by Pat Dooley
A belated Back Nine — hey, I’ve got shopping to do, too — comes right at you with Heisman thoughts, the new Big Ten and the stretch run in the NFL (Tiger Woods-endorsed products no longer available).
1. The Back Nine has no trouble with Mark Ingram winning the Heisman Trophy, even though I never felt he had a Heisman season. His rushing total was the lowest of a Heisman running back in 34 years and I’m not sure he was the best running back in the league, let alone the best player in the country. But in a year where nobody stood head and shoulders above the field, he’s as good a choice as anyone. It goes to show that timing is everything (see: Darren McFadden) but we again see the warts of the Heisman process. I’ve been leading the parade for years that the voting needs to be cut down drastically (926 voters is too many). I also understand why it will not be. If you have 870 media members (plus the former winners) voting in the popularity contest, then you will have 870 media members talking about their Heisman ballots for a month. Forget that some of them sent in their ballots before Thanksgiving (those voting privileges should be stripped immediately), there are just too many voters who are either uneducated, uninformed or have agendas. If I were the head of the Heisman committee, I would make all the voters take a standardized test. First question — Who is the Heisman named after? Seriously, they could easily cut the number of voters down to a couple of hundred people who follow college football for a living instead of allowing an obit writer in Spokane to keep his vote until he’s the story.
2. Which brings up another Heisman pet peeve. You hear those of us in the media screaming from the top of the building that the coaches must have transparency when it comes to their poll. We won that battle finally, but shouldn’t the Heisman votes also be made available to anyone who wants to see them? I want to know the 43 people who voted Tim Tebow No. 1 on their ballots. I want to know which 538 people left Ndamukong Suh off their ballots and which two voted Golden Tate first.
3. And am I alone in the feeling that if Tebow finished seventh in the voting there would have been seven finalists in New York? The Back Nine was happy to see Timmy get another trip to New York, but that was a shameful star-grab by ESPN to make sure the best-known player in college football was on the scene. That said, the best segment of the show was Tebow and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy chatting during lunch.
4. So the Big Ten is seriously talking about expansion? Let me warn you of a couple of things: 1. This does not mean the league will expand. Notre Dame is the perfect team to be included, but the Irish are not interested. For the Big Ten to expand it has to get a return on its investment, and there is an investment because all monies will be split 12 ways instead of 11. 2. Just because the Big Ten expands doesn’t mean the Pac-10 will soon follow and we’re headed for a playoff. It’s a baby step, nothing more. It does make sense for the Big Ten to expand if for no other reason than to have a championship game in Indianapolis. Not only is there added revenue but the league would stop being irrelevant after Thanksgiving. The big question is what to name the new league. My suggestion — The Big Lebowski. Reader Scott Pifer suggests The Big Ten-ish, which would allow the conference flexibility and might attract the Ir-ish. Knowing that conference, it will just continue to call itself the Big Ten. With 12 teams.
5. Tiger Woods is finding out what Urban Meyer discovered during this football season. Everybody knows what you should do better than you do. Although in Tiger’s case, his judgment is certainly under question. And because he changed his cell number can you imagine what it will be like for the next person who gets that old number? “Honey, why did you get a call from someone named Candy Champagne from the Waffle House at 2 a.m.?”
6. Another example of how recruiting has changed and players are committing earlier and earlier: We’re still 6 1/2 weeks away from National Signing Day and of the top 25 ranked schools by Rivals.com 22 of them have 18 or more commitments. One school lagging behind is Illinois and our old pal Ron Zook, who is undergoing massive changes to his coaching staff. The Illini have only eight commitments.
7. Those who speak of the NFL are in a frenzy over the Saints and Colts and whether they will finish unbeaten and whether they should try to finish unbeaten or rest their players for the playoffs. The truth is, the Back Nine couldn’t care less whether or not any team finishes unbeaten in the regular season. It has been done. And it guarantees nothing. This isn’t the BCS. There are playoffs in the NFL. My Super Bowl pick of Saints-Titans looks half right. But if the Titans get in nobody will want to play them. And what a story that will be, to go from 0-6 to the playoffs. I think the Ravens and Broncos will be the AFC wild card teams.
8. Someone told me a long time ago not to worry about RPI in December for college basketball. But I can’t help myself. And imagine my surprise to see the mighty Gators at No. 64. That big win over Michigan State? Sparty is 54th in RPI. Rutgers is 172nd. FSU is at No. 60. The Richmond game Saturday will help as the Spiders are No. 33. So will nine games against teams in the top 46 after Jan. 1. But the reality is that I shouldn’t pay any attention to RPI in December.
9. Some holiday cheer for you music lovers. The Back Nine recommends Weezer’s Christmas album, “Christmas All Over Again” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and if we’re going to go old school we might as well go all the way back — Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”