By John Walters
January 20, 2005

While everyone is sending out their condolence letters to Auburn this week -- I haven't seen such an outpouring of empathy since Tom Cruise ditched Nicole Kidman -- everyone is also quick to point out their reasons for why Auburn, its 12-0 record notwithstanding, has been elimi-Dated from the Orange Bowl. Here's one I have not heard, although deep down I think it's at the heart of the matter: People feel that Southern Cal and Oklahoma are just plain more fun to watch.

First, the Trojans and Sooners have national reputations and great tradition. The Tigers also have great tradition but, fair or unfair (and it's the latter), they just lack the same national Q rating. Folks in Sylacauga and Opelika are spitting mad at that assertion, but they're in Sylacauga and Opelika. They aren't in Chicago. Or Denver. Or San Francisco. Or New York. If they were, they'd understand that their school just doesn't have the same national cache.

Second, USC and OU each have not one but two Heisman finalists. People, and AP voters are people, get excited about Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush and Jason White and Adrian Peterson. They don't get as excited about an awesome defense and a quarterback who, as sublimely as Jason Campbell has played this season, nobody outside the SEC knew a year ago (Quick, is Jason Campbell black or white? If you don't know the answer, you're who I'm talking about).

Auburn got screwed. But someone was going to get screwed. And that's no solace to the angry masses on Toomer's Corner. But I think the AP voters voted with their hearts a lot more than they'd care to admit.

Notre Dame thoughts

The Urban Meyer era was even briefer than the George O'Leary era in South Bend.

I'm an alum, and even I thought it was funny when Notre Dame lost out on Meyer this week. First, I found it hard to believe that the Irish didn't already have Meyer in the bag when they fired Tyrone Willingham. Hasn't anyone on the school's board of trustees ever gone foraging for a prom date? Or at least seen The Brady Bunch episode in which Marcia dumps her date to upgrade to a cuter boy, only to have him dump her? And then Marcia winds up staying home and making out with Greg (or maybe that was in real life?). And did anyone at Notre Dame at least consider putting a gator's head in Meyer's bed?

Second, Willingham is a class act. Whatever you think of his coaching acumen, he never said nor did anything to rob Notre Dame of its integrity -- including during his press conference this week. He deserves a "thank you" from every Irish fan for that.

Third, did I miss something, or isn't Willingham still going to be paid for the next two seasons? I mean, getting fired sucks (I've been there), but let's keep this in perspective. We're not talking Norma Rae here.

Fourth, the next Irish coach might want to sell recruits on the school's excellent record in placing alums as color analysts: Aaron Taylor (ABC), Rocket and Joe Theismann (ESPN). Only Purdue (Gary Danielson and the outstanding Bob Griese) comes close.

Fifth, wasn't Meyer being just a little disingenuous when he said that it was never between Florida and Notre Dame? Earlier last week former Irish coach and ESPN analyst (yet another!) Bob Davie stated that he had spoken to Meyer the previous weekend, and had related the pressures that coaching in South Bend brought with it. Davie also implied that Meyer phoned him.

Finally, the lesson here is that the general public prefers a sinner to a hypocrite. When Raghib Ismail delivered an impassioned and, for my money, pretty hard to disagree with, polemic on College GameDay (telling his alma mater to "repent"), Lee Corso began clapping before the Rocket had even left the rhetorical stratosphere. That's all well and good, but where was the righteous indignation when Ron Zook got canned? Or Frank Solich a year ago?

1. I'm just spit-ballin' here, but do you think Meyer's contract at Florida has a clause that allows him to leave Gainesville at any time to coach at Notre Dame?

2. I'm with ESPN's Trev Alberts on the Heisman: Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. In that order.

3. Song of the Week (and not because it was featured on The O.C.): Mr. Brightside, by The Killers. Just enough synthesizer to make you believe that Andrew McCarthy would have wooed Molly Ringwald with it playing in the background 20 years ago. How did this song get relegated to "second single" status after Somebody Told Me?

4. Because I'm an idiot, I locked myself out of my apartment for four hours last Tuesday. So I'm killing time at Kinko's on W. 72nd in Manhattan (pressing my face onto the copier) and in walks Peter Strauss (Rich Man, Poor Man and The Jericho Mile). Here's the good news: his hair hasn't aged a bit. About seven hours later I'm out running in Riverside Park and there he is again, walking his little terrier doggy. STOP STALKING ME, PETER STRAUSS!

5. For all the CNBC viewers out there: "You wanna trade butter? ... Oh, margin."

6. The Liberty Bowl, matching undefeated Boise State against one-loss (to Miami at the Orange Bowl, barely) Louisville looks like the sexiest non-BCS bowl, but here's guessing that the Cardinals rock the Broncos.

7. Just wondering. What do you think the ratio is of cars that have rims (Chris Rock: "They're spinnin'! They're spinnin'!") to those same cars having dark-tinted driver's-side windows? Because my informal research the past month has found it to be 1:1.

8. Quick Dick Ebersol anecdote: One of the best jobs I ever had was writing for Mary Carillo on Bravo's coverage of the Olympics this past summer. At the opening seminar in Athens for all the talent, as well as for the producers and writers, Ebersol, the head of NBC Sports, led off his address by reminding us how hard the Greeks had been working to put the Games together. He told us to remember to be gracious and grateful and that it wouldn't kill us to be patient if he we had to wait an extra few minutes in a security line (and I believe his verbiage was a little more blunt than that).

For a man who's had the world at his feet for the past three decades, and who had all the pressure of televising the Games on his shoulders, that was a very cool and human thing to say. All you can do is pray for him and his family.

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