The real MVP
If Heisman reality went out the window, Miami's Rolle would be No. 1
Posted: Tuesday September 21, 2004 3:00PM; Updated: Tuesday September 21, 2004 3:13PM
In Sunday's Weekend Review column, I mentioned how Ohio State kicker Mike Nugent may well be the most valuable player in the country. Never ones to miss an opportunity to be whipped into a frenzy, the Buckeyes fans took it as a cue:
I know this is going to sound insane, but please hear this out. What about a "Mike Nugent for Heisman" campaign? Without him, Ohio State is 1-2. No one is more valuable to his team than Nugent is to the Buckeyes.
Why not? It's no more of a stretch than some of the casting on Joey (these NBC nitwits really expect us to believe Drea de Matteo could be the mother of an 18-year-old? Or that an actor who everyone saw play a college student in Road Trip four years ago has regressed to age 18?)
You would think that sometime in the last half-century the Heisman fraternity would have opened its sacred doors to the other positions on the field besides quarterback and running back, but with the exception of Charles Woodson in 1997, that hasn't been the case. It was understandable back in the day, when there was only one game on television and voters depended on the accounts of stogie-smokers in top hats hacking away on typewriters for their only coverage of the sport. But today, when you can see nearly any game you want, then see the highlights, then read about it on the Internet, you would think that nearly any player at any position on any team would have a legitimate chance.
In that spirit, these would be my top 10 Heisman contenders so far, if you were to throw reality out the window and base it solely on the term "most outstanding player":
1. Antrel Rolle, CB, Miami
Hey, that was kind of fun. Or at least it will be until my inbox fills up with 237 "How in the world could you leave off (fill-in name here)?" e-mails. As a preemptive strike, let me just remind potentially infuriated readers that just because someone did not make one writer's top-10 list in the middle of September, it does not necessarily preclude him from winning the actual award.
What are the chances of keeping both freshman quarterbacks at Tennessee for their whole college careers? What do you think contributed to Georgia being able to keep both of its young quarterbacks, David Greene and D.J. Shockley, all the way through their eligibility?
That's the question I've been asking myself constantly since Saturday. I find it hard to believe Phillip Fulmer is going to continue rotating both Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer equally all season, let alone for four years. But then again, how do you pick one? Every time Schaeffer took off on one of his Michael Vick-esque 12-yard gains against Florida, I thought to myself, "He's the future," but then Ainge would come in and complete some ridiculous 20-yard pass on the run across his body, and I'd think "No, he's the future."
If Fulmer can find a way for both QBs to continue to coexist and be happy, great, but history says that's not usually the way it works out. Greene/Shockley has been an unusual exception, but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact Shockley is an in-state kid. Keep in mind neither Ainge or Schaeffer have any geographical attachment to Tennessee if, for some reason, one of them finds his playing time has decreased. Also, keep in mind Greene and Shockley aren't in the same class. Shockley has known all along that, at the bare minimum, he'd get one year to be The Man. Neither Ainge nor Schaeffer has that guarantee.
Now this is ridiculous! If you have ever needed more evidence that the East Coast bias is alive and well in college football, look no further than this week's Coaches' poll, where undefeated Arizona State is unranked, after demolishing Iowa, which stays ranked at 24. AM I OVERREACTING, OR IS THIS THE MOST RIDICULOUS THING YOU HAVE EVER SEEN IN THE HISTORY OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL RANKINGS?!
Umm ... you're overreacting. Somewhere along the way there's probably been a bigger travesty than having the wrong team at No. 24 in the middle of September. A couple end-of-season No. 1s come to mind. I won't argue that it's pretty silly, but East Coast bias might not be as appropriate a label as, say, East Coast inevitability. That game -- which was scheduled to kick off at 10 p.m. eastern but was delayed 38 minutes by lightning -- ended after 2 a.m. eastern time. The ballot is due at something like 6 a.m. Just a hunch, but I'm guessing many coaches turned theirs in and went to bed long before the game ended. They do, after all, have other obligations. My question is, why are we in such a rush to get the poll out in the first place? Other than the last one of the season, is there really any need for such immediacy? Would it really be the end of the world to give everyone a day to think about it and put it out Sunday night in time for the Monday papers? Just a thought.
In a recent column of yours, you discussed coaches on the hot seat. Would you consider one of them to be Keith Gilbertson at my oh-so-troubled alma mater, Washington? Alas, the Huskies' glory days seem like a distant memory now.
I'd say the writing is on the wall if Gilbertson doesn't get things turned around in a hurry. You have to go back to 1969 to find the last time Washington started 0-3, and with a trip to Notre Dame looming this weekend, chances of that happening seem pretty good. Last year, when the Huskies suffered several embarrassing blowouts and finished 6-6, you could at least blame it on the late changeover from Rick Neuheisel to Gilbertson, but this has now been Gilby's team for almost 16 months. There's simply no excuse when, as in the Fresno State game, your quarterbacks come out looking like a pair of deer in headlights, or, as against UCLA, your defensive linemen seem utterly confused by the opponent's blocking scheme (didn't you watch it on tape??), and allow Maurice Drew to run for 322 yards.
How come I have seen no criticism of Sylvester Croom for his loss to Maine? Alabama was given no slack for Mike Shula's hire. Maybe they knew something after all.
Surely you can't be serious. In the third game of his tenure, having taken over a program that had gone 8-27 the previous three seasons, Croom loses to a I-AA team -- which, if you haven't noticed, does happen from time to time -- so now we know he's a bad coach? The last time I checked, Shula, who took over a program that had won 10 games the year before, is 7-9. It's a little early to be judging either man.
How do you choose which game you get to go to each Saturday? Does SI pick for you? And can I go with you to LSU-Georgia?
My choice. I try to pick the biggest game and/or the one with the biggest ramifications. Sometimes you luck out (going to Michigan-Notre Dame a couple of weeks ago) and sometimes you don't (sitting at a painfully boring Oklahoma-Colorado game two years ago on a day four undefeated teams lost). In fact, one of the toughest choices I can remember is looming on Oct. 9 (if all four teams remain unbeaten): Oklahoma-Texas or USC-Cal. Decisions, decisions.
Sure, you can come with me to LSU-Georgia. We'll hit Taco Stand before the game and check out the tailgates. Just one thing: You're on your own for tickets, and you have to wait three hours afterward for me to finish writing if you want a ride home. And you'd probably have to buy about 27,000 swimsuit calendars before SI would think about picking up the tab.
Do you think Texas' offensive play calling is too conservative to give it a shot at beating OU this year in Dallas? I hear lots of complaints about Greg Davis -- do you think they're justified or should UT fans be more patient?
I think the criticism has definitely been valid in the past. Considering the kind of playmakers the Longhorns have had on offense -- Roy Williams, Cedric Benson, B.J. Johnson, Sloan Thomas -- to be consistently shut down by the same team, even one with a great defense, is pretty inexcusable. It's not an uncommon strategy for coaches, when going against a dominant defense, to play it close to the vest, hoping to avoid turnovers and play the field-position game. But if, after four years, it's still not working, you've got to change gears. Give credit, for instance, to Tennessee offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, another notoriously conservative play-caller, who unleashed his freshman QBs against Florida last weekend and let 'em rip. It would have been very easy to get uptight in a game of that magnitude, but instead the Vols threw downfield constantly.
That said, Texas doesn't have the personnel this year to throw it all over the field. You've got to think they're going to line up and run it right at the Sooners with Benson, especially with the middle of OU's defense so untested. The 'Horns won't be able to win on that alone, though. They'll have to get creative at some point with Vince Young.
Finally, it was another eventful week in the prognostication department, and people took notice -- of the seven I got right ...
You made several outstanding picks this week. A&M over Clemson, Arizona State over Iowa and Auburn over LSU? Maybe you should go to Vegas and forget reporting.
... and the one I got so blatantly wrong.
Is there something you can do besides trying to pick the winners of college games. Your the worse I've ever seen. What about them VOLS, and you picked them to lose by 25 in Neyland Stadium. What were you thinking?
Sorry, I couldn't resist leaving it unedited.
All I have to say is, at least I go out on a limb sometimes. It's easy to play armchair quarterback when you're not the one whose opinion is out there for everyone to see. Like this guy ...
You've done it again! How can you continuously pick against Iowa? I'm telling you Iowa is back for another 10-win season and nobody is paying attention. Their defense is no fluke. Iowa will stand the test of time, Stewart. I just don't know how much longer you're going to last at SI with your Big Ten-hater ways.
Phew. I live to see another paycheck.
Stewart Mandel covers college sports for SI.com.