Monday Musings

In this week's column, our publisher touches on the great win over Iowa by the Iowa State wrestling program. No, we're not kidding.

Could that cloud of despair over Ames finally be lifting?

That was my immediate reaction upon hearing that after 30 straight losses to in-state rival Iowa on the mat, the Iowa State wrestling program finally beat the Hawkeyes in a dual meet for the first time since 1987!

Admittedly, I care little about wrestling, which is an ancient sport that strikes me as a curious mix between a Homoerotic version of the old game Twister and an Abercrombie & Fitch teen catalogue. I tried it once in the 7th grade on a whim after having visions of being the next Louden Swain, and finished with a 1-8 record. My only victory attained via forfeit because Sparta High School had a measles outbreak and didn't have a warm body to compete at half the weights.

Thus, I'm probably not the person to put this landmark victory in its proper context. Or write the script to the Vision Quest sequel, for that matter.

Nonetheless, given the trying year Cyclone Nation has had in 2003, we here at CN are willing to celebrate any piece of good news. Even if it does come from a sport that forces me to recall nightmares stemming from how I looked in a singlet. Heck, I'm willing to follow the Cyclones all the way to the next Wrestlemania if they keep winning.

Not to be overshadowed is Bill Fennelly's women's basketball program, which also punked the Hawkeyes last week, 101-94, in a double-overtime classic at Hilton Coliseum.

The game-ball went to Erica Junod, who scored 20 points in her first game back from an NCAA-mandated suspension that is the very definition of silliness. Of course, beating Iowa is nothing new for Fennelly, who is now 6-2 against his Eastern Iowa rival.

Sure, wrestling and women's basketball may not be the marquee sports, but they still matter a lot at Iowa State. And any time a Cyclone gets the best of a Hawkeye, it matters to folks like you, especially when it happens twice in one week.

Perhaps a year from now, when we're rehashing a successful 2004 for ISU, we'll look back at these fleeting moments towards the end of 2003 as the week when the tide started to turn?

Bizarre Chaotic System

Let me guess this straight…

Two years ago, allowing a Big 12 team that lost by four touchdowns in its final game and didn't win the conference title was so great for the sport of college football that the BCS has decided to give us an encore?


I don't care how badly Oklahoma beat UCLA, Missouri, or even Iowa State. Plain and simple, if you don't win your own conference you shouldn't play for a national title. Oklahoma played by the same rules as everyone else, and they didn't keep up their end of the bargain.

The only people that honestly believe the Sooners are deserving of this break down into one of four categories: 1) they live in Oklahoma; 2) their last name is Stoops; 3) they work in the Big 12 front office; 4) computer geeks.

Yep, the computer geeks. God love ‘em, only somebody with a pocket protector and tape on the frame of their bifocals could honestly come to the conclusion a non-conference champion is worthy of bypassing others to play for the national championship. And only somebody with a pocket protector and tape on the frame of their bifocals could honestly come to that conclusion twice.

Let's give Jeff Sagarin, Peter Wolfe, and the rest of these computer pollsters an early retirement. No longer should they be allowed into the sanctuary that is college football, instead let's leave them to work they're more qualified for—cracking the cheat codes on Grand Theft Auto 6.

For three years now I've been asking my good friend Jerry Palm at exactly why these computers were allowed into the mix in the first place and exactly how many different ways can you program a computer to rank strength of schedule? For three years my brilliant friend has failed to come up with a very good answer.

If I didn't know better, I'd listen to Oliver Stone when he says that college football gives us the garbage on purpose. It's all a conspiracy to make college football the most talked about fuster-cluck in American team sports.

If there is one positive from this meltdown it's that it will likely spell the end of the BCS as we know it.

My Top 25

Ranking the top teams in college football for one final time during the 2003 regular season.

1. LSU (12-1)…Quite simply, a one-loss champion from the rugged SEC is more deserving of the top ranking at the end of the regular-season than a glitzy conqueror of the mediocre Pac-10, in my opinion.

2. USC (11-1)…Chaos theory: the team ranked number one by both major polls is shutout of the BCS. Think they'll be motivated to make a statement against Michigan in the Rose Bowl? Better shore up that pass defense first.

3. Oklahoma (12-1)…I told you last week that K-State would present its toughest challenge yet, but nobody expected a 35-7 result. The Sooners will go down in history after all, just not for the reason we all expected.

4. Michigan (10-2)…Right now the Wolverines are kicking themselves because of their kicking game woes in road losses to Oregon and Iowa. Alas, the Rose Bowl isn't a bad consolation prize.

5. Texas (10-2)…Screwed by the Sooners again! Here's a tip: show some heart next year against Oklahoma and limit them to slightly less than 60 points and then you won't have to settle for the Holiday Bowl.

6. Ohio State (10-2)…The Fiesta Bowl loved having the Buckeyes so much for last year's national title game that it surprisingly selected them for an encore.

7. Miami, Fla. (10-2)…A surprising rematch with Florida State, which the Hurricanes' defense dominated in Tallahassee back in October in the Orange Bowl. Next September this becomes a conference game.

8. Florida State (10-2)…Bobby Bowden's worst nightmare: three games against his old nemesis from Coral Gables in just 13 months.

9. Kansas State (11-3)…For the first time since 1934 the Wildcats are conference champs and as a reward they get the last crack at the defending national champs.

10. Tennessee (10-2)…It will be interesting to see just how motivated the Volunteers are about a second straight trip to the Peach Bowl. Last year they were humiliated by Maryland in Atlanta.

11. Georgia (10-3)…Saturday night's disappointment aside, the ‘Dawgs had a great season considering their injuries, youth, and tough schedule. They'll be a team to watch in 2004.

12. Purdue (9-3)…The last time the Boilermakers faced Georgia was in another Florida bowl on New Year's and the two teams played an overtime classic. The Capitol One Bowl is hoping for a repeat performance.

13. Iowa (9-3)…For the first time in school history, the Hawkeyes are headed to a January bowl for a second consecutive season. However, this one is more like a road game against Florida.

14. Miami, Ohio (12-1)…This is one MAC champ that I think is good enough to finish in the first division of both the Big 12 and Big Ten Conferences. The Redhawks will roll Louisville in the GMAC Bowl.

15. Mississippi (9-3)…With the allure of Eli Manning and a heavy throng from Rebel Nation willing to travel, the Cotton Bowl invited Ole Miss to its first New Year's Day Bowl game in 13 years.

16. Washington State (9-3)…The Cougar defense will give Texas fits. The problem is the Cougar offense will probably give up too many turnovers. This is one Holiday Bowl that shouldn't be close.

17. Boise State (12-1)…The Broncos have quietly gone out and won 24 of their last 26 games. Other than the Sugar Bowl, their matchup with 11-1 TCU in Fort Worth is the only other bowl game pitting two, one-loss teams against each other.

18. West Virginia (8-4)…Rich Rodriguez is deserving of National Coach of the Year recognition, but he'll have an even better team in 2004.

19. Florida (8-4)…Ron Zook gets another shot at a Big Ten club in the Outback Bowl. Hopefully, this time around he doesn't opt for the flanker-reverse-pass when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter.

20. TCU (11-1)…This is why the Horned Frogs turned the GMAC Bowl. Why travel to Mobile for Christmas when you can play a ranked team on your own home turf?

21. Nebraska (9-3)…The last time the Huskers faced a Big Ten squad in the Alamo Bowl they won in a laugher. That won't be the case against Jeff Smoker and Michigan State this time around.

22. Oklahoma State (9-3)…The Pokes are ecstatic that they're headed to Dallas for the first time since they played in the first bowl ever—the 1945 Cotton Bowl.

23. Southern Mississippi (9-3)…Although they were overshadowed in Conference-USA all season long by rival TCU, the Golden Eagles are the outright league champs.

24. Utah (9-2)…Looks like Urban Meyer is staying in Salt Lake City for another year after all. Should be a defensive battle against Southern Mississippi in the Liberty Bowl.

25. Bowling Green (10-3)…Where would the Falcons be if they didn't have to face Miami of Ohio this season? Could a MAC squad actually be favored over a Big Ten foe in a bowl game?

Honorable mention—#26 Northern Illinois (10-2), #27Maryland (9-3), #28 Minnesota (9-3), #29 Connecticut (9-3), #30 Clemson (8-4).

My Final Heisman Ballot

The five players I would submit on my Heisman ballot.

  1. Eli Manning (QB-Mississippi)…With the previous frontrunner taking it on the chin, we're now left to ask who is the most valuable player in college football? This is my answer.
  2. Jason White (QB-Oklahoma)…Hard not to overreact to one loss when it was so lop-sided in front of the entire nation.
  3. Larry Fitzgerald (WR-Pittsburgh)…Had a chance on national television to impress the voters, but you don't win Heisman Trophies against Miami.
  4. Chris Perry (RB-Michigan)…If he had played 14 games, he'd have rushed for nearly 2,000 yards as well.
  5. Darren Sproles (RB-Kansas State)…Deserves a trip to New York just for shredding that vaunted Sooner defense, but his stats are skewed by playing two extra games.

My Award Selections

How I would vote for college football's major awards.

Unitas Golden Arm/Davey O'Brien Trophies—Eli Manning, Ole Miss

Doak Walker—Chris Perry, Michigan

Bednarik Trophy/Bronco Nagurski Award—Chad Lavalais, LSU

Butkus Award—Derrick Johnson, Texas

Outland Trophy—Robert Gallery, Iowa

Biletnikoff Award—Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh

Jim Thorpe Award—Sean Taylor, Miami (Fla.)

John Mackey Award—Ben Troupe, Florida

Lombardi Trophy—David Ball, UCLA

Lou Groza Award—Nate Kaeding, Iowa

Bear Bryant Award—Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia

(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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