Friday, November 17, 2006

GOODBYE, BO


It seems so unfair.

Here we are, approaching what could be the most important game ever in a rivalry he helped make great.

And Bo Schembechler is not with us to see it.

Thirteen shared or solo Big Ten Championships. More bowl games than you can shake a stick at -- though, for some reason, they seemed to be the only games he had a problem winning.

Consider this: If you went to a Michigan game when Schembechler was a coach, you were four times more likely to see a win than a loss. Four times.

And his showdowns with Woody Hayes' Buckeyes were the stuff of legends. It was Schembechler who avenged the "Because I couldn't go for three" loss to Ohio State.

"It doesn't get any better than that, does it?" Schembechler once said when remember the "Ten Years' War."

No, Bo. It doesn't get any better than that.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

LINKERATION



As might be expected with this kind of a game, there is a massive amount of information out there to try to digest. Let's play linkeration!

--Maisel sings the praises of the Michigan defense, which is just scary, out-of-its-mind good. To quote Glen Mason: "They've got a defensive line that we'd all like to have. ... The linebackers are very athletic. The secondary is really good." So you find the weakness.


LaMarr Woodley: Can pretty much play defense single-handedly.

--Forde notes that Troy Smith has owned -- owned -- the Wolverines. No, until you read this stuff, you probably don't know just how bad it is. Unless your a Michigan fan. And, in that case, don't read this story.


Michigan's worst nightmare since Tippy Dye.

--Revsine notes that Michigan and Ohio have, in fact, gone to war. He also points out that Ohio elections officials are -- and I presume he's not making this up -- delaying a recount by a day in order to avoid competing with the game.


Scrutinizing the Buckeyes' game plan. Democracy can wait.

--Mgoblog does something called "analysis," breaking down items the experts call "Xs and Os." With pretty videos, too!
--MZone clears up who is obsessed with whom. Hint: It ain't his guys.
--EDSBS gives us another update from Columbus. You know it's bad when ... your future depends on the military muscle of the French.
--A baby or football tickets? No, it's not somebody selling a child for seats, oddly enough. It's the other way around. (HT: EDSBS)

--OSU Blog of the Day: The Buckeye Expat.
--Michigan Blog of the Day: Blah Blah Blah.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

WHY CARR WALKED OUT



According to reports out of Michigan, Wolverines head coach Lloyd Carr became very irate over "the direction" of an interview with an ABC crew. (HT: MoTSaG) Due to its superior newsgathering ability, Cock & Fire has obtained a copy of the questions ABC intended to ask Carr going into the interview. It has been reproduced below:

--Can you hold your liquor as well as Musberger?
--Why does Jim Tressel own you?
--Why do you need a 70-some-odd-year-old man to stick up for you?
--Your Wikipedia entry says you eat young children's brains for breakfast. How do they taste?
--How great is Jim Tressel?
--Word association: Ball State.
--Word association: Jim Tressel.
--Haven't you just kind of coasted since the national championship?
--Is it true that you involuntarily wet yourself every time you see Jim Tressel?

At this point, according to Cock & Fire's sources, the interview ended.

--OSU Blog of the Day: Around the Oval.
--Michigan Blog of the Day: Maize n Brew. Don't miss the travel advisory posted following the recent events in Columbus.

LET'S GET IT ON



While Michigan-Ohio State has gotten all the attention, there are actually several rivalry games on tap this weekend. In fact, this is the first of a two-week festival of rivalries. The rundown:

WEST VIRGINIA AT PITTSBURGH, 7:30 p.m. (Thursday)
The Backyard Brawl carries some meaning this year. The Mountaineers are almost certainly out of the NC hunt, but any hopes they have of making it to the BCS hinges on beating Pitt and Rutgers. Pittsburgh needs a resume-padding win against either West Virginia or Louisville to make a postseason berth more likely. Question: Is West Virginia looking forward to Rutgers? We find out tonight.

TENNESSEE AT VANDERBILT, 12:30 p.m.
The Vols will be looking for revenge after last year's embarassment at Knoxville capped the worst year of Phil Fulmer's career. (Except, of course, that year he swore off doughnuts for no real reason.) Vandy is trying to make this the second five-win season in a row, which would be an accomplishment for the SEC's only private school.

AUBURN AT ALABAMA, 3:30 p.m.
This game at this time leaves me deeply conflicted. Auburn is No. 2 on my list of favorite teams, while Michigan ranks No. 3. But the Michigan-Ohio State game is the biggest game of the season. CBS and ABC should be shot for not avoiding this. As for the actual game, Alabama looks to avenge last season's debacle, which included Brodie Croyle lying on his back enough to take a nap. Auburn is trying to salvage something from a disappointing season.

KANSAS STATE AT KANSAS, 3:30 p.m.
Not conflicted about this one. It's a Big XII game. In any case, Kansas State (in case you haven't noticed) is bowl-eligible plus one, a huge boost for first-year coach Ron Prince. Kansas still needs a win to get to the postseason, and time is dwindling; their remaining game after this one is against Missouri.

WASHINGTON AT WASHINGTON STATE, 6:45 p.m.
Having fallen out of postseason contention after a strong start, Washington has found its bowl game: Making life difficult for the Cougars. Washington State would probably make a bowl regardless of the outcome here, but a seventh win would make that a lock.

CAL AT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, 8 p.m.
The bookend of a great day of college football rivalries, this one is for all the marbles. Win, and Cal locks up the Pac-10 title and demolishes USC-West's national championship hopes. Lose, and the Bears have to watch the Trojans go to the NC game they believe they should be in, unless USC-West stumbles to UCLA. Of course, that would knock the Trojans down to the Rose Bowl and destroy any BCS dreams for Cal. The Bears need this one.

CRISIS IN OHIO


Sorry to be late on the uptake, but I must let you all know about an unfolding situation in Columbus. To bring you up to date:

The city has apparently been seized by armed gunmen declaring "the Republic of UzBuckistan," EDSBS reports.

According to this follow-up from MZone, it appears that national leaders have become aware of the situation on the ground and are sending in the nation's best and brightest -- in the form of Brownie -- to help coordinate the federal response.

Sources tell me that if that doesn't work, Don Rumsfeld will be called in.

Stay tuned. C&F will update as information warrants.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

CHANGE THE PLATES! THE CAR'S FROM MICHIGAN!

In a pretty good move, there is an e-mail making the blog rounds about what students from Michigan should and should not do during the game in Columbus to keep themselves safe.

For the most part, the suggestions are pretty good. Then we get to this line:

--Try carpooling to the game; if possible, drive a car with non-Michigan license plates.

Wow. That's a serious rivalry.

Granted, most of our Southern rivalries are intrastate affairs: Auburn-Alabama; Mississippi-Mississippi State; Georgia-Georgia Tech; Clemson-South Carolina, etc., etc., etc. So license plates aren't an issue.

Now, if you really wanted to be safe, you could just dress in scarlet and grey. And wear a big Brutus head.


A Michigan fan prepares to enter the 'Shoe on Saturday.

I agree that students should do everything they can to stay safe. But I would hope that Ohio State fans would be more mature than this. Granted, these are folks from Ohio we're talking about. Still ...

Actually, I hope fans from both sides will keep the atmoshere rowdy, charged tense ... and safe. This game should be a celebration of everything great about college football. We don't need some half-brained OSU student and some half-brained Michigan student screwing things up.

Nothing like that would ever happen in the South.

--Michigan Blog of the Day: Michigan Sports Center
--OSU Blog of the Day: Men of the Scarlet and Gray

AS CONSISTENT AS FSU's OFFENSE

Anybody who reads Cock & Fire nows that I'm not real fond of Ron Morris. Sure, he makes the rare good point. And he writes pretty well.

But Morris has a problem with ... how shall we put this ... consistency. When the Gamecocks do well, his columns are upbeat, positive, sunny. When they do poorly, the columns are sullen, downcast, pessimistic. "Roller coaster" doesn't even begin to cover it.

Granted, swings in perception about a team are a given -- see any poll. But wild swings about the same team, over and over throughout the course of a season, even after weeks of watching said team, are a different matter.

Oddly enough, though, Morris' consistency problem becomes clear in his most recent column on Spurrier getting fined for what I would say were careless comments about referees. I could dispute some portion of Morris' column and agree with others, but that's not what caught my eye. This nugget did:

For that reason, we give Spurrier the benefit of the doubt when he blasts his own fans for cheering after a loss. Our criticism is tempered when he calls out an assistant coach during a post-game press conference. And, we understand where he is going when he calls his team "losers."
There is a lot of gray area in all of those instances. There is none when it comes to calling out officials. [Emphasis added]

That sounded oddly familiar. It sounded sort of like something he wrote during the Ron Cooper incident -- when Spurrier "call(ed) out an assistant coach during a post-game press conference."

What did Morris write then?

Already this season, Spurrier has ranted after a game about how his team plays “stupid.” He also went after USC fans for cheering his team following a close loss to Auburn. At least on those two occasions, there was a wide swath of gray area concerning his comments.
There was no middle ground on what he did to Ron Cooper on Saturday. What he did was wrong. [Emphasis added]

Has Morris never heard of Lexis Nexis? Or Google? Does he realize that we no longer live in a world where you can write one thing, write another little more than a month later, have them completely contradict each other, and have no one notice?

Again, in October: "There was no middle ground on what he did to Ron Cooper on Saturday." In November: "There is a lot of gray area in all of those instances." No qualification. No "with the exception of the Cooper incident." Simply "in all of those instances."

I don't mind criticizing Spurrier; from time to time, he deserves it. Probably in both these cases, he should have been raked over the coals a bit.

But be consistent when you do it. And come up with a different set of sentences to do so.


I actually voted against it being a gray area before I voted for it.

JEFF BOWDEN IS OUT; FSU PROBABLY STILL SUCKS

Well, Jeff Bowden is out at Florida State. The offense coordinator -- and I'm using the term "coordinator" loosely -- has been blamed by Seminole fans for everything from poor offensive performance to being Sylar on Heroes.

But, luckily, a candidate to replace Jeff has already emerged.


John Saunders sounded uncomfortable even joking about this guy tonight.

Monday, November 13, 2006

QUALITY LINKS ON FSU SITUATION

I was thinking of doing a post on how sad it was to see a program like FSU getting shellacked in its own stadium.

Then, I saw a hysterical post on EDSBS.

And I followed the link to an even more hysterical post on The Itch.

And I realized: Why feel sorry for a storied program when it's much easier just to laugh at it?

THERE SHALL NEVER BE ANOTHER GAME AS GREAT AS THIS ONE


Ah, you have to love ESPN's ability to hype even the game of the year beyond all reasonable bounds.

In fact, ESPN's promo commercial is just ... bizarre. There's no other word for it.

It opens in a forest with skies of green. Either we're looking through a nightscope, on a mission somewhere in the Balkans, or we are standing in the glow-in-the-dark aftermath of nuclear armageddon. The trees tower above us.

Behind all of this, comes the rumbling voice of -- who else? -- Brent Musberger. "A century so young," he intones solemnly, "already has its game."

Yes, that's right. The century is younger than cheap whiskey, and this is it. The Game of the Century. What if undefeated Alabama and Auburn ... uh, no. What if Michigan and Ohio State somehow meet in the actual national championship ... uh, no. What if this game ends up being a 3-0 drudgefest, filled with fumbles, interceptions and Zookesque play-calling? Too bad. This is it. This is our game. Can't have a better one for 94 years. Or 95, depending on when you believe the century ends.

Of course, while Musberger babbles on about dreams and this and such and on and on, we see cuts of football players. We have to assume these are current players, because we don't really see any of them for that long. Wait a minute; is that Desmond Howard?

But they're back to playing with the background. It's back to green, but the trees are gone. There's a moon there, with the clouds still swirling around it. Again, the link to football is not explained. Why bother, when the neato animation effects can be used.

Metallic letters come up. Futuristic. Or industrial. Kind like you might see on, say, a motorcycle show or "Iron Chef: America." "#2 MICHIGAN VS. #1 OHIO STATE..." They letters get bigger and bigger, coming toward you as if preparing to devour you.

End promo.

But, apparently, ESPN has added another half hour to their pre-game show, backing up the start time to 2:30 p.m. Because Doug Flutie just has that much to say.

Ah, but wait for ESPN's on-air tag: JUDGMENT DAY.

Judgment Day? Huh, wha?

Apparently, the players of the losing team will be dragged behind the stadium and executed by a Soviet firing squad. Or perhaps they'll be hanged in the public square, with fans allowed to pelt them with rotten food.


Losing a football game, killing a few thousand Kurds. What's the difference?

It's a good game. It's deserving of some hype. But it's not the END OF THE WORLD. It's a football game.

I would wager that even most Michigan and Ohio State fans realize that.

--OSU Blog of the Day: The 614. Best line: "I was thinking about posting some thoughts on the Northwestern game, but really: who cares?"
--Michigan Blog of the Day: Michigan Football Saturdays. Best line: "Ms. Andrews should rightfully be doing the sideline reporting for both teams during The Game."

THE RANKS: ((Shrugs, silenced by the wreckage))


1 (Last week: 1) Ohio State: def. Northwestern, 54-10. Finally. I don't have to find anything else to say about Ohio State and Michigan. It's here. The game that will figure this thing out ... and probably make the BCS computers explode.
2 (2) Michigan: def. Indiana, 34-3. Bounces back from ugly Ball State win to take care of Indiana in a nice little tune-up game. It's time to see if we've been wrong all this time and the Wolverines should have been at No. 1.
3 (10) Arkansas: def. Tennessee, 31-14. Okay, I'm sold. This is a good, good team. Actually, Darren McFadden is a good, good team all by himself. He runs! He passes! He designs defensive plays!
4 (5) Florida: def. South Carolina, 17-16. I really wrestled with whether or not to put them ahead of Arkansas. But if the Hogs fall to LSU, they'll drop. And if Florida beats Arkansas in the SEC championship (which will happen barring a total implosion by the Razorbacks), the Gators will move up. So this will sort itself out. That said ... had they lost to South Carolina -- and they should have -- they would have had no one to blame but themselves. Too many mistakes to convince me they deserve to play in the NC.
5 (10) Southern California: def. Oregon, 35-10. I'm still not convinced they're up to snuff. If they win out and Florida or Arkansas wins out, this will be a really, really tough call. That's a tough schedule, and I don't think Southern Cal has done enough to justify more than No. 5.
6 (19) Rutgers: def. Louisville, 28-25. Now I'm sold. Coming back from a 25-7 deficit to win against one of the highest-powered offenses in the nations is a fantastic win, and going undefeated in any BCS conference, as I've said, is a solid accomplishment. That said, it'll take a whale of a game against West Virginia to put them into the top two.
7 (12) Notre Dame: def. Air Force, 39-17. Support our troops? Charlie Weis thinks not. But that Michigan loss still, after all these weeks, leaves a strong, bitter taste on my tongue.
8 (4) Texas: lost to Kansas State, 45-42. What? Kansas State? When, when will Big 12 championship/NC contenders learn not to take the Wildcats lightly. It's not good when your team loses its QB and then falls completely apart.
9 (14) Wisconsin: def. Iowa, 24-21. They're here because they have one loss. I'm giving out bonus points for low loss totals right now, so they get the edge over LSU and Tennessee. And I think they're just flat out better than West Virginia.
10 (9) West Virginia: def. Cincinatti, 42-24. Again, a solid rebound. But there are still plenty of questions about this team that will have to wait until the Rutgers game to be answered. They get docked a slot for the Louisville loss looking less impressive.
11 (13) LSU: def. Alabama, 28-14. I'm tempted to say this may be the best two-loss team in college football. But then I realize that this is the best two-loss team in college football. Too bad the only way they get to Atlanta is a Hogs loss to Mississippi State.
12 (8) Tennessee: lost to Arkansas, 31-14. Up and down, up and down, up and down. Fulmer better hope this is a sign of climbing out of the 2005 hole instead of a temporary reprieve.
13 (7) California: lost to Arizona, 24-20. Cal better beat USC-West this weekend, because they obviously spent last week practicing for the Trojans.
14 (21) Wake Forest: def. Florida State, 30-0. I could use all the superlatives: "First time this ..." "First time that since ..." The fact of the matter is, you don't go to Tallahassee and hang 30 on a Bobby Bowden team will blanking them. No matter how bad the FSU team is.
15 (3) Louisville: lost to Rutgers, 28-25. You know what they said about market bubbles. They pop. Why move them below West Virginia? Don't worry, the Mountaineers will tumble if they lose to the Scarlet Knights.
16 (16) Georgia Tech: def. North Carolina, 7-0. It's the ACC. Look at the car wreck, then move on.
17 (17) Oklahoma: def. Texas Tech, 34-24. Wouldacouldashoulda. How much does that Oregon non-loss hurt now?
18 (6) Auburn: lost to Georgia, 37-15. Yes, they deserve every spot of this drop. That was a wretched loss that confirmed that this is just not a great football team.
19 (22) Maryland: def. Miami, 14-13. I give them credit for beating a team that was fired up emotionally.
20 (15) Boise State: def. San Jose State, 23-20. Anybody but San Jose State, and I could give them a pass. But not on this one.
21 (18) Virginia Tech: def. Kent State, 23-0. Again, anybody but Kent State and I could give them a pass. But not on this one.
22 (20) Clemson: def. N.C. State, 20-14. More teams below them moving up than any real reason to move them down. Again, who knows where all these ACC teams will end up?
23 (23) Boston College: def. Duke, 28-7. Beat a good team 28-7, and you get a bump. Beat Duke 28-7, and you hold.
24 (25) BYU: def. Wyoming, 55-7. Granted, Wyoming's D will never be mistaken for the unit from Ann Arbor. But the Cougars are consistently putting up big numbers.
25 (NR) Nebraska: def. Texas A&M, 28-27. They essentially sub in the for the Aggies by beating them head to head.

DROPPED OUT: Texas A&M falls one point short ...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

IT'S COMING



Over the next five days, Cock & Fire will do the best it can as an SEC-centric blog to cover the biggest story in college football this year. THE GAME. Ohio State-Michigan for all the marbles.

One thing to note is that it is rare for fate to smile upon CFB fans like this. Usually, it blows up in some horrific Ball State upset. But not so this year. We get the game everybody wants to see. 11-0 Ohio State. 11-0 Michigan. A spot in the NC game at stake in one of the oldest rivalries in CFB.

First, C&F will feature links to two blogs everyday: One a Michigan blog and one an Ohio State blog.
--Michigan blog of the day: The M Zone
--OSU blog of the day: Buckeye Commentary

Plus, I hope to have at least one feature post every day, as time allows. It's going to be a busy week.

And it'll end with a BCS bang.

NEW BCS STANDINGS

The newest BCS standings, courtesy Fox's post-game NFL show, with comments:

1. Ohio State. No surprise here.
2. Michigan. Ditto.
3. Southern California. "This will be controversial," Joe Buck says. Well, he knows something about college football.
4. Florida. They have the better schedule overall. But the remaining games are weaker than USC-West's.
5. Notre Dame. Wow. I didn't expect them to jump this high.
6. Rutgers. Finally getting their respect.
7. Arkansas. Still not getting their respect. But they've got a shot at Florida coming up if they run the table.
8. West Virginia. Hmm. Not much to say here.
9. Wisconsin. Again, finally getting a little bit more respect.
10. Louisville. How do they stay here?

Also...

12. Boise State. Would qualify for berth.

PANDEMONIUM

Certainly Texas could take over No. 3 in the BCS if they kept winning. Or Auburn could come out ready to play the Michigan-Ohio State loser. Or maybe a Cal team that beat USC-West could make a credible case as a one-loss NC contender if they ran the table.

Um, then came Saturday?

Just to recap:
--Texas lost to Kansas State, 45-42.
--Auburn lost to Georgia, 37-15.
--California fell to Arizona, 24-20.

This is about to get messier than a day in the trial of Saddam Hussein.


I demand justice for Southern California.

So now we have the Ohio State-Michigan loser, Texas, Florida, USC-West, Auburn, California, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Wake Forest and Louisville. Oh, and Rutgers is undefeated. As is Boise State.

Let the (wrong-headed) demands for a playoff begin. Let the on-air arguments begin. Let the debates rage.


A debate over the BCS. Or a Miami practice. One of the two.

Ain't college football grand?

ORANGE CRUSH, ACT II -- Florida Recap


THE GOOD
--Blake did a good job picking apart the Florida secondary, going 24-of-33 for 275 yards. The question is whether this is a Central Florida-style fluke or if Steve Spurrier's masterful handling of the psychology of quarterbacks is one again at work.
--Mike Davis was able to gash the Gators defense pretty easily as well. If he can get started and stay on-course, he could be a valuable asset against (a) Clemson, whose offense we must keep off the field; and (b) our opponents next year.
--Sidney Rice said those magic words again: "I'm coming back." Oh, those are lovely to hear.


THE BAD
--The defense continued giving up yards to good offenses. In this case, 437 yards, which is way, way too much to give up to a superior team at their house.
--Penalties. Ten for 85 yards. And some of them were drive-killers or drive-stallers. Once again, you can't do that at the other guy's stadium.
--Tim Tebow. If you saw the game, you understand. If you didn't ... words cannot describe the badness.


THE UGLY
--Special teams.
--Special teams.
--Special teams. Horrible. Nightmarish. Maybe there isn't anyone to blame. But it was not good.

A FEW MENTAL NOTES FROM YESTERDAY

And with them being mental notes, I'm sure I've forgotten some of them.

--Don't be too hard on Auburn's Brandon Cox. Contrary to the box score, he was 8-for-12 passing. The only problem was that four of those completions went to the wrong team.
--Steve Slaton is really fast. Good Lord, that man is fast.


Steve Slaton evades Cincinnati's defense.

--If you are trying to win the Big 12 championship and a chance at the NC, the last last last thing you want to do is face Kansas State. Nothing good will come of this.
--Cal should beat USC-West. Because they've obviously spent extra time practicing.
--Get ready. Saturday is going to be fun. More than usual.