A is for Advance. Fun would not be the word for this season. The top 25 is a nightmare of underachievement for the most part. The Game of the Century fizzled like wet matches. Each successive Heisman frontrunner has embittered his supporters by having bad and ill-timed games of average performance. Even the irrepressible PItbull and his roving underpass parkour party has appeared less and less as the season drove on, presumably because he was watching college football and was just as bored as the rest of us. In short: none of us were having a real good time, and we were not going to have a real good time in the foreseeable future, and this single image summarized it all too well.
B is for Brief Moment of Personal Honesty. Yes, this is in part because my team, for lack of a better word, sucks. It's a hard suck. A persistent suck. A suck powerful enough to drain some, if not all of the joy out of watching football. A lamprey of mediocrity has attached itself to the face of Florida football, and its removal is a surgery that could require years. In the meantime, there are three hours every Saturday I dread. They are not getting up early with a hyperactive child, nor the stupid long run I'm doing because I am stupid, nor even the horror of having to listen to Craig James call football games. What I dread is watching John Brantley flop down next to miserable, cash-stealing Charlie Weis on that damned white cooler he's taken as his office stool. I dread watching Florida football, mostly because what I see will make me sad. It is the movie Up if you cut it at the first fifteen minutes and looped it for the remaining running time.
C is for Cursing. A note of thanks, then, for Lee Corso.
Iowa State defeating Oklahoma State was the punch that started it, but the brawl only really matured to a full-blown riot when, in the middle of the sport's unofficial pregame meeting, Corso tossed the most precious of profanities like a garbage can through the window of a supermarket. Sure, he had to apologize. You have to apologize for most of the really fun things in life, Lee.
All of the madness unfolding this weekend was random, but in the narrative we'll suture over all these events, there was something in this, Corso. There had been too much order, and if the universe can't stand one thing, it is too much of that. Verse 11, Chapter 19 from the Book of Corso: "F--- It," he said, and the whirlwind was unleashed on college football unceasing 'till midnight. For that and Kirk Herbstreit's reaction shot, we all owe you, Lee Corso. This was the first 100% fun Saturday I had all year, and it began with college football's flagship program running completely off the rails on what was supposed to be a routine Saturday. Gracias from the bottom of my f------ heart, Lee. This is the most compassionate moment you will ever treat me to, because seriously, in regards to the matter of college football 2011, "f--- it" is the most appropriate sentiment of all.
D is for Detained. Iowa State's freshman QB Jared Barnett was a revelation, and that is in both senses of the word true. Iowa State fans could say, "My, we didn't know what a brilliant young man this truly was, but it has now become apparent to us" as he threw for 373 yards, ran for 84, and threw 3 TDs in the Cyclones 37-31 double OT upset of the Oklahoma State cowboy. He was more a revelation in the biblical sense for OK State's defense, as in "Oh god that goat with a thousand horns just ran for another first down." Words have multiple meanings, and here at The Alphabetical we use them all.
The other revelation from the game: simple, beautiful form tackling by Iowa State, who limited OK State's yards after catch and kept Brandon Weeden's yards per catch to 8.2, a full three yards and change under his 11.6 ypc average on the year. So much of what OK State has done has come from throwing underneath umbrella coverage this year, and Iowa State adjusted accordingly by pressuring Weeden while hammering those underneath routes. You won't suffocate the Cowboy's offense, but you can choke it until it coughs up something like three interceptions. (Including the game-winner, happily pocketed after a tipped ball off the hands of Justin Blackmon.)
E is for Enteritis. A disease common in ducks, but not the only one. Chronodistortion was one, as Chip Kelly appeared to lose all understanding of how much time was left in the game, and only called one of his three time outs to set up a field goal with his backup kicker at the eight second mark. Another malady: injury, or whatever it was keeping senior corner Anthony Glidon out of the game. (Chip Kelly believes Oregon's injuries are a state secret, unlike Lane Kiffin, who openly moaned about Robert Woods' injury status before putting a clearly game-ready Woods on the field for Saturday night. Lane Kiffin will give you information, but it might not be the most forthright information.)
F is for Flankers. Young cornerbacks are the slow-moving, nattily attired, and utterly lost pedestrians of football. Once noticed traipsing through a bad neighborhood, they will be robbed again and again until they develop some self-defense skills or flee. The bandits in question: Marqise Lee and the gimpy Robert Woods. Marqise Lee is notable for being a freshman capable of catching 187 yards worth of crucial passing yardage against a conference foe in the biggest game of the year. His first name is also forever highlighted in red in our word processing program. That's not related to his football ability, but it does annoy the crap out of me and everyone else who has to type his first name more than once a week.
G is for Gimpy. The other is Robert Woods, who though injured still hauled in two touchdowns in single coverage (See? Young corners, death, etc.) and effectively became the points vulture to Lee's hardworking predator. If there were one ham on the earth left, and it was the only food in the world left, and it was dropped from a great height for you to post up and attempt a catch against Robert Woods, you would be getting no ham, and would become another of evolution's dead ends. Yes, even with a bad ankle.
H is for Hector. To intimidate by blustering or arrogance. Hey, Lane Kiffin!
Even though he dressed like an enormous sperm or cult member on Saturday night, Kiffin's seems to have crossed some kind of rubicon as a coach, calling a simple but brilliantly varied game plan and putting Matt Barkley in manageable pass situations all night. He is still the doofus prince of college football, but he no longer appears to be bluffing as he did at Tennessee and Oakland in the coaching department. That's good, because with USC's scholarship restrictions really kicking in come 2012, he'll need every ounce of that fully matured coaching ability to keep USC buoyant in the Pac-12.
(Side note: Kiffin's lab tech outfit, combined with Gene Chizik's dental smocks and Derek Dooley's orange pants, may mean we as a nation may have reached new lows in coaching fashion, and that includes the unfortunate graphic prints of the early 1990s. Lookin' at you, Steve Spurrier.)
I is for Insult. Les Miles didn't mean to show you up, Houston Nutt, by running four straight kneeldowns five minutes from the end of the game in the 52-3 blowout of Ole Miss. EIther way you were going to look like a dick, so you chose the most efficient method of running the clock out and avoiding any further damage on the football field a week before an important game against Arkansas. You also didn't know what time it was, but that's a secret no one cares about as long as you're setting rivalry records and destroying everything in front of you like so much grass between the canines.
J is for Jimbo. Jimbo Fisher may be a badger, since when threatened he takes to ground and attempts to burrow to safety.
Florida State, a preseason top ten team, is 7-4 and just lost a game twice to Virginia. The first loss came when the Seminoles threw a quick out, watched in horror as it was both called a catch and in-bounds, and then watched in horror as the clock rolled down to zero for a 14-13 loss to the Cavaliers.
The second loss came after review established that the catch was ruled incorrectly--thus putting the 'Noles in the peculiar position of praying for an incompletion by their guy--and FSU missed a game-winning field goal. This miss only came after UVA was hit with a rare signals simulation infraction and a Florida State false start. ACC refs are the pedantic geeks of the officiating world. They know the entire rule book, and will be all too happy to display this knowledge, length of game be damned.
K is for Kippage. State of displeasure or anger, as in Vanderbilt's James Franklin, who made the kind of exit from Neyland Stadium more suited for a disgraced wrestler than a coach in the Volunteers' 27-21 win over in-state rival Vandy on Saturday. Why? Well, partially because Franklin is on some impressive Harbaugh-steeze, and feels the need to demonstrate that despite being the underpowered private school boy of the conference, he will not hesitate to take off this $150 tie and scuffle with you, you ruffians.*
*But please, not in the face. They have a law school interview in the morning and need to look their best. Thanks!
In contrast to the pedants of the ACC, SEC officials exercised a breezier, more godlike attitude toward the rules. When Tennessee intercepted Jordan Rodgers in the first overtime for a TD, an official clearly blew the play dead when he mistakenly thought Eric Gordon's knee hit the turf. The whistle being the universal killswitch for plays, this meant Tennessee should have had the ball on the 25 for their possession, but instead walked off with the win.
The SEC admitted the mistake after the game, and doesn't that make Vandy feel so much better about things! Still, if you'd like to win those kind of close games, it helps to not miss two field goals or throw three picks. If your judge is Marc Curles and his crew, you cannot leave the margin of error up to them. (If you do not believe me, ask any Arkansas fan still bitter over the 2009 Florida game.)
L is for LAM. The best name for a canceled weapons system ever, the Loitering Attack Munition was a missile system designed to be fired into a general area, linger for a bit mid-air, and then blow the hell out of whatever unlucky thing wandered into its range of fire. For this week's purposes, think of it as the Iowa State of over-budget and canceled Department of Defense projects.
Sometimes loitering, however, is not enough. The replacement for the LAM in real life was the Griffin Missile, a segue I could not by any reasonable standard resist. Footage of the Griffin Missile's astonishing power, accuracy, and lethality follows.
Matt Millen as an analyst really isn't that bad, and from time to time has some genuinely excellent moments. "They tempted fate, and fate answered" is one of them, because remember the wager Stoops made here against the best quarterback in the Big 12. Baylor, out of timeouts, was happy to run the ball and go to overtime. Bob Stoops would then call a timeout, presumably after Stoops had a small stroke and forgot who the opposing quarterback was. According to his players, Art Briles then changed course completely, and opted to turn Robert Griffin III loose on the Sooners.
(Note: do not ever, ever piss off Art Briles in a situation where all things are equal.)
Then Robert Griffin III scrambled the Bears to the 34, where with seconds ticking away he dropped back, scrambled for time, drifted left, and threw perfectly placed tactical ordnance 34 yards directly into the endzone. He did this with a man in his face and with two defenders within reasonable distance, and then watched the winning score from his back after taking a shot from an Oklahoma defender a split-second after the play. The Griffin Missile System will be approved for funding by a professional football league, as this test and others have been very, very promising indeed.
M is for Mattison. How does Greg Mattison accomplish so much with a Michigan defensive unit that was a walking permission slip under previous management? This is a serious question, since the only answer we have is moob-induced hypnosis.
N is for Nyan Cat. It is mystifying that Nebraska has not summoned something like a consistent offense in the Bo Pelini era, yet here we are in 2011 knowing that the minute Nebraska gets down ten points Taylor Martinez will have to "throw" the football, and in doing so will make Tim Tebow's motion resemble that of a Dan Marino angel flipping pancakes fifty yards on the fly to waiting plates without a bounce or adjustment by the waiter. (I kid! Tim Tebow's throwing motion is still horrendous, even though you will never see a throwing motion work harder to miss an eight yard dig route. God Bless.)
Still, if you get in the position where you have to depend on Taylor Martinez to pass you back into the game, the other defense has done something right, and you have put yourself at the mercy of Michigan's offense, Denard Robinson's legs, and one of two running backs in the nation who can double as a Zydeco musician's name, Fitzgerald Touissaint. (The other: Cincinnati's Munchie Legaux. He'd be a washboard player.) When you are in this dark place, you hear death's bells tolling for thee. They sound like...Japanese video game music, actually.
O is for Old Man Strength. Kansas State's offense won a 17-13 game against Texas despite having only 121 yards of offense. It is official: Bill Snyder could climb Annapurna with a spool of dental floss, five Sam's Club power bars, and three cans of Ensure, and pass the corpses of younger, faster men on the way up while clucking "What a shame, that."
P is for Pimpernel.
We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Commodores seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?—Is he in hell?
That playbook-tossing Pimpernel! (Tyler Bray didn't even know what they were running on the penultimate play of regulation. He's a gunslinger! Pew pew!)
Q is for Quietus. A silencing or death, as in the SEC East's season coming to a merciful end Saturday night. Florida had to scrape to beat Furman, Georgia floundered but ultimately stumbled through against Kentucky, South Carolina phoned it in against the Citadel, and Vandy and Tennessee gummed each other to death in Knoxville. RIP, SEC East 2011. You probably weren't meant to be born in the first place, and will hope your 2012 reincarnation is a more robust one capable of walking three steps without falling over and crying all the time. (Georgia may be excepted from this, especially if they somehow beat the SEC West rep in the Georgia Dome.)
R is for Rire Jaune. The best French equivalent to gallows humor, an art form won this week by Oklahoma site LandThieves.com and their superb banner header.
The right image for the right time: the internet always has it.
S is for Scelestic. Wicked, as in Montee Ball's 224 yards and two TDs on 38 carries against Illinois. Wisconsin is just two long passing TDs away from being in the national title hunt. Unfortunately for them those both exist in the past, and Wisconsin's young scholars have only perfected the art of time-traveling forward using 12 packs of beer. I went from 8:00 p.m. last night to 10: 00 a.m. this morning like it was nothing! And woke up in a tent 12 miles from my dorm! Science is AMAZING.
They haven't mastered going backwards yet, but I'm told research will continue regardless of lack of results.
T is for TOB. Tom O'Brien's N.C. State Wolfpack annihilated Clemson 37-13, and this only makes sense because Clemson didn't stop being Clemson, they just seriously delayed their eventual Clemsoning to make it even more dramatic. Tom O'Brien celebrated this by ironing some BVDs, drinking a nice cool glass of water, and going immediately to bed after the game.
U is for Unblemished. Only three teams enter the last two weeks of regular season play with perfect records. Houston and LSU are both still untarnished by loss, while only Florida Atlantic can boast of perfect imperfection at 0-10 going into their final two games. SCHNELLY'S FINAL RIDE DESERVES BETTER, CRUEL FATE.
V is for Virginia. Though their own fans may not be coming back from winter break to watch it, Virginia does play Virginia Tech in Charlottesville on Saturday, and stands a very good chance of knocking off the Hokies to make the ACC Championship Game. Apologies to getting your hopes up, even if they are strictly theoretical hopes (being UVA fans, I assume you have none). Just tackle that tree falling down through the middle of the defense called Logan Thomas--whose rushing attempts through the middle resemble what it must have been like to watch statues transported across Easter Island--and you'll be fine.
W is for Wyrd. Fate, or the only possible excuse for Southern Miss losing to potential FBS football dropout UAB 34-31 on Friday night. Fate is one of two possible explanations; the other is Larry Fedora desperately trying to shed his title as leading candidate for the Ole Miss job.
X is for Xebec. A small, three-masted pirate ship, much like the kind Mike Leach could sail into Tampa for the USF job if Skip Holtz bolts for the open North Carolina job. Come on, USF. You already have the pirate ship. All it needs now is its captain, who in addition to being a brilliant coach would also field the greatest Gasparilla float of all time.
Y is for Yerk. To draw tight, to bind. The SEC Championship Game will be the strangest thing in the universe this year as we all potentially watch a matchup to decide if a conference team not even playing in the game goes to the BCS title game. The BCS is the strangest of ties, but it does make for some astonishing if completely illogical drama.
Z is for Zenana. A separation of men away from women in harems. In the United States, this is done in reverse, with men kept in pens over the Thanksgiving holiday known as "living rooms with televisions showing football." A full Friday/Saturday split of games should ensure for lengthy male harem time, so enjoy it. With two weeks left in the regular season, it's all you have left.