Saturday, September 23, 2006

WHO SAID THIS WOULD BE BORING?

In what was supposed to be a rather tame day, top-rated teams that were either worn out from last week or looking ahead to next weekend almost let some gimmes get away.

It's Suck-aration Saturday!

--Notre Dame 40, Michigan State 37
A huge rally late, combined with several lucky bounces and an inexplicably placid Spartan crowd, fulfilled Charlie Weis' pledge to never again lose to Michigan State. WHAT WE LEARNED: The defense is very, very vulnerable.

--Georgia 14, Colorado 13
Perhaps the most flagrant of the near-upsets, Georgia had to mount a 14-point, fourth-quarter comeback with Joe Cox to finally put away a team that fell to I-AA Montana State earlier this year. WHAT WE LEARNED: The QB depth chart means nothing.

--Ohio State 28, Penn State 6
Ohio State needed two defensive TDs in the fourth quarter to beat Penn State even though JoePa spent the better part of the game in the head. WHAT WE LEARNED: If OSU is going to win the NC this year, it will be the same way they did it in 2002: By the seat of their pants.

--Florida 26, Kentucky 7
Florida resorted to trickeration to get an early lead, which they lost before Kentucky started playing like Kentucky again and the Gators pulled away. WHAT WE LEARNED: The secondary is suspect.

--N.C. State 17, Boston College 15
In one of the few actual upsets of the week, N.C. State got a lest-second touchdown to beat Boston College in Raleigh. WHAT WE LEARNED: Yes, the ACC is that bad.

FIVE REASONS -- Week 4

...USC WILL WIN

1. Steve Spurrier. He's not going to let anyone get away with another performance like they had during the Wofford game. I hope.
2. The expectations of the other team. Namely, their coach has pretty much admitted he thinks his team will lose. That means bad gambles because, hey, what have you got to lose?
3. Syvelle Newton. No, South Carolina didn't do as good as they should have against the Terriers. But Newton discovered this guy named Sidney Rice among the Gamecocks receivers. Turns out this Rice kid is pretty good.
4. Sidney Rice. Finally had a 100+-yard game last week against the Terriers. Now, if he does it against a I-A team, we can say things are back on track.
5. The law of averages. We're due for a good game.

...USC WON'T WIN

1. Underperformance, thy name is South Carolina. There has literally not been a single game this year when the Gamecocks didn't fail miserably to meet expectations. Almost every game has, on some level, been a disaster or near-disaster. The one exception was Mississippi State, which was just a pathetic effort.
2. Howard Schnellenberger. Masochist or not, the man won a national championship at Miami and guided the opening stages of the Louisville surge. He has what you might consider a history of doing the unexpected.
3. The defense. After good performances for the first two game of the seasons, they got ripped by Wofford. Granted, Florida Atlantic appears to be more of a passing team, but that's not much of a comfort.
4. Hubris. I can't believe that this would actually happen given last week's "win," but it's always a possibility.
5. Looking ahead. Yes, we have Auburn next week. But it's time to focus on FAU and worry about the Tigers later.

Friday, September 22, 2006

THE WEEKEND AFTER

IT FIGURES.

After three weeks in which various responsibilities and travels kept me from viewing CFB on Saturday -- including having to work during the WEEK OF THE DECADE last week -- I finally get to stay home and watch some football.

And it's kind of a lame week. In fact, slaughter and pillaging should abound.


A weekend only a Viking could love.

So it goes.

To the picks...

Wisconsin at No. 8 Michigan, 12 p.m.
Wisconsin hasn't faced a serious opponent all year. Michigan is coming off a thumping victory in its biggest game so far, meaning they're due for a let down. Let the Big 10 grindfest begin. Michigan 17, Wisconsin 10.

Cincinnati at No. 17 Virginia Tech, 12 p.m
This game is on ESPN U, which is good because no one really wants to watch it. Virginia Tech 34, Cincinnati 10.

No. 9 Iowa at Illinois, 12 p.m.
There really isn't a question about who will win the game. The only question is whether Illinois will bother to take the field in the second half. Iowa 35, Illinois 3.

North Carolina at No. 13 Clemson, 12 p.m.
North Carolina beat Furman by a field goal. Clemson might also come from Upstate S.C., but they're a much tougher foe. Clemson 24, North Carolina 7.

No. 7 Louisville at Kansas State, 12:10 p.m.
K-State actually plays a nonconference game against a difficult opponent. It's not likely they'll repeat the mistake. Louisville 52, Kansas State 12.

Colorado at No. 10 Georgia, 12:30 p.m.
Only reason to watch this game: To see if Ralphie the Buffalo, who's making the trek to Athens, will eat Uga. Georgia 42, Colorado 6.


Uga best hope this guy's not hungry.

Howard at No. 22 Rutgers
If your nickname or school name is Bison, Buffalo or anything like it (it's the Howard Bisons), this ain't your week. Rutgers 35, Howard 10.

Buffalo at No. 3 Auburn, 2:30 p.m.
The new clock rules make it nearly impossible to rack up one of those 70-point victories that schools like Auburn used to hang on teams like Buffalo. That's one thing the boys from N.Y. can be grateful for. Auburn 56, Buffalo 3.

No. 15 Penn State at No. 1 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m.
This may be the best game on the schedule this weekend. That tells you how far we've fallen from last week. Ohio State 24, Penn State 10.

Iowa State at No. 11 Texas, 3:30 p.m.
Letdown for Iowa State coming off its loss to Iowa? Does it really matter? Texas 35, Iowa State 7.

Arizona State at No. 23 California, 3:30 p.m.
Arizona State needs a big win to crack the C&F ranks. They don't get it here. California 42, Arizona State 40.

Rice at No. 20 Florida State, 3:30 p.m.
Even Jeff Bowden can come up with a successful game plan against Rice. But don't expect anything too flashy. Florida State 24, Rice 0.

Marshall at No. 14 Tennessee, 4 p.m.
Back in the day when they were a perpetual BCS disrupter, Marshall would have a good shot at the upset. Back in the day. But Florida hangover keeps it closer than it should be. Tennessee 23, Marshall 10.

No. 4 West Virginia at East Carolina, 4:30 p.m.
The only question is whether Steve Slaton outgains the entire East Carolina offense. My guess is he will. West Virginia 52, East Carolina 14.

Middle Tennessee State at No. 19 Oklahoma, 7 p.m.
Pity MTSU. They get to be the sacrificial lamb as Oklahoma sets out to prove how badly they were screwed. But there's some good news for the lambs: Oklahoma's offense just isn't very good. Oklahoma 34, MTSU 3.

Troy at No. 24 Nebraska, 7 p.m.
The Huskers slog through another. Nebraska 23, Troy 10.

Kentucky at No. 2 Florida, 7:45 p.m.
By the time Rich Brooks figures out why he's in Gainesville, it will be too late. Florida 48, Kentucky 3.

No. 6 Southern Cal at Arizona, 8 p.m.
I was this close to making this the upset special. But the other USC continues to surprise. USC 35, Arizona 10.

!UPSET SPECIAL! No. 12 Notre Dame at Michigan State, 8 p.m.
Another close loss to MSU keeps the Domers in free fall. Michigan State 35, Notre Dame 34.

No. 25 Boston College at N.C. State, 8 p.m.
Ah, the ACC has not turned out to fulfill its expanders' dreams. This will be a game without a conference context that gives it meaning. Boston College 20, N.C. State 9

Tulane at No. 5 LSU, 8 p.m.
A showdown only a Louisianan could love. Too bad I'm not one. LSU 41, Tulane 17

IDLE: No. 16 TCU, No. 18 Oregon. ALREADY PLAYED: No. 21 Georgia Tech.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

GET BEHIND THIS, DADGUMMIT!

This is an effort all South Carolina fans should support.

Why back the retirement of Bobby Bowden? Follow the logic:

Mark Richt was once offensive coordinator of Florida State. He was born in Florida and went to Miami, but most of his coaching experience prior to taking over as head coach of Georgia was at FSU.

Richt has owned South Carolina, losing a grand total of once in five matchups, and that being his first year at Georgia.

Rumblings in Georgia have long been that Richt would take the Seminole job if/when Bobby Bowden retired. (I say "if" because I think Bowden and JoePa have found a secret formula to ward off death, and both are drinking it with reckless abandon.)

So if Bowden retires, Richt could take the FSU job and Georgia could once again hire a coach in the proud tradition of Ray Goff and Jim Donnan. South Carolina can then return to having a chance against Georgia.

Be a good Gamecocks fan. Support the retirment of Coach Bowden.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

GRUMBLEGRUMBLEGRUMBLEGRUMBLE

Obviously, this is the week of complaints for teams around the country. Oklahoma is still complaining about the refereeing in its game against Oregon and now seems about this close to challenging the Pac-10 to a duel.


I'll show you a thin' or two about callin' them plays, youngster!

Meanwhile, LSU is griping about the calls in its game against Auburn. Virginia coach Al Groh is complaining about boos. And Texas Tech's Mike Leach is complaining about his own players. (Maybe he could complain about the unfairness of having to face a team that actually plays defense, but that's beside the point.)

So I have decided to complain about a few things that I think contributed to South Carolina's loss poor play against Wofford. (It just feels like a loss.)

--The stun guns offensive lineman secretly used against our front seven.
--The fact that Wofford resorted to a decades-old offensive system against a group of young men who grew up on Nintendo 64.
--The use of teleporting by Wofford running backs was not flagged or in any way prevented by referees.


That's gotta be a penalty.

Of course, I could just say that the players and coaches underperformed and have no one but themselves to blame, despite whatever outside factors might have intervened.

But where's the fun -- and ability to escape responsibility -- in that?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

WOFFORD: CREAM OF THE DEFENSIVE CROP

Actual quote from Steve Spurrier:

"Wofford's got an excellent defensive line," he said. "That No. 91 of theirs was very difficult to block, so hopefully Auburn and Florida and Tennessee don't have anyone quite like that guy."

It's going to be a long, long year.


Wofford's ferocious No. 91.

I DUB THEE, 'FUTILITY BOWL'

Vanderbilt and Wake Forest, perpetual underachievers in two quality conferences, will meet for seven mind-numbingly mediocre games, officials at both schools announced Tuesday.

"With these two school's grand traditions of inability, fans are guaranteed to get more suck for their buck," said Wake Forest Athletic Director Ron Wellman.

"It's great to know we're not alone in dragging down the achievement level of an otherwise BCS-caliber league," said Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson, who spoke because Vanderbilt has given up caring enough to have an athletic director. "Now we can slug it out in a glorious celebration of yellow flags, horrendous special teams plays and more turnovers than you used to find in grandma's kitchen."

Schools officials are planning to call the game the Futility Bowl.

DERN THESE NEW-FANGLED COMPOOTERS

Seems that the whole copy-paste thing is a bit too high-tech for one of the Charlotte Observer's sportswriters:

Because of an error by the Observer, The Associated Press re-released its weekly college football poll Monday.
The Observer's Ken Tysiac, a voter in the poll, inadvertently submitted a week-old ballot to the AP on Sunday, and that ballot was used to determine the rankings. ...
To keep a similar mistake from happening, Tysiac's method for submitting his vote has changed. He'll vote by telephone in the future rather than by e-mail.


And if that doesn't work, we'll put him on one of these.

Remember, these are the people on whom Southern Cal relies to claim a repeat championship.

MEA CULPA ON RAY RAY

Since I seem to be going through the Week of Atonement here at C&F, I have to go back to a previous post in which I let the NCAA have it pretty hard for allowing extra assistance to Ray Ray McElrathbey.

I got a particularly pointed response from Josh Centor over at the NCAA, who wrote (in part) this:
It seems to me that he is doing the right thing, and this waiver allows him to be a student-athlete and take care of his brother at the same time. I am confident our organization would have had the same response for any student-athlete in a similar situation.

To be clear, I'm not buckling under because of a comment from the NCAA. But it added to some thinking I've already been doing since I made the post.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the original post had to do with my suspicion of a rival university. But I think in an attempt to get a dig in at Clemson in a tongue-in-cheek way, I might have gone too far.

I should have made it clearer that I absolutely have no problem with the non-monetary forms of extra benefits that McElrathbey and his brother receive. I'm still nervous about the cash assistance, and I think there ought to be some strings attached. And, since I don't have access to agreements between Clemson and the NCAA, there might be some sort of oversight. If there isn't, this does open the door for potential violations -- boosters or agents giving $5,000 in "charitable contributions," then another $1,000 for each tackle, etc.

But it's obvious that wasn't the NCAA's intention, and saying Myles Brand was "allowing payola" crossed the line. Of the many legitimate critcisms that could be leveled at the NCAA, that wasn't one of them.

I also should have emphasized that I was in no way criticizing McElrathbey. Good Lord, the young man is a saint. I have two younger brothers that fortunately have a much better home life -- but I would like to think I'd do the same if they didn't.

However, my other, more sweeping comment -- that "there are probably other students across the country in a similar situation whose schools don't give a rip about them because they don't play football" -- still stands. I have no reason to doubt that the NCAA "would have had the same response for any student-athlete in a similar situation." But that wasn't the point I was trying to make.

I was simply wondering whether Clemson -- or South Carolina, or any other school, for that matter -- would have cared as much about this if McElrathbey wasn't a cornerback. Would anyone in the larger world have cared as much if McElrathbey wasn't a cornerback? I'm not sure.

That comment wasn't pointed at the NCAA. It wasn't even really pointed at Clemson. It was pointed at society.

Self included.

Unfortunately, I got too cute by half, thinking about how to work in a jab at the NCAA's (still-ridiculous) crackdown on Native American mascots and a picture of Spitzer. I made a mistake: I engaged my blog before I engaged my brain.

Hopefully, that's the last apology I'll have to make. At least until Ohio State loses.

A SERIOUS POST FOR SOME SERIOUS MOMENTS

A string of bad news for several non-CFB players, some of who I like or respect very much, leads me to take a break from our regularly scheduled blogging for just a moment.

First, the one most directly related to CFB: David Pollack, whose freakish performance against South Carolina in 2002 let you know it was going to be a looooong year, is out for the year and maybe longer after breaking his neck while playing in that "other" football organization, the one with that playoff madness.

My heart always sinks when I see the picture, but I will post it here as a sign of respect to an ever-worthy foe.


In my heart, I'm still yelling, "Just throw...just throw the freaking ball!"

Meanwhile, one of the most professional, humble and all around-good men in MLB is out for the season not because of his own injuries (which have been bad enough), but because of an emergency with his daughter.

Derrek Lee is a great baseball player and a greater human being. And the only real reason for watching my beloved Cubbies. Godspeed, D-Lee.

Swinging back around to college, please extend thoughts and prayers to the Duquesne basketball teams, which has seen five of its players shot. Unlike CFB, these guys weren't actually doing the shooting. At least the police appear to have caught at least one of the perpetrators.

God bless you all.

We now return you to our regularly-scheduled frivolity and irreverence, already in progress.

Monday, September 18, 2006

THE RANKS: I am an idiot

First of all, I should clarify that Notre Dame being ranked No. 1 was not the only fuzzy math going on in the ranks. That would be the fact that there were, ahem, 26 teams in the top 25. That would be because I had a tie at 16 but didn't jump to 18, as anyone with an eighth-grade math degree would have done.

So when I said, "I wanted bacly to kick (Alabama) off the list, but no one else does well enough to justify it," I was really saying, "I am an incomparable idiot."


Bad 'rithmetic means moratorium on Alabama jokes.

That said, a bigger shake-up this week than last. To the ranks...

1 (Last week: 2) Ohio State: def. Cincinnati, 37-7. Yes, they finally get to No. 1, as much as I hate it. They have accomplished more than anyone else so far. I'm still not sure they can get through the schedule unfazed, but that's not what this poll is based on. So I will give them the top spot until they give me a reason to drop them.

2 (3) Florida: def. Tennessee, 21-20. A one-point win against an SEC rival on the road is pretty good. Doing so in comeback fashion, with a QB that won't be able to adapt to the system, is great. Can they run the table? I think so. The secret? I think they've gotten past one of the biggest hurdles of the season, if not the biggest.

3 (6) Auburn: def. LSU, 7-3. In the SEC, you don't have to be pretty. You just have to be good. That's what they did, and they've done more so far this season than West Virginia, who doesn't have much of a way to break out of the holding pattern until they (a) literally send an opponent's entire depth chart to the hospital; (b) beat Louisville.
4 (4) West Virginia: def. Maryland, 45-24. Torches BCS-league foe. Waits for Louisville.
5 (5) LSU: lost to Auburn, 7-3. I'm still shaky on this team. But I have more confidence in them than just about anybody else on the list right now. And let's not forget that they held a consensus top-3 team to a single TD. So they don't drop. Go ahead, criticize me.

6 (12) Southern California: def. Nebraska, 28-10. I'm starting to get sold on this team, but I still don't think you can lose 90-some-odd percent of your offense and just bounce back. They're not top-5 caliber. Yet.
7 (7) Louisville: def. Miami, 31-7. Impressive win against a team that has been perpetually overrated this year. They would have moved up had it not been for other impressive performances.
8 (13) Michigan: def. Notre Dame, 47-21. Yes, Notre Dame was overrated by C&F, among others. But it was still quite a feat to blast the Domers the way Michigan did. Will Lloyd Carr still have the slip-up game? We'll see.
9 (11) Iowa: def. Iowa State, 27-17. They won the game that always seems to catch them by surprise. But it's always a tough road to hoe in the Big 10.
10 (8) Georgia: def. UAB, 34-0. Another victim of good performances by others. But there's still something about this team that bothers me, an intangible on the down side rather than the up.

11 (9) Texas: def. Rice, 52-7. It was Rice. Nice win, but waiting for the Longhorns to put up or shut up.
12 (1) Notre Dame: lost to Michigan, 47-21. Last week: "Oh, yeah. That offense is hurting. Georgia Tech exposed a weakness. We were too quick to jump on the Notre Dame bandwagon. Putting ND at No. 1 was a ... good decision." This week: I have the intelligence of a baboon.


Listen as I school you in the virtues of Notre Dame.

13 (15) Clemson: def. Florida State, 27-20. Once again, Bobby decides to help save Tommy's job. What's new?
14 (19) Tennessee: lost to Florida, 21-20. Earn mad respect for taking No. 2 all the way. But they still looked pretty good this time last year, too.
15 (14) Penn State: def. Youngstown State, 37-3. The new clock rules are making defeats of cupcakes harder to rate. But you only put up 37 against Youngstown State?
16 (16) TCU: def. Texas Tech, 12-3. Holding Texas Tech to 3 points = good. Scoring 12 against Texas Tech defense = not so good.
17 (18) Virginia Tech: def. Duke, 36-0. Sure, it's Duke. But they count as a BCS-league foe. Sort of.
18 (21) Oregon: def. Oklahoma, 34-33.
19 (23) Oklahoma: lost to Oregon, 34-33.
Because Oregon and Oklahoma played, I'll explain the logic here: First of all, I realize that bad calls cost Oklahoma the game. But as more than one person has pointed out, good teams rise above bad calls. And Oregon took advantage of the bad calls. Besides, this is a "What have you done?" list, not a "What could you have done in a perfect world?" list. If Oklahoma is actually better than Oregon, it will even out in the end.
20 (10) Florida State: lost to Clemson, 27-20. Get docked for losing a game that once bore a 6-2 score. Also, defeat of Miami (Fla.) looks worse and worse as season goes on.
21 (17) Georgia Tech: def. Troy, 35-20. Reggie Ball and Chan Gailey strike again. And they lose Calvin Johnson.
22 (22) Rutgers: def. Ohio, 24-7. No real reason to move up or down.
23 (24) California: def. Portland State, 42-16. They now officially look more impressive than Nebraska. By default.
24 (20) Nebraska: lost to Southern California, 28-10. Respectable showing saves them from falling out.
25 (NR) Boston College: def. BYU, 30-23, 2 OT. Okay, now you've got my attention.

DROPPING OUT: Miami falls out after getting smashed by Louisville...Alabama's inclusion last week was a rounding error...

ON THE BUBBLE: Michigan State was crowded out...Purdue loses ground, but still creeping around...Arizona State needs a big win...So does Washington...Missouri will find its way on eventually...

MEN OF THE SQUARE TABLE -- WEEK 3

Fresh from their success making Manlaws, the Men of the Square Table have now announced they will being issuing "Fanlaws" on college football each week, giving fans a voice in how the game should be played and how fans themselves should handle the season.


Now dispensing football wisdom as well.

Fanlaw #1: Do not taunt a rival or opponent if you can't back it up. After the infamous billboard, Iowa State was handed its fourth-quarter head in a 27-17 defeat at the hands of Iowa. Miami players stomped on Louisville's midfield cardinal, which might have seemed smart until Louisville stomped on Miami, 31-7.


It's not nice to taunt people. It's also embarassing when this happens.

Fanlaw #2: Get the kick off. Oklahoma's, er, "loss." Clemon's grumblingrumblin victory. BC's near-loss and Washington's win. All had some connection to kicking gaffes. Surprisingly, the worst week for a kicker went to someone else...

Fanlaw #3: Backups should not stab the starter if they are competing for the first-string punting job. This is an unacceptable level of force for what is (or should be) an anonymous position which barely warrants a scholarship. Needing a second person to carry out the deed is an additional offense.

Fanlaw #4: Fans must hate rules 3-2-5 and 3-2-5-e. Does anyone really think it's a coincidence we've had so many upsets and Division 1-AA victories? Don't get us wrong. The MOTST believe that teams who schedule 1-AA teams deserve their comeuppance. But it in a game where the clock rules make sense, for crying out loud.

BUYING WEIS' PRODUCT IN BULK...NOT SO MUCH

Yes, yes, I ranked Notre Dame No. 1. Repeatedly.

I fell in line behind the ESPN/Sporting News/CFB establishment bandwagon.


Blindly following the leaders off the cliff.

In the immortal words of Herman Stecchino, "I am sorry for my transgression, and the betrayal of your trust. ... I am shame faced."

As penance, I offer a link to the celebration going on at mgoblog. Party on, party on. Your team earned it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

DEEPLY DISTURBING

This is troubling.

Steve Spurrier compared the 27-20 win Saturday to the late-game defeat against Missouri in the Independence Bowl.

But it wasn't Mizzou. It was Wofford.

And I-A teams should be I-AA by more than a touchdown and more than a late-game defensive stand.

The homer in me wants to say this is all because of the option attack of Wofford. But the only way a I-AA should beat a I-A team not coached by Dan Hawkins is if the I-AA team is running the Svengali offense.


Did Collier have USC in the throes of hypnosis?

We knew we were getting a former Florida coach. One can only hope we didn't get the wrong one, perhaps in an elaborate disguise.


A performance that was positively Zookian.

"I'm not disappointed," Fred Bennett said. "We've just got to fix some things. We're all right."

But somehow, after three thoroughly unimpressive games, it doesn't feel all right.


Color C&F nervous.