I hate this game. I also love this game. That’s a problem. For one Saturday each October I know what it means to be mentally ill. Dr. Spock would be aghast at my parenting today; starting with an apoplectic fit when the six-year old comes home from his soccer game and changes into a bright red t-shirt. I hustle him quickly into the "Property of Texas Athletic Department" t-shirt Mrs. Jones Top Ten bought him before the season began. That’s not the worst of it. They—the six and the four-year-old—do not understand that this is not a game and Dad gets a little bit tightly wound when he is climbed on like a jungle gym during a key third and eight (which Texas does not convert). Mrs. Jones Top Ten wonders aloud why they don’t have some special genetic code embedded within them to know not to mess with the Alphas during Texas/OU. Surely God places some survival-of-the-fittest instinct within kids that prevents them from being thinned prematurely from the herd when they launch small plastic balls at each other while a football game is being played. Beer helps somewhat, but I swear the bottles are getting smaller. The last one couldn’t have been more than five ounces. Now it is empty and the Texas offense still reeks.
It cannot be healthy to live and die with every play, to be more emotionally invested in high-definition television than in my children. Of course, I only do this once a year. When it ends, the world returns to normal, well, aside from either the short-lived elation or the longer-lived depression. Elation wins today, by the slimmest of margins. On this Saturday, I will take it…any way I can get it.
What a fist fight. You plan for a pleasant day in Dallas and an SEC game breaks out. This one was violent even by Texas/OU standards. The offenses were a sideshow to the battle between two very good defenses. Sam Bradford was knocked out early and Colt McCoy was not great; actually he wasn’t even good. He was, apparently, sick again (I can’t decide if McCoy needs a new quarterbacks coach, a sports psychologist or a better general practitioner).Texas ran the ball in key spots and made a few more special teams and defensive plays. An ugly baby all around, complete with eight turnovers and both teams in double-digit penalties. Texas survives and advances.
So does Florida, the Gators got in a serious scrape with Arkansas, letting the Hogs hang around the Swamp and believe victory was possible, especially after a bomb from Ryan Mallett to Greg Childs made it 20-13, Arkansas, in the fourth. Florida answered the touchdown, watched Arkansas miss a field goal, and then took it the other way with key plays by Heisman Boy to snatch victory from the jaws of embarrassment with nine seconds to spare. Florida 23, Arkansas 20. Of all the nasty things people say about Bobby Petrino, no one ever said the guy couldn’t coach.
I turned off Notre Dame/USC in favor of the Florida game when USC took a 34-14 lead. Trojan athletic superiority is a continuing storyline in this series. I was halfway through cleaning the toys in the family room when I looked at the silent scroll on ESPN2: "USC 34, Notre Dame 27, ND ball, 42 seconds remaining." I tuned back in to find our hero, Jimmy Olsen, er, Clausen, complete a difficult fourth and ten pass in the red zone. Notre Dame used every last second to try and score from inside the ‘SC ten, including the single second the refs restored after the crowd thought time had expired. Clausen’s final effort fell incomplete; the echoes slumber.
Alabama cashed in a long pick six early against South Carolina and then settled into a typical SEC dog fight, or cat fight, or cock fight: something unpleasant, potentially bloody and politically incorrect, in any case. The game stayed at 13-6 forever before ‘Bama’s Mark Ingram asserted his will and scored the final touchdown for a 20-6 Tide win. Ingram was the player of the day in college football, rushing for 246 yards on a day when the Tide did little else against an excellent South Carolina defense.
Texas, Florida, USC and Alabama all survive and advance against tough opponents—single digit rankings versus teams in the twenties. Ohio State should have been at home with their feet up enjoying the show. Jim Tressel had no idea when he got up on Saturday that his Buckeyes would actually be the show.
Ohio State 18
Purdon’t came into this one 1-5, but outplayed the Buckeyes through the first three quarters. And by "outplayed" I mean "watched Terrelle Pryor make a series of spectacular mistakes to put Ohio State behind the eight ball." Then Pryor made a series of spectacular plays to save the day. But not spectacular enough. No one saw this one coming.
Virginia Tech lost their grip, as well. Although the Hokies at least went down to a solid Georgia Tech offense. Virginia Tech fell behind early and never could get over the hump as the Yellowjackets, keyed by Josh Nesbitt, ran for 309 yards. Nesbitt completed only one pass on the day, a 51-yard strike to Demaryius Thomas. Georgia Tech went to a quiet 6-1; Virginia Tech remained undefeated…outside of Atlanta, where they are now 0-2.
Bo Pelini has wondered when to bring back the black practice jerseys to Nebraska’s defense. I am guessing he will leave them in the equipment room at least one more week as Texas Tech’s spread passing attack kept the Huskers at bay in the second half for a frighteningly easy 31-10 win. Actually, the Husker defense wasn’t terrible, but they got zero help from the offense. The game turned in the first quarter on an 82-yard fumble return that put Tech up 14-0, one of several big plays made by the underrated Tech defense. Big Red never threatened after that.
I no more believe that Tiger Woods shops for his own groceries than I believe Brett Favre plays touch football in his Wrangler jeans each weekend. We are at a point in our culture where the only time I watch commercials is during a live sporting event. If you want to sell me anything other than beer, cars or shaving products, your options for getting my attention are pretty limited.
Tip for all the youth coaches out there: try not letting your kid play quarterback all the time. This public service announcement brought to you by Dan Hawkins, whose Colorado Buffaloes were sparked by the head coach throwing his son under the bus last week and installing the talented Tyler Hanson, who then went out and upset Kansas, 34-30. Colorado jumped to an easy three-TD lead before Todd Reesing led Kansas back, even taking the lead in the fourth. But it was Hanson who engineered the clutch touchdown drive to seal it for the Buffs.
Oklahoma State turned to defense, of all things, in an easier-than-expected 33-17 win over Mizzou. Hubert Anyiam did his best Dez Bryant impression, catching 10 for 119. Mike Gundy scratched his head and did his best James Dean.
Penn State, in a surprising bid for SEC membership, shut out Minnesota, 20-zip.
Iowa remained undefeated by, get this, playing solid defense, getting good offensive line play and limiting mistakes (yawn) in a 20-10 win over Wisconsin. I actually didn’t see the game; call it a wild guess.
Explain this: Kansas State 62, Texas A&M 14. Did Bill Snyder sneak Michael Bishop and Mark Simoneau onto the field? Especially in light of last week’s final: Texas Tech 66, Kansas State 14. One wag suggested that Tech should be installed as a 100-point favorite over Texas A&M this Saturday in Lubbock.
TCU put it all together and thwacked Colorado State, 44-6. Miami took a more workmanlike approach but pulled away from Central Florida, 27-7.
BYU beat San Diego State, 38-28, and will host TCU next week.
Houston beat Tulane easily and Utah did the same to UNLV, who is probably tired of playing teams from Utah at this point.
On Wednesday, Boise State got past Tulsa, 28-21, in what was, let’s be clear, a pretty average performance. More impressive was Cincinnati on Thursday, who went on the road to undefeated South Florida and handled the Bulls 34-17, even though star quarterback Tony Pike went down to injury in the first half. The Bearcat back-up, Zach Collaros (who is not even listed in the depth chart in my copy of Phil Steele’s 2009), isn’t Pike, but he is a lot more fun to watch, especially on a 75-yard quarterback draw in the third quarter.
Impressive Showing of the Week: Purdue. I can’t believe I just typed that.
1. Alabama: The Tide running game puts them above Florida and Texas. At least it provides some semblance of offensive identity.
2. Florida and Texas: Welcome back to another exciting episode of The Flawed Squad. Gators and Longhorns are two peas in a pod, right down to the charismatic evangelical quarterbacks, both of whom are waiting for another game-breaking skill position player to emerge from full rosters of four and five-star studs at their disposal. Defense and special teams? Lights out for both and that is what keeps them undefeated.
4. I still don’t know who’s fourth. So quit asking.
5. USC: Right on schedule, the Trojans emerge as the team no one wants to play. I am still not convinced they don’t have another loss in them somewhere.
9. TCU: But would you bet on them against Iowa?
Georgia Tech is eleven. Penn State and LSU have "prove it" games this weekend, at Michigan and hosting Auburn, respectively.