This has arguably been the worst Bowl season in recent memory and it seems to be only getting worse. As I sit in the WLAP Radio studio and get ready for tonight’s “How many ridiculous threes will Stefan Moody hit today” games versus Ole Miss, the Georgia-Penn State snoozefest plays on the television, furthering the trend of awful games. The combination of blowouts, poor scheduling (putting the playoff games on New Year’s Eve was a dreadful decision) and lack of Kentucky participation (which unfortunately has been consistent for a half decade) has made this the worst Bowl year in quite some time. But there has been one exception to the sleepy Battlefrog Bowl Championship and that was the amazing show put on by Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey.
I will freely admit to being a complete McCaffrey truther prior to his unbelievable performance last night versus Iowa in the Rose Bowl. I had heard of McCaffrey and vaguely knew that he was the son of that Wide Receiver that played for the Broncos, but due in part to the rash of Kentucky night games and my general aversion to all things Pac 10, I had yet to see him play. Having no actual knowledge of his game, I instead was relying on lazy stereotype. Simply put, I took the view of “seriously, how good could a white Stanford Running Back really be?” Yeah, I remember the guy a few years ago who became Adrian Peterson’s backup in Minnesota, but when I heard people say that McCaffrey was the real deal, I rolled my eyes and incorrectly thought, “yeah right.” Well I was wrong…way wrong. McCaffrey may be the most exciting college Running Back since Reggie Bush and his absolute decimation of Iowa was a sight to behold. Everything he did was spectacular, his moves were eye-popping and his breakaway speed was impressive. Often times when you assume, especially based on stereotypes, you completely miss the boat. Maybe you don’t make any such assumptions ever…good for you (I don’t believe you by the way), but I did with McCaffrey and missed what has to be the most exciting player in college football. I won’t make the same mistake again and the Sophomore’s games next season will be must-watch TV for me.
Some other thoughts for the day:
— I can’t get over the Rick Pitino press conference yesterday, which was yet another bizarre incident in the neverending series of mind-blowing moments of the UL Basketball scandal saga. I will probably write a longer post about all the strange comments Rick made later, but suffice to say he likely should have taken his earlier advice and acted like a man who was not 63 and shut up. He took an innocuous question about whether he flipped UK fans the bird (he did, although he said he didn’t…sort of) and turned his false answer into a 15 minute diatribe about the Katina Powell saga. What followed was verbal diarrhea the likes of which we haven’t seen in quite some time. Pitino blamed the media for reporting false stories that he says he has never read (how does he know they are false?)…he said it was time he took up for the school against a book, the contents of which he says he doesn’t know and he without irony claimed he couldn’t have known anything about the entire matter because he controls the program with such an iron fist. It was truly bizarre and unless you are a homer for whom facts are irrelevant, it looked like the last ramblings of a man on his way out. Maybe there is some good PR strategy that comes from acknowledging for the first time publicly that “scurrilous” things happened and wrapping his plight with that of Joe Paterno, but for the life of me I can’t understand what they would be. If it weren’t for bad decisions, Pitino would make no decisions at all and yesterday’s is just the latest in a long line of odd ones during his prolonged fall.
— I was glad to see the Eddie Gran hire get completed early this week. Whether Gran is the right hire is ultimately irrelevant in my opinion. We can debate it until the cows come home but at the end of the day, if Stoops is going to succeed here then he needed a guy like Gran in the position. It is beyond clear to me that Stoops did not trust his two previous Offensive Coordinators…I think he liked them, they got along and there were some positive moments. But at the end of the day, he didn’t trust their system and in both the case of Neal Brown and Shannon Dawson, that lack of trust made the entire offense inefficient. If Stoops is going to work at Kentucky, he needs a guy who he believes in 100%…I think he believed in Brown about 80% and Dawson about 50%. That doesn’t work for a team. Total trust is not only needed, it is required. I believe he will have that with Gran. The combination of his playcalling and Drew Barker’s Quarterbacking ability will decide if Mark Stoops can be successful at Kentucky. Only time will tell the outcome.
— UK’s game tonight with Ole Miss should be a good start to SEC play. The win over Louisville was crucial and I think Calipari now finally knows how he wants this team to play. He has rotation (9 guys, with Willis playing if and when he rebounds) and he now knows that unlike his past teams, he must put guys in for offensive reasons and live with the defensive result. Not enough guys can make shots to keep out those who can and that mindset will probably continue to prevail during early conference play. My hope is that over the next five games, we see some development from Skal. Without him becoming a productive player, I think Kentucky’s cap is limited. But I am not ready to give up…he is too talented to just assume he can’t contribute. What is even more important is that Jamal Murray becomes a consistent star. For Kentucky to have beaten the Cards with Murray playing out of control and ineffectively (outside of his threes) was a blessing. Now he has to become the elite player I know he can be and help form the best backcourt in America with Tyler Ulis. I still like Kentucky’s upside and the schedule to start conference play (Ole Miss, LSU, Bama, Auburn and Miss State) gives the team the chance to gain some traction and hit their stride before tougher opposition awaits. There is one important caveat however…because this team has no shutdown weapon like past teams, the Cats could lose some games that they have no business losing…that may be part of the “process” with this group and something we just have to get used to for this bunch.
OK time to head towards Rupp…see you folks on the Pregame at 4:30