2009: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Two cents may be overstating the worth of my impending contribution, but I've watched as closely as anyone over the last 12 games (13 for some) and based on what I've been hearing over the last couple of weeks, I'm far from the idiot-end of the intelligence scale.

I watch and listen more than most, read and react at least as much as most, and contemplate the ins-and-outs of collegiate pigskin far more than most should. So where does that leave me? Full of attaboys and shame-on-you honors and contempt, along with opinions about what was, what is, and what should be for those directly tied to NCAA Football.

I'll tell you what I'll remember about 2009; what I saw, what I'd like to see, and what I hope to never see again. Some will be obvious, some will be less so, and hopefully a fair share will inspire thought regarding the future of a sport exceeding expectation, but failing to reach its potential.

Failing to reach its potential?

Huh? Isn't this the sport that dominates the airwaves for the better part of four months, eliciting endless banter and generating millions of dollars for learning institutions across this great land?

It is, but it's also the sport that panders to the elite, keeps the little man down, and crowns its champion based on theory and opinion opposed to competition on the field of play.

Let's start with what we didn't see this year:

* A playoff. One has to desire ineptitude in-order to reach such an elevated level of malfunction. Forest Gump, Lloyd Christmas and Jeff Spicoli know the BCS isn't working, but unfortunately for you, I and the biggest loser – the players – the Powers-That-Be only listen to dead presidents. What I'm failing to understand is how an equal, if not more amount of money wouldn't be generated under a playoff-encompassing system opposed to the existing debacle?

* A legitimate Heisman candidate from the University of Southern California. In spite of many efforts to anoint Matt Barkley as such, the Trojans finished the year without a poster boy for the first time in a decade. From Carson Palmer to Matt Leinart, Mike Williams to Dwayne Jarrett, and Reggie Bush to Mark Sanchez, a Man of Troy either won or had been considered a plausible candidate for said award since the 2002 season. No ding, no dong, the wicked witch isn't dead, but all signs are pointing to a lull in the action.

* The Florida Gators play a non-conference game outside the state of Florida. Since World War II they have played 10 - yes 10 - road games against non-conference teams. This year's murderer's row consisted of Charleston Southern, Troy and Florida International, with an intrastate rivalry game versus has-been Florida State…all at home. I'm sorry, the SEC is good, but it's not so much better than the other power conferences to justify a team playing 8 of their 12 regular season games at home, and all their out of conference games against weak, weaker and weakest in the world of college football.

* Jake Locker win any meaningful award, let alone the Heisman Trophy. Well, three years down one to go and Mr. Locker has yet to make an All-Conference Team let alone anything bigger. Sadly, it's not a knock on him – for I like him as a player – but a shot across the bow of that guy who's been spouting off about Jake and his undeniable prowess as a signal-caller since Letter Of Intent Day nearly four years ago. Somewhere Beano Cook and Ron Powlus are chuckling over an adult beverage and cigar. Good luck next year Jake, after-all, Coach Sarkisian has already stated his Huskies are as good as anyone in the Pac-10 right now, so next season ought to really be something!

* A Big XII Conference challenge a relatively unknown Texas team. I apologize to the burnt orange community, but Texas may be the least worthy undefeated from the republic in which they reside. The powers on their schedule (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech) lost a combined 12 games in 2009. Their out-of-conference (OOC) opponents lost a combined 24 games – an average of six each – and they were a booth review away from a loss to a rebuilding Nebraska program whose mere presence in the Big XII Title Game caught many by surprise. Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs of TCU played two opponents from BCS conferences as part of their OOC, three ranked opponents within the Mountain West and won by an average margin of more than four touchdowns. Texas may or may not be worthy of a title game opportunity, but they are there not because of who they played, but by where they were ranked to begin the season, how they got jobbed last season, and who's been taking their snaps the last four seasons.

* Charlie Weiss embrace humble pie in the face of such an obvious slice. There's a fine line between stubbornness and stupidity, and Chuck may be repositioning it. He's obviously not an unintelligent individual, but doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different result is insane…and that's per Mr. Einstein. The Irish's defense reminds me of a "ball hog's" in basketball; the quicker they score, the sooner we get the ball back. You were extremely mediocre as a college football head coach Charlie, except it, move on and quit tattling on others as form of redirecting attention from your obvious ineptitude. It's not Pete Carroll's fault you couldn't beat Syracuse, it isn't Tyrone Willingham's fault you couldn't beat Navy…twice…and it certainly isn't the media's fault you couldn't surpass an expectation level which you yourself declared was unsatisfactory.

Now let's look at what we did see:

* A young man both ruin and revive his reputation and potential career over a three month period. LeGarrette Blount ran the gamut of sports highs and lows, hitting rock bottom in Boise and bouncing back towards social acceptability in a memorable Civil War. This topic has been exhausted, so I'll simply say the following; congratulations, good luck and continue in your current direction #9. You're writing a story whose ending is now entirely dependent upon you.

* Big-Boy coaches struggle mightily. What do Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll, Rich Rodriguez and Dennis Erickson have in common? They're all looking up at the high-horse which they previously sat atop. While Stoops and Carroll will undoubtedly be back, Erickson seems to have made no significant strides in his three seasons at the helm and Rodriguez' 8-16 record at Michigan has him squarely in the cross-hairs of those pulling the trigger for the Wolverines.

* The Big East re-establishes some credibility as a formidable conference. Cincinnati's emergence along with Pitt's strong showing has at least turned peoples' attention towards a conference previously unworthy of such. Much is riding on The Natti's showing versus Florida in the upcoming Sugar Bowl, but their undefeated regular season coupled with the emergence of Pitt, South Florida and Connecticut are strides in the right direction.

* Pete Carroll, his disciples and the USC alumnus eat a Shaq-sized serving of a crow. You'd be hard-pressed to find a single person outside of the USC Family who didn't not-so-secretly enjoy watching Oregon and Stanford humiliate the Trojans, Jim Harbaugh disrespect the Trojans' head coach and Arizona State undress former Trojan assistants Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt in the final seconds of a nationally televised game in mid-October. I'm sorry, but if ever a coach, a program and a fanbase were deserving of a little humility … SC, Pete Carroll and Trojan Alum were it.

* Another Oregonian excels on a national stage, while not representing an Oregon institution. What happened to the mindset of taking pride in your own, representing your own and leading your own to championships? Ndamukong Suh – a Grant High School product - nearly and probably should have won the Heisman Trophy, but did so representing the University of Nebraska. This continues a disturbing trend of Oregon's own choosing to take their skills out of state rather than help their own state's universities and programs excel with them. This topic is far too deep to delve into in such a forum, but could you have imagined an interior defensive line consisting of Suh and Texas Tech's Myles Wade at either Oregon or Oregon State? Sadly, I think this trend will continue until it's communicated to these kids that the grass isn't always greener on the other side, Oregon and Oregon State are competitive on a national scale and exposure is the product of success, and not history and hype.

* Lane Kiffin talk a really good game. Premeditated or not, no one in college football made, is making and most likely will continue to make a bigger rear-end of themselves than the former Raider head coach. From his preseason smack aimed at 2-time national championship coach Urban Meyer to his derogatory gas-pumping remark to a potential recruit. His alleged misconduct involving recruit and now current Tennessee running back Bryce Brown, to his post-game comments following a loss to UCLA, "…we should've won by a couple of touchdowns." Yeah, considering the Bruins fumbled six times and still managed to win. Kiffin's future is still to be determined, but his bark is proving to be much bigger than his bite early on. Duck fans will see this up close come next September.

Finally, what I hope to never see again:

* Five undefeated teams, three of which won't play for a national title. I understand that this is becoming a common theme, but if I never have to wonder who the best team in college football is at the commencement of the football year, it will be too soon. Do I think Boise State is the best team in college football? No, but I know far too many people wearing blue and orange who need to know what you, I and most rational thinking people already do. Figure it out NCAA and quit giving me the same ridiculous excuses for why it can't happen. A playoff does not mean the end of the bowl system. If the non-BCS bowl games are played now, why can't they be played in the presence of a playoff?

* Matt Barkley running smack at the UCLA Bruins while simultaneously standing behind his entire Trojan team. Such an act is akin to an American League pitcher hitting a batter intentionally; he knows his target has no recourse. Blame this one on Pete Carroll, if not for "Peetey's" seemingly endless run of adoration for the golden child, Mr. Barkley may have still had a speck of humility left. If you want to get in a guy's face Matt, don't do it over the shoulder of one of your 275 pound friends.

* People in and around the college football universe act disgusted when a coIch leaves his present university for another prior to the season's end. It's happened before and it'll happen again. As long as the system remains the same, a coach and his current program are left with little to no alternative. The place he's going has to recruit, and the place he's leaving does as well. Do you want a dead man walking recruiting for his future team while preparing your team for its upcoming bowl game? It's a bad scenario which we all wish wouldn't happen, but as bad as it is, there's really no option.

* A preseason poll. I know this is a pipe-dream, but how much better would the present system be if an official poll weren't released ‘til week 6? Many years the only difference between a one or two loss team ranked in the top-5 or 10 versus a team ranked in the mid-teens is where they were ranked prior to the first game. People's opinion of you before seeing you play should have zero effect on their opinion of you after seeing you play.

* Talk of a Pac-10 expansion. I understand that I didn't really see that, but I heard much of it and I couldn't be less enthused. I get that everything revolves around the mighty dollar, but rather than expand to keep up with the Jones', why not let the Jones' retract to keep up with you (the Pac-10)? The Pac-10 Conference is the only league in the FBS which can say it crowns a true champion. Everyone plays everyone, rather than a winner from a strong division playing a winner from a weak division resulting in a quasi-champion. Do the Northwest schools really want to risk a lack of annual games being played in Southern California…their primary recruiting region? That's what you'd be looking at in a North/South Division Pac-10. Leave it alone people, it truly is the best-case-scenario.

* The Heisman Trophy. That's right, I said it. I'm done with this joke of an award which annually goes to the most glamorous player on the most glamorous team. There's no way that Mark Ingram deserved an award signifying the best player in College Football, and it's not a knock on him. It's a knock on an award which – coupled with the rise of mass-media – has become progressively more ridiculous since Chris Weinke was crowned in 2000. Do it right or don't do it at all.

There you have it, my assessment of the year that was. A year which had its ups and downs, good and bad, along with rights and wrongs from coast to coast, conference to conference, and team to team. Through it all, the game was victorious. In spite of its shortcomings, College Football continues to grow, continues to excel, and continues to bring together generations of fans with one thing in common…their team. With that in mind, I toast 2009, another great year in the history of a great game.

See you next year.


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