▪ It was a fantastic couple of weeks off for yours truly, but now it’s back to the grindstone as college basketball heats up. There’s a lot to get to today, so prepare for an extra helping of musings.
▪ I’ve been saying all along that Florida State was vastly over-rated this season. Guess who was right? I know it would have been nearly impossible to leave the Seminoles out of the College Football Playoff after another undefeated regular season and a 29-game winning streak. Not to mention that FSU is the defending national champion. But if the goal is to put the four best teams in the country into the playoff, didn’t the playoff committee fail?
▪ TCU beats Florida State how many times out of 10? Seven? Eight? Nine? We can’t take the politics out of the College Football Playoff, as much as I wish we could. Florida State has been a paper lion all season, barely squeaking by inferior opponents in an inferior conference, the ACC. In the end, the Seminoles were exposed.
▪ What do you make of the Jameis Winston-Jimbo Fisher shouting match on the sideline as things unraveled for Florida State during the second half of Monday night’s Rose Bowl? Not much, probably. Except that Winston has so many skeletons in his closet that when he’s screaming at his coach we draw conclusions. But what conclusions are there really left to draw about Winston? He’s a special talent dogged by extreme immaturity. Will Tampa Bay really spend its No. 1 pick in the NFL draft on Winston? I would be surprised. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is a safer pick and, I believe, a better quarterback.
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▪ Oregon, with Mariota at the controls, is incredibly fun to watch. The Ducks run a no-holds-barred offense with more imagination than any team in the country. Once the flood gates opened Thursday, Florida State was drowned almost instantly. It was an impressive performance and Oregon is a 7.5 favorite over Ohio State to win the national championship. I don’t bet – my wife controls the finances – but if I did I think I would pick the guys in green, or whatever color that is the Ducks wear.
▪ A caveat: Ohio State has that look. The Buckeyes came back from 15 points down to beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Nobody not named Auburn comes back from 15 points down to beat Alabama. Ohio State showed me something. If there was a team among the four semifinalists that we didn’t think belonged, it was Ohio State. The Buckeyes lost to a so-so Virginia Tech team in the first game of the season. They were playing their third-string quarterback. No way they beat Alabama, right? Except they did.
▪ By the way, who has a third-team quarterback like Cardale Jones? I know he’s a sophomore. Still, at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds with a rocket arm straight out of Marvel Comics, the Buckeyes have showed an incredible stockpile of quarterbacks.
▪ It’s nice to see the SEC get theirs, isn’t it? Nobody likes a bully and the SEC has been having its way with college football for a few years now. And it’s not just the Alabama loss that gave the conference a black eye. The SEC has had a horrendous bowl season.
▪ The one glaring boo-boo made by the College Football Playoff selection committee was leaving TCU out of the mix. Credit to the Horned Frogs for being zoned in against Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve. It was one of the most impressive performances of the bowl season.
▪ What has happened to Kansas State’s basketball team. A loss to Texas Southern? A horrible first half against Georgia? A 7-6 record and No. 176 RPI heading into a Big 12 opener Saturday at Oklahoma State? I’ll be in Stillwater to get an in-person look at the Wildcats, who I picked to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament before the season started. That could be the worst prediction of my career.
▪ We knew Wichita State was going to miss Cleanthony Early this season, especially his offensive production. But seeing the Shockers struggle to score pounds home that point. WSU is fighting it right now and it’ll be interesting to see which Missouri Valley Conference teams, if any, can mount a challenge to the Shocks. The most likely are Evansville and Northern Iowa. The Purple Aces came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat UNI in Evansville on Thursday, holding the Panthers to 19 second-half points.
▪ The Valley looks to be better as a basketball conference this season, but there was nowhere to go but up. Even so, there are still some bad-looking RPIs across the conference. Indiana State (257), Drake (262), Bradley (279) and Southern Illinois (317) are pulling the league down. This still isn’t a very good conference.
▪ I think Kansas State takes care of business against UCLA in the Alamo Bowl this evening in San Antonio. There’s not much buzz about this game, especially a day after two national semifinal playoff games. My prediction: Kansas State 34, UCLA 20.
▪ I like Carolina, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Dallas – the home teams – to win NFL wild-card playoff games this weekend. Really nothing to see here, although Detroit-Dallas could be interesting with all of its story lines. Arizona is just too weak at quarterback to knock off the 7-9 Panthers. Baltimore’s weakened secondary will be picked apart, again, by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, even if injured running back Le’Veon Bell is sidelined. Cincinnati never wins playoff games, which is why I like Indy at home.
▪ I didn’t see a single movie in a theater during my time away. Which is inexcusable. But we do now have a hook-up at home so that we can plug Netflix into our big-screen television. It’s a huge technological advance for the Lutz family and one for which we are extremely proud. Yes, I realize we’re at least three years behind most of you.
▪ On New Year’s Eve, we introduced our granddaugther to “The Karate Kid.” It’s my long-held belief that every person in the world should see that movie so we’re able to cross one more off the list. By the way, the eight-year-old said it was the highlight of her day.
▪ I am working my way through Season 3 of “The Wire,” 10 years later. Like everyone else who has watched the show, I’m astounded by its quality.
▪ The tribute to Tom Hanks, especially, made “The Kennedy Center Honors” one of the highlights of my vacation.
▪ Two of the best and most-talented guys I’ve worked with, Fred Mann and Rick Plumlee, retired this week from the newspaper. It’s going to be really strange not having them around. I learned a lot by watching and reading both through the years. Fred preceded me as sports columnist and Rick covered Kansas athletics for 30 years. They’ll be missed, especially by readers.
▪ I hope I wake up one morning to news that Alex Rodriguez has retired. Just go away. I know you’d be leaving a gazillion dollars on the table, but retirment would be the best thing for mankind, A-Rod.
▪ This could be a make-or-break season for Mark Turgeon at Maryland. So far, the Terps are making his season special. Maryland is 13-1, ranked No. 12 and is coming off an impressive double-overtime win at Michigan State on Dec. 30. It’s good to see Turgeon having this kind of success after a rough first three seasons at Maryland.
▪ Have a great 2015, everyone.