It’s Friday! That means 10 big stories in 10 little bites. We hit Chase Rome and Akoy Agau, Niles Paul and Joba Chamberlain, Lane Kiffin and Gary Pinkel, Billy Gillispie and Dabo Swinney. But first, Twitter poll results.
Last night, I asked Twitter followers a very simple question: What’s the best football game you’ve seen in the past 10 years? I expected responses all over the map, but it wasn’t even close. Here’s your top 5 vote-getters:
27: Texas-USC, Rose Bowl 2006
13: Boise State-Oklahoma, Fiesta Bowl 2007
10: Nebraska-Colorado 2008
7: Nebraska-Ohio State 2011
5: Texas-Nebraska 2009
And here’s five more submissions that, in my opinion, deserve honorable mention:
– Nebraska-Michigan 2005 (Great comeback, followed by the wildest play since Cal-Stanford)
– Steelers-Ravens, 2009 playoffs (The most physical game I’ve ever seen)
– Steelers-Cardinals, 2009 Super Bowl (Maybe the most entertaining Super Bowl ever)
– Colts-Buccaneers, MNF 2003 (Hard to beat a 21-point rally in the final 4 minutes)
– Texas Tech-Texas 2008 (What a finish)
When I thought of the question, my initial reaction was Boise State-Oklahoma. I’ve never had as much fun watching a game where I had no allegiance (except to the underdog, of course). The events at the end of that game will never be duplicated.
But readers are right about Texas-USC. It remains the greatest college football game of my lifetime (post-1981). The performances, the stakes, the setting. Sport doesn’t get any better.
>> Chase Rome is back? I don’t think anyone saw that coming. Rome’s an emotional kid, always has been. But I didn’t expect Bo Pelini to welcome him back during the middle of the season. The good news is Nebraska keeps a talented player in a position of need. The bad news is Rome’s commitment will be in question for a while. In moments of adversity, you don’t want players wondering about each other’s commitment.
>> Has Joba Chamberlain got his groove back? I’m hesitant to board the Joba Train because he’s struggled so much the past few years — Yankee Stadium fans booed him in August. But since Sept. 6, Joba has made six straight scoreless appearances. He’s regaining confidence just in time for the playoffs.
>> Gary Pinkel does not like SEC shock jocks questioning James Franklin’s toughness. Radio host Paul Finebaum mocked the Missouri quarterback’s decision to refuse a painkiller and sit out the Arizona State game.
“I don’t know James Franklin, but with all due respect to him, he better man up, or he’s going to get laughed out of the SEC,” Finebaum said.
Pinkel didn’t like it one bit, saying “Well, look how he played last year. He’s one of the toughest players I’ve ever been around in my life. And no one has ever questioned his toughness. So, that dude must have been in a coma. I don’t even know who you’re talking about. I don’t know who he is. So, it doesn’t matter to me.”
For the record, Pinkel most certainly does know who Finebaum is. He’s even been a guest on his show.
>> Akoy Agau has a chance to play for a Hall of Fame coach. He has a chance to play in Final Fours. If I were him, I’d probably leave, too. But there’s something I hope he understands.
Nobody at Louisville is going to care about his high school accomplishments. They will treat him like just another four-star recruit. He will have to compete harder than he’s ever competed just to see the floor. And he will have to deal with Pitino recruiting more blue-chips in 2014 and ’15 who will fight for his job.
That’s the deal at schools like Louisville. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, something that never would’ve been an issue at Nebraska or Creighton. I will cheer Akoy from afar — I sincerely like the kid — but I hope he’s ready.
>> Niles Paul loves his Capri Sun — as long as it’s untainted! Seriously, this story is blowing up on the Washington Post web site.
>> Is Duke basketball going to get away with cheating again? Gregg Doyel explores.
>> World-Herald Hall 0f Famer Mitch Sherman, now at ESPN, examines the mental and physical toll football coaches like Bo Pelini face these days — and how recruiting is a big part of it.
>> Tommy Tomlinson on the people who miss Devon Walker, the injured Tulane player.
>> The SEC and Pac-12 might have the best chance of winning a national championship this year. But for my money, the Big 12 is the most interesting conference race. It’s the best combination of quality and unpredictability.
The first big league game is this weekend, Kansas State at Oklahoma. The Sooners are the safe pick to win the Big 12. But K-State is full of experience and has the league’s best player in Collin Klein. Texas looks strong again. Oklahoma State is the defending champ. And who knows where West Virginia and TCU fit into the mix? What do you think?
>> The NFL places helmet choices in the players’ hands. Is that a good idea?
>> Fighting with reporters over injury reports? Bill Plaschke says it’s time for Lane Kiffin to stop sweating the small stuff.
>> I’m one of the unfortunate Dish Network subscribers affected by the company’s squabble with the Big Ten Network. It will really hit Nebraska fans this Saturday when the Huskers play their first BTN game. Get it figured out, Dish. Or you will be getting lots and lots of angry phone calls this fall from the (402).
>> You know who I want to see against Idaho State? Young guys. Walk-ons. Lots of ‘em. This is the worst opponent Nebraska has faced in years. I hope Bo Pelini sits the starters at halftime. There’s 145 guys on the roster. Give them all a chance to make a highlight.
>> Finally, I wrote a column in today’s World-Herald about Joe Ganz. But I can’t get everything in one column. So here’s a few tasty leftovers from our interview.
On his buddy, Zac Taylor, coaching quarterbacks for the Miami Dolphins:
“My Dolphins gear should be here very soon. I was like, ‘Dude, you gotta get me some Dolphins gear so I have a team to root for when the Bears are done playing.’ He just called me two weeks ago. We were talking, I was giving him a hard time for ‘Hard Knocks’ and stuff. I was just saying how big of a tool he looked like on TV. He’s like, ‘You don’t understand how hard it is to have that camera on you.’”
Taylor, of course, got the quarterbacks gig partly because his father-in-law is Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.
“I was like, ‘Hey, Bo, do you have a daughter that’s like 25?”
On Taylor Martinez’s throwing motion changes:
“You’re not gonna have great mechanics every play. There’s gonna be breakdowns in protection, you’re gonna have to change your arm angle, your feet aren’t gonna be perfect. … But we care about when the pocket is clean and you’ve got time, are you getting your depth, standing tall and delivering the ball with a good arm angle? That’s what we’re most concerned with, the 80 percent of the time when you have a clean pocket. … The other 20 percent, he’s a great athlete. Go out and make a play.”
On the biggest difference between the program now versus when he was playing in 2008:
“I think Bo is kinda settling into a groove of how he wants a program to run. It starts there. Obviously, he’s become more experienced. And I think he has a better grasp of what the team needs, the personality of the team. When I was here, it was his first year, he was like, OK, we have to get our defense in, we have to do this, do that. … Now he’s more of a head coach as opposed to, OK, I have to get my defense in. … And our guys are as close a group a guys as I can remember.”
On the joys and pains of coaching:
“It’s the best job in the world when you play well and win. It’s the worst job in the world when you play bad and lose.”
>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.