The College Football Alphabetical, Week 1: N Is For Nugatory Results

Each week during the college football season, SB Nation's Spencer Hall runs down the alphabet in taking a look at the college football landscape.

A is for Atrophy. Welcome back to college football, college football, and man, you have seriously lost tone here. It's like you haven't done this for seven months. Blocked kicks, sloppy offensive play, moments with absolutely no blocking whatsoever, blown assignments -- and did you just have difficulty with the most basic element of the game, actually snapping the ball? Did you do it thirteen times at least in a variety of horrifying fashions? You did, didn't you? 

Did you play the part of Navy, who went to the red zone five times against Maryland and came away with 14 points, just one less than if they'd just kicked a successful field goal on first down on each of those possessions? Were you Boise State or Virginia Tech, the two teams in Monday night's game who alternated displays of special teams horror with brainless penalties? Or were you LSU or Florida, two teams playing vastly overmatched competition who nevertheless managed to simultaneously thrill and nauseate your fans in varying degrees by keeping it far, far closer than it had to be?  Did you go for two four times for no apparent reason and give up 36 points to Hawaii? 

If the answer is yes, then we've got some serious work to do here. Don't even tell me what you ate for lunch. If I wanted to hear about eating crap, I'd have made a metaphorical joke about Ole Miss losing to an FCS team. It's like you didn't even get on an elliptical, man. 

B is for Bravado. Pitt, Virginia Tech, and LSU, stand up with pride. Your teams lost* this weekend, but unlike 92% of college football you actually chose to play someone, and for that you will likely be punished by voters throughout the season for your loss. Pitt went to the nasty and underrated environment in Utah and nearly pulled out a win on the road with a first-time starting QB. That is impressive, but consider they did this with Dave Wannstedt in charge of a few key strategic decisions, too, which really is impressive. 

Virginia Tech embraced thankless valor by playing Boise, the team no one wants, and very nearly beat them despite falling behind 17-0 to start the game and eating two horrendous turns of officiating on the final drive of the game. For many voters, this will mean downgrading them slightly despite playing real competition. Many voters, in case you didn't know, are successful sportswriters despite having low-grade brain damage. 

LSU was brave to play a game versus UNC, and their loss* to the Tar Heels will likely also hurt them in the national standings, but everyone knows a team is most dangerous when they're forced to put in walk-ons and freshmen all over the place due to 12 players being suspended in an academic fraud scandal.* 

*I know that LSU won this game, but they didn't win this game, and every terrified LSU fan walking out of the Georgia Dome on Saturday night with dead eyes and the thousand yard stare knows they're on the same runaway donkey cart they were on last year with this team. In the words of Les Miles on an errant tweet from this weekend: "Woeojuwejhdjwe." 


(via @Itismemc on Twitter

C is for Curve. The one we're grading on in week one. Take Florida, for example. Do we judge them harshly based on one horrendous performance against Miami of Ohio? No, not at all. It's perfectly normal to rack up fewer than 250 yards against one of the worst teams in FBS football, and to only have 14 yards at the half, and SERIOUSLY STEVE ADDAZIO I WILL CUT YOU I mean, no, it's fine. I'm sure that's something they'll get fixed in the span of a week before USF comes into the Swamp, since it's common for an offense that can't block on the perimeter, snap the ball, or run the ball to fix all of those in the span of five practices. 




Then again, consider the case of USC, whose defense looked every bit as porous and permissive as it did last year against Hawaii in the season opener. USC's offense was fine, and in fact niftily efficient in going nine of 12 on third down, mostly doing this through the run. The defense remained an atrocity, giving up 585 yards to the Warriors with the only consolation coming in the Trojan's continuing ability to impair the future cognitive abilities of opposing quarterbacks. 

D is for Dastardly. Houston has a long heritage of taking opponents to the wood chipper, feeding them through, then capturing what remains, pureeing it, then straining it, then putting the strained remains through a whiskey still, bottling that refined elixir of decimated opponent, and then selling it to a hobo who drops half of it on the pavement while not appreciating its fine notes of incinerated secondary and anise. (Real talk: a burned secondary does in fact taste a little bit like licorice. The more you know.) 

Houston beat SMU 95-21 in 1989 and amassed over a thousand yards in that game, so this weekend's 68-28 bombing of Texas State counts as practically tasteful in comparison. (Especially as it was 54-7 at the half, and the Cougars obviously pulled up and let the backups do work to keep some shred of decorum about the place.) 

It looks even better when compared with Oregon's 72-0 effort against the University of New Mexico. We could tell you about the murder, but sometimes it's better to just show you the crime scene pics to give you an idea of how savage this was: 720 yards of offense, a 35-8 advantage in first downs against the Lobos, and a 369-25 margin in rushing yards. We officially know very little about Oregon, but can safely deduce from one game that New Mexico is a horrible, horrible football team. 

E is for Egress. What Denard Robinson sought against UConn's tackles and attempts to slow him down; alas for poor UConn, he found the exits well-lit and clearly marked time and time again. More kind words for Robinson will follow, but UConn certainly aided and abetted by continuing to hold their safeties way, way back in coverage when Michigan made it abundantly clear they had little interest in throwing the ball at all on a consistent basis. Michigan repeatedly lined up in a five wide set with Robinson clearly prepared to run the QB power play, and UConn let Michigan have the numerical advantage in the box each time. Robinson was brilliant on 29 carries for 197 yards and a score, but no one steals that much loot that quickly without the silent accomplice of someone else's negligence playing a part. 

F is for Futurama. Sometimes only robot humor can sum up the depths of sadness a team can sink to, and those times usually have something to do with Ron Zook. 

Illinois had a lead, which means they were going to lose a lead, which they did, blowing a 13-3 halftime lead and losing 23-13 to Missouri. If we could teleport into the soul of an Illini fan for just on second, it would have been at the moment when Mizzou's Carl Gettis downed a punt at the Illinois 1 early in the fourth quarter. Sitting there on the one yard line with a freshman quarterback looking 99 yards down the field at the endzone they needed to get to, the sense of impending doom must have been so vivid it had its own smell and taste, something like "Ron Zook's FAILpops for Children: Now With Real Glass!"

G is for Galloping, Unimpeded: Evidently the Big 12 had the running back bonus card this week. First Kendall Hunter averages 12 yards a carry in gaining 257 yards and four scores against Washington State, a team so bad at this point we should all just begin applying some kind of modifier to stats gained against them. Apply handicap of 75%, carry the two here, add in weather modifier...yes, that's about 212 yards and 3.2 scores in actual yards against teams that don't want to die the minute they step on the field. Impressive work even with the Wazzu modifier in play. 

Daniel Thomas then got in on the Great Plains rushfest with 234 yards on 28 carries, though he tastefully only scored two TDs on UCLA in a 31-22 win. What's Bill Snyder doing playing real competition in week one, you ask? He confused them for "University of California--Las Abogados,"  the club team fielded by the state university system's staff attorneys. It won't happen again, he swears. 

H is for Hasty. Oh, i so wanted to blame Les Miles for mismanaging the clock at the end of the UNC/LSU game. It felt so right, watching the ball fly out of Stevan Ridley's hands, looking at the LSU fans all slacken as if they'd had a massive collective stroke, and then trying to figure out if LSU could have taken a knee and completely run the clock out.  

The play, though, was run with 1:17 left on the clock, meaning UNC would have been left with a smidge of time even if UNC had stopped them on third down. They didn't, by the way: Ridley's fumble came well after he crossed the first down marker, and if he'd flopped in a clock-savvy fashion LSU would have avoided giving the ball back to UNC completely. For once, you may not blame the Hat's Adventures In Time for the heart-stopping finish to the game. 

I is for Infuriated. If we'd outgunned Maryland by a 485 to 272 margin in yardage and lost by three points, we'd threaten to bite the nose off a referee, too.  

J s for Jackals. The Boise State debate would and should wait, but note that Boise State did what good teams do: scavenge yardage from penalties, take every edge imaginable, and behave in a fashion embracing marginal value at every turn. The flop Broncos punter Kyle Brotzman took early was worthy of a Duke point guard, and just as winning in the end since it triggered a second 15-yard penalty. It's cheap, but combined with skill it wins in big games. 

K is for Kenophobia. The fear of large empty spaces, as in the kind of spaces that Utah State receivers ran through without molestation or abuse against Oklahoma. Freshman corners will take years off the life of anyone, but if this continues Bob Stoops will have to adjust his life expectancy into the negative and record his official date of death as sometime in October 2003. Utah State passed for 341 yards on the Sooners both thanks to wide open spaces in the secondary and due to a lack of pass rush. Fear: in week one, you will eat it three meals a day. 

L is for Lassitude. A lack of energy best describes Ole Miss's defensive collapse against Jacksonville State, a strange group malaria that hit them in the third quarter and allowed the Gamecocks of the OVC to run left, right, and straight up the middle.  Bizarre described it best: Ole Miss either lost the desire to function defensively at all, or the Gamecocks were able to charge at the strength of the Ole Miss defense without fear or obstruction. I like the theory of three hour malaria, myself, but I'm a big Guns, Germs, and Steel fan and like my explanation to involve pathogens. 

I said it on Saturday, but I repeat: now that Houston Nutt has lost his big freaky game for the year, you may bet the mortgage on them ending Alabama's win streak in an unspeakable and grotesque manner in 2010. It's Houston Nutt, and that's just the way these things happen.

M is for Miami. The team no longer fights on the field, but the 'Canes fans remain loyal to literally brawling in the name of their team. 

What's chill? Not even moving from your seat when you're in the middle of a fight. Well done, Chill Smith of The Fresh Prince of Chill-Air. 

N is for Nugatory. Of no value or importance, a term applying to Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Ohio State, West Virginia, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Iowa, Penn State, Oregon, Arkansas, and every other team that played a televised scrimmage this Saturday and blew them out in easy fashion.

O is for Oedematous. Or swollen, which is the way a five-day college football opening weekend felt. Not that a glutton complains, but it should be noted that every week will not always be this Golden Corral buffet of football: mostly insignificant nutritionally, but in ample quantities and spread all over the damn place. 

P is for Plenipotentiary. Meaning a diplomatic representative given full powers by his government as a representative, or in other words the proxy for departed TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes in the form of current TCU defensive end Wayne Daniels. Daniels was not a problem on Saturday for Oregon State's offensive line, because problems get solved. Dilemma is the better word for Daniels, because dilemmas have no solutions, and sometimes get two sacks and force a fumble in crucial games against BCS conference competition. There is zero dropoff from Hughes here for TCU, and that is really, really unfair, universe. 

Q is for Quackle: To choke. The ghost of Charlie Weis more than approved of Virginia Tech, up 30-26, throwing on third and 8 to stop the clock with two minutes instead of running the ball and taking even more time off the clock. Boise was out of timeouts at the time and completely at the mercy of the Hokies on the clock. Boise would likely have scored anyway--Kellen Moore was four of five on his last drive and simply surgical when it counted--but don't give a gasping man any more rope than he needs. 

R is for Robots. The quietly competent performance by Notre Dame split the spotlight somewhat between them and Michigan in the 3:30 game on Saturday, but the Wolverines have something astonishing on both lines: nimble, mean players who can move the way Rich Rodriguez's undersized but fierce West Virginia teams did in outmanning bigger, slower competition in the Big East. 

The greatest beneficiary of this will be Denard Robinson, aka "Shoelace," the quicksilver dude with the flying braids who savaged UConn and likely soiled the pants of Big Ten defensive coordinators by taking the ball from the center, placing it in his hands, cocking said ball, and then releasing the ball in a catapult-style motion with respectable quickness through space and into the hands of men who then caught said ball and ran with it. It's called "throwing," and though he's not going to turn into Matt Barkley anytime soon, Matt Barkley will never sniff a 4.4 40, either.  

He will get most of the credit if Michigan's early euphoria turns into late season bowl game potential, but the offensive line worked with mechanistic precision early, late, and often on Saturday. The success of the coolest high school offense you will ever see depends on them staying killing-robot-mean for 12 more games. 

S is for Sane. Just a quick note that Mike Patrick said nothing insane while calling the Maryland/Navy game. I can only assume this means he will call the next game while suspended from the ceiling in moon boots. 

T is for Tragedy. Go read the North Dakota State/Kansas box score.  Don't make any plans afterwards. As Doc Saturday notes, it makes the killing of Bambi's mother look like knee-slapping comedy, and is as bad a beginning for Turner Gill's career at Kansas as one could possibly envision short of a meteor striking the field mid-game. 

U is for Uniforms: 

Dear Nike,  

Please remit all profits from the Boise and Virginia Tech uniforms to Paul Verhoeven, please. 


TriStar Pictures Legal 

(Similarity pointed out by @millersteve.) 

V is for Vafrous: Cunning, or sly, or everything that Mike Riley's successful fake punt against TCU in a valiant losing effort was. TCU lost last year's Fiesta Bowl in part due to a Boise State fake, and Riley cleverly opted to see if TCU could be caught with pants down in multiple situations--and look at that, on fourth down and punt we had a pantsless horned frog looking very embarrassed again. On a very good night for the other BCS Anarchists' Team, it was one of the few genuinely negative moments to be had. 

W is for Wonderful. Starting at linebacker for Boston College, Mark Herzlich played without incident or injury after returning from cancer treatment. Hugs and well-wishes all around. 

X is for Xebec. A small, three-masted ship often used by pirates, the sort who used to sail the big galleons at Texas Tech but now opt for smaller, more defensive-minded craft in the debut of the Tommy Tuberville era. Not that Tech looked appreciably different than a Mike Leach team on offense in throwing the ball 53 times in a 35-27 victory over SMU, but holding an SMU offense to 27 points in mostly late scores shows hints of a commitment to attempting to stop the other team from scoring touchdowns with the football that locals may find alarming and disturbing. We assure you: it and the tackling that accompanies it is legal under the rules of the game and the state of Texas. 

Y is for Yarling: A wailing noise, which is precisely what Cincinnati fans should be making after a miserable 28-14 debut loss for Butch Jones against Fresno. The opposite of the noise made by Notre Dame fans in beating Purdue 23-12. CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM, IRISH FANS: you should have this down by now. 

Z is for Zakuska. A Russian word for snack, which is what you just had in comparison with the vast expanse of the season to come. 

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