The Alphabetical: Exploring The College Football Fan Enthusiasm Life Cycle

SOUTH BEND IN - SEPTEMBER 11: Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines pushes off a tackle attempt by Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the final minute at Notre Dame Stadium on September 11 2010 in South Bend Indiana. Michigan defeated Notre Dame 28-24. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Spencer Hall explores the great cycle of college football interest and anxiety, reminds you why October is the cruelest month, and writes Lou Holtz gibberish that still doesn't approach real Lou Holtz gibberish.

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A is for Apex.  The cycle of your average college football season works out to be mostly uniform with each passing season. Consult the following graph for reference in the following discussion of how you, like the planets around our sun, complete a perfect orbit through the life cycle of a college football fan's enthusiasms each year. 

Screen_shot_2010-09-12_at_4

The first phase involves a long climb or descent through September. Michigan fans are currently in the ascent variation of this phase since Denard Robinson may in fact be Percy Harvin with an arm and minus crippling migraines, and may lead them to a job-saving bowl game for Rich Rodriguez.  Fans of some teams--say, anyone in the ACC right now--are likely pulling the emergency brake right now and demanding to get off the bus before it reaches its destination at Infinite Pain Station. 

The second involves a peak in October, where your team either finally wins a game or ends the optimism by losing one in excruciating fashion. 

The third is the long decline into certainty, the bowl season, and the ability to encapsulate the entire season's work in a single image, letter, or phrase. Some of these make sense, like "The Texas Red Raiders finished with a quality bowl victory and a solid first season under new coach Tommy Tuberville." Some of them won't, like the capper we've already written for Syracuse, whose 2010 "will read like the bold misadventures of an angry gang of rogue kumquats who, stoked by vague ambition and blinding poverty, were killed in spectacular fashion attempting to rob a commuter blimp." 

We never said we'd all agree on the wording, but generally that's how a season goes. We're headed into the apex right now, and no one is going to be rational until the smoke clears and your team is either a.) blown to pieces, or b.) smiling and holding the detonator. 

B is for Bang for Buck. This stat will be repeated so many times over the next week you may as well spit it out first before your friends or local talk radio host does: Oregon has scored 120 points in exactly 120 minutes. Accepted as fact: Tennessee hit the wall after a valiant half of effort, the wall that most teams with zero depth, multiple injuries, and a general shallow tank of talent hit when struggling against an empirically superior squad.

One minute they're tied at 13, and we're all cool, and then suddenly the Vols are sliding sideways into the river when the field finally tilted towards talent, depth, and conditioning. It is the living version of that moment when you play a game of NCAA with a C-ranked team, take the game into the third with a respectable score, and then you throw three inexplicable picks, lose all blocking whatsoever, and watch your quarterbacks get knocked out of the game in rapid succession. 

(I'm playing a dynasty right now with the University of Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. The moment is a recently familiar one, especially since Virtual Gene Chizik just paved me 66-0 on Heisman level. Virtual Gene Chizik kicked a last second field goal to make it a matching air of sixes. Virtual Gene Chizik is a massive dick.) 

Also accepted as fact: Oregon plays Portland State next week, and could keep their rare one-to-one minute to point ratio alive, especially if Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James continue their reign of zone read running back horror. (Training secrets of the Oregon Ducks: lots of Sumo Suit sprint work.) 

C is for Continuation of Previous Entry Noting Economy. Jeff Demps only had 11 carries on the day against USF. Presumably, he is like a Ferrari. His parts are hammered out by hand on stumps in Torino, his engine revs at RPMs unimagined by most other vehicles. He is used in relatively short jaunts, and if he breaks, there's a backup in the garage of slightly lesser quality (Chris Rainey.)  

In contrast: Denard Robinson is a barely street legal rally car. There is no backup and there is no guardrail: he rides sliding sideways through defenses never hitting the brakes without a right foot on the gas. He's covering immense mileage all by his lonesome, more than any other player in FBS football now, leading the nation in rushing with 455 yards and adding 430 yards passing because a one-man play fake leaves wide receivers waving unmolested in empty defensive backfields. 

He may suffer for this: unlike Demps, he's got almost no help, and even the stoutest rally car starts to spit parts and rattle down the stretch of a race. Without relief, he's going to have issues, which is the contemporary word for problems; injury, fatigue, the inability to conjure coverage-snapping runs 15 or 20 times a game.* He's received no support from Michigan's running backs. He will face defenses that can hurt people, and when he does they may do what they do so well. This rally car could end up flying roof-first into the forest, just as repeated hits sidelined Pat White for significant playing time late in seasons at WVU.**

*This number is not an exaggeration. Double digits are needed to describe the number of times a three yard run becomes six, or a six yard run becomes twelve, or a twelve yard run ends up as six points and this. 

24xg8js_jpg_medium

(via MGoBlog

**Robinson is much thicker than White, and will be more durable, but even Tim Tebow got hurt by repeated hits something Michigan fans benefitted greatly from in the 2008 Capital One Bowl. Injury is a given for all quarterbacks. 

D is for Dilation. The special theory of relativity has a lot to say about time, and all of it is quite confusing, but one thing that any pop scientist can pull out of it is that time moves at different rates depending on gravity and relative position. For instance, if your name is Kyle Rudolph, and you are a tight end for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the catch and run for a go-ahead TD must have felt like a flash lasting no more than six seconds. 

If you were watching it, though, Einsteinian timeframes snapped into place, since watching it live was like watching it from a spaceship traveling on the edge of the speed of light. The Himalaya grew a few inches between the catch and score. I ordered a beer. They got the hops, barley, water; they brewed the beer; they allowed it to cool, and then forgot my order for five more minutes before the waiter brought it over. D'Angelo actually put out another album by the time the play ended. I watched the final scene from Truffaut's classic The 400 Blows and came back in time to watch Rudolph cross the goal line.  IT TOOK A REALLY LONG TIME IS WHAT I'M SAYING. 

I'm not saying Kyle Rudolph is slow: I'm saying that he's glacially slow, and that the Michigan secondary allowing him to gallumph for that kid of yardage would have committed an honorable suicide in a world where they had anyone else in the two-deep to play. (Which Michigan doesn't.) (Fortunately for some, samurai codes and football do not overlap, because Ron Zook would have been dead years ago.) 

E is for Endo. Watching Virginia and USC put the night shift to sleep on Saturday night was bad unless you were very, very relaxed. 

2010_20september_2012_200_2025_2028_medium

(Via EDSBS commenter Bubbaprog.) 

F is for Flinching.  If you woke up Sunday morning and wondered how in the hell UVA stayed tight for a 17-14 loss to what is on paper a superior USC team, this is how. 

  1. Mike London is a former vice cop. Give him 10 minutes and a handcuffed Lane Kiffin in an interrogation room with a phone book and the tape recorder turned off and he can make anything happen. 
  2. Monte Kiffin had the night off, because Salisbury Steak Night at Bob's Big Boy doesn't happen every week.*
  3. USC's offensive line looked genuinely flustered for much of the night, which made Barkley flustered, and kept him running for his life most of the time against a fierce UVA rush. 
  4. The Trojans had 13 penalties for 140 yards. 
  5. UVA's not bad, and has a surprisingly nice tandem of running backs in Perry Jones and Keith Payne. Payne's especially fun, since at 255 pounds it looks like it really hurts when he hits people, and that is never not entertaining. 
  6. USC could have lost this game if not for two missed field goals by UVA and an endzone INT thrown at the four yard line by qb Marc Verica
  7. USC remains what they have been for the better part of five years: a tremendously talented and tremendously sloppy football team. (See A for Apex, especially the part about things generally remaining the same.) 

*It does. 

G is for Gandalf The White. It's long been our theory that Steve Spurrier died in a plane crash in 2002, and has been played ever since by a cunning and well-programmed cyborg built by Daniel Snyder. Why would Snyder do this, you ask? So he could sell it, complete with an exorbitantly overpriced Johnny Rockets franchise as part of the deal, to the South Carolina Gamecocks when the time was right. (To this day, Spurrierbot is only able to refuel off their mini chili dogs. Always thinking about profits, Mr. Snyder.) 

Even in his role as Gandalf the White, you still get quality Spurrier-like service, however. You still get the abrupt, flustered halftime interviews, the golf, the visor throws, and all the cosmetic Spurrierness. This includes the requisite jabs at rivals, which remain part of the programming. 

"That little inside play (we ran), the NFL doesn’t run that play. That’s a new scheme I guess. I’m sure they knew we’d run it. But they certainly didn’t stop it much."

What you have not gotten in his time since the great change: 1990s pass-first Spurrier capable of racking up fifty points through the air. The latest and most convincing piece of evidence: running Marcus Lattimore 37 times in a game against Georgia, a team Spurrier 1.0 would have rent asunder with slants and go routes. 

Marcus Lattimore, freshman Marcus Lattimore, had 10 carries, 50 yards. 11 broken tackles,  and 34 yards after contact on the first drive alone, and then continued to rend asunder the middle of UGA's new 3-4 with the same trap play over, and over, and over again. If you need further proof of Spurrierbot's faulty programming in mimicking old Spurrier, look on the other side of the stat sheet: 17 passes for Stephen Garcia, and no other attempts by other quarterbacks.

I have presented Exhibits A, B, and C to display the subject's fraudulent claim to be Steve Spurrier. If you think that's him out there running TCU's offense, then the robots have already won, haven't they?

H is for Heart Attack.  At the 13:20 mark, you can clearly hear Mike Gundy blow a valve somewhere deep in his brain. 

I

In a 41-38 game with under a minute to go, Oklahoma State quarterback Bradley Weeden fumbled the one snap you should never, ever fumble: the one taken in the Victory Formation. The Cowboys forced their own fumble to seal the game on the ensuing possession, but that shouldn't stop you from pointing and laughing at the Cowboys' ongoing struggles with Sun Belt kings Troy University, who in three matchups have beaten OSU once already and took them to the wire on Saturday.

The Sun Belt terror continued with Rutgers' ill-advised trip to Florida International. Rutgers won 19- with only 172 yards of offense to FIU's 371, and that usually points to--[TURNOVER IMPLICATION LIGHT BLINKING BRIGHT RED]--yup, five turnovers (three fumbles lost, two picks) for the Panthers. As bad a week as the ACC had, they still won five games as a conference total. The Sun Belt only won two, which is why every week is hard when you're a fan of the Sun Belt.  (MTSU even had to sweat Austin Peay for a while. WTF, Blue Raiders? YOU'RE ALL WE CAN COUNT ON IN OUR FAVORITE TINY CONFERENCE.) 

I is for Interruptus. If you missed the "Dr. Lou" segment from Thursday night's Mississippi State game, the text is summarized below for you. 

I always told my players to be like a pineapple. Be sweet, and people will just eat you up, but grow a hard exterior and you can have the best of both worlds. You should also be like a pineapple in that you grow where you're planted, even if someone cuts your head off and you have to grow a new body. That's a quote I got from my good friend Woody Hayes, who survived three decapitations and came back stronger each time. There's a lesson in that for all of us.  

Another thing about pineapples: they look like grenades, or at least grenades look like pineapples. Who knows: either way I eat one and get indigestion, but that's another story completely. 

[LOU HOLTZ PERFORMS A MAGIC TRICK WHERE HE TURNS A TURKEY INTO A PINATA.] 

Life's full of turkeys. You can eat a turkey, or you can turn it into a pinata. A pinata is a paper donkey. A donkey is a really just a pinata that likes to call your name over and over again, especially if your name is HEEEEEHAAONNNNNNK. I had a cousin named that once, but we all called her Floppy Betty because she was epileptic, clumsy, and suffered from rubber bones syndrome.

[HITS PINATA. A DOLLAR AND SEVENTEEN CENTS IN CHANGE AND FIFTY HUGE GREY MOTHS FLY OUT OF IT.] 

Life's a pinata, kids. Just don't lose the moths for the change. I'm Dr. Lou. Good bye. 

I swear to you, as bizarre as that may be, it makes more sense than whatever Lou Holtz said on Thursday night. 

J is for Jackal'd. Miami came away with nothing on four different redzone occasions against Ohio State, winning this week's Niumatololo Award for Redzone Futility. In the postgame press conference, Jacory Harris' comments about Miami's lack of scoring on these drives were made inaudible by the sound of him exhaling bits of fractured ribs and idiots screaming "Overrated!" at a quarterback who had no protection and spent most of the game being beaten with tire irons by the Buckeye defense as his offensive line watched. 

K is for KTHXNOTWANT. Jeremiah Masoli played well enough in Ole Miss' bounceback 27-13 win over Tulane (14-20, 281 yards, and 1/1 TD/INT), but he's not ready for bro-hugs yet. Seriously. Don't touch me. (HT: FOTP)

L is for Let's All Buy Tickets To This Exciting Bit of Theater. Georgia Tech's Josh Nesbitt sailed the last pass of regulation at about nine thousand miles an hour and out of the reach of his receiver. The throw accomplished several things at once. It capped Georgia Tech's embarrassing loss to Kansas, the same team that lost 6-3 to North Dakota State in week one; it all but killed any ambitions of a Josh Nesbitt Heisman campaign, which may have been laughable from the start given his inability to complete more than 50% of his passes; it immediately reversed the polarities of KU fans' attitude towards Turner Gill; and finally, it resulted in Paul Johnson holding an impromptu production of The Junction Boys starring the Georgia Tech football team this week in Atlanta. They're going to do all their own stunts including heatstroke and uncontrolled vomiting, but you already knew that.  

M is for Madison. 

Jmu-vt-duke-dog_medium

Virginia Tech loses games they shouldn't because of their offense, and has for the better part of this decade. Jarrett Boykin is an NFL prospect at wide receiver. Ryan Williams and Darren Evans are both 1,000 yard rushers. Tyrod Taylor can bail out almost any bad play with his legs, and has all those other nice things you value in a college quarterback: arms, cool name, ability to stay eligible and not do stupid things off the field. (Cough Marcus Vick cough.)  The offensive line is more than adequate.  

This is a short note, but simple: if you keep losing games at the last second due to the same things over and over again, then you are doing the same things and expecting different results. According to cliche this equates to madness, and according to the box score Virginia Tech lost 21-17 to an FCS team. it is a wonderful, warm moment for James Madison, and in a world where Virginia Tech develops a functional offense it is a moment that never happens, and probably shouldn't have. 

N is for No, We don't have an entry for "N." But you get a cookie for noticing. 

O is for OH S#$%. More Denarding, via MGoBlog

That's about it in a single facial expression, Brian Kelly. 

P is for Patience (Rarely Exhibited.) I thought I'd finish the USF game throwing bottles at the wall and cursing the name of Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, since that was how I finished the first half after Florida continued to sputter. YET MARK THIS DAY ON YOUR CALENDARS: for once and only once, patience, maturity, and the second half of the game brought on a rare display of something called patience. Florida lined up in the second half and engaged something called "a power run game" that didn't use "a huge battering ram/ quarterback." Instead there were these things called running backs, and "blocking," and a quarterback who generally did his best to stay out of the way and let the big men make breaking noises with the hard tissues of the USF defense. The Florida offense still looks like two offenses poorly sutured together, but as arrhythmic as it is it's a hell of a lot better from week to week. (Look, a whole paragraph without a disparaging word about Steve Addazio! YES WE CAN!) 

Q is for Quadrupedation. Stomping with all four feet, or what heinous act the ponies who pull the Sooner Schooner performed on Florida State. Florida State was suffocated on offense, but defensively they continue to suffer the worst of all deficits: not experience, or practice, or anything else but a sheer lack of talent. Oklahoma, meanwhile, appears to be on pace for their standard ten win season that will somehow still result in Bob Stoops getting mocked for his inability to win big games. 

R is for Random Awards of No Prestige Handed Out If The Season Ended Today.

  • Forward Momentum Glutton:  Auburn QB Cam Newton, who if he passed out from a dead standstill still gains three yards and concusses a safety. 
  • Corpse Who Just Keeps Talking: Tim Brewster, Minnesota's coach who is so fired they should hold two press conferences just to fire him enough to properly fire someone who lost to South Dakota 41-38. 
  • Emily Post Courtesy And Manners Award. The UGA defense, who had at least one guy standing around watching Marcus Lattimore run on every play Saturday. Either they're unsure of their assignments, or they just enjoy showing proper respect for a gentleman's personal space on the football field. 
  • I Went To The NFL And Lost All Ability To Do Anything: Norm Chow and the UCLA offense, who mustered all of zero points against Stanford. Norm Chow, too, may be a Daniel Snyder programmed robot agent at this point. 

S is for Sledgehammer. The team most in pain after this weekend is BYU after allowing 407 yards on the ground to Air Force. We would like thank them for their respect and courtesy paid to our servicemen, and give this week's WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA? Award To Hawaii, who traveled nine hours, practiced in a Newark parking lot, and still beat Army 31-28 with a late field goal. Clearly you hate America, Hawaii, but we suspect your loyalties anyway with you being so close to Red China, friend. (Or should we say ni hao, pengyou?) 

[Stares accusatorily to the west.]

T is for Tears. Perfectly excusable for everyone associated with the West Virginia/Marshall game to have left in raging tears. West Virginia played horrendous football for three quarters before pulling fifteen points out of Marshall's prevent defense to send the game to overtime. Marshall blew that lead, and then let WVU score the go ahead

U is for Uncanny. My powers, after calling Rod Gilmore's exact goal-line prediction in the West Virginia/Marshall game. Gilmore at the goal-line will say the same thing every single time regarding an offense's choices. I sat on the couch, poised at the ready. 

Joe Tessitore: "West Virginia, looking to get into position to tie this game." 

Me: "Hey! Honey! He's going to say run-pass option! He's going to say West Virginia's going to call a run-pass option!" 

Wife: "Why?" 

Me: "Because Rod Gilmore ALWAYS SAYS THEY SHOULD CALL A RUN-PASS OPTION. It's like his Rosebud. He's going to die staring into a glass ball and whispering it on his lips in a stately mansion." 

Gilmore: "....they should look at a run-pass option here." 

Me: "I WIN! I WIN!" 

Wife: "You're a genius." /makes wanking motion 

Me: "I know!" /takes off pants, runs around room celebrating

V is for Victory. Washington State won. No, really: that's news, even if they had to score 16 in the fourth to come back against FCS Montana State, because that's certainly more than Virginia Tech accomplished on the weekend. Paul Wulff is now 4-389 as Washington State coach. <----------NUMBERS THAT MAY NOT BE TRUE BUT FEEL TRUE, MAN.   

W is for Why, God, Why? Eastern Kentucky lined up for the opening kickoff and BLAMMO--surprise onsides! They went offsides in the effort, but if style points counted for a touchdown they still wouldn't have won in a 23-13 loss to Louisville. I'm glad I was not watching this, because I would have died of malicious laughter. 

X is for Xylocarp. A hard and woody fruit much like a Buckeye, which is a poisonous nut and not a fruit but hey--it's all a cheap excuse to take care of "X," and to post Cameron Heyward pulling a Suh-nterception by a lineman in coverage and nearly giving himself a heart attack in the process. 

At this point it's Ohio State and everyone else in terms of overall performance. I would also remind you that it's week two, and that the second most prolific passer in the nation is Sean Renfree. Sean Renfree, of Duke University. It's early yet, and this cannot be stressed enough (refer to chart in entry A for science backing this up.) 

Y is for Yachts. The only consolation for wealthy Vanderbilt fans may be a luxurious boat ride back to the manor: 135 yards of total offense, just eight first downs on the day, and a 10-3 game in the third that collapsed into a 27-3 loss to an LSU team that has to receive written invitations to score touchdowns.  

Z is for Zho. A cow/yak hybrid, and roughly equivalent in weight to what Ed Orgeron deadlifts on his lunch break to keep from being bored while watching film. Of course, such stress results in random foot fractures, but that's just life (or as the Orgeron puts it, "MMMDASSA LIFEAAAHHH OOWWWMAHHFOOTTAHH.") USC remains equally hobbled  

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