Banished Buck Bits

  • USC and Notre Dame.  For those who did not witness the carnage, it was possibly the most dominating performance by any team against anyone I have seen all year.  This game reminded me of the '65 contest.  No, not 1965 but A.D. 65.  You know, when the Romans used to toss Christians to wild animals in the Coliseum to please the crowds.  Frankly, the Trojans did their best impression of the Roman rulers while the Domers did their best to emulate the innocents led to slaughter.   Notre Dame managed 4 first downs for the entire game.  USC had 31 first downs.  Without a blocked punt and fumble by USC deep in their own territory, this game is 44-3.  Throw in an interception by Notre Dame on their own goal line and the score could have been 51-3.  In other words, this was total domination.  The game was not as close as the score.  A final proof?  USC had 610 yards of offense.  Notre Dame managed only 109.  Ouch.
  • Notre Dame and the BCS.  Any bowl that even considers taking Notre Dame over USC or Iowa should have their head examined.  Even a gerbil could figure out that USC is three times the team that Notre Dame is and has an equal record with a tougher schedule and a win in head to head competition.  Iowa meanwhile has a better record, better ranking, better offense, better defense, better kicker, etc., etc., etc.  Words like, "sham, joke, fraud, unfair, imposter, scam, swindle, snake oil salesman" will be used to describe the bowls if ND is selected or the Rose Bowl is stuck with Oklahoma (a desecration of the Big Ten and Pac Ten match).  The BCS, poised to garner its first ever completely positive press if Miami wins would end up creating a furor that might even overshadow the bowl system itself.  The Pac Ten would undoubtedly rear back its head and howl like an elephant was grinding their toes into the cement.  Media types (including myself I guess) would write and recite story after story about the injustice of this move.  Are the Irish a good team?  Yes they are.  Like them or not, they are 10-2 and have earned their victories.  Are they deserving of a BCS bowl over Kansas State, USC, or Iowa?  No way.  Not now.  Not in 100 years.  My guess is that USC will be taken by the BCS for the Orange after some closed door deals to pay for any let-down in traveling fans.  I believe the BCS folks will use their influence to privately keep the Orange Bowl in line to take the best team not only for themselves but for all of the BCS games.
  • Jeers to the SEC.  Every season all you hear from the talking heads is how tough the SEC is.  Don't look now, but it has gone from bad to worse for this league.  UF, Tennessee, Auburn, and LSU all have 4 losses.  Arkansas is headed to face Georgia in the title game with 3 losses.  The best team in the West, Alabama is under sanctions and not eligible to go bowling or play for a league title.  I will wait until the bowls are over to pass final judgment here because it is possible that the league is just so rigorous that the teams beat each other up.  However, it is also possible that the league is not nearly as tough as it has been made out to be.   
  • Albert Means to Infinity.  The Tide have to wonder when this is going to hit bottom.  This scandal has more lives than a cat.  With Means' coach singing like a canary to the Feds, he is claiming 2 coaches helped to set up the payments.  This would likely garner more sanctions for the Tide, especially after Alabama intentionally flipped off the NCAA by scheduling Hawaii to end their season.  Another lost year of bowls and possibly more scholarship reductions could be upcoming.  Frankly, with this new information, the NCAA could make a solid case for the death penalty.  Georgia and Kentucky are also being implicated now as well by Means' coach.  Throw in the investigations at Tennessee, Arkansas, and LSU and the SEC has serious credibility issues.
  • Miami and Recruiting.  With both Florida and Florida State in a down cycle, expect Miami to get their pick of players in the state of Florida.  This means that Miami is going to get more difficult to beat.  They will lose sooner or later, but considering they play in the Big East, this team could go on another winning streak after suffering their loss because the talent gap is only increasing between themselves and the rest of the college football world.
  • West Virginia.  What a job Rich Rodriguez has done to turn the ship around this year for the Mountaineers.  Ending the season with back to back upset wins on the road is no easy task.  This West Virginia team deserves a nice bowl for their efforts.
  • Frauds.  Who should get called out?  For starters, Notre Dame proved what I have told folks all year long.  They are a decent team with a lousy schedule who would be exposed if they ever faced a all around solid team.  Then there is The ACC, who is sending an 8-4 team to the BCS.  How embarrassing.  The BCS should institute a rule that allows them to bypass any team not ranked in the top 15 or with more than 3 losses.  That Florida State will get a BCS bowl over the likes of Kansas State, Penn State, and even Notre Dame (who blasted the Noles at Tallahassee) is just pathetic.  How bad is it?  The defeat of a very suspect Florida team was the first time the Seminoles have defeated a ranked team this season.  Maryland is their only other victim that is even ranked right now.  Louisville opened the season with a roster full of talented players.  They had a favorable schedule and a senior quarterback who was (and still is) considered an NFL caliber talent.  Their final record?  7-5.  With a solid season, Smith would probably have had some job offers come his direction.  However, until he can discipline his team enough to stop committing 13,337 penalties per game and losing to teams they should not – those job offers will not be coming his direction.
  • Upset that should not have surprised.  Oklahoma State against Oklahoma had upset written all over it.  State is a rapidly improving program with a solid coaching staff.  They have a good quarterback with multiple receivers who can get deep over the middle.  They hate Oklahoma like Cincinnati hates Ohio State.  However, their talent level is closer to that of Purdue.  Meanwhile, OU barely considers the Cowboys worthy of their attention.  They have to play Colorado next and had already clinched the Big 12 South bid to the championship game.  Throw in an offense that has been inconsistent all season long, against a Cowboys defense that is no slouch, and put the game in Stillwater and you have upset city baby.  I was expecting this one to occur straight up.  The real upset of the week in terms of national significance was Arkansas over LSU in the last 34 seconds.
  • Comment that made me want to laugh until I wet my britches.  During the Texas A&M and Texas game, Mack Brown was asked about Chris Simms.  The criticism of the young man was addressed, and Brown listed off all of his attributes (rich, handsome, blond-hair and blue eyes, great arm, will play in the NFL, etc.) and implied it was all jealousy.  Huh?  Most fans could care less if Simms was purple with pink polka dots and had one brown and one green eye.  His arm could be classified as a sparkler instead of a rocket, and he could be from a family that never had enough money to even buy shoes.  What Texas fans have wanted from day one is for him to perform well in big games.  Texas has never won a Red River game with him starting. N-E-V-E-R.  Further, he has done nothing but hurt his team in the Red River game and multiple other important contests for the Texas program.  Considering how he has played in those contests, I am not so certain that I would not label the Simms years at Texas a bust.  No victories in the Red River Rivalry.  No Big 12 crowns.  No undefeated or even 1 loss seasons.  I understand that coaches have to stand behind their players but to label the criticism as some sort of jealousy is too much.
  • The Pac Ten.  This is the best league top to bottom.  Bar none.  The bowl results may be mixed simply because Bowls are not about even matchups but money, ratings, what teams have fans who travel well, and who is available.  Still, it should not obscure that the Pac 10 has 8 teams who are bowl eligible and only one team in the entire league (2-9 Stanford) with a losing record outside the conference. 
  • Best Career Move.  With new vultures circling at Alabama once again due to fresh allegations on the Albert Means scandal, I would leave Tuscaloosa on the first bus out of town if I were Franchione.  Of course, I am not him, so what he will do is still in doubt.  All I know is that he could win at Texas A&M (providing they fire Slocum) a WHOLE lot easier in the next few years than what he will be able to at Alabama.  Bama played this season with a full roster, but will not do so again until 2006.  Think about that for a moment.  Teams like LSU, Auburn, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, etc. will have full rosters in November and will be gunning for the Tide.  Meanwhile, Bama will have to resort to hurt players and guys that would never see the field with a full roster.
  • Best and Worst Coaching Changes thus far.  Best fire goes to Michigan State.  Bobby Williams was not the answer in East Lansing.  Perhaps he could do better somewhere else, but this Spartan team had quit on him.  It was not a problem of talent but of discipline and coaching.  Worst fire was Baylor's axing of Kevin Steele.  Note to the Bears: you are no longer going to be a power in the SWC conference because it no longer exists.  You are now in the Big 12 and will face teams like Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Colorado, Nebraska, etc. on a yearly basis.  To think that you should even go bowling on a regular basis is ludicrous.  Steele should have been given 1-2 more seasons and then judged on his results.
  • Rivalry Games.  Is there a better time of year to be a college football fan?  To be perfectly honest, I enjoy the last 2 weeks of November more than the bowls.  Ohio State/Michigan, USC/ND, Texas/Texas A&M, MSU/Ole Miss, Washington/Washington State, Oregon/Oregon State, Cal/Stanford, Alabama/Auburn, etc.  This time of the season is only a little less critical to my life than eating and sleeping.  I will likely go into a deep funk and begin counting down the days until next November after this coming Saturday.
  • ND Mediocrity the last 4 years.  The most telling statistic of just how uncharacteristic Notre Dame has played (relative to their tradition) over the last 4 years was a statistic I heard on the television when they played USC.  The Notre Dame Punter (a senior) kicked his 250th punt of his career during the game.  250 punts?  That means that he has averaged over 5 per game the last 4 years.  To equal this number, Andy Groom and the much-maligned Ohio State offense would have needed to punt the ball 69 times.  Andy ended the season with 54 punts.  That may not seem like a tremendous difference, but it is.  Lest anyone think I am a Domer basher, I expect Notre Dame to improve in this category over the next couple of seasons before Willingham takes the inevitable NFL leap.
  • OSU's Passing Attack.  Expect a lot of play about the OSU passing game vs. the Miami/Georgia/USC/Iowa passing game in the next few weeks.  The implication will be that Ohio State is lousy and the other team (take your pick which one) is awesome.  Here is a statistic… Of all the teams in division 1-A, only Boise State, Iowa, and Kansas State average more yards per attempt than Ohio State.  In other words, when OSU passes the football, they are proficient with it.  That they do not pass as much is not an indictment of their passing attack as much as it is a reflection of their ability to rush the football (especially when Clarett is healthy).
  • Rashaun Woods.  Show me a better wide receiver in the country.  I dare you.  This kid has stayed off the national radar so long only because he is in Stillwater Oklahoma.  No more.  Folks talked about him earlier in the season, but I was not able to see him in action.  OU tried to cover him.  They did their very best.  He just continued to get open and find the seams in the zones and break away in man-to-man coverage.
  • Heisman.  If I were awarded a vote for the Heisman, I would vote thusly:  1.  Carson Palmer.  Yes, ND is overrated and not a complete team.  However, they are 10-2 with a secondary unit at least as good as Ohio State's.  Palmer cut them up like he was cleaning a carcass.  It was unreal.  2.  Brad Banks.  Banks had an incredible season.  He handed Michigan its biggest loss in the Big House since the late 60's.  His touchdown to interception ratio, his scrambling abilities, and his completion percentages were fabulous.  Iowa would have been 9-3 or worse without him.  3.  Larry Johnson.  He would be higher but did not get big yards in big games.  PSU lost to UM, Iowa, and OSU.  Johnson had good yards in the games when one accounts for his receiving skills, but I still think Palmer and Banks were more dynamic players this season.  4.  Willis McGahee.  I like him more than I do Dorsey.  I think that Dorsey is the glue of the team but is not the most talented player.  McGahee is a great running back who will undoubtedly enter 2003 as the front-runner for the heisman.  5.  Jason Gesser.  "Mr. Mouth" as some might refer to him was a huge player for WSU.  The instant he went down, their national title hopes vanished.  He is tough, resilient, and the leader of his team.  He has great statistics and finds the open wide receiver on an extremely regular basis.  I for one did not want to face this kid and the Cougars again in Tempe.  OSU would have had only the title to play for while Gesser and co. would have had all kinds of motivation including the title, revenge, etc.
  • Games that should not be Missed.  Take your pick for this weekend.  The offense of Georgia against the defense of Arkansas.  How about the running game of Virginia Tech against the defensive front 7 of Miami?  OU playing for pride after losing to Oklahoma State two straight seasons versus a Colorado team out for revenge.  Army and Navy – always a classic. 
  • R.C. Slocum.  I have seen more media love passed around on behalf of this guy in the last two weeks.  Although I do understand that Slocum is a solid coach and has been more loyal to Texas A&M than a hound dog, I cannot understand why this is not a potentially good move for Texas A&M football.  Fact:  Slocum did a great job early on for this university athletic department when faced with a decaying SWC full of probation crippled teams.  Fact:  He restored credibility to the program after Sherril left in 1988.  Fact:  Slocum is 123-47-2 for his career.  This is one half of the story (the one being emphasized), but there is the other side of the coin that is being viewed by A&M fans, alums, and even the administration.  Fact:  Since 1996, Slocum is 55-32.  That means in his early years he won 68, tied twice, and lost only 15 games.  I may not be a math major but to go from 68-15-2 to a record of 55-32 over the past six seasons is a serious drop in winning percentage.  Fact:  Mack Brown has been increasingly winning the recruiting wars in Texas and Bob Stoops is coming in second (leaving third to Slocum).  Fact:  Slocum is 2-6 against Texas in the last 8 seasons and 2-8 in bowls for his career.  Fact:  Those numbers are as ugly a giant mole (with long, curly, black hairs growing out of it) on the side of some woman's face.  Those kinds of numbers get you fired.  4-14 does not sit well with the alumni who are giving millions of dollars to the athletic department.  I agree that R.C. Slocum probably deserves kinder treatment – most coaches do.  These guys do not set out each season to do a mediocre job.  They want to win worse than any fan ever does.  This is not just a game to them or a Saturday afternoon past-time, this is their life, their career, what they have dedicated their existence to doing.  However, A&M has the money, facilities (soon), and the tradition to compete for the Big 12 South division title with the right coach. 
  • Dennis Franchione.  Now is the time to leave Dodge.  As mentioned above, the NCAA has new facts about the Means case that directly implicate the coaching staff.  This means that the NCAA now has the ability to slap more penalties on the Tide since up to this point the University Athletic Department was not given the dreaded, "Lack of Institutional Control" label.  If I am Franchione, I get out of town while the getting is good.  Yes, there are some fine young prospects there for the Tide, but this is a senior dominated team that came into the season with 14 projected seniors starting.  Can the Tide really expect another season like this one without being able to even replace the number of players they have lost?  The fans and alums will.  There is little chance (in my most humble of opinions) that Franchione will be able to deliver next year, let alone in the coming seasons when Alabama will be operating with 60 players on their roster against Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Arkansas, Auburn, and everyone else on their schedule who has 85 players.  In two years, there will not be enough depth for Franchione to replace injured players in August, let alone in November.  Miami survived similar sanctions without too much suffering because they were in the weak-sister Big East (which has improved since then).  Alabama is in the SEC, a league renowned for its competitiveness and tough coaches.  My word of advice to Franchione?  Leave.  Get on that plane and sign on the dotted line for the Aggies.  They will pay you big bucks.  You can leave them in a few years if you would like without sacrificing your coaching career.  If you find that you are happy and able to beat Mack Brown (like most good coaches), you can stay and be a legend in Texas until you retire.  The only way to lose is to stay at Alabama.
  • Symmetry and History.  With the ESPN movie "Junction Boys" about to play on the television, isn't this a strange historical twist?  Bear Bryant coached at Texas A&M and left in part because of the difficulties of NCAA sanctions levied on the Aggies for recruiting violations.  In particular, the losses of the bowl games hurt the program and seemed to really rub Bryant the wrong way.  So, one season he promised to reward the team for a win over Texas if they whipped the Longhorns.  Texas won the game and ending talk of rewards, but Gene Stallings later talked about what Bear had prepared for the team if they had emerged victorious.  Bryant had worked on scheduling an exhibition game against Hawaii, only canceling it when the Aggies lost.  In the end, Bear went to Alabama and won oodles of games and championships for the Tide.  Now, Dennis Franchione of Alabama – fresh off of a game with Hawaii – (because the Tide are ineligible for bowls) may leave because of NCAA sanctions and go to Texas A&M.  You just can't make this kind of stuff up.  Weird.   
  • Who else to call if you are Texas A&M...  For starters, anyone but Franchione is a disappointment.  If I am the Aggies, I tell the alumni to put their money where their famous mouths are and come up with enough money to pay for Dennis to come so that the Aggies can Hook the Horns in the coming seasons.  I would easily offer him $2 million a season and pay whatever buyout is necessary from Alabama.  #2.  Les Miles of Oklahoma State.  Miles would make perfect sense given that he is from within the conference and has shown he can beat Stoops (not once but twice) and deny Bob his shots at national titles.  Plus, this would simultaneously hurt a division foe while helping A&M.  #3.   Urban Meyer at Bowling Green.  He has shown that he can really help a program offensively (where Texas A&M has struggled at times) and has the reputation as one of the fast rising young stars in college football.  He may not be from Texas, but he is a great recruiter from all reports and Texas is absolutely LOADED with talent.  Texas makes Ohio look like a 3rd world country in terms the pure numbers of athletes.  Right now Stoops and Brown rule the roost and are splitting the best players between the two of them, but Meyer might be able to squeeze in there as well.  #4.  Call Franchione again and up the offer.  If he refused the first time and Miles and Meyer do not want the job, then offer Franchione $3 million a season.  Yes, yes – I know.  Coaching salaries are out of control.  I agree.  The problem is that the whole system is broke and out of control, and you cannot fix it by taking some stand that you will refuse to pay more for your coaches.  Michigan State tried that, and everyone can see how well it worked for them…  Throw in Title IX which forces Athletic Departments to fund a horrendous budget off of the football program, and you have a real mess.  The simple reality is that if the Aggies are serious about getting a winner into College Station, then now is the time to make the move.  Do not tell me that the alumni in oil in Texas could not cut the check.  The question is:  What are they willing to do (legally) to get the winning program they have always wanted?

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