A is for Appalled: Nick Fairley has committed his fair share of borderline penalties this season. He also cut Aaron Murray's Achilles Tendon with a scalpel in the UGA/Auburn game, which I'm all but sure is illegal and should be, since it reminds me of the murderous little babyzombie in Pet Semetary, and anything that conjures up those kind of nightmares deserves to be flagged for 15 yards and ejected.
Still, nasty as he can be, Fairley was the victim of some wretched officiating on Saturday when he picked up a phantom unsportsmanlike penalty in the early going against Alabama for celebrating a play. Wasting an iffy call on Fairley is cracked: wait long enough, and the Kodiak-sized defensive tackle is sure to go in a killing rage and throw McElroy into the stands. (Again: not sure this didn't happen sometime in the third quarter.)
The same happened in the Michigan/Ohio State game when Devier Posey received an unsportsmanlike celebration for holding his hands to the crowd and making the form of an "O" with the Nike-designed gloves that were made to do just that--form a red block "O" for Ohio. The strangest thing about giving referees the judgment to call unsportsmanlike penalities--referees, who are by inclination are picayune people who want to be in a situation where they enforce and interpret rules--is that it encourages their worst instincts, i.e. the urge to punish behavior to the letter and not the spirit of the law.
The general rule with unsportsmanlike should be that you would only punish the most extravagantly appalling of infractions, but therein lies the problem: we're already dealing with people who by design are hypersensitive and innately picky. It is ultimately a matter of taste, not of rule interpretation, and that's been the problem all along with the rule and the way it is written.
B is for Ball Turret Gunner. For some strange reason, engineers thought putting a man in a tiny rotating metal scrotum beneath the body of a B-17 was a good idea. Randall Jarrell wrote a poem about this extremely unfortunate individual after his turn in the Air Force.
From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.
Football's ball turret gunner is the kicker. Neglected, provided with little protection, and ultimately doomed by margins of error too small to worry about without going insane, the kicker is alone and outnumbered and cannot hide from his mistakes. To continue the metaphor, Kyle Brotzman had to be washed off the field with a hose after missing both the game-winning field goal and Boise's only scoring attempt in the Broncos' overtime loss against Nevada. There's a Facebook page devoted to loving the kicker who arguably cost Boise its one chance to go to the national title game and the WAC title, but he's a kicker. They know the position is thankless, but that said, missing two point-blank kicks with so much on the line is the stuff of cruel Greek myths.
C is for Canned. If there was a Weekend of the Long Knives in college football, this was it. Coaches and cause of death:
- Randy Shannon. Dead of ACC-induced anemia.
- Bill Lynch. Outrageously dead, as in might not need funeral arrangements or anything.
- Robbie Caldwell. Dead of too much country cookin' in a city kitchen.
D is for Devolution. The bottom for Miami is well-defined: it is losing to South Florida, a team that in a world evaluated on paper would not be on the same field with South Florida. In that world Randy Shannon isn't fired for being a truly epic disciplinarian, either, someone who gets students to graduate on time with degrees and took the formerly bumptious Hurricanes' program and transformed it into a peaceful squad of mellow 8-5 student athletes.
This is not the only option Miami has, however. There are schools who balance academics and slamming football, and do so successfully. Randy Shannon, for all his discipline and recruiting acumen, missed part of the formula at Miami. It's something Jim Harbaugh and Pat Fitzgerald haven't done at their respective places of employ, and in the gap between the two you'll find the reason Shannon got fired: an inability to win big games and do the rest of his job. No one's perfect, but it's Miami. As nice as you may be, without the sexy you're nothing in Dade County.
E is for Enter These As Granted. Auburn, grant the following adjectives: awesome, insane, unprecedented, ballsy, breathless, icy, composed, fierce, powerful, brawny, and ultimately baffling in its scope. All of these apply to coming from behind from a 24-7 deficit in Bryant-Denny Stadium, ending a 20-game home winning streak, and keeping the dream of Auburn's renegade march to a national title alive. Balls is another word: your team has truckfuls of them, and does not hesitate to rely on them when the time comes.
F is for Fracas. However, consider the way Auburn is designed as team. I wouldn't suggest Auburn intentionally gets behind in games, but if you do have absolutely zero pass defense and a human Iron Giant at quarterback, the way Auburn has won many of their games makes a lot of sense, especially when matched up against Alabama, a team that relies on getting a big lead and then daring the other team to catch up. Most teams can't, but most teams don't have Cam Newton to unleash on a defense fully expecting pass, pass, pass on the comeback. (Auburn did pass to come back, but when Mark Barron is glowing and wearing "Caution: Flammable Cargo" signs all over his body, that's inevitable.) Auburn's got the best rope-a-dope game in college football this year, and that's even considering Oregon.
G is for Gunnery. Full credit to Cam Newton: he had his best passing game of the season, victimizing Mark Barron on multiple occasions and taking precisely what the Alabama defense, keying on the run, was surrendering. Newton isn't Drew Brees dropping vert routes down the pipe effortlessly on third and long, but the progression of Newton as a passer has been dramatic, especially from his scanty data set as a passer at Florida. As a youngster, Newton's tendency was to imagine every receiver was seven feet taller than they were and equipped with telescoping arms. On Saturday, he came out in the second half firing with what could conceivably called touch and unquestionable accuracy. It still looked like someone attempting to throw an axe through a stump, but it was very accurate axe-throwing indeed.
H is for Heisman. As a matter of theory, the Alphabetical considers the Heisman a narrow and arbitrarily awarded indicator of merit based largely on television coverage. This is why the phrase "Heisman Winner" and "bowl game performance/NFL future" are often mentioned with giggles, because HARR HARR GINO TORETTA TROY SMITH ANDRE WARE. In Cam Newton's case, the concerns are anything but football-related, but until those are resolved, there's no reason not to vote for him for the award. Even if it's taken away at some point in the future, he'd join a long list of people who should perhaps return their award due to Heisman voter pilot error. Until then, he's the best player in college football, and has been on television a lot, and there you go: Heisman Trophy awarded.
I is for Ill. Florida and Texas have made for some economical writing this year, since they're just differently-mascoted teams of high program caliber suffering offensive power outages. It's only right that both should die horrific deaths at the hands of their rivals on the final regular weekend of the college football season.
But Florida, did you really have to go that far out of your way? Did you have to have a single drive where two timeouts, two false start penalties, and mass confusion resulted in a punt? Did you have to drive the point home by having Jordan Reed, who is technically a tight end, drive the ball down the field only to insert the hapless John Brantley in to throw a red zone interception? At least Texas fought and lost a close game. Florida's worst team in recent memory attempted to throw itself into the wood chipper, missed, got like half their arm in there, struggled for a moment, and then just bled to death in front of a gleeful Doak Campbell Stadium crowd.
J is for Jackfruit. Several people a year are killed by falling jackfruit, the massive tropical fruit capable of reaching seventy pounds in weight. This makes them very dangerous, but only slightly more dangerous than South Carolina's D.L. Moore, who only metaphorically killed one person this year. It's still not for the faint of heart, though.
The punter's reaction there is fantastic: "What? OW. Yes, I should probably leave the field now after that, and not come back until I absolutely have to."
K is for Knots. Hey, Arizona. Look at you, just hanging in there against Oregon. Whoa! You were even up! Who had their V-8 this morning? You did!
So how'd that second half work out--
Oregon goes into the locker room at halftime, conjures up the same neglected Norse god they've been worshipping ever since Chip Kelly took over, prays to him, and then unleashes a kind of special hell in the second half of every game they play against a team not blatantly rolling about on the field.* They are the Kenyan blowing away the crowd with a hellacious kick in the 25th mile of a marathon; they are Secretariat blowing away from the pack; they are Christopher Hitchens opening the second bottle of scotch while you vomit out the window. If they have to meet Auburn for the national title, it's going to be the best matchup of offenses since the 2006 Rose Bowl. <---This is nothing but undiluted potential for the best kind of hyperventilation.
*Hush, Cal. You suspended your Defensive Line coach over this, and marred an otherwise outstanding defensive performance with acting Tyler Perry would call "overwrought."
L is for Lockdown. Cliff Harris did not lock shit down against Arizona, and in fact had a horrible game in the defensive secondary. Pause for a moment, however, to appreciate Juron Criner, Arizona's huge wideout who makes up for a lack of speed with sheer aerial security skills. Criner only had three receptions, but two went for TDs in a 109-yard performance. Criner is the kind of wideout USC typically has, big guys who carry invisible trampolines around to snag jump balls downfield.
M is for Miami (The Other One.) Mike Haywood has the Miami Redhawks at 8-4 with at least a share of the MAC East Championship after a 23-3 victory over Temple, one of the small, underreported minor miracles of this football season. The Redhawks went 1-11 last year and would have been the worst team in college football if not for Fightin' Mike Locksley and the University of New Mexico Lobos. They are now good, and not even Haywood thought they'd be here:
"I didn’t think it would happen this quickly," Haywood said in the Oxford (Ohio) Press "Behind closed doors, our goal this season was to be a bowl-eligible football team and we’ve far exceeded that."
Hot MACtion: ignore its passions at your own risk, since your next coach may be lurking somewhere in the Hustle Belt.
N is for Necrologue. A list of the dead.
- Northwestern, buried beneath the artillery shells of Wisconsin, driving home their claim to the Big Ten championship and BCS glory by scoring as many points as was considered close to reasonable in a 70-23 Badgers victory. Seventy for Wisconsin is now considered tasteful (in Wisconsin.)
- Eastern Michigan. Beaten 70-3 by a pitiless Northern Illinois team who outgained them 646-160 in total yardage. Jerry Kill did not come by his name by accident.
- Oregon State. The Filthy Donut of Defeat is given to you by Stanford, Beavers: 38-0, never in doubt, and now going into a game against your in-state rival who has a national championship shot on the line. I'd say play the freshman to give them experience early in this game, but the young have a difficult time recovering from seeing that much blood at once. Break them in slowly.
O is for Oeufs. This might be the best summary of Dave Wannstedt as a coach I've got yet. Chef Wannstedt would find only the finest local eggs from a chicken farm. When cooked by others, they would rise like yellow gold in omelets, create baked goods of unquestioned quality, and poach up like silky proteinaceous purses containing a perfect yolk. Then he would take them to his restaurant and crack them right on your plate and scream "WHAT HAPPENED?" when they sit, raw and uncooked, on your plate. In plain words: all the talent in the world and superb recruiting, but what the value added to players at Pitt after they get there is an unknown quantity at best. That PItt still pretty much looks like Pitt even with a freshman quarterback is also one of the great mysteries of the universe, along with, "What the hell happened to Dion Lewis?"
P is for Paw-Paw. Meanwhile, Bill Stewart could finish with nine wins, a nice bowl berth, and a far better season than his NFL-pedigreed big city rival. Then, in the offseason, he's got to get back to work on this fantastic garden shed he's buildin', but that's another story altogether.
Q is for Quean. A woman of bad character, aka the Big East, who's just throwing it around to any old gent with a wallet who walks in the door. They're in good company--remember the Pac-10's unfortunate attempt to organize a polygamous colony this past summer?--but TCU is a john who will pay the bills well enough, especially given the neighborhood it's coming from in Dallas, a large media market with plenty of eyeballs. Additionally, the Horned Frogs better be able to come right in and win this conference, since UConn, as scrappy/inspiring/underdoggish as they might be, are not the name you want to see slotted for "Automatic Conference BCS Bid."
(This is not our favorite prostitution-related simile for a conference. Our favorite is a variation of Michael at Braves and Birds for the Big Ten, who is "The whore who won't do that." As opposed to the SEC, who is Belle Watling and doesn't care who knows it.)
R is for Reroute. In this week's installment of "Being Les Miles has its downsides, too," we bring you Arkansas scoring with six seconds left after a safety decides to take out a defensive back instead of Cobi Hamilton on what would be the deciding score of the Arkansas/LSU game. Crazy is contagious, and only breeds more crazy, i.e. taking a shot downfield with six seconds left. (Bobby Petrino is a cannibal, and do not cross him unless you want to end up in a pot.)
S is for Surprising. The pleasant surprise of the SEC East down the stretch has been the Tennessee offense and Tyler Bray, the freshman QB whose relationship with receiver Denarius Moore borders on the telepathic. (Not that their conversations are that interesting. "Hey, get open." "Okay, done." "Cool, bro. TD." "Thanks.") Bray threw for 354 yards and a pair of scores against Kentucky, Moore had over 200 yards receiving, and Derek Dooley is bowl eligible in a year that started out with complete program disaster for the Vols. They're not even close to horrible, and for that Dooley should be lauded.
T is for Triflin'. Michigan/Ohio State hasn't really been mentioned in any real depth here, and likely won't because scrimmages are rarely given much media attention. Ohio State scored 24 in the second quarter, Denard Robinson got hurt, Tate Forcier was throwing balls to invisible gophers in the turf, and Michigan was pushed around at every position on the field. It was as bad as Florida/Florida State for rivalry game content, and that is saying something awful and nearly unspeakable.
It does set up one of the better potential matchups in the bowl season, though, in Ohio State versus Arkansas, where Ryan Mallett will be given a chance he never would have had at Michigan: a real live shot to beat the Buckeyes.
U is for Unbalanced. If this is a Florida fan, well, that would be appropriate.
V is for Vafrous. Cunning or sly, i.e. just like Butch Davis who--shhhhh--may actually keep his job after NCAA violations cut his team's roster to shreds. He still ended up 7-5 in the ACC, which everyone usually does, but still, recognize the man's pure survival skills. No one survives Butch Davis like Butch Davis!
W is for Widdershins. Running counter-clockwise, or counter to the thinking that you might not want to let UGA score in the final two minutes of the game as Georgia Tech trailed 35-34. With only one timeout, however, Paul Johnson opted to let Washaun Ealey score, something the running back eagerly did. Tech failed to pull out the win, but the unconventional call is the right one here. (Ealey should have flopped after getting a first down, however, but we can pardon the enthusiasm in a rivalry game.)
X is for Xyster. A surgical instrument for scraping bones, and useless in the Bedlam game's last three minutes when OSU and Oklahoma traded volleys in a flurry of scoring right up to the final whistle against boneless defenses. Twenty-eight points traded hands in the final 3:17 of the game, and ended with a failed onside attempt by OK State.
Y is for Yeouch. Craig James discussing Cam Newton on the BCS Rankings Show on ESPN broke our irony gland. Please advise on a path of clinical treatment to restore it.
Z is for Ziraleet. An expression of joy in Arabic, something Notre Dame fans must have exclaimed when watching the ND/USC game on Saturday night. If the 20-16 score was not enough, perhaps this was:
(via the indispensable Bubbaprog.)