A is for Artifice. Wrestling really is handy. It allows for so many easy but accurate comparisons. For instance, the current general drift of the college football season feels like a long slogging WWE storyline building to the Hell In The Cell matches between LSU and Alabama and then Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. These dates are fixed, and all other matches in the interim will be a matter of formality.
Given that, the roles are all too obvious. Nick Saban is the Undertaker, with smoke filling the room on his entry, and defeat a cold inevitability. No one actually enjoys watching him, but that's too bad: the Johnny Cash is already playing, and leaving the ring is not an option. Bob Stoops is Vince McMahon: practically the commissioner, stomped out with some serious frequency in high-profile spots despite his august position, and in possession of a seriously majestic betrayal face.
Mike Gundy would be the CM Punk: likes the mike, straight-edge, and prone to metacommentary in public.
Les Miles is spoken for in the form of one Rowdy Roddy Piper, and there can be no debate about this.
"YOU THINK I'M INSANE?" A little, Les, but it doesn't mean we don't put money on you in a steel cage match when madness and moxie overcome planning every time.
B is for Brevity. Oh, for three magnificent minutes it was true: Ole Miss led Alabama, which for some reason has a thing this year for allowing cheap early scores. One can only assume they are the fighter Richard Pryor talks about in his immortal bit on boxing: they were fine with you until you hit them, and then proceeded to turn your lungs into pincushions spiked with what was left of your ribs. The Rebels gained 72 yards on their first scoring drive, and then did not accumulate that in the remaining three quarters and substantial change of play. Courtney Upshaw has committed attempted manslaughter no fewer than 42 times this season, and only the rules of football and the states of the SEC have kept him from being charged with any of it. Avoid him and the rest of the Alabama defense at all costs.
C is for Cha-cha-cha. Trent Richardson made the first juke out of necessity, and the second because he could.
Be advised: dealing with Alabama's offense is no more pleasant a task than dealing with its defense. Remember that they played North Texas earlier this season in a warmup game for the SEC schedule. Now please, if you would for a moment, try to imagine how very badly North Texas had to feel after fourth quarters of getting hit by this team. Think about getting hit by a semi-truck carrying a load of the worst flu you've ever had, and then doing an entire high rep squat workout with a scorching hangover. That has to feel like playing Alabama, and it has to feel bad.
D is for Drought. Our final note on how deadly the fifth edition of Nick Saban's Death Machine, we promise. Alabama allowed 28 yards rushing to Ole Miss, thus lowering its average rushing yards allowed to 38.14 yards a game. LSU has run the ball 319 times to 150 passing attempts. The first half of LSU/Bama will set back football as we know it 35 years, and that will be just fine with both coaches.
E is for Ennui. Blame Oklahoma's underwhelm at playing Kansas for their limp performance. Yes, the score, says 47-17, but it was really much closer than that, and holy hell does that say something truly hideous about Kansas football that a 30-loss is considered a form of success in this situation. Turner Gill's squad scraped together a total of nine first downs in the entire game. Against the Alabama defense we assume some kind of obscure mercy rule involving ten safeties surrendered in a single game would be invoked, and thus end the slaughter prematurely and mercifully.
F is for Facemask. Okay, so Gameday did a fashion segment. This was completely worth it for three reasons
- The screams of those on Twitter terrified that a cheeky "fashion" angle on the very real topic of uniforms as a recruiting tool would make them irrevocably and instantly homosexual.
- A senior writer for ESPN the Magazine saying 17 year-olds "liked shiny things." (Have a seat, sir.)
- Chris Fowler wearing a visored Maryland Helmet for an entire segment.
This last one is not to be underestimated, and was made funnier by Fowler giggling under the helmet the whole time.
G is for Galling Mismanagement. It is really unfair to focus on the Big Ten and the plague of punt/kick mismanagement in the league, but only if you think pointing out things that have a definite trend and prevalence in a particular data set is grossly unfair. Initially, from memory alone, we recalled one play that galled us: a punt from the Michigan 46 by Michigan State in a situation when the Spartans were moving the ball well and could have taken a chance on a 4th and 1. This is one weak call by Dantonio, and to his credit it was early in the game when teams tend to tentatively feel out the general pace of things a bit. (By the numbers it is still the wrong call.)
Michigan's punting, however, isn't bad in and of itself, but does indicate something very, very bad about the Michigan offense in this game. The distances and downs of Michigan's punting decisions: MST 36 (4th and 4), MST 43 (4th and 10), MST 37 (4th and 8), MST 42 (4th and 18), MST 46 (4th and 15), MIST 32 (4th and 19). Two of these are debatable: the 4th and 4, which was conservative at best and cowardly at worst, and the 4th and 8, which is more defensible given Michigan's passing woes. This is what happens when Michigan State blitzes your offense into ribbons, and your coaching staff responds by suddenly jugging two quarterbacks in the middle of a rivalry game.
H is for Hoof-Hands. Florida and Auburn's quarterbacks continued the spirit of horrendous SEC quarterbacking producing at least one genuine atrocity a season. You may know these as "Tuberville Classics," or at least that should be their name in honor of the Auburn coach's impressive career record accomplished almost entirely without quarterbacks who could outthrow their kickers. Florida's QBs: 14/28 for 120 yards. Auburn's: 6/15 combined, but with one TD and that's what counts when the other team can't piss past its own shoetops on offense. Charlie Weis is responsible for the recession, and nothing can convince us otherwise.
I is for Incompetence. He has already admitted to not knowing the score at a crucial point in a game, so assume anything you like about Ron Zook's decision to go for 4th and 2 on the Ohio State 17 with a good kicker on the sidelines and a 10-point deficit with 1:20 to go. The outs here: kick a field goal, and then either onside or kick deep and burn timeouts to try and get a chance for the tying TDs. Not so says the Zooker, and that's how you miss a 4th and 2 and immediately forfeit all chances of victory in a late game situation. If Ron Zook opens a parachute, it immediately disgorges silverware and other picnic supplies even if it did previously contain a well-packed chute.
J is for Jactation. A throwing. Use in sentence:
Watching Brandon Weeden's jactations in the four verticals play is one of the most beautiful things in college football in the year 2011.
It really is, especially when Weeden makes the back shoulder throw to Blackmon or Anyiam on the sideline.
K is for Killcow. A bully or a swaggerer, or the mantle LSU happily took up on Saturday when it poured points on late at Tennessee to stretch a game effort by the Vols into a 38-7 blowout. As always, the official stance of the Alphabetical regarding scoring is as follows: if you don't want something to happen to you on the football field within the rules, prepare accordingly. Don't like someone scoring on you late? Too bad, because the offense is there to move the ball and score points, and your defense is there to stop them. (Bonus! The BCS may not explicitly include margin of error anymore, but the voters do anything but ignore it, so expect it to rain and then pour for appearance's sake.)
L is for Let's See How Indiana Football Is Doing! Well, let's click this gif to animate an important highlight, and---
---on second thought, let's not check in with Indiana football ever again. :(
M is for Miscarriage. We need to all have a collective intervention with Gene Chizik about his Buck Rodgers, Intergalactic Garbageman outfit he is wearing this fall on the sidelines.
There are fashion complaints, sure. It doesn't fit, and appears to be a shirtcoat made of a pair of pants hastily sewn from a pair of pants or a parachute. The sleeves aren't long or short, and appear to be some kind of three quarter sleeve ideal for dishwashers, dental hygienists, and oystermen. The Auburn is poised right at nipple level for maximum visual discomfort, and the collar makes Gene's head look like a puppet mounted on a Chizik-doll body. This is the ceremonial robe for a California long distance running orgy cult, not a football coach.
In contrast, this is what the two men in charge of Alabama and Auburn 40 years ago wore:
These men have no idea what they hell you're wearing, son. Not a damn clue.
N is for Nerrrrrds. Go figure that UVA would win a game by studying, but like Chip Kelly's Oregon attack, the Georgia Tech offense suffers incrementally in effectiveness with every day given to prepare for it. Tech was limited to 296 yards total offense against UVA on Saturday in a 24-21 loss, a number they usually top in rushing alone. Then again, UVA students would be the first to tell you how well they study, so this really shouldn't be as much a surprise as UVA's offense racking up 407 yards on Tech's defense and keeping Tech's attack off the field late.
O is for Oneiric. Of or relating to dreams. Hello, Clemson football. That was a 35-17 deficit you faced against Maryland, and not a nightmare. All too real, we're afraid, but just as real was Tajh Boyd catching fire and throwing 4 TDs, and Sammy Watkins running the nuke-orange off his shoes for 3 TDs, and Clemson riding the Auburn 2010 plan to victory down the stretch: get a few breaks, keep firing, and hope your opponent runs out of ammo first. When the opponent is Maryland, this is extremely likely. In fact, watch: Maryland probably used half its remaining point allotment for the season in this game, and will have to fast to survive the remaining schedule. (There are only two words of science backing this statement up, and they are "Gary" and "Crowton." )
P is for Pangs. Of sympathy for Marcus Lattimore, the South Carolina running back whose year came to an end when he was swept up in a disastrous block in the Mississippi State victory on Saturday. Now Steve Spurrier has to scrape together an SEC East title run with one receiver, a shaky starter at QB seconds from being pulled at any given moment, and a defense filled with athletes he would have had on the offensive side of the ball at Florida. If this sounds like every other year at South Carolina under Steve Spurrier, well, it should.
Q is for Quisby. An idler, which Russell Wilson isn't unless we're talking about him in the 4th quarter, where he's only had to throw four passes all year long. It's not lazy if you're idle by design and happy circumstance.
R is for Raffish. Disreputable or vulgar. The best game in the SEC this weekend was Georgia/Vandy, of all games, and not just because Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Vandy head coach James Franklin almost got in a fight after the game. We really don't care why they were fighting, but would just like to point out two things.
- Vandy had the ball on the Georgia 15 or so with two shots to win the game at the end, and very nearly did on the penultimate play on a barely missed and brilliantly defended pass to the corner of the endzone.
- Vandy's coach was ready to drop gloves at the end of the game. VANDY. This has to qualify as some kind of improvement, even if you happen to find the decision raffish. (Which, thanks to a meeting called for Grantham by SEC commish Mike Slive, the SEC certainly does.)
S is for Seersucker. Florida Atlantic, in their final year under Howard Schnellenberger's tutelage, lost 20-0 to the lowly Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Honor the seersucker, Owls, and win one for the Pipe before the end of the year. Sincerely, a worshipper of the immaculately-tailored coattails of college coaching's original dapper ladykilling bandito.
T is for Thanatoid. Deadly, as in the accumulation of yardage and points by Oregon in conference play. It is not like Arizona State didn't fight, but when you saw it tied at 17 all at the half, you just kept waiting for the Chip Kelly Effect to kick in: the fatigue, the number of plays adding up, the sure reads devolving into winded mistakes and men in green, yellow, and black running through your defense like so many sprinters in black tights. Even the loss of Darron Thomas didn't slow Oregon down the stretch. It's death one simple play at a time, bought in an installment plan that really only starts to devastate deep in the third quarter.
U is for Uncle Chip Says Shut the Hell Up. Someone may ask me at one point in the future: "What does being a parent feel like?" I would answer, "It makes you feel like you can say this to young people whenever you find it appropriate."
Chip Kelly is your irate neighborhood crossing guard, though he would want you across the street faster than any crossing guard in the history of crossing guard-dom. (And again.) (And again.) (And again.)
V is for Versute. Wily, as in a team that can win a game despite being outgained by a 580-339 margin, giving up twice as many first downs as it gains (16-32), and running 65 plays to 96 plays for the opposition. Bargain-hunting football, thy name is Bill Snyder, whose Wildcats continued recession footballing at its finest in beating Texas Tech 41-34, and most likely eliciting a tear of admiration from Tommy Tuberville. ("My god it's so...obstructive. I used to have a football team like that.")
W is for Windblown. The garbage blowing around on the field during the Michigan/Michigan State game really did give it that festive, holiday feeling you usually only get watching trash blow down from the stands during the Christmas Eve tradition of the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.
X is for Xenagogue. Someone who guides or conducts strangers, much like cornerback Charles Brown of UNC. Admittedly, he is seen here guiding someone rudely to the turf, but everyone has their own definition of help.
Y is for Yird. To bury, which is what we might very well have Oregon do over poor Colorado this coming week. Tennessee should pre-emptively dig its own grave, because Saban is going to make you do that anyway. He's kind of sick like that, but you don't pay the man $4 million a year to see people die the normal way, do you?
Z is for Zodiographer. One who writes about animals, which is really from a mascot's perspective what a college football writer does anyway.