jones Top Ten - Final - 2011 Season

Ah, but to live life unapologetically, that’s the spirit, yes? To root out your cynicism and sow instead joy. To live life in the moment with nary a care for tomorrow. College football’s national championship comes tonight. Are we really going to ruin this grand occasion with our complaints and dissatisfaction? That the system that has pretty well ruined the rest of the college football post-season in favor of delivering the ultimate best on best match-up has reduced us to an intra-divisional re-match shouldn’t dull our enthusiasm. These really are the best two teams in college football. Surely they will entertain us. And, for the true fan, even when the football is bad, the football is pretty good. Right?

Uhm…let me think on that one.

Alabama 21
LSU 0

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Alabama did not score three touchdowns. I’d like to believe Tide kicker Jeremy Shelley intentionally clanked his extra-point attempt after Trent Richardson’s game-sealing touchdown to give the casual fan some illusion of offensive fireworks. Richardson himself (and a tired LSU defense) is to blame for denying us a 15-0 final, which would have been another five field goal SEC masterpiece. At least that would have offered some philosophical symmetry.

Instead…the worst title game in the BCS era. You can’t take anything away from the Crimson Tide. And I do not intend to. The deserving champs played a defensive game on par with the 13-2 gem Oklahoma opened the millennium with against Florida State. The Tide played near-perfect football: penalized only once, lights out on special teams (an alleged LSU advantage and the Tigers simply weren’t very good, even in the punting game), highly efficient on offense using a first-down passing game that the nation’s best secondary never did figure out. LSU did not make a single game-changing play on defense. Alabama’s QB A.J. McCarron thoroughly outplayed his LSU counterpart, Jordan Jefferson. And McCarron wasn’t just "managing the game" either—as if managing the game is easy to do anyway (it’s not, regardless of what you think of Trent Dilfer). Alabama came to play. LSU never matched their intensity or, God forbid, their execution. We deserved better.

There is always next year. College football fans don’t really ever live in the moment anyway. Recruiting web sites figured that out a long time ago.

So that’s the title game. The second most influential result happened not in a different BCS game, but on Friday night in the Cotton Bowl (the game, not the stadium). Arkansas defeated Kansas State, 29-16, in what became a strange referendum on the SEC versus Big 12 argument. Though it boggles the mind that an AP voter might favor Alabama over Oklahoma State because Arkansas beat Kansas State, well, these are the times we live in. It’s like the old MASH episode where Burns is afraid that the Koreans have taken Margaret, so naturally, he shoots Captain Hunnicutt. I will press on before I age myself further.

The best of the bowl season was a fantastic four game New Year’s string started with Michigan State’s comeback over Georgia to take a 33-30 triple-overtime Outback Bowl win, despite the best efforts of the Bulldog’s Brandon Boykin, who played perhaps the best all-around game of the bowl season.

The fun continued with Oregon and Wisconsin’s offensive execution clinic in the Rose Bowl. The Duck defense, believe it or else, was the key after a 28-28 first half, giving Oregon just enough margin to coast home, 45-38. In posting my favorite stat line of the season, Duck freshman DeAnthony Thomas carried the ball twice for 155 yards (no, he was not tackled). LaMichael James had roughly the same output in 25 carries; apparently the hyper-drive button on his Wii controller was broken.

That night…Oklahoma State was not much for the first and third quarters, but God did they love the second and fourth. A five TD explosion in the even frames (all of them scored by or keyed by Justin Blackmon; forget Mike Gundy being a man, Blackmon is a MAN) kept the Cowboys in the Fiesta Bowl with Stanford, eventually to prevail 41-38 in overtime after the Cardinal blew two makeable field goals. They should have let Andrew Luck kick them himself.

Not as pretty but just as close, Michigan held off Virginia Tech the next night to win, again in overtime, 23-20 in the Sugar Bowl.

Three overtimes in four bowl games, with the only game decided in regulation a fantastic display by Wisconsin and Oregon. What could possibly stop the momentum?

Clemson.

If all great stories in Texas begin: "We were sitting around drinking and thought it would be a good idea to…" And if all great stories in the Deep South turn on the phrase: "Then I come to find out…" Then fans must depart every Clemson tailgate by uttering: "Now God help me, but for some reason I just have a really good feeling about this one!"

West Virginia 70, Clemson 33.

Actually, the second number is unnecessary.

West Virginia 70

(the ten touchdowns included a 99-yard fumble return, to add insult to injury).

As for the rest of the docket, Florida and Ohio State really did play for the 2006 national title. And they really did play to avoid a losing season in the 2011 Gator Bowl. Florida 24, Ohio State 17. Ohio State has not lost seven games since William Howard Taft played left tackle for the 1877 squad.

Florida State and Notre Dame also sounds like a good match-up, which it was in 1992. FSU 18, Irish 14.

The Big Ten should simply quit playing the New Year’s Day (or day after, this season) games. It puts ugliness on the ESPN crawl for the rest of the day like Houston 30, Penn State 14 and South Carolina 30, Nebraska 13. Thank God for the state of Michigan.

The Texas defense pummeled Cal in a mostly artless 21-10 Holiday Bowl that would make LaVell Edwards weep. Texas accounted for three six-point scores called touchdowns where a player NOT on defense or special teams carried the football across the plane of the opposing goal line. This puts visions of next pre-season’s top ten into the heads of appreciative (if somewhat delusional) Longhorn fans. That would include me, if you are still reading at this point.

You know what LaVell Edwards would have loved? The Alamo Bowl (which, to be fair, is now the old Holiday Bowl match-up, since it moved up one on the Big 12/Pac 12 pecking order). Washington torched Baylor for 56 points…and gave up 67. Remember who plays for Baylor, right? Add "coach killer" to RG III’s resume; Washington sacked their DC, Nick Holt, after the game. That doesn’t strike me as fair since Holt held Griffin in check for the most part. There is that issue of Baylor’s 482 rushing yards, of course. But nobody’s perfect.

I think that there should be a rule that if TCU and Boise State are going to be sent to otherwise irrelevant bowls, then they should simply cancel their plans and play each other on a neutral site, say Denver. As it was, TCU nearly lost to Louisiana Tech but came back to win the Poinsettia Bowl, 31-23. Boise State easily beat Arizona State 56-24. The Sun Devils looked bored to be in Las Vegas (or perhaps being forced to play a football game in Las Vegas when they had better things to do?).

Oklahoma crushed Iowa 31-14 in the Insight Bowl. You would think a sentimental old softie like Bob Stoops would take it easy on his alma mater, wouldn’t you?

Texas A&M had a 30-7 lead over Northwestern. Had it been a halftime lead, A&M might have been in trouble. But the Ags held this margin going into the fourth, which did not give Northwestern adequate time for a heartbreaking comeback. Texas A&M 33, Northwestern 23.

In addition to renaming the Peach Bowl and denying an honest and decent Methodist a chicken sandwich on Sunday, Chick-fil-A has also ensured that no American child under the age of about eight will ever spell c-h-i-c-k-e-n correctly. Auburn 43, Virginia 24.

If I could use but one ESPN headline to illustrate the vital importance of the early bowl season, then it would be this one: "Ohio rallies past Utah State in Potato Bowl stunner."

I should not make fun of Ohio; they won 10 games. UCLA, on the other hand, finished 6-8 after losing to Illinois (2-6 in the Big Ten this year), 20-14 in a game played between two teams that had already fired their head coaches in a third-full baseball stadium on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. Leaving Las Vegas was less depressing. Oh, and this was the Fight Hunger Bowl, just to add to the lightheartedness. They flipped an Oreo cookie at the opening toss; I assume it was then provided to a local food bank. Or made part of Ron Zook’s severance package. Who really knows?

Finally, if I ever need to come up with a fake British name on the fly, I am going to go with Reginald Moistbritches.

One more time around the block:

1. Alabama: It was a thorough beat down. No argument here.

2. LSU and Oklahoma State: Funny thing, both of these teams have better resumes than Alabama. Yes, LSU lost the more important game. Even if the loss was on a neutral site and LSU boasts a win in Tuscaloosa, you must perform when the lights are brightest. Oklahoma State, though history will not remember this, was outplayed for most of the night against Stanford.

4. Oregon

5. Stanford

6. USC

7. Arkansas

8. Wisconsin

9. Boise State

10. Baylor

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