconsin vs. Auburn

Houston Bowl—Texas Tech vs. Wake Forest

Holiday Bowl—Nebraska vs. Washington State

Alamo Bowl—Oklahoma State vs. Michigan State

Continental Tire Bowl—West Virginia vs. Virginia

Fort Worth Bowl—Kansas vs. Houston Bowl—Virginia Tech vs. UCLA

Motor City Bowl—Northwestern vs. Bowling Green

Hawaii Bowl—Southern Mississippi vs. Hawaii

Las Vegas Bowl—Air Force vs. Oregon

Tangerine Bowl—Maryland vs. Navy

GMAC Bowl—Louisville vs. Miami, Ohio

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



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