SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
1/01/2007 06:10:00 PM
New Year's Day Observations
Bill Callahan questioned his coaching after the Big 12 title game and maybe he should do the same following the Cotton Bowl.
PASADENA, Calif. -- I was having a pretty good bowl prognostication season until today. Darn you, Bill Callahan.
You know, I’ve tried to be patient and give the guy a fair shake considering the unique circumstances of his hiring and transformation of the program. And obviously he deserves credit for leading Nebraska to its first division title in seven years. But it’s become painfully obvious over the course of the season that Callahan is one questionable game-manager -- and never was that more abundant than the final six minutes of Monday’s Cotton Bowl.
Upon recovering a fumble at the Auburn 42 down 17-14, the Huskers never even tried to get down the field for the go-ahead touchdown, opting for five straight running plays and eventually ending up with a 4th and 11 at the 30. Callahan went for it, Zac Taylor’s pass went incomplete. Game over.
Callahan is fairly typical of college head coaches with an NFL background. With the exception of Pete Carroll, most of them (Karl Dorrell, Mike Shula, Chan Gailey, Dave Wannstedt) exercise the same, overly conservative philosophy that predominates the NFL. It’s great if it works, but when it doesn’t, it makes the losses that much more frustrating to fans of those teams.
∙ This is the sixth Rose Bowl I’ve attended – and the most amazing part is just how amazing the weather is every time. Sunny, not a cloud in the sky. The most beautiful setting in football, bar none.
∙ Great win for Penn State in the Outback Bowl, in particular QB Anthony Morelli, who looked sharper than I’ve seen him look all season. This should give both him and the Nittany Lions’ offense a shot of confidence headed into next season, when they figure to back among the nation’s top 20.
The question is, will Joe Paterno be back on the sideline next fall? I wouldn’t dare assume otherwise, but if you watched the game, the now 80-year-old couldn’t have looked much more miserable -- and completely out of the loop -- sitting in that press box.
∙ I just knew -- knew -- Georgia Tech QB Taylor Bennett would come out smoking against West Virginia and prove once and for all what anyone not named Chan Gailey knew a long time ago: Reggie Ball should have been relieved of his duties a long, long time ago. Bennett helped led the Jackets to nearly 500 yards of offense. But give major props to Pat White for leading West Virginia back from a 28-10 halftime deficit. Yes, White can throw. It’s probably long past time he start getting the same kind of recognition as Steve Slaotn.
∙ Speaking of recognition – can well all now agree that Wisconsin was pretty good? The Badgers’ 17-14 win over admittedly fading SEC West champ Arkansas gave Bret Bielema a 12-win debut season. Wisconsin’s defense, which first caught my attention way back when they played Michigan in September, did a great job shutting down the Razorbacks in the second half. Arkansas’ 12 penalties sure helped, too.
∙ I watched the fourth quarter of last night’s Miami-Nevada game with my friend Pete while dining at the world famous (and delicious) Jerry’s Deli, and as he cheered unabashedly for Jeff Rowe to lead the “Cinderella” Wolf Pack to the win at the end, I found myself rooting for Miami. “What are you, a Communist?” he asked. “No,” I replied. “I just can’t stomach the thought of Larry Coker’s career ending with a loss on a blue field in 25 degree weather.” The next play, Miami picked off Rowe to preserve the win.
∙ Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention the firing of Minnesota’s Glen Mason – so ludicrous on so many levels. Yes, I made a joke about his coaching abilities just 24 hours earlier. No, I can’t fault Gophers fans for being frustrated with not getting over the hump. But for AD Joel Maturi to say Mason lost his job for blowing the Insight Bowl? Give me a break. You’re telling us you made a major decision about the future of your program based on blowing a big lead in a third-tier bowl game? That’s nuts!
Furthermore, Maturi just gave the guy an extension less than a year earlier. And what kind of season did he really expect after losing a first-round running back (Laurence Maroney) and pair of All-American linemen that were pretty much the centerpiece of your past three teams. You’re Minnesota. You’re going to have down seasons. I wish Maturi luck in the coaching search, but I can’t imagine too many A-list coaches will be lining up for that job.
Yes, the current Big 10 top tier (OSU, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan(maybe)) is stronger than the SEC's (Florida, Arkansas, LSU)...where the SEC is tougher is the rest of the conference (Auburn, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, etc.), while the Big 10 can only offer Iowa, Purdue, etc. Top to bottom, you cannot argue the Big 10 is tougher. Oh yeah, by the way, those are the only two games the Big 10 has won!
Penn State back in the Top 20? It'll be interesting to see how the final rankings look, but I suspect they're not far from Top 20 this year. Don't you think you're underestimating their potential for 2007?
I'm with you about Callahan. He has done a great job making the transition from the option to West Coast in a short amount of time.
But, in what I would consider the second statement game of the year for the 'Huskers (USC being the first), I was again completely upset at his game management. It feels like he is trying not to lose (or worse, not to get embarrased), instead of trying to win.
Of course, unless we forget, Callahan was aggressive in this game - at the COMPLETELY WRONG TIME!! I'm of course refering to his idiotic idea to run a fake punt from his own 30!!
That said, so far it has been a pretty darn good New Year's. Some close games, some big individual performances. And, despite the fact that I picked Oklahoma to win, Boise State is now up 14-0 with 7:28 to to in the 1st quarter. Go Broncos!!
For crying out loud. I am sick of two types of individuals. The first are my fellow SEC fans who think football was not only created in the SEC,but at least perfected. The 2nd is the Big 10 ( or eleven or twelve...never could figure that out with addition of new teams) fan who has this inferiority complex and must always point to things as signs that their confrence is better. I am not a homer...but for several years now top to bottom we are better. Congrats to Wisconsin and Penn St. who fought hard , CLOSE, battles into the fourth qtr. BUT...if we use your logic than UCLA beat USC and Florida State beat UCLA and Florida beat Fl State at home and on and on... Go Gators bring home our second title this year! do it for UF...not SEC.
It's interesting that if you look at the bowl game results so far, there really aren't any conferences that stand out as superior to any others. Hopefully OSU will prevail over Florida, and Michigan definitely didn't show up against USC (their own fault) but in general every conference has their good teams and good wins, and seems more or less equal (sorry SEC fans).
Michigan just made me think that Florida is going to kill Ohio St. Talk about overrated. I guess who you play throughout the year really does matter. I've never seen such a spanking in the Rose bowl. I think Michigan along with the rest of the “PUTRID” TEN should stick to something that they are good at, like hockey. The only reason that Penn State won vs. Tennessee was because the Tennessee running back handed them the game. That running back should be whipped. How did Wisconsin win? I have no clue when you have -5 rushing yards. It must have been the more talented but less experienced Arkansas team that made too many youthful, stupid mistakes and penalties, not to mention the missed field goal that my mom could have made. This just shows how much the college football team at ESPN (Herbstreit, Flutie, and Musberger to name a few) knows. Absolutely crap. They know what team they like and that’s it. I should be on television talking about my opinions because I think I just get dumber when I listen to them. It was funny, however, listening to Musberger after USC started to put the hammer down. The sadness was evident as he was looking for any way to rag on USC. God, I enjoyed that. Musberger is probably massaging the balls of each Michigan player right now, and telling them, “It‘s going to be alright because we still got Ohio St.”. But I'm not so sure about that anymore.
Can UGA get any love? Sure, we had a down season by our lofty standards with some embarassing losses to Vandy and Kentucky. However, all of this came while breaking in a true freshman quarterback (Matthew Stafford) and he made a complete 180 degree turnaround to lead UGA to a 9-4 record and close the season with three straight wins over Top 25 teams (Auburn, GT, VT. Georgia ended the season as one of the hottest teams in college football and have great momentum heading into next year.
More proof today that the PAC 10 is the nation's conference. Just ask SC, which burries so-called powerhouses like Ark, Neb, ND and Mich... and has a tough time with PAC 10 teams. The defensive speed of the PAC 10 matches up with SC.
I think Mason should have been fired long ago. He has been mediocre and had his team going well at times and then a collapse would come and a season would fall apart.
With a new stadium in the works MN needs a coach that will put fannies in the seats and get the alumni excited. Blowing a lead in a bowl game was just the final straw. Even with all that talent in the past, the team never got much better than the Insight or Music City Bowl.
Near the top of the conference...Are you kidding me? Yes, the Big 10 has been impressive. However, I wouldn't consider Arkansas and Tennessee, which are the 4th and 5th best teams in the SEC, the top of the conference. Let's see how Florida and LSU do in their bowl games. When it's all said and done let's see who's top three teams will be ranked higher... Florida, LSU, Auburn or Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin?
Bowl games mean nothing. Nothing. These kids are playing for nothing. The only bowl game that matters is the National Championship game. To take the bowl records and say that a month removed from the last game played we can make determinations about conferences is idiotic. How about the fact that the SEC had 9 bowl teams and the Big 11 had 6 or 7 (I'm not going to count them). To me that means more than bowl records. The Mountain West is 4-0. Are they the best conference? Of course not. Depth is what matters, not exhibition wins.
totally agree with your thoughts on conservative coaching. after watching the boise state game tonight it only further solidifies the point and makes me jealous of boise fans. i'm a proud iowa hawkeye but i admit that coach kirk ferentz's tight-fisted play-calling frustrates the heck out of me sometimes. and yes, he is also a former nfl coach.
S.M. -- You're defending Glen Mason? Are you serious? The whole point is Minnesota is sick of being average in football and Mason is an average coach. An average coach who has at least one very above average meltdown per season. 38-7 in the 3rd? That was a joke and so is the notion that a good coach can't win at Minnesota. Have you seen Wisconsin, Iowa, Boise St., Rutgers, or Wake lately? Your comments were garbage. Period.
The SEC v Big 10 (or is it 11) games have been too close to call. the UT/PSU game was decided by a fumble leading to a defensive touchdown. So it was the luck of Jo Pa that won the game. You Big 11 guys need to play a championship game like the big 12, ACC, and oh yah, the SEC. With a championship game the level of intensity is heightened during the regular season. The next level is a BCS berth and of course the national championship. The SEC received a lot of bowl bids, my guess is more than the big 10 (or is it 11...I'm confused). But if it ain't a BCS berth...it's just a consolation prize...like saying thanks for the season...go have fun.
I can't believe you're defending Glen Mason. He should've been out last year. He managed one ten-win season in his decade at Minnesota. Yes, he made the program more respectable than it once was, but it's been regressing for the last couple years. With talents like Maroney and Barber, the Gophers should've been contending for the Big Ten title. Instead, they've blown more big leads in the last 5 years than most teamsblow in their entire histories. What's sad is, as a Gophers fan, I was watching the Insight Bowl and just waiting for the Gophers to blow it - it had become almost inevitable.
To the UGA fan that is asking for love. What love can you possibly ask for when we (a proud VT grad) handed you a victory. We lose an 18 point lead of a first-year starting QB, and you think you are better than VT. You want love, why don't you beat Florida for a change, get to an SEC championship, and win it before you can ask about love. I know we are just one of those "underachieving" ACC schools that has been one of 4 schools to make a bowl game in the last 14 years (and Georgia is not one of the other 3) with one of the great coaches in the NCAA (so great, you even tried to lure him away). Georgia won and that is great but don't believe that you beat us by 30 points.
All this madness surrounding Nick Saban makes me that much more grateful that we have Mach Brown down in Austin. The Horns are ALWAYS mentioned as title contenders, he is KNOWN as Mr. February, and has a rather clean program minus Ramonce Taylor. Expect Coach Brown to finish his career at Texas, win at least two more titles, and go on to govern this great state. HOOKEM 'EM HORNS !!!