Pelini's temper, Heisman integrity, BCS spots and the good ole SEC
Nebraska hired Bo Pelini to bring pride back to its sullen program, and three years in, he's right on the cusp. The Huskers came within a second of winning the Big 12 last season, and will likely get another title shot next month. They'll be an immediate contender upon joining the Big Ten.
But viewers around the country who tuned into Saturday night's Nebraska-Texas A&M game saw a different side of Bo -- so angry and demonic looking on the sideline you worried he just might pull a Woody Hayes. He's a man who's clearly taken control of the Huskers' program, but could he jeopardize it due to his own lack of self-control?
Pelini is hardly the only "hot-headed" coach in football. Just watch Mike Stoops during an Arizona game. Mark Mangino and the since-ousted Jim Leavitt at USF were much the same way. But I'm not sure I ever saw any of them so relentlessly, repeatedly harangue an official the way Pelini did. If this were basketball, he would have been T'd up and ejected by halftime. And of course there's the now-infamous clip of Pelini delivering an expletive-filled rant to quarterback Taylor Martinez's face. Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman was embarrassed enough by his conduct to express his disapproval to the media. Pelini apologized Monday, saying, "I always believe it's OK to disagree with a call. It's not OK to make it personal. At times during that game ... I let it get personal."
To be clear, the officiating was horrendous in that game, though it's not the reason Nebraska lost. It would be unfair to Texas A&M not to give credit to its stupendous defensive effort. But there were a lot of horrendous calls, most notably the roughing-the-passer flag that set up the Aggies' go-ahead field goal. Huskers fans have since deluged me with a
I don't do conspiracy theories, especially one as illogical as this. While I recognize that Dan Beebe might not be the world's biggest Nebraska fan anymore, but he wouldn't try to cost his league a chance at a second BCS berth and the extra $6 million that comes with it (all of which the league gets to keep due to Nebraska's exit penalty). I do, however, concede that referees are humans who can be influenced by their feelings toward certain other humans. So I ask you, if you're a ref, and you've spent the entire night being verbally accosted by a coach, do you think that would motivate you to keep your flag in you pocket or do the exact opposite?
Pelini only hurts himself and his team with his antics, and hopefully the attention his display garnered Saturday night will serve as a wake-up call. Nebraska prides itself as a classy program with the nation's classiest fans, and moments like those don't fit with that image. Most importantly, however, if we've learned anything from the ousters of Mangino, Leavitt and Mike Leach last year, it's that it only takes one cross-the-line incident by a coach to bring down everything he's worked for. Pelini came too close for comfort Saturday night.
That's a slippery slope you're heading down. First of all, if the Heisman wants to reward "integrity," then they should tell their voters that. The phrase Jimbo references appears nowhere in the instructions I and other voters were mailed last week, and the only place I could find it was under the "Heisman Trust" tab at the top of their
As for LaMichael James -- this one gets me steaming mad. The minute the Eugene police announced last February it had arrested the star for, among other things, "strangulation," his reputation was shot. Countless times, I've read some variation of the distortion that he "choked his girlfriend" or "beat up his girlfriend." While I would never condone violence against women, James' case was the definition of "there's more to the story." I'd recommend to anyone who actually cares about the details to go back and read
Long story short, unless a guy is ruled ineligible, or convicted of a serious crime, I'm going to stick to evaluating their football talents, not their character.
I'd like to see some sort of amendment myself (though top 10 seems a bit high), but that would require the commissioners to voluntarily agree to something that could directly harm their own league. The six automatic-qualifier conferences and Notre Dame created the BCS, and therefore they set the rules. What incentive do they have to enact a rule that, if it affected their conference, would cost it $20-plus million in a given year? There's always the chance when the new contract comes up in four years that the commissioners could vote to take away someone's automatic bid, but I can't see them blindly agreeing to something that could affect any of them.
One alternative concept I've heard bandied about is the elimination of automatic berths altogether. The idea being, the bowls could still choose to continue their partnerships with the respective conferences (Big Ten and Pac-10 with the Rose Bowl, SEC with the Sugar Bowl, etc.), but they would not be obligated to take a champion from another league if there's an at-large team they like better. It's not like the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 or SEC have to worry about getting their teams into the BCS; this way they'd still get the berths but the bowls would have more freedom in their selections (i.e., the Fiesta Bowl wouldn't get stuck with an 8-4 Big East champ this season.) However, that idea is nowhere near coming to fruition yet.
In sifting through the inbox Monday, it seemed LSU fans were none too pleased with my mini-rant in Saturday's
This was written minutes after the LSU-Ole Miss game ended, and it was less a reaction to LSU -- who, as I wrote, deserves ample credit for going 10-1, especially with five ranked teams in its own division -- than it was to CBS analyst Gary Danielson, who I believe to be the best game analyst in the biz but who counters it with his over-the-top shilling for the SEC. Speaking of Ole Miss, he said something to the effect of "You just don't see 4-6 teams like this in other conferences." This nearly made me pull a Pelini on my television. The Rebels lost to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt. They lost 52-14 the week before to then-3-6 Tennessee. They are 79th in the Sagarin ratings, right between two of those Boise State opponents SEC fans love to mock, Toledo and Idaho. I'm sorry, but if LSU was truly the fifth-best team in the country, it would destroy Ole Miss.
You can throw all the schedule-strength numbers you want at me, but if LSU and Stanford play on a neutral field, I'm taking the team with Andrew Luck as its quarterback over the team with Jordan Jefferson. And I'm not alone. Sagarin's Predictor ratings suggest the Cardinal would win by 12 on a neutral field. Mike Seba, a senior oddsmaker at Las Vegas Sports Consultants, told me the spread would be Stanford by about 2.5 points. We mean no disrespect to LSU. We just think Stanford (and Wisconsin) is better.
First of all, the Orange Bowl would be thrilled with this scenario. It would finally get a team that will sell the place out. I'm inclined to say Alabama, because it would be coming off a huge Iron Bowl victory, its fans would be stoked and the Tide would be ranked squarely in the Top 10. But you never know. Arkansas hasn't played there since 1987 and would bring the entire state, and LSU brings a crowd wherever it goes. Head-to-head isn't always a deciding factor.
It's been nice to see the Cougars get their act together, though let's keep it in perspective. Those wins, which improved their record from 2-5 to 6-5, have come against 3-9 Wyoming, 2-9 UNLV, 3-9 Colorado State and 1-10 New Mexico. (Say what you want about the Big East, but its bottom four teams are nowhere near as horrific as the Mountain West's, which hurts its AQ cause.) Utah (9-2), which got its own act together last week at San Diego State, will present much stiffer competition.
But of course BYU can pull off the upset. That's the nature of their rivalry. It's usually close regardless of the record. Obviously, if TCU doesn't make the BCS, it will get the Las Vegas berth. If not, however, BYU could very well get it by finishing 7-5. As I wrote in my
C'mon, Gary. Since when did you start using the pseudonym "Mingo?"
It's because A&M has three losses while the others only have two. Pollsters don't generally rank a two-loss team over a one-loss team, a three-loss team over a two-loss team, though they sometimes make exceptions. Alabama, 9-2, is currently ahead of both 10-1 Oklahoma State and 10-1 Michigan State, presumably because the Tide started significantly higher than both and/or the voters trust them more due to their past success. It's not the most sensible explanation, but it's true. Texas A&M started 3-3 and has since won five straight and risen into and up the polls, but not enough to pass two 9-2 teams they beat.
The Oklahoma-A&M situation is particularly tricky because it could directly affect the Big 12 South race. If the Sooners beat the Cowboys this weekend and the Aggies beat Texas, it will force a three-way tie for first that would be decided by the BCS standings. Oklahoma (currently 13th) would presumably win that tie, but I could see where fans of A&M (currently 17th) feel their team should be ranked higher than the Sooners due to their more recent head-to-head win. However, when you consider that Oklahoma went 4-0 against a non-conference schedule that included Florida State, Air Force and Cincinnati, while A&M lost its only significant non-conference game (to Arkansas), the Sooners deserve to stay ahead. And Oklahoma State beat the Aggies.
And a happy Thanksgiving to you, too.