SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
1/07/2007 02:38:00 PM
Last Words Before the Showdown
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Sunday morning marked the final press conferences for the two head coaches in Monday night’s BCS National Championship Game. As Florida’s Urban Meyer said, “We are both ready to go play a football game, and enough with press conferences -- with all due respect.” No offense taken. We the writers are ready to be done with press conferences, too.
∙ Asked about the possibility of winning a national championship in just his second season at Florida, Meyer said, “If you were to ask me a year ago [whether that could happen], no chance. No chance. If you asked me now, I think we probably should have done that because we have 21 seniors that played their best year of football.”
∙ Troy Smith always cringes when people try to compare him to Vince Young -– but his coach doesn’t have such reservations. “I was listening to [former Buckeyes and current Tennessee Titans] Donnie Nickey and Rob Reynolds talk about Vince Young when they were home for an open date,” said Jim Tressel. “They talked about how there is something special about that guy, I don't know what it is. We haven't been completing passes that high of a percentage and so forth and so on, but you just have a way of believing in him. And I think Troy has some of those same qualities.”
It should be noted that Smith’s completion percentage (67) is just fine.
∙ While many aspects of this first-ever stand-along title game are similar to a bowl experience (the teams get to stay at luxury resorts, lots of press conferences, etc.), one thing that’s been notably different is that the organizers did not bog down the two teams with the usual slew of planned activities (amusement-park outings, citrus-squeezing contests, etc.) you see at a bowl game. There was one steakhouse outing for each team. That was about it. It’s probably for the best, seeing as the participants are a little more concerned right now with that whole winning-the-national-championship thing.
“It has been all football,” said Meyer. “It’s the Super Bowl of college football, and I think college football needed that.”
∙ I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a quarterback throw 13 interceptions, as Chris Leak did this season, and still receive such universal praise from both his own team and the opponent. Don’t get me wrong -- Leak is a phenomenal passer, particularly on the run, but you would think he had Troy Smith/Brady Quinn numbers listening to some of these quotes. “I am a Chris Leak fan. I happen to think he is good,” said Tressel. “He has done it year after year. He has taken his team to an SEC championship and on to a chance to be the national champions. You look at his figures, they're extraordinary over the course of time.”
So why do I still find myself holding my breath half the time when he drops back?
∙ Meyer revealed Sunday that he’s a big Jimmy Buffet fan -- it’s the only thing on his CD player. For some reason, I can totally picture that.
∙ I think the most interesting development to come out of Saturday’s U.S. Army All-America Game is the cloud of skepticism that’s starting to surround all-everything Notre Dame QB recruit Jimmy Clausen. From what I was told by people who were there, Clausen didn’t look nearly as good as Michigan recruit Ryan Mallet. And a New York Times feature on Clausen prior to the game included several anonymous critiques from coaches questioning his attitude and level of competition in high school.
∙ The most telling moment yet of the rise of Rutgers football came during that game, when Anthony Davis -– the nation’s second-ranked tackle -– pledged his services to the Scarlet Knights. His other finalist? Ohio State. And while it’s easy to chalk up Davis’ decision to the fact he lives in Rutgers’ Piscataway, N.J., backyard, it’s safe to say that if this was five years ago, Davis’ bags would have been packed for Columbus.
∙ If you’re ever in the Phoenix area, you must -- must -- dine at the Tee Pee. From the outside, it looks like any other Mexican restaurant (and there are thousands here), but the food is so good it’s taken on something of a cult following. Sitting in the booth behind us last night was a family of Ohio State fans in town from Cincinnati who first discovered the joint 20 years ago. George W. Bush ate there a couple years ago. And on the walls near the exit are plastered with autographed pictures from various B-list notables (singer Michelle Branch, a 1993 Playboy Playmate) who have dined there. The first one that caught my eye: Deposed Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter, whose inscription reads: “Go Devils! Dirk Koetter.”
Order the beef fajitas.
∙ We went from the Tee Pee to Casino Arizona, where I learned a tough lesson: Never go to a casino with three other people unless you’re the one driving. While Pete and Teddy were settling in for a long night at the poker table, I was left catching a cab back to the hotel 45 minutes later after getting my butt handed to me at blackjack.
∙ Finally, I want to send my condolences to the USC football program and the family of Trojans kicker Mario Danelo, who was found dead Saturday. What a shocking story. Let’s hope the authorities are able to figure out what happened and pray that foul play was not involved.
I also offer my condolences to the family of the USC kicker. I sincerely hope it was an accident. What a sad thing, especially after a great win in the bowl game.
As a Gators fan, I also hold my breath when Chris Leak drops back for a pass. He's shown moments of indecision and ineptness, but he's also shown flashes of brilliance and calm poise. On top of that, the great play calling of Meyer/Mullen sees the Gators through to the end.
It's a different style of football that us Gators fan aren't used to, and next year even moreso, but we're going to have to learn to love it, especially if it takes us to the championship dance like this. We'll take that anyday even if it does mean the end of Fun 'n' Gun Spurrier-style football.
How could Florida, a team that averaged only 28 pts a game, score 34 in the first half off of an Ohio State team that allowed only 10 pts a game? ........hmm.......OH YEAH! We play DEFENSE in the SEC!! There's the difference!! Even if OSU makes a comeback, Florida has shown up very well for the SEC.