Tricks and Treats in College Football
The Tricks and Treats of College Football
In honor of Halloween and the tricks and treats associated with this holiday, let us take a look at the biggest treats and the biggest tricks in college football for the 2012 season.
The list is open to coaches, teams, and player. The term trick is largely based on those that have disappointed or failed to live up to expectations placed upon them, and treat is the opposite, meaning they have exceeded expectations.
I tried to celebrate the good things in the sport and tried not to pick on too many players, because after all they are young and in some cases placed in untenable situations, and that is why you will see a few more treats than tricks on this list. However, some candidates, in particular coaches, were too juicy to leave off the trick list and were made for lists like these.
With a month of the regular season still yet to be played and the bowl season we may see some new players, teams, and coaches make their case for being a trick or treat, maybe they can be my Thanksgiving turkeys at season’s end.
I’m in the Halloween spirit and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to highlight the biggest surprises (treats) and the biggest knuckleheads and disappointments (tricks) through nine weeks of the college football season.
Who do you think I should have included in the trick or treat list that didn’t make the cut?
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Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports and an avid college football fan, and host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com airing live on Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.
Trick: Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas
The redshirt junior came into this season with comparisons to Cam Newton, but has failed to deliver on those lofty expectations. A 4-4 record is not what the fans in Blacksburg has expected this year and Thomas is the main culprit for the failures this season.
Treat: USC WR Marqise Lee
The sophomore receiver has lit up opposing defenses this season and has been downright impossible to cover for cornerbacks and safeties across the Pac 12. His team has dropped a couple games this season, but it's not because of the play of the super soph, just look at last week's stat line of 16 receptions for 345 yards and two touchdowns for more proof why he is the best receiver in college football
Treat: West Virginia QB Geno Smith
The favorite to win the Heisman trophy before some recent hiccups in the last two weeks has still had an exceptional season and could end up as a finalist for the trophy because of his 350 passing yards per game and 26 touchdowns through 7 games.
Trick: Texas Defense
The defense for the Longhorns was supposed to be the strength of a team that started the season ranked #15, but it has been the glaring weakness of a team fighting to stay in the top 25. The defense ranks 100th in scoring average, allowing 32.8 points per game and has given up 48 or more points three times already this season.
Treat: Northwestern RB Venric Mark
Leading the Wildcats in rushing with over 1,000 yards in the team's nine games has 10 total touchdowns on offense and has excelled in the return game to boost the team to a 7-2 record and provide stability in the backfield where quarterbacks have been moving in and out for the majority of the year.
Trick: Michigan State
Despite an overtime win against Wisconsin, this has been a disappointing year for Mark D'Antonio's Spartans who are 5-4 and tied for 4th place in the Legends division in the Big Ten
Treat: Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Johnny Football as he is affectionately known in college football circles has taken a liking to Kevin Sumlin's quarterback-friendly offensive scheme and has set SEC records in his first year as a starter. He leads his team in passing and rushing and has combined for 29 touchdowns through the ground and air this season for the 6-2 Aggies.>
Trick: Oklahoma QB Landry Jones
If your team is playing in a big game, then Landry Jones is not man to quarterback your team. Losses to Kansas State and Notre Dame exposed Jones as player that just can't produce against a team when the lights are shining the brightest.
Treat: Texas Tech QB Seth Doege
The leader in the nation with 30 touchdown passes, he threw 7 in a win over TCU, has also thrown for more than 2,500 yards for a somewhat surprising Texas Tech team that sits at 6-2 and owns wins over two ranked opponents, including a win over then #5 West Virginia.
Trick: South Carolina
I may being a little unfair to the Gamecocks, but a team that had preseason expectations of winning the SEC has laid an egg after a big win at home over Georgia in losses to LSU and Florida where the team looked completely over matched.
Treat: South Carolina DE JaDeveon Clowney
The bright spot for the Gamecocks is the freakishly talented sophomore who looks like he could start right now for a number of NFL teams. I have never seen a sophomore defensive lineman dominate in the fashion he has since Mario Williams did so for NC State en route to becoming the #1 pick in the NFL Draft. Could Clowney be following the same path as Williams?
Trick: South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore
This one hurts to write because of the gruesome and heart breaking injury Lattimore suffered in the win over South Carolina. Lattimore was the top running back prospect in college and now you have to wonder if he ever plays another down of tackle football. He has a long recovery ahead of him, but it's a shame college football won't see him on the field for the foreseeable future.
Charlie Strong and Teddy Bridgewater are on to something special at Louisville and could be poised for a perfect season if they can get past Rutgers, who is 7-1, and perhaps a trip to the Orange Bowl to take on the champion from the ACC.
Treat: Oregon State
Raise your hand if you had Oregon State as one of the handful of unbeaten teams in college football as we enter November. Not even the faithful in Corvallis, Oregon could have predicted this type of success this season under head coach Mike Riley, and now a meeting of a potentially unbeaten Oregon team could decide who goes to the Rose Bowl from the Pac 12.
Trick: LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
The LSU quarterback was supposed to finally be the answer under center for the Bayou Bengals this season after having a relative black hole at the position the previous few years, but the JUCO transfer has been even worse than Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, the two that preceded him in Baton Rouge.
Treat: Oregon RB Kenjon Barner
He doesn't get all the notoriety that his teammate DeAnthony Thomas gets, but he should because Barner is the key cog in the Oregon offense that has made opposing defenses look downright silly in trying to slow down the Ducks up tempo attack. Barner may represent the best case for any running back to be invited to the Heisman ceremony.
Trick: Wisconsin Backfield
Russell Wilson is gone and starting for the Seattle Seahawks and Danny O'Brien and Joel Stave have not done an adequate job of replacing him at quarterback.
Meanwhile last year's Heisman finalist, Montee Ball, looks like a shell of himself averaging 1.6 yards fewer per carry compared to last season and isn't finding the end zone as frequently as he did last year when he scored 39 times.
Treat: Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze
In his first year at Oxford, Hugh Freeze already has 5 wins in the team's first 8 games, including 2 in the SEC. The Rebels only won twice all of last season and had a grand total of 1 conference win in the past two seasons.
Trick: Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead
The talented running back for the Huskers has been limited this season by nagging injuries after leading the team with more than 1,300 yards a year ago with 15 touchdowns. This season he has only carried the rock 47 times for 405 yards and three touchdowns, which places him third on the team in all categories. He has had only two games this season receiving more than 8 carries after getting 284 in 2011.
Treat: Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer
Urban Meyer has had success at every stop along his coaching career, but few expected him to succeed right away at Ohio State. Meyer scoffed at the notion that this would be a rebuilding year and has the Buckeyes off to a 9-0 start and a #6 ranking in the AP top 25.
Treat: Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
One of the main reasons behind Ohio State's 9-0 record has been the play of the scintillating sophomore quarterback who is a legit Heisman contender. Miller leads his team in passing and rushing and has led his team to a couple 4th quarter comebacks showing moxy as well as his game-breaking dual-threat ability in the process.
Trick: Michigan QB Denard Robinson
One of the more tantalizing players in college with his electrifying runs from the quarterback position, and one of the most maddening players as well with his inability to hit an open receiver, not throw interceptions, and stay healthy.
As a quarterback, Robinson makes one heckuva running back, and should finish as the best rushing quarterback in Big Ten history. However, his lack of improvement in the last three years and penchant for playing his worst on the road and in crucial contests is why Robinson is a trick.
Treat: Notre Dame
Brian Kelly has done a fantastic job of getting Notre Dame back into the championship picture all the while playing one of the tougher schedules in the country. In fact, the Irish are the only team with wins over 4 ranked opponents and sit at 8-0 after an epic road win over Oklahoma that has silenced many critics.
Treat: Notre Dame LB Manti Teo
I don't think there is a player that is easier to root for than the Senior linebacker from Hawaii. Manti Te'o returned to South Bend for his senior season and has been one of the most valuable players on offense or defense and as a result is a serious contender to become the first player to only play on defense to win the Heisman. His 5 interceptions are tied for second in the nation and his 2 fumble recoveries make him the only player in the top 10 in both categories. An emotional leader for the #2 defense in the country is the biggest contribution to the team that sits inside the top 5.
Trick: NC State CB David Amerson
Exploded onto the national scene a year ago with an astonishing 13 interceptions that vaulted him to the top of many NFL draft experts boards at the cornerback position, but has regressed this year with technique where he is freelancing and not playing a disciplined team based defense. His 4 interceptions are good enough to tie him for 5th in the country with a host of other players, but he has been picked on by opposing quarterbacks frequently this season.
Treat: Northern Illinois
Dave Doeren has the Huskies off to another great start in Dekalb and after a 1-point loss to Iowa in the opener, the team has reeled off 8 straight wins to tie for the lead in the MAC western division with Toledo
Trick: Tennessee QB Tyler Bray
Tyler Bray is as gifted as any quarterback in the nation and very well could be a high draft pick in the NFL draft someday, but his skills have yet to translate to any SEC wins this season and any wins over a ranked opponent during his career in Knoxville.
Treat: Mississipppi State
Despite the loss to Alabama, Mississippi State is off to the program's best start since the 1999 season and was ranked as high as #11 in the BCS following their 7-0 start. Now 7-1, Dan Mullen's team is poised to have it's best season in more than a decade.
Treat: Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks
The premiere cornerback in this year's draft class returned to Starkville for his senior season to refine his skills and to finish what he started when he first set foot on campus, and that is to continue the ascension of the Mississippi State football program.
Banks is the leader on a defense that is 7-1 and a presumptive #1 draft pick in April's draft and tied the school's all-time record for interceptions in a win over Middle Tennessee State on October 20th.
Trick: Georgia QB Aaron Murray
The three-year starter at Georgia has had his ups and downs in Athens, and i am not going to be swayed by the recent win over Florida and rather look at the big picture regarding Murray. He has failed to deliver in the clutch and on the road and even in the win over Florida -that was largely predicated on the Georgia defense, he only completed 50% of his passes for a paltry 150 yards, and threw 3 interceptions.
Treat: Kansas State QB Collin Klein
The favorite to take home the Heisman as his Kansas State team remains undefeated after big wins over Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Texas Tech. Klein has a game with 7 touchdowns and his 16 rushing touchdowns and 12 passing touchdowns put him on a pace for 42 total touchdowns which would be reminiscent of Tim Tebow's Heisman campaign.
Trick: Florida State
The Seminoles are having a fine year and should win the ACC and head to the Orange Bowl, but it's the one loss on the resume for Florida State is why they are a trick this season. For years, the program has been crippled by losses to teams they should dominate and the loss to NC State could be all that keeps FSU from a shot at the national title this season.
The second year under Will Muschamp has been a successful one for the Gators who were ranked #2 in the BCS before losing to Georgia. A shot at the SEC east is still a very real possibility and a trip to the conference championship game would be a rapid improvement for the team that has already matched last year's win total of 7.
Trick: Illinois Coach Tim Beckman
No coach in America looks more in over their head than Tim Beckman. It's not often when you are clamoring for the days of Ron Zook, but that is exactly what is happening for Illinois this season. They can't run, they can't pass, and they can't stop anyone from scoring. Other than that, the Illini look decent. Many are already for calling for Beckman to be canned in his first year on the job. The Illini are 3-12 in their last 15 games dating back to last year and get 9-0 Ohio State this weekend. Good luck coach Beckman.
Treat: Kent State Coach Darrell Hazell
One of the best stories in college football happened this past weekend when Kent State picked up the program's first win over a ranked opponent when they beat #15 Rutgers. Darrell Hazell's team is 7-1 and in first place in the MAC east.
Trick: Auburn Coach Gene Chizik
Gene Chizik won a national at Auburn 22 months ago and things have been so bad since then that he may not even get to see the end of the season. The Tigers are 1-7 and that single win came in overtime against Louisiana Monroe, not exactly a football powerhouse. In danger of going winless in the SEC would seem to be the final nail in the coffin for Chizik whose offense is ranked 122nd in points per game at a measly 16.4.
The Duke football program has long been one of the worst in college football, but this year the Blue Devils are turning heads and opening eyes to the school known for the basketball program. Coach David Cutcliffe has the team bowl-eligible and tied for first in the coastal division in the ACC.
Trick: Fired Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino
The exiled former Arkansas coach makes the list because of the disgraceful way he was removed from his post as coach of a team that had lofty expectations entering the season. Bobby Petrino thought he would have a nice little cruise on his motorcycle with the athletic department employee he was having an affair with, but then he crashed the bike and tried to cover his tracks with his involvement with the young girl he was cheating on his wife with.
A few days later, Petrino appeared at a press conference looking like a guy that had half his face rubbed off the highway pavement and quite frankly like an buffoon for thinking he could pull a fast one on his school, players, and family.
Treat: Penn State Coach Bill O'Brien
We all know about the ordeal Penn State has been through in the last calendar year, so there is no point in going into any more detail other than to say Bill O'Brien walked into a lions den and so far has survived and has his team playing well above even the most optimistic Penn State fan could have envisioned. O'Brien gets my vote for coach of the year the way he has handled things in Happy Valley. 2 of the 3 losses for the Nittany Lions are to teams that are a combined 16-1.
Trick: Former LSU DB/RS Tyrann Mathieu
The biggest trick in all of college football this season is likely also the biggest one in all of sport this calendar year. The Heisman finalist was one of the most dynamic and valuable players last year for the national runner-up LSU Tigers in 2011, but didn't play a down this season after a number of failed drug tests got him kicked off the team prior to the season getting underway.
Tyrann Mathieu flirted with transferring to lower level schools in order to play this season and then enter the NFL draft, but decided to enroll in classes at LSU in an attempt to possibly return to the team in 2013. The "Honey Badger" as he's known spent two weeks in a drug treatment clinic, but that apparently didn't stick, because Mathieu was arrested this past week for marijuana possession where 10 pounds of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and a scale were found in his apartment.
Congratulations to Tyrann Mathieu for being the biggest trick of the college football season.
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