Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Something Special in the Little Apple

Don’t look now but Kansas State is marching to an appearance in the BCS title game. The Wildcats (8-0) are second in the BCS standings behind Alabama.

If you enjoy wide-open football, Kansas State isn’t your pleasure. If you appreciate a blue collar approach that stresses solid defense and limited turnovers, then the Wildcats are a delight.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder will never coach sexy football. He will never draw attention to himself. He will never attractive a stable-full of blue-chip athletes to Manhattan, Kansas—known as the Little Apple. But what Snyder will do is win plenty of football games.

Snyder is 167-83-1 in his 21st year at Kansas State. The guy retired once and then came back for a second stint in 2009. Coaching twice at the same school is a rarity but it fits Snyder.

The 73-year-old doesn’t look like a coach but rather a high school teacher. His players enjoy playing for a guy who is a disciplinarian. He models his program after former Iowa football coach Hayden Fry who Snyder served under for a number of years as offensive coordinator. For example, have you noticed the Kansas State uniforms? They are exactly like Iowa uniforms except for the color scheme and logo.

Kansas State has a fairly favorable schedule the rest of the way. The Wildcats have home games remaining with Oklahoma State and Texas and road games with TCU and Baylor. They also benefit with no Big 12 Conference Championship game.

But can Kansas State function as a hunted team? Don’t count Snyder and his disciplined Wildcats out. They aren’t looking for style points just hard-working victories.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Iowa Football Team in Funk

After Iowa lost its second consecutive game Saturday, Hawkeye Athletic Director Gary Barta made a statement. You realize things are really bad when Barta starts making statements.

In this election year, Barta is throwing his full support behind the Iowa program.

I guess Barta felt the need to express some comments after Northwestern handled the Hawkeyes 28-17 Saturday. The week before Penn State totally destroyed Iowa.

Iowa is a mediocre 4-4 and needs at least two more wins to become bowl eligible. The best chances appear Saturday at Indiana and next week hosting Purdue. The two other remaining games (Michigan and Nebraska) appear out of reach.

But this is how far the Hawkeye program has fallen this season. Iowa fans are talking about “just” winning enough to become bowl eligible.

Coach Kirk Ferentz is obviously taking lots of heat. But the veteran coach isn’t going anywhere with a long-term contact and an expensive buyout. Plus, Iowa changes head coaches about as often as The Des Moines Register newspaper endorses a Republican for President of the United States. For my international readers, that isn’t often in either case.

Senior quarterback James Vanderberg is also catching fan’s ire. But Vanderberg isn’t going anywhere either. Ferentz is loyal to players and coaches and probably won’t make a change at quarterback. The Hawkeyes will continue to lifv or die with Vanderberg.

These last four games will be interesting. Can Iowa save its season? Or will the critics grow louder?

It’s never simple with Iowa Hawkeye sports. That’s a sure vote.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Notre Dame-Oklahoma: A Huge College Football Game

The college football season is just past the mid-point and rarely does a non-conference game hold so much significance this late in the season. But that “rarely” happens Saturday night in Norman, Oklahoma when Notre Dame opposes the Sooners.

Notre Dame (7-0) holds the No. 5 ranking in the BCS (Bowl Championship Series), whereas Oklahoma (5-1) is No. 8.

Most people are viewing this as an extremely important game for Notre Dame, but an Oklahoma win would boost the Sooners in the BCS standings and put them back in the hunt for the national championship.

If the Irish can defeat Oklahoma, they have only one more challenging game on their schedule: a Nov. 24 date at Southern Cal (USC).

Many thought Oklahoma would be a national championship contender but then the Sooners had an early season hiccup at home against Kansas State. But Oklahoma has picked it up after that devastating loss and the Sooners should give a stern test to the Irish.

Notre Dame has obviously been a surprise this season after finishing 8-5 in 2011. Phil Steele ranks the Irish schedule the most difficult in the country. I don’t know about that, but the Irish better bring their A-game to Norman Saturday night.

Who wins Saturday night and why?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bad Weekend for Iowa Major College Football

If you are a fan of either Iowa State or Iowa and somehow missed the games last Saturday, count yourself privileged.

In simple terms, the results were plain ugly.

Iowa State started fast against Oklahoma State scoring a touchdown on its first possession. But Cyclone fans had little to cheer about the rest of the way. Iowa State could muster only three more points as the Cowboys thumped Iowa State 31-10.

Iowa State has some serious offensive problems and that doesn’t help matters in a point-crazy Big 12 Conference. The problem starts at quarterback. Neither Steele Jantz nor Jamie Barnett has moved the offense consistently week-after-week. Jantz started the year at quarterback and Barnett then took over. Saturday, Jantz replaced Barnett in the second half. The spark didn’t happen. The Cyclones have had quarterback problems for two seasons now and it appears the merry-go-round isn’t over yet. Stay tuned for who receives the start next Saturday against Baylor.

Over in Iowa City, the visiting Penn State Lions built a 38-0 lead against Iowa. The Hawks put together two meaningless scores and the final was 38-14. The fans were dressed in black-and-gold according to sections in the stadium. They departed black-and-blue. Fans booed Iowa and senior quarterback James Vandenberg didn’t have a problem with the reaction. I’m not a big supporter of booing college athletes, but the fans were apparently extremely frustrated.

Both Iowa State and Iowa have decent chances of victory this Saturday (Iowa at Northwestern), but both opponents are hungry too. Momentum is a strange component in sports and the Iowa in-state teams need “old mo” back on their sides.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thumbs Up for This College Football Trend

The college football season has entered the mid-point and it appears defending champion Alabama is the favorite.

But I applaud the Crimson Tide for another thing: playing Michigan in the opening game of the season.

Why do I bring up college football scheduling? Because the tide (no pun intended) is turning.

Alabama and Michigan are just two of many schools who will beef up schedules in the future. It’s all in response to the upcoming national championship playoff series. Teams will desire “named” opponents to further their postseason resume.

Yes, school will continue to play cupcakes but it won’t pad a team’s resume like in the past. Schools wanted to gain easy wins to remain high in the national rankings and BCS (Bowl Championship Series) standings. However, the BCS will die when the playoff system actually begins, so quality wins will mean more.

I imagine teams not in the national chase will continue to play a weaker non-conference schedule so that they can gain bowl eligibility—currently six wins.

But overall, the college football fan will win. There will actually be more interesting non-conference games. Alumni will actually pay for some interesting matchups instead of spending money on its team playing No Name State.

Texas and Ohio State recently announced a series. Look for more big-time college teams to join the scheduling party. This is one party I wish to watch.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gene Chizik and Paul Rhoads

Gene Chizik and Paul Rhoads are two football coaches at two quite different programs. Two different programs that have two different expectations.

Chizik led Auburn to a national title in 2009. He had an outstanding assist from quarterback Cam Newton. Chizik left Iowa State after only two years with an overall mark of 5-19. How he landed the Auburn job is still a miracle other than he was a former defensive coordinator. But Chizik silenced his early critics taking the Tigers to the college football Promise Land.

But Chizik is feeling the heat at Auburn. Geno has the Tigers off to a 1-5 overall start and 0-4 in the football king Southeastern Conference. Auburn might only win two games remaining on its schedule: New Mexico State and Alabama A&M. The Tigers could also sneak a SEC win against Vanderbilt this week or maybe in two weeks against Texas A&M, but the games against Georgia and Alabama are almost certain losses.

Chizik has charted to No. 2 on the Coaches Hot Seat rankings (

Rhoads, in his fourth season at Iowa State, is 22-22 overall. He was the defensive coordinator at Auburn but lost his job when Tommy Tuberville was fired. Rhoads has taken the Cyclones to two bowl games and fans of the program absolutely love the guy.

My question is why has Rhoads secured more success at Iowa State than Chizik? Is Rhoads a better coach than Chizik? If Chizik and Rhoads had the same type of players at Iowa State, I would give the nod to Rhoads. Give Rhoads Chizik’s Auburn roster and Rhoads would do just as well or better than Chizik at Auburn too.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Beano Cook Was Mr. College Football

Beano Cook loved college football and people loved Beano Cook.

Cook died yesterday (Thursday) in Pennsylvania.

Cook made his mark on college football as a commentator. Most people probably remember Beano for his work at ESPN. But, I remember Cook during his days at ABC. He was one of the pioneers of discussing the top Saturday games and predicting a winner. If Beano talked about a particular game, you knew it was a big-time game.

I always thought Beano carried East Coast-bias. A Pittsburgh guy, he seemed to carry a great fondness for East Coast teams particularly Penn State. But I enjoyed the guy’s college football knowledge and his dry sense of humor. He was more statesman-like than just your average football commentator. A student of history, Beano weaved that into his commentary.

Yes, Cook was one of a kind. We will never experience a college football commentator like Beano again. The word legend is an overused word in sports today. But, Beano was truly a legend.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jerry Sandusky: A Powerful Man

Jerry Sandusky was a powerful man. He destroyed numerous young people, their parents and other relatives. He even dropped a leading university—Penn State—to its knees. Sandusky betrayed his wife and family too.

Indeed, Sandusky was a powerful man.

But thankfully Sandusky’s power is officially over. He was sentenced yesterday (Tuesday) to a minimum of 30 years for the Penn State sex scandal. If he survives his prison time, he would be released well into his late 90s.

As I have written before, there are many terrible things about this situation. The suffering caused by Sandusky is ongoing. In a sense, it will never end until people are taken from this life. But the saddest thing is a lack of Sandusky’s remorse. He maintained his innocence the day before the sentencing. He claims he did no wrong.

I am no psychologist but maybe there is something in Sandusky’s brain that blocks out all the terrible acts he committed. Even if Sandusky lives in fantasy world, he will live his days out in a jail cell.

Reality is now making Sandusky suffer—a reality he created.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Iowa State: A Fun Team to Watch

Coach Paul Rhoads and his Iowa State football team have developed the reputation of scoring some big upsets in Rhoad’s tenure.

Saturday, Iowa State added to its collected with a 37-23 victory over No. 15 ranked Texas Christian (TCU) in Fort Worth. During Rhoad’s four years at the Iowa State helm, the Cyclones have defeated highly ranked Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma State. Just last season Iowa State shocked No. 2 Oklahoma State in its last regular season game and knocked the Cowboys out of the race for the national championship.

Against TCU, the Cyclones took advantage of various Horned Frog turnovers and the absence of TCU starting quarterback Casey Pachall due to a suspension.

Rhoads gave sophomore quarterback Jared Barnett his first season’s start. The native Texan responded with three touchdown passes in front of many family and friends in the stands.

Iowa State is simply a fun team to watch. Ever since Rhoads became the coach you sense the Cyclones are going to be competitive in each game. That’s the exception rather than the rule with Iowa State in its football history.

Rhoads is every much the cheerleader as well as football coach. The Iowa native was slapping players on the back, patting their helmets and hugging them Saturday.

Next opportunity for an upset is this week. No. 5 in the ESPN Coach’s Poll Kansas State comes to Ames. Can Iowa State continue its upset magic? Don’t count the Cyclones out.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Coaches and Media Do Feud

It seems South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier and a South Carolina newspaper columnist Ron Morris are showing their displeasure for each other again.

Recently, Spurrier expressed his fury with a Morris column that the coach thought was negative. Some say Spurrier wants to influence the firing of Morris.

Apparently, these two have been bickering since Spurrier coached at Florida. So it isn’t really news except I think the ‘ole ball coach (Spurrier) likes his name in the news, so in certain aspects Spurrier is a news magnet.

Coaches and media people have feuded for years. Some coaches think the so called “hometown media” should only say nice things about their teams and coaches. But any media person learns quickly the objective is balance and fairness. Some media people deserve the coaches’ ire. Some comments are plain cheap shots at coaches and teams.

Deep down inside, most media people want the teams they cover to be successful. It makes the media’s job easier. I have gone in a locker room or two after the home team suffered a big or heart-broken loss. Interviewing coaches and players then becomes difficult.

But media people have a responsible no matter what the outcome. The public wants the outcome explained to them even if it’s bad news.

I hope Morris keeps his job. These two guys need to realize both have a job to do and they need to get over this. Like they said on the playground, “Let’s play fair, boys.”

Monday, October 1, 2012

Did I Really Watch a Football Game or a Basketball Game?

Big 12 Conference newcomer West Virginia will play Baylor at least twice in the upcoming basketball season. If you took a peak at the West Virginia-Baylor football game Saturday or at least saw the score, you might have reasoned the “hoop boys” started early.

Final score: West Virginia 70, Baylor 63.

If you enjoy scoring, this game was for you. If you enjoy football, this game was not for you. Memo to both West Virginia and Baylor: play some defense.

I get the fact that in this age of spread offenses, the scores will become elevated. But come on guys, play some defense. Have some pride. This isn’t a video game. This is real football.

West Virginia’s quarterback Geno Smith is a Heisman Trophy contender. The senior threw for seven touchdowns Saturday. I don’t know whether to congratulation Smith or pity the Baylor defense.

Baylor quarterback Nick Florence’s arm received a workout too. I think the senior tossed five or six touchdown passes. I lost count. Shame on the West Virginia defense.

If you are the defensive coordinator at West Virginia or Baylor this week, where do you start? You probably should burn the game film and go back to the basics. “This is a football and our goal is to keep it out of the end zone.”