November 5, 2009

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LONGSHOTS: Ducks on the pond as Oregon drowns USC title hopes
by Dave Long

My friend the battling barrister not so liberal Lou DeMato calls me a drive-by college football fan.

He says I only pick what moments to drop in as a fan of college football, while he’s a week-in-and-week-out unabashed fan of the college game. I don’t necessarily dispute his observation, but I see it as another one those things that says unless you’re a fan exactly the way he is then you’re not really a fan — which I dispute. 

But that’s a political argument for another day. And besides, I’ve turned over a major new leaf that’s going to let me not get crazy on the hypocrisy of things like Bud Selig greeting steroids-tainted Mark McGwire back to baseball with open arms while shunning similarly tainted Barry Bonds, or the insanity of the BCS bowl system, along with not taking the bait on the whole conservative-liberal thing. Instead I’m now saying “serenity now” when things like that flash across the radar and focusing on the good things — which brings me to the point of this diatribe.

Whether I’m a drive-by fan or not, I’ve been watching college football with great interest all year. And while I’ll admit I’m a homer, it’s due in large part to the elevation of former Central QB and UNH Offensive Coordinator Chip Kelly, who’s a friend, to head coach at Oregon. Then throw in the Dan Mullen story — who I don’t know, but who’s gone from Trinity’s QB in the 1980s to a guy who saw his quarterback Alex Smith while offensive coordinator working for Urban Meyer at Utah become the number- one overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft. He followed that up as OC at Florida as they won the national championship twice in the last four years and by mentoring Tim Tebow all the way to the ’07 Heisman. Now he’s the head man at Mississippi State, where he’s 4-5 in year one and two weeks ago might have knocked off number-one Florida if not for awful officiating that led to a fine for him and suspensions for the, as Gino Cappaletti says, OH-fficials.

And there there was last weekend, which may possibly have been the most significant weekend involving a local in big-time college football EVER. I should qualify that by saying old-timers like Frank Harlan (without a D) or CJ McCarthy — who’ve been on the scene longer and are a lot older than me (in the case of CJ it’s probably a year or two, but that’s a lot in dog years) — may have another choice. But it’s the biggest since I’ve been living here.

It was big because after reeling off six straight wins since an opening-day loss and climbing to number 10 in the country, Oregon was playing host to USC, who beat them soundly 44-10 a year ago, a team that arguably has been the country’s best since Pete Carroll arrived in 2000. And they smoked them 47-20 in a game where OU averaged an astonishing eight yards per CARRY in racking up an equally astonishing 391 yards on the ground. Throw in 222 passing yards from Jeremiah Masoli and it’s 613 yards in total offense against the fifth-ranked team in the country!

While the win is all well and good. it could play a much bigger role in the big picture of college football, which I’ll share below along with some other related facts from my drive-by position watching the college game.

The Rose Bowl: The win over USC puts OU in control of their destiny when it comes to playing in the granddaddy of all bowl games. A place the Trojans have owned in being there five times in six years, including in one for the national championship where Vince Young almost singlehandedly beat them in an epic game that may be the greatest ever in college football.

The BCS Title Game: Oregon’s win knocks USC out of it in 2009 and keeps their faint hopes alive. But for them to squeak in, a lot has to happen — starting with losses by four of the seven undefeated teams ahead of them. One will come in the SEC title game if Florida and Alabama both make it. But I’m not sure Texas will lose — which could kill their chances right there. But if they do, OU could make it, even if TCU and Cincinnati stay undefeated, as you can make a case a one-loss team from the PAC 10 gets in on strength of schedule. A long shot, but possible.

The Future of the BCS: The only person in the country who like the highly unfair system to determine the national champion, besides the NCAA’s college presidents, is the aforementioned not so liberal Lou. But with Senator Orrin Hatch calling for a probe of the BCS on anti-trust violations, the heat has been turned up. That’s bad news for OU, because it could be good for little Boise St. To avoid Hatch further turning up the heat Bosie could get into the big game — even with a schedule that includes powers like UC-Davis and New Mexico State — as if the dominoes fall the right way, they’re the ones who gave Oregon that 19-8 Week One loss. 

The Florida State Job: With pressure building for Bobby Bowden to step down, an opening is coming at one of college’s BIGGEST jobs. With a succession plan in place it’s still a ways away, but since plans naming loyal assistants at Nebraska after Tom Osborne and Florida after Steve Spurrier didn’t work, this job could open again sooner than you think because patience will be in short supply in Tallahassee. 

The Notre Dame Job: It appears Charlie Weis has held off the buzzards for now. But if he doesn’t finish strong or follow it up strong in 2010 he could be gone. Since they almost had Meyer when the job was open before going to Florida, the betting is they’ll be after the hot, on-the-rise head man, which could be either Kelly or Mullen — who’d have been their coordinator if Meyer had taken the ND job.

The “Nice to Know but You Don’t Need to Know” Fact: What’s the link between Kelly and Joe Dudek? It’s John Garner. He’s the SID that got the publicity rolling as Dudek concluded his spectacular career at Plymouth State that Rick Reilly turned into an SI cover story on why he should be the Heisman winner in 1985 over Iowa’s Chuck Long (no relation) and Bo (don’t know) Jackson. And in an earlier incarnation he babysat Chip, brother Keith and the rest of the Kelly clan as neighbors at the summer home in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

Well, there you have it from this fan — who’ll be saying “serenity now” to not so liberal Lou when he’s calling me a drive-by fan while a guest on my radio show this Saturday morning.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


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