We're currently bumping our way through that weird netherworld between college football's regular season and the beginning of bowl season this weekend. As a result the Monday To Do List is particularly scattered this afternoon, not to mention a little smothered and a tad chunked. In no particular order our agenda goes like this:
Salute both the Black Knights of the Hudson and the Midshipmen. Army and Navy played a classic on Saturday in Philadelphia, which ended in heart-breaking fashion for the contingent from West Point. That makes 11 straight for the guys from Annapolis, which is a truly impressive streak transcending coaches on both sides of the field. It's often said that in this game no matter what the score everyone on the field is a winner. I would go so far as to say that everyone who watches comes out on top as well. Because big time college football can be a little wearying from time to time. At the end of the season it's always nice to see the sport played and cheered with enthusiasm by two sides who understand that sport is both incredibly important and microscopically trivial at the same time.
Welcome back Willie. Apparently Willie Martinez and John Jancek are both strongly rumored to be joining Butch Jones' staff at Tennessee. When Martinez was ousted as Georgia's defensive coordinator I like a lot of Bulldog fans offered that Martinez "is a perfectly good defensive backs coach, he just wasn't cut out to be a coordinator." Then I watched him coach the secondaries at Oklahoma and Auburn and realized that no, Willie Martinez is not in fact a very good defensive backs coach. I can only surmise that others in the coaching profession like him, that he interviews well, and that he has a good grasp of x's and o's while sitting in a meeting room. But I've had the experience of watching his charges get burned like they were wearing kerosene-soaked underwear for a solid 4 years now. That's what matters, and it's why I'm now just a little less worried about the dawning of the Butch Jones era at Tennessee.
Start my Christmas shopping. I am a December Christmas shopper. The reason for that is actually imminently practical. From Labor Day through the first weekend of December I spend my weekdays working, my Saturdays watching and writing about college football, and my Sundays doing anything else which is absolutely necessary to allow me to do what's scheduled the other 6 days of the week. This is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing in the sense that I get out into the holiday throng, which I enjoy, and Christmas shop when Christmas is actually in the air. My wife usually concludes her Christmas shopping before Halloween. This is because she is the organized, systematic yin to my post-it note scrawling, disorganized yang. I admire this, I just can't do it.
It's a curse however in the sense that I run into situations in which items I had on my preliminary list just can't be found when I get around to trying to buy them. Then, like Johnny Manziel running for his life, I have to improvise, and the results may be either brilliant or tragic. Stay tuned to find out which it is this year. Speaking of Manziel . . .
Await Johnny Manziel's sophomore slump. Manziel did have an unbelievable redshirt freshman season, and in my opinion clearly deserved the Heisman. Te'o was an excellent, though not transcendent linebacker. Really you'd have a hard time convincing me that his season was any more dominant than Jarvis Jones'. Colin Klein was critical to his team's success, and when he absolutely vanished against Baylor his team wasn't successful. The voters got this one right.
That being said, Manziel will take a step back next season, for 4 reasons. One, he's going to be dealing with a lot more distractions and demands on his time over the next few months. Two, defensive coordinators will now have 8 months to figure out how to at least limit him. They'll attempt to bait him into running, or throwing, or focusing on a particular area of the field. I dont know how successful they'll be, but given that he wasn't even named the starter at TAMU until August, at least this year they'll have a chance. Third, I anticipate Manziel will miss some time to injury. Given how often and how violently he ran the ball at times this season it's amazing that he didn't take more shots than he did. The law of averages catches up to everyone eventually, even Heisman winners. Especially Heisman winners who aren't nearly as sturdy as, say a Jeff Driskel at Florida.
Finally, and this is the one I may be criticized for, I don't think Kevin Sumlin can resist the temptation to monkey with what his star QB does. That's not a knock on Sumlin, because I couldn't resist either. When you've got a guy like Manziel, there's an urge to believe he can do it all. I anticipate that Texas A&M will try to get Manziel to do too much, and that he'll have trouble finding his mojo again once they do.
That's my list. What's yours? Until later . . .