The Alphabetical, Week 1: Where Boise Frightens You With Their Neatness

The first Alphabetical of the 2011 season suggests that you never actually try to score touchdowns, that ambition is overrated, and that Chris Petersen's closet is a house of neatly arranged OCD horrors.

A is for Amnesia, Lacunar. Let's all get the most convenient of amnesias for the purposes of a football fan, shall we? Lacunar Amnesia indicates a loss of memory regarding one specific event, and in this case you get one event to selectively blot out from Week 1's slate of games. Alabama, let's forget Trent Richardson's paltry 30 yards on 13 carries and the spotty play of your quarterbacks against the death machine of Kent State's defense. (It's not like you like offense to begin with, and in fact regard it as a necessary evil in between defensive series.) Lane Kiffin, just burn the tape of USC's ugly 19-17 win over formerly dismal Minnesota. Say you don't remember because Jerry Kill hit you over the head with a brick. (It's a sign of affection in the Kill family, so feel honored!)

Others in need of selective memory include Oregon fans, who may excuse a second straight loss to an SEC West team with the argument that the JerryDome is not of this earth, and thus cannot be host to an NCAA-sanctioned football game. (Les Miles football is also not of this dimension of reality, but neither is the state of Louisiana, and thus everyone gets what they want here.)  UGA fans are eligible twice: once for the uniforms, and twice for the involuntary surgery at the hands of Dr. Kellen Moore. You can all forget the Maryland uniforms if you like, but it would be a moral failing on your part to do so, since the children of tomorrow need to be taught the mistakes of the past to avoid their duplication in the future.


"We're on the same team." "Really?" "Yeppers." "NEAT!"

B is for Balance. The concept of balance is a nice one in football, but so are the ideas of efficiency and success, and when the two meet in game situations guess which one gets eaten in the lifeboat? The answer varies. Boise was all too happy to ride what worked late in their 35-21 victory over Georgia, letting Kellen Moore pass on seven of eleven plays in their game-clinching final TD drive. The bulk of these passes came on the same basic concept: wide open receivers getting easy completions in the soft middle of Georgia's horrendously executed zone.

Boise would come back to the run to finish the drive in the red zone, thus embracing one very flexible but still valid definition of balance. Boise could do a lot of this, by the way, because they had established early on a commitment to the run, and thus could play-fake with real credibility. Then the middle gets open, then the linebackers start backing up and panicking, and really playing Boise when you haven't mastered the zone and get zero pass rush is just no fun at all. Don't ever do it if you can't help it.

Boise ended up running on 37 plays and passing on 34. The streaks were irregular, but the math added up in the long run, and Boise is so efficient they are terrifying. If you have a weakness, they will find it, even if it takes them a quarter or two to size you up proper-like. The Anderson Silva of football offenses, if you will.

C is for Clarity. Boise's offensive game plan was so tidy it was sickening. Neat little passing concepts off play-action, the usual array of motions and shifts to expose Bulldog defensive alignments (hint: The middle was open all night, and still is on Tuesday morning.) It was all of a piece, because this is Boise, and their degree of execution in all phases of the game makes neuroscientists look like palsied, tipsy butchers. Their defense line rotated Georgia's shoddy offensive line to death. Their special teams kept Brandon Boykin in check, and their punting game...hell, even their punting game was disgustingly coordinated and well-designed. Chris Petersen's closets must be a study in household fascism if they look anything like his team does on the field, and his ties must hang in even lines tweaked daily for maximum orderliness. 

D is for Death Rattle.  In contrast, watching Georgia work was an exercise in profligacy illustrated. There is talent: anyone who saw Brandon Boykin rip around the corner on an 80 yard run saw that, or who saw Orson Charles do work against the disciplined Boise secondary, or who watched Aaron Murray tap-dance out of pressure all night. There is defensive talent, too, especially at the corners where Branden Smith and alternate spelling model Brandon Boykin sealed off the perimeter completely for Boise, forcing them to win or lose the game over the middle. (Boise: "Okay!') 

It's hard not to see that much talent heaped formlessly on the field, though, and wonder if the Georgia program isn't in some serious late imperial decline under Richt. The lines were hapless, but got no help from the gameplanning on either side. Mike Bobo's offense: describe what it does, and I will give you a dollar. I will never have to do this, because you cannot. 3rd and Willie has become 3rd and Grantham, and in this respect this has been a seamless transition between the Bulldogs' former defensive coordinator and their current DC. 

On one play in the third quarter, Georgia lined up in the I-formation, and you just knew what the play was. The lean of the offensive linemen showed pass, the wide receivers looked poised to streak downfield, and something about the entire team just telegraphed a hay-maker. Boise knew it,  too: the corners paid no attention to the run, and took off step for step with Georgia's wideouts. 

One one side was three-star talent with five star execution, and the other was five star talent with two star coaching. That is what Georgia is right now, and what they've been since 2008.  If you like your filet mignon charred to well done and served with ketchup, you like what Mark Richt has done with UGA's talent. If not, then you might want to think about hiring a different chef.

E is for Exudation.

"How do you have children in this climate?" ---Boise fan, overheard in conversation with Georgia fan in pregame tailgates.

"WHY IS THE AIR WET?" --the same Boise fan, a few minutes later.

F is for Ferrous Equine Suppository Syndrome.  While you may selectively blot out parts of Saturday to fit your worldview, please remember how on opening weekend you cannot escape how little certain things have changed.

Take LSU, for instance. Their quarterback, whoever it is on any given day, still can't pass for over 100 yards. Their coach, wearing a gigantic baseball cap and smiling, ran to the wrong sideline in pregame. Their special teams are airtight, their defense malicious and demonically fast. I use the word demonically here, because Les Miles mentioned demons in his postgame press conference right after misspelling "Geaux," and we have to assume Les Miles has reasons for doing things.*

Yet here is the perpetually underrated genius of Les Miles. Take Jim Tressel: a run-first, inherently conservative coach with Big Ten DNA. Now give him a mild but entertaining head injury, a large public university with a football problem, and the sense to hire seasoned coordinators. You might want to leave out the bit about keeping emails about improper benefits, add in a sense of humor, and you have Les Miles. 

And yes, his teams are lucky. Lucky teams are the ones who force fumbles, leaving LSU with short fields. Lucky teams are the ones that roadgrade defenses in the run game. Lucky teams force Oregon to play Darron Thomas like he's a run and shoot quarterback, throwing 52 times and thus directly into the hands of LSU's marauding secondary.  Luck is subduing a team with brute force. We're not really talking about luck anymore, are we? No, we are not. 

That said: Les Miles still has a blacksmith and forge in his colon, and all it does it make horseshoes to keep in his ass.

*He doesn't, but let's pretend for fiction's sake.

G is for Games Watched. Opening weekend's five day span gives you time to watch games you might not otherwise even entertain the thought of watching. For instance, I used the magic of ESPN's Xbox app to go back and give the full film treatment to Western Kentucky versus Kentucky in Nashville, thinking a.) "I have the time, why not?" and b.) "This can't truly be the pustulent leper of a game everyone on my Twitter feed said it was." One hour of double-timed footage later, I was wrong: it was so very much worse than advertised. Thanks, Xbox Live? Thanks! You're, like, the best enabler ever.

The games for this week:

In the flesh: Boise State/UGA at the Dome.

TV, Live in real time and flipping back and forth: Murray State/Louisville split with UNLV/Wisconsin, Miami/Maryland, Utah State/Auburn, Minnesota/USC, South Florida/Notre Dame, BYU/Ole Miss, Colorado/Hawaii, Marshall/WVU

Replay: Baylor/TCU (had to go back and watch opening half, saw finale live,) Kentucky/Western KY (No idea why I did this seriously don't,) FAU/Florida, Oregon/LSU, Troy/Clemson.

H is for Hyperbole. "They have found a WEAPON with this punter!" --Brent Musburger, who actually said this in reference to a punter. I know this can be true, but Brent said this like he'd just watched the punter kill three trained assassins with nothing but a phone book and a car antenna. LSU's punter Brad Wing is from Australia, so he probably did this very thing twice before breakfast today just to say in shape.

I is for Incontinence. There is a very profitable online service that will deliver adult diapers directly to your home. This metaphor is leading to TCU's defense, a unit that allowed 1674 yards of total passing last year, and who in a single game against Baylor on Friday night allowed 414 in a single game. It also includes a request for discreet delivery of anything to stop the humiliation to Auburn, who suffered a lapse in dignity in almost losing to Utah State and allowing 27 first downs and 448 yards to the Aggies.

Auburn plays Mississippi State next, but we're sure they can (in the span of a single week) rectify the problems that almost allowed last year's seventh place team in the WAC to nearly upset the defending national champions at home.

PS. Auburn rolled Toomer's Corner after this. Assume this to be an act of sarcasm, or else go mad.

J is for Jarring. Daimion Stafford is a JUCO transfer at Nebraska, and like all JUCOs who arrived a month ago there are so many doubts as to whether he knows the playbook, or whether he fits in the defense, or if he's going to be hesitant on the field because he's thinking about where he needs to be--

--and nevermind he'll be just fine.

K is for Keenum. With TCU's hemorrhaging defense bleeding them out of the BCS Buster slot, travel but a few hours down the interstate for the next suspect, Houston, who beat UCLA in a 38-34 shootout on Saturday. A plush schedule helps, but so does Case Keenum's bionic knee working well as he completed 30 of 40 passes for 310 yards and two TDs.

L is for Lugubrious. Purdue fans rushed the field after blocking a field goal to beat MTSU. Here is a picture of a bulldog so you won't have to think about the abysmal depths of sorrow you just glimpsed within this single sentence.


Oh, bulldog puppy. Wipe away the tears so that we may forget Purdue football.

M is for Mumme. While his protege Dana Holgorsen was busy waiting out a lightning storm in West Virginia in his debut win over rival Marshall, Air Raid offense godfather Hal Mumme was home watching TV after he and his McMurry University team were beaten 82-6 to Stephen F Austin on Thursday. McMurry gave up 668 yards to 120 gained, was behind 52-6 at the half, and gave up six turnovers. 

In response, Mumme said this: 

The good news is we've got the check already. The scholarship fund is already richer.

Remember: somewhere that cupcake you destroyed in week one is preparing to beat a smaller, even more delectable cupcake's brains in, all in exchange for a paycheck. #thecircleoflife

N is for N. As in sample size, or why you shouldn't get overly excited about anyone's failures or successes this week. The Pac-12 looked awful, true, and based on one week's horrendous returns you may enjoy some measure of pointing and laughing. Hawaii beat Colorado, USC struggled against a Minnesota team working with its backup QB on the road,

but the Big Ten played no one, and the SEC split its marquee matchups and had one team nearly lose to the WACness. Only two of the five BCS conferences went defeated in warmup week: the Big East and the Big 12. Only one of those really exists, or will exist in two weeks, at least. That Big 12 sum includes a 10-7 "victory" by Kansas State over Eastern Kentucky University. Thump chests at your own discretion.

O is for Ovations. Steve Spurrier is okay with it. No, he knows he's gone forever, and is never coming back. Danny is gone, and no amount of excellent practices can make Connor Shaw into a game-ready quarterback who won't get us into a 17-0 hole against East Carolina, and...dammit. Go on in there, Stephen, but first...cut your hair like his. Just for him, Stephen. It can't possibly matter to you.

Stephen Garcia [completely missing Vertigo reference]: Whatever, dude.

[/completes less than 50% of his passes]

[/cuts hair]

[/runs like a drunken loping ape for two TDs]

[/leads yet another improbable win without looking anything like Danny Wuerffel]

P is for Prothro. The most impressive part of Nelson Rosario's one-handed catch over two defenders in the UCLA/Houston game isn't so much the catch, which is already admittedly off the charts of normal human performance.

The sickness here is Rosario's strength, enough to hold the ball one-handed and then pin it securely to his wriggling defender without allowing him to pop loose and dislodge it from his grip. High jump, inhuman dexterity, and coordination combined with a grappler's strength all in one motion.

Q is for Quadrimium. A wine best enjoyed after four years of aging. Vintages may include the Russell Wilson 2011 (10/13 for 255 and 2 TDs passing, 2 rushes for 62 yards and 1 rushing TD,) the Chris Relf '11 (led Mississippi State to a near-record 59 points in their victory over Memphis,) and redshirt junior Robert Griffin, who in his fourth season threw for five TDs against TCU. 

R is for Reactionary. Trying is overrated in football. I don't mean in the sense of effort, but in the sense of just blocking, tackling, and taking small gains while waiting for the other team to implode. The box scores between Oregon/LSU, East Carolina/S. Carolina, Boise State/UGA, and ND/USF back up this assertion, most especially so in the last case mentioned. If you are a Notre Dame fan, please stop reading right now, or else be prepared to feel like this all over again:


Notre Dame out-gained USF by a whopping total of 508 to 254, a perfect doubling of their yardage output. They dominated time of possession, ran the ball well, and yet through five turnovers validated USF's complete lack of ambition on offense. BJ Daniels averaged 4.3 yard per attempt, and when he didn't dink the ball down the field he took off for a whopping 2.3 yards a carry. All too happy to punt, the USF offense stood in the middle of the street, gun unholstered, waiting for Notre Dame to do a fancy pistol trick and blow their own head off--something the Irish courteously obliged them with on multiple occasions.

Apropos of nothing: BJ Daniels really does throw the most majestic uncatchable deep ball ever, since it it thrown high, with great power, and always to the goalpost with no hope of actually hitting a receiver. It's like the final bit of camouflage on an offense designed to whittle away the clock without really doing anything, the well-organized but useless spreadsheet file with the boss to make it look like you did something that day.  

S is for Spray and Pray. In 100 degree heat anyone will cramp up, but running for your life and throwing 39 passes in your first start will put you exactly where Casey Pachall was on the final drive of the TCU/Baylor: heaving a hopeless pass into an eight man coverage with legs so dead viewers could see the smoke coming off his calves. Both quarterbacks played hero but paid the price in the shootout: Pachall with his cramped, powerless legs at the end of the game, and Robert Griffin with a crucial reception on a trick play that ended with Griffin getting walloped by TCU defenders. (It says something really bad about TCU's pass rush that in order to properly jostle the quarterback, Baylor had to put the quarterback out as a receiver on a crossing route over the middle.)

T is for Tarradiddle. A lie, or the notion that SMU could be anything but a monied Iowa State at this point in the Big 12 after A&M laid waste to them in College Station. June Jones, adventurous in the best of times, seemed to have all the bad ideas at once: benching your established starter after struggling, horrendously executed gameplanning, and ignoring a running back ripping off nine yards every attempt in favor of spotty passing. That all happened before this, mind you:


via @bubbaprog's

U is for Unflagged. Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, penalty-free after week one of the college football season. For the none of you who called this, please collect your winnings at the casino cage.

V is for Vigilance. As of week one, the extremely stupid celebration rule allowing officials to call back for scores for excessive celebration was not invoked. Either everyone is just ignoring the rule and pretending its not there, or everyone obeyed it. The first seems likely, the second seems impossible, and a third possibility is that it's just waiting out there like a landmine for some hapless official hogtied by the rules to step on at a key moment.

W is for Wager. Given Auburn's death wish and complimentary streak of luck, I will go ahead and predict it decides the Auburn/Mississippi State game because a.) Gene Chizik also has a Les Miles-style Ferrous Equine Suppository he is not in any hurry to expel, and b.) because SEC officials seem doomed to call it first.

X is for Xavier Roberts. The creator of Cabbage Patch Dolls the adorable miniature dolls people stabbed each other for in department store lines in the 1980s. (Don't think your mother hasn't killed someone for you. She has, and probably over something you wanted, you ungrateful prat, you.)  Florida's duo of tiny, hand-stitched running backs combined for 5 total TDs against FAU on Saturday, including one by Rainey where he clearly hit the "B" button on a spin and left defenders slackjawed in his wake.  As a Florida fan I thank Mr. Roberts for making these tiny joys, and hope offensive coordinator Charlie Weis takes care of these collectibles as well as he did in his first game on the job.

Y is for Yawp. Lane Kiffin sounded his barbaric yawp again, and wrote another verse in his own "Song of Myself" by going for two-point conversions on USC's first two possessions. USC missed both, putting them in the position of chasing points for the remainder of the game, and placing Minnesota within a hypothetical field goal of winning the game late when kicking would have given USC a four point lead. Later, he will rewrite Whitman's "I Will Take An Egg Out Of The Robin's Nest" in reference to his penchant for nonsensical early two-point conversion attempts. 

Z is for Zeitgeber. A "rhythmically occurring event that cues organisms' biological rhythms," or otherwise known as what happened to you when you heard "Comin' To Your Cittaaaayyyyy" by Big and Rich when Gameday kicked on this weekend. I know, it's horrible, but operant conditioning is operant conditioning. You slobber when the bell rings whether you like it or not.

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