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 2:30 PM ^

In the past few months, I have had to spend a considerable amount of time in the Tri-Cities area of NE Tennessee, most recently last week. Last Monday I was watching TV in my hotel room and flipping around when I saw some local sports show talking about the upcoming Vol season. They went on to discuss Eric Berry and his potential for winning the Heisman this year. It was at this time that one of the guys on the panel says "wouldn't it be great if he won this year by beating out Michigan's QB...too bad they don't have one". It really caught me off guard, as I couldn't figure out the beef until the next night when I was having a beer at a local watering hole, and I got into a discussion with a Vol fan and he explained the whole theory of Manning being "Robbed".

All that having been said, I still don't mind the Vols as much as some other SEC programs...they just need to get over a trophy given out 12 years ago.


July 23rd, 2009 at 4:10 PM ^

I believe the reason they won't let this die and it comes up every year is due to SEC Media Day(s). I live in Atlanta and the 2 sports talk radio stations down here are doing live remotes from "Radio Row" at this event. If I am not mistaken, they have a program where the former SEC Heisman winners get together and talk about old times. Invariably, this is when the whole Manning/Woodson debate comes to the forefront, usually by a Nashville or Knoxville writer trying to still the pot.

Hope this helps...

Ben Ness

July 23rd, 2009 at 3:15 PM ^

At halftime of the ND game in 06 I walked around the corner to People records in the D and copped Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on wax. I took it back to crib and rocked side A over and over again while watching us blow the irish out the frame and jumping on my bed. I know it sounds pussy but GYBR has become one of my go to get hype records on game days.


July 23rd, 2009 at 5:30 PM ^

I know it's been said a few other times in this comment section but I think it bears repeating, I've made SmartFootball a part of my daily football readings. And a big reason I did that is because it was linked by Brian so often that I went over there and had my mind blown by the complexity of... everything. I always knew football was quite complex, but after reading that stuff you really begin to get a feel for how interconnected everything is.

I can tell you this much, after reading so much SmartFootball this offseason, I'm going to at least try and do less couch coaching than I did last season. Hopefully I'll have less reasons to gripe but either way, I'll try to yell about the play calling less.


July 24th, 2009 at 10:37 AM ^

Tennessee fans just need to get over the Woodson/Manning thing. Anybody that actaully watched any games that year realized that Woodson was the best player in college football. That is who the award is for, not the guy who recieves the most media attention in the pre-season.


July 24th, 2009 at 11:36 AM ^

Of course, they actually give out the award for "best performance by a QB or RB for a top-5 team" 95% of the time, which gives more fuel to those conspiracy theories since this was one of the rare exceptions where the voters actually recognized excellence by a different player. (Not saying Woodson shouldn't have won, though - I didn't follow college football closely enough then to have an opinion about it. Just saying the conspiracy nuts have one very wobbly leg to stand on, instead of the usual none.)