SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
1/04/2007 02:01:00 PM
Dispatches from the Desert
Nobody has been a bigger media darling than Kitty Church, the grandmother of Ohio State's Quinn Pitcock (right).
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Seen and heard around the site of the BCS National Championship Game the past two days ...
∙ First of all, the sheer amount of media that was here as early as six days before the game was mind-boggling. Press conferences the past two days have been split between two ballrooms at the Camelback Inn, and I would estimate somewhere in the vicinity of 200 reporters (with a noticeable increase Thursday from Wednesday) were out and about. The Fiesta Bowl people say they’ve issued more than 1,400 credentials (which includes everyone involved in FOX’s production of the broadcast), an increase from 1,200 the last time they hosted the title game four years ago and about 500 for the actual Fiesta Bowl last Monday.
∙ The surprise star of Ohio State’s media appearance was defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock’s grandmother, Kitty Church, who moved from Ohio to Arizona in 1997 and actually lives in a community right next to the Camelback. A dainty, 5-foot woman, she could not have been more engaging, and by the end of Pitcock’s session, she had more reporters around her than her son. Church, a lifelong football fan and former Piqua (Ohio) High School cheerleader, previously resided in -- get this -- Glendale, Ohio. “Quinn used to say, ‘I’m coming to Glendale, Grandma,’ when he came to visit,” said Church. “It’s meant to be.”
∙ Florida tight end Tate Casey, who suffered a sprained ankle and ligament damage against Arkansas and only got off crutches this week, says he told coach Urban Meyer, “You’ll have to kill me to keep me out of [Monday night’s game].” When I saw him after practice Wednesday, Casey -- one of the Gators’ leaders and the guy who caught Tim Tebow’s memorable jump pass against LSU -- was walking very gingerly, and, in fact, when a Florida staff member told him the bus was about to leave, Casey replied, “Tell him to hold up -- I can’t walk that fast.” Said Meyer: In a limited role, we’re hoping to have him back for that game.”
∙ In an ironic twist, Ohio State’s defensive staff actually visited Gainesville this past spring, spending two days watching practice and exchanging ideas with their Florida counterparts. These offseason visits are fairly typical -- but generally coaches try to avoid meeting with their future opponents. “You’re like, ‘Oh, we’ll never play these guys,” said Gators co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. “Suddenly, we’re playing them for the championship.” Coaches from both sides played down the significance of the meeting, however, saying they would learn far more about each other from watching tape of this season.
∙ Florida receiver Andre Caldwell’s eyes lit up Thursday when asked whether he feels the Gators’ receiving corps, which includes Caldwell, Dallas Baker, Jemalle Cornelius and freshman standout Percy Harvin – is getting overlooked in light of Ohio State stars Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez. “We feel overshadowed,” said Caldwell. “We’ve got great receivers. That’s how we got to this game. We’ve got to go play this game and prove to the world that we’ve got better receivers than Ohio State.”
∙ Speaking of Gonzalez, the Buckeyes’ junior receiver is a reporter’s dream because he’s so bright, articulate and -- most importantly -- opinionated. Gonzalez sounded off Wednesday on everything from the exploitation of college athletes to his favorite philosopher, Plato. He also revealed his career aspirations after football: To go to law school and, ultimately, become a judge. “They get to be called ‘honorable,’ ” he joked. I can actually picture him with the gavel, the gown and, of course, the shaved head.
∙ I thought about going around the room this morning and asking my fellow national media members if they wanted to join me in apologizing to all of you for falsely hyping up Charlie Weis and Notre Dame these past two years. I was as guilty as anybody. After four straight big-game blowout losses dating to last year’s Fiesta Bowl, I think it’s safe to say his honeymoon is over, especially considering next year figures to be a 6-6 type rebuilding season.
In retrospect, it’s easy to see the national-title talk was premature, but what perplexes me is how the Irish, despite being more experienced, actually regressed on both sides of the ball this year. I thought Wednesday night’s Sugar Bowl was actually their worst defensive performance yet, even more so than the Fiesta Bowl, because they got burned not only through the air but by an LSU running game that wasn’t all that great during the regular season.
∙ Meanwhile, what a phenomenal performance by JaMarcus Russell, though not altogether surprising because he’s been playing at a high level all season. Hard to believe this is the same guy a lot of LSU fans wanted to see benched earlier this year. I’ve got to figure at this point, NFL types are drooling over the prospect of a 6-6 quarterback who can throw a 58-yard touchdown off his back foot, so much so that I’ll predict right now that over the coming months, Russell (who’s as good as gone) will wind up passing Brady Quinn in the draft pecking order. I hated to see Quinn end his career like that, though, with what was probably his worst performance in two years.
Your still the man among internet college football writers (considering your competition, that may be akin to being the man in the Patriot Conference), but I can't help but poke fun at you for hyping my least favorite team, Notre Dame, as the #2 preseason team, while predicting last summer that my LSU Tigers were the team most likely to flop, ala the 2005 Tennessee Vols. Baton Rouge thanks you for screwing those up.
Watching the game last night you would have thought you were watchign John Elway play his last game, on an outmanned team the way the announcers slurpped Quinn non-stop. Give me a break. Are all of the media people not watching the same games as I am? I see a classic case of a dude who puts up killer stats against bad teams and cannot rise to the occasion against good ones. I will not remember Quinn as a great QB, I will remember him going 0-4 against USC and 0-3 in bowl games. Fair or not, until he proves otherwise, he is a choker.
And can someone please wake Charlie Weis up from whatever trip he is on, proclaiming that in three years Quinn would be one of the "3 best QBs in the NFL". Is he serious?
Give me JaMarcus Russel, give me Troy Smith, give me Brian Brohm, John David Booty, Erik Ainge, Chris Leak, or just about any other QB. Please stop with the Quinn lovefest
"I hated to see Quinn end his career like that, though, with what was probably his worst performance in two years."
Yeah, Stewie, I'm sure you cried yourself to sleep last night.
I also like the phony self-flaggelation for over-hyping ND. Yeah, you, like everyone, ranked them too high to start the season. That's where it ended though. You've been remarkably brutal to that team since the Michigan game.
They are correctly ranked between 11 and 15, depending on the poll. Are you suggesting that is too high for them?
Like most ND haters, your real problem is that they are getting bids to BCS bowls they really don't belong in. As you know, it's all about ratings, so ND get's the slot. That has nothing to do with being overrated.
What's up with all this talk about Charlie Weis being the most overrated coach in college football? This season, he only coached a team with 22nd overall offense, 10th passing offense and 12th scoring offense in the country. Sure, he laid an egg against LSU and ND was bad against ranked teams. But look at the scores: Michigan, USC and LSU scored 47, 44 and 41 points against them respectively. Their defense ranked 42nd in total defense, 47th in passing defense and 59th in scoring defense (all these before the LSU game!). Sure, as a head coach the bucks stop with him, but the defensive coaches at ND share a huge responsibility in ND's inability to win against these teams. Now I'm not saying he's the best college football coach or even that he's the best offensive mind ever. But you simply don't accomplish what he did (and let's not forget his accomplishments in the NFL) without being the top echleon of offensive minds. Shall we lay off both the hype of Weis as the best coach and the downfall of Weis as the most overrated coach?
It will be another chamipionship blowout, just like back in the middle 90s when Nebraska spanked..oh look another overrated SEC team and florida AGAIN! SEC the most overrated conference in America and Notre Dame the most overrated team in the nation. Who cares what these teams or conferences did decades ago, what have you done lately? The SEC can't win big games out of conference (losing records in bowls year in and year out) or on the road and Notre Dame can't win big games anywhere (9 straight bowl loses of 2 touchdowns or more)..fools!
Will the media FINALLY realize what every fan who did not go to Notre Dame realizes? - Notre Dame is a pretender school living on past glories. They have not been competitive in 12-15 years on the national scene, and unfortunately for the press, Charlie Weis will NOT be able to change that. Lest we forget that Ty Willingham was the "savior" of the ND program after his first spectacular season. And then what happened? A monumental collapse the following season. I think 6 wins is over ambitious. ND has a losing season, and all the boosters are wondering what the heck all that money bought them.
i dont know why uf is favored to lose by 7. from my calculations (haha) UF beat LSU by 13, then LSU beat Notre Dame by 27 , and Notre Dame lost to USC by 20, USC beat Michigan by 14, and Michigan lost to OSU by only 3. and that would add up to UF being favored by 31. yup. numbers dont lie. i just thought this was interesting.