I am now a member of the New Orleans Bourbon Society. Highly coveted, my admittance required an extensive vetting process: providing both my name and e-mail address. Typically in Louisiana, you pretty much just have to be tall enough to reach the bar, no e-mail address required. I joined the society on the urging of the guy who sat down next to us at the Brennan family’s Bourbon House, the venerable institution on the corner of Bienville and Bourbon streets. He flashed his society card and asked for the pour of the month, which turned out to be a small batch called Michter’s. He sipped, swallowed and proclaimed it mellow and smooth. He swore that he had just gotten up and had a "fresh palate." He looked to us like a man put up wet and in need of orthodonture, fresh palate notwithstanding. That didn’t dissuade me from joining his club, which is somewhat disturbing, although not nearly as disturbing as what Michter’s actually tastes like: a smoky, sharp start with lingering flavors of charcoal, caramel and, hmmmm, Listerine, near as I can figure. Whiskey boy left us after his free taster glass. Mrs. Jones Top Ten and I dived into a Reuben with fries and the company of an Alabama fan on one side and a river pilot from Natchez on the other, who alternately teased the Alabama fan and offered to buy him a beer. This was good-natured southern football fandom on a lazy afternoon, the best kind. Turns out I can be a permanent fixture at the Bourbon House simply by sampling 47 different Bourbons, then my name will be recorded for posterity on a brass plaque. I am guessing I can accomplish this feat in about 2028. That’s about when South Carolina might actually win an SEC title. Or so I thought…
South Carolina 35
No fluke this, ‘Bama got flat outplayed. The Gamecocks jumped on them to the tune of 21-3 before Methodical McElroy led ‘Bama back. Midway through the third, the Tide had cut it to 21-14 (field goal, TD with missed extra point, safety, field goal—the old fashioned way). Enter Stephen Garcia. The sometimes maligned and always entertaining Garcia led a drive for the ages, the "ages" in this case being the history of a terribly average Gamecock football tradition. Converting numerous third and difficults, South Carolina hit paydirt with Garcia at the controls: 15 plays, 82 yards, eight minutes off the clock and, now, a lifetime of free beers in his home state. Given Garcia’s personal habits, that’s a lot of beers. Bama cut it to 28-21 almost immediately on a long pass play to start the fourth, but Carolina was made of tougher stuff, riding the insanely talented freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore on a 74-yard drive to produce the final two TD margin.
Nobody told Denard Robinson there would be days like this. Shoelace was occasionally brilliant, but his previously impervious brilliance shield finally cracked under the weight of three picks and a disciplined Michigan State defense. Mark Dantonio returned to the sidelines and watched his Spartans ascend to 6-0 with a convincing 34-17 win. MSU is getting excellent quarterbacking from veteran Kirk Cousins. They will be in my top ten this week.
For the second week in a row, Washington State played competent football. For the second week in a row, the Oregon defense got off to a slow start. For the second week in a row, none of this mattered one whit. Ducks 43, Cougars 23. A visibly shaken LaMichael James took over this game after witnessing a scary injury to teammate Kenjon Barner, who was taken off in an ambulance after a collision on a kickoff return (Barner is fine, apparently). The Ducks also lost quarterback Darron Thomas. Back-up Nate Costa brushed himself off, put on his helmet and promptly threw for 151 yards on 13/15 and ran for 84 more. Lots of weapons in those multiple-themed Nike pro combats.
I have given up on clever descriptions of Les Miles. Go rent the movie Being There. Les Miles is Chance, the gardener. Or you could read Jerzy Kosinski’s novel of the same name, which is darker and more disturbing, sort of like the SEC. That is all. LSU 33, Florida 29.
Ohio State worked Indiana, 38-10, the same way they should have worked Illinois last week. Although, in the Buckeyes’ defense, Illinois went on the road and blasted Penn State 33-13 this week. Hey, just because Ron Zook coaches them, it doesn’t mean a team sucks. It just usually means that.
Wisconsin beat Minnesota 41-23 and the crowd enjoyed each other’s accents.
Missouri, newly ranked, beat up and shut out Colorado, 26-0.
Most folks never would have guessed that Texas A&M’s defense would hold off the Arkansas Razorbacks, but they did a praiseworthy job. Unfortunately, like last week, the Aggie offense, led by quarterback Jerrod "feast or famine" Johnson, didn’t hold up their end of the deal. Arkansas made the plays in a 24-17 win at the Death Star, closed out by a game-preserving end zone pick. Yes, Jerrod, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, unfortunately, it is also one of the keys to winning football.
Florida State confuses me, but not nearly as much as they confuse Jacory Harris, which seems to require nothing more than a shiny object on a string and the occasional blitz. ‘Noles roll. ‘Noles rule. ‘Canes? Lame. ‘Cane’s pain. New ‘Noles, ‘Cane’s bane. 45-17, FSU behind an astonishing 298 rushing yards.
You know who else is confusing? Cal. The Golden Bears have won games 52-3 (OK, that was against UC-Davis) and 52-7 (Colorado). They’ve lost games 52-31 and 10-9 to Nevada and Arizona, respectively. This week they destroyed UCLA, 35-7.
Style Points 57, Toledo 14. Blood Squirters 45, Wyoming 0. At some point maybe TCU will let someone score again.
Stanford regrouped after the rough outing at Oregon, and nearly lost to USC. Andrew Luck led the one minute drill expertly to set up a game-winning last play field goal, made necessary by an earlier missed PAT: 37-35, Cardinal. As for Jim Harbaugh versus Lane Kiffin, there haven’t been two less likeable guys on the sidelines since, well, a few hours earlier when Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier faced off (but the SEC shouldn’t really count, should it?).
Oregon State upset Arizona, 29-27, despite a) playing on the road, b) giving up 440 yards passing to Nick Foles, c) losing James Rodgers for half the game (and possibly the season).
Auburn also used the game-winning field goal play to survive Kentucky, 37-34. Cam Newton pulled the Tiger’s fat out of the fire once again. This time, Auburn was great in the first half and terrible in the second. What would happen if they ever played great in both halves?
Utah’s Shaky Smithson actually threw a touchdown pass this week from his receiver position. He has a great name for a punt-returner, not so much for a quarterback. Utah 68, Iowa State significantly fewer than that.
Yes, Nevada is ranked. So is Air Force. The former won 35-13 over Dionne Warwick State; the latter throttled Colorado State 49-27 (one garbage time TD).
Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez set a Cornhusker quarterback rushing record with 242 yards in an absolute mauling at Kansas State on Thursday night. This would be more impressive if only Nebraska had some history of great running quarterbacks. The Huskers are hitting on all cylinders as they await a visit from Texas this weekend.
Oklahoma State obliterated Louisiana-Lafayette with a 37-7 second half. Of course, the Cowboys probably don’t want to watch film of the first half, which they lost 21-17. It all adds up to a 54-28 decision at the Pickens Palace.
Impressive Showing of the Week: South Carolina
2. Ohio State
3. LSU’s defense, special teams and whatever contract Les Miles actually has with Satan
6. Boise State
7. South Carolina
9. Auburn during the half they play competent football
10. Michigan State
Oklahoma is eleven.