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jones Top Ten - Week 5 - 2008

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Deer do not eat Burford Holly. Or at least they don’t enjoy it, Burford Holly being sharp, overly chewy, bitter, poorly paired with red wine and generally deer-resistant. Every piece of landscaping advice I have sought in my career as a homeowner lists Burford Holly in the deer-resistant column. The deer in my neighborhood are poor readers. Or smartasses, one. They have chewed through a few hundred bucks worth of plants over the last few years, which they digest and then deposit back on my front lawn in an effort to screw up touch football games and my ability to retrieve the paper in bare feet. They sleep just outside my front door, sometimes four or five at a time. When I start out the front, they all look mildly surprised to see me, then irritated, like insolent teenagers awakened too soon on a Saturday morning. "What?" they seem to ask. Like any good parent, I begin the lecture.

"You were into the Holly again last night, weren’t you?"

Blank stare.

Furious, I chase them out of the yard, violently wielding my hardback copy of Neil Sperry’s Complete Guide to Texas Gardening (second edition, all 388 pages of it). The miserable creatures aren’t even supposed to like Burford Holly. I’ve done the research. Why must I endure this ugly anomaly?

Oregon State 27
USC 21

The college football season started this week. Pete Carroll once again somehow managed to lose to a team that couldn’t place a single player on his two-deep. Oregon State had already lost to Stanford and was blown out by Penn State, yet they lined up and ran straight at the Trojans, racking up an early 21-0 advantage behind the 5’6" freshman tailback Jacquizz Rodgers, who ran 37 times for 186 yards. In a way, that’s even more puzzling than last year’s loss to Stanford.

USC wasn’t alone. Florida couldn’t get out of its own way on Saturday, turning the ball over three times and letting Ole Miss hang around for a 31-30 win. The one-point difference was the result of a blocked extra point on the Gator’s potential tying touchdown. It was not a good day at the office for Mr. Heisman: fumbles, missing open guys, failing to convert a fourth and one…Tim Tebow may have left his game in the Phillipines.

That’s two down in the top five, shall we make it three? The Alabama Crimson Tide thought so, and they didn’t just beat Georgia, they beat ‘em up, down, sideways, like an egg, like a rug, like a rented mule, like Keith Moon’s drums, like Usain Bolt’s pulse, like George McGovern on election day and Greg Norman on the final day of the Master’s. Like 31-0 at the half and desperation touchdowns by the Bulldogs to save face. The Tide annihilated Georgia just like they annihilated Clemson.

That’s numbers one, three and four gone. Alabama’s performance could have rocketed them straight to the top had number two Oklahoma not turned a very good TCU team completely inside out in a 35-10 home victory.

LSU avoided upset, as well, riding Charles Scott to a 34-24 win over "feisty" (AP’s word, not mine) Mississippi State. Don’t laugh, Auburn only beat Mississippi State 3 and 2 by saving par on 16.

Wisconsin held Michigan to one first down in the first half and forced five turnovers, taking a 19-0 lead into the locker room. That proved one field goal too many for the Badgers. Michigan somehow flipped the switch, running the Rich Rodriquez offense with a 6’6" redshirt frosh quarterback named Steven Threet. The kid doesn’t exactly have the speed of Pat White, or LenDale White, or Betty White, for that matter, but he kept the chains moving and, with an assist from a timely pick six by the Wolverine defense, led the Maize and Blue to an improbable 27-25 victory that wasn’t assured until a successful two-point conversion by Wisky was called back on an ineligible receiver penalty. Ugh.

Among the top ten, Texas had the foresight to schedule perhaps the worst Arkansas team in the modern era and blasted them 52-10. Texas has now won all three of their home games by exactly the same score.

Missouri and Texas Tech avoided the voodoo by taking the week off, ditto Brigham Young, Kansas and newly-ranked Vanderbilt.

Wake Forest should have taken the day off; that would have saved the Atlantic Coast Conference the ignominy of having ostensibly its best team whacked at home by the United States Naval Academy, 24-17. Navy, apparently even without Paul Johnson, has a number of players on the roster who believe silly things like thinking they can win against major conference opponents (or Notre Dame).

Penn State’s Derrick Williams, in his tenth year as a Nittany Lion, put on an exhibition by scoring every which way in a 38-24 victory over Illinois.

South Florida drubbed NC State 41-10 one week after NC State looked pretty competent in beating East Carolina, which may not have been that big a deal since Houston also beat ECU on Saturday, 41-24. We have completely disposed with the season’s first Cinderella story by game five. That must be a record.

Ohio State unveiled the complete Terrelle Pryor line-up, including Beanie Wells on guitar and vocals, Steve Jordan on drums and Maceo Parker on saxophone, and took out previously undefeated Minnesota, 34-21. The march back toward respectability begins. With our luck, those bastards are going to end up right back in the national title game against Oklahoma where they will play the Sooners to a 12-12 tie through four overtimes and the NCAA, in a surprise move, will simply end the contest and award the national title to LSU.

Utah beat Weber State (I assume that’s where they make the grills?) 37-21, which didn’t impress anyone. Of course, to be fair, the Utes led 34-7 through the meaningful portions of the game.

Maryland took Clemson right out of the top 25 with a 20-17 decision and Fresno State, not realizing exactly how bad UCLA is, let the Bruins hang around before securing a 36-31 win.

The offensive juggernaut that is the Auburn Tigers defeated the disciplined regiment that is the Tennessee Volunteers 14-12. Thank God the Vols conveniently let Auburn drop on top of a fumbled ball in the UT end-zone or Auburn would have gone home a loser. They already were home actually, but you get my drift.

Northwestern is undefeated after a 22-17 win at Iowa. Michigan State, a team that should be ranked but isn’t (perhaps voters just assume the swoon is coming and don’t want to be caught unprepared), beat Indiana 42-29. Javon Ringer only had 198 yards. Goldbrick.

Duke ripped UVa, 31-3. Read that again and ponder Al Groh’s coaching legacy.

Pitt has a player named LaRod Stephens-Howling, which is a better name than even BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Nebraska’s not quite back. Big Red really needed to beat Virginia Tech at home to restore some of their Big Red-ness. The Cornhuskers trailed all day and couldn’t close the gap in a 35-30 loss to the Hokies.

The best game of the day was Nawth Klina’s entertaining 28-24 back-and-forth with Miami. Could the Tar Heels win the ACC?

Impressive Showing of the Week: Alabama, just over Oregon State and Mississippi

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners have the best combination of offense and defense in the nation to this point. The systematic destruction of the TCU defense after the Horned Frogs sold out to stop the Sooner running game should get everyone’s attention.

2. Alabama: To me, the Tide is the second-most impressive squad in the nation. Could they really be this good, this fast, in year two of the Saban administration?

3. LSU: The win over Mississippi State was not pretty, but it did show an increasingly confident Jarrett Lee, particularly his chemistry with Brandon LaFell. LSU has won with far less-talented quarterbacks.

4. Missouri: How does Missouri fare if they get into a slugfest with somebody? Last year the Tigers had to do that twice, both against Oklahoma, both losses. Mizzou may be a shade better this year. So’s Oklahoma.

5. Texas: The Longhorns have played nobody, but have put them all away with such brutal and ugly efficiency that I can’t help but think they might have something. Colt McCoy is playing quarterback as well as anyone in the country. The Texas season starts this week in Boulder.

6. Penn State: I am very surprised by the number of comments I have received informing me that Penn State is overrated. Really? How do you know?

7-10 is a mish-mash, or maybe a hodge-podge, or at least a jumble, of those seeking forgiveness (USC, Ohio State, Georgia and Florida), scrappers winning by any means necessary (Auburn, Wisconsin and South Florida) and a few very dangerous teams that can throw a great combination of punches (BYU, Texas Tech and Utah) when their opponent ain’t looking.

I’m not going to figure it out tonight. Come back next week, assuming you get this. Last week my reference to Dick Van Dyke caused several spam filters to send me to the defamatory bin. I meant no offense and certainly had no intention of referring to the great comic actor as a lesbian. Oddly enough, his first name presented no problem at all…

Rose Bowl Dreams: A Memoir of Faith Family and Football is the new book by Adam Jones.