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jones Top Ten - Week 1 - 2009

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Never understate the importance of a working downstairs toilet on opening day of college football season. Never. You can go without HD, drink off-brand beer, admire Dave Lapham’s enthusiasm for football players playing the game of football, skip the 11:00 Big Ten games on ESPN because you figure nothing interesting will happen, overcook the steaks, unwittingly insult the company and screw up the pizza order. You can even do all of this and cheer for Temple. But you can’t be without basic plumbing, which I did not have at dawn on 5 September. Although, admittedly, the tiny pools of water periodically appearing in the downstairs guest bathroom were starkly beautiful, like a collection of miniature reflecting ponds. Perhaps I could buy some Koi.

Any problem in this house not solved by a mallet, caulk or jiggling the handle requires a plumber. The one who showed up wanted to know if our water bill was particularly high. High relative to what? Homes that aren’t in central Texas in the middle of a historic drought with highs well into the 100s for about the last 70 days?

"Well, you may have a foundational leak."
"And?"
"We’d have to go under the house, segment-by-segment and try and find it."
"Let me guess, that would be a grand or so."
"Yeah, probably."
"Or, you could re-set the toilet and see if the wax ring is shot."
"Well, yeah, that would be the first segment anyway."

Thankfully, it was the only segment. Ten minutes, wax ring replaced, toilet working—although I will miss the impressive collection of algae growing under the bowl.

You never know in this life when you are just missing a couple of pieces. Or when your foundation has sprung a leak.

Brigham Young 14
Oklahoma 13

Oklahoma misses a few pieces. The Sooners were already down Jermaine Gresham, the nation’s best tight end. His back-up, Brody Eldridge, had to play center, of all things, on Saturday. The OU line is a patchwork of some talented guys, but it is a patchwork nonetheless. And then, the Heisman Trophy winner went down with a shoulder injury. Without Sam Bradford, the Sooners did not make the plays to win in the second half. Of course, they largely didn’t do that with Bradford, holding only a 10-7 half-time lead in a game marred by penalties and turnovers. Sooner understudy Landry Jones did not play poorly and perhaps this recap unfairly discounts a very fine BYU defense, but the Sooners are missing something. They are reminiscent of the 2005 squad (who did, to be fair, eventually right the ship), not the world beaters of a season ago.

As for BYU, the Cougars just raised the stakes a bit higher in the BCS-buster lottery. Quarterback Max Hall and defensive end Jan Jorgensen are an impressive one-two punch, even if one of them sounds like he should host a Scandinavian cooking show.

The Bradford injury and subsequent upset ruined an otherwise stellar day for the Big 12. Oklahoma State took out Georgia, 24-10, in a game I quite incorrectly expected the Cowboys to lose. Receiver Dez Bryant made most of the difference (he might have been the best player in any game on Saturday), but so did a vastly improved OSU defense, which held UGA to 3 measly points after an impressive opening drive by Joe Cox staked the Dawgs to a 7-0 lead. But that was their lone highlight and, no doubt, Georgia partisans felt deja vu all over again watching tackle Trinton Sturdivant leave the field with yet another season-ending injury.

Many surmised that Oklahoma State had something this year, not so much Missouri. Nevertheless, the Tigers, still coached by Gary Pinkel, by the way, thrashed and embarrassed an underwhelming Illinois squad pegged for better things than this. The Illini are still coached by Ron Zook, which may explain some of it. Mizzou being a whole lot better than we thought, especially new QB Blaine Gabbert, who hooked up with Danario Alexander, who is apparently a Missouri skill position player, as opposed to a New Orleans shellfish recipe, for much of the damage, explains the rest.

The day’s other huge national game saw Virginia Tech hold off Alabama for as long as they could. Apparently with smoke and mirrors given that the Tide finished with a roughly 500-150 total yardage advantage. Tech held a 17-16 lead for what seemed like forever before the fourth quarter roof caved in on them. The Bama running game got nasty, leading to 18 points in the final frame—and it ain’t like Va Tech is the Little Sisters of the Perpetual Defenselessness (that would be Oregon, see below). Tide quarterback Greg McElroy looks to me like a new and improved J.P. Wilson. Tide 34, Hokies 24. (Oh, and Tyrod Taylor still can’t throw the football).

I don’t care if they are a service academy, and I don’t care if you are Jim Tressel, opening against Navy while breaking in a new defense can be hazardous. Ohio State found out the hard way in a 31-27 win that wasn’t over until the Buckeyes picked a potential game-tying two-point conversion attempt by Navy and returned it the other way for the game’s final score. Forget "Mid"-shipmen, the good ole USNA very nearly had the Buckeyes in deep ship.

Meanwhile, it was "damn the freshman quarterback, full speed ahead" as Pete Carroll’s crew cruised over San Jose State 56-3. The aforementioned frosh, Matt Barkley, completed 15 of 19 for 233 and nary a pick. None of that matters for next week; after watching the Navy tape, I am guessing Carroll springs the wishbone on Ohio State with what should be comical results.

Count Jones as wrong on Ohio State, wrong on Alabama (the other direction) and, likely, sadly, wrong about USC.

But right about Oregon…my goodness gravy, the Ducks are bad. Forget that LeGarrette Blount went all kinds of nuts after the game, resulting in a suspension for the rest of the season. The story should have been that Blount didn’t go nuts during the game. He had less yards than a dead man, including being victimized for a safety. Blount, Smoked. How’s that for a headline? Oregon can neither move the ball nor stop the opposition from moving it; other than that, they’re a fine team. Boise State dominated the 19-8 affair in ways the score does not reflect. The Broncos are on an express train to Undefeatedland. Unfortunately, Oregon’s coming collapse may be Boise State’s undoing in the BCS beauty pageant.

Oregon/Boise State was the late game on opening Thursday. It had quite the warm-up act as South Carolina and NC State waged almost unwatchable war, ending with a 7-3 Gamecock victory. State looks like no one’s darkhorse; South Carolina, for its part, still might be the worst team in the SEC.

If week one is a fair barometer, then Notre Dame is good, very good. The Irish dominated Nevada (a better team than you think) 35-0 on both sides of the ball. Jimmy Neutron racked up 315 yards on only 15 completions, two of them 70-yard and 88-yard TDs to Michael Floyd.

Iowa, a sleeper pick in the Big Ten, struggled with Northern Iowa. The Hawkeyes blocked two potential game-winning field goals on back-to-back plays, one on third down and one on fourth, to prevail 17-16.

Virginia lost to William and Mary.

Syracuse, starting former Duke point guard Greg Paulus at quarterback, nearly beat Minnesota, losing in triple-OT 23-20. Small steps.

LSU boasts a far better roster than Washington, but the Huskies were pretty game anyway on Saturday, taking the visiting Tigers to the wire in a 31-23 loss. LSU underperforming might be one storyline, but I think the more correct reading is that Washington is a far better team than the one we remember from 2008. Steve Sarkisian coached them well on Saturday and Jake Locker is starting to meet his remarkable athletic upside; UW gained 478 yards against LSU. Don’t sleep on Washington. Yes, I am talking to you, Notre Dame.

Baylor won on the road at Wake Forest, a game the Bears had to have to make real their bowl aspirations and, check this final out: Texas A&M 44, New Mexico 6. Interesting.

Cal annihilated Maryland 52-13 to cap a forgettable day for the ACC. Ole Miss took out Memphis 45-14, but it took them a while to get rolling, the first half offense was awful.

Dan Hawkins did not need to start the season by losing to Colorado State, but that’s what he did in the Sunday night special, 23-17, Rams over Buffs.

The rest of the schedule was largely pay-to-play. Tennessee laid 63 points on Western Kentucky. Air Force put up 72 against something called Nichols State. Georgia Tech looked rusty and sloppy in the option game, well, after Jonathon Dwyer opened the season with a 74-yard touchdown anyway, on the way to a 37-17 win over Jacksonville State. Penn State beat Akron and Austin College beat the Southwest Assemblies of God.

On Monday, Cincinnati destroyed Rutgers, 47-15, to claim the Big East championship outright. They will meet the winner of the ACC championship game in the Orange Bowl.

Of course, the week does not end until Florida State and Miami get their annual Labor Day clash out of the way. Miami leads 14-10 at halftime. After a full day at the lake, that’s about the extent of my dedication. Some one e-mail me the final tomorrow.

Impressive Showing(s) of the Week: Alabama for asserting itself, Oklahoma State and Notre Dame for silencing the critics and Missouri for "what was that????"

1. The Team That Played Charleston Southern

2. The Team That Played Louisiana-Monroe

3. Alabama

4. USC (sigh…)

5. Oklahoma State

6. California

7. Ohio State

8. Notre Dame

9. Brigham Young

10. Mississippi

Eleven is Virginia Tech. I started this season believing Ohio State would handle USC in week two. I don’t believe that anymore.