SB Nation

Spencer Hall | November 14, 2012

The Alphabetical, Week 12

Texas A&M continues to confound Gary Danielson

Texas A&M confounded both Alabama and Gary Danielson at the same time, Nick Williams is returning punts for the wrong team, and the SEC schedule week is horrible.

Anguish. Pitt's punter Matt Yoklic could have chased UConn punt returner Nick Williams forever and not gotten a damn inch closer to him.

That has to be the worst moment in a punter's day: the moment when, after kicking a football all day in an athletic manner, you are then asked to do something footbally, and are then humiliated for not being a full-time tackling contact-type player. On a related note: Nick Williams of UConn is a tiny white punt returner, and why he is not playing at Iowa is yet another indictment of Kirk Ferentz's declining powers as a football coach. (All tiny white punt returners belong at Iowa, forever and ever, from now until Ragnarok.)

Bargains. Logan Thomas hasn't ended all three of Virginia Tech's consecutive losses with interceptions, since only two of them ended with Thomas INTs. So at least Tech is diversifying the painful manner of death, and that helps when you watch them roll out Thomas directly into the teeth of coming blitzes or run the zone read badly ten times a game. (Virginia Tech runs a lot of the principles of the spread option as badly as NFL teams, and that is saying something if you have watched the Jets drunkenly slam the TebowBone into opposing defenses)

College Station. One half of the Bryant-College Station two-star solar system currently hosting lifeform Johnny Manziel and his coach, Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin won't get enough credit for any of this: not for Manziel's development, not for the Aggies reversing their well-worn but totally earned rep for hopping on teams early and then forfeiting leads, not for the Aggie defense stonewalling Alabama and forcing them into the deeply uncomfortable role of playing a pass-first offensive football team.

A&M was thrown to the lions of the SEC West this year as an easy meal, and then recovered and in turn ate everyone in the cage save for LSU, making them the cruelest Soviet Russian dinner of all: one that eats you. Manziel wasn't even supposed to be the leading candidate for starter in 2012. That, if you will remember, was Jameill Showers, whose job seemed even more secure after Manziel's involvement in a barfight.

Manziel's excellence--his mind-boggling, ball-rattling, giddy, freewheeling, young-Brett-Favre-as-Sonic-The-Hedgehog, frenetic, ever-shocking multichambered grenade launcher of oh-shit wizardry--is the surprise. Nothing should surprise about Sumlin, a coach who succeeded at the D-1 backwater of Houston after serving twenty years as an assistant coach. He's standing on the ceiling of what most thought was possible in year one at Texas A&M this year, and reversed the very psychology of a program singlehandedly.

TL;DR: Sumlin is awesome, and you might lose all that in the cloud of Johnny Manziel fireworks going off around the Hate Barn these days.

Danielson. It is not that Danielson was openly mourning Alabama's loss this past weekend to Texas A&M. That is to be expected since CBS frontruns the SEC, and within the SEC frontruns the daylights out of those frontrunners. They helped ignite the Tebow phenomenon, and we're all very sorry for that in retrospect because SKIP BAYLESS.

It is that after years of cutting reality into pieces to make the spam argument about the spread not working in the SEC, Danielson was left speechless by Texas A&M's dissection of the Alabama defense. If the color guy's commentary leaves out a good half of what is happening on the field, then the color guy is something else entirely. That something, for lack of a better word, is Gary Danielson.

Ethanol. Late in the cold miserable stretches of a Washington State loss to UCLA in Pullman, a hero emerged.

You can smuggle an entire bottle of Fireball Whiskey into the stands in Pullman, though if they weren't handing them out at this point in the season then by any rights they should have started on Saturday night. Per its website, Fireball "tastes like heaven and burns like hell," matching Washington State's football flavor profile at a 50% compatibility rating. (The burning part only.)

Fire Joe Morgan. Back to Danielson for a second. The site created by Ken Tremendous, aka The Office and Parks and Recreation captain Michael Schur, devoted exclusively to savaging bad sports commentary. Joe Morgan was the primary target mostly for his opposition to statistical analysis, an opposition staunchly in line with the entire modern approach of looking at the boring but very quantifiable game of baseball.

This would be the issue if Gary Danielson was openly arguing against looking at the statistical profiles of teams. (And he could do it in pretty neat ways now thanks to F+ and other Football Outsiders' business.) It is the naked inability to evaluate what is happening in front of him, something he can't blame on age. Brent Musburger does it all the time midstream in games, and still manages to tip his hat in the direction of the team he just won or lost money on simultaneously. Brent Musburger's only loyalties are to the line, and most often to the actual story of the game.

Gary Danielson is the one who, in a naked bit of insanity on air, said the spread offense would not work without a transformative football figure like Tim Tebow, or Cam Newton, or Johnny Manziel, or basically any really talented quarterback. Nevermind the circular logic here, i.e. that quarterbacks a.) can put up ridiculous numbers in spread offenses thanks to the design of the offense itself, and b.) that any system has its advantages and disadvantages, like how Alabama's power run game turned into a turtle on its back playing without a lead.

Oh, and finally: most irritating of all is the dishonesty of not saying Alabama got its ass kicked by a very real team called Texas A&M, something he still wasn't admitting THREE DAYS AFTER THE GAME.

Gary Danielson,'Alabama has been a dominant team, but you have to win them all. They played a hot QB who was efficient vs the secondary'
11/13/12 6:08 PM

Not a good team doing things well, but a quarterback who stumbled into the catnip and was merely efficient. A quarterback who did things like this all day with teammates blocking like hell for him, and a defense that held the Alabama juggernaut to its second-lowest points total of the year and forced there turnovers. In Gary Danielson's version of the French Revolution, undecided to take a nap, and just happened to mistakenly lay down in a guillotine at the wrong instant.

Gaming. It is against a broadcaster's code of ethics to wager on games they are calling, something Brent Musburger never, ever does, and never ever will.

[whistles loudly, drops betting slip in coffee can dead drop]

Herniated. As in discs, one of the many back problems Purdue's OC Gary Nord could have missed Purdue's game against Iowa for during a hospital stay. That hospital stay coincided with the team's best offensive performance in conference play. The Boilermakers totalled 490 yards in offense against the Hawkeyes in a 27-20 win, and also might need Gary Nord to stay in the hospital as long as he needs to in order to heal properly. No hurry. Just taaaaaaaaake it easy, buddy. No rush. Back's a tricky thing, that.

Imprecation. An inexact word for a curse, but the perfect word for an inexact phenomenon: THE UNDER ARMOUR CURSE. Kevin Blank's expensive dancewear brand for bulky, athletic men and excitable prepubescents protects the house of the following teams with the accompanying 2012 records

  • Auburn: 2-8
  • Boston College: 2-8
  • Hawai'i: 1-8
  • Maryland: 4-6
  • Northwestern: 7-3
  • South Carolina: 8-2
  • South Florida: 3-6
  • Temple: 3-6
  • Toledo: 8-2
  • Utah: 4-6

42-55 in the year 2012 is not exactly the curse of King Tut, but it does little to suggest that form-fitting overpriced undergarments have no significant effect on athletic performance. (And are avoided by military personnel, since they melt and stick to human skin at high temperatures.) I may also still be mad that Auburn jumped ship from dependable Alabama-based Russell Athletic gear. If they were good enough for a generation of alcoholic elementary school gym coaches, they're still good enough for you, Auburn.

Jon. As in Gruden, who is not coaching your school because he is not a college football coach, and whose association with the University of Tennessee is based on a brief stint as a graduate assistant there over three decades ago. That is it. That is the only reason you hear Tennessee fans saying this aside from the kind of delusional hope you scrape from the walls of the pit of despair. That stuff you're eating is mold, Tennessee fans, and causes powerful hallucinations. (Plus, why go expensive for Super Bowl rings when Charlie Weis is at Kansas, a guy who has coached college football before! We didn't say what kind of college football, but he has definitely coached college football before.)

Knoxchill. The Dooley era will not end to yield to Jon Gruden, because Jon Gruden is not a college football coach, and also because talking on television for millions of dollars is much, much easier than coaching football. In fact, very little will be missed or remembered about the Derek Dooley era, save for special moments like this:

Vols QB Tyler Bray said he was the starting QB and punter in HS, and if he didn't want to punt, he just didn't.
11/13/12 12:43 PM

Lethal. As in the amounts of IDGAF coursing through Tyler Bray's bloodstream at all times. Summary: arrived on campus with back tattoo of his own name in stars, signalled "it's good" while throwing away a ball through the uprights, was cited for reckless jet-ski driving, tossed beer bottles into a parking lot off an apartment balcony for fun, and admitting that the winning TD against Vanderbilt was thrown despite having no clue what play they were running. We will miss you, Tyler Bray.

Mode. Practice mode, specifically. Once, very late at night, we beat the game Splinter Cell without killing a single clueless AI bot. (Knocking them out, shocking them, gassing them, strangling them into unconsciousness, yes, but not killing them.) I actually yelled out loud, and then realized that all I would have to show for it was the memory, and perhaps a sad little badge I could save under a virtual profile to show that yes, with the limited time I'd spent on earth, I had taken a good chunk of it and blown it on twiddling an imaginary middle-aged ninja through a Georgia fortress to save a simulated America. There was a point here about nothing counting in an undefeated season for Ohio State, but now I'm just going to cry and throw my XBox in a furnace.

[/does not throw XBox away]

[/still cries]

Nihilist. Illinois has eight rushing touchdowns on the season, and just three in conference play. You know what you tell someone who has no hope? This is a serious question, because I need to know what to say about Illinois football, which may just be Colorado football's Midwestern doppelganger. Don't even think about what would happen if the two played on the same field. The only thing I know is that grass would not grow on that soil for years afterward, and that PTSD is real and this game would prove it.

Omnishambles. The O.E.D. word of the year for 2012 in Great Britain. For application, please see the two teams we just mentioned, or Gene Chizik getting fired just two seasons after winning the national title.

Palsy. Mick Hubert nearly blew out a jugular on the blocked punt call that saved Florida from going to overtime against University of Louisiana-Lafayette. If you find a piece of Mick Hubert on the ground, please return him to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. He will not reassemble himself like the Iron Giant, and needs to be pieced together by hand.



The instructions for facing a confused Nick Saban are the same as fighting a mountain lion. Try to look as big as possible; give him a wide berth if you hear him coming through the woods; avoid all contact, and by all means if the worst possible should happen, never, ever give up in the fight. The odds are long of you winning the fight, but the probability of death if you don't is worse. (P.S. Do not go after Nick Saban's eyes. They have a protective fold covering them, and are a waste of your time.)

Riotous. That player is Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, aka "Ha-ha." We live in a golden era of football, and it is all because there is someone named "Ha-Ha" whom Nick Saban must call "Ha-ha" every day in practice.

Substratal. In one sense, groundwork, i.e. the solid base of MAC football you can build your whole viewing week around. This is not sarcastic, particularly in the case of Toledo versus Northern Illinois, the game holding the greatest potential to turn into a true chemical truck fire of a game. The 7-2 Toledo Rockets coach Matt Campbell was hired at 32, and you are an utter failure for not having coached your own MAC football team at this point in life.

Theodora. Wife of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, a woman of insatiable sexual desires who allegedly serviced forty men in a night. That's a feat of Clara Bow-esque endurance, since the actress is famously alleged to have also slept with a large group of men in a single night. That group: the USC football team, the same team who had a porn video shot on their field, and who this week plays bitter cross-town rival UCLA. The point here is to stay away from those wearing skirts and sandals in ancient history or today, because they probably engage in risky sexual practices at greater frequency than the rest of the population. (And also that JIm Mora isn't saying USC is a place for the sexually depraved, but you probably won't see people filming sex on top of a USC building in broad daylight, either.)

Un-unconquered. NC State lost to Tennessee and yet somehow beat Florida State to utterly ruin the Seminoles' shot at a national title. There are a thousand things you will never understand about this season, and this is the most incomprehensible.

Verdun. What every Big Ten game is like if Iowa is involved, with offensive coordinator fits Kirk Ferentz's Marshal Petain philosophy perfectly: one yard outs on fourth and four, and moving ever sideways and never forward. QB James Vandenberg's yards per completion: 5.83. The total number of running backs with significant carries who average better than this per carry: 62 of them, with Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez tied at 5.83 yards per carry.

Weaklings. The SEC's pre-rivalry week schedule features the following abominable cardboard cutouts on the schedule: Samford, Sam Houston State, Jacksonville State, Western Carolina, Georgia Southern, and Wofford. Mizzou remains the black sheep for going north to play a football game at Syracuse, something Mike Slive is going to have a stern talk with Gary Pinkel about over the offseason. Oh, and Auburn plays Alabama A&M, but is not included because seriously they might lose this game, and thus would not be a total upset.

Xander. We'll always think of you as the proto-Archer, Xander Crews.

Yonder. Past the horizon, go the dulcet sounds of a sad forgotten song about a possible Indiana Big Ten Championship Game appearance. Let it fade, but forget not its melody. <---song sounds like this.

Z Ocean Hotel. The luxury hotel in Miami, site of the bizarre Kansas State/Oregon national title game we're all hurtling headlong towards at an uncomfortably rapid pace. (All except for Chip Kelly, the only one hitting the accelerator frantically in any situation.)

About the Author

Spencer Hall is the editor of and a contributor to He focuses on college football and participatory pieces involving trying new sports. He does not excel in the latter and is trying really hard in the former. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with a big dog and a gun.