Unverified Voracity Goes Back To The Well

Submitted by Brian on July 23rd, 2009 at 11:20 AM

Nosie. Boise announced their big nonconference game… and it's against Virginia Tech, which you will note is not Michigan. M is still casting about for a reasonable opponent to open the 2010 season. Options are getting thin on the ground.

(HT: Hannibal on this site's message board.)

Ok, let's talk about this again. Tennessee is pushing Eric Berry for the Heisman, which isn't going to happen unless Tennessee is way better than everyone expects they'll be but fine. I enjoy quixotic Heisman campaigns of all stripes and miss the defunct blogger version of the Heisman—even if it handed its lone trophy to Colt Brennan—because defenders and the occasional lineman featured.

Unfortunately, ESPN's Chris Low—the SEC version of Rittenberg—took the opportunity to launch a broadside at Charles Woodson's '97 win, which is for my money one of the few times the award has managed to make any goddamn sense. The reasoning, as you might expect, is flimsy and insular. A brief fisk:

The Heisman Trophy has been a dirty word on Rocky Top ever since Peyton Manning was jobbed of college football's most prestigious individual award back in 1997.

How does one get "jobbed" out of an award where people are handed ballots and asked to vote on who they think is the best player? Were there chads?

I'm not one of those conspiracy theorists…

This phrase is always followed by the author suggesting and supporting a conspiracy theory.

… but there sure seemed to be a movement by some in 1997 to keep Manning from winning the award.

See? "I'm not one of those conspiracy theorists" is a phrase that always means its opposite. There should be a word for that.

Part of it was his being forced down everybody's throats for four years, and part of it was the fact that he was winless against Florida.

Never mind that he delivered Tennessee its first SEC championship since the advent of the league championship game, was the driving force behind the Vols' remarkable 45-5 run from 1995-98 and threw for 3,819 yards and 36 touchdowns his senior season.

Q: What does Tennessee's '98 national title season have to do with Peyton Manning?
Chris Low A: Something.
Sane Person A: Not a goddamn thing.

He was saddled with the label of not being able to win the big one -- and despite his enormous talents -- became that guy some voters took glee in voting against.

Dude, the award purports to reward the best player in college football, and against Florida Manning threw two interceptions, one an 89-yard pick-six, and saw his team fall behind 33-14 before Manning managed a meaningless garbage time touchdown. He'd been outplayed by Doug Johnson. That opened the door. The New York Times on Manning after the Florida game: "A Heisman candidate? Yes. A hands-down winner in the fall? Please."

Then Woodson bashed through it by dominating Michigan's season-ending showdown against Ohio State by intercepting a pass, setting up one of Michigan's touchdowns with a long reception, and doing this:

One player failed, and another did not. It's harsh to say Peyton Manning "couldn't win the big one" but it's not a stretch to claim that Charles Woodson blew him out of the water in both teams' most important games of the season.

How else do you explain 93 of the 921 electors that year not even having Manning on their ballots?

I'm not sure where Low's getting his numbers, as the official site has vote counts that disagree with his accounting. There are 815 first-place votes accounted for of 921 electors, leaving 97 ballots without Manning. Woodson was left off 75. As Low's amply demonstrated here, "never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity" may be a general-purpose axiom but it goes double for sportswriters.

Most years Peyton Manning would have been a slam dunk. He'd be a more deserving winner than 80% of the guys who actually got the trophy. But he had the misfortune to run up against the only compelling (primarily) defensive player in the history of the award. I'm sure a few people were swayed by the idea it was cool to vote for a defender, but it's not like he was undeserving. That's what grates about every Tennessee bitch: they all assert, directly or in-, that Woodson didn't deserve it and the '97 Heisman was a sham and a fraud. Well, whatever. Scoreboard.

BCS bowls were a candle in the wind. Yeah, I follow Charlie Weis on Twitter. I also follow Rich Rodriguez, but Rodriguez hasn't posted anything in months, which is probably wise. Weis still hasn't gotten the concept of self-contained 140-character thoughts—needs to do some self-scouting there—but does provide awesome biographical details:

Got home even later than that last night returning from Chicago, where I saw a concert at Wrigley Field.

Some google sleuthing reveals these guys to be the target of Weis' concert-going affections:


Which lol perfect. Both appear to be on the same strenuous diet of porkfat ice cream that Weis is, too.

Secret cabal postponement. The coaches poll's plan to go dark—complained about in this space earlier—has been delayed. The heroes are the same bunch of villains that got us in this mess:

The return to a lack of transparency upset BCS officials more than what was originally known. There are indications that the change could be a deal breaker, going forward, in the coaches poll's inclusion in the BCS.

In this, at least, the rabble and the Powers That Be are united. If the BCS was ticked off this year they're not likely to be less ticked off if the coaches poll attempts to pull this stunt in the future; I expect we'll see the secret cabal stuff quietly shelved and put next to Hated Rule 3-2-5e on the Shelf of Horrible College Football Ideas.

(HT: Wizard of Odds.)

Spread origins and expansion. It seems like I link 80% of Smart Football's posts, but I blame Chris Brown for making everything so interesting. This latest exchange is more relevant than stuff about four verticals so it avoid the sidebar. Post the first concerns late Northwestern coach Randy Walker's adoption of the Rodriguez spread and what he brought to it:

what Rodriguez showed them was less a new way to attack the problem of good defenses but more just a new way to think about attacking the problem. Rodriguez showed them the shotgun and the zone read stuff they were doing at Clemson and had done at Tulane, but the reason it clicked for Wilson and Walker is that they realized that they could run all their old stuff -- the zones, the power, counter, option, etc -- all from spread sets.

And this was probably the great leap forward for the spread. Indeed, if you look at what Rodriguez was doing at Clemson, a lot of it is there in terms of the zone read, but a lot of it too was just Woody Dantzler running around. It was Walker that took the idea of "spread-to-run" and "zone-read" and systemized it.

The incessant linking must have garnered Chris a number of consistent Michigan readers, because he followed up that post with another one defending his sort-of demotion of Rich Rodriguez from spreadfather to spread… uh, something else.

Really? I try not to tread too heavily on the premium sites' information. I'll freely link to headers and free articles, and will summarize the general feel for a recruit on the interwebs, a feeling that usually starts with posts from insider-type people and then flows outwards onto message boards here and elsewhere. But I rarely lift quotes directly from premium articles*, and even then it's usually to pull something awesome out like Brandon Herron calling Texas Tech "a box surrounded by dirt."

The Free Press has no such qualms anymore, I guess, as they've grabbed Barry Every and Scott Kennedy's brief, premium evaluations of the Elite 11 quarterbacks and posted the Devin Gardner bits. Is this uncool? I kind of think so since the only reason you'd send people to the Elite 11 is to get people to pay for the assessment of their commited QB.

FWIW, Gardner killed it, with Every asserting he was one of the top two quarterbacks in attendance:

"He may not be as big or fast as current Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, but he is a close second. I am torn between him and Bolden as to who I would take to build a college football team around."

State fans go "doh" in unison here.

*(The one major exception to this was when ESPN's player evaluations were behind a paywall; I'd usually pull out a few sentences of a three-paragraph scouting report when putting up a commit post. I figured they'd take the tradeoff of links and exposure for ESPN Insider, and they soon opened up their evaluations to the general public anyway.)

Etc.: Smart Football on yet more lawsuits targeting the NCAA and EA Sports. Ace continues his series on goofy team photos with impossibly young-looking freshman future stars. The Ann Arbor News expires, puts up photo wall a la Battlestar Galactica.



July 23rd, 2009 at 11:40 AM ^

Weis also went to Bon Jovi a few weeks ago (also at wrigley field) and was invited by Pujols to sit in his private box at the home run derby. But you already knew that if you follow him on Twitter. Why are you so preoccupied with the Elton John/Billy Joel concert, is it just because it fit a joke you wanted to make?


July 23rd, 2009 at 11:43 AM ^

Embedding the whole game video from WolverineHistorian makes an even better case for Woodson. Remember, this is a game between two top-5 teams, a week or two before the deadline to vote, on exclusive national TV like every UM-OSU game. By the time you get to the 3:45 mark it's completely clear why he won.


July 23rd, 2009 at 11:45 AM ^

this is a further testament why I hate Peyton Manning. Not that he has anything to do with the "wah wah wah jobbed wah" sentiment that endures 12 years later...Just associations that occur in my mind...


July 23rd, 2009 at 11:50 AM ^

See? "I'm not one of those conspiracy theorists" is a phrase that always means its opposite. There should be a word for that.

I believe you're referring to paralipsis

Women are particularly good at paralipsis, e.g. "I'm sure I don't need to remind you to call that guy about my car..."

It's used to gloss over the obvious rhetorical problem (in our case, the fact that he will sound like a conspiracy theorist, or in the other case, the fact that she's fucking nagging me again).

It's very similar to occupatio, except occupatio just states the counter-point, whereas paralipsis is, as you put it, a false statement, meant by its inclusion to be taken for true, given in the introduction to the real point. They serve the same purpose.


July 23rd, 2009 at 11:58 AM ^

the disappearance of the truly two-way players.

The notion of an award for the "best player in college football" that automatically excludes, in practice, literally half of the players on the field is farcical on the face of it, which is why the Heisman is the most ridiculous and meaningless award in all of sports.


July 23rd, 2009 at 12:16 PM ^

For a little more validation, there's also their respective rookie years in the NFL:

Woodson: 61 tackles, 5 interceptions, 1 TD, Pro Bowl

Manning: 26TD, 28 interceptions thrown, QB rating of 71.2

I know, CB is an island and QB is relying on a lot of other people, but still . . . Woodson adjusted to the speed of the pro game a lot better than Manning.


July 23rd, 2009 at 1:07 PM ^

It is more than a little misleading to compare a rookie DB to a rookie QB on the worst team in the NFL.

and it is downright criminal to leave out the fact Manning has gone on to become one of the greatest QBs in the history of the NFL.

but, as stated, their later pro careers are irrelevant to awarding the best college player trophy.


July 23rd, 2009 at 4:18 PM ^

Or "not to be a total downer, but the Tigers just lost 2-1 for the 4th time in 5 games, while the White Sox watched their ace pitch a perfect game, tying the Tigers for the AL Central lead heading into a weekend series in Detroit."

Oh, those chisox fans are gonna SOOOOO pleasant to have around this weekend. (that's sarcasm)

Garvie Craw

July 23rd, 2009 at 11:59 AM ^

I thought this was really interesting considering the recruiting meme that Rodriguez QBs are just runners who don't develop as passsers.

"At Tulane, the offense had the zone-read elements but Rodriguez and Tommy Bowden still considered themselves kind of pass-first guys; Shaun King threw for 3,495 yards and 38 touchdowns... Indeed, no less a passing guru than Norm Chow visited Rodriguez..."


July 23rd, 2009 at 12:18 PM ^

"I always told Will Perry and Bruce Madej, our sports informaton directors, "Don't you ever promote any single player above the others, because we're not doing that here." It's not that I didn't want our guys to become All-Americans or win the Heisman, but if they won those things I wanted it to be solely because they earned it on the field, not in the PR department."



July 23rd, 2009 at 12:25 PM ^

I have no affiliation at all w/ Smartfootball but I want to recommend it to everyone. You can learn more about the intricacies of offense systems from reading one post on that site than you'll get in two years of watching games on ABC and ESPN.

Re: Manning, I understand Tennesse's fans' frustration. He was their golden boy and he put up big numbers... Woodson's 1997 season reminded me a little of a game I once was lucky enough to watch live between the San Antonio Spurs (w/ Rodman on the team) and the Magic (w/ Shaq and Penny). Rodman probably had six points in that game but he absolutely dominated it, including shoving Shaq out of the way so he could grab the game-winning put-back. If you didn't see the game you might have had a hard time understanding how a guy who scored so little could so own a game...Woodson similarly owned the field in 1997 even if, as primarily a CB, he didn't do it in the conventional way Heisman voters usually look for, i.e., big passing or running stats. It's hard to imagine seeing a guy be so impactful from the CB position ever again.


July 23rd, 2009 at 12:49 PM ^

To his credit, Manning never complained about not winning the Heisman, and I'm not sure he would argue much about Woodson winning it. Against Florida and Nebraska that year, Manning was roughed up and his team lost a combined 75-37, and the games were not even that close. Woodson played huge in the most memorable games of that season (the interception against MSU, the OSU game, his pick of Ryan Leaf in the Rose Bowl), and the voters (for one of the few times in recent memory) realized that the preseason hype should not be treated as a coronation. Woodson was the best player in college that year, and Manning should go down as one of the best runner-ups in history. That said, I think the Heisman has been cheapened by the fact that guys like Manning were left off, while names like Bradford, Tebow, and Dayne are memorialized in plaques at the Downtown Athletics Club.

As for Smartfootball - great site. Fun to read if you want to stretch out your brain a bit.


July 23rd, 2009 at 12:50 PM ^

As someone who was born in Lubbock, TX, the home to Texas Tech, it is NOT a box surrounded by dirt and I take offense to that.

It is a box surrounded by dirt that occasionally swirls in dust storms, gets in your eyes, and is a bitch to get out. Damn skippy.


July 23rd, 2009 at 1:05 PM ^

After asking if we were from Australia upon hearing our yankee accents, I was immediately accosted by Vols when we visited their stadium last fall. Truthfully, I may have invited abuse by virtue of the number 2 Michigan jersey I was wearing. By the way, this particular visit was the 17th year of our annual college football trek to a college football venue and Knoxville ranks near the bottom for me.

Other Andrew

July 23rd, 2009 at 1:20 PM ^

FWIW, I really enjoyed my trip to Knoxville. The fans were friendly, hospitable, and generally knowledgable about football (especially compared to most of the other schools in their conference). Though I'm guessing that your CW#2 jersey didn't endear you to anybody.

They are still very angry about this. I offhandedly mentioned Woodson's name and my amiable host suddenly turned extremely serious and appeared as though he intended me bodily harm. I chose not to rub it in their faces the rest of the way.


July 23rd, 2009 at 1:38 PM ^

Ick. Knoxville is a hole.

I grew up in Tennessee and perhaps my hatred for all things Big Orange comes from the fact I grew up a Vanderbilt fan (I know, I know, but Dad was a prof there) but the fact remains that east Tennessee is quite Deliverance-ish.

Tim Waymen

July 23rd, 2009 at 1:07 PM ^

Kind of like how Tom Osborne might have been given the Coaches' Poll Title as a retirement gift, or that Phil Fulmer voted Michigan down out of retaliation for Woodson winning the Heisman over Manning? No way, such crazy talk.

On a lighter note, how is it that Keith Jackson is able to just perfectly capture as well as help define every moment he provides commentary on?

"Good byyeeee! HELLOOOOO Heisman!"
"Touchdown--No flags!"
"He's going for the cornerrrrr--he's got it! Vince. Young. Scores."

God bless you, Keith Jackson.


July 23rd, 2009 at 5:09 PM ^

I was going to make that exact point about Fulmer--voting Michigan fourth out of spite is a far bigger deal than anything Tennessee fans can complain about. They have every right to be disappointed that their player didn't win but Woodson was absolutely amazing--to think that he didn't win for his talent is ridiculous.

Other Andrew

July 23rd, 2009 at 1:14 PM ^

Brian, you summed it up well. Manning deserved a lot of praise for his entire career, including 1997. He just had the misfortune of lining up against Woodson on the ballot. By any just definition of the Heisman, Woodson is the obvious winner. The only ones that would apply to Manning instead: Senior, QB/RB/WR.

I had a friend who was not much of a football fan who told me the day he won the award, "Woodson only won because of one play." He was of course referring to the punt return against OSU. But anyone who watched the whole season realized his impact - that he was the anchor on one of the most dominant defenses we've seen, and he was able to be that anchor from the cornerback(!) position. He made mutiple highlight reel plays in every big game, including the greatest interception any of us will ever see. By all measures, he was the most outstanding player of the year. But I wonder about my friend's comment, and if in The South, they hold the same ignorant view of the situation. One superb punt return does not a Heisman make. We all know that said punt return is the candle atop the icing (all those other spectacular plays) on the cake (anchoring a historic defense) that was his season. But our southern counterparts are missing the substance.

I think the main idea is that a comparison is not necessary. It's an education of exactly what Woodson pulled off to the naysayers. Or there's also fuck it, Dude, let's go bowling.

This is a job for Wolverine Historian, no?


July 23rd, 2009 at 1:25 PM ^

was all over the Manning/Woodson debate yesterday. I almost never listen, and dislike his show intensely, but he made a lot of the same points Brian did, and in a fashion that really made sense.


July 23rd, 2009 at 2:46 PM ^

It really is rare when you can agree with Jim Rome.

My friend has a great Jim Rome impression:

"Jim: Lets take a look at an email from a viewer of the show.
Dear Jim,
Love the show. Keep up the good work.
Jim Rome
Great Email!"