A is for Ambidextrous. Les Miles would be the ambidextrous type, or as he would put it:
There is no one hand. If one hand is the best for our football team then there will be a real want and desire to use that hand, in wherein and heretofore teams might use one hand, or the other perchance, this league mandates and requires the extensive use of one hand, and then the other, and then perhaps the two in a combination making us bipedally and dual-manually ambidextrous. So yes, you will see both.
Normally we'll allow for some criticism, but that is PERFECT Les Miles speak, and no, you're wrong, it is exactly what Les Miles would say to being asked whether he is ambidextrous. LSU can beat you with both hands, though, and that is one of the things making them so dangerous.
Their run game grinds defensive fronts to powder, so much so that their relatively low yards per carry seems besides the point. The point of torture is always torture, though, and the Tigers run the ball to hurt your defense first, and then gain yards as a happy side effect of having their o-line hit you as hard as they can for three hours. Once you've properly accounted for that, however, Jarrett Lee is pitching balls downfield past cowered and battered cornerbacks working in single coverage because--surprise!--the safeties are running haplessly into the backfield to defend running backs with empty hands. Then sometimes they bring in Jordan Jefferson to run the option on goal line, which they do because they've got this perfectly good Jordan Jefferson lying around here, and it would be a shame to waste him.
They're ruthlessly efficient, especially when Jarrett Lee is completing 70 percent of his passes (Auburn game: check) and doing it with impact (two long TDs to Rueben Randle, double check*). The defense reduced Auburn's offense to faded placeholders on the field. Their punter does nothing but drops punts inside the five, their return game can be stupid nasty when it has to be, and the only category where they are statistically mediocre is on punt returns. At this point, we can only assume Les intentionally calls for the fair catch in order to bring out the o-line and inflict maximum pain on opponents.
LSU is practicing football krav maga right now. Whatever's at hand is the weapon, and they will use it with either hand to beat you into a fourth quarter coma. That's with or without their best running back and starting corner, mind you, because if Les has to knock you unconscious with a phone book and a cell phone, dammit, he'll do it lefthanded and not think twice about it.
*Correction: the first was from Jordan Jefferson. Because, you know, he's just hanging around, so you might as well have him do something.
B is for Blocking. We like Kirk Herbstreit, but like all television announcers he resorts to emotional arguments when trying to explain very basic things. As an emotional cripple this terrifies me, but there are other reasons this is a crutch of football television analysis: It's more elaborate than "Um, these dudes aren't blocking those dudes."
Take the example of Wisconsin/Michigan State, a game effectively decided by two things: one, a very unique Hail Mary at the end of the game, and two, Michigan State switching up their defensive fronts against Wisconsin, and Wisconsin never properly adjusting. As they've done for most games this season, Pat Narduzzi got more aggressive as the game wore on, mixing fronts and coverages, changing up the fronts Wisconsin's line saw, and then blitzing Russell Wilson into a stupor in the second half.
This went largely unelaborated on in the Wisconsin/Michigan State game. You probably didn't notice because the last quarter of that game was eyeball crack, but that's how it happened, and it deserved to be mentioned.
You know who did point out one team absolutely destroying another on blocking schemes and execution? Matt Millen and Sean McDonough, who had to give loving TLC to Stanford's unbalanced lines and clean-sweep blocking in the run game. They had to do this to explain Washington giving up 466 yards to Stanford on the ground, but it still bears mention because seriously, Matt Millen did something smart. You mention lunar eclipses for a reason, y'all.
C is for Chronokinetic. Ron Zook had Nathan Scheelhaase try to spike the ball with the clock running down and the Illini on their own 44 yard line at the end of the half. This is your weekly reminder that Ron Zook may be able to control time. (He has lengthened his tenure at Illinois into its seventh year, so he may actually have this superpower.)
D is for Documentary. The former film studies student in me likes to imagine the entire 14 hour span of a college football Saturday as a really long Robert Altman movie filmed live and without permissions. (In the good way, like the football scene from M*A*S*H, and not bad, like Dr. T And The Women.) People talk over each other, there's no apparent plot, and at the last minute everything sort of congeals into something resembling a conclusion.
The upsets in East Lansing and
Lubbock Norman were awfully Hollywoodish, but thank goodness for the little touches of verite we get from Fox. SIT DOWN COTTON CANDY MAN. YOU ARE NOT A FOOTBALL THING.
If this goes on Mizzou's permanent record there is no freaking way they get into the SEC.
E is for Encomium. Praise or tribute, as is due to Doug Marrone and Syracuse for their ambush of West Virginia on Friday night. Hologorsen's offense has had its moments of struggle his season, so reserve the shock for the 49 points and 443 yards given up by the Mountaineer defense instead. They had no idea what to do with Ryan Nassib, and boy howdy that is not a sentence you want to see written about your defense ever, ever, ever. In what was supposed to be a roster-limited rebuilding year of sorts, Marrone has Syracuse one game away from bowl eligibility, and for a team still fighting the aftereffects of a Greg Robinson-ing that is truly an accomplishment.
F is for Forte. No one has ever excelled as fumbling quite like Dayne Crist, but do not let that dissuade you from saying something you may not want to say: Lane Kiffin, for a night, didn't out-think himself too much and called a fantastic game against Notre Dame. He used the power run game to free up his receivers and using indefensible wide receiver Robert Woods as a decoy much of the game until he really needed him--which, on the beautiful capping TD throw from Barkley to Woods, he did. Lane Kiffin did a fantastic job. Frame that, because I will never, ever say it again.
G is for Grounded. Go back to this stat: 446 yards of rushing for Stanford, and that's with Andrew Luck under center just waiting for permission to strafe the Huskies' tissue-soft secondary. Stanford clearly just enjoys toying with opponents at this point, a streak of cruelty that comes from their wealth and their especially sinister 2011 edition of the Stanford mascot, Tree.
H is for Halation. Blurring, as in a photo, as in what you might remember about the end of the Wisconsin/Michigan State game. A moment of honesty: for the most part, this season has been horrendously predictable. Alabama and LSU have reigned from the predictably excellent SEC West, everyone who was supposed to be mediocre has cooperated neatly (helloooooo Texas!) and those picked to outright struggle have done so on cue. Only Clemson and Kansas State had managed to perk up the national scene, which otherwise was one static sheet of glass that prior to this weekend had been unshattered by a single stroke of the upset-hammer.
So thank you, Michigan State and Texas Tech, for doing what happens at all great college parties: a prompt and festive urination of pure reality into a pristine punchbowl of expectations. What is bad for your hatred of the BCS is good for the overall picture, and less clarity equals a greater possibility of having a party you'll actually remember later. Remember 2009, the most boring season ever where the two teams we expected ended up in the title game? Neither do we, and that's why you should demand more chaos in your football. The season's not over at the end of October, and thank the malevolent god of your choice for that.
I is for Incongruent.
There is a fumble on this play, unless it is forward, and Holy Roller rule blah blah blah seriously this is one of the dumber rules ever in football, and the only thing we learned from this is that life just hates Jerry Kill this year.
J is for Jugulate. Carl Jung once said "Show me a sane man, and I will cure him for you." Dr. Tuberville's slightly different take is "Show me a highly ranked team, and I will parse them into a scattered collection of its weakest points for you." College football's most dangerous dinner guest struck again on Saturday night, doing what most teams seemingly cannot do against better competition: isolate weaknesses, hammer them, and then do it on a night when the other team would rather be doing anything but playing football. Oklahoma's secondary looked horrendous, Tech exploited it again and again, and yes, I'm saying the looked on the whole worse than even this Red Raider defensive gem. Hey, did you know that Oklahoma's secondary coach is former Georgia DC Willie Martinez, whose secondaries were routinely shot up by SEC quarterbacks? I'm sure this is just coincidence.
Admit this much, though: Big Game Bob versus Tommy "The Jugulator" Tuberville was a matchup waiting to go wrong for Stoops. The only thing that could have been worse for Stoops going into the game would have been an even higher ranking, something that would have provoked an even bigger, less competitive upset from the Red Raiders. (This would be difficult to imagine, though, as the Sooners allowed 572 yards and 41 points on their home field.)
K is for Knoxville. When this year is over, we will all look back and marvel at the team that played the best suicidal double against Alabama and LSU: Tennessee. If Houston Nutt can bitch publicly about losing closely to Arkansas, Derek Dooley can certainly go into discussions with his superiors and brag on playing the best halves of football against the worst conference double-play in the nation.
L is for Lagniappe. Bill Snyder wants you to know he's not above bribery.
Those 10 cookies likely lasted longer than the Kansas Jayhawks did on Saturday. The Jayhawks are now giving up over 50 points a game with the bulk of the Big 12 schedule looming ahead, a number that if it holds will qualify them for a standing in the pantheon of the the worst college defenses of all time. The Curse of the Mangino is not a gentle or temporary spell, Turner Gill, but rather a lasting plague that will stop savaging the program when it's damn well ready to stop.
M is for Mahalo. If Bryant Moniz isn't enough of a sell, you really should watch some late night Hawai'i football on ESPN3 just to behold the marvels of the Hawai'i broadcast crew. It could have been that it was 12:45 a.m., and you're a little punchy by that point anyway, but the combination of fatigue and island accents makes it sound like you're sitting in the booth with three guys pulled off the stools at a Honolulu fish shack. Two key elements of the color commentary from the Warriors' game against NMSU:
1. "It's bad when your receivers are vomiting." <----TRUE.
2. "That dude is buff." "Oh, yeah. He looks great with his shirt off." <---CANNOT VERIFY.
It was the funniest things we heard all weekend, and that includes Houston Nutt being proud of a newspaper reporter being wrong.
N is for Neuheisel. Sometimes you get no signals from life, and then sometimes you get a streaker stopping a live play and sparking a brawl on the field. Rick Neuheisel should have resigned the moment the brawl broke out between his dysfunctional team and the Arizona Wildcats, not because a brawl is shameful, but because it was as clear a sign as he's going to get from the universe that UCLA football has devolved to something vaguely resembling performance art.
O is for Oddity. The strangest box score of the weekend goes to: Oregon 45, Colorado 2. (Also known as "Chip Kelly tosses you a nickel because he feels sorry for you, except that it hits you in the eye and blinds you.")
P is for Pristine. The BCS appears to have dodged a bullet for the moment, though fortune could turn this into a pageant of one-loss teams jockeying for position by blowing out their competition down the stretch. Minnesota plays Wisconsin on November 12th. Poor Minnesota: you're already dead, and don't even know it.*
*I kid. They know it.
Q is for Quoddamodotative. "Existing in a certain fashion," much like the Big East, the conference where you can already spin out some strange transitive victory patterns using just what we have here in week eight. It will get stranger as time goes one, but never fear: that BCS slot is secure and waiting for someone to get utterly annihilated in their bowl game.
R is for Rarimuri. The "kicking ball game" of the Tamahuara Indians famed for long-distance running, and a spiritual parallel for the Texas Tech offense that looked fast even compared to Oklahoma's express no-huddle. Tech ended up running 96 plays on the night, and did their worst damage throwing downfield against clearly gassed OU defenders. Oklahoma State's just over there, taking notes and having Justin Blackmon run wind sprints in preparation.
S is for Static. Your eyes are not having a panic attack. You are instead looking at Tulsa's helmets.
T is for Testicularity Rankings.
1. Mark Dantonio. The clear leader this week after he and his staff engaged in fearless play-calling against Wisconsin.
2. Tommy Tuberville. Let his offense off the chain against an allegedly superior opponent, and yes, called a fake from his own 42 after going for it on 4th and nothing deep in Oklahoma territory two possessions prior. The ballsiness bordered on insanity, but scoreboards do not lie.
3. Derek Dooley. Fearless? Yes, and deserves mention for some truly testicular calls in the Bama game. Death was not an option, but the Vols met their fate bravely, and against Alabama that may be the best you can hope for in 2011.
U is for Unwisdom. Making a "Trail of Tears" reference after the Oklahoma game? No, you heard that correctly. It happened.
V is for Venator. Huntsman or hunter, or the position Mike Gundy is in going into the high season of the Big 12 calendar. OK State has the clearest shot to the Big 12 Title, something you might have suspected before the season, but if you say you knew that Kansas State/OK State was a crucial game in this campaign, you are lying and need to stop lying like that, because you did not and shut up, liar.
W is for Wit and Wisdom of Matt Millen. "That's a good-looking grandmother." Directed towards Chris Polk's grandmother during the broadcast of the Stanford/Washington game Saturday. No word on if digits were exchanged postgame.
X is for Xenogamy. A type of pollination, as in the fertilization of chaotic flowers that could bloom just in time for the BCS, especially if the Pac-12 and ACC both still have an undefeated team sitting in the standings at the end of the year to go with an undefeated SEC Champ. Chaos is still very much a possibility here, and let's hope so because it's fun watching grown men sweat over the impulse decisions of 20-year-old athletes.
Y is for Yellowback. A cheap sensational novel, i.e. the Heisman Trophy race. Watching Twitter during a game does not help a lingering suspicion that the Heisman comes down to who is on television doing the shiniest thing, since Russell Wilson appeared to win it and lose it about six times in 10 minutes. Russell Wilson is a fine player, but if it comes down to one play you saw on television, the actual merit of your vote for this award is that of a sugar-rush-addled toddler accidentally placed behind the controls of a small airplane.
Z is for Zoetic. Living, vital, breathing. Just like Iowa State's Paul Rhoads, seen here fighting hard no matter the score or record.