Understand that if someone had bet you at this time in 2004 that either of these things would ever occur, let alone both on the same weekend, you would have gotten odds of roughly 1,000,000,000,000 to 1. You see, at this time in 2004, Ryan Grant was a backup RB on a somewhat brutal Notre Dame football team (as opposed to the otherworldly brutal current version) who was about as elusive as a Winnebago and who would go down half the time after minimal to no contact. It was also about this time in 2004 that the Zooker was getting run out of Gainesville in favor of wunderkind Urban Meyer (and rightfully so) and was a mere few weeks away from thanking folks for the kind welcome at his introduction presser at the "University of ILLINOISE". (Yes, the Zooker pronounced the silent "s" at the end of Illinois.) And now one of them is the starting RB for an 8-1 NFL team, and the other one is going to be coaching in a New Year's Day bowl game.
And the scary thing is that these things rank only as #541 and #767 respectively on the list of unlikely occurrences that have actually happened this football season.
Other thoughts from the weekend.....
ROCK, CHALK, MANGINO!
Go ahead and count me among the believers in Mark Mangino and the Kansas Jayhawks. What a contrast between those two teams last night in Stillwater. Kansas was able to minimize penalties (3 for 18 yards for the game) and protect the football (no turnovers), while Oklahoma State played with a lack of discipline that you would expect from a team coached by a guy who has a propensity to become a bit unhinged sometimes -- poor tackling, untimely penalties, four turnovers, and a seemingly insatiable need to talk shit to their Jayhawk counterparts after every four yard catch. In short, one team played smart and the other one played stupid. And yes, Mike Gundy, I realize that I am writing this about children who have mothers -- mothers who probably have my blog bookmarked in their Netvibes, and that now you hope that my kids come home crying because they're fat, or something like that. Yes, I realize that I am crap ... and that the administrator of Google who allowed me to register my blog is crap. And you are 40. And a man. A man who coaches a team that should be 8-2 right now, but instead is 5-5. But a man nonetheless.
Now, you have to wonder about Kansas and where they deserve to be if they win out. Right now, it would seem that on the heels of this weekend with Ohio State losing, the best they can hope for right now is a #3 BCS ranking behind LSU and Oregon. I would contend that if that Kansas is able to win out the rest of the way (including the Big XII title game), and LSU and Oregon win out as well, that the Jayhawks would deserve to leapfrog one of them (likely Oregon) and go to the BCS title game. The reasons behind my rationale:
- Going undefeated through the Big 12 this season is an accomplishment that deserves to be rewarded. Kansas will have taken care of all their business this season, while LSU and Oregon (and everyone else in BCS conferences will not have).
- If the polls had Ohio State as such an overwhelming #1 before their loss to Illinois, it would seem logical that Kansas, with a resume that would include a comparable schedule at this point to Ohio State's PLUS wins over likely top ten teams in Missouri and Oklahoma (Big XII title game), would deserve a ranking in the top two.
At this point, Kansas is being penalized somewhat for a weak non-conference schedule but moreso for "being Kansas" and starting the season outside the polls (and, in turn, being forced to play leapfrog over teams in front of them). The fact of the matter is also when you look at this Kansas team, they just don't look like a Top 3 team. I don't mean that as an insult, they just don't have nearly the number of athletes that pass the "eyeball test" as do LSU or even Oregon (or Oklahoma State, for that matter). I mean, Brandon McAnderson just doesn't look like a big time college RB. Joe Mortensen doesn't look like a starting middle LB for an undefeated Big XII team. But it works. Because the Jayhawks don't beat themselves and they play with a chip on thier shoulder. And they have a coach who is fat and, therefore, merry. Most of the time anyway. There was that one time he wasn't merry....
But we can forgive that. I've said many times, I like college football more when the traditionally elite programs are the ones vying for the big prize. But I have to say, a BCS game involving Kansas intrigues me. And it's always more fun when the token fat guy is at the party. At least that's what I gather from the number of times I've arrived at parties and people tell me how badly the party sucked until I got there.
GOOD RIDDANCE, OB!And while the Kansases and Illinoises of the world continue their assault on college football's upper echelon, some traditional powers continue to stumble. If you didn't see it, the University of Miami turned out the lights on the Orange Bowl this weekend, but not before the Virginia Cavaliers decided to show up at the party and drink all of the Canes' beer, eat all of their food, and deflower all of their lady folk. Wow, what a way to close the OB. I couldn't help but take some pleasure in watching the Cavs have their way with the Canes (to the tune of 48-0), seeing as "da U" and they're band of thugs (who doubled as really good football players back in the day) was directly responsible for many hours of therapy during my childhood and collegiate years, culminating with this. The building itself, though, was haunted. As you can tell from this clip, the Canes didn't even need to be present for the OB to suck worse than a torn groin muscle for a Notre Dame fan.
Anyway, while the OB was a cradle of spine-tingling memories for many college football, NFL, and Ashlee Simpson fans, by all accounts it was falling apart at the seams (Mike Patrick actually called it a "dump" during his broadcast last night on ESPN, presumably when he wasn't waxing poetic about Britney Spears) so good riddance, OB! Don't let the wrecking ball hit you in the ass on the way out!
Question though -- is Lamar Thomas going to be as protective of the Canes new house?
SPEAKING OF TRADITIONAL POWERS....
Let me first say that I am a Notre Dame graduate, and I like Charlie Weis. I think he is a good and generous man, a fine representative of the University of Notre Dame, and by all accounts one of the hardest workers in the college football head coaching business. While I wasn't shouting from the rooftops in 2004 for the university to fire Tyrone Willingham, I did think it was a very defendable move and had no problem with it. Anyone who followed the program any closer than watching highlights (the few that there were) in 2004 knows that the direction of the program was headed decidedly downward with Willingham. Recruiting was at an all-time nadir (which is manifesting itself in part this season), talent was not being developed, and Willingham was steadfast in his refusal to make changes to his coaching staff, most notably his bizarre desire to keep offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick, whose idea of "creative playcalling" consisted of fifteen bubble screens per game. Notre Dame was not going to ever get near a BCS bowl with Tyrone Willingham as their coach -- not in 2005 nor 2006 (when they did make BCS bowls with Weis) nor any other season. Never, ever, ever. I will debate this with anyone who would like to do so.
Now, all of that said, what's happening on the field in South Bend this season is a complete and utter disgrace. I don't care if you have junior and senior classes full of two-star and three-star recruits. At Notre Dame, you should not be losing to service academies at home in November. Period. Not in 2007, not ever. We hear a lot about how young this Notre Dame team is, and it's true. A sizable portion of their two deep on both sides of the ball consist of freshmen and sophomores; not coincidentally, most of the raw talent on this team is in those classes as well. (For what it's worth, Weis currently has the #1 recruiting class in the country for next season as well.) However, youth is not an excuse for the number of missed assignments on the offensive line -- not this late in the season against inferior athletes. Youth is not an excuse for putting the ball on the ground a ridiculous number of times; last I checked, they didn't start teaching ball security in college. I do believe there are high school and Pop Warner teams that work on this skill in practice. Understanding the snap count would seem to require mere listening and counting skills, yet watching this ND offensive line you'd think it required a masters degree as well.
Weis has shown he can recruit. He's also shown that he can take experienced talent and show them the way (the Quinn/Samardzija led teams in 2005 and 2006). However, he hasn't shown he can develop young talent. That's on Weis and his staff and has nothing to do with Willingham. The team is 1-9 right now, and I'm guessing they're not done losing yet. Unlike Willingham, I don't expect Weis to stand pat. He's already shown he'll make changes when he let Rick Minter go this past winter, and he hired Corwin Brown as his defensive coordinator. Expect more changes. The question is how damaged is this group's psyche now? And how many of the recruits will jump ship? (None yet, but it's early.) Weis' recruiting and ability to sell the school have bought him time. But there are some serious chinks in the armor now. The clock is ticking....