A is for Abduction. Whoever took the Lee Corso head from the set of Gameday, please return it. It is not yours, and unless you're going to send it around the world and take pictures of it as it travels from place to place, and then send those pictures back to ESPN, you'll need to give it back. If you do plan on doing this, a shot of Corso's head in front of the Mao portrait is desired.
But while we're discussing Corso: this might be a sign, or at least a meaningful coincidence if he leaves the show. He's made an immense effort in coming back from a stroke, a very public effort and one that was not without its own on-air hiccups. If he decides to go--and given some of the painful on-air moments there have been, it might be that time--this is the totemic tip of fate's hand as to which direction it will go.
B is for But And There Always Is One. "This isn't important hey let's talk about." Nonsense: in an atomized, sprawling college football landscape, an environment with myriad conferences and personalities, it's rare to find a single effective gathering point for it all. This is what Gameday has done so well, and continues to do so well, and to deny that Corso was part of the show's slow rise to becoming what it is would be dishonest. The attendant personalities of the sport are more than mere sidepieces, and if you don't believe that say the name "Keith Jackson" out loud and watch a brown-robed Jedi ghost of pure college football appear in your vision. If and when, it will be time to be sad about another great old dude leaving the arena.
C is for Ch-ch-changes. The false trend piece is my favorite type of completely fictional journalistic piece. The way this works: take a journalist on deadline, have them consult two of their friends about things they like, and then write up a trend story making it seem as if your friends' habits are in fact broad societal trends. Samples include:
- "Tiny, French, and Adorable: Are French Bulldogs The Old New Old Must-Have Fashion Accessory from 2005 that is now 2010?"
- "The Group Sleepover: Why Having Your Friends Pass Out Drunk On Your Floor Is The New Slumber Party!"
- "Are Traffic Tickets The Parking Tickets of the 2011 Season?"
- "Running Late to Work: It's the New Early!"
College football is not immune. Take anything you read about "Is this the age of offense?" with a grain of salt, or better still set it on fire and throw it in the nearest garbage can. The can will catch on fire, and then the fire department will come, and a passing reporter will write "Are Garbage Fires The New Bumfights?" You'll have done a service to everyone.
But really, there is no pattern to what wins year-to-year in college football in terms of emphasizing offense or defense. Alabama won on a locktight defense and run game in 2009. Florida won with balance in 2008, but broke almost exclusively to the defensive side of the coin in 2006. 2007's LSU team defied easy categorization, but this is Les Miles we're talking about. (With a healthy Dorsey they leaned toward defense; without they just did whatever Les Miles teams do to win football games.) In 2005 Texas went Vince Young left, Vince Young right, and Vince Young to a championship.
To say there's a pattern aside from immense talent and solid fundamentals of some sort is insanity. When the "Era of Offense" pieces pop up in January post-BCS title game, remember this, and that next year's champion will prove us all wrong by having no defense, no offense, and the best soul-killing special teams you've ever seen. (BeamerBall for 2011 National Champs! Take it to Vegas as a lock now and get good odds early.)
D is for Drakes. Picking up the final frame of Oregon's perfect game was in theory a nasty little speed bump, a rivalry game on the road with real potential for the kind of disaster that sometimes afflicts teams who can't help but be looking forward to a national title shot. And as they've done all year long, at one point Oregon just decided they didn't want Oregon State around and hit the afterburners.
They waited long enough before doing it, putting a quick pair of TDs up at the beginning of the fourth quarter. to turn a 23-13 tussle into a 37-13 laugher late. (OSU still pulled it to 37-20 late, but garbage time is garbage time.) They did so with late scores from Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James. Darron Thomas contributed two passing TDs to add to the pile. Oregon picked up a crucial first down on a fake punt. This is going somewhere. I promise.
E is for Esprit de Corps. If there is one advantage that Oregon has going into the national title game, it is its offensive diversity. Assume the two are a push defensively in being somewhat slack units with some outstanding pieces. Assume parity on the offensive genius gameplanning element. (Malzahn's gameplan against South Carolina was immaculate. It had no weaknesses, and was sixty minutes of kill, kill, kill. Kelly is Chip Kelly, and you should be familiar with his offensive genius or you shouldn't be reading his.)
The one real advantage Oregon can claim is the lack of a dependence on a single player, something Auburn cannot. Cam Newton has 48 of Auburn's 73 TDs in 2010 by himself either passing or rushing the ball, and accounts for a monumental chunk of their offense. The defensive gameplan, in theory, is easier than defending Oregon's attack. So there's your moment of optimism, Oregon fans. You just have to stop one man, and this game is in the bag.
F is for Fantasy. This is also what USC's defensive coordinators likely said before the 2005-06 BCS Title game, too. [SAD DUCK FACE.]
G is for God Mode. From the age of video games best described as "The Duke Nukem FPS Era," the greatest cheat of all was God Mode, aka Complete Invincibility + Infinite Ammo enabled for the entire game. This usually involved entering some kind of intricate code your friend scrawled on a piece of notebook paper, waiting a second, and then enjoying a completely unfair advantage for the rest of the game until you grew tired of using rocket launchers to solve simple problems like "opening a door" and "beating a boss you could take with your bare hands."
Cam Newton was in full God Mode on Saturday, and at this rate only boredom stands any real chance of keeping him from a national title. (If Oregon could wear really bland uniforms, this might accentuate Newton's boredom.) Every game with Newton has been a kind of surprise thanks to his ever-morphing multiplicity. He's been at least three different quarterbacks this season: a pure runner as he was in the LSU game, pounding out the clock for a last minute win on the road; a lethal Vince Young double threat via the pass and the run as he was in the Kentucky and Georgia games; and finally, the pure scrambling downfield threat he was versus South Carolina.
Virtuosity is the word. If Auburn came out and ran the wishbone against Oregon, Newton would come out and make the ghost of Jack Mildren applaud with his efficiency and decision-making.
H is for High Water Mark. The great solace in the South Carolina fans is that they may celebrate a genuine high point in winning the SEC East for the first time, and for the still very real possibility that this game may have never in fact happened at all, and because like a hurricane-proof house blown to sea by a Category 5 storm, you can just blame nature red in tooth and claw for what happened to your team Saturday. Losing to a team with Cam Newton would qualify with an insurance company as an act of God at this point: an angry, Yella Wood-loving God.
I is for In The Closet. We don't know who put Brian Stinespring in the closet on Saturday night, but Virginia Tech fans owe them a debt of gratitude and perhaps bail money when the guilty party is charged with kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment when the Hokies' offensive coordinator makes it out of that closet. (Adam James joke goes here.) Tech looked like a fluid passing machine versus Florida State's defense, and not just due to Tyrod Taylor's scrambling shaking coverages loose, leading to 263 yards allowed through the air and three TDs for Virginia Tech in their 44-33 victory over the Seminoles in the ACC championship game.
J is for Jail. Oh, you bastards:
If the Mascot was throwing snowballs with accuracy enough to be arrested, he likely exceeded the combined production of the Florida offense in three or four well-heaved throws.
K is for Kill The Big East. Of UConn's 19 points scored on USF in their Big East Championship-clinching 19-16 win over USF, none came from offensive TDs. As a BCS agnostic--I'm not sure it's the answer, but I don't know if there is one, so I'm happy to admit it has its advantages AND that it's a complete fantasy--I am torn between appreciating both the atrocity of UConn taking a BCS slot while teams like Boise get shuttled away to the Las Vegas Bowl and acknowledging the brilliant job Randy Edsall did in plating up three dollars worth of raw materials and making a twenty dollar dish.
Can we just enjoy both? Sure, let's just enjoy both and call it a push, and agree that the Big East isn't the House of Lords in the BCS system, but is the gin-soaked octogenarian snoozing away in the corner who only wakes up for tea-time and votes on fox-hunting
L is for Leave-Taking. Nebraska's farewell to the Big 12 couldn't be more abrupt or welcomed from their perspective, but look at it this way: no one was harmed in the production of this affair, and more importantly no one was harmed by a rampaging Pelini brother with a broadsword bent on revenge. In the end, what kept Nebraska from title triumph was the same thing that prevented it from beating Texas last year: its offense, which after an early streak against weak competition often didn't look too much different than their attack at the end of the year last year: effective rushing the ball, at times deplorable in passing it, and cursed with a lack of field-stretching receiving talent.
M is for Materialization. When the Huskers do reappear in the Big Ten next year, it will look horrible for the conference if they come in and wreck shop immediately. I say "look,' since adding a really good team with a superb staff and a great tradition means you are inheriting a good team, and could watch that good team go on a rip through your conference. Still, for those inclined to point to the Big Ten and laugh at their sweatshirts, unstylish haircuts, high unemployment, and exaggerated dependence on an Ohio State program who lost two national title attempts and thus IS TERRIBLE IN CLUTCH GAMES FOREVER*, I thought you could use an advance look at the pesky, inaccurate rhetoric of tomorrow.
*N is for Not True and You Know It. But oh, the pain that's waiting for Ohio State if they don't beat Arkansas. The Alphabetical advises you do this, Ohio State, because the Big Ten's bowl slate down the way has lots of opportunities for Finebaumistas to get their crow on about the Big Ten. TCU is a tough and motivated draw for Wisconsin; Michigan State could get killed by an angry Alabama; Florida vs. Penn State is a coin toss, though if money were on the line I'd bet on a four overtime game with a combined score under 40; Michigan will have to stop a Mississippi State team that held the unstoppable Auburn Tigers to a 17 point effort. It's the Buckeyes' who have the highest profile shot for conference redemption, and if that doesn't scare the crap out of Ro-Tel nothing will.
O is for Omit. Just take the Territorial Cup 2010 out of the memory banks, a messy, unwatchable collection of penalties, bad play-calling, poor execution, and ultimately the worst thing in the world to finish it: a kicker imploding on live television. Alex Zendejas missed an extra point and a field goal to doom Arizona, but he wasn't the source of all the FAIL on the field: he was merely a victim of the disease affecting both teams. Arizona finished 7-5 on the year after going 7-1 to start, and 6-6 Arizona State missed a bowl game due to two of its victories coming against FCS competition. Just ghastly in all directions come December for the state as a whole.
P is for Properly. How does Illinois end its season? With its annual loss to the WAC or someone else it should beat, of course. I heard someone in a bar in Boise point to this game in its final throes and say, "See, that's why I'm tired of everyone talking bad about the WAC." It's not that you're embarrassing your conference, Illini: you're enabling them by giving them evidence.
Q is for Quarred. Sour or clotted, much like Northern Illinois' nasty double of blowing the MAC title game to Miami of Ohio, and then losing coach Jerry Kill to the Minnesota job. To make NIU fans feel better, I remind you that Jerry Kill, seen here...
...looks a lot like the "It's still real to me, dammit!" guy.
R is for Ruuurrrrr? Rutgers, legitimately the worst team in the Big East this year, had one victory in conference this year. That was against Connecticut on October 8th, and sets up the weirdest transitive victory chain ever if UConn somehow gets three safeties and a field goal in beating Oklahoma 9-7 in the Fiesta Bowl.
S is for SUN BELT MADNESS. America's most affordable and accessible conference--ample parking, y'all!--finished in a tie for first place because as if the conference weren't strange enough already, its uneven scheduling allows for split conference championships. Troy grabbed half, and MTSU defeated FIU to knock the Golden Panthers down to a tie for the Sun Belt title. 6-6 for FIU is huge, especially for a program that only moved to FBS football in 2005, but you can't hear me over the laughter. HEY THEY ALMOST BEAT RUTGERS--
T is for The Great Ostrich. Au revoir to The Great Ostrich, Colin Kaepernick, who finished his career at Nevada as the NCAA's career leader in rushing TDs by a quarterback. He plans to graduate, seek a spot on an NFL roster, and then move on to his real passion of finding evil buzzards and destroying them.
U is for Unsettled. Temple, wandering the landscape without a bowl bid, should be allowed to come onto the field in the second half and play in relief for UConn in the Fiesta Bowl if the Sooners are up by more than 30 points at the half.
V is for Vigor. George O'Leary stil has it, since you don't just walk into UCF and win the C-USA without a special kind of ability to withstand career disaster and the handicap of being the fifth school in line for the state of Florida's recruiting bounty. Durability is a plus with the O'Leary model, though his Carfax report may be fabricated. (INSPECT DETAILS CLOSELY.)
W is for Wolfson. This is nice touch on the squeeze bottle, and is also what happens when you're up by 35 in a championship game and desperately need content.
X is for Xerophagy. The eating of dry things, similar to the experience of Communion, a rite the Catholics on both sides of the ball in the Air Force/Georgia Tech game in the upcoming Independence Bowl may want to double down on if they hope to get a single punt out of each rushing defense, which are ranked 100th and 78th respectively. On the plus side, the game should only last two hours or so.
Y is for Yonder. The Alphabetical will go on hiatus until the conclusion of bowl season, so it will see you over yonder in 2011.
Z is for Zuni. One of the Pueblo peoples of New Mexico, the state where the bizarre, scattered ending to the college football season will begin on December 18th with the New Mexico Bowl featuring BYU vs. UTEP. Maybe Bronco Mendenhall and Mike Price will hang out after the game! Or maybe not! Probably not, yes! We can dream!