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The Acrostical, Week 5: Charting chaos and recognizing fire

Brady Hoke's next job will involve a giant novelty sign, the Charlie Weis retirement plan is one we should all try, and Tennessee will beat Florida in a just universe. It's the big college football weekend notebook.


Ed Cunningham cut Brady Hoke to ribbons for the entire thing on-air, and deservedly so.

Incompetence is always a better explanation than designed malice. If Brady Hoke deliberately kept quarterback Shane Morris in the football game against Minnesota despite an obvious head injury, then he should be fired. The primary threat to football as a sport is head injury and the violence that causes it, and for Hoke to jeopardize the health of a player for a game would be an appalling, amoral decision highlighting everything not just currently wrong with Michigan, but with football as we know it.

If this were demonstrably and evidently the case, then set up a trebuchet and pitch him into Lake Erie with great force.

Yet this isn't what happened. What actually happened may be even worse, by degree of neglect. Hoke famously doesn't wear a headset. He is and always has been a delegator. The people on the field responsible for injury calls are the same everywhere: the trainers, the ones who know something about torn ACLs, dislocated shoulders, and all the other impact-based injuries football brings. The failure in not taking Morris off the field begins with the medical staff not recognizing (or possibly ignoring) players waving for the QB to come off the field. It continues with Morris being sent back in by the staff, something Cunningham was irate about on the TV call.

That failure spreads up the chain to Hoke, the delegator whose delegations would be fine if they didn't roll downhill with the aim and care of randomly tossed airplane wreckage. Michigan, despite decent-to-good recruiting, is now a one-way portal to obscurity for incoming talentAttendance has cratered despite corporate sleight-of-hand with ticket sales. The coaching staff appears to have lost any ability to direct players in any coordinated fashion. And at the end, even the basic safety of the players seems to be an issue.

For some reason, it's important for people to note that Hoke is likable, and I'm not sure why. You can like someone and yet not put him in charge of an ER. You can hate someone and still allow him to operate on your brain because, well, he's a neurosurgeon, and asshole or not, there simply aren't a lot of those around. You don't have to say how likable a failure Hoke is every time the issue of his incompetence comes up. It's as evident as his inability to do the job.

Furthermore: if you are one of the 10 people whose primary beef is to claim it's irresponsible to say that Morris had a concussion, you have internalized the language of the law, reaching insane abstraction in defense of the indefensible. Morris took the crown of a helmet to his chin, then was visibly disoriented while having serious difficulty standing. An MMA ref would have stopped this fight cold. That's how bad this looked: an MMA event would have taken better care of Morris than a collegiate athletics staff did on Saturday.

But sure, point to the man on fire. Tell someone you don't know that man's on fire. You did spy the application of gasoline. You did see the striking of a match and the ignition of a flame on a person's body. But you don't know the fire was what did the damage, do you? Did you establish this with medical personnel? Did you obtain a record of that? Fire's done a lot for us as a species; indeed, we would be long dead without it. Don't just slander fire like that. And who can say the person applying the match knew what he was doing, for sure? Did you ask them if they have an understanding of gasoline/fire relations, chemically speaking? Prove these things, or say nothing.

You beggar that down however you choose, and believe the devolution of facts into what will be primarily an inhuman and mostly legal-ish response from the University of Michigan. There is a tired and vile playbook for engaging in advantageous public dialogue as a liable institution, which changes nothing about Michigan rolling a woozy Morris back onto the field. Michigan did that. The rest is teaching the controversy in the name of naked self-defense.

Oh, and the Big Ten crew should have ejected Theiren Cockran for the hit, which is against the rules that should prevent this from happening in the first place.


Home department of Rene Descartes, the creator of the extremely useful Cartesian graph. After watching Texas A&M rope-a-dope much of its game against Arkansas and then bail itself out with two late bombs, one canny overtime play on offense, and some randomly excellent run defense out of nowhere, the question came to mind: how on earth do you characterize A&M versus Arkansas, two teams diametrically opposed in approach, and yet still both pretty effective in what they do?

The incomplete, unscientific answer Descartes has to be thrilled with: you make a Chaos Matrix.

The formula is a special one. It is one made up entirely by me and based on:

  • Long plays from scrimmage, the ones that screw up steady, orderly matriculation down the field.
  • The simple but effective Havoc Rankings made by our own Bill Connelly.
  • A hefty dose of eyeballing, as in watching UConn play football and saying, "Hey, they'd really like to be out of here in three hours or less."

As unscientific as this is, it is still fun to play with and see a lot of what you see on the field plotted out by team personality. Oklahoma's so far over to the right because, while they haven't been super explosive, they haven't really needed to be, instead relying on merciless productivity against everyone they've faced. South Carolina's two losses and defensive embolisms have then sinking below Florida, but the Gators sit even further out on the chaos axis, thanks to their secondary playing an innovative 4-3-0 defense against Alabama.

If we could put plummeting arrows on Florida, we would. Let's just do that right now, shall we?

That feels more accurate.

Other shocking things; Virginia Tech has been very disruptive despite being ineffective overall, Iowa has been unremarkable in somehow going 3-1, and Baylor is even more capable of short-circuiting normal football than you even thought. Also, if you want to see Lane Kiffin's influence visualized, finding Alabama on the left side of the chaos divide thanks to its greedy passing game does it pretty neatly.

That bottle of Fireball is Wazzu, college football's Bomberman (in any game they play, it is only a matter of time before something blows up for someone, Wazzu or the opponent) Notre Dame and BYU are disciplined and systematic, Nebraska's more explosive than you might realize, and FSU's trending away from steady production and more and more into "let me pull six or seven passes out of my ass and win this game" territory.

Don't look at the lower right quadrant. Just don't. At least UConn is polite about intruding on your football and excuses itself quickly while taking the express elevator to the ground. We'll just be punting and getting on our way here, ma'am. Sorry for the bother.

Oh, Baylor and Kansas, at opposite corners of the universe? They play each other on November 1, because college football is still that open stage in the history of the UFC when they let dudes from bars fight arm-breaking Shaolin masters.

P.S. Arkansas held A&M to 4-of-13 on third down, held the ball for 37 minutes, ran for 285 yards, and still lost in overtime, because ... well, just look at the graph right there. They're in the group of teams capable of reanimating at any time in the game without much warning. The Hogs are so much better than we imagined they'd be, and they've already lost two games. The SEC West is a booby-trapped house of knives and pain.

P.P.S. It's a nice consolation prize, at least: Arkansas linemen are Kobe beef cows now, massaged with first-class seats on football flights, fed only the finest fodder, and probably set to sleep with the gentlest and finest sonatas from the classical canon.


David Pollack getting angry with Rece Davis and Jesse Palmer for using eighth-grade vocabulary words is my favorite new broadcasting gag. Palmer used the phrase "amuse-bouche" in a lull Thursday night, and you could hear the jock-rage boiling as Pollack instinctively looked around for someone to shove in a locker. It was nearly as entertaining as listening to him contain his former defensive player outrage when Texas Tech kept trying to snap the ball before the officials were ready. (Related: I would bet Pollack has opinions on home run celebrations and rap music.)


As in the shaving cream even plastic mascots need to keep their skin smooth and soft.



"He was a good customer. Quiet. Polite. Same thing, every week: shave with a warm towel, no haircut. Never took the hat off, actually. REAL intense-lookin' dude. Tipped over 20 percent. Carried a few guns with him, but that's not real unusual here in Stillwater, so we didn't mind. Seemed like he just needed the company, but that's a lot of our customers. Sometimes a body just needs a body to listen, or maybe just be there while they forget the troubles of the day. Nice guy. Made of plastic, sure, but the heart? Just as troubled and real and made of flesh and blood like the rest of us, friend."


As in Pickens, the progenitor of the Oklahoma State football program and namesake to its stadium, where the Cowboys and Red Raiders paid disservice to football and the notion of efficiency this past Thursday.Texas Tech-Oklahoma State was a clusterfuck in all directions for four quarters: 26 penalties for 287 yards, with the majority of that yardage belonging to Texas Tech, the nation's leader in penalties per game. The Red Raiders also sit towards the bottom in turnover margin. Texas Tech is not a very good football team right now, for the most boring and reliable of reasons: they don't do procedure, at all, in any sense of the word.

Going into this week, only one school could claim a top-15 spot in both the positive side of turnover margin and penalties: UTEP, a 2-2 Conference USA team that nearly beat Texas Tech in El Paso in Week 2. UTEP pays its bills on time and has neat handwriting, and sometimes that's enough to get you pretty far in both C-USA and life.


As in the license taken here to produce the not-inaccurate ways of describing poor Jalen Hurd's day against Georgia in a Tennessee loss:

  • Jalen Hurd ran like he got the last PS4 in the store on the day after Thanksgiving.
  • Jalen Hurd ran with so little daylight he should have been wearing a headlamp.
  • Jalen Hurd ran with more men on his back than video game Greg Jennings.
  • Jalen Hurd moved more weight by himself than Pusha T says he does on three albums combined.
  • Jalen Hurd ran like Oldboy with a hammer down a crowded hallway.
  • Jalen Hurd staged a community theater presentation of "Tremors" as the giant worm. Georgia defenders played the dirt.

Todd Gurley will get most of the pub (and not undeservedly), but please note that Hurd gained 119 of the toughest, least-blocked-for yards in college football Saturday, doing it mostly by running directly into the facemasks of UGA defenders and starting negotiations from somewhere eight inches or so off the offensive line. If he and Tennessee beat Florida for the first time since 2004 this coming week, they would deserve it.

Football is not fair. If it were, Tennessee would have beaten Georgia, and for a lot of reasons. UGA's linebackers are a screaming, flammable liability in pass coverage. Mike Bobo called the kind of game that, prior to Aaron Murray's arrival, had Bulldog fans demanding his headset. (Five straight pass calls to open the second half, including an INT by Hutson Mason, will do that when Gurley and Nick Chubb are in your backfield). If Tennessee hadn't had enough sorrow in close losses, they can also take some comfort from losing in a novel way: a game-saving punt stop by Damian Swann put the Vols on their own one-yard line, leading to a Justin Worley fumble for the decisive late TD.

It won't help too much, but relief is on the way for Tennessee, if Will Muschamp gets the Florida Gators to the stadium. He might not, as getting to Knoxville involves going to the air and then completing a few passes on the interstate.



Via ESPNews

It was a special week for special teams all around: UNC's punter got an unnecessary roughness penalty, Ole Miss had a kicker ejected for fighting, and an Australian punter named Sam Irwin-Hill for Arkansas avenged his countryman Brad Wing's classic fake punt run for a TD against Florida by running for one that counted against Texas A&M.

Special teams are the scary drugs of college football, and the people who voluntarily coach and participate in them are unstable people. They are the demolition men of the sport. Stay away from them if at all possible.


An Ohio State coach pulling out The Rock's finishing move on a random stranger for cause is the dream that the entire, angry state of Ohio dreams at once: an excuse to kick the shit out of someone in public without repercussion.

Boat shoes and a visor also make the victim pretty SECish, so yes, this all fits perfectly.

"But hey, that's a harder hit than anyone in the Ohio State secondary's made in two years," he said, alone in his room and only to himself, and definitely not to a sullen and agitated group of Ohio State fans in a crowded bar.


Making a football team is like making a fine whisky.

You start with pure ingredients, combine them in a calibrated cooking process, and then you place the result in barrels. Then the distillery catches on fire because a worker has stolen a barrel, consumed too much of the booze inside of it, and fell asleep smoking in the corner with some old rags. The whole thing burns down, and you use your insurance money to start again with something less capital-intensive, like an income tax preparation business. This is how Brady Hoke ends up waving at traffic in an Uncle Sam outfit with a spinning sign on a roadside outside of Ypsilanti.

Maybe we need to start over with Arizona State, for instance. The Sun Devils had to replace nine defensive starters, including face-painted goblin-monster Will SuttonNo, it's cool, because they're good, because they were good last year. They'll be fine. They faced a UCLA team with a healthy Brett Hundley at quarterback and had to start their backup quarterback after starter Taylor Kelly injured his foot against Colorado.

In retrospect, this was an inevitable disaster, the kind young teams fall face-first into all the time. ASU's Mike Bercovici played brilliantly for what he is: a QB making his first start playing a live UCLA team. His defense gave up 580 yards, his offense coughed up four turnovers, and that's how you end up surrendering record numbers of points at home. It's a debacle, yes, but always look up your variety of debacling, which in this case is your "Juvenile Pac-12 Team Incurs Pac-12-sized Point Differential In Loss."* It's a disaster, but it's not one that's irredeemable.

It also helps to have Ishmael Adams, UCLA's defensive back/kick returner, putting up 201 yards of kick returns and a 95-yard INT return for 14 free points. We told you this was a disaster you had to put in context, and a good chunk of that context comes in making the mistake of ever letting Adams touch your football.

* Remember: when it's not your team, it's an informative case study. And when it's your team, it's a total farce and everyone should be fired.


Boise lost badly to Air Force, but the innovation never stopped. Wide out Thomas Sperbeck executes the first play-action fake on a catch I've ever seen.


As in the floor, to readers' Twitter questions:

Mack Brown has like 28 houses that are all nicer than yours and the penthouse in the tallest building in Austin and makes money with a microphone, so he's Ric Flair now and never needs to coach again.

A very real idea: Dennis Franchione, who flirted with the Kansas job when he was at Alabama (no, this really happened) and is currently at Texas State. He'll be cheap and is pretty adept at program revival by this point. This is not a glamorous suggestion, but getting a young, up-and-coming talent to take a job like Kansas is a no-go until another coach who is an established retread eats a few years of rebuilding and clean-up.

There is no documented reason to believe Charlie Weis can coach at the college level, so no. No one should ever give him a college job or a dollar again, and no one needs to, after he's bilked three schools out of outrageous sums of money. I hope to do this same thing one day, but in the legal profession. (I am not a lawyer, but dream of being prosecuted for impersonating one and then beating the rap ... BY REPRESENTING MYSELF.)


The honest answer besides "neither team has a defense" is: I have no clue. Colorado had 39 first downs and lost a football game. Mike MacIntyre could have taken his shoes off on the field and refused to leave and no one in the stadium would have blamed him. Both quarterbacks threw seven touchdowns. This box score is the only kind of literature that should be banned from our schools.

The final four will likely feature the SEC champion and the team that comes out of the Big 12 with one loss or none, and that leaves two spots. If the Pac-12 has a one-loss team, it gets a spot, and that leaves a choice between either an ACC team (including, for ease's sake, Notre Dame) or a Big Ten spot. And if that last spot is an undefeated Florida State, then no, Nebraska does not get in, because of the Big Ten's horrendous decade of post-season performance.

That is not fair, but it is what will happen even if Nebraska wins the rest of their games. On the upside: undefeated and shunned is still better than the usual 9-4.


The metric amount of football to watch this week, which contains the following: Arizona at Oregon on Thursday night, Alabama at Ole Miss, Baylor at Texas, Florida at Tennessee, Stanford at Notre Dame, Miami at Georgia Tech, Nebraska at Michigan State, and Oklahoma at TCU.

There is not enough eyeball or brain in your head or room in your stomach to finish it all, but you are an American. You'll try to devour it all anyway, and should. Gluttony is a sin, but it remains a five-touchdown favorite over starvation.


As in SMU's quarterback play.

Just let gravity do the work, SMU, and don't be afraid to take a knee if things get too bad out there.