Clearing out the notebook before the bowls begin ...
One Hack's Heisman Ballot
BYU, BCS and bad moves
Yes, the BCS absolutely, positively showed its arrogance when it "released" BYU from top-four bowl consideration five days before the 12-0 Cougars completed their season against Hawaii. It could have, in fact, should have waited until Sunday's BCS bowl announcement show. To ditch BYU before it had a chance to try to complete an undefeated season was clumsy timing and student government-quality politics.
Now then, did the Cougars belong in the national championship mix? Sure they did, but only if you believe Steve Spurrier and Bobby Bowden exchange Christmas cookie recipes, or that Alabama's Dennis Franchione really didn't talk to anyone at Kansas about its recent job opening.
Hawaii's 72-45 maul-fest of BYU makes it easy now to badmouth the Cougars, but the truth is they never deserved elite status this season. In real estate terms, BYU was renting, not owning.
The BCS is far from perfect, but the standings formula is the same for everyone. If you play a sluggo schedule, you get de-Rose'd. Simple as that. The formula doesn't care if Mississippi State gagged, or Cal took it in the shorts, or Tulane did a Pepe LePew. You beat stiffs, you get stiffed. Sorry, and thanks for stopping by the booth.
There's a reason why unbeaten Miami scuffled early in the BCS standings, and then why it recovered: it defeated crummy teams early, it defeated better teams late. BYU never got to the better-team part. Entering the Hawaii game, BYU's non-conference opponents were a combined 14-42. And BYU's conference opponents were a combined 34-44. Not exactly the breakfast of champions.
Cougars coach Gary Crowton says he thought the BCS system would be fair. Cougars athletic director Val Hale, a realistic and thoughtful fellow, says it isn't right that BYU is penalized for lousy opponents. But the BCS formula doesn't it see it that way and neither do we.
It isn't just the quality of the opponent, it's the quality of win. The Cougars beat non-bowl bound UNLV by four, non-bowl bound New Mexico by four, non-bowl bound Wyoming by seven, non-bowl bound Mississippi State by three. And enough with the conspiracy theory stuff. When Miami scuffled in its squeaker against Boston College, the Hurricanes lost some votes in the polls and some juice in the standings.
Meanwhile -- and we're just counting BYU's first 11 games -- the Cougars' defense gave up more points than all but three teams in the Big 12, all but four teams in the SEC, all but four teams in the Big Ten, all but three teams in Conference USA, and all but two teams in the Big East. Yeah, they scored a lot of points, but it doesn't counterbalance the other BYU issues: cow pasture schedule, terrible defense and close calls against so-so opposition.
If the Cougars do it the right way, they won't say a peep about a letdown from the BCS release earlier in the week. When you give up a history-making 72 points, you log on to zipit.com and slink away to the Liberty Bowl. Luke Staley's absence surely made a difference, but he doesn't play both ways, does he? Anybody who saw that game knows that the Warriors did everything but give wedgies to Crowton's bunch.
Not quite sure we understand: Texas coach Mack Brown chastises Bevo fans for booing quarterback Chris Simms, but then benches Simms and starts Major Applewhite for bowl game? Two observations: booing privileges come with the ticket purchase, and maybe they weren't booing Simms ... There's something crazy with the bowl system when 9-3 Hawaii can't get an invite, but 5-6 North Texas can. It's too bad because the Warriors, who ended BYU's undefeated season Saturday and beat then-No. 19 Fresno State earlier in the year, would have been a gas to watch. June Jones' offense can light it up as well an anyone in the country with QB Nick Rolovich, who has as many TD passes as Heisman runner-up Grossman (34) despite throwing only one pass in the Warriors' first three games, and WR Ashley Lelie, who finished with over 1,700 receiving yards and 19 TDs ... Florida backup quarterback Brock Berlin, who mostly played during fourth quarter garbage time this season, had more touchdown passes than Heisman winner Eric Crouch had all season, 9-7. Berlin is thinking hard about transferring (Texas Tech has been mentioned as a possibility), mostly because Grossman has at least another year left at Gainesville. Berlin, like Grossman, is a sophomore and only has two seasons of eligibility remaining. To Spurrier's credit, he says he should have redshirted Berlin as a freshman ... Some people will do anything not to go Boise for the Humanitarian Bowl. Clemson's Akil Smith and Travis Zachary were dismissed from the team after their recent arrests for drug distribution and sales. By the way, Smith is a marketing major. . . . Alabama fans must be thrilled these days: a 6-5 record, NCAA sanctions on the way, and their first-year coach is caught snooping around the Kansas job. What's next, the release of a handwritten letter from Spurrier accusing former Bama coach Mike DuBose of buying players? Oh, wait ...USA Today oddsmaker Danny Sheridan didn't even list Colorado on his preseason national championship odds chart. Instead, the Buffs were part of the 5,000-1 field pick. . . . UCLA athletic director Pete Dalis says the school would have lost $300,000 if it had been offered and accepted a bid from the Humanitarian Bowl. So Dalis, upset over a corporate sponsorship requirement, pulled the Bruins (7-4) out of consideration. That's nice, but what about the players who thought a year's worth of sweat and seven victories was worth a postseason bowl trip, even if it meant packing up the charter for Idaho? ... Who's the best quarterback? Well, Crouch won the Heisman, Grossman won the AP Player of the Year, Miami's Ken Dorsey won the Maxwell Award, Fresno State's David Carr won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and Indiana's Antwaan Randle El was the Football Writers Assn. of America first-team QB ... This just in: a confused Al Gore announced his candidacy for the Notre Dame job. . . . Best outlandish rumor involving Notre Dame: ABC's Terry Bowden was intrigued by the Irish opening. Maybe so, but he only thing southern around that place is KFC and the South in South Bend ... Kansas State -- the new birthplace of coaches? New Kansas coach Mark Mangino was a former K-State assistant. So was new SMU coach Phil Bennett. So was Oklahoma's Bob Stoops ... Hey, Clinton Portis, star Miami running back, how did you celebrate your team's Rose Bowl-clinching victory against Virginia Tech? Party hearty at the Grove? "I took a hot bath and it was lights-out on the bed," says Portis. "I was sore and my body was aching." ... Alabama is beating the Christmas NCAA rush and self-imposing a reduction of 15 scholarships over the next three years. It also is reducing the number of official recruiting visits and the number of coaches who can recruit off campus. Chances are that won't be enough to satisfy the NCAA, which will levy its own penalties in a month or so for Bama recruiting violations committed on the watches of Gene Stallings and Mike DuBose. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 27 out of 28 programs that self-imposed penalties later received additional sanctions from the NCAA. The Journal-Constitution's analysis covered investigations from 1987-97 ... Tennessee will spend the offseason wondering how it lost to a LSU team that lost its starting quarterback and running back during the SEC Championship. Instead, backup and former Chicago Cubs minor leaguer Matt Mauck helped end the Vols' Rose Bowl aspirations. Mauck lasted three years in the minors before joining coach Nick Saban at LSU (Saban originally signed him before he left Michigan State). "I didn't hit very much," said Mauck of his slugging career. Added Saban: "He hit like I hit. That's why we're both here." And why LSU is in the Sugar Bowl and Tennessee is headed to the Citrus Bowl.
Gene Wojciechowski is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Movers and Shakers appears each Sunday during the college football season. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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