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College Football Alphabetical, Week 8: At The Intersection Of Past BCS Champs, Bowl Eligible And WTF

In this week's Alphabetical, a dog mysteriously appears at Faurot Field, Cam Newton is a heroic epic all to himself, and some kind words are spoken of the Big East. (No, really.)

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A is for Animal Abuse. There is a history of schools spontaneously adopting canine mascots. George Tirebiter trotted along with USC for a while in postwar L.A. until he met a tragic but predictable end beneath the tires of his preferred quarry. Mex the Dog, named for his original country of origin, patrolled the sidelines for Oklahoma from 1915-1928 and performed a task that was both non-ornamental and a reminder that America used to be so much cooler. 

One of his main jobs was to keep stray dogs from roaming the field during a game in the days when the football field was more accessible to non-ticketholders.

Not only could you die from onfield action in football at the turn of the century; one could in fact be torn apart by wild dogs or given rabies during a play, things that are impossible in the controlled environment of the modern game. The lone exception to this in the present day is any situation where you or your teammates are playing with Vontaze Burfict. If you have been bitten by Vontaze Burfict, do NOT wash with soap, as his super-rabies will merely be angered up by the cleansing lather. Seek medical attention immediately. Alert the Centers for Disease Control. 

So perhaps it is a sign of tradition in a very untraditional year in college football that someone at Mizzou would, in the giddy heat of the moment after the upset of the Sooners in Columbia, decide to backpack their dog into the stadium.


It's also a sign that the security staff at Faurot Field should be sacked immediately--unless the universe, pleased at Gary Pinkel's first ever victory over Oklahoma, decided to spontaneously generate a puppy in a student's backpack in honor of the occasion. If that was the case we apologize, Celebration Dog. Your tab at Harpo's is on us. 

B is for Breakneck. The continued tumult requires the comforting fiction of diagrams. 


The Past BCS Champs circle of this diagram is particularly fun, since you can find Texas, Florida, Miami, and Tennessee all in the "completely hopeless," with Florida and Texas' troubles coming with such swiftness they may be included in the overlapping WTF circle. 

C is for Compulsory. Bilal Powell did not have options, since Charlie Strong said in the postgame press conference that he told the offensive line Powell was not coming out until he had reached the 1,000 yard mark on the season in the Cardinals' game against UConn. Fortunately for Powell he is young, very well-conditioned, and was playing against a UConn defense that had already allowed Denard Robinson of Michigan and Bernard Pierce of Temple to run unfettered through their secondary and beyond. Powell eclipsed the thousand yard mark on the season, got to sit on the bench, and enjoyed something Louisville hasn't for a while: a 26-0 shutout victory in the Big East. 

This brings us to the moment you only get once a season: the moment something nice is said about the Big East. Powell is already over the 1,000 mark while Jordan Todman of UConn is close behind with 841 yards. If their production holds, Delone Carter of Syracuse, Noel Devine of West Virginia, and Isiah Pead of Cincy could all eclipse the 1,000 yard mark on the season. If you want running backs, you could do far worse than the choice selection the conference offers. 

Thus concludes us saying anything nice about the Big East, which should still lose its AQ status in the BCS along with the ACC ASAP plz kthxbai. 

D is for Defenestration. 


Cam Newton came to Auburn because he made a poor consumer decision at Florida in purchasing a stolen laptop, and then throwing it out a window. This is called the act of defenestration, or throwing something out a window. 


Cam Newton, in case you don't know, has not stopped throwing things out of window. For instance, on the half-sunny, half-shaded field of Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, Cam Newton threw whatever coverage LSU was throwing at him out of the proverbial window. Cover 2, attempting to limit the damage he could do running? Defenestrated. Blitzing? Sidestepped, seized, and thrown out the window. Spying Newton? Your spy is dead, and diplomats must work with great discretion to ensure that this "businessman" is returned to his home country with little fanfare or controversy. All of them: out the window. 


It wasn't even that loud in Jordan-Hare during the run on Saturday. If you watched the game, you know what run I'm talking about already: the 49 yard TD run in the third quarter where Newton on the zone read kept the ball, took a seemingly clogged lane through the middle of LSU defense, bounced it right, broke or short-circuited at least four tackles, and then scored with All-American Patrick Peterson, the best cornerback in the SEC, clinging to his shoulders like a Japanese schoolgirl's plush backpack. 

It got loud, but the silence was not apathy. Shock and awe do not make sounds initially: there's the action, and a gap, and then the explosion that follows. 


There was cheering, sure, but it was of the awestruck variety, a kind of hesitant roar since no one in the stadium knew exactly when it was going to end. This isn't true of some plays. On an open go route little stands between the receiver and the endzone: the celebration is instantaneous. This was the kind of mass reaction you hear from a roller coaster's occupants; up, then down, then back up again to a sustained crescendo when the big hill is reached and the whole thing plunges downward. It wasn't that loud until the end, really, when everyone's brains caught up to their eyes and realized what they'd just seen on the field before them. 


It was a high school recruiting tape play: one guy making shit up, just pulling one improvised dodge after another, the kind of play coaches love and scouts hate because it's "dangerous," and "will never fly in the league." That is, I suppose, the point: college is the last frontier for the singular athlete, the standard deviation above which all talent begins to flatten, and the landscape of midgets and giants becomes the NFL's even landscape of perfectly level capabilities. Cam Newton is a giant. Midgets run in his wake, sprinting helplessly while he lopes. 


To hell with the league. Cam Newton in that moment is hyperbolic in a way he can never be again. An entire team trails him, either lying on the ground beaten by a stiff arm, or  a dodge, or simply the irresistible momentum he carries with him into the endzone. On Saturday he ran for 217 yards on 28 carries and scored two TDs, but the numbers were eclipsed by the singularity of his sway over the game. Auburn's line, wide receivers, and running backs became incidentals, and in a game of keep away with the LSU defense Newton looked, at times, bored with the ease of it all. 


On television it had to be impressive, but in person Newton blew the doors off the ability to describe what was happening.  

E is for Excessive. They were taking the 15 no matter what happened.  

F is for Faurot Field. The piece of real estate surrendered wholesale and without opposition by the Sooner secondary on Saturday. If you need an answer for how this happened on Oklahoma's part:  Willie Martinez, everyone! Without taking credit away from Mizzou, it should be mentioned that until this year Georgia's defense enjoyed nothing more than watching the ball as it sailed into receivers' hands before sound tackling brought opponents down 15, sometimes 20 yards deep in the secondary. If OU's secondary appeared to be porous, forgiving, and affectionate to Mizzou's receivers on Saturday, there's a grand reason for that, and it's in charge of the Oklahoma secondary. 

G is for Grace Under Pressure. 

Not exactly Mack Brown's strong suit in the post-game presser after the Longhorns, afflicted with an offensive anemia unseen in his entire tenure at Texas, lost 28-21 to Iowa State in Austin. It's talk radio pablum to say someone throws someone else under the bus, a regurgitated phrase used by people who don't so much create langage as they vomit up that spat out by others. So let's not say Mack Brown is throwing anyone under the bus. Let's say that he's cranking up the engines on a 747, strapping himself to a sturdy pole, and then throwing his coaching staff, players, and everyone else involved with this loss into the whirring turbines of those engines. It is not his finest moment, but this is Texas football 2010. There are no fine moments aside from beating Nebraska.*

*Mass vomiting from Nebraska fans, who will never have a better chance to beat the Longhorns. 

(Paul Rhoads is sure excited, however.

H is for Hainted.  Don't play quarterback for UCLA. Just don't. Ever. Cade McNown made some kind of heinous deal with Beelzebub to sacrifice the future health of all UCLA quarterbacks forever in the name of becoming an NFL draft pick, and even then he didn't read the fine print about being "a successful NFL draft pick not coached by Gary Crowton."  Kevin Prince is out for the season, and so is every other UCLA quarterback forever.  Until exorcisms are performed or the soul of Cade McNown is collected by the Dark Executive himself, this is how it shall remain.

Fortunately, you don't even need a quarterback to outscore Texas, though Rick Neuheisel's decision to kick a FG down 39-3 instead of going for it on 4th and change may have scuttled any karma football deities could award the Bruins in 2010. If fortune favors the bold it hammers the cowardly. 

I is for Ignavia. Laziness, as in WVU, whose offense under Jeff Mullen is a maddening hodge podge of short passes, occasionally brilliant Noel Devine runs, and red zone possessions that could be credited for sudden spikes in the Wild and Wonderful state's heart disease rates. When things have gone pear-shaped for West Virginia, it's the offense that has led the way down, which was precisely the case on Saturday as Geno Smith threw three interceptions and was sacked five times in the Mountaineers' 19-14 loss to Syracuse. It's a general rule that you should be able to tell thematically what an offense is doing at any given point. Oregon runs out of the spread using the zone read. USC runs a pro-style passing scheme backed with a burly run game. Navy runs the triple-option with a focus on establishing the dive. West try stuff, and then they sort of give the ball to Noel Devine and hope stuff happens. (This may be what's written on Bill Stewart's playcard, actually: "Noel/give ball/ stuff/ hope happens.") 

J is for Japan. The birthplace of Robert Griffin, whose long recovery curve from an ACL injury his first year has now soared well above what he accomplished as a freshman. Griffin was 26/38 for 404 yards and 4 TDs in a 47-42 win over Kansas State. This is the happy part of this story. The bad part is Baylor's six win total at this point in the season is further proof that the dark forces of the universe are in charge of this year's college football season, and that you might want to start sacrificing animals of various types to various gods in order to keep the demons at bay. We have no other explanation for Baylor and Syracuse both having six wins at this point in the season, and don't you dare say "It's because they're good football teams." I'M NOT EMOTIONALLY PREPARED FOR ALL THIS CHANGE AND YOU MUST INTRODUCE IT TO ME SLOWLY. 


[/passes out] 

[/wakes up, sees Syracuse with six wins] 

[/passes out] 

K is for Kriegspiel. Nebraska/Oklahoma State, a war-game staged between two armies who forgot shovels but remembered artillery. 1,035 yards of offense, 47 first downs, and 92 points between the two teams in a 51-41 Nebraska victory is the Big 12 we know and love, a game of NFL Blitz played between two fat-fingered n00bs with no concept of playing defense. Taylor Martinez alone had five TDs and 435 yards of offense by himself, including 323 yards passing because against Oklahoma State one can simply wake up and say, "Well, I think I'd like to play the part of [INSERT FAMOUS QB HERE.] On Saturday, Martinez chose the part of Tim Tebow, and got to play it to a frightening degree of accuracy.*

*The offenses of the Big 12 would like to thank the Oklahoma State defense for their continued patronage and support.  

L is for Linkage. UAB nearly beat Mississippi State in a 26-24 loss, meaning the Blazers might be even money against Florida if they played them in Birmingham this week. <----THINGS THAT WHEN TYPED CAUSE MINOR UNDETECTABLE STROKES. 

M is for Maturing. The sweet concision of radio standard sportswriting does have its advantages. For instance, one could imply that LB Vontaze Burfict, the supremely talented defender for the Sun Devils with a penchant for emotional meltdowns and personal fouls, was rabid, insane, or both. Or you could just drop the dry and delicious juxtaposition employed here

- Erickson said MLB Vontaze Burfict has tried to become more of a leader lately. As an example, he said Burfict pulled away freshman DE Junior Onyeali during a confrontation Saturday. Burfict had eight tackles against Cal. He also had two facemask penalties.

In case you missed it, Arizona State lost 50-17 to a Cal team that lost badly on the road to Nevada and who only scored 48-14 against the worst USC defense in recent memory. Arizona State is never turning the corner one turns in order to turn a corner to come close to turning a corner, and has been on a slide ever since Dennis Erickson's first season in Tempe. In other words, the longer Dennis Erickson has been there, the worse they've gotten, a trend that will likely continue for the duration of his tenure. (Which shouldn't be much longer.) 

You don't have to tell ASU fans that, though the subtlety may be a bit much for the less sensitive reader: 

(via pigskinfilms)

N is for Nonpareil. Texas Tech wins by a field goal against Colorado. Tuberville looks at the scoreboard. Neither team has scored over thirty points, and his kicker walks victorious off the field. At last, Texas Tech played the perfect game and played it his way. All was right with the world. It wasn't 3-2, mind you: no, it would be years before he could install the right mix of defensive tenacity and offensive paralysis, the slamming run game that kept going no matter how few yards it gained, the noodle-armed quarterbacks he would recruit to hand off 40 to 50 times a game, the punter, oh the sweet would all come together. But a field goal was a start, he thought: it was a start.*

*Key reading point for the Redbird Reading Group: Tommy Tuberville's goal in life is to win games by field goals. It is what drives him, and all that scoring at Texas Tech just made him nervous. 

O is for Objective Rankings.

Things If We Ranked Them Like We Ranked College Football Teams Like The BCS Does. 

1. The Office. It was good, what, like five years ago? it must still be good, so number one it is. 

2. Also huge in what, 2003? Hasn't done anything wrong recently either, so there we go. 

3. Animal Collective. Everyone told me they were awesome two years ago, so as a college football voter I'm just getting around to them now. And just like TCU? No one really likes them outside of a small devoted following. 

4. Tornadoes. Had a big week THIS week, so let's just overrank them badly and drop them next week. 

5. The Philadelphia Phillies. You have to have one genuinely confused pick in the BCS. This is that in so many ways. 

6. Love. Something a machine can never understand. Just like Oregon, and why they're good! 

P is for Parenting. This was an actual conversation between a teenage son and his mother in the LSU section on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. 

Mother: [to Cam Newton] HURT HIM! BREAK HIS KNEE! 

Son: Mom, you can't want them to intentionally injure the possible Heisman winner, can you? That's not even reasonable. 

Mother: Does he wear da purple and gold?

Son: Mom, you can't==


Son: No, ma, but--

Mother: THEN HE GOTS TO GET HOIT, SON. The Tigahs gotta win, son. YOU DO WHAT IT TAKES. 

Son: [stunned] 

Q is for Quizzical. Gary Danielson might be waiting, Dexter-like, to kill Jordan Jefferson after this season is done. No quarterback has been on the butt end of Danielson's cudgel more often and with greater ferocity, and that says a lot given Danielson's extremely critical style when evaluating qbs. Nevertheless, it's fair: when Danielson savages Jefferson's propensity for staring down receivers and making horrible passes, it's accurate, and precisely what an analyst is paid to do. Jefferson, for his efforts, gets to play football and gets a free education. 

Compare this with the pay scales in effect in the NFL. Last night Cris Collinsworth, an otherwise fine commentator, bent himself into byzantine knots attempting to blame Randy Moss and Percy Harvin--two of the best athletes in the NFL--for Brett Favre's imbecility against the Green Bay Packers. At the highest levels, criticism ceases to exist: if Danielson is too harsh at times, it's in start contrast to the far end of the spectrum in the NFL, where mythos replaces the reality of an aging player whose worst tendencies in his youth have returned to become his greatest handicap in old age. 

It's the American CEO complex writ large: the relatively poorly paid day laborers of college football receive criticism disproportionate to their responsibilities while a grizzled exec like Favre receives a free pass for his worst on-field transgressions. (And this is limited to on-field transgressions only, please.) 

R is for Rupture. Kansas has been outscored 159-24 in Big 12 play now after their 45-10 loss to Texas A&M.  

S is for Sitcom. A form of television that satisfies and amuses for exactly 30 minutes, after which the extension of the formula grow stale and begins to break down. See: Tennessee football, the squad that played Alabama for a competitive 13-10 half of football just like they played Oregon to a competitive 10-10 tie at the half of their matchup earlier this year. Both games ended in blowouts, of course, but that's what happens when your depth chart just reads "LOL" at half the positions and your first-year starters at qb, while full of effort, are still first year starters at qb. 

This is what Dooley is working with: he told an unnamed player to get in the game on Saturday, and the player simply didn't acknowledge what was happening and did not go in the game. Judge Dooley based on one thing this year: survival.

T is for Turnabout. Clemson effectively ended their victory over the Yellow Jackets with a 7:30 drive for a field goal, thus turning the triple option strangulation tables against Georgia Tech for once and overcoming the secondary challenge of an elevator that almost ate 12 players before the game. 

U is for Understudy. Matt Scott,'s role as Nick Foles' understudy went exceedingly well: 18/22, 233 yards, and two TDs with no picks in a 44-14 breeze over Washington. Sark Week, the holiday celebrating the resurgence of Washington football, has been postponed for the second straight year. This postponement is of indefinite length and will be lifted with authorities deem it prudent to do so. 

V is for Very Fired: Mike Locksley, Ricky Bustle, Dennis Erickson, and just to get ahead of the curve, Turner Gill. 

W is for Watershed. Western Kentucky ends our long national nightmare by finally winning a game and terminating the 26 game losing streak the program claimed prior to beating UL-Lafayette 55-21 this weekend. The remaining winless rabble WKU leaves on their way to the relative penthouse of teams that have one win as opposed to none: only poor Akron, the last winless team in FBS America. 

X is for Xanthocomic. Having yellow hair, as in Blaine Gabbert, whose 30/42 for 308 and a TD was what Mizzou needed most against Oklahoma from their qb: clean, neat, and without the kind of errors that had plagued Mizzou qbs in prior debacles against the Sooners.  

Y is for Yew. The rolled trees at Toomer's Corner after the victory, which Auburn fans were still garlanding a full four hours after the game on Saturday. 

Z is for Zinnober. A shade of chrome green, as in green of Oregon's sparkly helmets, which for the moment appear to be the headgear of choice for the kings of the national championship as awarded in October. (And that's all it means right now to be number one or number two in the BCS: you're national champions on Halloween, which is no championship whatsoever.)