2009 College Football Review, Part One: Surprise Teams and Tacos

Bryan FlynnAnalyst IDecember 16, 2009

Now that the Army vs. Navy game has been played, the regular college football season is over.

The strangest thing is this season nearly played to script.

In the preseason, most thought Florida, Alabama, and Texas were the three best teams in the country.

The prevailing thought was that TCU, Utah, BYU, and Boise State would all have a chance to bust the BCS.

Still, there were some surprises this season like Iowa and Cincinnati, who both exceeded expectations.

A three-horse Heisman race became wide open, due to an injury and no chance of reaching past performances.

After the last regular season game, now all the bowl games are set (Army still had a chance to play in the EagleBank Bowl).

So, go grab a taco, quit listening to your fat girlfriend, and try not to blow your wad before you're done reading this.


Surprise Teams

Every year in college football there are surprise teams that show most preseason predictions about them are wrong.

The following teams are the ones that proved they were better than most thought they would be.

Temple Owls

Temple, yes the same Temple, was a win away from playing in the Mid-American Conference Championship game.

If the Owls had beaten Ohio, they would have met Central Michigan for a MAC title.

After years of losing, Temple finally has their first winning season since 1990, when Jerry Berndt was the head coach.

Since that magical season in 1990, the Owls have had three new coaches, only won more than four games once, and had double-digit losses for seven seasons.

Things were so bad for Temple before Golden that they left the Big East.

Al Golden was hired four seasons ago and has slowly built up in win totals from one his first season to nine this season. 

This season has seen a rebirth of football at Temple.

The Owls are heading to their first bowl game since the 1979 Garden State Bowl.  

If Golden is not on your radar for coach of the year, he should be.

Iowa Hawkeyes

No team played the role of escape artist better than the Iowa Hawkeyes.

They ran out of magic against Northwestern after quarterback Ricky Stanzi was injured.

Kirk Ferentz did a great job keeping this team focused and winning week after week when others kept doubting them.

Ferentz did a better job than a 1960s starship captain did against Klingons and Romulans.

Iowa was an overtime loss against Ohio State from going to the Rose Bowl.

The Hawkeyes used a great defense and a strong running game to win 10 games.

Even after losing two games, the BCS did get one thing right no matter what anyone thinks and that was taking Iowa over Penn State.

The Hawkeyes beat the Nittany Lions head-to-head, and in college football head-to-head finally counted for something.

Idaho Vandals

In the state of Idaho, it is normally Boise State that gets most of the pub.

The Broncos are going to a BCS game for the second time in school history and are undefeated.

That does not mean college football fans should overlook the work Robb Akey has done in the state, as well.

The Vandals do not have “Smurf turf” and play in what looks like a high school basketball gym.

Idaho does have to take some of the blame for not being bigger in their own state.

This is the first time since 1999 that the Vandals have clinched a winning season and the first bowl game since 1998.

Akey has had three years as head coach and has slowly built a program.

He only has to keep winning to get recruits to make the trip to Moscow instead of Boise.

Akey's job this year is much like the job Golden has done at Temple. He took a team that normally does not win football games and got them into a bowl game.

Cincinnati Bearcats

Even after the Bearcats went to a BCS bowl last season, most experts believed they would not repeat.

The reasons were sound with only one returning starter on defense.

That did not stop Tony Pike and Zack Collaros from playing lights out at quarterback for Brian Kelly.

The Cincinnati defense got stops when needed, and the offense was nearly unstoppable each and every week.

Kelly was even able to parlay his work in Ohio into the head coaching job at Notre Dame.

The job at Cincinnati is now a very attractive one.

Remember, this was once a C-USA team.

The main question now will be, "Without Kelly, can Cincinnati continue to be a strong football program and keep building on the last two years?"

While it is early to speculate who might take over, here is a name that should be mentioned.

Cincinnati should hire Steve Spurrier, Jr. to be their next head coach.

If he can bring the old “Fun N’ Gun” offense to the Bearcats, they have the players to make it work.

Kentucky Wildcats

The Wildcats have to be a surprise team this season.

The job Rich Brooks has done in the Bluegrass State might be overlooked because Kentucky is a basketball school.

All Brooks has done was rebuild a defense that lost its best returning defensive lineman to a failed drug test and several starters from the 2008 season.  

While the defense did not shut down everyone they played, they did play well enough to win seven games.

This is in the SEC, a conference many consider to be the best in the country.

The same conference that has a chance to win four-straight national titles; that is if Alabama can beat Texas.

Brooks has guided the Wildcats to four-straight winning seasons and bowl games.

He has also won the previous three bowl games.

No football coach before Brooks has ever won three-straight bowl games at Kentucky.

Chew on this while you think about the job Brooks has done.

Paul “Bear” Bryant, who also coached at Kentucky, could not lead them to three-straight bowl wins.

In fact, Bryant did not even lead Kentucky to four-straight bowl games either.

Stanford Cardinal, Arizona Wildcats, and Washington Huskies

No conference featured more surprises than the Pac-10.

Everyone thought USC, California, Oregon, and Oregon State would all be in the mix for the conference title.

Hardly anyone foresaw the three teams above to be in the mix.

Stanford, Arizona, and Washington all have one thing in common.

They all beat the mighty USC Trojans.

The Cardinal and the Wildcats also, at one point, had a chance to win the Pac-10 title.

Jim Harbaugh has brought a toughness not normally associated with the Pac-10 conference.

Playing sound defense with players using sound technique and solid tackling helped Stanford‘s defense to keep the team in games.

The Cardinal offense featured hard-to-tackle running back Toby Gerhart, who ran over defenders rather than around them.

Gerhart's tough running actually led the NCAA in rushing.

Harbaugh even got under USC coach Pete Carroll’s skin by going for two in a blowout. 

This led many to question his sportsmanship.

On the other hand, Carroll, after getting mad about the Stanford game, scored a late touchdown against UCLA.

Arizona was nearly the most quietly talked about 8-4 team in the country.

The Wildcats lost their chance at a conference title in an overtime loss to Oregon.

For once, Mike Stoops had an easier year than his brother Bob did at Oklahoma.

The Wildcats' Stoops had been under pressure to win more.

Three of Arizona’s four losses were to teams that won eight or more games.

The Wildcats also lost to two BCS Iowa and Oregon teams by a total of 13 points.

Washington was also a surprise team from the start of the season against LSU.

New head man Steve Sarkisian and quarterback Jake Locker have seemed to turn things around in Seattle.

In their second game of the season against Idaho, the Huskies ended the nation’s longest losing streak at 15 with a 42-23 win over the Vandals.

Washington also upset third-ranked USC for a two-game winning streak in 2009.

The Huskies also upset 19th-ranked California to end the season, becoming the fifth team since 1949 to follow up a winless season with five wins the next season.

Washington was only blown out in three games against Oregon, Oregon State, and Stanford.

Their other four losses were by a combined 23 points.

Washington got more great news with Jake Locker returning for the 2010 season.

SMU Mustangs

June Jones looks to have turned things around for Southern Methodist after over two decades of losing.

The Mustangs are one of the only programs in the history of the NCAA to receive the “death penalty” for rules infractions.

Since SMU received the news that the 1987 season would be canceled and that the school would not compete in 1988, the school has only had one winning season, and that was in 1997. 

That was until this year when the Mustangs were able to qualify for a bowl game.

The Mustangs finished the 2009 season as C-USA West Division Co-Champions with Houston.

The Hawaii Bowl will be the first bowl game for SMU since the 1984 Aloha Bowl.

SMU finished with a 7-5 record this season, after two 1-11 seasons.

Jones, who took Hawaii to a BCS bowl, might have the Mustangs headed in the same direction.

Kansas State Wildcats

Bill Snyder left the Wildcats after the 2005 season to ride off into the sunset and retire.

Kansas State hired Ron Prince to replace Snyder, but after two 5-7 seasons and a scandal, Prince was fired.

Snyder returned for 2009 and had the Wildcats one win away from a bowl game and a Big 12 North title.

Kansas State finished the season at 6-6 but was not bowl eligible because two of their wins came against FBS teams, and only one counts toward the required wins to make the postseason.

The highlight of the season for the Wildcats had to be beating in-state rival Kansas and breaking a three game losing streak in the series.

The low point could be losing to Louisiana-Lafayette on the road in the second game of the season.

The turnaround Snyder accomplished this season has K-State fans excited about 2010.

The question is how long the 70-year-old coach will want to stay on the sidelines.

Boston College Eagles

Did any team in college football face more questions and adversity than Boston College did going into the start of the season?

There seemed to be problems all around this program.

First, there was the firing of head coach Jeff Jagodzinski after he interviewed for the New York Jets head coaching job.

Rex Ryan was eventually hired, and Boston College fired Jagodzinski.

That left the Eagles without a coach, but long-time defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani took over as head coach.

Boston College had a coach, only to see their one quarterback with playing time, Dominique Davis, transferred.

As if that weren't enough, star linebacker Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a form of cancer.

The 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year would not be able to play the 2009 season.

With everything that had gone on with this program, no one would have thought twice if Boston College did not have a winning season.

The Eagles banded together and turned all this adversity into a strength.

The Eagles went on to win eight games and only lost to bowl-eligible teams this season.

Three of the four Boston College losses also were on the road.

This team was in the running for the ACC Atlantic title late into November.

They also honored their star linebacker against Florida State and ESPN’s College Game Day was there as well.

Bob Griese’s Surprising Comment

Bob Griese had a stellar college football career at Purdue, leading the school to its first Rose Bowl appearance in 1966, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

Griese would go on to be drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 1967 and would lead them to two Super Bowl titles.

He would also be a key part of the 1972 undefeated team and was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. 

After his playing career, Griese became a color commentator on both NFL and college football broadcasts—even calling several games his son played in at Michigan without bias, including the game in which his son won the Rose Bowl and a national title in 1998.

Griese made a surprise comment this season during the first quarter of the Minnesota-Ohio State game.  

During a break in the game action, announcer Chris Spielman was promoting NASCAR’s Race for the Chase.

While the top five drivers were onscreen, Spielman made an observation about Jeff Gordon and wondered about Juan Pablo Montoya. This wonderment about Montoya made Griese give this surprise answer…

You can see what Griese had to say in the video below. Since making this comment, Griese has apologized to Montoya and was given a one-game suspension by ESPN.

Here ends Part One of my 2009 college football review.

In Part Two, we will see teams that did not live up to expectations and coaches who got the axe.

So, do not listen to your fat girlfriend, and read Part Two.



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