The Alphabetical, Week 11: Previewing Saturday and crying all we want

Matthew Stockman

Jesse Palmer dials up your emotions.

Aspen. As in the trees that grow in clusters and give the loftily expensive ski town its name. It's where at least 30 Stanford students probably vacation, if not have at least a modest chalet or condo, and it is also a useful way to remind you that Stanford football is just lumber. All they do is fall on you in heavy, merciless bunches.

Battery. Sure, go ahead and play it. It fits what we're talking about here, because we're talking about Stanford football, the only intersection between "Cliff Burton-era Metallica" and "anything Stanford-related, ever."

It is possible that Stanford might be crueler now than it was under Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh might at least pepper the gameplan with a few more passes, providing at least a little variety in the pummeling. David Shaw, the sadist CEO in the sweatshirt, has no such mercy. Stanford ran the ball 66 times for an average of 4.2 yards a carry, with Tyler Gaffney getting 45 of those carries all by himself. You can watch footage of houses falling into the Pacific, chipped into the sea one eroded bit of coastline at a time until they're nothing but a pile of future driftwood at the bottom. That is what watching this game was like: a slow-motion accident of bad planning and physics at work.

Capital One Bowl. The last time a team beat another so badly: the 2011 edition, when an angry, confused, and hungry Alabama team crossed paths with Michigan State in the forest. If you find the 2011 Michigan State Spartans -- any of them, in any condition -- please alert authorities.

Distressed. That was a horrendous beating at every point of contact between Alabama and Michigan State. However, we didn't see anyone actually crying on the field, as Josh Huff did, openly weeping at what was happening to his football team and probably over his inability to do anything about it.

Stanford's defensive line ran looping tracks around Oregon's offensive line all night; the offensive line laid 66 drive-blocking car crashes into the middle of Oregon's defensive line. Try doing 66 repetitions of any physical exercise. It hurts when you're doing pushups, much less driving face-first into a 300-pound animal wearing a helmet, one who is guiding the way for an equally mean fullback, who then reveals the ball-carrier. The ball-carrier is Tyler Gaffney, who cannot be broken by hammers or car crashes. It will hurt whether you win or lose, and the degree of that pain will be extreme.

Eleventeen. The psychological effect is palpable and best represented by the greatest wonder of our age, Photoshop.


Fukuruma. The Japanese nesting dolls that Russian nesting dolls were based on, and a good analogy of how defending Stanford must feel: just an endless chain of the same huge, agile player, all arranged in descending order, except that they are falling on you from a great height and are filled with very heavy things. Or, alternately, Stanford football in 2013 is like trying to tackle the last pig out of the pen. You could probably do it, if only you hadn't been trampled by the 10 huge, furious boars that roared out of the gate first.

Garryowen. A type of punt in rugby, the sport most resembling what Stanford does against Oregon and an example of the specificity of kick names we need to describe whatever Oregon was doing on onside attempts. The Ducks teed up the ball on its side, not its tip, kicking it fat because of ... well, because of physics we bet Mark Helfrich can't even explain. It worked nicely enough. The Ducks recovered one out of two onside kicks down the stretch, a rate significantly higher than the 14 percent or so for most fourth-quarter onside kicks.

Huff. But to go back to Huff for a moment, it's nice that you have opinions about someone crying on the field during a game, or smiling in the midst of a horrendous defeat. David Pollack, calling the game, noted someone else's reaction: Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas, smiling on the sidelines in the midst of the debacle. Pollack hated it, and said he wouldn't have liked it on the sideline from one of his teammates.

Incognito. And ohhhh thus do we get to the topic of the week. If you want to debate how an athlete should act in a given situation, why don't we run a thought experiment and start with the basics? Did you do any harm by your action, regardless of what other parties were doing? Huff cried, just like a thousand other athletes before him, because he's deeply invested emotionally in the game, and if you'd like to make fun of that, think about the long, infamous list of things you have cried over throughout the years. Please do so and realize how seriously compromised you are in this argument already.

Jags. The following things have all made me cry in the past 10 years or so. This list is not complete by any stretch of the imagination.

  1. Hearing "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera one night driving home from the bar with my wife and drunkenly explaining how the song applied to her and also about how Christina's life must have been so much harder than I could imagine as a man.
  2. Watching Marshall QB Byron Leftwich get carried by his offensive linemen down the field playing on a broken leg against Akron.
  3. The death of Royal Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenebaums.
  4. In the middle of the detergent aisle at Publix once for no reason whatsoever while "Trouble" by Coldplay was toodling along in the background.
  5. The song "Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground" by Willie Nelson whenever it is played.
  6. When Andy Griffith died.
  7. The first time I head those voicemails at the end of Kendrick Lamar's "I'm Real."
  8. This. Like, this morning.

Josh Huff can cry about football, because crying for a normal person means you care. At least unlike SOME of us, Josh Huff knew precisely why he was crying. We're not even having the discussion over what is masculine or not, because after a certain point of anatomy or three, that definition is entirely up to you.

It's also up to you to decide if you, like De'Anthony Thomas, want to smile in the middle of what is, after all, a child's game. Josh Huff cried a lot last night. DAT probably thought about going fishing, then went home to his dog.

Killjoy. In fact, the only question I have when anyone talks about what's masculine or not is: "Does this harm anyone?"

Cite some individuated code of exclusive football masculinity if you like when talking about how we do sports, but do so at your own peril.  Whether we're talking about smiling on the sideline, or crying over sports, or considering something like texting a teammate things like "I'm going to have unprotected and possibly non-consensual sex with your sister" as a team-building exercise, we're talking about the basics of how to act as a human, not just as a football player.

Start with the basic question of whether this thing matters at all or hurts anyone.

Love and Friendship. An early work by Jane Austen, who sucks and is slightly relevant here.

If the answer to the question of "did this hurt anyone" is "yes," then we're having a discussion. (In Incognito's case, um, yes. The answer is clearly that this did hurt someone and is thus worthy of discussion, and probably Richie Incognito never being allowed near a professional workplace ever again.)

And if it is "no," then we're not, unless you like the Dullard's School of Sports Etiquette where THINGS ARE DONE A CERTAIN WAY WITHOUT AN INSTANCE OF CHANGE OR VARIATION. That's a discussion of classist etiquette, something we don't do because this is America, and that is England's national sport, and my reprobate ancestors did not steal things for money to get here to a.) care too much about etiquette, or b.) live out the worst parts of Jane Austen books.

Missing. M is missing.

Nay. Whatever Oklahoma is doing on offense right now, whether you'd like to describe it as the Wing-T put in a blender with chunks of I-form power run or an endless series of bubble screens, interrupted by spastic go-route passing plays, or the worst NFL coach's parody of a college offense imaginable. Not that Baylor put its best effort forward Thursday night -- the defense carried the team for the better part of the game until it got into rhythm -- but the Sooners still looked particularly bad contrasted with even a misfiring-but-at-times-beautiful Baylor offense.

Outmoded. "Let's see how Baylor'd do against a real defense like Alabama's," says someone conveniently forgetting that Alabama's defense has allowed shootouts in games in the past year against Georgia and Texas A&M.

The brilliance of Nick Saban is not one-dimensional. Now, if and when it's overwhelmed by teams who have unlocked the cheat code for infinite ammo, Alabama can go shot-for-shot with them, and even outgun them. It's OK, Alabama fans: You can say that Baylor might put up 40 on you, because you can safely assume you will put up at least 41 and do so with punishing ease.

Prehistoric. They have a name for coaches who won't evolve and realize that not every game can be won 13-10, and that name is "Will Muschamp." He's going to the BBVA Compass Bowl, if he's lucky (?!?!?) enough to spend the holidays in Birmingham.

Quaddick. A small community in the town of Thompson, Connecticut, the state where UConn still has to finish out the dregs of an 0-7 football season. You could be a lot of things as a football fan, and then you could be a UConn fan. On Jan. 1, 2011, UConn played against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. That happened once. The Huskies play Louisville Friday night. You probably don't want to watch it, because you are smart and have better things to do. Have mercy on the UConn football program for whatever it did to infuriate the universe.

Redress. Charlie Weis and Kansas have yet another chance to start the revolution and beat their first Big 12 opponent, in the form of Oklahoma State, whom they will not beat. Kansas is 116th in the nation in scoring offense despite its head coach having multiple Super Bowl rings he enjoys showing to recruits.

Skymiles. BYU goes to Wisconsin, because Bronco Mendenhall enjoys running the score up on Texas AND Delta Airlines, evidently. Did you remember that BYU plays Notre Dame later this season? And could beat the Irish and Texas and possibly Wisconsin for a very impressive record? Furthermore, remember that time BYU lost to Virginia? Neither do we. Forget we brought it up in the first place.

Ten. As in points Alabama was favored by to open the betting against LSU. That line is now up to 11.5 points, a sum that might seem odd to anyone who watched either of these teams play over the past five years or so. The average margin of victory since 2007 has been 7.5 points, which means either no one trusts Zach Mettenburger to not throw some disastrous turnovers or that everyone really trusts Alabama's ability to score on LSU.

Unwinfeated: Southern Miss, Miami (Ohio), Hawaii, and Georgia State went into this weekend all in pursuit of disgraced perfection. Miami lost 45-3 to Bowling Green this past Wednesday. Do your worst to exceed them in ignominy this weekend, gentlemen.

Varied. As in the language one might use to describe adjusting or play-calling, since Jesse Palmer is going to turn every dial in the football world twice if he does not find an alternate way to describe things happening in football or how pressure is brought from a defense or whether someone is focused or "dialed in." Dials are sort of passé anyway, Jesse. The world is mostly about touchscreens at this point, unless your brain is the Nautilus from Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. (This might be an accurate depiction of Jesse's brain, and if it is, we apologize.)

Wake. As in Forest, who really set the entire Jameis Winston machine in motion by beating Florida State, 30-0, in 2006. And who now reaps the seven-year whirlwind of that game by facing Bowden's replacement, Jimbo Fisher, in a game the Demon Deacons could lose by a thousand points. Jim Grobe is kind like that, and doesn't care because he's making $2 million a year to coach a middling-to-poor ACC team whether it gets blown out or not. P.S. JIM GROBE IS BRILLIANT.

Xscape. There is literally nothing in college football having to do with "X" this week, so have this:

Ypsilanti. The home of Eastern Michigan, which fired coach Ron English Friday. He wasn't successful, but he was willing to jump out of a plane for new bathroom tiles, and that's something we respect no matter your record.

Zsa Zsa. As in Gabor, the author of this quote: "There is no diet for a big ego."

So whatever you say about Nick Saban thinking about leaving Alabama for Texas or leaving Alabama ever, remember: you have to feed him what he wants, because that appetite never dies, and as you saw in the 60 Minutes piece about him this past week, has only interrupted his focus on football once in the past 42 years, and that was for a huge, deadly tornado outside his office window.

Think he'll put up with political distractions? If you do, let us remind you that he once turned down an invitation to the White House to coach the Dolphins in pregame preparations ... in July.

More from SB Nation college football:

TV schedule guide: The season’s best weekend yet

Behold Stanford, your weird nerd overlord

The problem with star-spangled uniforms, written by a Marine

Thursday fallout: Stanford, Baylor, and the whole ACC won

Long reads: Has Baylor crafted the ultimate football offense?

• Watch Easy Call’s Week 11 picks and nuggets:

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