Saturday, October 14, 2006

OVERTIME









More complete reports on all these coming tomorrow, but a few thoughts:

--It sucks to be No. 2 this year, as Texas, Notre Dame, Auburn and now Florida have all learned.
--It sucks that Adrian Peterson, a talented guy even if he wasn't the APOCALYPTICAL FANTASTIC PLAYER that ESPN made him out to be, won't play for the rest of the season and might not play another college snap.
--It sucks that Southern Cal will probably be the consensus No. 2 tomorrow, even though they clearly don't deserve it.
--It's good to see Rutgers remain among the unbeaten.
--It's good to see Auburn rebound the way they did.
--It's good that Southern Cal will be No. 2 just in time for the plague to kick in.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

MIDSEASON REPORT: BEST TEAM STORIES

Perhaps more than any other sport, college football is about the team. Fan allegiances don't change because of high-paid players leaping from team to team. Players, for the most part, stay put for their entire college career. And every year, there are a few teams that surprises in a pleasant way, that make things interesting. A look at them with almost half the CFB season done.


RUTGERS
Choosing the best team story was easy this year: The distinction belongs to Rutgers University. The New Jersey school most famous for -- nothing, really -- has suddenly become the talk of college football. The Scarlet Knights are ranked and unbeaten. That's right, 5-0. And with games coming up against Navy, Pittsburgh and Connecticut, Rutgers could conceivably be (gulp) 8-0 before they face Louisville on Nov. 9. The Cardinals will be coming off their game against West Virginia, which means there's not telling what could happen at that point. At any point, chalk up their success mostly to Coach Greg Schiano, who had apparently had too much to drink when the Scarlet Knights called him. I say that because he accepted the job. No other evidence of intoxication is required. Kudos to Rutgers. Now go implode against Navy and make me look like an idiot.


WASHINGTON
So, figure this one out. A coach wins at Stanford, can't win at Notre Dame, then goes to the University of Washington -- where football coaches are better known for their Final Four picks than for their sideline prowess -- and starts to win again. The Huskies and Tyrone Willingham are off to a 4-2 start and were jobbed out of three seconds that could have meant the difference between victory and defeat against Southern California, which delusionalists think is the second-ranked team in the country.

MISSOURI
Gary Pinkel and crew are also off to an undefeated start, and could actually end up as the biggest challenge to Texas for Big 12 supremacy. Cake that statement several times over with equivocation, because there's no way to tell whether this Mizzou is the real deal. But keep an eye on them.

WAKE FOREST
They couldn't pick off Clemson, but there's nothing to keep the Deacons from having a bowl-worthy season, and perhaps sneaking into a pretty good postseason bid given the weakness of the ACC. The question, of course, is whether Wake will do its usual midseason meltdown and disappoint again.

NORTHWESTERN
No, they're not off to a great start. No, they're not going to go to a bowl game. But a few short months after their head coach died suddenly and unexpectedly, Northwestern continues to push on and play on. That alone is reason enough to salute them every time they take the field.

TRAGIC NEWS FROM ANOTHER SPORT

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

M I D S E A S O N / R E P O R T : A U T O B I O G R A P H Y

AS C&F EMBARKS on its first midseason report, it strikes me that I have done precious little in the way of explaining what this site is about. To this point, I have mostly stated the obvious: This is a college football blog.

So, with the first six games reeled off by many teams, I'll take the first installment of the report to simply lay out (as succinctly as possible) what, exactly, I'm trying to do here.

First of all, you will not see sophisticated statistical analysis. Mostly because I don't know how to do it -- I am a journalist by trade. But also because I don't believe in that hocus-pocus.


Knows more about Excel than I do.

To clarify: Yes, there are some valuable insights about CFB that can be discerned by looking at numbers and spreadsheets and such. But there is an element of this game, perhaps more than any other, that defies all the numbers you want to run and the computers you want to use. Remember, statistics are what brought us the BCS.

You will see some game breakdown, but not a heck of a lot. This is for a couple of reasons. First of all, I think the guys on television do a fair (not great, but fair) job of providing that breakdown, and second, because I think any breakdown here comes across as a bit stale. Most of what I do in this area will be who was a key to a big game, etc. I will be doing a bit more of this in the future.

More than anything, this blog is supposed to be a humorous, enjoyable and slightly irreverant look at what it is that makes CFB so special: The pomp, the circumstance, the people. Yes, I'm going to every so often rip the polls, because it's fun. Yes, I'm going to mock the powers and would-be-powers that add a bit of ridiculousness to CFB. And, yes, I'm going to mercilessly attack the BCS while defending the idea of an MNC.

That's not to say that what happens on the field is not important to CFB: It's vital. That is, after all, the game.

But the one thing that separates CFB from the NFL is that it's more than Xs and Os. So I'll talk about what makes Rutgers a good team, and how great a story that is.

At least until someone shows me how to run a spreadsheet.

DID SPURRIER VIOLATE GENEVA CONVENTIONS?

You know Steve Spurrier has had a bad day when he admits he was wrong.

For those of you coming to the story late (which, ahem, includes C&F as far as blogging is concerned), this whole affair began when an angry Spurrier couldn't answer the media's questions about coverage meltdowns in the final moments of a win against Kentucky. So what did he do? Summon his secondary coach, Ron Cooper, to answer the questions.


Spurrier has Ron Cooper brought to the press conference.

The State describes the discomfort that followed:

Moments after Spurrier asked Fink to find the Gamecocks’ assistant head coach, Cooper interrupted Spurrier’s media conference. His white dress shirt was buttoned and tucked neatly, but Cooper straightened his silver necktie while standing before the surprised group.
The two-dozen or so reporters had little to ask. It was Spurrier who acted as a one-man firing squad.

But, by Monday, Spurrier knew he was wrong. Which was all that Up-and-down Ron needed to hold forth:

Although Cooper said following the interrogation by his boss that he did not mind being put in that position, he probably was speaking the party line. No coach, or employee for that matter, should be subjected to that.

Don't worry. In a couple of weeks, Morris will be writing about how fine a handler of interpersonal relationships Spurrier is.

But Morris' wider point shows some of the problems Spurrier is trying to solve. No, the fans probably shouldn't cheer after a loss. And, yes, from time to time, players do need to be called out if they play a stupid game. Spurrier's trying to change the culture. And it's not always pretty.

That said, it's good Spurrier apologized for this. It was inappropriate. But Cooper's moved on, so let's do the same.

A POLITICAL FOOTBALL

Ah...what to say about the most urgent political issue of the day in Georgia?

No, it's not the debate between gubernatorial candidates over education. Or economic development. Or health care.

If you dropped in from outer space, what would think is a pressing issue?

The AJC headline: "Dogs get put in their place."

That little piece of front-page poetry brought a letter from Gov. Sonny Perdue. Which sparked a story. Which continued when Perdue called a sports radio station. Which sparked another story.

For professional reasons, I'm constrained on commenting on this too much. Just a few links. Judge for yourself.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

THE RANKS: SEC play shuffles things around

1 (Last week: 1) Ohio State: def. Bowling Green, 35-7. This is beginning to test my faith. Could Ohio State beat Michigan? Florida? I'm still shaky as to why I keep them at No. 1, but they really haven't given me a reason yet to drop them.

2 (2) Florida: def. LSU, 23-10. The rest of the world joins me in my belief that Florida is (at least) the second-best team in the nation. They are surely doomed. The only weakness right now is the QB rotation, but it seems to be working out fine for them. Not for Leak's Heisman prospects, but for his team's NC prospects. Now they must overcome FULL CIRCLE, which, as far as I can see, is usually a disaster for all involved.

3 (4) Michigan: def. Michigan State, 31-13. Sorry, they have done a lot more than Southern Cal this year. Especially since the Trojans enjoyed the team-bending abilities of that guy on Heroes.
4 (6) Southern California: def. Washington, 26-20. Baaaarely a win. Thankfully for USC, Auburn and LSU both take a tumble.
5 (8) West Virginia: def. Mississippi State, 42-14. Now they're beginning to rebuild the confidence I lost in them after the ECU game. Yes, it's Mississippi State. But that's a whuppin.
6 (7) Louisville: def. Middle Tennessee State, 44-17. Meanwhile, the other "sleepwalking through the Big East" team puts an equal size whuppin on Middle Tennessee State. That puts them in second, though the return of Brohm could change this.
7 (12) Tennessee: def. Georgia, 51-33. Wow. Wow. 51 points? On Georgia? In Athens? I thought they were good and Georgia was bad. I didn't know Tennessee was this good and Georgia was this bad.
8 (9) Texas: def. Oklahoma, 28-10. Mack might never be known as "Big Game" Mack again. And Oklahoma seems to be losing its grip on the Red River Rivalry.
9 (10) Notre Dame: def. Stanford, 31-10. Struggled mightily with the decision between Auburn and Notre Dame, but I think the Irish get a slight edge over a team that was thoroughly unimpressive Saturday.
10 (3) Auburn: lost to Arkansas, 27-10. That was not just a bad loss. That was not just a whuppin. That was embarassing. Suddenly, Florida looks a full cut above instead of a slight favorite.

11 (11) Clemson: def. Wake Forest, 27-17. Over the hump and looking like a good bet for Jacksonville.
12 (13) Iowa: def. Purdue, 47-17. Still the "Oh, and..." in the Big Ten.
13 (21) California: def. Oregon, 45-24. Lowers the boom on Oregon. Arguably the best team in the Pac-10 since the Knoxville meltdown, which might haunt them the rest of the way.
14 (5) LSU: lost to Florida, 23-10. If Les and the crew don't straighten things out, this could be the beginning of a long slide.
15 (NR) Arkansas: def. Auburn, 27-10. Could the Hogs get to Atlanta? Only LSU stands in their way.
16 (16) Georgia Tech: def. Maryland, 27-23. Hangs on to beat the Terps. Hangs on to No. 16.
17 (15) Oklahoma: lost to Texas, 28-10. Seems about right. Poetic justice after the jobbing at Eugene.
18T (14) Oregon: lost to California, 45-24. Bad, bad loss. What more can you say?
18T (18) Virginia Tech: IDLE. I put them in a tie so I don't drop them, but I'm not sure they could tie Oregon in a game.
20 (19) Rutgers: A victim of the Arkansas Surge.
21 (24) Missouri: def. Texas Tech, 38-21. Continues to quietly work its way through the Big 12.
22 (NR) Boise State, def. Lousiana Tech, 55-14. Yeah, I put them on this week. Seems right.
23 (23) Nebraska: def. Iowa State, 28-14. Also working quietly through the Big 12.
24 (19) Penn State: def. Minnesota, 28-27. Should have lost. But they didn't. So it's hard to drop them out entirely.
25 (25) Washington: lost to Southern California, 26-20. Without the "missing seconds," they might have beat Southern Cal. So, no, I'm not going to drop them for almost beating the No. 4 team in the country. Why? Because dropping someone just because they lose or moving someone up just because they win is beyond stupid.

DROPPING OUT: Georgia is going to be hurting in a big way real soon...Florida State continues to bumble around, becoming the second FULL CIRCLE team to drop out...

ON THE BUBBLE: Wisconsin is just shy of getting on...Even with the loss to Clemson, I like Wake Forest...For two straight weeks, N.C. State beat a then-ranked team...

MEN OF THE SQUARE TABLE -- Week 6


Fanlaw #9: LSU will not be allowed to play special teams. Just bad. A safety, muffed kicks, etc., etc. Yes, Florida's good and deserving of their No. 2 spot. But the Tigers made it easier than it should have been.

Fanlaw #10: A No. 2 team who loses to a high-school offense system shall be flogged. Beginning with the head coach. Continuing with the defensive coordinator. And then all defensive players. And, for good measure, the water boy.

Fanlaw #11: Pac-10 referees must never, ever again be allowed to oversee a game of import. This just gets more and more embarassing. These guys are a major conference, right?