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The Alphabetical, Week 7: BCS Standings Just As Surreal As Everything Else

This week in Spencer Hall's A-Z college football recap: The first BCS Standings are out, and the rankings are just as surreal as the college football season as a whole has been.

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A is for Andalou, Un Chien. 

Got me a movie 

Oh ho ho ho 

Slicin' up eyeballs

Oh ho ho ho 

The point where the college football season lost all reliable bearings passed us all sometime around 10:48 p.m. on Saturday night when, with the kick of a field goal and a hefty lean of 1600 pounds of Wisconsin linebeef, it became apparent that Ohio State was headed for defeat to Wisconsin. 

Slicin' up eyeballs, oh ho ho ho---

Bunuel's surreal classic Un Chien Andalou begins with so many horrifying, arresting images: a three-loss Florida team and a two-loss Texas team standing on the wayside of the national title race, a man's hand slicing a cow's eyeball with a straight razor, an undefeated Auburn team running the world's coolest high school offense standing undefeated atop the SEC, Salvador Dali playing a piano festooned with dead donkeys, the hilarious and macabre sight of the Oregon Duck blazing away at the opposition with fearsome rate of fire. 

In truth, the movie has no football-related images unless you count the dead donkeys, which are in fact the model for the Florida Gator offense in 2010.  But when a trigger-happy duck rules the landscape and Jim Tressel is devoured by large burrowing mammals in Madison, the season has officially switched to a surrealist script written as an automatic writing exercise by the least lucid commenter on your internet message board of choice. That TCU/Boise State title game he's been bleating about for years now? IT'S A POSSIBILITY, DEAR READER.  

The only way through this madness is more madness. You're damn right this involves Les Miles, but more on that in a minute. For now, we're deeply into the surreal and trending downward or upward depending on your opinion of the season turning into the dance number from The Big Lebowski. (The official Alphabetical stance: we're all for it.) 

B is for Badgers Badgers Badgers Badgers. My friend Stranko went to the game in Madison, and reported that this conversation actually happened at a restaurant he and his traveling companions.

Dude: "I'd like a Bloody Mary." 

Waitress: "Well, sure. Would you like a beer chaser with that?"

Dude: "Does a Bloody Mary need a chaser?"

Waitress: "..."

Dude: "Yes, please." 

Wisconsin goes hard all day, and evidently all night, too. Ohio State's defensive line was, for the better part of the first half and most of the fourth quarter, flattened by Wisconsin's famously beefy offensive line. The one adjustment you can't make at the half is making the other team smaller, and less willing to continue throwing your linemen around like haybales, something Wisconsin did with glee on Saturday night. 

C is for Class Warfare. One description applied with the skill of an epileptic bricklayer by Craig James during the Thursday night USF/West Virginia Game: 

"This team has gone back to a tough, blue-collar mentality." 

How long will we tolerate such classism in our college football commentary? Scan the Wal-Marts of our nation: do these look like people as tough as the linemen who push each other around on run plays, scrapping for each yard as if their next sweet precious gasp of oxygen depended on it? Certainly not. It's condescending, especially since we don't refer to a team with brainy, precise play as "white collar." 

This could be quite fun, of course, if you decided to do it. 

"And Oklahoma State scores again!" 

"This offense is smart, Todd, They're precises. They know where the ball's going and how to trick a defense into telling them where the weak spot in a defense. They've really got a white-collar mentality going." 

"They scored that touchdown in a Porsche Cayenne made of mortgage fraud. They don't even look that happy about it!" 

"Yes they did, and no they didn't, Todd. That's just the kind of privileged sangfroid this team has." 

"It's like they'd rather be in Aspen!"

"Or playing lacrosse!"

"Or playing lacrosse IN Aspen!"

"It's the pointless New Yorker cartoon of offenses."

"That's about right, Todd." 

The point here? That Craig James is awful, mostly, and that the phrase "blue-collar" mentality is as informative to a viewer as Jon Gruden's use of the phrase THIS GUY to describe someone's skill in the game of American football. (I.e., not at all, and is just empty barking.) 

D is for DNF. Quarterback mortality tables need adjusting after this weekend in the worst way. Ryan Mallett sat out the second half with a concussion for Arkansas. Nick Foles of Arizona will miss two weeks due to a knee injury sustained in the Washington State game. (And there is nothing more awesome than losing a pivotal player like Foles to an injury suffered against the worst team on your schedule.*shakes angry fist at injury gods, who apparently have savage sense of humor*) Denard Robinson was injured again in the Iowa/Michigan game. Quarterbacks premiums will be adjusted due to market fluctuations and your increased likelihood of being blown the hell up on any given play, so be prepared for your bill to increase as is deemed appropriate by our billing department. 

E is for ECC. Error Correction Code, which will be issued all over the place to anyone hyperventilating too much over the BCS Standings and most especially the computer standings. The computer standings can really be made up by anyone with a computer who says they have a formula, a PC, and the chutzpah to claim they have a formula that makes any sense. For instance, I use an old Tandy computer hooked up to a snowmobile machine, program in FORTRAN exclusively, and use the jarred brain of an old Soviet mathematician I purchased from the Macon County, N.C. flea market.* And look at the sexy results it gives me! 

1. Utah


3. Oregon Trail

4. 3:32 p.m., April 16th, 2018

5. Army 


7. More belly rubs and slop, please. 

8. Florida State


10. Steve Radlinzki of Arbitrage, Pennsylvania 

The math can't be wrong, so attention BCS: hand us our membership to the formula now, and Captain Soviet TandyBrain and I will assist in putting the best possible candidates on the field in the BCS, or at least provide the insane math you need to justify putting the biggest market teams on the field for maximum ratings, bowl attendance, and media visibility. 

The point is that the computers are just as faulty as the humans and just as flexibly so, especially when none of the computers have an objectively impressive Oregon team at one and have LSU pegged as number one in two of the polls. You may as well make them entertainingly out-of-whack if you're going to do it, BCS, and I'm here to help when you're ready to construct a new bullshit formula to justify what's going to happen anyway at the end of the season. 

*Looks a lot like a pig brain, but you can't argue with the results. 

F is for Fright. 


Would there have been any doubt Mississippi State was going to beat Florida if--IF--you knew knew they were bringing that terrifying Mississippi State Trooper with them? The Florida offense is now fully stuck in the grips of a brutal touchdown famine, the Mississippi State offense ran two high school plays of brutal effectiveness for the entire second half and took football back to 1905, and a punter missed two field goals for Florida because, in addition to every other horror not named offensive coordinator Steve Addazio befalling the Gators this year, they had that guy starting at them from the Mississippi State sidelines? It's hard to focus on a game-winning kick when the face that's seen a thousand bareknuckle prison fistfights is staring at you from the sidelines. In hell, that's the man who administers hourly tabasco colonics, and he doesn't even bother to say "You're welcome" when he does it. 

G is for Gall. Take note, scientists: Randall Cobb may have a functional cloaking device, since he became invisible for two crucial plays at the end of the South Carolina game and scored both the go-ahead TD and the final two-point conversion despite everyone on the field knowing full well that Cobb, the most dangerous offensive player on the field for the Wildcats, was getting the ball. He blasted Kentucky fans on Twitter after the game, and then rode off on his prize Palomino to his home in the New Mexico Territory, since anyone named Randall Cobb has to be a cowboy or horseman of some sort, and may in fact be the Governor of one. 

H is for Hamhands. Steve Spurrier's strange clock management at the end of the Kentucky game was ripped straight from the Les Miles' Handbook Of Awesome Coaching Stuff. With 15 seconds on the clock and trailing by three on the UK 20, Spurrier opted to throw a fade into the endzone for an interception instead of positioning South Carolina for the field goal, which makes the classic "Balls>Logic" error in late game management. (This is the flip side to the "Balls>Losing" argument, which looks really good when it works, and becomes the Balls<Logic result when it happens.) 

I is for Incompetent. A slightly less ballsy variation on this week's adventures in time mismanagement: Illinois recovered a flubbed punt from Michigan State on the Michigan State 15 with 36 seconds on the clock before the half. Thirty-six seconds of precious time to work with in order to run plays for a potential football game. This is what actually happened. 


Ron Zook, everyone! 

J is for Jury-Rigged. It was hard to deny how scripted the Minnesota/Purdue game was, and how well-designed the entire thing was in order to convince the three remaining Minnesota fans who supported Tim Brewster that Gopher football was doomed as long as he maintained his employ. Was it the illegal motion penalty that called back a TD? The fumble off the pylon that took a Minnesota TD and turned it into a Purdue ball on the 20? The three missed tackles on a Boilermaker touchdown? All of them were classics, but combined they summed up three and a half years of futility no fanbase deserved. In the words of AD Joel Maturi after he announced Brewster's midseason firing:

"You’re not following Vince Lombardi here," Maturi said of a coach that exited with a 16-30 mark. "This is a situation where, you know what, somebody can come in and win some games and people are going to feel good about him and they win a few more games and they’re going to feel really good about him. And if we go to the Rose Bowl, we might even put a statue of them outside of TCF Bank Stadium."

Step right up, coaching candidates: one perfectly good job open with zero expectations and a possibility of the AD all but calling you horrible in public on the way out the door. (Which he was, but at least have a modicum of respect for the recently dead.) 

K is for Kansas, Bleeding. The worst team we saw all weekend, in a weekend crammed with some pretty horrendous performances, was Kansas, who just two years ago won the Orange Bowl with the very mean but evidently quite effective Mark Mangino at the helm. Kansas could have lost their game against K-State on Thursday night by a hundred points if this is what the Wildcats had really wanted to do, but even Bill Snyder, a man who would put fifty on a school for the deaf in week two if he could, refused this step. Kansas State scored in this game with their backup qb attempting to run the clock out, and then discovering that Kansas refused to let him get tackled and took the ball in the endzone for a reluctant touchdown. I repeat: Kansas is horrible, and how Georgia Tech ever lost to them is further proof the ACC has bipolar disorder and needs professional treatment for the condition. 

L is for Leaping Ligament Loss. Rob Calabrese, UCF quarterback, ran in a TD out of the "Wild Knight" formation for UCF, appeared to attempt a quick fistpump in celebration, and tore his ACL in the process. The NCAA reminds you that celebration rules are in place to prevent such injuries, such as the tragedy of a nasty groin pull associated with doing the Dougie after a touchdown. They're only trying to protect you from yourself, enthusiastic young athletes. 

M is for Murray. Georgia freshman Aaron Murray's pass efficiency rating is 18th in the nation, a reminder to Georgia fans that in a season beginning with faceplants galore they have something very real and promising to look forward to in the form of their young quarterback. The other bonus from the passing efficiency rankings: Cam Newton is the second most efficient passer in the nation, proving yet again that one way to being an efficient passer is being strong enough to throw the ball through the sternums hapless DBs for completions.  

N is for Newton. The tricky thing about Cam Newton isn't so much his running ability, it's the combination of the Malzahn offense and the refusal of your body's tissues to withstand the battering and bruising you receive from his. The Malzahn offense can run at either speed with Newton: either slow, as they did in the Mississippi State game to keep their gassed defense off the field and use Newton like a fullback with an eye on the playclock at all times, or fast as speedy hell like they ran against Arkansas on Saturday. 

Watching Auburn run the zone read toward the end was tragicomic for the Razorback fan, since defenders in the end were bellyflopping with fatigue in all directions trying to keep up with the simple but maddening read play. Even when they read it correctly Newton hammered away at Arkansas with an unreal display of stamina or dished to Onterrio McCalebb.

This is typically where the comment is made that "We'll see if he can keep this up the whole season." Screw that: the only challenge will be Auburn's defense sucking enough oxygen on the sidelines to keep up with the Tigers' offense, the only attack in the SEC fully committed Oregon-style to taking every second of the clock and turning it into points. If this is WAC football, then viva la WAC, because the Arkansas/Auburn game was exhausting, maddening, and by far the most entertaining SEC game this year not involving Les Miles doing something fantastic on accident. 

O is for Option 2. Newton put forth a Titan's effort on Saturday, but a word please for Arkansas's Tyler Wilson, who came on in relief of Ryan Mallett on the road at Jordan-Hare and went 25-for-34 for 332 yards and 4 TDs. He threw two late picks out of sheer exhaustion trying to keep up with Auburn, but that's perfectly excusable considering he ended up playing a full football game in just a bit over two quarters. Auburn Football 2010: Sponsored by Rhabdomyolysis

P is for Politically Incorrect. Black facepaint's just never a good idea, kids.  



Q is for Question! Since this is the season of complaint and firing and pre-firings, let us just construct the worst possible available coaching staff out there for you to wish upon your rivals. Ready? GO. 

Head Coach: Tim Brewster. 

Offensive Coordinator: Steve Addazio, Florida. 19th in the nation in total offense if you're dyslexic. 

Defensive Coordinator: Jamie Hill, BYU. He's been fired for two weeks already, so he's tanned, rested, and ready!

Quarterbacks Coach: Jeff Bowden. He's had years of rest at this point, so raring to go. 

Recruiting Coordinator: John Blake 

Team Morale and Self-Esteem Coordinator: Mark Mangino 

Give me this team, and I will get you to probation and the GMAC Bowl. Or just one of them and you get one guess, and the first doesn't count. Either way it would be pure magic, I assure you. 

R is for Rockaway Beach. There is actually a town in Misssouri named this despite its great distance from anything you might reasonably call a beach. (There is a "hillbilly beach" of sorts, as their website proudly advertises, but that's less a beach and more of a soft place to pass out drunk after drinking a 12 pack of canned American beer.)  The choice of Missouri for this week's College Gameday infuriated SEC fans who cried ESPN conspiracy, and for once I'd actually like to function without my SEC tinfoil hat. 


This really is how they work, and the first preference for any game will be going to a big game somewhere where they've never been before--thus the visit to Boise State earlier this year for the Oregon State/Boise State game, and now to Mizzou. There's a thousand delightful conspiracy theories at ESPN. (How does Craig James stay employed, or avoid becoming confused by the bright lights on sets? That's just one.)  This, however, is not one of those. As unbeachy and unholiday-like as Missouri may seem, it is the number one ranked team in the BCS going against an undefeated Mizzou team in a game they own exclusive rights to in a place they haven't hit yet.

(Also, please: remember the least plausible part of any conspiracy: people not talking to other people about it.) 

S is for Sailing. As in the five passes Duke QB Sean Renfree sent breezing into the Miami secondary in a 28-13 loss on Saturday. You take the Cinco de Oro for the day, Mr. Renfree, both for your generosity and for making Jacory Harris seem judicious and studied in comparison. 

T is for Taliaferro, Adam. Defensive tackle Eric LeGrand of Rutgers appeared to duck his head down before a fourth-quarter tackle injuring his spine and rendering him paralyzed from the neck down. His prognosis is uncertain; in a fair world, he'll end up like Penn State's Adam Taliaferro, the Nittany Lion whose paralysis-inducing football injury ended with him walking out of the tunnel onto the field at Happy Valley. 

I haven't seen film of the hit. I don't know if I want to see film of the hit knowing I could be watching someone take their last steps before living life in a wheelchair. There was a point in the history of football where even the President acknowledged that in order to survive, the game had to reform itself . (That was Teddy Roosevelt, whose advocacy of those reforms contributed to rules changes shaping the modern game as we know it.) 

It won't be possible to remove risk entirely from football. By definition it is a sport of violence and force applied at high speeds. No matter how the rules are written, there is a chance you could step onto a football field as a 270 pound behemoth and leave it a quadriplegic. 

Leading with the head with open intent and as a matter of emphasized technique, however, is intolerable. The mounting evidence connecting football-related concussions and degenerative brain injuries is bad enough; the use of the helmet as a weapon is worse, since it adds the risk of serious spinal injury to the equation.  

Thinking about this became even more galling watching the NFL on Sunday, the practice is widespread at every level of football, but the acceptance of it at the NFL level is an unpardonable tolerance of an imbecilic and dangerous practice. 

When by rule you may not leave your feet for a tackle in 15 years, this will be the reason why. 

U is for Unmarked Cars. Those cruising without loss through the college football landscape: Oklahoma, Missouri, Michigan State, TCU, Utah, Oregon, Auburn, LSU, Boise State, and Oklahoma State. 

V is for Void: Western Kentucky, the 0-6 team who blew a 24-7 fourth quarter lead in losing 35-30 to University of Louisiana-Monroe; New Mexico, who stayed at 0-6 this week and unlocked the achievement of not losing to the bye; and Akron, who lost 38-10 to Ohio this weekend. WHO WILL KEEP THE STREAK ALIVE? We boldly predict New Mexico to get off the mat first, since they've actually been losing by fewer and fewer points each week, and didn't just set themselves on fire late like WKU just did. 

W is for WACtastic: Auburn and Arkansas combined for 108 points, 55 first downs, and 1036 yards of offense in their game Saturday. 

X is for: 


Aaron Williams drew a personal foul for this, but when you were pushing Nebraska around as effectively as Texas was on Saturday, it was a luxury they could afford. 

Y is for You And The Horse You Rode In On. The most miserable fanbase of the week must, by any definition, be Nebraska's, whose team continued their decades-long slide to the Longhorns in the regular season to an even fifty years, and who slashed Taylor Martinez's previously staggering yards-per-attempt average by holding him to a mere 21 yards on 13 carries. If you ever wonder why Texans clutch their chests at the thought of losing defensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp, that number and the meager 201 yards of total offense on the day for Nebraska is why. Mention him going to Georgia or LSU to a Longhorns fan! Do it often, and do it loudly. 

[THE PRIOR ENTRY WAS SPONSORED BY ATIVAN: Ask your doctor if Ativan is right for your Will Muscamp Loss-Related Anxiety.) 

Z is for Zoophagy. The eating of animals, or the struggle for life that continues next week as two more undefeateds will go down in the Oklahoma/Mizzou and LSU/Auburn games.