I was contemplating posting my Big 12 South preview today, but I didn't feel that I had put quite enough into it yet. Considering my attention span is shorter than the average Oakland Raiders head coaching career, I thought today would be a good day to do a Hot Routes and look around at not only some news from the Big 12 but also some stuff that is either entertaining or noteworthy from around the country.
This Wednesday practice recap got me extremely fired up about Niles Paul. It's crazy (and depressing) how fast time flies, as he's already a junior and we're still waiting for him to break out.
If you read this blurb, however, it seems that the explosion is coming. Up until this point, the former high school All-American has been a special-teamer and the fourth receiver.
However, his off-field issues this spring have obviously refocused him, and he seems determined to live up to the hype this year. I'm going to do a feature on the receiving corps at some point, but let me say this: Niles Paul has me giddy with anticipation about seeing some deep balls this fall in Memorial Stadium. To quote Shawn Watson from the article:
“Niles Paul is the guy, no doubt.”
What does Paul bring to the table?
“Plays. Big plays,” Watson said. “Respect is earned. You earn it by performance. I think everybody here, everybody on this team—offense, defense, coaches, managers, everybody who sees practice—goes, ‘Wow, he’s done a nice job.’”
Came across this Pat Forde article over on ESPN via the guys over at Double Extra Point, and it lists his 40 worst college football villains from the past and present. As DXP points out, Matt Davidson is at No. 5 on the list because of his season-altering, national title-saving catch off of Shevin Wiggins' foot.
He goes on to bitch and moan about how the officials should have called the play illegal because of the kick. Perhaps he's right, as technically, that was indeed illegal according to the rule book.
Then again, if we're going to nitpick, the media should have voted Nebraska No. 1 after they trounced (Peyton Manning-led) No. 3 Tennessee 42-17, while Michigan scraped by (Ryan Leaf-led) No. 8 Washington State 21-16, with the game coming down to the final play.
So you'll have to forgive me if I think the Miracle at Mizzou simply enabled the better team to continue it's march to the national championship. Pat Forde, as pointed out by DXP, is a Missouri graduate. Shocking.
Other notables (pertaining to the Huskers) on the list:
No. 16 Bernie Kosar, Miami QB
Supposedly hated by the Huskers for his Orange Bowl derailment of the '83 juggernaut that both lost the Big Red the national title and established the fact that Tom Osborne has testicular fortitude on par with the gods.
No. 33 Barry Switzer
We all know why most consider this guy a villain. Husker hatred for him, while still present, has subsided over the years due to his praise of the rivalry and Tom Osborne, who he for the most part owned during their time at OU and Nebraska, respectively.
I thought this article on the ACC by Mark Schlabach was interesting for a couple of reasons. The ACC is often regarded, as Schlabach points out, as perhaps the fourth or even fifth-best BCS conference in the country. The SEC and Big 12 are always at the top of that list, followed by the Pac-10, Big 10, with the vomit-inducing Big East bringing up the rear.
Schlabach points out that the ACC has produced more first-round NFL draft picks than any other conference the past four years, as well as the fact that it sent 10 teams to bowl games last year, an NCAA record.
While I don't refute that those are impressive stats, my question is, at what point does a conference's depth take away from it's ability to put teams in national championship games? Sure, they sent 10 teams to a bowl game.
However, if you look at the standings, you see that only one team (Virginia Tech) finished with a double-digit win total (10), and that was helped by the Huskers giving them 30 yards on their game-winning drive with personal foul penalties.
After Va. Tech, you have a bunch of teams with anywhere from six to nine wins, and while that may get you into a bowl game, doesn't mean your conference is at the table with the Big 12 and SEC.
Furthermore, how hard is it to make a bowl game? The field gets more diluted every year, and what's sad is that they keep trying to add more games.
In my opinion, a .500 record should not be rewarded with a trip anywhere, even if the game in Boise, Idaho. If you only did your job right 50 percent of the time, would you get a bonus? I doubt it, and I don't think these schools, in this economic climate, should be paying to send their players and band anywhere either.
The other side of this argument is, would you rather have top-to-bottom depth, with no national title contenders, or would you rather be the Big Ten and be essentially a two-team conference? Both sides have advantages and disadvantages.
The good thing for the Big Ten is, all it takes is to run the table in your conference (which reeks of Garbagio Armani), and you're assured a spot in the national title conversation.
The downside of that is that you then get embarrassed in those BCS games on an annual basis.
Well what about the Big 12, you say? They're as top heavy as the Big Ten, right?
No, they're not. Sure, we have OU and Texas. In addition to them though, we have top-10 Okie State this year, followed by respectable teams such as Nebraska, Kansas, Mizzou, and Texas Tech.
Heck, even Baylor is becoming decent, and it's just a matter of time before Texas A&M comes back to the pack. So the Big 12 is the best of both worlds. That's right, I went through all those arguments just to tout Big 12 supremacy.
Speaking of the Big Two, er, Big Ten, Stewart Mandel's latest over on SI discusses the lack of parity in the conference and three teams that could be "sleepers": Iowa, Michigan State, and Illinois. While I'll be honest and admit that he makes some valid points about Iowa, I refuse to jump on either the Spartans or the Illini's bandwagons.
Sure, MSU finished 6-2 in the league last year, but as Mandel points out, the two losses were one-sided woodshed beatings at the hands of the only two good teams in the conference. So you're telling me because they whooped the junior varsity, that this year they will break out?
I have my doubts. What makes the Big Ten the Big Ten is that there will always be the Indianas and Minnesotas to beat up on, and until the teams like the three Mandel mentioned bring back some kind of middle class to the league, it will continue to be an annual punchline.
My favorite sentence of the article: "Of late, though, the league has been lacking in depth, as its putrid 6-16 bowl record over the past three seasons shows." Pointing that out never gets old.