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The Alphabetical, Week 5: The Annual And Variable Invincibility Of Alabama

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This week's Alphabetical covers the types of clocks installed in QB's heads, wonders if Dan Beebe cursed Texas A&M, and says that Alabama would like you to quit ASAP.

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A is for Archetype. I am all but certain Nick Saban is at heart a Platonist. In his head, there is a sandwich that sits above all sandwiches, and a woman who sits above all other women for beauty, and a particular kind of trouser that fits him just so. I am guessing this is some kind of tailored Armani pant, because as The Blind Side makes clear, Nick is fancy when it comes to the light woolen dress slacks he wears to courts recruits' mothers. (He also likely has definite thoughts about window treatments, i.e. that he is secure enough in his masculinity to tell you how lovely yours are, ma'am.)

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Do not limit your deja vu to "Alabama beats Florida." True, Florida has played a dutiful punching bag to Nick Saban's Alabama team, and has done so in the same fashion in each loss. There is an early flurry, a counterpunch, and then one long brutal running out of the clock interspersed with the follies of offenses struggling to escape the clinch. Did you see Chris Rainey running for days toward the sideline this week? Did you hear safeties crashing into Arkansas receivers on crossing routes the week prior? Those are death rattles, and usually start somewhere 15 minutes or so around kick.

If history has taught us anything, it is that any one man--or 11 of them on a football team at a time--can be eliminated. No system is perfect, no group of players is perfect. Read Saban's defensive playbooks, though, and you can see how Saban creates the illusion of invincibility. You could read the whole thing--including the part where he tells his players not to waste food--but we've cut the most important part out for you below.

Make your opponent feel that you will never quit coming after him and that he may as well quit.

Add in technique, coaching, and 90-hour work weeks combined with relentless recruiting, and you have the vaunted process firing on all cylinders in Tuscaloosa. A warning: two years ago, we were saying this and Alabama went undefeated and won the national title. A further warning: one year ago, we were saying this and Alabama went on to lose two games.

B is for Breadbasket.  Ric Flair sees what you are doing, Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown, and salutes you with a WOOO!

Illinois has totally made a heel turn in the Big Ten this year, going from secondary character with tag team rights only to full-on rebranded black hat. The wrestling comparison is apt not just for the Nature Boy handshake handed out by Brown there, but also for the way Illinois has won: like a wrestling match, they win by the thin margin of a referee's three count, committing mistakes, playing ugly at times, and yet here in week six stand bloodied but undefeated. Every game on the schedule from here on out is winnable except for Wisconsin, so please: prepare yourself for the possible reality of a second Rose Bowl trip for Ronbert Zook. (I know that's not his first name, but it should be. It just feels so right.)

C is for Chronodeficiency. Stephen Garcia has a clock in his head, a fine Swiss timepiece capable of keeping the second so accurately it rivals atomic clocks for precision. Garcia, of course, never looks at it or listens for its alarms, and that, not official incompetence, explains why South Carolina did not get an extra second to down the ball in the waning moments against Auburn on Saturday. With very little time left Garcia drifted, and drifted, and shaved precious seconds off the clock. His indecision would cost South Carolina time, and the lack of time and timeouts ultimately cost the Gamecocks a chance to win the game with a field goal.

Barrett Trotter also had a clock in his head during the game, and it was one that reads like this.


D is for Dad. I would never suggest that Lane Kiffin would be capable of firing his dad. That would be disingenuous. I'm straight-out saying he is going to fire his dad, and then ask him for some rent for the room Monte's been using as a film room in his house. Sorry, pops, but the spicy Fritos don't pay for themselves, you know.

E is for Excretion. Oh, and you laughed at Tommy Tuberville for insisting on Auburn having a sideline toilet.


To be fair: the hedges at Sanford Stadium look much taller from the sideline than they do from the field, and this beats the hell out of the old "pee in a towel" treatment, something you don't want to try with Chris Relf because with his accuracy you are asking for a big mess indeed. Do we just want to conveniently forget how Aaron Murray threw three picks in this game and pronounce Georgia healed and ready to make a stretch run? Sure, let's all be stupid together.

F is for Fetus. At this point--and it pains us to admit this--provide any serious evidence that Stephen Garcia is not a marginally better Reggie Ball in a latex white frat boy disguise, and we will retract this statement.

G is for Garish. This is my favorite box score line of the day, courtesy of the Kentucky/LSU game.

Maxwell Smith sacked by Tyrann Mathieu, fumbled, forced by Tyrann Mathieu, recovered by LSU Tyrann Mathieu at the Kent 23, Tyrann Mathieu for 23 yards, to the Kent 0 for a TOUCHDOWN. Drew Alleman extra point GOOD.

This reads like the old production credits for a Prince album. Bass; Tyrann Mathieu. Drums: Tyrann Mathieu. The dinner you just ate: Tyrann Mathieu. Current tax commissioner of your city: Tyrann Mathieu. It is cute that you all are arguing about whether he is going to win the Heisman. Clearly, even if you don't invite him to New York, he might walk in and simply take the trophy because he is he Honey Badger, and he does take whatever he wants.

H is for Horribawesome. Our first legitimately horribawesome team of the year: Minnesota, a team so grandiosely crappy their mediocrity crosses the border into that territory we can only call "art." Outscored 58-0, outgained by a margin of 32 first downs to 8 by the Wolverines, and now sits dead last in the Big Ten in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The best of a bad conference in badness is a hard title to earn thus far, but Minnesota football discovered that just when you think you've found the basement, the floor collapses into a new, even darker sub-basement of football misery. (Also, their coach has already had a seizure on the field this year. Curses and ancient hexes may be in play.)

I is for Indiana. The state Notre Dame transfer Dan Wenger traveled all the way from in order to come to Florida and allow Courtney Upshaw to destroy John Brantley and (purely as a matter of coincidence) his ankle. There will not be a bigger mismatch in athleticism this year until next week when Courtney Upshaw faces someone from Vanderbilt to convince them they, too, are not good at sports or the football.

The official drink of the state of Indiana is water. This fact is offered to explain everything about Indiana, and nothing about how Dan Wenger ever ended up trying to block the human grievance that is Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw.

J is for Judge, Hanging.  From the Friday night Utah State/BYU game:

The rule concerning targeting is on the books, and has been a point of emphasis since 2010. Per the NCAA's release on the rule:

Penalties to curb dangerous contact will continue to be called against players who target the head and neck area of defenseless players. This includes initial contact with a forearm, elbow, shoulder or helmet. A 15-yeard penalty will be enforced on these violations. In egregious situations, officials may eject the offending player.

Aside from hiring a copy editor for officiating releases, so far, so sensible. The problem with any rule comes with the introduction of the subjective element, i.e. the amount of interpretation left up to the referee. McKade Brady certainly deserved the flag, but ejection is a step not taken during most full fist-swinging brawls between teams. Fifteen yards and a gimme TD would have been more than enough punishment here, but take note that the refs in Utah are hanging refs, and would very much like you to keep both feet on the ground at all times.

L is for Landborne. See, you don't need to leave your feet to properly jostle your opponent. Isn't that right, Dyshawn Davis?

Rutgers would go on to win this game in overtime, and if I were a Syracuse fan I might not have noticed due to saying "BOOM" and re-enacting the play with my hands and mouth-sound-effects for the rest of the game. Rutgers also did this during the game, and Greg Schiano must still be a very good coach because I have no idea how you do both of those things and still have the confidence to win a football game.

M is for Misfire. Do not ever watch the 2011 Michigan State/Ohio State game. Don't, just...don't. Even Kirk Cousins, normally a sane, level-headed quarterback under normal circumstances, was dragged by the mass incompetence of the moment into the mire. Correction: if Cousins threw an inexplicable pick late in the game just to make Ohio State feel better about their nine sack day, then he's like the nicest guy in the world, and I take that back. Joe Bauserman had 14 pass attempts and was sacked on five of them. Ohio State is no longer good at football, and can at times reach "staggeringly pathetic" levels of horror. Urban Meyer's phone is just going to voicemail for the next three months, man, so don't ask him about it.

N is for Necessaries. He's paired with Matt Millen, and that will always be galling to us, but Sean McDonough never gets enough credit for being willing to call bad football "bad football," and to openly wonder what the hell everyone is doing during said incompetent football game. He is as close as college football has to its own Ian Darke, and will likely accuse a player of "having lost the plot a bit" any weekend now.

Meanwhile, Craig James is still attempting to convince you that the team losing by thirty is doing a heckuva job in some part of the game not involving football and how to play it.

O is for Oh My God That Cannot Be Right. Navy ran 105 plays on Saturday against Air Force. Air Force, despite winning 35-34 in overtime, had to feel like they had run an ultramarathon in a hail storm the next day.

P is for Perambulatory. The primary assets for Wisconsin was their innovative two QB strategy. They used Taylor Martinez to get three turnovers from Nebraska, and then used waltzing quarterback Russell Wilson to throw two touchdowns. Math and football: such simple and good friends, really. Our favorite part about Russell Wilson in this offense is how effortless and sweat-free most plays look. Cool, I'll just take this play-action fake and...well, hey buddy, streaking behind the defense again? There you go, Nick Toon. My, look at this scene! So much color, and just the right amount of fall snap in the air. Really perfect football weather. 'Scuse me, coming through, just scrambling for a first down without appearing flustered at all hey, that is a GREAT headband you have there. Gotta get me one of those. 

Wilson appears to have walked into an ideal situation, and has just kept on walking at a speed most defenses at full speed can't maintain.

Q is for Quaeritur. Latin for "the question is asked," as in "who was the last ACC team to lose to both Wake Forest and Duke in one season?" Boston College, the double-barreled shotgun of eastern seaboard football failure just went off in your mouth, because you are the answer thanks to a 27-19 loss to Wake this past Saturday. We remind everyone that Boston College fired a perfectly good coach because he went on a job interview, and deserves all of this.

R is for Resourceful. Tyler Bray did try to throw the ball through the goalposts after a penalty on Saturday. Players just try to make plays, even if the officials refused to recognize his innovative strategy. Bray is both funny and fond of racking up huge numbers (342 yards, 4 TDs against Buffalo this week) on inferior competition, meaning he is that guy who lurks in corners on Call of Duty, knifes you, and then dances over your prone body.

S is for Seven Hundred and Ten. The total yardage for Houston, a team so confident in their ability to destroy defenses that they didn't even really hit the nitrous until the third quarter when they put up 266 yards of offense and dared UTEP to keep the pace. UTEP very nearly did until three straight completions at the end of the game stripped them of any chance of victory. Did we just mention Mike Price's team in conjunction with stripping? If it's funny once, it is funny every time, dammit.

T is for Thanos. The Marvel Comics character in love with death itself, and the best casting call for South Carolina DL Melvin Ingram, who in a loss was still very nearly death itself for Auburn with 9 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 2 quarterback hits, and one interception. Melvin Ingram says it isn't even personal: he just wants to destroy your game, not you, and if you happen to get in the way, well, too bad.

U is for Undertow. The psychological element of football is at once overrated and underplayed, but let us identify at least one very concrete example of a team that now has a complex, and soon a rolling neurosis, and what could eventually become a complete nervous breakdown: Texas A&M. When Arkansas snapped out of their stupor and began piling up passing yardage, you sensed it, didn't you? The inevitable Taneyhill picks, the panicking defense, the 4th and 2 run call that would have worked on any other down called in that game? That failure, like success, can be a habit, and that for the Aggies late in games it has become a carcinogenic two-pack-a-day habit?

The most frightening part is that the Aggies found an entirely different way to collapse. Last week Texas A&M's offense went pass-mad and abandoned the run game, leading to late picks by Taneyhill that abetted the crime, but this week Sherman tried to do what they'd done in the first half by running roughshod over the Razorbacks. Even the 4th and 2 call made sense, and was the first run of any real significance stuffed by the Razorbacks all day. 

Losing once like that is an aberration, but twice has to be terrifying. Just like good teams find a way to win no matter the form, Texas A&M may be on the way to unwittingly mastering the art of losing games in new, surprising, and excruciating ways. Never say Mike Sherman is boring, since he appears to be an innovator of the art of loss. The undertow is at full strength for the Aggies now, and nothing seems to be helping them swim out of it.

V is for Vapor. SMU continued the season-long vaporization of TCU's defense, tallying 461 yards of offense and taking exactly 45 minutes off Garry Patterson's life in the process. The Horned Frogs are now 90th in total defense and 106th in passing efficiency, and if you called this SIT DOWN YOU ARE A LIAR, SIR.

W is for Wasm. An outdated doctrine or theorem. Example: the commonly held belief that Clemson will collapse at any moment, since they seemed poised to do so against Virginia Tech, had their explosive offense slowed by the cold rain of Blacksburg and the Hokie defense, and still managed to pull out a 23-3 victory over VT that looked--gasp!--a lot like what Virginia tech had done to them five games in a row prior to Saturday. Please revise your cliches, or at least until Clemson does something to verify your worst suspicions by losing to Boston College or something.

X is for Xenogamy.  Cross-fertilization, as in taking Penn State's defense and giving it Arizona's defense and thus creating one whole good football team. Nick Foles is ranked 5th in total offense, and threw for a staggering 425 yards on USC's defense in a 48-41 loss, and is this year's Jay Cutler Award Winner for "QB Most Challenging In A Loss." We are sorry, Nick, and hope the NFL Draft makes up for the pain of playing four years of football in Arizona.

Y is for Yonderly. Absent-minded, or what we would be for not reminding you that Washington State won their third game on Saturday against Colorado thus hitting a new high for the Paul Wulff era. Most coaches say football is one game at a time, but in 2011 Washington State fans really, really mean it, man.

Z is for Zeroable. Able to be written out of a sentence without any loss of meaning. Possibly related to this word: USF's defense, a unit that gave up 521 yards of offense to Pitt's previously bumbling collection of pieces moving without coordination prior to the game. This is a unit that could not pressure Tino Sunseri. That sentence alone is all the proof you need that the Bulls' pass rush is as non-existent now as the Big East could be in February of 2012.