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The Alphabetical, Week 4: Catlock enters the courtroom

The rare mid-week Alphabetical proposes Bill Snyder as our greatest country attorney, Ron Cherry as a NFL referee, the death of the NAPA Know How Man and Stanford introducing its 11-tight end offense.

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Abseiling. The only way to enter any room, really. If he could, John L. Smith would probably enter every room at the end of a rope, rappelling into the frame like a badass geriatric retired paramiltiary ninja coming back for just one more mission.

Beowulf. This matches Beowulf's storyline, more or less, or The Expendables, or any number of Flomax commercials about a bunch of old guys getting on bikes and crushing that bike ride through canyons without peeing themselves once. Only Beowulf is honest about how these stories usually end, because the book ends with one aged and violent Viking on the ground right next to the slain dragon. (The Expendables real hero: cheap and abundant HGH.)

So ha ha, it's funny to laugh at John L. Smith's cantankering, and how versatile his disasters have been. Smith has lost to a Sun Belt team at home in overtime, a Big East team at home, and to SEC West rivals Alabama in a 52-0 defeat whose only peer in the pile of corpses Nick Saban has in his fridge is a 63-7 win over Georgia State in 2010. Georgia State was in the first year of ever having a football program. Historically, you are at Year Zero again, Arkansas.

It would be nice to say there is hope, but hope is a dim pinprick of light at the top of the well, and you are at the bottom.

Conjurer. Old age does not have to be totally depressing. For instance, you can be coaching's Matlock, Bill Snyder, just waltzing around the courtroom asking the judge for just one little indulgence of a question.

Digression: There are two courtroom presences in television who bust through the flimsy finish line tape of jurisprudence like a sweaty Kenyan marathon runner: Matlock and Law and Order's Jack McCoy. They had different styles. McCoy usually objected, and then requested a recess in the judge's chambers, presumably because they had nicer bathrooms and McCoy had shy bowels.

Then, once in the judge's chambers and fresh from turning Your Honor's privy into a Superfund site, Jack McCoy would then argue, usually citing something he read on Wikipedia. "Your honor," he'd say, "here the law clearly doesn't understand my client's condition, [something from the news], which affects one in every 892 citizens, and is common in CITATION NEEDED HERE."

Shutdown Fullback on Week 5, Chip Kelly and Miami

Then one of two things would happen. 90% of the time, McCoy would be turned down, and then win his case in last minute improv, silently smirking to himself at yet again getting to use the VIP bathroom with a D.A.'s paygrade. The other 10% of the time Sam would lose to prove a vital point about racism or other bad things. "How's the weather," his colleagues would ask as he got into a cab. "Racism," he'd say, and then poignantly get in the cab to go to his house, which did not have a bathroom half as nice as the judge's.

Jack McCoy is the worst attorney in the history of television.

Exeunt. With McCoy out of the way, back to Matlock, and Bill Snyder, who just keeps the witness on the stand long enough to get them to tell their secrets for him. Miami spilled their guts instantly, confessing to a weakness against the run. ("288 yards rushing, old man! And I'd give them all up again!")

Oklahoma didn't go instantly, but Catlock* got it out of the witness eventually. Oklahoma can be pushed around in those spaces where Tommie Harris used to mob blockers along the defensive line. They can't push teams around with the run as they did with Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray. This is a diminished version of full-strength Bob Stoops Oklahoma football, and it will confess it if a determined, well-prepared inquisitor works it hard enough for 60 minutes.

(You know. Someone like Catlock.)


*I regret nothing. Not this, nor proposing a film called The ExpendaBills with a cast made up entirely of Bill Snyders.

Foreboding. The decline of a very good coach is the easiest ploy around. Bob Stoops has averaged just over 10 wins a year at Oklahoma. No, really: in his 14th year at Oklahoma, he has 141. His own standards mean an awesome year is average, and a good year is mediocre, and a genuinely bad one is catastrophe. Since his first season in Norman, Bob Stoops' worst years have topped out at the disgraceful total of only eight wins. One fan's foreboding is another's nirvana, and that fan right now is an Alabama fan.

Gaffe. Um, Arkansas fan. Someone from the state of "Arkansas," not "Alabama." SMILE. My god, 2012 can't end soon enough for John L. Smith.

Hamfatter. A $20 word for "a bad actor." Even with a horrendous week of games, the month of October looms, the point where bad actors hit their Taylor Lautner Point and reveal themselves as just a pretty pair of abs. Looking at you, Texas, who after a breezy trio of warmups now face Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Baylor all in a row. If there's a single gap in that fireproof suit of a secondary, one of these teams will find it and burn you badly enough to require no bad acting whatsoever.

Incinerator. Texas is not the only one. For instance, tonight in America's rainiest and 22nd-largest city, Stanford will have to prove that after hammering USC they can continue to bring the bludgeon unlike any other team in the Pac-12. This will be easier against Washington than against most: the Huskies gained just 26 yards against LSU, and now face the nation's top-ranked rushing defense. Keith Price won't necessarily die in the backfield, but he may want to by the end of the game. (Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov, standing over him in the backfield, may insist his punishment be more ... severe.)

Jabberwocky. It's very simple to explain how, within the rules of football, Stanford manages to field a six-tight end set. There's some math, and then mimsies, and after some slimy toves you get six tight ends and a caterpillar coaching on the sidelines smoking a hookah. Okay, that's a member of the Stanford band. But you want a team made up entirely of mean tight ends, you get what you get in terms of useless but entertaining byproducts, man.*

*This is a description the Stanford band would embrace proudly.

Kilt. Georgia Tech plays a kind of football where you go for fourth-and-one because you have to, and because your defense won't stop the other team for too long, and because in the triple option, when you read it properly, you should be able to get one measly but very necessary yard. Tevin Washington came off the snap, dove toward the goal line on fourth and one in overtime, and met a ball of Miami shoulder pads and helmets. In the country parlance of Paul Johnson: he got straight kilt at the line.

Leverage. That said, this is a familiar pattern at Georgia Tech, even if Washington made a horrible read on the play. (And given the penetration Miami got on the play, there's no fine line between "bad read" and "obliterated blocking scheme.) This is Johnson's sixth year at Tech, and there are no surprises left. He will go for every fourth down. He will run the triple option nearly unchanged from the day he brought it in.

And if that fourth down call does not go his way, then he will go for it on the next, and on the next, and so on and so on to infinity. Remember the Dana Holgorsen quote about Mike Leach succeeding not because he had changed, but because he had never changed a thing about what he did? That's Paul Johnson, too, along with 98 percent of the coaching community. It's not recruiting (Johnson's consistenly in the mid-40s or so nationally) or scheme. It's the very way he does things.

Memories: It could be worse: you could have the polar opposite of the gambler, Georgia Tech, an NFL coach who punts on fourth-and-inches and never does anything interesting whatsoever. A Chan Gailey, if you will.

Ogden Nash. The poet who wrote this about a nepotistic Hollywood producer who gave jobs to members of his abundant family:

"Uncle Carl Laemmle

Has a very large faemmle."

It has to be wonderful to coach with your sons, and get back some of the time you squandered working 18-hour days trying to start a career. It really does: I don't mean that with an ounce of sarcasm. It is also one of the first places people strike when looking to critique a coach--like, say, Kirk Ferentz--with a struggling team. That's the bare minimum of why nepotism is bad, and family members should find jobs elsewhere even in the clubby circles of college football. You wouldn't think you have to repeat these things, but here we are anyway.

Purloin. To steal. Unrelated: hey, the over/under in the Baylor-West Virginia game opened at 79 1/2 points. Between two teams capable of scoring 50 each with ease, and little semblance of defense playing at a sleepy noon kickoff. Just two entirely unrelated things here.

Quaeritate. To ask questions, as in "How long will Mike Riley's comeback tour last in Corvallis?" Most of this season seems to be the answer, but Arizona looks like a fine place to take the inevitable early stumble, particularly since Rich Rodriguez's offense scored zero points against Oregon last week. No, points are not like rollover minutes, but let's assume "scoring something in the red zone" was a focus in practice, and that Arizona won't be under the same kind of pressure they faced with the Oregon offense.

Rarity. Diamond-spitting coal seams aren't under as much pressure as a team facing the Ducks' offense, making Chip Kelly the Chuck Fipke of football minds. That's really just an excuse for you to read that piece about a man who discovers billions of dollars of diamonds and then spends the rest of his life having dinner at strip clubs, but there's a Chip Kelly analogy in there somewhere. (Nike may have a gentleman's club somewhere in that intergalactic spa of a locker room, but if they do only Phil Knight and Michael Jordan know where it is.)

Sayonara. After it plays Tulane, ULM will complete its gate-crashing tour of college football conferences and return to the Sun Belt, where Todd Berry will quietly wait for the the next unwitting sucker to schedule them. Todd Berry is the funnel-web spider of college football coaches, and the Sun Belt is our wacky football Australia full of creatures too weird to live, but too fierce to die.

Terminate. Napa Know-How Man, you're not making it out of this alive.


I ain't a doctor

Can't fix your lung

Can't change your oil

No solderin' gun

But if I see your face walkin' down the street

I'm putting this brick right between your teeth!

Just gimme one of these!

[jumper cables]

And one of those

[car battery]

We'll take you into here

[dark torture cellar like the one in Casino Royale]

And don't forget the hose!

[length of rubber pipe to beat the Napa Know-How Man's feet during interrogation]

Napa Know-HOOOOWWWW!!!

Na-na-na-na-naaa--[singing is drowned out by screaming]

Don't look at me. I'm only torturing him once. He's on your television torturing thousands of viewers a week, and can't be stopped by man or beast.

Umbrage. It is delightful to watch NFL fans complain about refs when Ron Cherry and Marc Curles wander our streets as free men with a pocket full of flags and vivid imaginations. Oh, to watch Ron Cherry work an NFL game, and then explain something like this to an angry crowd of drunk people. Better still: have him do it in front of drunk people from Baltimore. (This is not redundant: science says someone has to be sober at one point in Baltimore, because eventually you have to sleep or you will die.)

Vainglorious Bowl Prediction of the Week. Arizona State versus Wake Forest in the Sun Bowl. It's not warm in El Paso in January, but barrels of burning tickets keep the aristocrat and hobo alike warm in a scenario like this.

Whaa---. I trust Gary Danielson as one of the best five second-thinkers in the business of analysis. No one is faster in reading a play in a very short time, and then immediately translating what happened and why to the reader. Watching Danielson call a close game is a genuine pleasure.

The problem comes when Gary Danielson gets to that sixth second and begins really thinking about things. For instance, Gary Danielson is fond of the idea that the spread offense does not work in the SEC. One might even say fixated to the point of blindness, since Danielson said this exact thing while Connor Shaw was throwing a play action pass off a shotgun zone read play to a wide open receiver in the endzone. He then later went on to explain how every spread offense that had succeeded in the SEC was "not a real spread."

Xenization. The process of travelling as a stranger, i.e. someone trying to figure out a world where a Dooley is coaching a Tennessee in an Athens for a "job-saving victory." Time travel would be so hard for so many little reasons, and this is one of them. (Because a Georgia fan from 1980 might legitimately have a stroke upon learning how things turned out. Shhh. Don't mention Ray Goff to him. The strain will kill him.)

Yew. A type of hardy evergreen, much like B.J. Daniels, the ancient quarterback playing FSU this weekend. LIke a great tree, he will not be taken down without significant effort. And also like a tree, he cannot throw a football.

Zurlon. It's true, Iowa Nice Guy: Central Michigan is a really good football team, especially with the power of running back Zurlon Tipton working for you. The nation's 23rd ranked rusher, and number one in the part of your heart you reserve for someone named "Zurlon."

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