2012 “Naughty and Nice” List
By Matthew Osborne
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Santa has comprised his "Naughty and Nice" list for the 2012 college football season.
We are now less than 36 hours away from that special time of the year when Jolly Old St. Nick maneuvers down the chimney and delivers presents to boys and girls all over the world.
While we all enjoy the presents which Santa Clause so generously leaves for us, we often forget that before our gifts our delivered, the man in red must first determine whether or not we are deserving of his generosity.
As we prepare for the start of the southern bowl season in just a few days, let’s take a look at college football’s version of the “Naughty and Nice” list for this year.
Naughty: Former LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu
Less than nine months after being selected as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, Mathieu was dismissed from the LSU program for repeated failed drug tests. In response to his dismissal from the team, Mathieu entered a drug rehabilitation program in Houston. His stay in the rehabilitation program would be short-lived, however, as he was back taking classes in Baton Rouge less than three weeks later. Needing to stay out of trouble in order to return to the LSU program for the 2013 regular season, Mathieu was arrested for possession of marijuana in October, essentially ending his collegiate career. He subsequently announced that he would enter the 2013 NFL draft, where his draft stock has been irreparably damaged.
Nice: Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o
As a former five-star recruit, college football fans were already well aware of Te’o’s tremendous talents. What they were probably unaware of, was just how dominant he can be when he is on top of his game. Te’o is a major reason that Notre Dame is currently preparing to play in the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama, as his leadership and propensity for making clutch defensive plays have kept the Fighting Irish unscathed to this point. Finishing the regular season with over 100 tackles and seven interceptions, Te’o has earned eight postseason awards in 2012, making him the most decorated college football player in history. What makes this story even more incredible, though, is the fact that Te’o accomplished all of these things despite enduring the deaths of his girlfriend and grandmother in the same week early in the season.
Naughty: Former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino
Looking at Arkansas’s 4-8 record in 2012, it is easy to forget that the Razorbacks were a top 10 team during the preseason. Returning the bulk of the team’s talent from 2011, Petrino’s squad appeared poised to challenge Alabama and LSU for SEC West supremacy. But before Petrino had the opportunity to make his team’s presence felt on the national scale, his personal life intervened. Back in the spring, Petrino was fired by Arkansas for lying to university officials about his improper relationship with a school employee. It was not the first time Petrino’s questionable morality landed his name in the headlines, but it was the first time where he felt a significant hit in his career. Failing to garner any serious interest from high major programs, Petrino eventually accepted the head coaching job at Western Kentucky.
Nice: Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder
Long considered to be one of the true “good guys” in college coaching, Snyder very well may also be the most underrated coach in college football history. Guiding a team which has historically been one of the worst programs in major college football history, Snyder has now twice resurrected the Wildcats and led them to greatness. With his team ranked No. 22, behind five other Big 12 teams, in the preseason AP top 25, Snyder confidently led the Wildcats to the brink of an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game. After a surprising loss at Baylor, Snyder will have to settle for a Big 12 title and a second consecutive BCS bowl berth. Snyder’s talents still go largely unnoticed on a national scale, but the 73-year old can still undoubtedly coach with the best in the business.
Naughty: Penn State
The number of people whom deserve to be chastised for their role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal is alarmingly high. Certainly every individual within the program cannot be held accountable for the actions of a group of men, but the university has suffered a tremendous black eye from this deplorable scandal. Following a thorough investigation from the NCAA, Penn State received a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban and significant reduction in scholarships over the next five seasons. In addition, the program was forced to vacate 112 wins from 1998 to 2011. The Nittany Lions played pretty well in 2012 considering the circumstances, but the effects from the Sandusky debacle will be felt for a long, long time.
Nice: Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Santa appreciates an electrifying football player, and he certainly enjoyed watching Manziel shred SEC defenses this fall. Putting together what is undoubtedly the finest performance by a freshman quarterback in college football history, Manziel became the first first-year player to win the coveted Heisman Trophy. Displaying an uncanny ability to beat opposing defenses with both his arms and his legs, Manziel set the SEC record for total yards in a single season (4,600) in 2012. At the end of the regular season, he also displayed a surprisingly comfortable demeanor with members of the media. Manziel has already solidified his place in college football lore, and he could go down as one of the greatest college football players in history by the time his career is finished.