McMurphy's Law: The Envelope Please
Despite what the Big Ten Conference wants you to believe, I think you all are "Leaders" and "Legends." No need to be pigeonholed into one or the other.
Anyway, in this week's installment of McMurphy's Law, I have reached out to more than a dozen of FanHouse's college football columnists, editors, staff writers and correspondents. We voted on 11 year-end awards. In each category we designated FanHouse's choice along with "The Murph" -- my personal choice in each category.
Enjoy the holidays.
Player of the Year
This was the only unanimous selection. Perhaps you've heard of this guy? Not only did he put together one of the best individual seasons in college football history, but he also showed Monday night he could deliver David Letterman's Top 10 list: Top 10 Things Cam Newton Can Say Now That He Won The Heisman. My favorite: No. 2: "Even I have no idea how the heck the BCS works." FanHouse's staff got it right: Cam Newton.
Coach of the Year
The leading vote-getters were Oregon's Chip Kelly and Auburn's Gene Chizik. Kelly has brought the fast-fast-break offense to football, while Chizik led the Tigers – picked to finish third in the SEC West -- one win shy of a national title. However, the nation's other undefeated coach – TCU's Gary Patterson – did not receive one vote. Others who received votes from the FanHouse staff: Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, Missouri's Gary Pinkel, Stanford's Jim Harbaugh and Mike Haywood of Miami, Ohio. FanHouse's staff went with Chip Kelly. Deserving indeed, but not as much as Auburn's Gene Chizik, who gets The Murph.
Team of the Year
Like the coach of year balloting, this came down to a battle between the nation's top two teams – Oregon and Auburn. Wisconsin and TCU also managed a few votes, but weren't serious contenders. FanHouse's staff picked Oregon by one vote over Auburn. The Murph also sides, ever so slightly, with the Ducks, because of their overall dominance.
Character of the Year
So many characters, so little time. Actually this ended in a three-way tie among the FanHouse staff: Cam Newton, Cecil Newton and LSU coach Les Miles. While Cam Newton was unbelievable on the field and Cecil Newton was unbelievable off the field, Miles added to his legend in a variety of ways: winning a game because Tennessee had 13 players on the field, a bounce pass fake field goal in a win at Florida and, of course, his grass eating habits on the sideline. Miles is a real-life Forest Gump and gets The Murph for Character of the Year.
Bust of the Year
This category received the greatest variety of votes for the biggest bust of the year: teams, coaches, players and even an athletic director. The teams: Texas, Florida, Iowa. The coaches: Texas' Mack Brown, Washington's Steve Sarkasian, North Carolina's Butch Davis, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. The players: Alabama's Mark Ingram, Washington's Jake Locker. The athletic director: USC's Pat Haden. There's a lot of disappointment and underachievers, but the FanHouse staff voted Texas as the Bust of the Year. I would have to agree: Bevo was the biggest bust.
Moment of the Year
Another wide variety of responses: Michigan State's "Little Giants" fake field goal-winning touchdown against Notre Dame, Cam Newton's highlight reel run against LSU, Boise State's Kyle Brotzman's missed field goals against Nevada, Tennessee's 13-man defense against LSU, NCAA declares Newton eligible, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops conceding defeat and punting at Missouri so he's not penalized in BSC standings, LSU's bounce pass fake field goal against Florida. The FanHouse staff's top moment was a tie between Michigan State's "Little Giants" fake field goal and Newton's run against LSU. As magnificent as Newton's run was, The Murph goes to Michigan State's fake field goal, mainly because the play was destined to result in a win or loss and it turned out to be a win.
Game of the Year
The biggest vote-getters were Nevada's upset of Boise State, Auburn's comeback at Alabama, South Carolina's upset of Alabama and Michigan's three-overtime thriller against Illinois. The FanHouse staff and The Murph agree: Auburn's incredible second-half rally in Tuscaloosa was the game of the year.
Game of the Year We Won't See
The nominees for best game we didn't get to see this year: Auburn vs. Ohio State, Wisconsin vs. Stanford, Wisconsin vs. Oregon, TCU vs. Oregon, Ohio State vs. Michigan State, Boise State vs. Auburn, Boise State vs. Oregon and even one vote for USC-Texas (someone is a glutton for punishment). Another tie with the FanHouse staff equally split between Wisconsin vs. Stanford (in what could have been the Rose Bowl matchup) and Ohio State vs. Michigan State (in the best Big Ten matchup that didn't occur this season). The Murph, meanwhile, has his own tie for Best Game We Won't See This Year: TCU vs. Oregon and TCU vs. Auburn.
Rookie of the Year
Several deserving individuals received votes: Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, Maryland's Danny O'Brien, South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore, Washington State's Marquess Wilson and San Diego State's Ronnie Hillman. The FanHouse staff and The Murph agree: like he did in the SEC, Lattimore ran away with Rookie of the Year honors.
Story of the Year
And just think, we had to place our votes before Iowa disclosed it might just have a major drug problem on its team or before the Big Ten announced its divisions would be called "Leaders" and "Legends." Anyway, plenty of great stories the past year. Those that caught our attention: Cam Newton, the NCAA investigation into Newton, the NCAA cover-up of Newton, rogue agents, NCAA investigating players and relationships with agents, Mark Dantonio's heart attack, Texas' Texas-sized collapse, Cecil Newton and North Carolina's academic "situation." The FanHouse staff and The Murph agree: whether it was on the field or off, the story of the year in college football revolved around the C-word. That, of course, would be Cam.
2011 Heisman Choice
Let's begin our final category with a huge asterisk. Our 2011 Heisman choices are based on those players who are eligible to return next season. Obviously some may not return and instead go to the NFL. Anyway, here's our top candidates for the 2011 Heisman: Cam Newton, Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore, Boise State's Kellen Moore, Oregon's LaMichael James, Georgia's A.J. Green and Michigan's Denard Robinson, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon and Oregon's Kenjon Barner. The FanHouse staff was split between Oregon's LaMichael James and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore. The Murph will go with Kellen Moore, completing his fantastic Boise State career with another trip to New York.
No More BCS? No BS, Say Commissioners
Last week in New York, commissioners Jim Delany (Big Ten), Dan Beebe (Big 12) and Larry Scott (Pac-10) each told me that if the non-automatic qualifying conferences keep increasing their financial demands, they might decide to return to the old bowl system that was in place before the BCS.
In other words, each bowl would align with the most attractive conferences: Rose automatically gets the Big Ten and Pac-10 champs, Sugar gets the SEC champions, Fiesta the Big 12 champions and Orange the ACC champions. If any of those champions are not ranked in the top 15, they can be bypassed for higher-ranked team. The remaining spots would be filled by the bowls with the most attractive teams.
That means there would not be a guaranteed No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. Here's a look at what the past three seasons' major bowls may have looked like if there was no BCS, compared to the actual BCS matchups.
My non-BCS Sugar: No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 6 Ohio State. Actual BCS matchup: No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 6 Ohio State.
My non-BCS Fiesta: No. 7 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Stanford. Actual BCS matchup: No. 7 Oklahoma vs. unranked UConn.
My non-BCS Rose: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 5 Wisconsin. Actual BCS matchup: No. 3 TCU vs. No. 5 Wisconsin.
My non-BCS Orange: No. 13 Virginia Tech vs. No. 8 Arkansas. Actual BCS matchup: No. 13 Virginia Tech vs. No. 4 Stanford.
Analysis: The non-BCS Sugar, Fiesta and Rose bowls are much more attractive than the BCS versions. The BCS Orange Bowl features a higher-ranked team, although the non-BCS version would do a much better job filling the stadium. Yes, there would be not be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 contest – and No. 3 TCU gets snubbed – but overall the non-BCS matchups are much more compelling than the BCS pairings.
Best bowl format for 2010: Non-BCS bowl format in 2010 is stronger.
My non-BCS Sugar: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 3 Cincinnati. Actual BCS matchup: No. 5 Florida 51, No. 3 Cincinnati 24.
My non-BCS Fiesta: No. 2 Texas vs. No. 10 Iowa. Actual BCS matchup: No. 6 Boise State 17, No. 4 TCU 10.
My non-BCS Rose: No. 7 Oregon vs. No. 8 Ohio State. Actual BCS matchup: No. 8 Ohio State 26, No. 7 Oregon 17.
My non-BCS Orange: No. 9 Georgia Tech vs. No. 5 Florida. Actual BCS matchup: No. 10 Iowa 24, No. 9 Georgia Tech 14.
Analysis: The non-BCS and actual BCS Rose Bowl would have had the same pairing, while the non-BCS and actual BCS Sugar Bowl would basically be the same: a highly-ranked SEC team pummeling the Big East champions. The non-BCS and actual BCS Orange Bowl also wouldn't be much different with Florida replacing Iowa. The biggest difference of the major bowls would be the Fiesta Bowl. The actual BCS matchup was two non-automatic qualifying teams – No. 4 TCU and No. 6 Boise State. Is that a better game than a projected non-BCS Fiesta Bowl between No. 2 Texas vs. No. 10 Iowa? The rankings would favor TCU and Boise State. As much as I hate to sound like a BCS conference big wig, but Big 12 champ Texas and Big Ten runner-up Iowa would draw larger attendance and, more importantly, higher TV ratings.
Best bowl format for 2009: Too close to call. It's a push.
My non-BCS Sugar: No. 2 Florida vs. No. 3 Texas. Actual BCS matchup: No. 6 Utah 31, No. 4 Alabama 17.
My non-BCS Fiesta: No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Alabama. Actual BCS matchup: No. 3 Texas 24, No. 10 Ohio State 21.
My non-BCS Rose: No. 5 USC vs. No. 8 Penn State. Actual BCS matchup: No. 5 USC 38, No. 8 Penn State 24.
My non-BCS Orange: No. 7 Texas Tech vs. No. 10 Ohio State. Actual BCS matchup: No. 19 Virginia Tech 20, No. 12 Cincinnati 7.
Analysis: Since ACC champion Virginia Tech didn't rank in top 15, non-BCS Orange Bowl passes on Hokies for No. 7-ranked Texas Tech against No. 10 Ohio State. A much better matchup than the actual BCS pairing of No. 19 Virginia Tech and No. 12 Cincinnati. The non-BCS and actual BCS Rose Bowl would have the same pairing. The non-BCS Sugar and non-BCS Fiesta would feature two intriguing top four-ranked SEC and Big 12 opponents. Of course in this projected non-BCS Sugar Bowl, we never would have known that No. 6 Utah would have knocked off No. 4 Alabama.
Best bowl format for 2008: No. 6 Utah, of the Mountain West, would be a casualty of the non-BCS pairings, but having seven of the top eight ranked teams gives the non-BCS format a big edge over actual BCS matchups.
Final verdict: I'm ashamed to admit this, but if there is no "Plus One" playoff or a full-blown eight or 16-team playoff, I'd rather go back to the old system than have the current BCS system. Especially since in 2012 TCU and Utah will have moved to the Big East and Pac-12 respectively, leaving Boise State as the only relevant non-automatic qualifying BCS team.
And Now for Steve Hill's View of the College Football World
Brett McMurphy is a national college football writer for FanHouse. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and please follow at Twitter.com/BrettmcmurphY