The College Football Alphabetical, Week 4: Ambition Is Overrated

This week's Alphabetical explains how Clemson's season is a Wes Anderson film, Charlie Weis' lack of fancy helps Florida and why we should all be scared of the honey badgers in LSU's secondary.

A is for Aquatic.  As in The Life Aquatic, aka the Clemson 2011 of films. I know they're a mess, full of meaningless scenes and ineffective tangents. I know the ending before it even happens, since the "everyone rushes around and listens to Dabo Swinney jabber on about love and having backs and Tiger Stadium and stuff." A Clemson game will feature mistakes, immense, comical mistakes that should be set to tack-piano music and accented with clown horns and donkey brays. Isn't that right, Tajh Boyd?

Clemson will also be compulsively watchable because of Boyd's better-written scenes, like the ones where he throws a bolt down the middle to Sammy Watkins, or the one where a guy in motion through a packed backfield turns the defense to hashbrowns as Andre Ellington pops through the middle for a huge gain.

Another way to think of them one third of the way into the season is a less esoteric metaphor: they are this year's quality 2010 knockoff Auburn team, with a coach just smart enough to hire his own Gus Malzahn in the form of Chad Morris and a middling to leaky defense capable of making one or two plays a game. Was this all an elaborate excuse to get Wes Anderson to make a movie about Clemson football where Dabo walks away in slow motion at the end as "Queen Bitch" plays? Why yes, yes it was. 

B is for Baffling. Notre Dame continues to defy reality by outgaining opponents, dominating the line of scrimmage, and then coughing up the ball to create box scores that make stat geeks weep for the Irish. The lines for the game against Pitt: outgained the Panthers 398-268, outgained in average play 5.5 to 3.8, and yet finished the game with a squeaky 15-12 margin and Pitt driving at the end of the game. Pitt could pat themselves on the back for being the more economical team, and well good for you in these recessionary times, PItt. You could also point to Notre Dame's rank for turnovers margin: 120th in the nation, and the main reason the Irish stand at 2-2 instead of 4-0 at this point. 

C is for Continuing Profiles in Statistical Aberration. The ultimate irony in arguing that "stats are for losers" is that you ultimately have to use stats to prove that exact point, but Les Miles doesn't speak irony, son, nor any other romance language like Japanese or Tungsten.* Nope, you can point out that WVU had 28 first downs to LSU's 19, and 533 yards of offense to LSU's 366, or that West Virginia managed to set their school pass record against the vaunted LSU secondary.

Les Miles would like you to consider sheer efficiency here, though: LSU needed nothing like 65 pass attempts since they started every drive on their own 45, while Brad Wing's punting, the Mountaineers' four turnovers, and punt returns by Mo Claiborne kept the Tigers working with short fields. Or, if that isn't clear enough, let's translate this into terms Les Miles might use.

*Tungsten is not a language, but please do not tell Les Miles this.

D is for Dysphasia. "A partial or complete impairment of the ability to communicate resulting from brain injury."

There would be a real want, that is, a competing that would happen, which it would, without the need to be compliant or reluctant to not give up that which is the ball, or the things like it, such as the field goals, or even the punt return and defense thereof, and that's keeping the game short and helping the general construction of success as it relates to our football team.

I'm not saying that Les Miles has a brain injury that makes him say long, convoluted sentences. I'm saying he has a brain injury that made him say long, convoluted sentences AND made him really good at coaching football.

E is for Extension. Following on our theme, continue on into the charred wreckage of UCF's season, which in an early mini-boom had people suggesting they were a BCS buster worthy of inclusion in the Big East. Ah, remember those innocent times, two weeks ago, when we thought we knew everything? We'll all work online, and drive fuel-efficient flying cars in the end of history? We were all so much younger two weeks ago, and more foolish than we remember. 

Anyway, UCF first lost to FIU, and then went out to Provo and--surprise!--dominated the stat sheet before blowing the game in an exquisitely painful manner by not only allowing BYU their first kick return since the Reagan administration, but also muffing a punt to gift BYU a short TD late in the game. 399 yards to 260 on the stat sheet for total offense, and 24-17 on the scoreboard. Remember, trying is overrated in football offense: do less, and win close games by letting the other guy trip on his own penis attempting to run in the endzone. (This did not literally happen, but if it does, we want Jesse Palmer to be the one to call it. Sweet wang-trip, bro!)

F is for Fluttering. A clarification on that last entry, however: don't try unless you happen to be really good on offense. How do you know if you are really good on offense? A good indicator is having Dana Holgorsen as your offensive coordinator in the past five years, and then being smart enough not to change what he was doing too much on offense. Sure, you'll make mistakes just like Oklahoma State did. You'll have Justin Blackmon fumble the ball through the endzone for a touchback in a close game on the road. Brandon Weeden will miss some passes, though this is more of a promise than fact due to Weeden's ridiculous 74% accuracy this year. 

Never mind the mistakes, because with this offense and these quarterbacks you keep firing, and firing, and eventually hope the defense collapses beneath the pressure. This worked brilliantly for Oklahoma State in the second half despite a 20-3 halftime deficit to Texas A&M, and ended with one of college football's most bitter finishing moves: the self-inflicted safety to run out the clock on the Aggies at home. Nothing is worse than watching the other team score points on itself to seal a one point victory.*

*Okay, every field goal ever kicked is worse, but this is still really, really bad.

G is for Gini Coefficient.  A measure of economic inequality, and one we'll apply to the self-inflicted poverty Texas A&M put itself in during the fourth quarter, passing 18 times to just three rushes despite being down at the start of the quarter by the manageable deficit of 27-20, a score the Aggies found themselves in by ... that's right, throwing an interception in the third. Living by the sword and dying by it is another, but leaping belly first onto the blade is for this week at least known as "the Mike Sherman."

I is for Iconolagny. Sexual stimulation derived from looking at statues. This is segue to discussing Alabama and Florida football, two institutions rife with statuary only their fans could find erotic. Both teams easily paved lesser competition this past week, though Alabama can be far prouder of beating a game Arkansas team than Florida can of beating poor Kentucky. (Like we don't already see the Rich Brooks paint wearing off the Joker Phillips beater in Lexington. Hooodilly mooseballs, that is a ghastly football team.)

J is for Jumboism. A love for large things, i.e. Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Like Petrino, he is a pro-style play-caller with a first-year starter*, but unlike Petrino he has a valuable commodity on his side: fear. Florida will prove to be the second-best challenge Alabama faces this year because Weis, who is all too aware of his offense having a very underwhelming receiving corps and two lightning fast running backs, will have nothing to do with being overly ambitious, and will instead go Rainey, then Demps, then Rainey, and a few carefully chosen downfield plays thrown as changeups. If necessary, Weis will have another luxury: a defense not riddled with injuries like Arkansas, and one capable perhaps of putting A.J. McCarron into some uncomfortable third and long scenarios this weekend. 

Alabama is clearly the better team, but if Florida pulls an upset it will be because of plenty of discretion in their valor. And if they don't, it's smooth sailing all the way to LSU for Alabama, and then your de facto national title bid game between the two on November 5th. The Tide will simply mark time with the trail of dead in the meantime, while those poor bastards at Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt will be charged with making it look respectable.

*Shhh. There was no John Brantley in 2010. That was "Ron" Brantley, and he died in an unfortunate tubing accident on the Ichetucknee River in early 2011. #RIPRonBrantley

K is for Kookiness.  The nation's leading rusher is quarterback Denard Robinson, and the most efficient passing team remains the triple-option monsters from Georgia Tech, and the most prolific receiver remains Marquess Wilson of Washington State. My anti-drug is football, because sometimes it is a better hallucinogen than anything you can get at Burning Man.

L is for Laniary. "Of having teeth or claws made for tearing." So we are calling Tyrann Mathieu the Honey Badger now, because he do take what he want, and clearly does not give a f---? I was in Morgantown in the endzone Mathieu decorated with Geno Smith's innards on Saturday night, and the athleticism was breathtaking, but Mo Claiborne is almost as impressive for LSU. Remember that it was Claiborne who had the skyball of an INT against Mississippi State, and the backbreaking punt return to effectively end the game. Just accept that both Mathieu and Claiborne bear teeth and claws meant for ripping, and that all of us are on their menu.

While you're doing that, however, also accept that Dana Holgorsen and the WVU offense found a lot of room to maneuver in the LSU secondary, and did most of their dirty work in the second half across the middle of the field without harassment in the pocket from the Tigers' defensive line. Though no one else in the SEC will be able to run precisely the same devilry Holgorsen's offense used to slash 463 yards passing out of LSU's hide, it is certainly a clue for getting some hope of beating them.

M is for Memphis.  This week's atrocity file from the 2011 Memphis Tigers contains one 42-0 blowout at the hands of SMU, a new low in a series of ever-worsening lows that even has the beat writers approaching despair. Remember that when you look into the abyss it looks back at you, and that the abyss Nietzsche was talking about was actually Memphis football.

N is for Narnia. Chris Rainey's touchdown run against Kentucky should be sued for plagiarism by the Keane estate since it was so obviously modeled after one of Billy's map adventures from Family Circus.

Rainey11_medium

Rainey and Demps have both flourished in Charlie Weis' run game, an I-formation and single back attack that gives them both a head start on the defense by having them move forward at the snap rather than standing still as they did in the shotgun spread of Urban Meyer. GIving Demps a head start in particular seems like a very unfair thing to do to defenses.

O is for Ochlophobia. A fear of crowds, something Taylor Martinez must have to win against Wisconsin since Martinez's lack of mistakes will be the differentiating factor in a game between two teams with little on the resume thus far. Martinez still seems like the world's greatest high school wing-T quarterback struggling with the college game, and his variance is insane by down and distance.

3rd and 1: Yeah bro.

3rd and 2: Cool.

3rd and 3: We got this.

3rd and 4: Told you, we got this.

3rd and 5: Chill, just see if this works.

3rd and 6: Starting to detect some sketch here.

3rd and 7: Those sticks are, like, WAY out there.

3rd and 8: No, I AM going to try an eight yard shovel pass, thank you.

3rd and 9: [running for life]

3rd and 10: [quick punt out of nowhere.]

This is true of most quarterbacks, to be fair, but it is especially true of Martinez, whose passing style might best be described as "like Sammy Baugh throwing with a fused elbow." QUICK QUIZ: switch Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez at their respective positions, and does the production vary by that much? We say no, and that is indisputable fact we just made up in the cheap computer simulations in our brain. Get very offended by this now!

P is for Physicians. We're sorry, but the medic who is attending the medic will require a medic now.

 

Q is for Questionable. Tommy Tuberville just watched his defense on Saturday give up 562 yards of offense to Nevada. He excused the troops after a quick victory speech, however, and then retired alone to his office. No one could see him weep as he watched the old film, but we all know he did, pining silently in the dark for a day when he could play football without offense and win games.

R is for Regrettable. Just assume a Clemson or Virginia fan works at Fox, and that he trolled the Hokies so very well this past weekend.

Screen_shot_2011-09-28_at_11

(Via.)

S is for Spotless. With still more expansion on the theme of "ambition is overrated," please see Temple quarterback Chester Stewart's line from Temple's shocking 38-7 victory over Maryland on Saturday: 9 for 9, 140 yards, and zero TDs or interceptions. Turning your quarterback into a kind of government bond, i.e. the safest kind of investment, works well enough when you can run more profitable ventures like Bernard Pierce 32 times in the game for five TDs.

T is for Triumph. Meanwhile, Ralph Friedgen had a delicious barbecue sandwich and a few fresh pickles for lunch, and most certainly did not think about how Randy Edsall filled all those seats at Maryland and brought a whole new level of excitement to the program. Nope, he most certainly did not think that very thing, and instead filled the birdfeeders and thought about how life shore is funny sometimes, ain't it?

U is for Unpadded. We kept waiting for the unnecessary celebration flag to fly in because that wall didn't do anything to you, son. (Oh, hush. He was woozy, but fine.)

V is for Vastate. Immune, as in the Illinois Fightin Illini's imperviousness to Zookishness as they stand at 4-0 going into Big Ten play. The week of rewarding a lack of fanciness and ambition continues as the Illini passed 26 times, ran 52, and have clearly benefitted from turning off Ron Zook's headset during games without telling him.

W is for Wistful. Age comes to us all. Steve Spurrier's complaints now include graying hair, a stiff knee from an old football injury, and one horrible case of persistent Stephen Garcia.

 

X is for Xenial. Of our concerning hospitality to guests. Remember when we reported that everyone got out of Morgantown okay HAHAHA WE WERE WRONG.  We can't decide on whether roughing up a pregnant woman in the name of football qualifies you or disqualifies you from an SEC membership, but that ambiguity itself probably leans toward "strengthens application."

Y is for Yips.  That home loss to LSU appears to have given them a case of them, one of the reasons Georgia might not want to waste precious anxious energy losing sleep over them this week. (Then again, Louisiana Tech nearly knocked off Houston two weeks ago before an epic late collapse, so we might be devaluing the Bulldogs a bit here, too.)

Z is for Zebu. A type of large ox. In a related item, Wisconsin's offensive line averages 845 pounds across the board, and is transported from game to game in a special trailer designed just for this purpose. Have fun trying to see the sun on Saturday, Jared Crick!

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