Welcome to this week's feuilleton of the Dean's List where you know our great nation is in trouble when Hugh Hefner gets dumped and Beverly Hills Chihuahua tops the box office two weeks in a row. Somebody get me a golden parachute.
My friend Doug has a bad case of foot fungus that turns his socks into mushroom farms. Last night, I bet Doug that No. 9 BYU would win a BCS bowl game this year. Loser has to do the other person's laundry. I want to do Doug's laundry like I want a colonoscopy. Fortunately, BYU remained undefeated (6-0) this weekend, although the Cougars looked a little shaky in their 21-3 victory over New Mexico. They failed to score in the opening quarter and allowed their opponents to score before them, both of which are firsts on the season for BYU. Of course, having an off-game and still winning by 18 is indicative of why I believe the Cougars will win out this year. They are on a 16-game win streak and, in the last four games, the team has outscored its opponents 158-17. BYU has been so dominating that just winning by an average margin makes their fans nervous. With Doug's socks on the line, I'm getting nervous too.
While watching the Bengals try to hang with the Jets on Sunday, I couldn't help but notice that Carson Palmer's replacement at quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, graduated from Harvard University. Now that's something you don't see every day, a 6-foot-2, 225 lbs., NFL-caliber quarterback coming out of the second-best school in the Ivy League. Overlooked for much of high school, Fitzpatrick received only one scholarship offer, from Division I-AA Eastern Washington, but instead chose Harvard where he passed for 5,234 yards and 39 touchdowns. He was the first quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 yards at Harvard and, in 2004, won the award for Ivy League Player of the Year. Fitzpatrick didn't lead Cincinnati to victory, but it wasn't for a lack of smarts. The guy completed the 50-question Wonderlic test in just nine minutes.
When I was a kid, I used to sleep over at my best friend's house. He had a huge Bo Jackson poster next to the bunk bed. I'd fall asleep below a massive hulk of multi-sport All-Star in shoulder pads with a baseball bat balanced across his trapezius muscles. Then Bo got hurt and I was left to wonder who would replace the 1985 Heisman winner. Hey, maybe it will be Gwen Rucker. The 6-foot-1 freshman is the first athlete to attempt to play two varsity sports at the University of Louisville since the early '80's. She's the middle hitter on the volleyball team and, come December, will be a forward on the women's basketball team. That shouldn't be too much of a transition for Rucker. At Lexington's Henry Clay High School, she was an all-state selection for both basketball and volleyball. Already this fall, Rucker has played in all of Louisville's volleyball matches and ranks second on the team in blocks. I know what you're thinking, can she snap a baseball bat over her thigh? No, but could Bo Jackson block a spiked volleyball?
Contrary to popular belief, rules are not meant to be broken. Rules are rules. You can't start making exceptions to the rules, or the rules cease to be rules and become guidelines. According to the NCAA, college basketball teams cannot officially start to practice until October 17, but four schools were given an exception and allowed to practice one week before every other team. The NCAA allowed basketball teams from Kentucky, Illinois West Virginia and Marshall to take the court this weekend. Now all those other schools, which thought rules were rules, the ones that still have to wait until next week to practice, are upset. They argue that these four schools are getting a leg up on recruiting by being able to exclusively schedule visits for potential recruits. Bob Huggins and Billy Gillispie trying to get an unfair advantage? Don't be ridiculous.
Kansas University has a problem. It can't get its students to stop cursing during kickoffs. In a tradition dating back to 2003, students chant an obscene line from Adam Sandler's movie The Waterboy when the Jayhawks kickoff. University officials and fans with families had complained that dropping f-bombs is inappropriate in front of children. So, last week, football coach Mark Mangino sent a video via e-mail to the student body asking fans to "cut out that kickoff chant." The video was also played on the big screen before Kansas' 30-14 victory over Colorado. While many fans cheered Mangino's pregame message, the students stuck to their guns and continue to scream the chant during kickoffs, drawing loud boos from the alumni section. Just a thought: Maybe the anti-obscenity initiative failed because Mangino is the wrong person to deliver the message. Here's a coach known for his salty mouth, telling students not to curse. College kids can smell the sweet stink of hypocrisy as easily as a freshly tapped keg.
Generally speaking, if you are a big-time college football coach and you have to ask your fans to cheer, your team is in trouble, especially on homecoming weekend. Ron Zook learned that the hard way. Sensing a let down after two big road games against Penn State and Michigan, Zook pleaded with his fans to cheer loudly during Illinois' homecoming game against Minnesota. The predictable result -- Minnesota marches into Champaign a 12.5 point underdog and beats the Illini 27-20. The fact is, you can't tell fans to cheer. It's like telling someone to smile or laugh. The result is artificial. You can get them to cheer, but to do that, your team has to earn the cheers, and, despite an impressive effort by quarterback Juice Williams, Illinois failed to do that this weekend.
When times get tough, the tough get going. But what do the rest of the people do? If you're Phillip Bates, the backup quarterback on the Iowa State football team, you quit. Make no mistake about it, times are tough for Iowa State football. After winning the first two games of the season, the Cyclones have dropped four straight, including two heartbreaking losses to UNLV and Kansas. In the defeat to Kansas, Bates, the second leading rusher on the Cyclones, failed to step on the field for the first time all season. So he got mad and quit. As a testament to his character, he didn't even tell the coach of his decision. Instead, Bates had his father deliver the news that he had given up to the Iowa State athletic department. But don't worry about Bates. A football player with that kind of integrity will always be in high demand.
Michigan has a way of playing David's Goliath. For the second time in two seasons, the Wolverines lost a shocker in the Big House to a massive underdog. Last year, the Wolverines bowed to Appalachian State on a blocked field goal, 34-32. This year they lost to Toledo, 13-10. It was Michigan's first loss to a MAC team in 25 contests and sends Wolverines to their worst start in 41 years. Was it worse than the Appalachian State loss? You bet. The little Mountaineers are at the top of their division. Toledo, on the other hand, entered the game with a 1-4 record and was coming off a 31-0 beat down by Ball State, it's first shut out by a MAC opponent since 1985. On week before, the Rockets' offense looked downright anemic, but Michigan's defense fixed that problem. After giving up 45 points to Illinois, the secondary made Toledo quarterback Aaron Opelt look like John Elway. The junior gunner was 33 of 50 for 257 yards and, during the span of four quarters, went from tackle dummy to school hero.
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