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Something's missing

Ranking five one-dimensional teams and more

Posted: Wednesday September 26, 2007 8:41AM; Updated: Wednesday September 26, 2007 2:40PM
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Texas Tech's Graham Harrell threw for 646 yards, the fourth-highest single game total in NCAA history, but the Red Raiders still managed to lose to Oklahoma State.
Texas Tech's Graham Harrell threw for 646 yards, the fourth-highest single game total in NCAA history, but the Red Raiders still managed to lose to Oklahoma State.
Dennis Hubbard/Icon SMI
Stewart Mandel's first book, Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls: Tackling the Chaos and Controversy that Reign Over College Football, is available for purchase now.
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As we've all learned so vividly by now, Mike Gundy thought last Saturday's edition of The Oklahoman was GARBAGE. Let me tell you something: I watched about 12 hours of football last Saturday -- that was some garbage.

Penn State-Michigan? Oh my gosh, it was like the football equivalent of Chinese water torture. Syracuse-Louisville? Watching the Cardinals play defense was like watching someone who doesn't know which buttons to press trying to play PlayStation football for the first time. And then there was the prime time, ABC Iowa-Wisconsin game. I'd long believed there was no sporting event on earth Brent Musburger couldn't make at least sound exciting. I stand corrected.

All in all -- in the words of the ever-loquacious Gundy -- it made me want to puke. Mitch from Coralville, Iowa, shared in my pain.

Watching Iowa's offense waste the defense's impressive effort Saturday night gave me a decent "list question" idea. What are the top five teams that only play one side of the ball?

There was a whole lot of that going around last Saturday. One-dimensional teams played a part in all three games referenced above, and thus comprise the majority of my list:

1) Louisville. It's right there in the statistics -- No. 1 in the nation in total offense, No. 90 (out of 119) in total defense. It doesn't get much more one-sided than that. If the Cardinals don't figure out how to cover receivers or tackle open-field runners in a hurry, they're going to wind up wasting the efforts of not only a powerful offense but also arguably the best player (Brian Brohm) in school history (no disrespect, Johnny U).

2) Texas Tech. It's pretty hard to gain 718 yards and lose (as Tech did to Oklahoma State), but if anybody could do it, it's Mike Leach's Red Raiders. They've been putting up some of the nation's gaudiest passing numbers for eight consecutive years but have never finished higher than 67th in run defense. Just a thought: Might that have to do with the fact the offense they face in practice never runs?

3) Iowa. Watching Mitch's Hawkeyes against Wisconsin, you couldn't help but notice, "Damn -- they're really good on defense." So good that they rank sixth in the country in total defense and shut out that same Syracuse offense that took Louisville to the woodshed. Their offense, on the other hand, could manage only one touchdown in their 15-13 loss to Iowa State -- which has allowed 11 touchdowns against three non-BCS foes.

4) Penn State. You've got to wonder what kind of relaxation exercises defensive coordinator Tom Bradley uses to keep himself from just flat out losing it. For four straight years, he's fielded a BCS-caliber defense, and with the exception of one BCS season (2005), he's watched it go to waste on account of an absolutely dreadful offense, one that only managed to score 25 less points against Michigan than Appalachian State.

5) Florida State. Jimbo Fisher was brought in to fix the ever-widening disparity between FSU's ever-dominant defense and increasingly unproductive (over the past six years) offense, but no luck so far. The 'Noles rank 89th nationally in total offense and managed just 221 yards at Colorado but won 16-6 by holding the Buffs to minus-27 rushing yards.

All I can say is, thank heavens for another classic Curb Your Enthusiasm the following night. ("Take the $50!") Otherwise, I'm afraid my TV might have gone Gundy on me.

So Stewart, I just finished reading your book Bowls, Polls & Tattered Souls, and first off, I'd like to say it was an amazing read and I highly recommend to anyone who remotely follows college football. Second of all, I notice we're starting to see the Tim Tebow Heisman hype. But honestly, do you think he can win it? He meets almost all of the "Heismandments" -- QB (check), big numbers in big games on TV (so far, check), name recognition (check), and so on. The only one he doesn't qualify under is that he's a sophomore. So if Florida remains in title contention, does he actually have a chance to win it this year?
--Tom, Miami

Good man, Tom, good man. First of all, I can't take credit for the "Heismandments" (10 tried and true criteria for winning the Heisman) referenced in the book. Those are the work of Chris Huston, proprietor of HeismanPundit.com. As you said, Tebow fits all but the age criteria, and even then, he's not your usual sophomore in that he built up as much name recognition as any player in the country last year despite being a freshman backup. That's probably a big reason why you've seen such little hesitation by prognosticators (including our own Gene Menez) to move Tebow all the way to the top of the various Heisman Watch lists.

Ultimately, however, I don't think Tebow will win the Heisman this year, and it will have to do with a more modern "requirement" that voters have been enlisting lately: The national title tie-in. Eight of the past 11 Heisman winners have played for the national title, and the three who didn't were all seniors (Ricky Williams, Ron Dayne and Carson Palmer) who'd long played prominent roles for their teams. Since Tebow is not a senior, it would stand to reason that the only way he's going to win the Heisman is to lead his team to the national-title game. Unless the Gators defense finds a way to add a year's experience sometime in the next two weeks, I don't see that happening. LSU's offense presents too many problems, as could Kentucky's for that matter. I think Florida will probably finish the regular season somewhere around 10-2, and Tebow will put up huge numbers, but given the choice, voters will lean toward an older player who not only puts up big numbers but keeps his team in title contention right up until the end.

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