A is for AMAZING HAPPENS HERE. The Alphabetical this week may just be 26 separate entries devoted to the madness of the last two minutes of the Tennessee/LSU Game.
You know a classic piece of live football atrocity when the highlight film begins with a converted 4th and 14, especially when it's against a Tennessee team that has no business being in the game in the first place, a Tennessee team playing a lawn chair at center, a Tennessee team with linebackers whose ACLs explode for no reason, a Tennessee team whose depth chart just reads "NOPE" at no fewer than seven major positions. Tennessee's there, and like a novice climber stranded in the death zone on Everest, you know it's a matter of time before they run out of oxygen, take off their clothes, and begin rolling in the snow like dying men suffering from mountain madness and cerebral edema.
Tennessee's already doomed in theory as the inferior team late in the game even on basic football princlples before you activate the computer worm capable of crippling the entire football matrix as we know it: Les Miles.
Jarrett Lee throws a pass into triple coverage to start the sequence. Jarrett Lee, he of the multiple pick sixes and benching two years ago. He's back, and that's how bad LSU's offense is at this point with Jordan Jefferson attempting to "make pass go that way into hands." They now use him as a kind of running quarterback, which he's not. That would be Russell Shepherd, who is now a wide receiver who never gets the ball. Jordan Jefferson, the non-running QB, scored LSU's only TD to this point in the game on a wholly uncontested 83 yard run through the gut of the Tennessee defense. You knew the demons were in charge of this game from this play forward, and also that when you run on offense as nonsensically as LSU does, the only logical cure is to face an equally nonsensical defense. Tennessee rose to that challenge, and we toast you for this, Volunteers.
LSU gets the ball on the two as a result of a pass interference penalty (natch) and does what any good coach would do with three downs and a running clock with 32 seconds left in the game: call a quarterback sweep with your non-running running quarterback. Like much of Dangermouse and Cee-Lo's work together, the matchup of Gary Crowton's playcalling and Les Miles' attitude makes for sometimes nonsensical but always disturbing, affecting work.
The clock runs. You do two things when you might want to stop the clock on the goal-line down 14-10 with a running clock. You may spike it---wait, that's not happening. There's a thing about spiking the ball at LSU, if you'll recall. They could call time out, but they have no timeouts because Les Miles is pretty sure the federal government demands those back at the end of the year if you don't spend them all. Though they've been on the two yard line ever since the pass interference penalty, the LSU offensive staff suddenly remembers OH MY GOD WE HAVE A GOAL LINE PACKAGE and sets off a fire drill the People's Republic of China would call "disgracefully hurried and chaotic."
Huge men sprint off the field and onto it. The clock winds. Les Miles is seen throwing live chickens onto the field. Who knows where he got them, but they're all part of the plan now. The LSU sideline's complete anarchy triggers a disproportionate reaction on the Tennessee sideline. They send off three men, put in four, and one of the three sent off rushes back onto the field like a child terrified of missing the school bus for a field trip. (This child then ends up in the wrong town because they got on the wrong bus.) Derek Dooley wraps the headset cord around his neck and attempts to choke himself to death rather than watch what's happening. The crowd silences itself by placing a eighty thousand bourbon bottles in eighty thousand mouths at once and draining them simultaneously.
Then the most magnificent part of the play happens. This sentence appears in its own box because everything about it is spectacular:
Then the ball is snapped with the game on the line between two major college football powers with one team having 13 men on the field and another with a non-running running quarterback who watches in horror as the ball is snapped over his head and covered for a game-ending busted play. THIS ALL HAPPENED IN REAL LIFE.
Competence is overrated as a form of entertainment while incompetence can be side-splitting stuff. I watched this in a bar full of people in Tuscaloosa, and the reactions were giddy not because of any real mass hatred toward both teams, but because they knew that with a quality arsonist like Miles on the sidelines something was getting set on fire: LSU, Tennessee, or possibly both. Oh, and LSU scored on the next play when a penalty was called on Tennessee for too many men on the field because a 9-4 defense is effective but highly illegal, and Tennessee players started weeping on the field.
I'm applauding, all of you, as loud and as hard as I can in your general directions. We shall not see another ending to match this beautiful hatchet job until next week when LSU beats Florida at home 7.5 to 2 on a blocked extra point and a half a point awarded for hitting all three crossbars on a single missed FG attempt. It's in the rulebook, look it up.
B is for Boulder'd. This is how low the Buffaloes have fallen: Colorado fans rushed the field after beating a 1-3 Georgia team that lost to Mississippi State. There should be some kind of body to sanction this kind of poorly applied field-rushing, but...well, it is Colorado, and it's been Donner Party dismal there. You go right ahead, Buffaloes.
C is for Catenaccio. Italian for "door-bolt," and the soccer term for locking down a lead by dropping everyone into defense and watching you, the opponent, flail uselessly into the face of wall of defenders, Alabama currently ranks 107th in the nation in tackles for loss. This is acceptable because Alabama simply wants to stop everything you do right at the line of scrimmage, score 24 points or so, and just wait for you to implode while they run the ball, slap down every attempt you make at doing anything whatsoever on either side of the ball, and work on the art of time-killing. They don't care about conquering: trench warfare and strangulation will be more than enough for them, thank you very much, and they happen to excel at it. Of all the hypothetical BCS matchups, the Oregon/Alabama one tantalizes the most since it involves a team one hundred percent committed to rapid scoring offense facing a team that would be happy to hammer out a ten point lead and then punt in between face-punching defensive series.
They are to college football what Italy is to World Cup soccer: precise, tactically conservative, and brutally efficient. Forza Alabama! is too Euro-fied for the All-American Brawndo tastes of the Alabama fanbase, but it would be an oddly fitting cheer given their style of play.
D is for Dantzler. You're no Woody Dantzler, Denard Robinson. First, you're not named "Woody," an underutilized nickname in the 21st century thanks to Toy Story. Second, Clemson sort of occasionally had a defense to back up the former Tiger great's game-length solos on offense, something Denard Robinson does not have in the slightest. Tennis game-planning had to be the case for Michigan: break serve a few times, get the ball last, and hope you could run out the clock just as you skated across the goal line. Denard Robinson crossed the goal line with 21 seconds left to put Michigan up 42-35. (Tennis math seems to work just fine for the moment for Michigan, actually.)
Third, you're not Woody Dantzler because you're better than the legendary Panther of the Piedmont, and that hurts to admit because Dantzler is my favorite obscure spread option QB of all time, the brave prototype who ran Rich Rod's nuclear veer attack before it was even a proven commodity at the FBS level. Going for 494 yards of offense and 5 TDs all by yourself in a game where you received no help from your defense whatsoever gets you the throne, son. Enjoy its splendors. (Splendors= the double plush terrycloth robe that says "Dancin' Dantzler" on the back. They even washed it for you!)
E is for Ebbed. As in receding from its high point at the worst possible time. Ben Chappell's line for the Hoosiers is the stuff not normally seen outside of the Big 12 South: 45-64, 480 yards, and 3 TDs to one INT. Michigan's defense is horrible, and as good as it would feel you can't even blame Greg Robinson with a secondary full of walk-ons and part-time epileptics (they only seize when the ball is in the air; otherwise they're fine.)
F is for F#$@*# Seriously: Denard Robinson's 905 rushing yards are more than 91 teams totals on the year in total rushing.
G is for Gums, Bleeding. Northwestern QB Dan Persa took a shot in the face from an onrushing Minnesota defender, the kind of awful, neck-snapping blow to the upper body that in football comes with yellow flags, and in rugby comes with a cup of tea and complimentary kick to the balls. Against any other team this goes for a wounded duck for INT, or a fumble, or otherwise a positive play, but this was against Minnesota, so it flies into the back of the endzone for an acrobatic TD and eventual Gophers loss. Dan Persa's lip is probably split today making speech difficult, but even he could mouth the words "Tim Brewster is so fired" with ease and accuracy.
H is for Hale. And hardy, as Robert Griffin found just what his rebuilt ACL and Baylor needed for a football comeback: the Kansas Jayhawks. Griffin finally recovered some of his freshman form against the Jayhawks, who appear to be protesting their unequal take of Big 12 football revenue by driving the value of the brand through the floor. Griffin's 380 passing yards, 64 rushing, and four combined TDs outgained the total production of the entire Kansas team in a 55-7 rout of the Jayhawks that was as fine a bid for Sun Belt membership as one can ever hope to see. (But Kansas fans, remember: this rout was brought to you profanity-free by Turner Gill.)
I is for Inefficiency. Jacory Harris is not a fan of it, and like master power bench presser James Henderson, he would rather roll with them big dollars than mess around with spare change. Harris was only 13-33 on Saturday against Clemson, but on 6 of those 13 throws something really exciting happened. Harris threw four touchdowns to two interceptions, leading Miami to a 30-21 victory in Clemson and generating plenty of sideline excitement when Miami celebrated in their traditional fashion: punching each other in the groin.
J is for JDAM. Oregon had 31 first downs and 626 yards of offense on Saturday. Which Saturday? Oh, any of them at this point. At this point Chip Kelly's offense has become like the Joint Direct Attack Munition: strap it to anything and it instantly becomes a well-targeted piece of weaponry. Oregon remains on pace to smash Oklahoma's 2008 scoring record after their 52-31 victory over Stanford despite losing their starting quarterback to off-the-field nonsense in the offseason and having nothing you would define as a go-to receiver in their offense. (Don't even tell me, non-Oregon fan, that you could pull "Jeff Maehl" from your pocket before reading this. You didn't and couldn't.)
They are to offense right now what Alabama is to defense: a system whose composite parts make up a greater whole no matter the parts. The running back will have at least 200 yards, the quarterback will pass for 200 and run for 100, and as a defense your best plan is to pray someone fumbles once and gives you a stop.
K is for Knox. Jim Knox is going to die doing his Mountain Dew Red XTREEM sideline reporter work one day. Just know that he'll die happy, and most likely in front of your horrified eyes.
His inspirations never end. Remember: no other sideline reporter has ever been dropped from a couch in Manhattan, Kansas, and no other sideline reporter ever will.
L is for Least Comprehensible Playcall of the Week. Any time Florida ran John Brantley on a pure speed option to the short side of the field. It really had to become comedy at one point, since otherwise the call was a minor tragedy in the making as defenders hammered down on the running back and dared the dropback passer to run. Brantley didn't even look like he wanted to live, much less run an enthusiastic, committed option. He made Chris Leak look like an option genius, and I remember Chris Leak running exactly two successful options his entire career at Florida.
M is for Milquetoast. Can one call an offense polite? Texas' comes close, as their blocking is genteel, their passes gently lofted to receivers, and their running backs courteously avoid hitting the hole too hard in order to avoid offending anyone who might appear in the gap. They have a monopoly on team courtesy, however: Texas extended Oklahoma drives with rude penalties and didn't so much have the courtesy to write up a decent thank you note. Like Florida, Texas is a ridiculously talented team who can't figure out what to do with the weapons they have, and the resulting fumbling has been embarrassing to watch.
N is for Nooner. For one reason or another the noon shift of games, usually stocked with at least one surprise, have been uniformly dreary this year. Even the upset special of Saturday--Illinois taking an early lead in Champaign on Ohio State--turned out to be the usual Ron Zook swoon as Illinois was ground down slowly by the hammering Buckeye offense and some serious dosage of Tresselball. (BTW, long-term strategic advantage of Tresselball: when you have a game where your star QB only throws for 76 yards, no pollsters get on you for looking like warmed-over crap because "That's just the way they play." Brilliant long-term thinking, really.)
O is for Opine. The best open mike moment of the entire weekend came during the BYU/Utah State debacle. Over the air:
BYU fan: I CAN'T BELIEVE WE'RE LOSING THIS GAME.
Utah State fan: GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM!
BYU fan: THIS IS TERRIBLE.
Utah State fan: Boo! Booooooo!
BYU fan: GO COUGARS! THIS IS NOT FUN!
I kind of like to imagine Will Ferrell doing the dialogue here. I also imagine he's eating a hot dog, because that's what i do in blowout losses: hit the concession stand to eat my sorrows.
P is for Pain. Texas Tech lived about three awful games in the span of a single game against Iowa State. First, a blowout in allowing Iowa State to go up 24-0; then a comeback to tie the game at 24; then a horrendous collapse capped by a play almost as humiliating as Fat Guy Touchdown: the onside kick attempt returned for a touchdown for Iowa State. The Cyclones scored 28 in the fourth against Texas Tech, because when they collapse they like to make sure that whatever is standing beneath them is killed and killed quickly.
Q is for Questionable Quarter Quadrant. This has to be an event on par with blood red lunar eclipses, but every team that played a game for the SEC east this week lost: Tennessee, Kentucky, Vandy, Florida, and Georgia all took the o-fer on the weekend, with only South Carolina's flawless victory over the bye keeping the division from taking the universal donut on the week. The West, by contrast, won all five of its games, including three over SEC East opponents.
R is for Repossessed. Rutgers had been missing payments here and there, falling behind to lesser competition all year, but the Repo Man came at last for Rutgers against Tulane, a truly not good team who patched together some trick plays and horrendous play by the Scarlet Knights into a win. Greg Schiano, having lost to Tulane, will now probably win the Big East because that is just how horrendous and inconsistent the conference has been.
S is for Sprinkler System. Jerrod Johnson at quarterback, dishing balls in all directions at once. Sometimes they lead A&M back to a tie with minutes left in the game, as they did against a resurgent OSU Cowboys team in the second half of their Thursday night game. Then again, Johnson's picks helped keep OSU in the game, and ultimately gave them the win when on the final drive he drilled a deep ball right into the hands of the Cowboys' defense for the game-winning possession and ensuing field goal. The ball's going somewhere, and you may not know exactly where, but give him enough time and Jerrod Johnson will eventually water the whole field with passes.
U is for Unimpressed. Go ahead and win by a field goal, Washington. It's not like Lane Kiffin's gonna look impressed.
Just after this a Washington defender came over and accidentally bumped Kiffin. At that point the sad music from Charlie Brown began playing, and it just all got a lot funnier from there.
V is for VanderBeek Of the Week.
This week's Weepy Dawson goes to Tennessee, who had players literally weeping openly at end of the game. No fun shall be made of you, for what happened there was truly inexplicable and tragic, and also because the men weeping can power clean you or me through the roof with ease.
W is for Withdrawn: The vote of confidence in NC State, who we ranked with shaking hands last week before they lost to Virginia Tech this weekend 41-30. Cartons of skim milk all around to the NC State coaching staff, and shame on us for believing anyone in the ACC wasn't going 8-5 or 5-8 this season like every ACC team ever.
X is for Xanax. I don't even want to think about how the LSU/Florida game is going to end this week. The only guarantee in life is that no matter how horrifying and incomprehensible the end of the last LSU game was, the only thing capable of topping it is the next LSU game. Just listen to him: even he's managed to boggle his own mind. LES MILES IS HAVING FUN ON THE LES MILES RIDE BECAUSE EVEN HE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT'S HAPPENING.
Y is for Yes. [Jeopardy Buzzer Noise] "What is are Mike Locksley and Butch Davis both still employed?" Locksley was on his best behavior in a 38-20 loss to UTEP, while Butch Davis and UNC beat ECU 42-17.
Z is for Zapp Brannigan. The blowhard space captain from Futurama, whose quote may be useful for the ever-growing list of fans whose teams whose teams suddenly self-detonated this weekend:
Stop exploding, you cowards.
Zapp knew it was a long battle, and so should you. Hold tight: today's top five are tomorrow's casualties, and you should remember that the race is not always to the swift, nor the strong, but sometimes to those mad enough to keep going no matter the circumstances. I don't even think you need to ask who we're talking about here.