Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football ("Kick Six" T-shirts sold separately in Auburn):
THE MALE MCKAYLA MARONEY
If you read The Dash's Saturday column on the extraordinary events in the Iron Bowl, you probably looked at the picture at the top of the story. And if you looked closely at the picture, you probably smiled at the reaction of the guy in orange, Auburn recruiting operations chief Brett Whiteside, hands on head and mouth agape. And then you probably wondered what was up with the unnaturally unmoved guy in gray as the most amazing play in college football history unfolded right in front of him.
Dana Marquez (1), Auburn's equipment manager and the stoic in gray, can explain.
"I broke my foot at Texas A&M celebrating," he said. "So this time I wasn't going to do that."
That was Oct. 19, when Marquez reacted to a game-clinching sack of Johnny Manziel by defensive end Dee Ford. It was a very big play in the Tigers' drama-laden, 11-1 season. But it had painful consequences for a guy who has to do a lot of moving around on gameday. Marquez was in a walking boot until a week ago.
So this time, the eighth-year equipment manager folded his arms over his chest – unwittingly copying American gymnast McKayla Maroney's famous "Not Impressed" pose from the 2012 Olympics – and squeezed them together as instant hero Chris Davis (2) sped past him. It was an almost Vulcan display of emotion control, causing The Dash to wonder what other historic moments Marquez could have taken in and said, "Meh."
Feb. 22, 1980: Underdog U.S. team shocks mighty Soviet Union in Olympic hockey to win a game remembered as the "Miracle on Ice." Marquez: "Just a semifinal. Who's going to collect all the sticks and gloves they're throwing around the ice?"
July 20, 1969: Man walks on moon. Marquez: "Bunch of rocks and dust. Nothing to see here."
Aug. 14, 1945: Japan surrenders to end World War II, and sailors are kissing dames in Times Square. Marquez: "Enough of the PDA. Back to work, everyone."
But in addition to adhering to his internal call for calm, Marquez also adhered to the eternal call of duty. When every game is over – no matter how dramatic – the equipment team gets very busy. That is especially true in a field-storming situation, when equipment can be pilfered amid the mayhem.
"We had to get all our helmets," Marquez said. "We had to get our headsets. We still had a job to do."
The last play of the game was not Marquez's only unexpected star turn Saturday. He also caught the eye of TV viewers by operating a sewing machine on the Jordan-Hare Stadium sidelines, repairing the torn jersey of linebacker LaDarius Owens during the game. (Marquez noted, with satisfaction, that Owens threw one of the key blocks for Davis on his 109-yard field goal return.)
The sight of an old-school sewing machine in use during a football game became quite the viral talking point, to the extent that the contraption quickly ended up with a Twitter account (@ausewingmachine). Marquez said the team travels to every game with its domestic implement, and that he's used it in about three games this year.
"It's good to have it here," he said. "I sew pretty much every game, usually by hand."
Because of the double-sided tape used to stick jerseys to shoulder pads (making it harder to be held or tackled), sewing becomes a more efficient option than switching to a backup jersey.
Auburn has one other interesting sideline apparatus: its own Port-A-Potty.
"I haven't seen anyone else with that," Marquez said, somewhat proudly.
Solid idea. It's a long way to the locker room, and no managers want to deal with the towels some players use when they have to go on the sideline. But The Dash wouldn't want to be in charge of transporting it to road games.
HEISMAN TROPHY: DELAY THE VOTE
Heisman ballots are due by 5 p.m. ET next Monday, with the winner to be announced Dec. 14. If we are holding to the timeline established by Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs for a decision on whether to charge Jameis Winston (3) with a crime, that voting deadline is too early.
Meggs said last Wednesday his office would need at least two more weeks to make a call on the case involving the star Florida State quarterback, who has been accused of rape. If that timeline holds, Heisman voters (and The Dash is one) will be in a very difficult position.
Cast a ballot for Winston on Monday and he could be charged with a felony on Wednesday.
Cast a ballot without Winston on Monday and he could be cleared on Wednesday.
Neither of those are palatable alternatives. If the award is handed to a guy who had to post bail and convince the court he is not a flight risk so he could attend the ceremony, Sporting America will flip. But if the award is presented to a clearly inferior player while Winston goes uncharged, that's no good either.
So The Dash is humbly requesting that the Heisman Trust extend its deadline as far as possible while still being able to present the award on Saturday, Dec. 14. All balloting is electronic now, so there is nothing to wait for in the mail. And if we can count an entire nation's presidential votes in a day, we should be able to count the Heisman votes in a compressed time frame as well.
There is no guarantee that the State Attorney's office will be able to make a decision next week, which is understandable – they've got more important things to do that worry about the Heisman. And if their investigation does drag past Saturday, it would defeat the purpose of a voting extension.
But it's worth trying to wait this thing out as long as possible. Because the potential complications presented by voting without all the information on Winston are significant.
In a football vacuum, he would win the award in a landslide. As seemingly every other prime contender has faltered down the stretch, Winston has continued to play well on an undefeated (and even unchallenged) team. He is the clear choice.
But no award in sports comes with more non-sports baggage – for good and for bad. We tend to put our Heisman winners on a pedestal, which is unwise and sometimes unfair but also a bow to the many past winners who were exemplary men beyond football. We expect them to be not just good football players but good people, and their schools often market them exactly that way.
So character plays a role. And while a criminal charge is far different from a criminal conviction, simply being charged would probably be a deal-breaker for Winston with many voters – especially if the charge is rape. Absent a charge, however, most seem willing to keep him on the three-man ballot.
It's quite the conundrum, with multiple bad outcomes possible.
BCS poll voters must deal with the same thing in regard to Florida State as a whole. Presuming a victory over Duke in the ACC championship game, ballots will be cast late Saturday night or early Sunday for a Winston-led Seminoles team. But take him off the team via suspension between Dec. 8 and Jan. 6, and the BCS championship game could turn into a gigantic fraud.
So we should all hope for a decision from Meggs this week. But if that doesn't happen, it would be prudent of the Heisman Trust to push back its voting deadline as far as possible.
HEISMAN CANDIDATES AFTER WINSTON
It's not an illustrious list. But here are a few names:
The mid-major underdog: Jordan Lynch (4), Northern Illinois. Prolific, play-making, record-breaking dual-threat quarterback for a Huskies team that is 12-0 this year and 24-2 over the past two years. Downside: Lynch has piled up his numbers against Mid-American Conference competition. He was bottled up by Florida State last year in the Orange Bowl and was an ineffective runner (but solid passer) in games this year against Big Ten opponents Iowa and Purdue.
The forgotten man: Teddy Bridgewater (5), Louisville. When the Cardinals lost to Central Florida 38-35, Bridgewater was written off by the nation at large. But his overall body of work is pretty sharp: 25 touchdown passes, three interceptions, a completion percentage in excess of 70 percent on a 10-1 team. Downside: Louisville has played nobody other than the Knights, and Bridgewater's passing totals have been good but not great in a conservative offense against pedestrian competition – he's thrown two touchdown passes and one interception in three November games.
The winner who lost: AJ McCarron (6), Alabama. His 99-yard touchdown bomb to Amari Cooper on Saturday night in the Iron Bowl looked like the Play of the Year in college football. It turned out to be the third-biggest play of the quarter, as Auburn came back to steal the game. McCarron has had a third straight very good season for the most successful program in America. Downside: Not supported by individual stats, the McCarron candidacy relied heavily on wins. And Alabama just lost its biggest game of the year.
The one-week wonder: Andre Williams (7), Boston College. Last week, he was all the rage as voters started casting around for overlooked candidates to fill the void as front-runners stumbled. They fixated on Williams, who leads the nation in rushing and helped lift the Eagles from 2-10 last year to 7-5. Downside: With the nation finally paying attention, Williams ran for just 29 yards on nine carries before being injured in BC's 34-31 loss to Syracuse.
The late-arriving winners: Braxton Miller (8) and Carlos Hyde (9) of Ohio State and Nick Marshall (10) of Auburn. They have starred on excellent teams that keep rising up the rankings while others fall. Downside: Miller missed nearly three full games due to injury; Hyde missed three games due to disciplinary suspension; and Marshall's overall numbers (1,627 passing yards, 922 rushing yards) don't support his candidacy.
The fading former leading man: Johnny Manziel (11), Texas A&M. Won it last year and appeared well on his way to winning it again this year, then hit the wall. Still, his overall production is prodigious: more than 4,400 total yards and 41 touchdowns. Downside: The Aggies lost their last two games, to LSU and Missouri, and Manziel turned in his two worst performances of the season.
LEGENDS, LEADERS, LUNATICS AND A LACK OF FORTITUDE
It was a chippy and at times downright disgraceful final Saturday of football in the Big Ten. The kickoff brawl between Ohio State (12) and Michigan (13) sullied a splendid, dramatic renewal of a great rivalry. And on Friday against Iowa, there was the in-game and post-game idiocy from Nebraska coach Bo Pelini (14), who in the face of adversity continues to show the composure of a rabid squirrel.
Then the administrators stepped in to minimize, enable and brush it all way.
Start with Nebraska. Pelini drew a personal foul for swinging his hat within inches of the face of an official, in the midst of yet another sideline meltdown. After the three-touchdown loss, he labeled the call "chickens---," only without the dashes, during a press conference that was broadcast live. And he went on from there, pugnaciously declaring that, "If they want to fire me, go ahead. I believe in what I have done and I don't apologize for anything I have done. It's incredible what we've gone through."
Cue the violins. Find the B-roll of Bo pushing a boulder up a hill, only to see it roll back down again every time. Has anyone ever had to endure hardship comparable to Bo the Persecuted? On a lousy $2.9 million a year?
Apparently this tugged the heartstrings of Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst, who issued a statement of support for his embattled coach at the very time an AD with a spine would have been finalizing a termination agreement. The last Big Ten coach who behaved so classlessly with the refs and the media was Bob Knight – he at least won championships. Pelini? Not so much.
Pelini also issued (another) apology for (another) series of intemperate comments and actions. And Cornhuskers football continues unimpeded on its course to long-term mediocrity – minus any civility.
On Monday, Pelini drew a reprimand and $10,000 fine from the Big Ten. It was a courageous display from the league office, compared to its complete rollover in response to the Ohio State-Michigan brawl.
Oh, there were more reprimands there: to Buckeyes starting offensive guard Marcus Hall (15) for throwing a punch and the OSU coaching staff for failing to get Hall out of the stadium before he went full-on wrestling heel. But in a decision that harkens back to the efforts of commissioner Jim Delany (16) to lobby for Terrelle Pryor & Co. to play for Ohio State in the 2011 Sugar Bowl after violating NCAA rules, Hall was not suspended.
Why? Because the Buckeyes are in position to play for the national title, but first must beat Michigan State and its No. 1 defense Saturday in the Big Ten championship game. And gentleman Jim wouldn't want Ohio State at less than full strength for that game.
So Hall will play, despite coming off the bench to punch a Michigan player, slamming his helmet to the turf, kicking a bench and then firing twin-barreled obscene gestures at the Michigan Stadium stands on his way out. For a league that ranks among the national leaders (if not legends) in pious rhetoric about class and character, here was the unapologetic opposite in action.
And the Big Ten's response, after Urban Meyer went Pontius Pilate, washed his hands and left it up to the league? Suit up, son. There are BCS checks to collect, and a reputation to salvage. A football reputation, that is.
In desperate pursuit of that, the Big Ten's standards for acceptable behavior are clearly negotiable.
‘Tis the time for season-ending awards, courtesy of a select expert blue-ribbon panel consisting of The Dash and the figurines in the family nativity scene:
American Athletic Conference
Player of the Year: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville. See above comments in Heisman section. He’s moved up to third nationally in pass efficiency, and it’s not his fault the Cardinals defense collapsed against the Golden Knights. Nor is it his fault he hasn’t thrown the ball 40 times in a game once all season. (Which might actually have been a favor done to him by offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, given the average-at-best nature of Louisville’s offensive line – it kept the slight Bridgewater from taking too many hits).
Coach of the Year: George O’Leary (17), Central Florida. Teflon George has survived a bogus resume, a successful wrongful death suit on his watch, and NCAA sanctions to remain employed. The reason why? He’s a heck of a coach. This 10-1 season reinforces that.
Bust of the Year: South Florida (18). Nobody expected the first year of the Willie Taggart era to be dazzling, given the slide the program endured under Skip Holtz. But folks probably expected more than a 2-9 record and 11 offensive touchdowns in 11 games.
Inexplicable Result of the Year: South Florida 26, Cincinnati 20. And it was 26-6 heading into the fourth quarter. The Bearcats somehow overcame the humiliation to go 9-2 with a game pending against Louisville on Saturday.
Atlantic Coast Conference
Player of the Year: Jameis Winston. See above. Not just the POY in the conference, but in the nation – unless he’s sent to jail, of course.
Coach of the Year: David Cutcliffe (19), Duke. Also not just a conference winner, but a national winner in the eyes of The Dash. There is no reasonable expectation of a 10-win season at Duke – because there’s never been one in the program’s previous 125 years of existence. But there is one now, thanks to the steadfast leadership of Cutcliffe. Give him all the awards he can hold, and then avert your eyes as Florida State crushes the Blue Devils in the ACC championship game.
Bust of the Year: North Carolina State (20). A rebuilding year under new coach Dave Doeren, sure. But it’s also become a bottom-out year. The Wolfpack went winless in the ACC for the first time since 1959. Gruesome.
Inexplicable Result of the Year: Wake Forest 34, Maryland 10. In a 4-8 season that ended in coach Jim Grobe’s resignation Monday, the Demon Decons crushed the bowl-bound Terrapins.
Player of the Year: Bryce Petty (21), Baylor. Efficiency rating has declined appreciably as the competition improved, but still hard to argue with a body of work that includes 39 total touchdowns (11 rushing), just two interceptions and a 10-1 record.
Coach of the Year: Art Briles (22), Baylor. Prior to this season, the Bears had as many 10-win seasons as 10-loss seasons (two each). The Bears will shoot for a school-record 11th victory Saturday at home against Texas.
Bust of the Year: TCU. The Horned Frogs finished 4-8, their most losses in a season since 1992. They’re 6-12 in two seasons of Big 12 play, indicating that the step up from dominating the Mountain West was more like a quantum leap.
Inexplicable Result of the Year: West Virginia 30, Oklahoma State 21. The Cowboys’ only loss of the year came in September against a Mountaineers team that would finish 4-8.
Player of the Year: Braxton Miller, Ohio State. See above. If he hadn’t gotten hurt, he would be right behind Winston in the Heisman race.
Coach of the Year: Urban Meyer (23), Ohio State. No other candidates need apply. He's exercised complete control of the league since the moment he joined it.
Bust of the Year: Northwestern (24). Injuries have taken their toll, but so have a litany of game-losing plays at critical junctures in close contests. That’s how a preseason Top 25 team ends up 5-7, with zero victories over FBS opponents who finished the year with winning records.
Inexplicable Result of the Year: Penn State 31, Wisconsin 24. A Nittany Lions team that was winless and darned near hopeless on the road this year went into Madison and handled a team striving for a BCS bowl berth.
Player of the Year: Rakeem Cato (25), Marshall. He’s chucked it more than 1,300 times in three seasons, for more than 9,500 yards. Now his team finally has the victories to back up his prolific passing numbers, with the Thundering Herd going 9-3 and preparing to play Rice in the C-USA title game Saturday.
Coach of the Year: David Bailiff (26), Rice. He's taken the Owls to their first undisputed C-USA division title and first berth in the league title game. If 9-3 Rice wins Saturday and wins its bowl game, it will be the first 11-victory season in school history.
Bust of the Year: Tulsa. After a decade of success, the Golden Hurricane unexpectedly plummeted to 3-9 this year – even as C-USA became an easier league via realignment.
Inexplicable Result of the Year: Florida Atlantic 34, Tulane 17. The Owls were 2-6 at the time, then used this upset as a springboard to a 4-0 finish after the firing of coach Carl Pelini. (Yeah, bad year for the Pelini boys.)
Player of the Year: Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois. See above. Will go down as one of the greatest MAC players ever.
Coach of the Year: Rod Carey (27), Northern Illinois. Took over as interim coach for the Orange Bowl last year after Doeren left for N.C. State, and that loss to Florida State is the only one he’s suffered as a head coach. The hard part will be next year, in the post-Lynch Era.
Bust of the Year: Miami (Ohio) (28). There hasn’t been a lot of success after Ben Roethlisberger, but a proud program crash-landed at rock bottom this year. This was just the fourth winless season in school history, and that includes a 0-0-1 inaugural year in 1888.
Inexplicable Result of the Year: Central Michigan 26, Ohio 23. Four of the Chippewas’ five league victories came against teams with a combined record of 3-44. The fifth was against the 7-5 Bobcats, on the road, on a touchdown pass with 31 seconds remaining.
Mountain West Conference
Player of the Year: Davante Adams (29), Fresno State. Yes, his quarterback (Derek Carr) is sensational as well. But a whopping 22 of Carr’s 45 passing touchdowns have gone to one man: Adams, who leads the nation in that category and also in receptions per game.
Coach of the Year: Tim DeRuyter (30), Fresno State. Took an undefeated record and BCS hopes into the 12th game of the season. And although the Bulldogs couldn’t finish the perfect regular season at San Jose State, they’re the division champs and advancing to the MWC title game in DeRuyter’s second year on the job.
Bust of the Year: Air Force. Admirably consistent program has fallen apart, going winless in the league and losing 10 games for the first time in school history.
Inexplicable Result of the Year: San Jose State 62, Fresno State 52. A .500 Spartans team that lost to 4-8 Nevada by 22 points took down the undefeated Bulldogs with relative ease.
Player of the Year: Ka’Deem Carey (31), Arizona. You want consistent? He was Mr. Consistent. Carey ran more 119 or more yards every game, despite having defenses keying on him due to an inconsistent passing game.
Coach of the Year: Todd Graham, Arizona State. Fewest conference losses (one) since 1996. Beat USC and UCLA in the same season for the first time since 1999. But what if Texas fires Mack Brown and Todd gets the wandering eye one more time?
Bust of the Year: California (32). Another presumed rebuilding year under a new coach that turned out far worse than anyone thought. The Golden Bears were winless against FBS competition, and rarely competitive.
Inexplicable Result of the Year: Arizona 42, Oregon 16. The Wildcats lost three of their last four games. The lone victory in that stretch was a blowout of a one-loss team in position to win the Pac-12 North. (Honorable mention to Utah narrowly beating Stanford.)
Player of the Year: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. See above. Tempted to go with the guy he threw it to the most, receiver Mike Evans, but Manziel is the catalyst for everything the Aggies do.
Coach of the Year: TBD. Winner of the Gus Malzahn-Gary Pinkel (33) showdown in the SEC championship game can have the award.
Bust of the Year: Arkansas (34). Another first-year coach who took a struggling program even lower. It figures to get better under Bret Bielema, but other than a spirited effort against heavily favored rival LSU last week, there wasn’t much hope to be found.
Inexplicable Result of the Year: Tennessee 23, South Carolina 21. Why are the 10-2 Gamecocks watching Missouri play in the SEC championship game and stay in the national title discussion instead of them? Because of this classic Chicken Curse flop in Knoxville against the 5-7 Volunteers.
Player of the Year: Antonio Andrews (35), Western Kentucky. First by a wide margin nationally in all-purpose yardage at 218.25 yards per game, and that total is not padded by an extraordinary amount of kickoff return yardage. A versatile stud who will have a shot at an NFL future.
Coach of the Year: Mark Hudspeth (36), Louisiana-Lafayette. Figured to have the best team in the league coming in, and that’s held true despite an upset loss to in-state rival Louisana-Monroe last week. In the helter-skelter Sun Belt, living up to preseason billing is easier said than done – but Hudspeth’s team has done it.
Bust of the Year: Louisiana-Monroe. Despite returning a lot of experienced talent from the school’s first-ever bowl team, the Warhawks have dipped from 8-5 to 6-6.
Inexplicable Result of the Year: The aforementioned Louisiana-Monroe 31, Louisiana-Lafayette 28. In Lafayette, no less. The Ragin’ Cajuns were a minus-three in the turnover department, the surest path to an upset loss.
And the Dashette of the Year: Naya Rivera (37). She makes The Dash downright gleeful.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Matt Wells (38), Utah State. Taking over for departed Gary Andersen wasn’t easy. Losing star quarterback Chuckie Keeton midway through the season to injury was harder. Yet Wells’ team reeled off five straight victories to end the regular season, win its division in the Mountain West and now will face Fresno State for the conference title.
COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK
Gary Patterson (39), TCU. Continued his sore-loser rants against in-state opponents Saturday by ripping Baylor after a 41-38 loss to the Bears. Patterson complained about safety Ahmad Dixon, who was ejected for a targeting hit, and extrapolated from there to take shots at the Baylor coaching staff. “If that's what class is, then I don't want to be it," Patterson said.
It was reminiscent of Patterson’s far-ranging slam of SMU two years ago, after losing the Mustangs. The Dash’s suggestion: hush up and win more games.
When in need of a recovery beer after the shock of an epic Iron Bowl in Columbus, Ga., across the Chattahoochee River and down the road from Auburn, The Dash recommends a visit to Scruffy Murphy’s (40), a solid downtown Irish pub. Order a New Belgium Ranger IPA while reliving Chris Davis’ 109-yard run and thank The Dash later.