The College Football Alphabetical, Week 6: The Donkeys Start To Fall

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 8: Quarterback Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes slips through the Nebraska Cornhusker defense during their game at Memorial Stadium October 8, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)

This week's Alphabetical ponders the quality of your team-donkey, details the disorder at Ohio State, and isn't questioning the sorcery happening at Clemson.

A is for Annapurna. I backpacked around Nepal just after college. While I was there I hiked the Annapurna circuit, a feat which consists mostly of "walking" and a very small amount of "hiking." Do not let big foreign words fool you: the only real dangers are running out of chocolate in between towns and perhaps pooping on your own shoe. If you have survived either, you understand that the first is way worse than the second once it happens.

The only two parts presenting any real physical challenges: one stretch on the high road between Chame and Manang that had me hallucinating at the top, and negotiating the Thorung La pass after a fresh snowstorm. The pass is one false peak after another, and steep switchbacks that in the night had iced over as winds shot down from the 17,500 foot notch in the mountains. 

Long trains of people and donkeys trailed up in the early morning mist, and I was behind one when something very disturbing started happening. Some donkeys trotted over the ice just fine, and other started slipping and falling backwards and sideways off the mountain. I cannot overstate how disturbing it is to be the bowling pin to the ball of a fully loaded donkey sliding ass-first down a path towards you on the side of a mountain trail very, very far away from medical help.

The point is this: the second week of October is when your dreams of your team--your donkey, if you will--either continue to trudge up that icy slope one nimble, strong hoof at a time, or start sliding backwards into bug-eyed backpackers. LSU, Stanford, Oklahoma, and Alabama: your donkeys are fine. Texas, Ohio State, Florida, you might want to move, because that donkey's sliding for a while and you're going to have to get out of the way. By the end of the month, there will be like, an assload of donkeys at the bottom of the hill.

B is for Bauserman. Ohio State playcalling at its best under the TresselBoys left over from the Sweatervest's reign came in the first half against Nebraska Saturday night. Using the mobile Braxton Miller and a commitment to the run game, the beleaguered Jim Bollman and company shook loose 27 points from the Nebraska defense. Did you see that throwback TE screen to Jake Stoneburner? Positively crafty, you say, and almost unBuckeye-ish, but you let it slide because you involved a man named "Stoneburner."

Having built a 27-6 lead, the classic Tresselball maneuver would have been to punt, punt, punt, and then punt again on the way to an asphyxiating lead. Want a refresher on why you pay head coaches millions of dollars? What happened next is why you pay head coaches millions of dollars.

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Please tell us who did this, because it has been everywhere so far today, and no one seems to have the credit and that is a shame because it is brilliant.

Braxton Miller did precisely what the video game NCAA 2012 would have had him do at this point in the game on a higher difficulty level: get injured in a very severe way AND fumble simultaneously, breathing life into Nebraska and introducing The Bauserman Identity into the game.  The Bauserman Identity cannot be blamed here for what happened, because what ends up on the field is ultimately the result of coaching, and that's why we yell at them. 

So yell at Jim Bollman, Nick Siciliano, and the rest of the Ohio State coaching staff for passing on 10 of 18 downs late in the game when Nebraska abandoned all pretense and began running elaborate variations of the fullback dive for a comeback. (Hint: the ball's going to Burkhead or Martinez every time, and forget about the tailback. You are welcome.)

Yell at them for allowing and encouraging the worst late-game playcalling we have ever seen in a game. This includes games called by Jeff Bowden during his reign as Florida State offensive coordinator, and if you know how bad that was this should make Ohio State fans reading this mail bricks labeled "YOU" to the OSU football offices. With the Huskers bleeding yards and points from the OSU defense, the offensive staff forgot who they were, had a brief but unfortunate half hour of hallucinating, and tried to throw the ball around like Brandon Weeden was out there with a zillion Buckeye stickers peppering his glossy silver helmet.  

This is not who Joe Bauserman is, or what the OSU offense is, and that's how you hit the gas instead of the brake when your car is heading toward a brick wall at 100 miles per hour. There is this awful, stomach-churning moment where you realize that a group of people has fallen off-script: the moment when a crowd starts to turn sour and panic, the instant you realize that this party has turned into a riot, and that the man behind you will bite your ears off to get on the bus out of there ahead of you.

That moment happened sometime in the third quarter in the game against Nebraska, and that chaos is what is NOT supposed to happen with professionals hired to do professional-like things. You can laugh at Bauserman for one thing, though: the double pump fake on his interception. That was pure Uncle Rico, and was so slow it would not have fooled a Labrador retriever waiting on the throw. 

C is for Caesura. A pause inserted into the stanza of a poem or piece of music. Kansas would like one, and a key change, and a new composer or poet or whatever, because it is 2011, and in the middle of year two of the Turner Gill era the Kansas Jayhawks had to rely on the mercy/taste/mansomeness of Mike Gundy to not have a hundred points scored on them. Funtime Kids Kwiz! Which defense is represented by the following three eye-gouging statistics?

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That would be Kansas, who in 2008 played in the Orange Bowl, and who in 2011 may not win another game down the stretch. Kansas State rehired Bill Snyder after a disastrous liaison with Ron Prince, and they're undefeated. Not saying you should rehire Mark Mangino, especially since he left under acrimonious circumstances, but if an unknown "Clark Nangino" applied under a different name, you might want to consider the resume despite the close resemblance. 

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He's a little eccentric, sure, but "Clark Nangino" will get you to a BCS Bowl.

D is for Dislocation. LaMichael James' elbow dislocation was a lot of things: disgusting, horrendously timed, and queasy viewing at best. Lasting, however, it was not. James popped up at the press conference chipper with his arm in a sling, explaining that he was on no painkillers, that he expected to play again soon, and that he'd done this in high school and played the following week.  LaMichael James is 5'9"-ish, and this is your reminder that if you see a small man playing a contact sport, the chances of him having a better pain tolerance than the troll-sized big dudes is exactly 100%.

E is for Exsanguination. The process of draining the blood from a freshly slaughtered cow. This can be accomplished one of several ways. The first: stun the cow with high voltage, a bolt gun, or carbon dioxide Then take the body and secure its hind legs securely to an overhead belt rig by means of chains and a hook. Finally, slit the throat, and allow the animal to expire through blood loss. Then proceed to slaughter the animal in accordance with USDA standards.

The other method: have Landry Jones throw against the Texas secondary. Either one will get you a grill-ready animal in less than 30 minutes.

F is for FEAR. The call is coming from inside the house Alabama fans NO REALLY HE'S RIGHT BEHIND YOU---

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G is for Greatness in Action.  San Jose State's offense wins the award this week for fastest to a safety, forwarding two points to the the BYU Cougars on just their fifth play from scrimmage. Kentucky knows it will be a challenge, y'all, but it sees your five and vows to do it in one once they fumble this kickoff, fall on the ball at the one, and then are tackled in the end zone for two points and a turnover.

H is for Habromania. "Having cheerful delusions," which you may be having right now if you are a fan of any number of teams. Illinois is currently undefeated despite Ron Zook having no idea what the score is in the game while making two-point conversion decisions. I'd like to say Illinois fans are delusional for thinking they can win the Big Ten, but Ron Zook possesses powers no one really comprehends, and that certainly includes Ron Zook.  

Other teams happy to be delusional at this point include Kansas State, whose cure likely likes in a three game stretch against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M in November; Georgia Tech, who struggled to close out Maryland this weekend; Michigan, somehow intact at 6-0 despite a defense held together with paper clips and the force-field projected by Greg Mattison's Ron Swansonesque torso. It won't last, but as long as Michigan doesn't swoon completely in the second half it is a roaring success in year one for Brady Hoke. Pizzas all around.

I is for Imaginationland. Radio broadcasting is a bit of a lost art, so kudos to Wes Durham for being so good at it that in a midday run to the grocery store we were able to yes, fully imagine the teams moving left to right on our dial, and yes, we did see that formation you described so accurately, Wes. BTW, the most hipster thing you can possibly do is listen to Wes Durham call triple option football on the radio. I did it while wearing a scarf and drinking a cane sugar soda, and it felt so authentic I wondered if it was real, and then posted about it on Tumblr.

J is for Juste. French for correct. I don't know why, but the ACC having their scoreboard sponsored by the Hardees' Thickburger feels right, perhaps because most ACC football games leave you feeling like a shamef--k you schedule with your face and the food produced at Hardees: an impulse decision carried out in lieu of anything else good, consumed well enough at first, and then lingering for three hours of torpor and regret. (And yet: YOU WILL DO IT AGAIN.) 

K is for Kleptomania.  Rutgers plays one of our favorite varieties of football, the Komodo dragon school of gridiron success. Rutgers by themselves can't overpower you, but their defense does get one bite of you, and then you get sick, and then you start to die. Rutgers is +22 in turnovers, and that massive TO margin is the reason their slow, lizard-like attack can do so much damage with so little. It's not that you can't fight it off; no, it's just that by the time they get to you, there's so little work to be done. The snacking, for the immediate future, will continue for the Scarlet Knights and their cold-blooded and infectious work.

L is for Letdown.  And of course the team Rutgers poisoned and then ate was Pitt, who in coming off a big win had to follow it up by being, well, Pitt. 

M is for Manure. Texas Tech fans heralded A&M's arrival to Lubbock by vandalizing the Aggies' buses and throwing manure inside the team buses, an ironic gesture given the self-soiling the Red Raiders successfully executed in losing a narrow but bumbling 45-40 loss over Texas A&M at home. Tech outgained the Aggies 523 yards to 393 yards but still lost thanks to a blocked field goal returned for a TD, horrendous red zone production from the offense, and an inability to stop A&M's run game. Oh, and the Red Raiders lost leading rusher Eric Stephens to a knee injury. Next time, reverse-troll the Red Raiders by washing their buses, placing fresh flowers on the seats, and putting fresh mints in their lockers, and maybe Mike Sherman will go back to blowing close games in the second half like he does against everyone else.

N is for Neolatry. A worship of the new, something Les Miles cannot be accused of as a football coach. LSU ran the ball 49 times while passing just 14 times, a ratio Paul Johnson, Ken Niumatololo, and Knute Rockne would refer to as "about right." Jarrett Lee has been infinitely better in 2011, but do not ignore the Cro-Magnon luxury the LSU offense affords Miles. Run the ball as well and as doggedly as LSU does, and you bomb away selectively without fear.

O is for On-point.  A tip of the giant white cap to Les Miles for the jump pass TD call against Florida, an exact replay of the Tim Tebow jump pass from the 2007 LSU game. I suspect Les has no memory for anything that did not happen five minutes ago, but he probably wrote a note after he saw it and saved it for future Les because he knew it would work, and that it would be bitterly funny even to a Florida fan watching it unfold.

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P is for Penury.  The day of quarterback poverty was startling indeed. Kentucky's quarterbacks combined for 4-26, 17 passing yards, and four interceptions. UNLV's Caleb Herring was 1/14, was sacked 5 times, and had 8 yards and one INT. Joe Bauserman was 1/10 for 13 yards and the aforementioned mind-boggling INT, and yes it is a dismal day when you watch the Penn State/Iowa game and think, "Man, these quarterbacks aren't too bad."

Q is for Quean. A hussy or prostitute. This being a slow week, we thought you just needed another word for "hooker" in your life, and have no football to attach to this.

R is for Reducto. Quantifying just how statistically significant a single player can be to an offense is easy, especially if that statistically significant person is Cam Newton. Last year after six weeks the Auburn attack was 10th in the nation in total offense and generating 36.6 points a game. With Barrett Trotter in place of Newton and a reconfigured offensive line, this year's model is 80th in total offense and producing 27.3 points or so a game, and that's with Auburn headed into the teeth of their SEC schedule. This is less a commentary on a very young Auburn team, and more an "OMG Cam Newton was incrediballs" note for posterity's sake. 

S is for Skimpin'. This week, the Alabama defense allowed you to have 41 yards rushing, Alabama, but only because Dont'a Hightower was feeling generous. The next lucky contestant: Ole Miss, who will have to figure out how to feed a a family of 22 on just 40 yards of rushing for the week. Can Houston Nutt, the ol' wily prospector, make it work? Find out on Saturday!*

*He will not. They all starve to death in the second quarter.

T is for Third and 57. We swear Mike Bobo did this on purpose just to enrage the portion of the Georgia fan base that wants him fired, but can't question his wins and loss record. 

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The only think missing from this: picking up a safety on the play, which would have been fine because Tennessee, as ineffective as they were on Saturday night, still wouldn't have been able to score on the play. Tennessee should not attempt another running play this year, and is already sitting at -26 yards against Alabama weeks before they even play.

U is for Undiversified.  Michigan tallied 541 yards of total offense against Northwestern this week. Of that total, 454 yards came from the arm or feet of Denard Robinson. Brady Hoke will put this whole damn omelet in the basket, ma'am, proverbs and common wisdom be damned. (There is probably a proverb about not hiring a head coach from San Diego State and Ball State either, but 6-0 and a huge stack of victorious and empty pizza boxes outside the head coach's office say otherwise, "common knowledge.")

V is for Velocious. Running with great speed, as in both West Virginia and Oregon's offenses in the third quarter. After a lackluster first half, the Mountaineers leveled UConn with 23 points coming out of the half, while Oregon put 22 on Cal after the intermission. If possible, attempt to negotiate a peaceful surrender at halftime with either of these teams, or perhaps just distract their coaches at halftime by having odd deliveries made to their locker rooms, thus distracting them from figuring out exactly how to crack your defense open like a fresh oyster.

W is for Withheld. Six weeks into his experiments, Dr. Pitbull and his under-overpass laboratory have yet to come to any conclusive relationship between Dr. Pepper consumption and "good times." Never fear: their researches will continue until the end of football season, and perhaps beyond.

X is for Xenogenous. Happening from an outside source, as in the magical circumstances that turned what would have been a season-ending injury in previous and cursed Clemson seasons into a minor hip injury for Tajh Boyd. Again, we cannot explain what is happening for the 6-0 and undefeated Clemson Tigers, and will not try.

Y is for Yex. To hiccup, which we're sure a loss to Wake Forest is for Florida State on the third year of their return to greatness under Jimbo Fisher. (Note to Seminoles fans: may be repeated for years four, five, and six if necessary.)

Z is for Zoanthropy. The delusion that one is an animal. Tyrann Mathieu is a sufferer of this condition, and no one in Baton Rouge is even trying to cure this while it lasts.

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