Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football ("Bucks Yep, Ducks Nope" Fiesta Bowl T-shirts sold separately):
The Dash was trading forehands with Dashette Maria Sharapova (1) recently when she demanded to know who was going to win the conference awards that are always given out this time of year. The Dash explained that football players don't get those silver platters you see tennis folks kissing at Wimbledon -- in fact, these coaches and players get something more valuable:
A Dashie (retail value: 49 cents) for their mantels. Hand over the envelope, Maria:
Atlantic Coast Conference
Coach of the Year: Frank Beamer (2), Virginia Tech. Other than one bad night in Blacksburg, the Hokies' season was a huge success. Only one of Tech's 10 wins was by fewer than 17 points. No team went farther with a quarterback who had never started a game coming into the season.
Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Vick (3), Virginia Tech. In a league that broke in a ton of new starting quarterbacks -- with predictable struggles -- Vick was the most consistent of the bunch. He led the ACC in passing efficiency and scared opponents to death with his arm and feet. Like the rest of the Hokies, he was one terrible performance against Miami short of a brilliant season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Mario Williams (4), North Carolina State. In a league full of great pass-rushers, he stands out. Thirteen sacks, 20 tackles for loss and absolutely astonishing foot speed for a man who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 290 pounds. The NFL will go crazy over this guy's measurables.
Bust of the Year: Florida State. The Seminoles rode the momentum of a flatly lucky (and ugly) opening win over Miami to a 4-0 start. Then the defense began to spring leaks and Drew Weatherford played like a freshman quarterback. FSU backs into the ACC championship game on a three-game losing streak, having been outscored 89-36 in that span. This is a program that appears to be losing its place in the sport's hierarchy (pending a Paterno-like revival for Bobby Bowden).
Game of the Year: Miami 36, Clemson 30, triple OT. The Tigers scored 10 points in the final three minutes of regulation, but the Hurricanes were the team that closed the deal.
Dope(s) of the Year: Miami's 7th Floor Crew (5), whose tender love ballad has been terribly misinterpreted by all the prudes who somehow take a less-than-enthusiastic view of graphic group-sex bragathon rap songs. (It's nine minutes long. Kind of a "Freebird" meets homemade porn thing.)
Coach of the Year: Mack Brown (6), Texas. Brown's ability to loosen up and enjoy the hugeness of coaching at Texas has trickled down to his team, which finally is maximizing its immense talent.
Offensive Player of the Year: Vince Young (7), Texas. Nobody else need apply. Might simply be having the finest season of any quarterback in the fabled history of Texas football.
Defensive Player of the Year: Michael Huff (8), Texas. Tough call between Huff and teammates Aaron Harris and Rod Wright, but give it to the safety/cornerback with 90 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception and 13 passes broken up.
Bust of the Year: Texas A&M. The Aggies began the year in the Top 25 but quickly recused themselves. They didn't beat a single Division I-A team with a winning record and lost their last four straight, surrendering at least 36 points in each of those four games. Dennis Franchione is officially on the clock for 2006.
Game of the Year: Pick your favorite Texas Tech miracle escape. Was it the 34-31 win at Nebraska, where the Red Raiders scored the winning touchdown with 12 seconds left? Or was it the 23-21 win over Oklahoma, in which Taurean Henderson (kind of) scored the winner on the final play?
Dope(s) of the Year: The Kansas State punt team (9), which took the field without a punter against Oklahoma and snapped the ball anyway, firing it cleanly back through its own end zone for a safety. No truth to the rumor that the punter missed the play because he was embroiled in a torrid Yahtzee game on the bench with the place-kicker.
(Dishonorable mention No. 1 to the Colorado student section, which was bum-rushed en masse for throwing garbage all over the field during that horrid loss to Nebraska.
Dishonorable mention No. 2 to a John Richmond Sullivan, a member of something called the Parsons Mounted Cavalry Unit at Texas A&M. According to The Bryan-College Station Eagle, Mr. Sullivan decided it was a good idea to shovel horse manure onto members of the Texas marching band before the game Friday. The newspaper story goes on to say the Parsons unit "was formed in 1973 to revive the legacy of A&M's horse-drawn artillery program. It remains the only collegiate military cavalry unit in the nation." The Dash is comforted to know that we have such a cavalry outfit in place, should we suddenly find ourselves fighting Santa Ana again at the Alamo. What the hell?)
Coach of the Year: Rich Rodriguez (10), West Virginia. He lost everything at the skill positions on offense from last year -- and created a better team. The Mountaineers have played smashmouth football with a group of youngsters who have upgraded the program from the Gator Bowl last season to the BCS this time around.
Offensive Player of the Year: Freshmen Pat White and Steve Slaton split the West Virginia vote, so give it to Louisville sophomore Brian Brohm (11). Before blowing a knee against Syracuse last week, Brohm led the league by miles in passing yardage, passing efficiency and total offense. If he comes back strong from reconstructive surgery, he's a 2006 Heisman Trophy contender.
Defensive Player of the Year: Elvis Dumervil (12), Louisville. Dwight Freeney Jr. leads the nation in sacks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles. The defensive end also leads his team in total tackles (59). He's all motor, all the time.
Bust of the Year: Syracuse battles Duke in The Dash's Worst BCS Conference Team of 2005 sweepstakes. The 1-10 Orange averaged a pathetic 10.2 points per game in Big East play, losing all seven games. Their lone win was over 1-10 Buffalo, which fired its coach. All in all, it was just deserts in 2005 for orange-and-blue schools that made lousy coaching hires ('Cuse with Greg Robinson, Illinois with Ron Zook).
Game of the Year: West Virginia 46, Louisville 44, triple OT. The 'Neers scored 17 points in the last 8½ minutes of regulation to send it into overtime and wound up scoring on their final six possessions of the game. Had Louisville held on to a 24-7 lead, it would be playing UConn Saturday for a BCS bid. Instead, that bid belongs to West Virginia.
Dope(s) of the Year: The Pittsburgh offense (13). Why are the 5-6 Panthers not going bowling? Because they lost 16-10 to Ohio U. in September, surrendering two interception returns for touchdowns. The Bobcats were so galvanized by that stunning upset that they went on to finish 4-7 in the Mid-American Conference.
Coach of the Year: Joe Paterno (14), Penn State. What, you were expecting Joe Tiller?
Offensive Player of the Year: Michael Robinson (15), Penn State. He's even better in the locker room than on the field, and look what he has done on the field: more than 2,800 yards of total offense, 16 passing touchdowns and 11 rushing touchdowns. He was the perfect triggerman on the Nittany Lions' newly creative offense.
Defensive Player of the Year: In a Midwestern Toughman contest, Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk (16) narrowly beats out Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny. Hawk runs like a safety and hits like a battering ram. He had 109 tackles, 13 for loss, and 7.5 sacks for the Buckeyes. He's also an engaging interview -- but you get the feeling he'd just as soon head butt you as shake your hand.
Bust of the Year: The Dash was never on board with the folks who said Purdue would win the Big Ten based on a cushy schedule -- but The Dash sure didn't foresee a 5-6 implosion, either. Rarely, if ever, has a unit that returned all 11 starters underachieved as badly as the Boilermakers' defense did this year. The fact that two players from that defense already have declared for early entry to the NFL implies that priorities might have been lost during the season.
Game of the Year: Ohio State 25, Michigan 21. This was Ohio State-Texas in reverse for the Buckeyes: sprint to an early lead; lose it, and any semblance of momentum with it; then rally in the fourth quarter to steal a victory on the road. Giving up two touchdowns in the last seven minutes -- including the winner in the final half-minute -- had to kill Lloyd Carr, who has now lost four of five to Coach Sweater Vest.
Dopes of the Year: The Michigan State field goal unit (17). The Spartans took a page from the K-State playbook, taking the field with 10 guys right before halftime against Ohio State and yielding a ridiculously easy block and return for a touchdown. At the time, Michigan State was leading the game and ranked in the Top 25. It finished 5-6. The Dash has never seen a single play do more to undermine an entire season.
Coach of the Year: Pete Carroll (18), USC. The only coach alive who digs working in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world.
Offensive Player of the Year: Reggie Bush (19), USC. You could find two dozen statistical reasons why Bush is the best offensive player not just in the Pac-10 but in America. Here's one more: His yards-per-touch average is 10.03. For a running back, that's ridiculous. For a 1,000-yard rusher, that's borderline fiction. The highest yards-per-touch average for any other 1,000-yard rusher in the national top 100 in all-purpose running is 7.5.
Defensive Player of the Year: Haloti Ngata (20), Oregon. Immense-but-agile lineman led all Pac-10 defensive tackles with 59 tackles, nine for loss, including three sacks. He also blocked two kicks.
Bust of the Year: Arizona State. The Sun Devils did at least make a bowl game, and they did it behind a backup quarterback after starter Sam Keller was injured. But they had to sweat into the last minute of the last game to become bowl eligible, and Dirk Koetter's defenses still have an alarming habit of dissolving as the season goes along.
Game of the Year: UCLA 30, Stanford 27. Down 24-3 in the last half of the last quarter, the comeback kids from Westwood scored three touchdowns to force overtime and won it from there. One of several preposterous rallies by Karl Dorrell's boys this season.
Dope(s) of the Year: The Stanford defense (21). Up 17-0 on Division I-AA Cal-Davis, the Cardinal couldn't hang on. The D topped it off by surrendering the winning touchdown with eight seconds left, a score that capped an 11-play, 72-yard drive. To repeat, a I-AA squad. At 5-6 and home for the holidays, that's gotta sting.
Coach of the Year: Steve Spurrier (22), South Carolina. You could make a case for Les Miles of LSU. You could make a case for Mike Shula of Alabama. You could make a case for Tommy Tuberville of Auburn. But none of those three stepped into a less promising season than the Head Ball Coach, who proceeded to remind everyone why he's a legend in this league.
Offensive Player of the Year: D.J. Shockley (23), Georgia. In a year of bad offense in the SEC, Shockley was the most important performer on a team that finished with a winning record. (You could make an argument for Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler or Mississippi State's Jerious Norwood, but The Dash prefers to stick with the winners.) With Shockley in the lineup, the Bulldogs were 9-1, with their lone loss by a single point. Without him, they were 0-1 and scored 10 points. Any questions?
Defensive Player of the Year: DeMeco Ryans (24), Alabama. A gentleman and a scholar, and a hellacious linebacker, too. Ryans was the leading tackler on a team held together for weeks at a time by its defense as the Tide sustained an improbable 9-0 run.
Bust of the Year: Tennessee. The warning signs were out in the winter and spring, as Volunteers players made police headquarters their unofficial offseason gathering spot. Then Phil Fulmer decided to jerk his quarterbacks around as though he were Spurrier Jr. Before long, the entire season had fallen apart. And the rest of the SEC felt zero sympathy for Big Orange.
Game of the Year: Auburn 31, Georgia 30. There were only nine lead changes in this game of huge stakes. It ended on a field goal by John Vaughn, who had missed five of them a few weeks earlier against LSU. There was some poetry in that conclusion.
Dope of the Year: The ref (25) who threw the excessive celebration flag on Vanderbilt freshman Earl Bennett for a micro-shimmy (elapsed time, approximately 1.25 seconds) after scoring a touchdown. That made the score 42-41, but the penalty prevented the Commodores from going for two and for the win right there. They lost in double overtime and, for the 23rd consecutive year, are not bowl eligible. Hope the ref feels good about his call.
All-Freshman Team - Defense
As promised, The Dash delivers the second half of its Freshman All-America Team. (With the same caveat as last week: Don't sprain your fingers or bruise your keyboard pounding out an outraged e-mail because the freshman from your team is not on this list. Take a deep breath and let the moment pass.)
DL -- Barry Turner (26), Nebraska. His six sack total is better than former Cornhuskers frosh Grant Wistrom (4.5) and Trev Alberts (4.0).
DL -- Chase Moline (27), UCLA. Interior guy has made 24 tackles, 3.5 for loss.
DL -- Matt Shaughnessy (28), Wisconsin. One of the reasons the Badgers survived after losing their entire defensive front to the NFL. He had 39 tackles. 7.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, five hurries, two passes broken up.
DL -- Steve Davis (29), Minnesota. Another freshman pass-rusher with six sacks.
LB -- Jason Phillips (30), TCU. Season-long starter had 63 tackles and had at least one TFL in eight of 11 games.
LB -- Freddie Fairchild (31), Arkansas. Another baby Hog who had a big year. Finished with 51 tackles, six TFL, 2.5 sacks.
LB -- Mitch King (32), Iowa. Seemed to always be in the backfield, registering 10.5 tackles for loss and forcing three fumbles.
DB -- Courtney Greene (33), Rutgers. A big reason the Scarlet Knights are going to their first bowl since 1978. Greene has a whopping 104 tackles.
DB -- Kenny Phillips (34), Miami. Brash rookie said he was going to play right away, and he did, in a dynamite secondary. Third on the team in tackles.
DB -- Patrick Chung (35), Oregon. High-impact hitter at rover led the Ducks in tackles and was a special-teams menace as well.
DB -- Alphonso Smith (36), Wake Forest. Had 60 tackles, including eight for loss and two sacks. Also picked off three passes and took one back to the house and recorded 12 breakups.
P -- Britton Colquitt (37), Tennessee. Continuing the family tradition of clutch punting for the Volunteers. Got a lot more work this year than the Tennessee punter normally would.
Putting Out An APB For
Former Army quarterback Ron McAda (38). This being Army-Navy week, The Dash was wondering whatever happened to the QB from the Cadets' last winning team (10-2 in 1996). Anyone with information about McAda's whereabouts, please apprise.
Meanwhile, The Dash is pleased to report that last week's APB subject, former Arizona State action hero Jeff Van Raaphorst (39), is alive and well and still living in the Phoenix area. Judging from the dozens of e-mails The Dash received regarding his whereabouts, the old QB has quite a posse. Among those who wrote in were two family members, including younger brother Mike, who played quarterback at USC in the 1990s. Mike, who was 9 years old in 1987, recalled being carried off the Rose Bowl field on his brother's shoulders that year.
Anyway, here's the e-mail The Dash received rather quickly from Jeff Van Raaphorst:
"I am currently working as a Medical Sales Distributor for Medtronic (our team goes into surgery with surgeons as they place screws and rods in patients with bad backs) during the day and I broadcast ASU football games during the fall on ESPN radio 860 KMVP in Phoenix. I am happily married to my wife Chris (17 years) and we have three children. Thank you for wondering about me and Happy Holidays."
"P.S. If The Dash network works this well how about an Osama APB???"
That's under advisement, although The Dash's sources in Pakistan are a little sketchy.
When you're hungry in Mississippi, The Dash recommends a fat filet at Tico's Steak House (40). Judging from the pictures on the walls, proprietor Tico apparently has met or fed every famous coach, athlete, movie star or politician who has ever been through the state. (Tico is a high-caliber golfer, and he has a lot of pictures of PGA Tour pros who have played in Jackson's Tour event.) Get the asparagus to go with your steak.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.