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jones Top Ten - Week 9 - 2009

Consider the duck: a beautiful animal, regularly shot for the amusement, and dining pleasure, of the American people. In orange sauce in Chinatown, on tiny plates with toast points in fine restaurants, stuffed unceremoniously with chicken and then jammed, even less ceremoniously, into a turkey for a New Orleans Thanksgiving, our nation needs ducks. We have an entire conservation society founded on the premise that we require a limitless supply, so that we can continue to shoot them. Even the humanized duck finds only second billing. Our two most famous caricature ducks are supporting actors, second bananas, and unimpressive ones at that. Daffy presents equal parts annoying and moronic, with a healthy side of mental instability. Donald is a dim-witted curmudgeon, a step behind his mischievous nephews, Huey, Louie and Dewey. If that weren’t enough, the sailor suit suggests, uncomfortably, that he might be a good candidate for the Village People. Duck as noun finds its most positive connotation when the creatures are placidly pictured on a stamp, or on the wall of a country club card room. As verb, duck is no less inspiring, describing only a defensive action, usually accompanied by "and cover."

Why a school would name their athletic team the ducks defies all rational explanation. And so does this statement:

Oregon 47
USC 20

Fear the Ducks.

On a crisp Saturday night in Autzen, the Ducks flew higher than a UVa frat boy at a Dave Matthews Band concert. USC got worked. USC, in the Pete Carroll era, does not get worked. The Trojans occasionally "stub their toe" or "falter" or "slip up" or wonder "who the hell is Jacquizz Rodgers and why can’t we tackle him?" But they do not get worked. Until Saturday. Oregon broke open a close first half with an offensive barrage that ended 600 yards deep into the night, with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli running for 164 yards and his backfield mate, tailback LaMichael James, slicing for another 183. Why yes, it was the most points and yards ever run up against Pete Carroll’s USC, even dating back to when they didn’t start eleven future NFL players on defense. This is not vintage USC; but give the Ducks credit. I opined before the season that Oregon lacked physical play on the offensive line and playmakers on defense. I was pretty smug when they went out and proved it in the opener against Boise State. I liked Cal better (yikes). But call me wrong on all counts at this point in a season where Chip Kelly has the clubhouse lead for coach of the year honors. Fear the Ducks, indeed.

In the other marquee national night game, Texas rolled Oklahoma State, 41-14. That is, if you can buy the assertion that a team gaining less than 300 yards in a game can roll anyone. It’s true in this case. The Texas defense dominated, forcing five turnovers and returning two picks for touchdowns. The Texas offense cashed in on good field position all night, only taking 52 snaps. Forget his early struggles, Colt McCoy’s defensive teammates will cost him the Heisman more surely than his own play—he threw only 21 passes, completing 16. After a couple of early breaks went against State, including a dropped TD pass, that’s all Texas needed him to do.

There is only one team in 2009 that fields more elite athletes than Texas (Oregon just proved that it is not USC). That would be the University of Florida. Just like the Longhorns, once the Gator defense dials in, you’re finished. Georgia tried to make a game of the annual brawl in Jacksonville, but after a TD brought them to within four points at 14-10, Tim Tebow went to work and the Gator defense gave him multiple opportunities, with no fear at all that the Bulldogs would answer. They didn’t. Gators 41, Dawgs 17 as Florida goes to a ridiculous 17-3 in their last 20 cocktail parties.

The most compelling football came courtesy, naturally, of the University of Iowa. The Hawkeyes stood on the precipice of being closed out by Indiana (for the love of God, Indiana?), before a five-carom interception in the Hoosier backfield resulted in an 86-yard TD return for Iowa. I’m certain it is available on YouTube by now. The Iowa’s (far) below average quarterback, Ricky Stanzi, went 92 yards and 66 yards for fourth quarter touchdowns, leading to a reasonably attractive 42-24 victory.

Penn State found similar trouble with Northwestern, trailing 13-10 at the half before turning on the fourth quarter afterburners in a 34-13 win.

The best game of the day was Miami’s whisker-thin 28-27 win over Wake Forest.

What else happened on Saturday? Well, not really a whole lot. The day gave boring a bad name, for the most part. Ohio State played New Mexico State; LSU played Tulane. Boise State and TCU continued their game of outsider one upsmanship by routing San Jose State and UNLV. Cincinnati’s back-up quarterback threw four more TDs and, yes, they count even if they came against Syracuse. Quickly rising Pitt didn’t play at all. Neither did Alabama, nor Arizona, who cracked the top 25 for the first time this season.

Tennessee did produce a fairly shocking result by appearing after warm-ups in Halloween black jerseys and then proceeding to destroy South Carolina, forcing three fumbles in a 31-13 win, Lane Kiffin’s first over a ranked team.

Auburn did not throw in the towel this week, instead adding to the Ole Miss embarrassment tour with a 33-20 win over the Rebels, who were barely clinging to national relevance anyway.

Georgia Tech inexplicably gave up 28 first half points to Vanderbilt, before running away in the second half for a 56-31 win.

Case Keenum threw for 559 yards and five touchdowns. Houston needed every bit of it, surviving Southern Miss, 50-43.

Utah continues to just win, baby. The Utes struggled, but eventually put away Wyoming, 22-10.

Oklahoma, the only other ranked team in the Big 12 aside from Texas and Oklahoma State, took a 21-0 lead and salted away Kansas State (the surprise leaders of the Big 12 North), 42-30.

Notre Dame crushed Wazzu, 40-14 in San Antonio, obviously where Notre Dame would play Washington State.

Some of the best action in the college football week came before Saturday. On Thursday, North Carolina found some offense—the defense has played well all year—and upset Virginia Tech, 20-17. On Friday, South Florida, looking to restore some pride after two straight losses, handed West Virginia a 30-17 loss.

Impressive Showing of the Week: Oregon

1. Texas

2. Florida

3. Alabama

4. Oregon

5. Cincinnati

6. LSU

7. TCU

8. Iowa

9. Boise State

10. Temple