Among my many neuroses, I have a problem with people who turn left when it is completely unreasonable to turn left. This is one of the many cultural battles that I have lost (right up there with an insistence that all youth sports leagues have picture day).
Americans believe that their inalienable rights include the ability to make an unprotected left turn whenever they damn well please and with zero notice to the 500 drivers behind them. In any city run by modern transportation engineers, they address this by simply not allowing unprotected left turns during rush hours on congested routes in and out of downtown. Austin is not one of these cities.
Also in my perfect world, all athletic conferences with separate divisions would be divided by geographic boundaries. I have lost this battle, as well, and conference realignment will only make it worse. That said, I really am not all that put out with the Big Ten labeling their divisions “Legends” and “Leaders.” Oh sure, the names are ridiculous, bordering on insipid, but at least the Big Ten makes no pretense that they represent any polite geographic distribution. The ACC, on the other hand, doesn’t divide by geography, either, but then uses geographic terms to describe the division. The Coastal division, one would assume, are teams that play in coastal states, like Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. The Atlantic division would be teams that play close to the Atlantic Ocean, in states like Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida…wait a second. The hell with it, let’s just watch the games.
I wrote that I did not buy Clemson last week. I am not alone in waiting for the perfect moment of Clemsonness that derails each of their seasons. I even predicted, several weeks back, that it would happen at Maryland in week seven. So how smug was I when Maryland twice went up by 18 on Saturday? Bill Murray would have had to play the movie role. Clemson slowly climbed back. From 35-17 down in the third, the game went 35-24, then 38-24, 38-27, 38-35…painstaking. Clemson got over the hump at 42-38, only to give up a long TD to Maryland, making it 45-42. Then, Clemson’s Sammy Watkins turned the game on an 89-yd kickoff return. The Tigers closed them out with a 44-yd TD romp by Andre Ellington.
Is Clemson great? Like Alabama-great? No, but they sure are exciting to watch. QB Tajh Boyd threw four TDs; Ellington racked up 212 yards on the ground; Watkins caught 8 for 105 and two TDs, when he was not returning kicks and his receiving mate, Tatum “Hash Browns” Jackson added six catches for 90 yards and a 43-yard punt return. It all adds up to undefeated. Maryland, for their part, continues to be the team that plays everyone tough and can’t quite close.
Elsewhere in the ACC, Georgia Tech lived on the edge one week too many, dropping a 24-21 decision to UVa. The Yellowjackets drop to 6-1, which is where Virginia Tech is after beating Wake, 38-17.
Are they the least-impressive 6-1 teams in the nation? Uhm, no, I think I’ll take Penn State. The Nitts beat Purdue, 23-18, which is an absolute scoring fest by Penn State standards. They have now won games against BCS competition by scoring 23, 13, 16 and 14 points. They are 96th in the nation in Points For and 6th in Points Against. It’s like watching a PBS documentary (or baseball).
In all fairness to the Big Ten, the conference served up some of the most interesting results. Perhaps Clemson can avoid a Clemson moment, but we still have Ron Zook to entertain us. Zook’s undefeated Illinois got beat up by their old friends, Ohio State. The Buckeyes threw four passes the entire game (they completed only one, so maybe that was three too many?) in a 17-7 Woody Hayes Fest.
Michigan State won their fourth in a row over Michigan. The Wolverines were undefeated going in and 28-14 losers going out. Denard Robinson was injured in the fourth. Hmmmmm, now what exactly happened to Michigan at this point in the season last year when Robinson got injured? Oh yeah, they went in the tank. We shall see if Purdue next week is good medicine.
I am not sure how Michigan State is 5-1 (and I don’t think they are particularly good, quite frankly), but I am absolutely astonished that Kansas State is 6-0. K-State won again, this time at Texas Tech 41-34, by running the ball and playing just enough defense. The Wildcats started the season by barely beating Eastern Kentucky, but over the last four weeks, they have prevailed over good to very good BCS opponents. It ain’t smoke and mirrors.
Texas A&M traded scores with Baylor for just over half the game, but then flat blew out the Bears in the most complete performance of the year for the Aggies. At their best, A&M has an offense, like Oklahoma or Oregon, where if you give them any extra possessions, you will pay for it. Baylor paid with a 55-28 loss that simply got away from them. In a surprise move, Baylor removed their defense from the field with four minutes to go in the fourth and filed an injunction against the SEC.
Oklahoma State got a pretty good fight from slowly maturing Texas, but made a couple of quick strike plays for a 38-26 win in Austin. The Longhorns are looking forward to not playing an NFL-ready quarterback at some point in the season.
South Carolina went to 6-1 the hard way, with virtually no offense but one great play from Alshon Jeffery to seal a 14-12 win over Mississippi State, perhaps the most disappointed team in the country. The Gamecocks regrettably lost Marcus Lattimore for the season with a devastating knee injury.
Georgia keeps pace with South Carolina by beating Vanderbilt, 33-28. I keep telling you that Vanderbilt is not an easy out.
The Auburn and Florida offenses staged a butt-kicking contest between two one-legged men. In other words, typical SEC football. Auburn 17, Florida 6.
The best four teams in the country beat senseless this week’s overmatched conference opponents. Alabama’s 52-7 beat down of Ole Miss was particularly cruel. Of course, it was no worse than Wisconsin beating Indiana 59-7; it just feels crueler in the SEC. LSU and Oklahoma both started slow and finished fast, posting 30 point wins over Tennessee and Kansas (the Jayhawks played by far their best game of the year and lost 47-17, how’s that for moral victory?).
Boise State beat Colorado State, 63-13. Tell me, please, Mr. BCS, that margin of victory does not matter. Then tell me the reaction when Boise wins this game 23-14.
Out west, Stanford started slow, but it didn’t matter in a 44-14 destruction of Wazzu.
Arizona State played Oregon close for a while, but couldn’t keep up once the second half started. Shocking, huh? What’s different about Oregon flipping on the turbocharger on Saturday is that they changed drivers. Duck quarterback Darron Thomas went out with a leg injury and was replaced by Bryan Bennett. You will be shocked to know that Bryan Bennett is a rangy and athletic player with terrific ball-handling skills, speed and an astonishing ability to change direction. If I wasn’t before, I am now thoroughly convinced that Nike builds these players in a lab somewhere using Dennis Dixon’s DNA and Professor Xavier’s ability to train young mutants to run the zone read.
USC ripped Cal, 30-9 in the Thursday night special, charmingly played in a baseball stadium.
Impressive Showing of the Week: Texas A&M (yes, I am serious)
6. Oklahoma State
7. Boise State
10. West Virginia