Week of December 8, 2017

Phil: Champ.

Woodson Wins Manning’s Heisman

There were four Heisman finalists in 1997 (there is no preset number of finalists). Three will have Hall of Fame busts in Canton, Ohio. Can you name the four without looking?

Peyton Manning, Randy Moss, Ryan Leaf, and – the winner – Charles Woodson. He remains the only (primarily) defensive player to win the award in its 80+ year history.

Let’s just take moment to truly admire Randy Moss in this pic.

Winning the Heisman obviously takes one hell of an individual performance over the course of a college football season, but it’s also about timing and moments. November heroics and incredible highlights travel better across a country (and voters) than really good stats. The former are emotive, while the latter are logic. If we’ve learned anything in the past year, it’s that people vote with their guts and not their heads.

Since seemingly the dawn of time, Peyton Manning has been everyone’s favorite, and he was the favorite to win the Heisman in 1997. Through the words of the finalists, their college coaches, and former teammates, hear how Charles Woodson took a what felt like a formality of an award from a golden quarterback in Chris Low’s oral history of perhaps the most stacked Heisman contest.

Before we get to Peyton and Woodson, I just want everyone to enjoy this college highlight from Randy Moss and his best quote from this story.

Moss, from Marshall, was not going to win the Heisman, and he knew it, despite being the most dominant player of the bunch (26 touchdowns as a wide receiver!). The dude who made news for breaking his parole and only one year of college football under him was not competing with the senior, all-everything Manning, and he wasn’t going to compete with Michigan’s hype machine behind Woodson. His take on his trip to New York, courtesy of Michigan Safety (and Woodson teammate) Marcus Rey:

Then Randy walks in and said, ‘None of us is going to win, so we might as well get through this ceremony, hang out tonight and tear it up in New York City.’ 

As if I needed another reason to love Randy Moss.

Now, back to the Manning – Woodson competition. It was Manning’s to lose from the start of the season. Manning returned for his senior season at Tennessee. He surely would have been a high first-round pick after his junior year in a draft that featured an astonishing two quarterbacks taken in the first 98 picks (Jim Druckenmilller at the 26th pick to the Niners and Jake Plummer to Arizona in the second round). I would say he would’ve been the number one pick, but the St. Louis Rams got Orlando Pace, a Hall of Fame left tackle.

The one scab on Manning’s college resume coming into his senior year victory lap was that he couldn’t beat Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators. He came up short again in ‘97, with a pick-six to boot in a 33-20 loss in September. That opened the door just a crack early in the season for Woodson.

Most remember that Woodson did it all at Michigan. Shut down defensive back with seven interceptions. Wide receiver with 3 touchdowns. Punt and kick return good for another touchdown. The Wolverines also went undefeated that year and split the National Championship (before the playoff or BCS) with Nebraska (Nebraska was number 1 in the Coaches poll, while Michigan was number 1 in the A.P. poll.

Perhaps as important as the stats and success was the fact that Woodson had not one, but two “Heisman Moments”. First, a one-handed pick in October against Michigan State that, as Lloyd Carr puts it, put Woodson “on everyone’s radar”.

Second, and an electric punt return for a touchdown against Ohio State in the last conference game of the season.

All of this leads to a lot of back-and-forth between the peanut gallery of coaches, former teammates, and broadcasters in this article. Enjoy some of the best comments below:

Keith Jackson on Woodson: The game was changing, and I think people realized his brilliance and weren’t afraid to do something out of the norm — and that’s voting for a defensive player. But he was more than just a defensive player. He was the most impactful player in college football, and that’s why I voted for him.

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer on Woodson: I thought it had maybe gone from a lock to a closer race because Woodson had a big game against Ohio State and returned a kick and caught a touchdown pass. I knew it might be close, but didn’t want to think so. But what do I know about that world?

Manning teammate Jeff Teague, on Woodson winning: We were well-stocked, food- and drink-wise [back at Tennessee]. It never crossed my mind, not for one second, that he wasn’t going to win. We were just there to watch him get it. It was a party. When it went down, it was just a stunned silence. A few guys stood up and threw something. But, really, it was just kind of quiet.

Teague on Brian Griese’s assessment that Woodson was the better player (Teague and Griese were teammates on the Broncos): Brian still can’t see through the maize and blue and be objective on that subject. Brian’s a great guy, but he’s blinded by that ugly helmet.

A fun read looking back 20 years on the eve of what most think will be am anticlimactic Heisman ceremony. Then again, they thought the 1997 ceremony would be anticlimactic, too. – PAL

Source: The Oral History of the Epic 1997 Heisman Trophy Race”, Chris Low, ESPN (12/05/2017)

TOB: I have always had a rebellious streak, and so it should be no surprise that I did not like Peyton Manning as a 15-year old kid. I have always distrusted anyone the media universally liked. I couldn’t stomach the Gameday stories about Peyton and how much film he watched, how he was the first one in and the last one out, and about how gosh darn smart he was. I’ve also always been pro-Michigan. And Charles Woodson was cool as hell. So, yeah, I was rooting hard for Woodson over the Golden Boy.

I don’t remember many Heisman ceremonies, but I remember that one. Heading into the ceremony, I was resigned to the fact that Peyton would win. I was ready to bitch and moan. I was 15, so it meant a lot more to me than it does now. It seemed important in a way that it no longer does. And the kicker is – I didn’t even get to watch. As a kid, we went to Saturday night mass, and my parents made me leave after the show had started, but before they announced the winner. I remember getting home, expecting the worst, and being shocked to hear that Chuck had won, Peyton had lost. I took great joy in that, and I took great joy in this article. Sometimes sports surprise you, and sometimes, it’s great. Peyton never winning the Heisman will always bring a smile to my face.

PAL:  You’re on the ‘Chuck’ level with Woodson?

Which Block Was Most Dope?

Last Thursday, in one NBA evening, we saw three amazing blocks. I couldn’t decide which block was dopest, so we’re putting it to a vote. The contenders:

LeBron on Dennis Schroeder

Giannis on Dame Lillard

LeBron on Taurean Prince

So, which block was dopest? Vote! -TOB

Expand the Damn Playoff

I have been on the fence on whether the NCAA four-team playoff should be expanded. I was watching the Conference Championship games last weekend, and it occurred to me that we, kinda, already have an eight-team playoff. There were 10 teams with a shot at the playoff. In the SEC, Auburn and Georgia playing in the title game, and Alabama (who did not win its division and was idle). In the Big 10, Wisconsin and Ohio St., playing each other. In the Big-12, Oklahoma, playing TCU in the title game. In the ACC, Miami and Clemson, playing each other. And USC, playing Stanford in the title game. It wasn’t a true playoff – as it was, SC and Ohio State won but were left out. Still, unless you are Alabama, you’re not making the playoffs without winning your conference championship game. So, it’s kind of a playoff.

But then I read Dan Wetzel’s proposal for an eight-team playoff and I can’t find a problem. In fact, it sounds awesome as hell. His plan:

  • Scrap the conference title games.
  • The five power conference winners (determined by each conference on its own) gets a spot.
  • Three at-large bids. If a non-power five member is ranked top 10 or 15, it gets a spot (I’d add you could limit this to the top ranked non-power five member).
  • Play the first round in early December, and go from there.

Here’s how this year’s playoff would have looked.

I love it. As Wetzel points out, in the current system Alabama lost its season finale and somehow earned an effective bye to the semifinals, while the team they lost to (Auburn) had to play Georgia, in Atlanta. Sees fair.

Some may argue there’s no reason to include the non-power 5. But, I like it. Who doesn’t like rooting for an underdog? And while they might not be the 8th best team, the 8th best team rarely has a reason to argue they are the best team in the country, so who cares. Do better than 8th next time. Anyways, I’m all in. Eight is great! -TOB

Source: Here’s the Solution to College Football’s Inefficient and (Often) Meaningless Postseason”, Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports (12/03/2017)

PAL: I guess I’d care if I were on the eighth best team. What if the eighth best team is more deserving than the the top-ranked non-power 5? You’re telling me USC isn’t more deserving than UCF this year…wrong question to ask TOB. I love the automatic bid for a non power 5 conference gets at first blush, but the only problem is UCF didn’t play very good teams. And what I mean by that is they played maybe two marginally good teams all season. Here’s UCF’s schedule in this undefeated season (and the opponents CBS ranking, which goes to 130):

    • Florida International (#70)
    • Maryland (#82)
    • Memphis (#16)
    • Cincinnati (#107)
    • East Carolina (#109)
    • Navy (#56)
    • Austin Peay (not on CBS top 130)
    • SMU (#59)
    • UConn (#114)
    • Temple (#79)
    • USF (#23)
    • Memphis (#16)

I’m sorry, but that schedule in no way holds up to USC’s schedule this year (ending the regular season ranked 8th), or any a Power 5 conference schedule. I find it highly, highly unlikely UCF would have gone undefeated playing in the Pac-12, and I highly doubt they lose 2 or fewer games in the Pac-12. They played 2 teams in the top 25, and 4 teams ranked outside of the top 100! We try to make the case for the little guy, but the little guy has to play real games (I know this is hard due to scheduling being done so far in advance).

I don’t love the idea of automatic bids to power 5 conference champs (what if a 3-loss SEC team wins its championship while a 1-loss Pac-12 team loses), but it’s the better than what we have now.  With that said, the either ditch the conference championship games or make them mean something. Just don’t guarantee an at-large to anyone. Play it year-by-year.

Fear and Loathing in Carson, California

The subheadline to Kevin Clark’s story says it all:

The Los Angeles Chargers are playing in a tiny soccer stadium in a city that doesn’t seem to want them. There’s no way they’ll be able to fill a full-size arena, but they’re already on the books to be shared residents with the Rams in 2020. Somehow, the best solution might be to just stay where they are.

The Chargers left San Diego, have no fans in L.A., and can’t even fill a 30,000 seat soccer stadium. This is a great article exploring what the Chargers did wrong, the obstacles they face in setting down roots in L.A., why they should just own being the little-brother-team by staying in that soccer team, and what it’s like to attend an NFL game in a small stadium where no one gives a crap about the home team. Fantastic read. -TOB

Source: The Football Team Without a Home”, Kevin Clark, The Ringer (12/05/2017)

PAL: Comparing the Chargers in Carson City to U2 giving away albums we didn’t want on our phones in the first place such a great analogy, and Clark’s writing only gets better from there. Highly recommend this story.

Don’t Be A Jackass At Your Kid’s Game

Typically not a fan of self-help or advice columns. In appealing to the masses, they oftentimes are diluted to the lowest common axiom. With that said, there’s some interesting stuff in this guide on how to behave at your kid’s game.

First off, we’ve all heard that the chances of your kid going pro are infinitesimal. But how about some cold hard facts? Here are the probabilities of high school athletes that go on to play NCAA sports:

And here are a couple tips for all you parents out there.

  • “If you haven’t encountered game-day maniacs, well, I’ve got some bad news for you: it’s you.”
  • “If you have the means to afford a private shooting coach for your little baller, you have the means to fund a college savings account. Let the ball game be a game, and nothing more.”
  • Learn how to ref…hell, try being one  – “Once you experience the behavior of parents from the perspective of the people who are working diligently to make the games happen, you’ll behave yourself on game day.”

And if none of that persuaded you to chill the f*&^ out, how about two videos of parents losing it and looking like losers of the worst kind.

The Classic:

The Overreacting Mom:

The Worst:

Don’t be that guy, folks. -PAL

Source: How Not to Be a Raging Maniac at Your Kid’s Soccer Game”, Geoffrey Reddick, Offspring (12/6/17)

TOB: Clearly, I am, and will continue to  be, a very level-headed sports dad.

Also, one in EIGHT high school lax bros/bras plays in college? Looks like my boys are getting pinneys and lax sticks for Christmas!

Herm Edwards at ASU is Going to Be Fun (For Everyone Else)

Herm “YOU PLAY. TO WIN. THE GAME.” Edwards has not coached in ten years, He spent the last decade as a talking head, and not a particularly analytical one. He is mostly a guy they go to for discussion on player behavior. So, it was with incredible shock to the rest of college football when ASU was rumored to, and then did, hire Herm as its next head football coach. The introductory press conferece was…hilarious. First, Herm explained how he’d run his offense, and in doing so pinned our country’s problems, at least in part, on the fact that “we don’t huddle anymore in our society.” Uh, ok. Next, he got all weirdly religious when a reporter identified himself as from Devil Digest, and in the process seemed to suggest he has NO IDEA that ASU’s mascot is the Sun Devils. I’m not kidding. Check it out:

A day later, Herm was presented with a game jersey and could not believe how small it was, and thought it was a “girl’s” jersey.

Look, he’s right. Those things are crazy tight these days. But it does NOT HELP with the perception that he’s completely out of touch. As a fan of a conference opponent, I am delighted. Should be a fun 10 months (no, I don’t think he’ll be the coach for even one full season). -TOB

Source: New Arizona State Coach Herm Edwards Had A Bizarre First Press Conference”, Samer Kalaf, Deadspin (12/04/2017)

PAL: Bet. Edwards’ dog-and-pony show lasts for at least 18 college games. Even Odds. $10.

The Early Aughts Were a Weird Time

Presented without further comment:

Video of the Week

PAL Song of the Week: Daniel Caesar – “Hold Me Down”

Tweet of the Week

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You all took a life today. The life of the party. 

-M. Scott

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