A is for Abkhazia. A territory between Georgia and Russia, a disputed space on the map caught somewhere between statehood and being ruled by outside powers, and in the opinion of some, a nonexistent space altogether. Much like college football as a national sport of any sort, it can't really be said to exist, but like many breakway republics and their news, you can't say it isn't an interesting concept, even if there's no proper way to determine a champion, no single league, no management, and very few common rules on how things are done across the board. And yet it moves...
B is for Bollocks. This weekend was far better than anticipated, thus bollocksing the weeklong "WAAAAAHH BORING" columns peppering the media leading up to it. Colorado and OK State ruined your early bedtime on Thursday by taking the game deep into the fourth quarter in Stillwater, Boise State was at least spectacular in their 28-point second quarter against Utah State, and Saturday's lackluster slate of games roared past all expectations from the 12 o'clock hour through the crescendo of the evening's ludicrously entertaining slate. [Ed. note: Some of us missed the evening games because of the deep sleep the noon games put us in.] The lesson is the same here as it is with the rest of life: keep expectations low and you never come away disappointed, kids.
C is for Continental Divide. Harris Poll voters likely didn't see any of it since it was past their bedtime, or because "confound it Alice, what did you do to the picture box?" but the Pac-10 put on a late-night Fiesta west of the Continental Divide on Saturday with the twin billing of the Big Game and Oregon/Arizona.The best football in the nation top to bottom has been played in the Pac-10 this year, but the on-the-field japery has been SEC-quality: first Harbaugh and Carroll getting into it at midfield last week, then this week's booing of Tiger Woods and whatever the hell the Arizona fans were doing at the end of the game in Tucson indicate a conference-wide shift to Telemundo-level drama. This column approves of this whole-heartedly, and hopes the bowl season will validate the belief in the Pac-10's on-field 2009 superiority and its newfound commitment to being interesting off the field, as well. Yes, that does mean I want LeGarrette Blount to attempt to dot the I in Ohio and dare anyone to tell him he can't.
D is for Disaster. Oh, you thought this would be Les Miles. Apologies. Someone pulled the ring to inflate their raft of FAIL with greater force and verve this college football weekend, and it was not the Mad Hatter.
1:40 second mark, please.
Up 10-7 with 2:25 to go, Yale coach Tom Williams decided on just the thing to put out all those fireworks of victory: a heaping helping of gasoline. Facing 4th and 22 on their own 26, Williams called for a reverse fake, a play gaining 16 yards, a sum significantly less than 22, meaning Harvard got the ball on the Yale 42 with the game on the line. Harvard only needed a field goal to tie, but they courteously spared Yale the trouble of OT by scoring the go-ahead TD to win the game 14-10.
You might say this is no different than Urban Meyer calling a fake punt from his own 15 on 4th and 10 in the 2006 SEC Championship game, but there are two key differences: a.) Jemalle Cornelius was running Meyer's fake, and b.) that one only needed ten yards, not a whopping 22 yards, a conversion distance somewhere between "Terra incognita" and "f--k no" in terms of probability. This was not, as the Harvard Crimson reporter calls it, "a Belichick." This was nothing short of a "Full Williams," because I've never, ever seen a fake call this gaudily insane, and I grew up watching Hal Mumme and Steve Spurrier coach in the SEC. The new terminology has been proposed, and awaits ratification by the readership.
E is for Eh, Excellent, YAWN. It would have really helped Mark Mangino's case for keeping his job if he'd beaten Texas, but Colt McCoy had earned enough XBox Live points playing to downgrade all defenses he faces this year to "Junior Varsity Difficulty." 32/41, 396 yards, 4 TDs, and zero picks against Kansas mean postseason awards with copyrighted names and awkward poses for him, though why a similar effortless run through the Big 12 didn't earn Vince Young the same remains a question for the ages. (Voters that year were really, really impressed with Fresno State's defense <---only possible explanation.)
F is for Finest Essential Oils, ESPN. If you lived on the East Coast and have a cable company too busy selling infants for meat to offer ESPN 360 to its customers like a non-evil company would, I extend my deepest sympathies. It's fun to nutpunch ESPN because on so many occasions they deserve it, but remember that stupid people need television, too (see: Around the Horn, or its slower drooling older brother The Sports Reporters), and that they offer ESPN 360. Having the computer open to bounce around between four games with the TV on full blip is as amped as a Ritalin Commando can be on Saturday. Also, it got us the capper of all cappers, the gonzo Oregon/Arizona game on Saturday night. If your cable company does not offer it, commit acts of violent resistance immediately.
G is for Great Moments in Accidentally Brilliant Coaching. After Brandon Graham destroyed his playcalls on 1st and 2nd down singlehandedly, Jim Tressel called a screen on third down and goal . Watching Tressel attempt to call an offensive game can be like watching a mad dog attempting to eat a brick--i.e., it takes forever, involves a lot of chipping away at the objective, and can be hard to watch--but the call became a moment of accidental beauty. Tressel attempted a timeout, the official missed the coach rushing in for a TO, and the snap went to Pryor, who waited out the rush and hit Boom Herron on the play, which in the muddle turned into a kind of busted-but-completely-open-screen.
Herron strolled to the endzone for a 21-10 lead, answering Michigan's score and effectively ending the game. Brandon Saine's TD run earlier came on a flub, too: the manager and Tressel each sent in different plays, and blockers scattered in all directions on the play. Why yes, that is pure rubbing alcohol Michigan fans. Hope we're not pouring it too quickly into that open wound.
H is for Hellbent. If Les Miles and Tom Williams are the poster children for ill-advised testicularity this week, please see Chip Kelly and his protege Jeremiah Masoli as the shining beacons of vindicated ballsiness this week. Oregon rode the lightning and won Saturday night, tying the game at 24 off a field goal that hit the cross bar and doinked over for the late-game tie. This kind of grandeur requires--nay, demands!--Microsoft Paint.
(Art credit: Duck Voodoo.)
The FG was the least of the heroisms littering the game for the Ducks: picking off a potential game-icing TD for a pick in the endzone, converting 4th and 5 on the final drive of regulation on the way to the TD, the simply mental catches made by Jeff Maehl and Ed Dickson for the winning and tying TDs, or the Nate Costa dig of a horrid snap into the dirt on the game-tying extra point. Games this fun are category one narcotics, and should be banned from public consumption due to the desire to ditch work immediately and watch it again.
I is for I'm so, so sorry. The University of Arizona's President had to apologize for Wildcat fans' behavior at the end of the game, including the throwing of water bottles. One found the noggin of an Oregon cheerleader who was taken to the hospital after being knocked out. As stated earlier: as disgraceful as injuring a cheerleader is, I don't know where you've taken the old courtly Pac-10, new, entertaining and angry Pac-10. If you've stuffed him in a trunk somewhere, we suggest losing the keys, because this is a vast improvement over the old model.
J is for Jab. New Mexico knuckled down and rolled with the punches in their first victory of the season over Colorado State, 29-27. Congrats to Mike Locksley, who removes the Lobos from the Ofer 2009 Dinner Club, whose remaining members are Eastern Michigan (0-11) and Western Kentucky (0-10). Keep swinging, boys: it worked for Coach Locksley, and it will surely work for you (at the very least you'll serve a one game suspension for decking an assistant.)
K is for Kilt. Alabama and Florida beat Chattanooga and Florida International, respectively, by a combined score of 107-3. If you're basing your SEC Championship Game pick on who actually allowed points to the legless men brought in to face these brave gladiators for a mid-November cash grab of no confidence, it was Florida. Make your wagers accordingly.
L is for Lissome. A variation of lithesome, meaning nimble, a word Shane Vereen wore out on 42 carries for 193 yards and 3 TDs against Stanford. Cal has regrouped magnificently towards the end of the season, and offensive cooridnator Andy Ludwig did a fine job working in the Wildcat to maximize Vereen's touches to keep Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck off the field. The best evidence of this besides the score; Cal had 31 first downs to Stanford's 16, with the Cardinal gulping down big plays while Cal ground away with Vereen. The turtle strategy worked, though Toby Gerhart's 29 yard reception in the waning minutes had Stanford in position for the killshot. (Andrew Luck's game-ending INT was firing said killshot, but then suffering a cruel and fatal ricochet.)
M is for Masterful: As in this sign at OSU/Michigan;
N is for Not So Fast: ...but the sign of the day goes to Arizona fans, who happen to be very bit as entranced by 8-bit video game jokes as I am:
(HT: College Game Balls.) Free sign idea, Oregon fans: Photoshop the duck holding two beavers in the same 8-bit graphics with the caption "THIS JUST BLEW YOUR MIND."
O is for Oblate. As in the bouncing of of the oblate spheroid called a football, one that bounced in several random ways of great importance, something we will review in the next entry. As if 11 men facing off against 11 men didn't have enough randomness, the very shape of the ball itself lends itself to unpredictable, often cruel bounces. You are a bitch-goddess of a mistress, football. If you weren't so sexy you wouldn't be worth the pain and the trouble, and if you don't believe us, ask Notre Dame fans, whose team has been riding paper-thin margins and bounces of varying outcomes throughout the year.
P is for Paroxysm. Les Miles has already endured the scrutiny from his own fanbase for the insane mismanagement of the game down the stretch in the 25-23 loss to Ole Miss. No words can equal whatever voodoo-inspired arrangements were left on his door Sunday morning, or whatever oaths and curses are being sworn against him after a loss to their most hated rival.
So, conditionals: there is no guarantee LSU wins that game if they get another play, or even on a hurried field goal. All taken as granted. What is inexcusable is not taking the final timeout with twenty-six seconds on the clock after the failed screen on third-down and maximizing the time you did have on the clock.
Miles clearly is in the grip of some kind of stroke here, an occlusion of the blood flow to the brain possible only due to a blockage of some sort. There is no reason why a highly paid professional with a $3 million dollar plus salary does not take their final timeout there aside from some kind of grievous medical condition, stroke, seizure, or as they enjoyed calling it in the 19th century, a good old-fashioned "paroxysm." Ditto for the spike/not spike call: Miles is either seizing at that point, or has been hit by a blowgunned dart full of a powerful hallucinogen from the stands.
Q is for Questionable: Or worse still, dismiss this question: what if the brilliant gambler of 2007 was just making shit up all along, and getting fabulously lucky on the margins like no gambler in his position before? Ohio State scored three TDs against Michigan in random fashion that had little to do with strategy or play-calling. Oregon came within a single bad snap of blowing a shot at the Rose Bowl. Georgia botched one toss sweep to Kentucky and lost. The random plays far larger an element in football than anyone cares to admit, but in Les Miles' case the random is combined with a gambling instinct pressed past the edge of reasonable risk management.
Any question about whether Miles is some genius of risk/reward management or not is over after this weekend. He is a bomb waiting to go off with a headset. When you put him in the right place, he does what you want him to, and when you leave it in the car with the fuse burning you are going to need a new car in a rapid and dramatic fashion.
R is for Rich. "I'm sure we were at fault." --Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, NOT criticizing several calls made against Tennessee during his coaches show on Sunday.
S is for Salute. Saturday was Military Appreciation Day in Clemson, something Tigers TE Dwayne Allen celebrated by giving a salute to the crowd after scoring a TD. You assume the referees knew this or cared, Dwayne Allen, and that they were human beings. This was your first mistake.
Your second mistake was assuming a crew headed up by Ron Cherry would not call this for a 15 yard penalty and set up UVA's 45 yard TD drive off a short kick, which they did. Why do you hate America, Ron Cherry? And insist on giving clean, good ole-fashioned Patriotism the business? Traitorous officiating aside, Clemson is going to the ACC Championship in Tampa, a feat increasing Dabo Swinney's pay to the ACC median next year by contract and a great excuse for Clemson fans to explore the Tampa Bay area and its cornucopia of amateur dance studios. (A lot of them have bars in them. Go figure.)
T is for Titles: Pac-10 awaits the result of the Civil War, with the winner of Oregon State/Oregon headed to the Rose Bowl. Ohio State wins the Big Televen after a disastrous start and despite losing to Purdue, but all Jim Tressel knows how to do is make babies, win Big Ten titles, and rock a razor-sharp crease in grey slacks. (Don't hate.) Texas is going to win the Big 12 when they meet Nebraska and you avert your eyes for four quarters, barring the biggest conference championship upset of the young millennium. The SEC is down Florida versus Georgia in Alabama, the ACC will be Georgia Tech versus Clemson in a rematch of an early season Tech victory in Atlanta, and the Big East will come down to Pitt/Cincy in two weeks. Boise rules as the sovereign in the WAC, while the Mountain West is TCU's on lockdown, Troy is in the lead in the Sun Belt, and the MAC will come down to Central Michigan versus--prepare thyself--Temple in the championship game.
Conference-USA will determine who hosts the championship game this coming Saturday if ECU beats Southern Miss, If they do, ECU will host Houston for the title. If not, Houston hosts it, and everyone's gonna need to watch their helmets after the game.
U is for Ungainly. Bonus Clemson Youtube, but only because it's necessary. If you ever watched Clemson come down the hill and wondered, "Is that perfectly safe?" Demonstrably, the answer is no (:30 mark):
Quick work by pointing and laughing guy there. Pointing and laughing guy! Where there is embarrassing public spectacle, he and his pointing figure are there.
V is for Vaya Con Dios: Mickey Andrews, longtime Florida State defensive coordinator, left his last home game victorious after Maryland allowed a late score by the Seminoles to win 29-26. No one exits alone in this game of zero-sums: Ralph Friedgen is all but done at Maryland, meaning two veteran coaches of great esteem met very different ends on Saturday.
W is for Weeping. Sean McDonough, you made it dusty in here when discussing the death of your former broadcast partner Chris Spielman's wife. Charlie Weis tearing up made us pity an otherwise hard-to-pity man when his team unexpectedly linked arms with him when they took the field. Randy Edsall, though, put the waterworks on full blast when, after upsetting Notre Dame on their homefield following what has been a legitimately tragic season for them, he wept openly on camera during the postgame interview.
X is for Xe. The new name of Blackwater, who will likely be the new security detail for BCS officials now that they're raiding the Bush administration's personnel files for employees.
Y is for Yosemite. El Capitan is 3,500 feet or so tall, and if Nevada's rushing totals could be applied as climbing credit, their 574 yards against New Mexicao State on Saturday would get them a bit over halfway up it. The main problem will be finding a sleeping ledge big enough for Colin Caepernick, but if all else fails he can just sleep in his harness.
Z is for Zeppo. The lost Marx brother, or sort of the role Mark Stoops plays in the Stoops Brothers ensemble. He's the one who fell to his knees in exasperation in the first overtime of the Oregon game, the image still lingering with me as the enduring one of week 12.