Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Don't Like It; But It Is

How are we 'supposed' react?

Obviously, some of us are left scratching our heads just days removed The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) announcing which collegiate football programs were being rewarded with BCS Bowl Games, and The Heisman Trust releasing their finalist for the namesake's 77th presentation on Saturday night. Then there was Tuesday afternoon and the announcement that The Big East Conference, with just five remaining football playing members, were going to double in size via a virtual Mountain West & Conference USA coup d'etat, with two of three service academies to follow.

Questions are coming out from all angles at this point . . .

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Five finalists headed to New York, is the Heisman field THAT wide open?

The easy answer is no, it isn't as wide open as you're led to believe. Whether you choose to agree me with me or not, finalists Andrew Luck and Trent Richardson weren't playing for a conference championship this past weekend, and they both had opportunity to do just that. Richardson managed to peel off his third lowest rushing total in the Crimson Tide's November 5th game against LSU's over powering defensive front. While suffering with injuries all over their offense, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was intercepted twice in a 23-point loss to conference rival and eventual conference champion, Oregon. Super Wisconsion running back Montee Ball, finished the season just one touchdown shy of former Oklahoma State Cowboy and Detroit Lions Hall of Famer, Barry Sanders' single season record. Unfortunately for Ball, if we don't buy Alabama's Trent Richardson as the Heisman winner, we don't buy what we consider the second or third best running back in college football either, and that's you. With that out of the way, there are just two 'Heisman finalist' which we'll make a case for;

1. LSU Sophomore cornerback, Tyrann Mathieu - We believe this when we say it, Mathieu is the most electric player in college football today. The strip-tackle turned seven points vs. Oregon, the interception and strip turning LSU's game around in Morgantown, the game-changing punt returns versus both Arkansas and in the SEC Championship game vs. Georgia, just a few of Mathieu's WOW moments in 2011. More impressive though, Tyrann Mathieu is the showcase talent to watch on the nation's best defense. A defense that includes a terrifying pass rush, shutdown corners, and a 'Honey Badger' who creates turnovers as if it were required of him.

2. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III - What makes Griffin different? He's got more passing yards, fewer interceptions, and more passing touchdowns than Stanford's Andrew Luck, while doing it with four fewer passing attempts. The multi-dimensional Baylor quarterback has led the Bears from beginning to the end with big wins. Against TCU to open the 2011 season, Griffin III put up mind boggling numbers in a game which 98 total points were scored in a 50-48 victory over the in-state rival Horned Frogs. After a mid-season lull in which Baylor dropped three of four games, all on the road in such places like Manhattan, Kansas, College Station, Texas, and Stillwater, Oklahoma, not exactly your easier places to pull out wins, Griffin would return to form. Winning their final five games including a season punctuating win versus Texas to close it out, Griffin would amass 13 passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns! Watch this kid play for a half, and you're all in.

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We're confident that 'Bama is the 2nd best team in college football, aren't we?

We are, and while we do love to watch Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State play football, the Cowboys couldn't make it easy for us and we can't shake what happened in Ames, Iowa. When the 2011 season over and written, it won't be a surprise if Alabama is raising its second national championship in three years. If not for a couple of missed opportunities against LSU the first time back on November 5th, this wouldn't even be a discussion. They've got a stout defense that won't give an inch and a backfield on offense which includes the best running back in the country. There isn't a person out there who could look you in the eye and tell you that Alabama isn't the best 1-loss team. You may not want a re-match, you may not even have enjoyed the first LSU vs. 'Bama game from an entertainment perspective, or maybe you just don't want to see two teams from the same conference, but I say it again, you cannot deny that Alabama isn't the best 1-loss team. The 'Tide earned their spot in the title game as far as we're concerned.

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What does Virginia Tech have on The Sugar Bowl selection committee?

Hey, I'm a fan of the ACC and even I think this is a fair question. I agree that Virginia Tech and their fans travel extremely well and The Sugar Bowl wants to sell tickets, and make money first and foremost. However, Kansas State could have done the same thing Virginia Tech will do for their wallet and they're more deserving. The Hokies were embarrassed by Clemson in the ACC Championship Game just a day before The Sugar Bowl selected them, embarrassed for the second time. Nothing the Hokies have done this season made them BCS Bowl worthy. The (2) losses to Clemson by a combined score of 61-13, zero wins against a Top 25 opponent, just a 7-point win against non-conference foe East Carolina (a team Houston smashed 56-3). So I ask again, what does Virginia Tech have on who? This is a team that clearly should have been left out of the BCS picture, benefited from a weak Atlantic Coast Conference in 2011, and when they had the opportunity to shut down the naysayers, they got dropped, badly.

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A 'State' should have a problem, but is it Boise State, Michigan State, or Kansas State?

I too do not feel bad for Boise State in 2011, strictly because I believe they are the third in line who should be upset about not participating in a BCS Bowl Game;

(1) Kansas State had an amazing season in Manhattan and finished with a 10-2 record and a #8 ranking in the BCS. The Wildcats are one of just a few teams in 2011 that can say they beat Heisman frontrunner Robert Griffin III and boast two victories against Top 25 teams. If they play in a much tougher conference than Virginia Tech, with the same record, and a loyal fan base, I'm sorry but we need an explanation.

(2) Big 10 runner-up Michigan State is easily next in line if you aren't taking Kansas State. The Spartans had just two slip-ups in the regular season, both on the road in tough places such as South Bend and Lincoln. They too however boast two victories against Top 25 teams, Wisconsin and Michigan. One step further, they played in their conference championship game as winners of the Big Ten 'Legends' division, and came very close to beating Wisconsin a second time. One of the largest student bodies in the country and somehow the Spartans are ignored by the BCS?

And (3) Boise State and head coach Chris Petersen were clearly upset when they looked down at the BCS Bowl Game announcements and didn't see any 'non-aq' programs and were even more upset when they were accepting an invitation to the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl. The BCS' #7 ranked Broncos are a very, very, good football team but need to understand what public perception is. To the 'public' and bowl organizers, the 'non-aq' program doesn't play more than one or two difficult games a season. In 2011, the Broncos were 1-1 in those two games. A season-opening win against Georgia which is too far in the rear view and a late season loss to 'Top 25' ranked TCU. Petersen knows the game and it didn't work out this year.

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Has Big East commissioner John Marinatto made things worse?

Marinatto could be compared to the 'average' guy who asks out the hot chick the day she finds out her boyfriend cheated. Insert calling on disgruntled Boise State and Houston to join a conference with an automatic BCS qualifier just hours after being snubbed for a BCS Bowl Game while touting 1-loss records. It worked and for the Big East to continue as a legitimate football conference after being poached in 2011 for three of its remaining eight members, something had to. With the additions of Boise State and Houston, in fell San Diego State from the Mountain West Conference, along with Southern Methodist and Central Florida from Conference USA. With service academies Navy and Air Force expected to join after the 2013 season, the Big East will be a twelve-team football playing conference. Stretching from Storrs, Connecticut to San Diego, California seems strange for a Big East Conference, but in Marinatto's mind we aren't traveling by stage coach and they'll go to the furthest reaches to keep their conference viable. Marinatto did his job, the same way ACC brass came together and increased their conference buy-out to $20 Million, the same way the SEC called on Texas A&M and Missouri, the same way the Big XII stuck together adding West Virginia and TCU. Tip your cap!

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