Sunday, November 27, 2011

College Football: Almost in the Rear View

With Rivalry Weekend completed and only a handful of games remaining in college football's "pre-bowl season," here are some thoughts and observations:

Honey Badger for Heisman: Count me among those who believe LSU's undersized, lion-hearted CB Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu deserves the trophy. The criteria for choosing college football's best player are obviously subjective, but I firmly believe that you have to put heavy weight on how a player performs in the biggest, most consequential games -- and Mathieu delivered in championship style against Arkansas on Friday.

The Tigers were trailing 14-7, and in danger of seeing their perfect season go up in smoke, when Mathieu seized the momentum and swung it irreversibly in their favor. First he delivered on special teams, fielding a punt at LSU's 8-yard line and returning it 92 yards to tie the game...Four plays later, back on defense, he stripped the ball from RB Dennis Johnson and the Tigers recovered, then used the ensuing possession to score a go-ahead touchdown just before halftime...In the fourth quarter Mathieu stripped the ball from TE Chris Gragg, took possession of it himself, and ran for 19 yards the other way...Plus, his eight tackles were most on the team...Oh, and he did all that despite the fact that for the first time in his career he was playing safety instead of cornerback.

A case can be made that some other players are deserving of the Heisman, but I dare anyone to make a case that there is a player more deserving than Mathieu. And that's before I even get around to saying that Honey Badger is the coolest nickname in America, given this video.

Quarterbacks: Not to take anything away from Andrew Luck, but if I was starting a football team and had to choose one of today's players to be its QB, I would opt for Kellen Moore. They both are good at reading defenses and making plays, but Luck has thrown multiple interceptions in every game I have watched him play the last two years. I can't say the same for Moore, and on top of that, Moore's Boise State squads would be undefeated for two years running if not for a pair of missed field goals that were beyond his control.

Fiery Foes: Nationally, no one thinks of Kansas-Missouri as being anywhere near as intense a rivalry as Auburn-Alabama, Ohio State-Michigan, or Oklahoma-Texas. But after working with a Kansas native for several years, I have come to realize that it is that intense. Speaking as an Auburn graduate, I am here to tell you that the mutual enmity felt by fans of Kansas and Missouri is every bit as heated as the enmity between fans in those other rivalries.

Another cool thing about this border war is the spoil that goes to the victor: the Indian War Drum, which has gone to the winner in all but a few of the last 75 seasons. Think of it as a frontier-inspired version of the more publicized trophies that are associated with Midwestern schools from farther east, such as the Little Brown Jug between Michigan and Minnesota and Old Oaken Bucket between Indiana and Purdue. All I am saying is that the Kansas-Missouri rivalry is the kind of thing that makes college sports great, and it will be a shame if it goes by the wayside simply because of conference realignment.

Woe Wisconsin: Wisconsin is the most unfortunate team in America. Midway through the season it looked like the Badgers had a better than even chance of playing in the BCS National Championship Game, but then they dropped two straight games both on closing-second Hail Marys. Lesser teams would have folded, but the Badgers plowed forward to win their last four by an average of 30+ points and win the Big Ten Leaders Division. They almost certainly would stand a better chance of beating LSU than any team besides Alabama.

However, in the current AP poll Wisconsin is not even ranked in the top ten. And it is ranked behind fellow two-loss squads like Oklahoma (which was beaten at home by 5-7 Texas Tech) and Arkansas (whose losses were both by 24 points). I don't remember the last time a team of this caliber was given such a low poll number all because of two fluke plays.

Stats that make you go hmmm: On Saturday, Florida State gained less than 100 yards for the whole night but still beat Florida 21-7...Going into the weekend, Kansas and Missouri had played each other 119 times and the series was dead even at 55-55-9...Wisconsin RB Montee Ball has scored more touchdowns this season (34) than any player ever has in a season, except for Barry Sanders in 1988...For all the favorable publicity and financial advantages the Texas Longhorns are given, and five-star recruits they sign, they have won just two conference titles in the Mack Brown era. Oklahoma has won seven during the same period. So should Brown go or should he stay?

Lastly, here is the Stanton’s Space Top Twenty:

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Virginia Tech

5. Boise State

6. Stanford

7. Wisconsin

8. Oregon

9. Houston

10. Georgia

11. USC

12. Arkansas

13. South Carolina

14. Michigan State

15. Oklahoma

16. Baylor

17. Kansas State

18. TCU

19. Penn State

20. Michigan

1 comment:

Barb said...

Well, OK, John - I'll vote for Honey Badger just because of his nickname. What is it about football and guys?