Commentary

Three months certainly seems like a long time ago

Originally Published: November 18, 2008
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (Vanderbilt [1] bowl tickets -- really! -- sold separately):

Now that the Commodores have climbed the bowl-eligible mountain by defeating Kentucky and moving to the dizzying heights of 6-4, it's time to consider just how long it's been since The V has played a postseason game. Last time it happened was 1982, when:

[+] EnlargePaulina Porizkova
Rose Hartman/WireImageWhat were you doing in 1982? Paulina Porizkova was the center of the Dashette world.
Bear Bryant (2) was not only still alive but still coaching Alabama.

Leonid Brezhnev was not only still alive but still leading the Soviet Union.

Barack Obama was a 21-year-old undergrad at Columbia.

Michael Jackson released "Thriller."

This new home accessory called the computer was Time Magazine's Man of the Year.

The dominant Dashette of the time was Paulina Porizkova (3).

So it's been a while. Put down the textbooks and live it up, Commodores -- after 17 consecutive losses when you had the chance to become bowl-eligible, the 18th try was the charm.

And for every overmatched, defeat-ridden program in America, take heart. If it can happen at Vandy and in the SEC, it can happen anywhere.

Then And Now

Yeah, it's been a long time since '82 -- but it's also been a long time since August. If you don't believe The Dash, take a look at how many things have changed in the past three months.

[+] EnlargeShonn Greene
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallShonn Greene is the only back in the nation to rush for triple digits in every game.
The Big Ten running back we thought we'd be talking about was Chris Wells (4) of Ohio State. The Big Ten running back we are talking about is Shonn Greene (5) of Iowa. What happened: Wells missed three games with a foot injury suffered in the opener against Youngstown State. Greene not only hasn't missed a game; he hasn't missed an opportunity to pile up yardage. The out-of-obscurity junior is the only back to run for at least 100 yards in every game, and he piled up 117 yards in the Hawkeyes' upset of Penn State. Wells could manage only 55 against the Nittany Lions.

The true freshman running back we thought we'd be talking about was Colorado's Darrell Scott (6). The true freshman running back we are talking about is Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers (7). What happened: Scott, the nation's No. 1 running back recruit, arrived in fall camp a bit overweight, was slowed slightly by injury and went until November before posting a run of longer than 22 yards. His season totals: 344 rushing yards, one touchdown. (Scott hasn't even been Colorado's best freshman back -- that would be leading rusher Rodney Stewart.) Meanwhile, the 5-foot-6 Rodgers burst onto the national scene by slipping under and darting around USC for 186 yards in a stunning upset. Rodgers has piled up 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns, plus another 244 receiving yards and a score -- and if the Beavers win out and earn the Pac-10 Rose Bowl bid, he'd have to be strongly considered for Pac-10 Player of the Year.

[+] EnlargeRolando McClain
Crystal LoGiudice/US PresswireAlabama is unbeaten thanks in large part to the play of people like Rolando McClain.
The players most likely to lead a team to an unbeaten season in the Southeastern Conference were glamour boys Tim Tebow (8) and Knowshon Moreno (9). The SEC leading men who have gone unbeaten so far are an offensive tackle, (Andre Smith [10]), and a linebacker, (Rolando McClain [11]). What happened: Tebow and the Florida Gators stumbled at home against Mississippi -- they've been making up for it ever since, but that loss stays on their permanent record. The Georgia Bulldogs have been a major disappointment -- not necessarily because of Moreno -- after losing twice decisively, and rarely winning with authority. So the stage has been stolen by the devastating blocking and sure tackling of Alabama, which is led less by skill-position talent than by its fantastic left tackle and inside linebacker (not to diminish the instant impact of stud freshman receiver Julio Jones). Against LSU, Alabama was more left-handed than Tayshaun Prince, pounding the ball relentlessly in that direction behind Smith's blocks. And McClain is both the heart and the brains of the No. 3 defense in the country.

The Atlantic Coast Conference (11) was supposed to be Clemson (12) and a bunch of schmoes. Instead, it's a bunch of schmoes and a sub-schmo Clemson train wreck. What happened: The Tigers have staggered to a coach-firing 5-5, leaving the league to an indistinguishable muddle of 7-3 and 6-4 teams -- one of which will stumble its way into a BCS bowl. Which should assure the ACC of a 10th BCS bowl loss in 11 tries. Only Miami currently is riding anything longer than a two-game winning streak.

The Big East was supposed to be a one-quarterback show -- all Pat White (13), all the time. Instead it belongs (for the moment) to a team that has played five QBs this season -- that would be Cincinnati (14), which somehow leads the conference in passing efficiency despite a revolving door at the most important position. What happened: White has had a spotty season at West Virginia and may not reach either his sophomore or junior totals for total offense. Meanwhile, the Bearcats are 8-2 and hunting their first BCS bowl berth, despite some rotten QB luck. They hoped their signal-caller would be Ben Mauk, but he lost an NCAA appeal for a sixth year of eligibility. Next up was Dustin Grutza, but he broke a leg in the second game of the season and just came back last week at Louisville. Then it was Tony Pike, taking over until he broke an arm in late September and missed the first two games of October. That cleared the way for Chazz Anderson to throw 75 passes in three games in the middle of the season. Since coming back, Pike has been briefly spelled by Zach Collaros in two games and Demetrius Jones (the Notre Dame transfer) in one. No wonder Brian Kelly is currently one of the hottest names in coaching circles.

[+] EnlargeNate Davis
Joey Foley/Icon SMINate Davis is the MAC's leader in pass efficiency.
The Mid-American Conference (15) was supposed to be glamorized by Central Michigan and Dan LeFevour. Instead it's Ball State and Nate Davis ranked in the Top 25 and currently unbeaten (at least until they play the Chippewas on Wednesday night in the biggest MAC game in years). What happened: Central Michigan hasn't done much wrong, losing only two nonconference games to Georgia and Purdue, while LeFevour has been slowed by injuries (he has accounted for 18 touchdowns, down from 46 last year and 33 as a freshman). But Ball State has done nothing wrong, rolling to 10-0 behind the passing of Davis (eighth nationally in efficiency) and the running of MiQuale Lewis (seventh nationally in yards per game).

The top Heisman Trophy contender in the Big 12 was supposed to be Chase Daniel (16) of Missouri. Instead, he's running fourth or fifth in his own league behind Colt McCoy of Texas, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and one or both members of the dynamic duo from Texas Tech (17). What happened: Daniel was in prime position until a three-interception stumble against Oklahoma State and a subsequent rout at Texas. That opened the door for everyone else, and now the Red Raiders are eyeing their first Heisman winner in either Pitch It (Graham Harrell) or Catch It (Michael Crabtree). But Daniel could get an opportunity to win the closing argument if Texas Tech winds up facing Missouri in the Big 12 championship game. The Tigers have throttled Tech the past three times they've met by an average margin of 26.3 points.

We thought this year's designated BCS buster from the Western Athletic Conference was going to be Fresno State (18). Turns out the WAC's designated BCS buster is old reliable Boise State (19). What happened: The Bulldogs maintained their buzz for all of a week by beating Rutgers, then lost steam with a close defeat versus Wisconsin. That's been followed by three league losses, while the Broncos have steamrolled to 10-0 -- and The Dash does mean steamrolled. Only Oregon has come within 13 points of Boise, and nobody has come closer than 17 points in two months. Even Boise's somewhat surprising run has come in surprising fashion -- it hasn't been on the legs of running back Ian Johnson so much as the arm of redshirt freshman Kellen Moore, who ranks fifth nationally in accuracy with a 71.24 percent completion rate.

The Mountain West Conference was supposed to be decided in the Holy War (20) game between Utah and BYU. And hey, what do you know -- at least one August anticipation has held firm. The Utes and Cougars meet Saturday in Salt Lake City with a ton of stuff on the line -- league championship, in-state bragging rights and a probable BCS berth for Utah. (More on the Holy War below.)

Dead Schembechlers Live!

Just when you thought the Dead Schembechlers (21) were, ahem, dead, a package arrives at Dash HQ from the rabidly pro-Ohio State punk group's semi-infamous frontman, Bo Biafra.

Sure enough, just in time for Michigan Week (22), the Schems have released a (mostly) new CD, "Rodriguez To Ruin." Among the new tunes that can be mentioned on a family Web site: "Rodriguez is a Weasel" and "You Lost to Appalachian State."

The Dash's Heisman List

1. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech. You can't do much in a bye week to lose the Heisman, especially since nobody else did enough to take it from him. Now comes one more huge November test, at Oklahoma. Pass it with flying colors and there may be no stopping Harrell.

2. Colt McCoy, Texas. He was solid in leading the Longhorns past Kansas on the road. For what might be the first time in his life, McCoy will be rooting for Oklahoma on Saturday -- to help his team's chances and to help his own Heisman candidacy.

3. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma. Yeah, Tim Tebow is coming on like a freight train, but what exactly has Bradford done to merit a demotion in the Heisman hierarchy? Nothing. So he stays at No. 3 and gets his own potential Heisman showdown moment Saturday against Harrell.

ESPN.com's Heisman Watch | Vote!

The former has reportedly become a big hit on radio stations in West Virginia. The latter is a tender, introspective ballad that screams:

"You lost! You lost! You lost!
To Appalachian State!
We know! We know!
Your program ain't that great!
You suck! You suck!
There's nothing to debate!"

Running time: 18 seconds.

Reached by phone at his secure location somewhere near Ohio Stadium, Biafra lamented not having updated the band's canon to include the latest great Wolverine embarrassment, the loss to Toledo (23) last month.

"A Toledo song is in the works," Biafra declared. "Our Ohio brothers will not be forgotten. That was like a gift from Woody himself, that Toledo game. I was thinking, 'Woody, Mary and Joseph! It's too good to be true!'"

Biafra was generally euphoric over the Wolverines' eight losses, the most in school history, and is taking credit for Michigan's current misery.

"Did you ever think the Michigan folks would be looking back saying, 'We miss the guy who lost to Appalachian State?'" Biafra crowed. "Good Lord!

"We have gotten inside Rich Rodriguez's head. It was the hiring of him that inspired the band to get back together. For Michigan to go so far down the evolutionary ladder to hire him, the Dead Schembechlers had to make a comeback.

"I'll just be glad if they show up for the game, because then I'll know they have not died of shame."

(Backstory: the Dead Schembechlers trespassed into Gridworld's consciousness two years ago for their comical anti-Michigan diatribes during the Buckeyes' undefeated regular season. They adroitly changed their name to the Bastard Sons of Woody when the real Schembechler died the day before the 2006 Ohio State-Michigan game, then reverted to the old name thereafter while pledging to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Bo Schembechler Heart of a Champion Fund. They have since maintained a lower profile than Troy Smith until rearing their sardonic heads this week.)

Michigan To Rod: Don't Pull A Kipke

Michigan vs. Ohio State

Year Coach Result
1897 Gustave Ferbert 34-0
1900 Biff Lea 0-0
1901 Fielding H. Yost 21-0
1924 George Little 16-6
1927 Tad Wieman 21-0
1929 Harry Kipke 0-7
1938 Fritz Crisler 18-0
1948 Bennie Oosterbahn 13-3
1959 Bump Elliott 23-14
1969 Bo Schembechler 24-12
1990 Gary Moeller 16-13
1995 Lloyd Carr 31-23
Arrayed opposite the venomous anti-Blue karma of the Dead Schembechlers is more than a century of history that says Michigan coaches beat the Buckeyes in their first opportunity.

In the illustrious history of Michigan football, 12 coaches have played against Ohio State. Their record in their first game in this rivalry: 10-1-1. Only Harry Kipke (24) failed to get it done, in 1929. The rundown:

(Note: attendance in 1902 when Yost's team put that fearful beating on the Buckeyes was listed as 6,000. By the time Yost was done, he had built Michigan football into a colossus. Attendance for George Little's first shot at Ohio State in '24 was 70,000.)

So no pressure Rod, but you'd be making one more bit of horrible history this season with a loss Saturday. A 3-9 record and the first debut loss to the Buckeyes in 79 years? Not ideal.

The Not-Great Eight

ESPN research monster Brett Edgerton passes along the following reason for Ohio State fans to root for Vanderbilt this week and/or Kentucky next week when they play Tennessee (25): With one more loss, the Volunteers will join Michigan at the eight-loss plateau for the first time ever.

And that would leave Ohio State as the only current FBS school to have never lost eight games in a season. The Volunteers will have to win back-to-back games for the first time since last November -- when they beat Vandy and Kentucky -- to avoid that fate.

The Rest Of The Rivalries

Many of the big rivalry games are next week, but not all. In addition to Michigan-Ohio State, The Dash takes a look at four other significant braggin' games Saturday:

[+] EnlargeMax Hall
Larry Clouse/Icon SMIOnce in the Heisman mix, Max Hall leads BYU into the Holy War versus Utah.
BYU at Utah (26). Definition of a great rivalry: They've split the past 12 meetings, and 10 of the past 11 have been decided by a touchdown or less. That is fantastic. Best advice for BYU quarterback Max Hall is to avoid throwing anywhere near safety Deshawn Richard (27). He returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a span of 70 seconds last Saturday against San Diego State -- the first one 89 yards and the second 38. Both were on tipped balls, which tells you Richard is living right.

When you examine this rivalry by wide angle, it's easy to see why they love LaVell Edwards (28) at BYU and named the stadium after him. Before Edwards became head coach in 1972, BYU was 5-38-4 against Utah. Under Edwards, the Cougars won 22 of 29 meetings.

Stanford at California (29). Speaking of coaches who have turned around rivalries, credit must be given to both Cal's Jeff Tedford and Stanford's Jim Harbaugh. The Golden Bears had lost seven straight renditions of The Big Game before Tedford arrived, and then promptly won five in a row. Harbaugh busted that streak last year with a 20-13 upset victory. If he makes it two in a row, the Cardinal is bowl-eligible for the first time since 2001 -- three coaches ago.

Iowa at Minnesota (30). Floyd of Rosedale is on the line. And there is nothing like a bronze pig statue to bring out the utmost competitive spirit in 18-to-22-year-old males.

Yale at Harvard (31). This is the 125th meeting, which is something very few rivalries can say. Harvard is 8-1 and trying to win the Ivy League. Yale is 6-3 and hoping to grab a share of the title, but needs help. Harvard has regained the White House but doesn't move in until 2009. For now, a Yalie still sits in the Oval Office. As for this game: close favors the Crimson. Harvard is 4-1 in games decided by four points or less. Yale is 1-3.

Coaching Want Ads

You're trying to hire the best coach imaginable at one of the six highest-profile openings. (For now. Wait a week and there could be a half-dozen more.) How do you sell your school? What do you say, and what do you avoid? The Dash supplies the answers:

Clemson Clemson (32). The pitch: We'll pay you SEC money ($2 million, no problem). You'll have SEC fan support (stadium capacity: 80,301). You'll have SEC facilities (you name it, we'll build it). And guess what? You're not in the SEC. No trying to beat Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Mark Richt and Les Miles on an annual basis. Just beat a bunch of basketball schools and the powers formerly known as Florida State and Miami and you're king. Heck, we even kept Tommy Bowden for 9½ years.

What they won't tell you: You still have to live in Clemson, S.C.

Tennessee. The pitch: We've got tradition dating back to General Neyland and money dating back to Jack Daniel. Nobody else in the SEC will put 110,000 fans in the stands and offer unchallenged statewide support. Our fans are so good, they've even embraced basketball -- women's and men's. And what better place to challenge yourself against the best than the SEC East?

What they won't tell you: You've got to go out-of-state to recruit most of your guys, and the old raiding spots of Alabama, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida are now controlled by guys named Saban, Davis, Richt and Meyer.

Washington Washington (33). Come skip stones on Puget Sound. Park your sailboat outside the stadium. Watch 72,500 fans fill the stands -- the best fan base on the West Coast, except when USC is trendy-wendy. Outside of the Trojans, who in this league is there to be afraid of on an annual basis? And if you don't think living in Seattle is better than Clemson, Knoxville, Manhattan, Kan., or Syracuse, you haven't been paying attention.

What they won't tell you: If you haven't seen us churn through three coaches in 10 years, you haven't been paying attention. They still expect to win a national title here every four years, with or without talent.

Syracuse (34). What's the easiest path to a BCS bid? Through a Big East that no longer includes Bobby Petrino or Rich Rodriguez in the coaching ranks. Syracuse has won big before and can win big again with the right guy getting the right recruits from back East and down South. And if you win, say, two Big East games a year, you'll look better than the last guy. Talk about walking in while expectations are down.

What they won't tell you: The Carrier Dome doesn't dazzle recruits anymore. Neither do the six-foot snow drifts.

Kansas State Kansas State (35). The Big 12 North is about as scary as an episode of "Barney." You don't need a defense to succeed. We've been known to condone scheduling nothing but chumps out of conference. And if you want to recruit nothing but jucos, we're cool with that, too.

What they won't tell you: We trap-doored the last guy after 2½ seasons. And the talent pool around Manhattan is shallower than Paris Hilton.

New Mexico (36). We've established a history of being competitive in the Mountain West. We'll let you recruit the juco ranks. We let the last guy stay 11 years despite a sub-.500 record, and we're sorry to see him go.

What they won't tell you: Former player, assistant coach and head coach Rocky Long walked away a year after going 9-4, and during the same season in which he won a league game 70-7. Makes The Dash wonder …

Putting Out An APB For …

… Former Florida State kicker Scott Bentley (37), who delivered Bobby Bowden's first national title with a field goal to beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Bentley was recruited to end the Seminoles' astounding run of non-clutch kickers, then failed to live up to the Sports Illustrated cover hype -- but he did make the biggest field goal in FSU history in January 1994 to win that championship. Anyone with information on Bentley's whereabouts, please apprise The Dash.

Meanwhile, The Dash is pleased to report that last week's APB subject and kicker of the same era, Boston College's David Gordon (38), is alive and well and living in close proximity to Dash spy and ESPN A-lister John Anderson (39) in Connecticut. Gordon kicked the field goal that beat Notre Dame in '93, thus giving Bentley the chance to kick the field goal that won the title for Florida State several weeks later.

Point After

The Dash was happily homebound this past weekend and experienced no college-town cuisine. Check back next week after a visit to Norman (40) for this Texas Tech-Oklahoma game that people are excited about, for some reason.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.