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jones Top Ten - Week Five - 2009

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The only thing worse, as the saying goes, than a sentimental old fool, is a sentimental young one. At 42, I am unsure which camp I am in anymore. But I reside in one of them, because, for me, on the first Saturday in October the world takes on an absolutely Rockwellian cast. I’ve evolved (devolved?) to the point where I love watching the early Big Ten games. The stadiums are beautiful—especially the new one at Minnesota—the uniforms are classic (Phil Knight being the great patron of, say, Indiana, simply doesn’t work), and they play rivalry games to determine ownership of all kinds of crazy kitsch that could be purchased in miniature at your local Stuckey’s (which presents a fine alternative to the quest for all fifty state spoons). The fans even attend games wearing long pants, which they still refer to as trousers. Americana, my good man.

Miami wants nothing to do with this tradition.

Miami 21
Oklahoma 20

The Big Ten keeps college football’s history. Miami, more than anyone else, does their best to re-write it. Starting in January, 1984, with a failed two-point conversion called by boring old Tom Osborne, the Hurricanes stormed the gates of tradition. The "U" was a pro team in college; they played in a pro stadium far from campus in their eclectic and vibrant melting pot of a city. They won five national titles. Their fans did not wear trousers. Still don’t.

But after falling on relatively hard times, it became the call of Randy Shannon’s crew to restore the swagger. They got a little bit of it last night. In a great big game atmosphere, the Hurricanes fell behind early, stymied Oklahoma’s offense in the middle with speed and more speed, and held on late. Some great football played, some sloppy—there were 19 penalties (a dozen on the Hurricanes; there’s the Miami we know and love)—but all in all a night that will help the ‘Canes forget about Virginia Tech and remember the days when they used to play Oklahoma for much higher stakes. The Sooners return to the drawing board having played hard, but not always well. They are missing too many vital pieces and, even after a heroic effort in Miami, it is starting to show.

USC seems to not be missing any pieces—all of a sudden. Or was this simply same old Cal, second verse? Whatever, the Trojans completely dominated Cal’s offense in a 30-3 win. I’m hard-pressed to recall a team falling apart this thoroughly, this fast.

Next, USC will get its offense fully on track, win out, win a home game at the Rose Bowl and then the national media can point out to you why they are the best team in the nation and why it is a travesty that they aren’t playing in the BCS title game. I’ve seen this movie.

We know that Les Miles sold his soul straight to the devil for at least one national championship, but there may be a few more contract addendums of which we are unaware. LSU 20, Georgia 13; and I am still not quite sure how Charles Scott scored the last touchdown unless he was kept upright by the insidious evil field gnomes sent by the dark lord to aid him in his quest.

My friend Jeff Fowler channels Dan Jenkins when he points out that "every game is its ownself." No truer anywhere today than it is in El Paso. That’s where UTEP, last week on the wrong end of 64-7, upended Houston, last week on the right end of national acclaim and a high AP ranking after a thriller against Texas Tech. UTEP papered over Houston’s 17-point spread with a 58-41 battering of the Cougar defense behind Donald Buckram’s ridiculous 262 yards on the ground.

Iowa barely beats Northern Iowa, then goes to Penn State and embarrasses an allegedly top ten squad, then comes home and barely beats Arkansas State. OK. Iowa 24, Arkansas State 21.

While someone explains that result, someone else take a crack at why Virginia Tech can obliterate Miami’s offense and then give up 26 points to Duke. No, Va Tech did not lose to Duke (34-26, Hokies); it just felt that way.

Mississippi scored against Vanderbilt. Once you accomplish that, then you have a pretty good shot at beating Vandy, whose fine defense can only accomplish so much. Ole Miss 23, Commodores 7.

Auburn went to Tennessee and returned with a valuable SEC road win, 26-22. The Tigers have, very quietly, not lost a game this year.

Michigan apparently missed last Sunday’s paper. Otherwise they would have known that Michigan State had thrown in the towel and coasted to an easy victory. Instead, Michigan State 26, Michigan 20. Meanwhile, Penn State licked its wounds and licked Illinois, 35-17. Illinois is a terrible football team.

Notre Dame, God love ‘em (and I assume he does), went down to the last minute for the fourth week in a row and beat Washington, 37-30, in overtime. Jimmy Clausen went 23-31 for 422 with Golden Tate being the biggest beneficiary.

Who leads the Pac Ten? Stanford, at 3-0, thanks to a 24-16 win over UCLA, keyed by the Cardinal Larry Csonka-esque running back, Toby Gerhart.

Boise State beat UC-Davis, 34-16, which didn’t impress anyone. You boys go back out on your blue field and do not come in the house until you have scored 70. Understand?

Arkansas lit up Texas A&M, 47-19, in a measuring-stick game for both teams. The rest of the Big 12 (Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Mizzou and Oklahoma State), bizarrely, took the day off.

South Florida remained unblemished by hanging a 20-spot in the third quarter and intercepting Greg Paulus five times to beat Syracuse 34-20. Paulus’s assist/turnover ratio: not good.

Remember Noel Devine? One of the many gifted speed merchants who used to hang out with Pat White at West Virginia, Devine is, get this, still playing football. And apparently no one from the state of Colorado can tackle him. West Virginia 35, Colorado 24.

Some teams simply did what they were supposed to do. Alabama bludgeoned Kentucky, 38-20. The term "bludgeon" describes what Alabama does far better than any other verb could. My newspaper went with "pummel" today, but it lacks a certain medieval quality.

Cincinnati suffered no letdown at Miami (Midwest version), 37-13. Oregon beat Wazzu, the closest thing in a BCS conference to having a bye week, 52-6. TCU continued their cross-Metroplex rivalry with Southern Money and pulled away 39-14 after a shaky first half. SMU’s not terrible, by the way. Brigham Young defeated Utah State 35-17. Ohio State crushed Indiana 33-14.

Impressive Showing of the Week: UTEP

1. Alabama

2. Texas

3. Tim Tebow’s neurologist

4. Virginia Tech

5. LSU

6. USC

7. Miami

8. Ohio State

9. Cincinnati

10. TCU