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jones Top Ten - Week Ten - 2009

My Uncle Jim Silcott, at 19-years-old, piloted landing craft in the Pacific, one of the more dangerous jobs during World War II. When I was 19, I served as a camp counselor. That’s the big difference between Jim’s generation and mine, but, more to the point, it is the big difference between me and thousands of men and women my own age. They are the ones who guarantee that the rest of us work in air-conditioned buildings and eat out on Friday night and attend our kid’s soccer game, all without a second thought to our personal safety. All of you know people like this; if you don’t, then you need to get out more. We dedicate an entire day each year to remembering those who serve today and those who came before them, certainly a small gesture relative to a great debt. Normally, the dignitaries make speeches, the veterans parade, we salute the flag and everyone goes home. But normal doesn’t live here anymore. A violent act interrupted normal in Fort Hood. The enemy attacked, one of their own, on their home base, where safety used to be guaranteed.

When tragedy tears community asunder, there’s not much that outsiders can really do about it. We can pray and comfort and sympathize. We can offer financial gifts or offer to shoulder more of the burden. But healing comes from within. The resilience of humans depends upon believing that some day the sun will shine again, that we will move forward together. That we will survive. For me, this always comes back to the moments in life when I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God, not matter how deeply his world has hurt someone, has a sense of humor.

Navy 23
Notre Dame 21

No, I don’t for a minute believe that the men of Annapolis summoned up some heretofore untapped inner courage to defend the honor of America’s fighting men and women and defeated Notre Dame. Hollywood believes that. Hollywood understands baseball best, football least, basketball somewhere in between. What I believe is that Navy just plays better football than Notre Dame. The Midshipmen were upset by a shockingly good Temple squad last week, but their only other losses are at Ohio State and at Pittsburgh. They have beaten Air Force and Wake Forest. That’s arguably a better resume than the Irish and now, for the second time in three years, they have beaten them on the field. Notre Dame may—may—have markedly better athletes than Navy (players like Golden Tate and Michael Floyd are not ever going to sign with Navy), but they do not have markedly better football players. Make of that what you will. Notre Dame’s marquee win this year is what, exactly?

Iowa tiptoes along the precipice each week. Why not fall off it this Saturday? Northwestern 17, Iowa 10, decided largely when Ricky Stanzi was knocked out of the game in the second quarter on a play in which he also fumbled while being sacked in his own end zone, touchdown Northwestern. You would think losing Ricky Stanzi might actually help Iowa. Not so much. After watching his back-up play, I promise to Iowans far and wide that I will never again criticize Mr. Stanzi’s inept quarterbacking.

Or Jeremiah Masoli’s…he certainly was not the problem as Oregon gacked away a clear path to the Rose Bowl by getting ripped for 51 points by Stanford. My tribute to the Ducks was, alas, premature. And a there’s nothing worse than premature Duck adulation.

Oregon’s nauseous performance left Arizona an opening to win the Pac Ten. The Wildcats whimsically worked Wazzu, 48-7, and are tied in the Pac Ten loss column with the Ducks.

In the SEC, Alabama bludgeoned LSU. Except, unlike in other Alabama games, LSU bludgeoned them right back. What a nasty, hard-hitting affair in Tuscaloosa. Julio Jones made the play you recruit him to make, taking a screen pass 73 yards for the deciding touchdown in a 24-15 Tide victory. (Why 15 points for the Tigers? Because Les Miles cannot help himself when it comes to chasing points by attempting ill-timed two-point conversions).

Ohio State completely smothered Penn State’s offense in a 24-7 win that also provided a huge boost to the psyche of one Terrelle Pryor (I guess as opposed to two Terrelle Pryors…). The Nittany Lions have hosted two huge statement games this season and lost both, to Iowa and now to the Buckeyes. That leaves Ohio State and Iowa to settle the Big Ten next week in Columbus. If Ricky Stanzi does not play, then mark that one down as a horrendous beating by the OSU defense. Wouldn’t they like the USC game back about now?

Texas and Florida played roughly the same game. But the Texas fans felt great about their team and the Florida fans were disgusted with theirs. Well-coached, physical and disciplined teams showed up in Austin and Gainesville, respectively. Central Florida stymied the Texas running game early and Vanderbilt just set about making Florida look bad. Then, as the football cliche goes, big players made big plays. The Texas partisans enjoyed Colt McCoy’s air raid, putting up 470 yards against the visiting Knights (273 of them to Jordan Shipley—the Texas fans really covet a Biletnikof Award) in a 35-3 win. The Florida fans sat on their hands while their own guys outlasted Vandy 27-3, likely disappointed that they didn’t drop six or seven touchdowns on the Commodores, which is actually pretty damn hard to do ever since Bobby Johnson showed up. At the end of the day, none of this makes any difference.

Nebraska may play the ugliest brand of football in the nation. A typical Cornhusker game makes Alabama/LSU look like a night at the ballet. I think Bo Pelini likes it that way, especially after a 10-3 win over Oklahoma (Nebraska’s TD courtesy of an interception returned to the one-yard-line) that had Tommie Frazier desperately searching through his hall closet for his helmet by the time it was over.

Saturday evening’s scariest moment came when Cal’s Jahvid Best went airborne against Oregon State, was knocked inverted, and landed on his head, causing his helmet to pop off. Best lay motionless and was removed by a cart. The late report, thankfully, was that he had regained feeling in all of his extremities. Brilliant athlete, brutal game, as we are often reminded. Cal was never the same after that and lost, 35-14.

Syracuse, after making a game of it early, got unsurprisingly and unrepentantly throttled by Pittsburgh, 37-10. Pittsburgh hosting Cincinnati on December 5th will be one of the games of the year in college football. Who woulda thunk?

Cincinnati, for their part, survived a nasty fight with UConn, needing 480 yards passing from Zach Collaros to post a 47-45 win over the Huskies. UConn continues to fall just short on the big stage.

Houston played almost exactly the same game against Tulsa, except it was Case Keenum who saved the Cougars in a 46-45 win.

South Carolina completed their annual collapse with an ugly 33-16 loss to Arkansas. The aggressive and innovative offensive head coach is NOT the guy coaching South Carolina.

Al Groh’s Legacy, meet the Miami Hurricanes. What a disaster. 52-17, ‘Canes over Cavs. I am still convinced that the University of Virginia cares too much about academics to bother buying out Al Groh. That’s fine, if you are into that sort of thing.

Not only does TCU aspire to the BCS bowl level of the college football seating chart, the Horned Frogs are also eager to participate in Style Point Derby 2009, much to the chagrin of San Diego State. The Aztecs graciously hosted (and, to be fair, the weather was beautiful) a 55-12 beat down that wasn’t really that close.

Utah also played the style point game in a 45-14 throttling of New Mexico (perhaps the worst team in college football). Big boy school commences next week as the Utes travel to TCU to settle the Mountain West. Game Day should go to Fort Worth, great town, much more fun that Columbus for Ohio State/Iowa.

Oklahoma State ran all over Iowa State, 34-8.

Georgia Tech needs to decide whether it is the second coming of the mid-1970s Oklahoma Sooners or if it is just a really good service academy running the wishbone with better athletes (none of whom play defense). There was evidence of both in a 30-27 overtime win against Wake Forest.

Remember USC? The Trojans beat a mediocre Arizona State, 14-9, on the strength of a 75-yard pass play and an interception return.

Did you know Wisconsin was ranked in the top 25? Badgers 31, Indiana 28. So is BYU, who ripped Wyoming, 52-0. Virginia Tech is also hanging around, and will get to stay with a 16-3 win over East Carolina.

Boise State traveled to Louisiana Tech for a Friday night game and were much happier leaving than coming. A second half pick six and a bold on-sides kick call gave Tech a shot at the upset. The Blue Field Group asserted themselves late and got on the plane 45-35 winners.

Impressive Showings of the Week: Navy and Stanford, two teams that have little business making noise in big time college football, good for them

1. Texas and Florida: They are co-number ones because they both have nasty defenses, and also field quarterbacks who convert third downs as efficiently as the airport currency exchange. Do you want to know who doesn’t have a quarterback like that?

Alabama, that’s why the Tide are number 3.

4. Guess what? I am not completely convinced it is not TCU.

4. Unless it is Cincinnati.

6. LSU, no kidding, what team listed below is a good bet against the Tigers, assuming Jordan Jefferson’s health?

7. Ohio State (I’ll hate myself for this; I just know it.)

8. through 10. Houston…Boise State…Oregon…Iowa…I just don’t know.

Go thank a veteran on Wednesday. While you are at it, as my friend Katy Agnor noted to me once, thank the spouses and children they leave behind. Those folks are heroes in their own right, even though they would be the last to admit it.