If it hadn’t been for the team that didn’t play, the biggest piece of news out of the HBCU football ranks would have been Bethune-Cookman’s No. 4 ranking in a college football poll behind Alabama, Florida State and Missouri. Thanks to Jeff Sagarin’s antiquated rankings, which are no longer used in the BCS, Bethune-Cookman is currently fourth in the nation.
(chirps from the gallery)
So I it take it that’s not what anyone is discussing this week? Good to know.
Give it a week. There will be a rumor spreading about Grambling State’s entire football team deciding not to dress up for a Halloween party on campus. Before Saturday, the last boycott on the magnitude of Grambling State’s took place during the embryonic stages of college sports.
In 1938, the University of Pittsburgh’s freshman team boycotted after learning that the upperclassmen teammates were making mad guap. They demanded that the university pay them tuition, room, board and other expenses or they would quit the team. Their boycott laid the groundwork for student-athlete scholarships.
Now some have wondered whether Grambling’s boycott should serve as an example for the NCAA’s revenue-producing programs to follow in their quest to pressure the NCAA into making the required changes. Don’t count on it. You’re not likely to see FBS players at cushy programs like USC and Miami risk their scholarships to make a stand. You definitely won’t see it occur at a non-BCS FBS program. Besides, there are players behind the starters who would leap at the opportunity to showcase their skills for NFL scouts.
Grambling State’s football program needed to grab our attention like Miley Cyrus in a twerk contest, and it worked. Grambling State’s boycott was a perfect storm that began with the hasty firing of a beloved alumni and football legend whose son was the starting quarterback. Their predicament was compounded by dilapidated facilities and a paucity of resources.
The boycott was criticized by some as myopic, considering that the cash-strapped Grambling State is now prepping for a civil suit from Jacksonville State and a fine from the SWAC Conference that will amount to approximately $20,000. Unfortunately, it had to be done or their story would have gotten lost among the glutton of weekend box scores.
It remains to be seen what type of action Grambling State’s boycott sparks, but at the very least it would be shocking if their football facilities are still in shambles come this time next season. Look at Congress. They shutdown the entire government and for their actions, they were rewarded with the reconstruction of their marble U.S. Capitol dome.
There really is no such thing as bad publicity.
Earlier this year, Bethune-Cookman was among a slew HBCU schools to get KO’d mortal Combat-style at the hands of BCS heavyweights in exchange for a nine-figure payday. Scores of HBCU alumni including ex-FAMU coach William Joe spoke out against accepting these money game deals. FAMU has played one almost every season this decade.
Goes to show there’s also no such thing as bad money, either.
RING OF FIRE – The only statement game of the weekend is for the road team heading to Norman, Oklahoma for a middleweight tilt with the Sooners. For the other three national contenders, the mission is to simply stay alive to fight another week.
No. 10 Texas Tech at No. 15 Oklahoma
The Red Raiders are off to their best undefeated start since 2008 when Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree’s passing offense was operating on another metaphysical plane than Big 12 defenses. Kliff Kingsbury makes his money as a precocious offensive genius. His passing offense is one of the nation's best, but it's Oklahoma's spongy rushing defense that should be the focus of his attack. On the other hand, their passing defense is No. 1 in yards allowed per game and second in yards per pass. This is as much about Texas Tech verifying their credentials as it is about Kingsbury stamping his MENSA card.
No. 12 UCLA at No. 3 Oregon
The pink helmets were cool, but after dropping to No. 3 in the BCS from their lofty perch at No. 2 in the Associated Press, Oregon has their first opportunity of the season to either rack up style points (of the BCS variety) or get bounced from the BCS runway. Flags will be flying as quickly as the offenses in this matchup of the 114th and 116th most-penalized teams in FBS. If UCLA wasn’t in the middle of a gauntlet, I’d give them a chance. Despite the Bruins record, Brett Hundley is quietly in the midst of a sophomore slump. The only question should be how much Oregon pads their stats in this win.
No. 21 South Carolina at No. 5 Missouri
The SEC should be quarantined. After catching the injury bug from UGA, Missouri watched as Florida’s defense began dropping like flies. Defensive tackle Damien Jacobs, Ronald Powell, Tyler Murphy and a flurry of players left Missouri's Faurot Field stadium nicked up. We’re see how Missouri copes with SEC celebrity against Connor Shaw-less Carolina, but Maty Mauk is already the new Johnny Manziel. Mauktober has been better to the Tigers than it has for the Gamecocks. Let’s see if they can turn it around before November.
No. 6 Stanford at No. 25 Oregon State
Oregon State’s been rolling along since their opening week loss to Stanford. This could be the week Sean Mannion and/or Brandin Cooks’ Heisman campaigns get unexpected life or get shuttled into the secret NCAA Department of Lost Heisman Campaigns (next to Teddy Bridgewater). Stanford’s power running scheme will do everything in its power to consume clock and keep the Oregon State offense on the sidelines.
HEISMAN JURY – HEISMAN JURY – These candidates are making their case for why they should be awarded the sport’s most prestigious trophy. Each week, TSL will deliberate over each player’s weekly exploits. Halloween is next week and we’ve got a few costume suggestions.
Marcus Mariota – (007) I’ll explain this one below, but Mariota has quietly maintained his front-runner status despite not playing a top-50 defense. However, that doesn’t erase the impressiveness of the 57-yard touchdown run he reeled off against Washington State.
Jameis Winston – (Danny Almonte) There’s no way this kid is really a freshman, right? He handled the blitz better than most NFL quarterbacks do. According to ESPN Stats & Information. Winston's (12-for-16) against five or more pass rushers 293 yards against the blitz are the most in a game by a BCS automatic qualifier quarterback in the past three seasons.
Johnny Manziel – (The Newsroom’s Will McAvoy) Nothing may top the Scooby Doo costume of 2012, but just like Aaron Sorkin’s drama, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner has become old news. Did you see what happened to A&M’s offense once he left the field though? Auburn went on a 14-0 run.
Bryce Petty – (The Walking Dead’s Rick Grimes) Kansas is the last zombie defense on the schedule for Baylor to impale offensively. Petty is the fringe candidate waiting for his litmus test. We are still one week away from measuring Baylor up against an actually living, breathing defense. Petty’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but as the fearless leader of Baylor’s track team offense, he gets the glory.
Mike Evans – (Blake Griffin) Yeah, there should be at least one non-QB on this list. All four of Manziel’s touchdowns this weekend were caught by one man. If it should be anyone it should be Mike Evans who has made it a habit of snagging Johnny Manziel’s blindfolded alley oop passes out of the air and Mosgovin’ opposing cornerbacks.
NO ALIBI – Whereabouts unaccounted for at the time of kickoff.
Tajh Boyd – (Kevin Hart) Let’s just say, I didn’t find Let Me Explain to be all that chuckle-worthy. We’re still trying to get Boyd to explain how he came up so small in Clemson’s pummeling at FSU’s hands. It was like watching a comedian bomb on the biggest stage of his career.
JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS
I recently read a provocative theory which suggested that that in 007 continuity, James Bond isn’t a single person, but rather a pseudonym given by the Majesty’s Secret Service to one its top agents when the previous one is retired, killed or MIA and presumed dead. Oregon’s quarterback position is the 007 of college football. They’re all great, but everyone has their favorite. When one leaves, another trigger-happy quarterback steps in to keep Chip Kelly’s offensive machine going. However, without the gadgets supplied by Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich, these golden gun quarterbacks transform back into civilians once midnight strikes at the NFL combine.
Skyfall proved that Bond is actually a single character who’s been portrayed by multiple actors over the decades. (I know he’s fictional, but don’t stop me now. I’m I the middle of something.)
According to MMQB’s Peter King, scouts are beginning to warm up to the idea of Mariota as the top quarterback prospect over Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr.’s favorite is Mariota as well. He’s not talking about the Heisman Trophy either.
What’s fresh is often given priority in our memories. Remember after the 2006 Rose Bowl when Vince Young was being anointed the greatest quarterback in college football history? This perspective makes it difficult to gauge Mariota’s actual abilities within the confines of Oregon’s prism. Mariota is in the midst of a perfect season and has only lost one game in 20 career starts, but he has yet to have the type of transcendent performance that Vince Young, Cam Newton, Reggie Bush or Colin Kaepernick, the player he’s often compared to, built their legacies on.
The quarterback he’s compared to most often is Dennis Dixon. However, prior to Kelly’s arrival as offensive coordinator before his senior season, Dixon was a turnover machine. Success came quickly, though. Before his ACL imploded in November of 2007, Dixon was in prime position to bring a Heisman and national title back to Eugene.
Mariota is ahead of Dixon’s pace. Mariota is on track to win the Heisman as a sophomore. Mariota’s offensive omnipresence has taken the Oregon offense to heights Dixon could not have imagined. On the other hand, so have a number of other offenses.
However, as of Wednesday night, only 17 percent of voters on an ESPN.com poll considered Mariota a future Pro Bowl quarterback. Dixon is the highest drafted quarterback of the Kelly/Helfrich era, but third overall picks Joey Harrington and Akili Smith remain the benchmark for all Oregon draft prospects.
Neither were starters for very long, but perhaps third time is the charm for the Ducks. Not including defensive blitzers, there is pressure coming from all angles in Mariota’s direction. The next few months will be a test of his mental fortitude. Hopefully, he doesn’t get shaken or stirred by the expectations.