College Football Alphabetical, Week 2: The Virtues Of Mediocre Entertainment

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines looks for yards on a fourth quarter run while playing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Michigan Stadium on September 10, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 35-31.(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Spencer Hall celebrates the competitive mediocrity of Michigan and Notre Dame, awkward facepalms caught on tape and Gary Pinkel's cold disdain for conventional wisdom.

A is Antiprofessionalism.  Watching football played at a ridiculously high level can be a true pleasure. Take the senior circuit's premiere for 2011, the Thursday night game between the Packers and the Saints, a game that featured Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers throwing passes with the precision of a neurosurgeon on Provigil. Watching both of them work on the same field was a genuine pleasure transcending any possible complaints about professional football, and a joy to behold. Somewhere in the universe there exists a game that never ends where they complete pinpoint out routes against tight man coverage, and if you are lucky when you die you get to watch it. (If you aren't, you get to watch this week's upcoming Kentucky/Louisvllle game.)

Competing excellences can be truly compelling, but so can comparable mediocrities. Thus do we arrive at Saturday night's brilliant hot mess of a Notre Dame/Michigan game, a game you probably started watching on the floor, and then moved to the walls, and then finished in the last 72 seconds by watching from the ceiling like a terrified gecko.

Neither team will set the world on fire this year. If they do, it will be by accident, likely something like Notre Dame attempting to throw you a candle that lands in a misplaced bucket of gasoline, or by Michigan helping you rewire your house and then flipping the switch and running when smoke flies from the gables. (Your house doesn't have gables? PEASANT.) Put the two together, though, and you have one of college football's happiest conflagrations: two teams with horrible aim firing at each other until they run out of bullets, and then throwing the guns at each other in desperation.


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B is for B Button.  Chris Rainey certainly appears to have two important elements of his game down.  The first is the spin move, which the tiny Florida quarkback employed for the second game in a row to devastating effect against an overmatched UAB team. Florida ran the ball 55 times with Rainey, Demps, and Mike Gillislee sharing the load, indicating that Charlie Weis is running the Chiefs 2010 plan of protecting a shaky quarterback with the run game.

The second element Rainey has down: a diploma from the Rickey Henderson School of Astonishing Soundbites.

Said Rainey: "I'm always happy. When I'm happy, the team's happy. That's what they tell me. If I'm down, they're down."

This now joins an unfortunate text reading "TIME TO DIE" and his stated preference for white girls in the list of "insane things Chris Rainey said," a list including "we only ran six plays" and "Will Muschamp is bipolar."

C is for Crisco. Stephen Garcia threw the first five passes of the South Carolina/Georgia game like he'd been larding beef, or like the ball was made of flubber, or any other combination of odd guesses about weird physics you would care to invent to explain their trajectory. Normally you can tell what happened with a pass gone wrong: it slipped from the hand due to bad grip, or the ball was wet, or the quarterback was hit or didn't plant their feet. Garcia defied all physics by throwing balls so bad they appeared to have no relation to what was happening on the field at all. Have you ever played a split-screen video game, and for a moment you get confused and believe you are controlling the other screen, leading your character on the other side to stumble, fall into walls, and toss grenades into their own shoes?

11 for 25, a piddling 142 yards, and one TD to match two INTs. That was Stephen Garcia on Saturday, and South Carolina still won. This is the appropriate reaction to losing another game to our nation's most persistently baffling winning quarterback, Georgia fans. 

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D is for Defect. Georgia outgained South Carolina this weekend by a 436 to 395 margin, and could have been up 21-0 had their offense not stalled in the endzone on three early drives. They settled for field goals, let South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram score on a ridiculous fake punt, and then turnovers pile up and somehow despite racking up 23 first downs you're still scrambling at the end of the game to make an onside kick.

The variety of marginal failure is what surprises now at Georgia. Typically teams find one way to lose games, but two weeks in a row Georgia has come up with new and painful ways to find defeat in a bucket of potential victory. If this is a pattern, Bulldog fans can at least take some comfort in novelty in defeat. Georgia will now play Coastal Carolina, whose coach David Bennett will now get his wish for "more dawgs" in a manner he will probably not enjoy at all. 

E is for Error, We Regret It. Last week's Alphabetical mistakenly stated that Purdue fans rushed the field after beating Middle Tennessee State. This was an error birthed from the misunderstanding of the players running onto the field to celebrate a last-minute blocked field goal, and we apologize. We regret the error, and salute Purdue's right to charge the field whenever they like, especially because they lost to Rice this weekend, and should take whatever victories they have as chances to celebrate.

F is for Facepalm. The Michigan Facepalm guy, a drama in two acts. First, the facepalming. Please note the improvement in the Michigan football program is already spreading to the fanbase: first he notes that his despair has been caught on national TV, and then admonishes the camera for catching it. The fan's equivalent of fumbling, and then catching the man who stripped the ball in the first place and ripping it back from his hands.

Part two: the Denarding. I really don't know what he's doing here, other than taking some of Denard Robinson's awesome rays, rubbing them on his hands, and then holding up his enormous tall guy hands to transmit a hint of Robinson's magnificence to the masses.

(HT: MGoBlog)

G is for Gory. As in the scene at the MGM grand when the Pac-12 cancelled, then allowed a TD previously taken off the board at the end of the Utah/USC game to give USC a late cover. We once saw a man vomit onto a craps table in Las Vegas. This could have been worse, and that's saying a lot because vomiting on a craps table is way, way worse than your imagination is telling you. (Especially if the gentleman went to the buffet a few hours prior, which he did. For the record, he had sushi. Piles and piles of poorly chewed sushi.)

H is for Hades. Now frozen as Washington State has scored 113 points in two victories in a row. Sure, you say, that was against Idaho State and UNLV. We refer you back to the part of that sentence where we say that "Washington State" has scored "points" in "victories in a row." If you hate blood, don't go outside, because there is a solar eclipse right now and it it raining blood. Blame the Cougars and their inexplicable competence for the inconvenience.

I is for Icing. The data regarding icing a kicker and its effectiveness are mixed and inconclusive at best, so there is not a case for saying that Gary Pinkel, by the numbers, did significant damage to his kicker's psyche by taking not one, but two timeouts. You can't say that calling two timeouts on his walk-on kicker on the road at the end of a game was a bad idea, empirically speaking. I repeat: there is nothing remotely scientific to suggest that icing the kicker works or doesn't work, and there is even less to suggest about icing your own kicker, since Gary Pinkel is a pioneer, and is the first coach I can remember to accomplish the feat.

J is for Jokes. That said, just like sleeping with your perfectly harmless cellphone beneath your pillow, it doesn't seem like a great idea, does it? Especially when the player targeted by the play, linebacker/murderdemon Vontaze Burfict, played a relatively controlled game and appeared to be on his best behavior that night? For Gary Pinkel, Titanic was an inspiring tale of frozen water conquering an evil ship. He watched it twice. If you like Gary Pinkel ice jokes, you're probably not a Missouri fan.

K is for Knouting. A flogging, a scourging, or what the back end of a home and home with Penn State looked like on Saturday as Alabama administered what was first a beating, and then an inexorable asphyxiation of Penn State's offense. Perhaps asphyxiation in this case should be noted with this: the PSU offense was already wearing a clumsily knotted and overly tight tie, and Alabama simply grabbed it and twisted. Did you wonder about the dietary side effects of ingesting the top of Dont'a Hightower's helmet? It leads to constipation, as Penn State was blocked up for most of the game, and only slogged out late points against a Tide defense who saw literally no challenge after an opening field goal drive.

At this point in the season, we can say very few things with any certainty, but this is known: Alabama's defense is awesome if you happen to have no idea what's going on with your quarterback situation and your team is Penn State. Take that to bank, wagerers! Maybe they'll meet again in the playoffs, and riches shall be yours!

L is for Leggy. Melvin Ingram of South Carolina, let us give a big man an unusual compliment: for a 270 pounder, you are oddly leggy. No, that's a good thing. One, it probably helps you when buying pants, since most big men suffer from Toddlerpant Syndrome, i.e. looking like a 2 year old no matter what clothing they wear due to large torsos and short legs. Two, it means you've remained svelte despite the challenges of a collegiate diet and a sport requiring massive caloric intake. Three, it makes you hilariously fast and rangy, as you demonstrated by returning a fake punt for a TD, returning a fumble for a TD, and falling on the final onside kick attempt by Georgia. Thank those gams, buddy: they're half of your height, and one of the reasons you had such a freaky-deaky game on Saturday.

M is for Mistigris. A form of poker where a blank card can have any value. The blank cards in our deck, as of week two:

  • Florida State: having walloped two noncoms of little value, they face Oklahoma this weekend.
  • Florida: ditto, but their first trial will be a home game against Tennessee.
  • Oklahoma: will get road trip exam at Florida State.
  • Wisconsin: fearsome against a bad UNLV team (see "losing to Washington State") and scary against a mangled and injury-depleted Oregon State, Wisconsin doesn't really get tested until an October 1st date against Nebraska.

N is for Narrative-Defying. The trees were poisoned in the offseason. A beak broke off one of the campus' stone eagles. And in the final bit of ominous, ham-handed omens scripted by Fate, the Auburn mascot Spirit the eagle flew into the glass of a luxury box on Saturday, leaving a fine print of its silhouette on the window and completely foretelling the chaos to come in the game against Mississippi State.

Go ahead and note the final goal line stand, or that Mississippi State running back Vick Ballard just might have scored on the play prior to the Bulldogs' futile two-play flourish to end the game. (As usual, the Auburn defense is awful until they need exactly one spectacular play. Execution is a canned good for them, and Ted Roof waits until a second prior to the expiration date to open it.) Also mention Barrett Trotter's emergence as a competent, if sometimes terrifying young signal-caller. These are all valid things.

I would just point out that above all things, as much as I personally detest Auburn at this point, they are the most objectively entertaining team right now in America. Their mascot flies into things. Their waterproof program is continually dodging accusations of scandal, and their coach keeps winning despite substantial evidence that he might not be the reason they're winning at all. (Hey, he hired Malzahn and that's enough WAR EAGLE.) This is a team that is running a mountain rally car race with two tires off the edge of the road and somehow refusing to plunge into the abyss.

At this point, Gene Chizik is Les Miles without the color and with some concept of proper English syntax and clock management. So really, he's only like Miles in having a team that wins without him, and because they both like to party. I don't know that for sure about Chizik, but the hair speaks for itself.

Screen_shot_2011-09-12_at_1

O is for Otters With Grenades. Our early vote for "Most Chaotic And Therefore Fun To Watch" Team of 2011: the Arizona State Sun Devils. Go-go Chip Kellyish offense with a windmill at quarterback and a tiny white dude named "Pflugrad" at wide receiver? Check. Ability to score from anywhere on the field thanks to giant arm of giant QB? Roger. Defense that makes up for lack of execution with sheer killing effort? Oh, definitely. Occasional brilliance interspersed with penalties not committed by well-disciplined middle school teams? In stock and available throughout the season, sir.

P is for Periodic. Were you aware that Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler is 6'8"? Perhaps not, since mentioning it five hundred times in a broadcast might not have driven the fact into your skull with enough force. Thanks to Rod Gilmore and Joe Tessitore for ensuring that we knew that Brock Osweiler was in fact very tall, but we should clarify the point further.

Brock Osweiler's full length is equivalent to:

  • 4.3 Nick Sabans.
  • 2.3 Lou Holtzeseseses (Proper plural, and no, it's not spelled Holtzethethethetheth. Why do you ask?)
  • 1.6 Will Steins
  • 2.6 Pit Bulls
  • 48 Cans of Dr Pepper.  
  • Approximately 17 Empire State Buildings lined up end to end.

KNOW YOUR OSWEILER HEIGHT. This message is critical to our national security obesity awareness bone health breast cancer screening something something hrmph mumble something.*

*This passage fulfills SBNation.com's federally mandated public service announcement quota for the day.

Q is for Quandre Diggs. The Texas corner had a lovely interception against BYU in the Longhorns' victory Saturday night, and especially useful to us since his name starts with Q. (Thanks, Quandre Diggs' mom. We owe you one.)

R is for Rocket Fever. We'd say to worry about just barely edging out Toledo, but if history is any indication just barely edging out an early season opponent is so totally in line with normal Ohio State performance that thus far Fickell has been indistinguishable from Tressel. Remember the 2009 opener against Navy, a 31-27 game that came down to the final series, or a lackluster 26-14 win over Ohio in 2008. The tendency with an initially underwhelming new hire is to look for that one game where it becomes apparent that they either know what they're doing or don't, and a proper indication of either won't happen until the Buckeyes start conference play in October. 

Then again, if OSU struggles against their next two opponents, Colorado and Miami, well ... yeah, go ahead and panic.

S is for Suffering.  Colorado receiver Paul Richardson's line on the day: 11 catches, 284 yards, and two TDs. Suffering is the right word in both directions, as Richardson caused it by driving the Cal secondary to tears, and reaped it when Cal stormed back to win the game at the last second in a 36-33 home defeat for the Buffaloes.

T is for Terrier'd. Clemson almost lost to the Wofford Terriers on Saturday, ekeing out a win by a total of 35-27. The score is deceptive, as it doesn't really show how pesky the Terriers' triple option attack was, or how terrified Dabo Swinney looked the entire time. If one school will actually fire a coach off the sidelines and in full public view, it's you Clemson. We're just putting that dream out there. You're going to have to do the rest to make it happen.

In related news, Clemson plays Auburn this coming weekend, a team fond of running many option-style fakes and end-arounds in their run game. Can Auburn, in fact, play the same soul-scorching cliffhanger for a third week in a row? Can Gene Chizik make sparks jump from a razor scraping it on his perfectly angular chin? The answer to both these questions is yes. (Chizik will do this for a $3 fee and a well-spoken "please.")

U is for Unstable. Poor Nick Foles: despite having almost no protection, the Arizona quarterback dodged streaking Oklahoma State defenders and threw 51 times for 37 completions and 398 yards and a score against Oklahoma State. In repayment for this, he got 39 yards of total run support, and was upstaged by Brandon Weeden's 43/53 effort for 397 yards, two TDs, and the victory. Losing your entire offensive line to graduation won't make you a less effective passer, but it will show up somewhere, and for Arizona it appears to have shown up in the total absence of an effective run game. (Getting down 21-0 when your defense plays ten yards off the ball didn't help either.)

V is for Variable. West Virginia's production in the first half against Norfolk State: 242 yards of offense and 12 points allowed to Norfolk State, and 143 yards of offense and ten points for the Mountaineers. Final tallies: a 55 -12 final, a 533 to 285 edge in yardage, and one building dropped successfully on an FCS team. September is a terrifying month for first-time head coaches. Only a foot tells you otherwise.

W is for Winstrol. A common steroid. And now, this picture.

2011-september-10-12-50-38_medium

Winstrol's side effects include liver damage, but so does watching enough Michigan State football.

X is for Xscape. As in "just Kickin' It," which is possibly what Gary Pinkel might do next time.

Y is for Y. As in T.Y. Hilton, the FIU receiver and kick returner who is still streaking and open behind the Louisville defense. Hilton had seven receptions for 201 yards and two TDs, and played the key role in upsetting the Cardinals in the biggest win of Mario Cristobal's turnaround tenure at FIU. Be warned: the Golden Panthers stand up for the Sun Belt even when it hurts the feelings of America's sunniest quarterback, Louisvlle's Will Stein. .

Z is for Zaftig. Having a full, rounded figure, or roughly comparable to the fat numbers put up by the Tennessee offense this week against Cincinnati. Remember, Tyler Bray may not know who he's throwing to, but he knows what he's throwing: touchdowns and love faces, baby. They face Florida in the Swamp this week, and go up against a defense that has yielded three points in the young 2011 season. May your magical back tattoo protect you, young man.

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