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jones Top Ten - Week 9 - 2008

My grandfather loved Shakespeare. Grandad was convinced that psychology, a discipline he actually taught at the college level, was unnecessary; Shakespeare had already figured it all out. The conflicts between children and parents, the battle of id and ego, the reviled among us speaking the most eloquent truths, the dangers of pride (and women), tragedy, comedy, nonsense, elation, depression, dysfunction, redemption…it’s all in there.

We used to sit around his kitchen table and talk Shakespeare. The other topic was always football. Grandad, who went by "Bulldog" once upon a time, was a nasty and undersized guard in the 1920s, later a disciplinarian, but innovative, coach who won lots of high school football games he had no business winning. He then returned to his alma mater and becoming a gentleman professor and dean of men.

Sometimes when I speak about him, I note that there really aren’t men like him left in the world. Then I remember that Joe Paterno is still alive.

Penn State 13
Ohio State 6

If you would rather watch NASCAR, or the World Series, or the Breeder’s Cup, or paint dry, than Big Ten football, then you missed a good one. While the rest of the college football world looked like Las Vegas this weekend (six of the top 25 teams scored 50 plus), the Big Ten looks like Branson. Everyone wants their free drinks, gambling and outlandish stage acts; the Big Ten just needs a good eight-dollar steak, some iced tea and the early show at the Mel Tillis Theatre (sorry, mental break, I was just trying to picture Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel at Blue Man Group).

About the football...I thoroughly enjoyed the second-half of Ohio State/Penn State. I thought the game was played at a high level, the defensive intensity was equal to the SEC and the end game was compelling. The contest turned on a disastrous fumble by Wunderkind Pryor on a third and short, leaving Penn State with a 38-yard field. The Nitts cashed in the game’s only TD behind back-up quarterback Pat Devlin’s poised game management and some timely running by Evan Royster. Ohio State never could get untracked against the Lions. By the way, Penn State is neither slow nor un-athletic on either side of the ball. Can we put this mythology to rest? If the southern football fans of the Big 12 or SEC think their champ will simply roll Penn State in a BCS title match-up, I think they are mistaken. Yes, I am talking to myself. It is only insanity if I start answering. Shakespeare said that.

The other marquee game put Texas in some serious danger, Will Robinson. The Longhorns prevailed over Oklahoma State 28-24 in a game that it never seemed like the Horns controlled. Colt McCoy showed some depressingly human tendencies, throwing one pick and fumbling at the Oklahoma State ten. He had a do-over on another pick because of a very dumb, albeit absolutely correct, roughing-the-passer penalty that the Cowboys will regret for a long time. Touchdown, Texas. The Horns won with TD drives of 93, 91, 84 and 80 yards, all led by Mr. Accuracy throwing to a wider and wider variety of characters. Good thing, too, because if OSU has the ball, they tend to score. The Cowboys may have the best offense I have seen this year. Texas needed a fumble from Kendall Hunter and some timely, bordering on DEFCON-1 imminent disaster looming, stops to win it. But win they did. Texas fans are all thankful this morning that Oklahoma State is ineligible to represent the North in the Big 12 title game.

Texas Tech and Kansas rolled out a standard issue 14-14 offensive explosion in the first quarter in Lawrence. Then something ominous happened. Tech turned into the 1996 Florida Gators. Seriously, against a Kansas team that, under the Fat Man, plays well above their collective talent level at home, the Red Raiders simply overwhelmed them in Spurrier-esque fashion—this is the "Bob Stoops Defense" version of Spurrier08, the Raiders were great on both sides of the ball.

Mike Leach was mercilessly ridden this week for pulling a kid out of the stands and asking him to placekick (the scouting report noted that he had won a month of free rent during the quarter break of a Tech home game). True story, but the football implications don’t matter if all you are asking him to do is hit extra points: Tech 63, Kansas 21. Of course, even without the extra points: Tech 54, Kansas 21.

So now Texas travels to Lubbock for the next installment of Big 12 Death March. Tune in next week; I’m sure the GameDay crew will love Lubbock (NOTE: The co-eds are certainly hot, I’ll give them that).

Hey, how about we can the articles about SEC defenses being the greatest thing since the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers?

Any SEC offense with the capability to attack (which eliminates Auburn) can score in this league. Exhibit "A" is the Florida Gators’ 63-5 dismantling of Kentucky, providing sportswriters everywhere a basketball joke on one end of the scoreboard and a baseball joke on the other. The Gators did have two blocked punts and pick six in the mix, but that doesn’t do anything to explode the myth: "even the lower echelon teams in the SEC play great defense."

Here’s another myth: "LSU has so many great athletes on defense that you can never count them out of a game." Should I add: "even if their inexperienced quarterback throws two touchdowns in the wrong direction?" Nothing quite worked for the Tigers, blasted 52-38 at home by a Georgia squad still cheesed off that their obituary gets written every week. Mark Richt has lost exactly four true road games in his career at Georgia. Maybe he should start playing Florida at the Swamp?

Typically ground-bound Alabama also got into the spirit, methodically piling up points in a 29-9 crushing of Tennessee with frosh Julio Jones catching six balls for 103. Kid’s a major talent, by the way.

Oklahoma and Kansas State produced perhaps the strangest box score in Big 12 history. Oklahoma up 28-7. Game tied, 28-28 (thanks to some great Oklahoma pass defense). Oklahoma then up 55-28. Then half-time. Huh? Check this: Sam Bradford, 13 for 32. Did somebody steal the man’s uniform? Tired of all that scoring, the teams settled into a 7-3 second half. Oklahoma 58, Kansas State 35.

Southern Cal played the late game at Arizona, which spared most viewers from yet another ugly offensive display from Mark Sanchez and company. The Trojan defense preserved a 17-10 win, which wasn’t in the bank until the final tackle of a Wildcat who had picked up a teammate’s fumbled punt return and had a chance to take it all the way.

TCU ripped Wyoming 54-7 to show a little O to go with the nasty D. OK, it was Wyoming, but still, this is a Horned Frog squad that just three weeks ago beat Colorado State 13-7 in a game about as much fun as pounding sand with a rubber mallet.

Dave Wannstedt proved to the country he hadn’t lost his touch. One week after Pitt starts to regain national credibility, the Panthers get trounced by a terrible Rutgers team, 54-34. Maybe Pitt thought the underdogs should have a chance to score 50 on someone? Damn nice of them.

Pitt’s marquee victory this season is, of course, over South Florida. Louisville 24, USF 20. Well, that explains that.

Missouri clobbered Colorado 58-zip. Dan Hawkins is wondering if he can have his old job back.

He can’t. Boise State likes their guy Chris Peterson just fine. The Blue Field Group stayed undefeated with a 33-16 Friday victory over San Jose State and the grandfatherly Dick Tomey. Peterson is a cool 30-3 at Boise.

Ball State’s still undefeated after a 38-16 win over Eastern Washington. At some point I will need to figure out some general information like, I don’t know, their starting quarterback, their head coach, what conference they play in (the MAC, right?), famous alumni other than David Letterman. Ball State fans unite:

BYU beat UNLV in the battle of the cool acronym schools, 42-35. Utah didn’t play and Tulsa is playing as I write this. Tulsa may make it seven of the top 25 scoring 50 points.

Minnesota is now 7-1 after a 17-6 win over Purdue. How could Purdue possibly be this bad?

The ACC never fails to amuse me. You know who is leading the divisions? Florida State and Maryland in one, Virginia in the other. FSU took the top spot, and went to 6-1 overall, with a 30-20 comeback win over Virginia Tech. The new Seminole quarterback is Christian Ponder and he’s a good one. Aside from the miserable 12-3 loss to Wake in week three, Bobby’s boys are showing signs of perhaps playing up to their talent level. Bears watching.

Virginia soured the feel good story at Georgia Tech with a 24-17 comeback of their own. UVa will never be able to fire Al Groh at this rate.

The best showing in the ACC went to Nawth Klina. The Tar Heels blasted newly-ranked Boston College, 45-24. The carnage continues.

Even Duke shows some signs of intelligent football. The Blue Devils beat a suddenly hapless (sigh) Vanderbilt offense, 10-7. The home folks in Nashville were left with nothing good; they can’t even make fun of the opponents’ collective SAT scores in this match-up. Cue the post-game whiskey and sad country songs.

Thursday night was circled on most college football calendars as must-see TV when the season started. West Virginia/Auburn both started in the top ten, but neither stayed very long. WVU appears to have some gumption and, for that matter, something to play for. Pat White and Noel Devine (particularly Devine) lit up the Tigers, who look like a team that’s given up the ghost, in a 34-17 win. Please, God, let West Virginia win the Big East; they are the only team worth watching in a BCS bowl.

Impressive Showing of the Week: Texas Tech

1. Texas: Bring on the tortillas.

2. The Ghost of 1978: Penn State v. Alabama. I’ve given Alabama the nod all year, but I am not sure they beat Penn State on a neutral field.

4. Florida: All of a sudden, next week’s cocktail party is for the SEC East.

5. Oklahoma, land grant version slightly better than flagship version: On a neutral field, I think OU, without Ryan Reynolds, has a tough time with State. This year’s game, of course, is not on a neutral field. It’s in Stillwater.

7. Georgia: I told you Georgia would beat LSU. The Florida game is a toss-up.

8. Texas Tech: Was Kansas a one-game mirage? Or can the Red Raiders sustain this?

9. USC: Please don’t clutter up the BCS.

10. TCU: At the moment, the Frogs are the best of the mid-majors, or whatever we call them now. They travel to Utah, however, and I am also a bigger fan of Boise State with each passing week.

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