The College Football Alphabetical, Week 3: Where Football Starts Hurting You

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Vince Williams #11 of the Florida State Seminoles makes a tackle with Nigel Bradham #13 on a third down stop against Dominique Whaley #8 of the Oklahoma Sooners at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

This week's Alphabetical asks you where football hurts you the most, names Taylor Martinez's unique throwing motion, and says sometimes LSU makes everything look like surrender.

A is for Anhedonia. Do you find yourself no longer enjoying the things that used to give you pleasure? Do you find yourself feeling listless at the end of your work day?

Do you sometimes explode with anger for no reason?

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Do you sometimes find yourself speaking, but not really hearing the words you say, or thinking they're not worth hearing?

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Do you sometimes wonder if pleasure as you know it will ever return to your life?

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If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," they you are suffering from anhedonia, defined as "the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable." Week 3 of the college football season is when the jolly toboggan ride ends, the path of the run turns, and some of you discover that around the bend is not more fun sliding down the mountain but instead the drop of a steep and unforgiving cliff.

(NOTE: If you are an Ole Miss fan, you expected this, but not really so suddenly, and certainly not with that kind of angle. Just look at that. It's like you bought extra abyss at the abyss store this year.)


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B is for Blight. Accept this as a possibility: maybe Dan Mullen was giving up at the end of the LSU game. It is possible. Coaches have done odder things, up to and including punching opposing players, letting their team watch the band at halftime, and leaving perfectly good football teams to knowingly work with Dan Snyder. Good, even great coaches have been known to do these things. 

So perhaps throwing Tyler Russell to LSU's pack of rabid bush dogs was a bad idea at the end, but when you play LSU's defense, lose another starting offensive lineman in the game, have only one real wide receiver at your disposal, and then watch as your quarterback devolves into a terrified basketball player who woke up in Chris Relf's body, then your options all look like surrender no matter how hard you try.

After the half, Mississippi State came out and put up 32 yards of offense in the 3rd quarter. In football terms, that number is an effective and real nullity, all accomplished by the LSU defense blanketing receivers so badly that wide receiver/DB pairs looked like pool balls glued together and bouncing around the defensive backfield. Vick Ballard played mushroom for the night, kept in the darkness of swaddling linebackers and onrushing lineman all to happy to feed him soil the old-fashioned way: manual application of head to turf. A hurried and terrified Chris Relf looked as bad as an unhurried and utterly unterrified Stephen Garcia does, and that is very, very bad indeed.

The question of what Mullen could do at the end of the game is a very real one. Sometimes, a defense can dominate an offense so badly its only option is forfeit. At that point the only debate is the form: turnover, punt, or over on downs. Miss State tried all three in the second half, and each was uglier than the next.

C is for Carotid. Will Muschamp's carotid artery always looks like that, but the lasers are something he brought out special-like for the refs Saturday. (Click image to see the LASERS.)

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D is for Dabo. Dabo Swinney, incoherent with joy after Clemson's win over Auburn in Death Valley Saturday:

That's "incoherent with joy," a different tack than Dabo usually takes being "just generally incoherent, and named 'Dabo' to just make it that much worse." The overhead boom shot is poetic, the crowd hopping around him is giddy, but your opponent allowed you to convert 14-of-18 first downs. At some point your own credit stops, and the ineptitude of the other team starts clamoring for some thanks.

The Clemson defense stiffening up in the second half, however, is a real reason for optimism. Michael Dyer off the Buck Sweep has been poison all year, and Clemson limited his damage capacity in the second nicely. The exact percentage of Tajh Boyd's "ICE. COOL. ICE" performance that was his and what was Auburn running around chasing gnats for fun will be apparent next week against Florida State.

E is for ESP. He is still prone to mumbling, but Urban Meyer had a scary knack for calling out both Clemson and Auburn's plays before they ran them on Saturday. Come for the plainly worded strategic insight, and stay for the eerie ability to call cards at football's blackjack table.

F is for Fulgid. Flashing, bright, or like the prospects for Florida State, who did precisely what I thought they would do against Oklahoma: compete, improve, and ultimately lose because teams improve by increments not by leaps, and because Florida State still has a luminous future in the ACC in 2011. The defensive line shoved around Oklahoma's at times, the secondary really only gave up a jump ball---apologies, we're going to have to pause and take a moment to drool over said jump ball:

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[/moons away for a minute just looking at the pretty things in life]

Incremental improvement was the best possible outcome, and Florida State is still totally right there on track. A miscommunication on a route cost them one turnover, a late injury to E.J. Manuel hampered them down the stretch, and that one beautiful one-on-one play separated them on the scoreboard from Oklahoma.

(NOTE: Everything previously said is scotched if E.J. Manuel has a nagging injury, and then your season is ruined, Florida State. No one ever said we had to be supportive in every scenario.)

G is for Grumpy. Master Troll of the weekend is Pitt football, who is the worst party guest ever of the week.  First, Pitt despoiled the punch bowl of Big East commissioner John Marinatto when the Panthers applied for ACC membership on Saturday morning, a story that seemed to leak before the ACC felt comfortable with it becoming public. Pitt then celebrated their invitation to their new conference by running Pitt out to a 27-10 lead over Iowa, and then soiling a fine tray of John Swofford's best canapes by playing it tight down the stretch and conspiring to allow Iowa back in the game for a 31-27 lead. For a weekend, two conferences and one game were your latrine, Pitt. Remember this special time.

H is for Harsin. The Texas offense, like Florida State or any other team, is getting better bit by bit, and can thank the ineptitude of their opponent for some of their success. After all, Texas barely passed the ball against UCLA, and did not have to thanks to blowing UCLA off the line for much of the day, keeping Case McCoy ahead of the sticks, and by throwing a few of the Boise offense's 6,583 trick plays at the Bruin defense. Like LSU's gameplan for 2011, "Let's beat the crap out of people with the run" seems to be more than effective for the Longhorns, and will be the M.O. until everyone is told otherwise.

I is for Imhotep. The mummy buried beneath UCLA's locker rooms woke up on the wrong side of the sarcophagus on Saturday, and in his worst display of curse-fu, had Kevin Prince go out and play the most UCLA-Quarterback-Implosion  performance witnessed in the Rick Neuheisel era yet. Prince went 3-for-7 for 26 yards, 0 TDs, and 3 INTs in the first quarter alone before hitting the bench and tearing both ACLs in the process of merely sitting down.* UCLA football has now fallen to the level where the only excitement is watching to see if the quarterback will stay on pace for a 12 INT day. YOU CAN DO IT, BRUINS. WE FEEL IT IN OUR BONES.

*This last part did not happen. But it could have, admit it.

J is for Justin. My record in fights in school was dismal. Having reviewed the memory tape, I'm pretty sure it was 1-4-1 at best, and that one might be considered a loss given it was against an inanimate object. (That desk had it coming.) 

The one victory came after two crushing losses. (See where this is going re: Notre Dame?) I'd been IN both fights, mind you, but lost each by last-minute punches, inability to block my opponent's blows, or simply breaking down into elementary school tears before finishing the fight. (My, this really is fitting for Notre Dame football, isn't it?) So when this kid, who will be called "Justin Michigan State," decided to shove me for not properly acknowledging his mockery of my subpar Trapper Keeper, he could not have had any idea how badly I needed to beat someone so hard their double-laced Converse All-Stars shook with the force of the punches.

So Michigan State, it wasn't you. It was Michigan and USF that beat you, and that's not fair since no team can be expected to fend off the properly channeled frustration of two closes losses in a row. Notre Dame took that Trapper Keeper, got you on the ground, and then did to you what frustrated geeks do when they get someone on the wrong side of a solid piece of school supply. They beat you until they feel better, and then probably go on to keep getting beaten up elsewhere afterwards.

(Do you care to calculate the estimated DERP ranking of a USC/ND matchup right now? Don't do this: it will, for at least a few minutes, paralyze you with the DERPness of it all.)

K is for Kirk Cousins. By the way, that marks two prominent games in a year where Kirk Cousins has served as the outlet for a frustrated team's anger. If we get a third instance of this phenomena, we will have a trend, and thus solid ground for Kirk Cousins being every college football's rebound relationship: beautiful, sweet-tempered, smart, just talented enough, and shockingly easy to drop in the dirt without a second thought.

L is for Loopy. The following is a list of nicknames for Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez's distinctive throwing motion:

  • "The Time Lord" As in, takes forever but doesn't seem to matter.
  • "The Half-Tebow." As long as it is, it's still only half the "Fritatta."
  • "The Pig's Tail." Curlicued, and tastier than you think it might be when heat is applied to it.
  • "The Chintz Young." Like Vince Young's throwing motion, but calico and therfore in for the 2011 season.

M is for Meretricious. Shiny and possibly fake things from this weekend, in no particular order: Nebraska's offense, a unit putting up intolerable numbers against a defense that allowed huge totals to both Eastern Washington and Hawai'i. Clemson's offense, another beneficiary of an opponent with no ability to defend. Miami's defense, which while more disciplined against Ohio State was still playing Ohio State, the recipient of this year's "Misbegotten Toxic Waste Truck On Fire And Hurtling Without Brakes Toward An Elementary School" award for offensive ineptitude. Utah's 54 point outburst against BYU, a total aided and abetted by BYU's complete inability to hold onto the ball.

N is for Not Indicative of A Fair Or Caring Deity. Justin Hunter's first reception against Florida started on the ground with a spectacular leap, continued up to a solid mid-air catch, and ended with Hunter's ACL popping and the receiver somehow still holding onto the ball despite the pain. Also applies to: Stanford's Shayne Skov, Stanford's leading tackler from 2010 and the victim of a indeterminately bad knee injury so painful his screams could be heard on the broadcast. 

O is for Obtrude. To become noticable in an unwelcome way, or as good a description of Illnois' plan against Arizona State. Illinois couldn't outgain the Sun Devils, and indeed were bested 362-240 in that category. They couldn't out-error the Sun Devils, since both teams play enthusiastic and horrendously uneven football, and both teams put the ball on the turf three times. The key? Sheer violence, as the Illini sacked the towering Osweiler six times and held the Sun Devils in check until Nathan Scheelhaase negotiated a game-clinching score in the fourth. This marks your annual reminder that if you play quarterback for Arizona State under Dennis Erickson, you must bring spare ribs and sternums for replacement purposes. You will need them.

P is for Plaguy. Worrisome or annoying, like the redzone failures of Florida's otherwise tidy offensive effort against Tennessee. After two quick scores, the Gators settled for field goals and stalled on several drives into the redzone. Did you see Charlie Weis throwing redzone passes to Deonte Thompson, thinking he would catch things like passes? Forgive Weis; he's new here, and will learn soon enough, hopefully before Florida's redzone efficiency gets any worse than it already is.

Q is for Quadrafid. Split into four pieces. A condition applicable to college football if four megaconferences emerge over the coming weeks.

R is for Retrosack. Jared Crick with the rare dorsal-attack sack on Keith Price. Stupid Keith Price, not installing rearview mirrors on either side of his helmet.

S is for Sacre du Printemps. The premiere audience for Stravinsky and Diaghliev's Rite of Spring alternately loved or hated the work so intensely that fistfights broke out in the audience. If Penn State and Temple fans did the same with each other during Saturday's 14-10 Penn State win, no one would blame them. What they were watching offensively was either the next generation of cutting-edge horror film or the future of football as we know it. That future, according to both staffs, does not include a properly thrown forward pass.

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"Hold me, I'm afraid." "So am I. So am I."

Be afraid, football. Both teams have nine more games of this show, and it will only get more frightening and perverse as it goes. (Penn State could be running the Notre Dame box by the time it finishes devolving. You have been warned.) 

T is for Tevin. Tevin Washington of Georgia Tech is still your passing efficiency leader in the third week of the 2011 season. Please, let's pause for a moment and frame that, please.

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Actually, just frame the whole thing for Kansas, Washington State, North Carolina, and Illinois being in there. This is the statistical Nessie photo you have been searching for all your life, college football statniks.

U is for Uneasy.  After leaping out to an immense lead, West Virginia held on to a 37-31 margin against Maryland on Saturday. This follows up a dicey, lighting-delayed win over Marshall and a tense first half against Norfolk State, and this is exactly how you would have predicted Dana Holgorsen's first season to go, isn't it? The game against LSU, whatever it is, cannot possibly be normal given the presence of both Holgo the Barbarian and Les Miles AND beer in the stadium at Morgantown. Prepare for dimensional torsion.

V is for Versiform. Capable of changing form like Chris Rainey who was running back (108 yards on 21 carries,) wide receiver (2 receptions for 104 yards, 1 TD) and special teams assassin (one blocked punt returned for TD.)

W is for Wastive. As in "liable to waste," a word not describing Ohio State permanent football coach Luke Fickell. Three timeouts from the Miami game will be taken into the game against Colorado, and possibly saved up for important Big Ten play. Times are hard, and you have to conserve where you can.

X is for Xeransis. The process of drying up. An important agent in dehydrating Navy's chances of comeback against South Carolina: Jadeveon Clowney, an unblockable monster ostrich among chickens on South Carolina's d-line. Navy's passing downs consisted less of pass-blocking, and more of keeping Navy QB Kriss Proctor from getting hurt by the rampaging freshman. How he looked against Navy's tiny line is how he will look against everyone else in two years, aka like an adult storming into a Pop Warner game wearing pads and a too-small helmet.

Y is for Yird. To bury. See: North Texas (41-0 by Alabama), a burial accompanied by great panic since Alabama did it while North Texas was still very much alive.

Z is for Zabaglione. The final true week of total frothy custard (the z-word in question here) comes next week as September comes to an end, marking the the last weekend of real non-conference foolishness before leagues settle in for serious fraternal quabbling.

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