Climbing hills taxes a man. I’m speaking physically, not metaphorically. The aptly-named Mountainclimb Drive bisecting my neighborhood provides such a test. I need about six minutes to get up it at a decent pace. By "decent" I mean fast enough to think well of myself at the top, but not so fast I suffer cardiac arrest. One Saturday this summer, Mae the Boxer and I passed a man on our ascent. It was about 85 on the way to 117 in Austin that day. In his mid-fifties, this man wore khaki pants, a long sleeve dress shirt and a tie. The yarmulke gave him away; he was going to Temple. I’m guessing his destination had to be the conservative congregation, Agudas Achim. That meant he had another two miles to go and a couple more major hills to climb in the Texas heat. That’s commitment. Faithfulness.
I was embarrassed to think that it would never occur to me to walk to church out of adherence to age-old ideals. Where do we find that today? The dedication to ancient tradition, the passion, the history, the willingness to endure physical discomfort to be as one with community?
I mean, other than in the SEC?
We had to wait all day for a great football game and we only got one. But what a game it was. Our friends had gone home and taken their marauding bands with them. Mrs. Jones Top Ten had put our little marauders to bed, leaving Zach and me in the middle of a living room littered with all manner of ankle-turning and heel-impaling plastic and metal. Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn was the perfect nightcap. Zach made up a game by flipping back and forth between Auburn and Tempe, where Arizona State hosted Georgia.
"This is bizarre."
"The noise, the Arizona State fans don’t make any."
"It’s un-natural. They want to act like college football fans; they just don’t know how."
"It’s like the difference between a basketball crowd and a golf crowd."
The wisdom of 12-year-olds. Auburn’s fans did their part, but the team fell just a little short. LSU had to figure out quarterback play after a miserable first half, but young Jarrett Lee finally took the reins and made enough plays to win. We likely haven’t heard the last from either of these Tigers this season.
Not only are their fans quieter, the players for Arizona State seemed a step (maybe two) slower than the Georgia visitors. The Bulldogs eased out a 27-10 win after building a 21-3 half-time lead. Dominating.
Bad as Arizona State was at home, Tennessee proved even less capable of playing with Florida in front of their own folks. How could this rivalry become this one-sided so fast? You would think that the Vols have never been competitive against Florida. That makes four in a row and the last two were ugly. 30-6, Gators, who somehow won going away with less than 250 yards of total offense. The Phil Fulmer countdown to a career in television commentary begins, which would be far more entertaining than watching him coach.
Routs, routs, routs. Continuing the thread, one more top ten SEC team (unprecedented, by the way), Alabama, drilled poor Arkansas, 49-14. I can’t believe I just expressed sympathy for Arkansas.
Notre Dame can’t block anyone. This condition represents a great step forward for the Irish; last year they could neither block nor tackle. They can tackle now. Well, sort of. Michigan State 23, Notre Dame 7. The Spartans look particularly tough with Javon Ringer ringing up 200 yard days as effortlessly as East Lansing liquor stores ring up cheap Canadian whiskey.
No one likes a good Cinderella story more than I do. Actually, now that I think about it, most folks like a good Cinderella story more than I do. Sayonara, Pirates. NC State 30, East Carolina 24.
East Carolina was not the best BCS-busting option anyway. Those teams, assuming the NCAA doesn’t simply hand out a free bid to the Mountain West just on general principle, are, in order, BYU, 44-0 shellackers of Wyoming, Utah, 30-23 winners over a solid Air Force and TCU, who play idle Oklahoma next week, but this week fleeced Southern Money 48-7.
Now that’s a run-on sentence. Bring on the Faux-Faulkner contest; I’m bringin’ it, baby.
South Florida would probably just like to forget a 17-9 win over Florida International, which is a football team, not a relief organization, as is commonly thought. South Florida plays Athletes in Action next Saturday and, with any luck at all, might score more than two touchdowns.
USC did not play. The Trojans, however, did not play in such jaw-droppingly spectacular fashion that ESPN deemed it "perhaps the finest open week performance in college football history."
"That’s beautiful, man," added Pete Carroll.
Oregon, exhausted after defending what little honor the Pac Ten has last week, decided to hell with it. We’re tired and out of quarterbacks and are sick of wearing these ridiculous uniforms. Boise State 37, Oregon 32.
Ohio State still ain’t right, but the Buckeyes did hand the keys over to young Mr. Pryor for a 28-10 win over Troy. So what happens next week against a surprisingly undefeated Minnesota?
Penn State beat Temple. The sun also came up in the east. Texas beat Rice. The sun then set in the west.
The Chase Daniel Magical Mystery Tour continued with a 42-21 win over Buffalo (no, really they’re not that bad anymore). Daniel went 35-44 for 431, two scores, no picks for a QB rating roughly equal to Mark Mangino’s combined cholesterol.
Speaking of, Kansas rebounded from the South Florida loss to beat Sam Houston State 38-14. Probably not nearly as pretty as Texas Tech’s wipeout of UMass or Clemson’s throttling of South Carolina Agricultural and Secretarial.
West Virginia continues to learn a cruel lesson in succession planning as the avuncular and popular Bill Stewart, played by Dick Van Dyke, looked just a mite out of sorts in a 17-14 overtime loss to Colorado on Thursday night. Pat White, at this very moment, could be playing wide receiver for some lucky NFL team, instead of watching Mountaineer football slowly spiral down the path to mediocrity.
Do you think the ACC, in their wildest dreams, after adding Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College, ever thought that Wake Forest would be described by any serious journalist as the "standard bearer?" I mean during football season, of course. Wake 12, Florida State 3. The game was a horrendous turnover-fest that featured three missed field goals by Sam Swank among a cavalcade of offensive ineptitude that would make Sylvester Croom look good on the sidelines.
Auburn 3, Mississippi State 2 last week. Georgia Tech 38, Mississippi State 7 this week. And here I thought that Paul Johnson was running a gimmick offense that couldn’t possibly withstand the defensive brilliance of the SEC. Huh.
The underground team to watch? Vanderbilt. Mrs. Jones Top Ten’s Commodores took out the JTT pre-season darkhorse Mississippi Rebels, 23-17 by playing solid defense in the red zone and intercepting Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead four times to go to 4-0 and, quite probably, gain a real live AP top 25 ranking.
Impressive Showing of the Week: North Carolina State
7. Penn State
Auburn is eleven and I am not sure what to make of Wisconsin just yet. We have time.
Georgia’s murderer’s row continues hosting ‘Bama on Saturday. TCU visits Oklahoma and tries to slow down the Sooner awesomeness. Could Mizzou find trouble at Nebraska?
ose Bowl Dreams: A Memoir of Faith Family and Football is the new book by Adam Jones.