The Alphabetical: College Football, Week 11

Each Sunday during college football season, Spencer Hall offers a letter-by-letter analysis of Saturday’s college football games. ↵

↵A is for Academic. As in any and all arguments regarding Penn State’s proper place as an undefeated going into the BCS at year’s end. Penn State lost to Iowa in a freezing slog on the prairie, and watched their national title hopes evaporate in the face of missed red zone opportunities and clutch passing by Ricky Stanzi when it mattered most. ↵

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↵(The pass interference call on the final drive should have Nittany Lions fans waking up screaming from a dead sleep. If you have a disagreement with a PSU fan in the near future, win the argument by saying “Anthony Scirrotto at Iowa.” Make sure they have something soft to land on when then fall to the floor seizing.) ↵

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↵Penn State’s weak strength of schedule and remaining opponents -- Michigan State and Indiana -- place them firmly in the outer circle of BCS title hopefuls. As James Carville would happily point out to any Big Ten fan, though: you’ve always got the Rose Bowl. Who doesn’t like topiary on wheels? ↵

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↵B is for Brutality. Alabama could have lived out a warmer, batter-fried and bourbon-soaked version of the Iowa/Penn State script in Baton Rouge. Easily. Conditions were perfect: a roiling Death Valley crowd, an LSU team playing competent, violent football, and an undefeated record on the line. ↵

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↵LSU, though, has a Jarrett Lee, who made a youthful mistake firing into coverage in the endzone in overtime, and when you do that, you get painful experience points. Alabama survives and advances, and for November that will do very well, thank you very much. ↵

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↵Texas Tech left no such drama on the script. Graham Harrell continues to shame your NCAA 2009 video game dynasty quarterback, obliterating Oklahoma State 56-20. Harrell went 40-50 for 456 yards and 6 TDs. This is not human. ↵

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↵C is for Concatenation. Or the fascinating chaining of transitive loss one can run through at this point in the season. For example: Penn State loses to Iowa, who lost to Pitt, who lost to Bowling Green, who lost to Miami of Ohio, who lost to Temple, who lost to Western Michigan, who lost to Nebraska, who lost to Virginia Tech, who lost to Eastern Carolina, who lost to Houston, who lost to Colorado State, who lost to Cal, who lost to USC, who lost to Oregon State, who lost to Penn State 45-14 way back on September 6th. ↵

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↵D is for Denied. Stanford and Vandy both needed a sixth win to become bowl eligible. Stanford missed their first bowl bid since 2001 by narrowly losing to Oregon, 35-28, while Vandy extended its 26-year bowl drought in a 42-14 obliteration by Florida at home. ↵

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↵E is for Endgame. One half of the national title game likely comes from the initial and secondary results of the Texas Tech/Oklahoma game, the other, from the SEC title game between Alabama and Florida. (If Texas Tech wins, it is Big 12 Championship and forward; if Oklahoma wins, Texas takes the slot and advances if they win the remainder of their games.) USC likely loses out on strength of schedule, as does Penn State; the two meet in the Rose Bowl and happily take their money, while the Big 12 and SEC slug it out in Miami. ↵

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↵F is for Frenetic. Florida played a dysfunctional, misfiring second half of football against Vanderbilt, surrendering time of possession, being outscored 14-7, and turning the ball over with an interception. Being up 35-0 at the half will do that to a team. Florida secured the SEC East title with a thunderous first half.
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↵G is for Grawlix Grawlix is the term for profanity as depicted in cartoons. College football’s most eloquent grawlix user: Rich Brooks. ↵

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↵After Georgia took the lead in the third quarter against Kentucky at home, Rich Brooks did what he does best: dropped an inaudible but clearly readable profanity on camera, the only real reaction in the free-wheeling kung-fu fight scene masquerading as the Georgia/Kentucky game. No other coach curses with such skillful and easily lip-read aplomb. ↵

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↵H is for Hellstorm. Oklahoma’s total points on the season: 514. Total TDs: 72. That they even have a loss is one of the more boggling stats of 2008. The colossal over/under for this week’s GAME OF THE MILLENIUM OF THE WEEK with Texas Tech has to be presented in mathematics too complex for this column to understand. ↵

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↵I is for INT. One returned for a TD, another two ending potential scoring drives. Jimmy Clausen had a very, very bad four-INT night against Boston College, who waited patiently for Notre Dame to self-destruct ... which they did, right on cue. BC evens up its historical record against the Irish, 9-9. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, the Notre Dame Wake Up The Echoes Watch Sponsored by NBC goes into its 15th year. Touchdown, other guys. ↵

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↵J is for Janus. The two-faced Roman god, or the role played by Georgia wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. Massaquoi fumbled twice in the fourth quarter, giving new life to Kentucky: bad Mo. Massaquoi catches 8 passes for 191 yards, including setting up the eventual game-winning TD with a booming downfield reception from Matt Stafford: good Mo. A career-defining game for one of those college players who seems like he’s in his ninth year of eligibility. ↵

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↵K is for Kliff Kingsbury-esque (Again.) Make sure you have no food in your mouth before reading this stat, as it is a choking hazard: Texas Tech had 38 first downs against Oklahoma State. ↵

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↵L is for Lien. As in the note of ownership served by the Mid-American Conference on the Big Ten in 2008. The MAC has beaten a whopping four Big Ten teams this season. Call Pat Forde an idiot all you like, but as weak as the SEC is this year, the Big Ten is anemic by comparison. (Another case in point: 7-2 Minnesota’s horrid loss to a horrid Michigan team at home.) ↵

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↵M is for Middle Earth. It’s never a bad time to geek out with a Lord of the Rings quote: "Even the smallest person can change the course of the future." The Hobbit in question is Daniel Murray, the skinny soccer guy turned backup kicker for Iowa, who struck a 31-yard field goal to keep Penn State away from the one ring to rule them all Saturday. Murray had only attempted three field goals on the season, and had made just one of them prior to the winning kick against the Lions. Get a car dealership in Iowa City now, Mr. Murray, and commence eating the free rubber chicken you’ll dine on for the rest of your life at Iowa football dinners.
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↵N is for Ndamukong. As in Ndamukong Suh, the Nebraska nose tackle who must have gotten plenty of sleep, eaten a balanced diet, and warmed up thoroughly before the Kansas game Saturday. Suh, a 300-pound nose tackle, had 12 tackles and caught a touchdown pass against Kansas in a 45-35 Huskers victory. ↵

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↵You will address him as “Suh.” ↵

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↵O is for One-man band. Even in a loss, future financial wizard and one-man orchestra Todd Reesing manages to defy the laws of physics. ↵

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↵How he did not go down on that hit we don’t know. There’s only one explaination, and that would be gyroscopes built into his legs, meaning he’s half-manchild quarterback, half Segway. ↵

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↵P is for Plausible Deniability. So, Gary Patterson’s had a busy week. First, he loses a gut-ripping 13-10 game to Utah to blow what seems like TCU’s 20th shot at being the BCS Token Mid-Major Invitee (a.k.a. the Boise State Suite.) ↵

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↵Then, he reads a report -- this one -- announcing his intent to accept the Kansas State job. It makes perfect sense on many levels: Kansas State just fired Ron Prince, Patterson is a great up-and-coming young coach, and he is an alum. ↵

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↵He also denies the report categorically and claims it is untrue, meaning even if he has taken the job, he’s not admitting it. In fact, the potential leak may have scotched negotiations entirely between Patterson and KSU, resetting the Wildcat coaching search completely. Loose lips sink ships, both of the literal and contractual sort. ↵

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↵Q is for Quotable. "Michigan needs to get the Little Brown Jug, fill it with cognac, and forget this whole season ever happened.” -- Chris Fowler, displaying his impressive one-liner skills yet again on Gameday. ↵

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↵Fowler also dropped the phrase “circling the combines” when summing up Iowa’s motivations going into the Penn State game, and was caught by his ESPN comrades gawking on the sideline just feet away from Michael Crabtree’s game-winning catch last week. He and Rece Davis both clearly commit crimes every day by being simultaneously brilliant at what they do and enjoying it. ↵

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↵R is for Roll out the wheelbarrow. Butch Davis, currently employed by the University of North Carolina, is the number one pick for the Tennessee coaching job. Davis is reportedly not interested, but Tennessee will ask him the same question again, but this time from atop a heap-sized pile of money, and see if his answer changes. ↵

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↵S is for Sexxxxayyyy. Who is your Big East title winner and BCS berth holder? One sexy clue: ↵

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↵Dave Wannstedt and the 7-2 Pitt Panthers are poised to roar off into the sunset in a cherry-red Ferrari if they win out over West Virginia and Cincinnati in the next two weeks. Mock the Wannstache at your own risk, cynics. You might get embarrassed by them as Louisville was on Saturday. ↵

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↵T is for Trembling. Shiver in fear of USC’s defense, who allowed just three points to Cal in a 17-3 win and is only allowing 6.7 points a game on the year. Tremble at their offense, which still hasn’t managed to find its stride nine games into the season. As fearsome as USC has been, the stuttering on offense has been the margin keeping them from automatic national title consideration. ↵

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↵U is for Unsane. Insane does not adequately express the end of the Cincy/West Virginia game, so out comes the new slang to describe this: ↵

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↵A late TD, a two-point conversion, a recovered onside kick, and a 52-yard field goal, all with under a minute-and-a-half left on the clock. Credit to both West Virginia and the Bearcats, as one team had enough gumption to refuse an early death with time left in the game, and another refused to take part in an improbable collapse on the road in an intimidating environment. (Also credit Bill Stewart. He may be a step down from Rich Rodriguez in coaching chops, but he is not boring.) ↵

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↵V is for Viva Variety! Maryland continues to be the appointed random event of the week in the extremely random ACC. This week, with a chance to stay tied with Florida State, they faced Virginia Tech, ranked last in the conference in total offense. ↵

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↵But remember: every day is opposite day in the ACC! Darren Evans runs for 253 yards on 32 attempts, supercharges the two-cylinder Hokies attack for a 400-yard plus day, and keeps you flipping coins when making ACC picks for the week. ↵

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↵W is for Whimper, not a bang. Tennessee needs a little T.S. Eliot right now: ↵

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↵⇥This is the way the world ends
↵⇥This is the way the world ends
↵⇥This is the way the world ends
↵⇥Not with a bang but a whimper. ↵
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↵Tennessee looked like hollow men against Wyoming at home, losing 13-7 in a debacle to a horrendous Cowboys team, the same team that lost five games by 177 points in the Mountain West earlier this season, the same team whose coach was pronounced career-dead going into the game ... and who probably should still be fired, since beating a Mountain West team this year holds more cachet than beating this zombiefied carcass of a Volunteer team. ↵

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↵X is for Xerox. As in Vince Young and Terrelle Pryor. Watching Pryor roll out and improvise as a freshman brings up the worst of all clichés for all the right reasons. He really does look like Vince Young, and the comparison is, for the moment, as close as you can come to summing up his lanky, effortless excellence. He could be terrifying barring injury or malicious fate intervening. ↵

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↵Y is for You. As good as candidate as there is for the ACC’s spot in the BCS. If you would like to take part in the ACC championship game, please win three games in a row in either the Atlantic or Coastal division, as no one else seems able or willing to do this. Sincerely, John Swofford, ACC. (P.S. The game’s in Tampa! Only 60,000 seats left!) ↵

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↵Z is for Zook’d. Smartass question for the day: Was Ron Zook just winning with Ron Turner’s players? ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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