Being crushed by a 30-foot tall inflatable elephant did cross my mind, but it did not instill so much fear as to make me leave the very hospitable tent keeping me dry. As the wind and rain picked up, Jumbo (actually the faithful call him Big Al) was tilting backwards on his heels: one stiff gust and we would all be starring in an Allstate commercial. But that would be a small price to pay for not abandoning the ribs, the cold beer and the conversation. Right now I am talking to a man who is wearing his "undefeated clothes." The white polo and khaki shorts are worn every time he sees Alabama play in person. Then they go into a Ziploc bag—the same Ziploc bag each time—and emerge again for the next opponent. This includes the socks and underwear, he volunteers. His wife, the kind of southern woman whose sense of smell can discern the alcohol content of a red plastic solo cup from 20 paces, looks forward to the ceremonial burning. Actually not, now that she thinks about it. That means Alabama loses, and she’s also the kind of southern woman for whom that just won’t do at all.
In a few hours, she will join 100,000 of her closest friends and chant for the whole world to hear their pre-game ritual: "It’s great to be from Al-a-bama." Damn straight.
Penn State 3
I don’t know if Joe Paterno was madder at his team for lacking courage, or madder at the college football world for pretending that he is some kind of fragile museum piece to be revered as he tours the country (one last time?). Probably both, but the truth is that he has a good football team that could have given ‘Bama a better game. Freshman quarterback Robert Bolden made some crucial red zone mistakes, but he also made some plays against the Tide defense. He has a bright future and his team may win eight or nine games.
But Alabama will win 11 or 12. These two squads could have played ten times and the final outcome would not have changed. Alabama is too experienced, too fast, too physical and, shockingly, too creative on offense, where they notched one TD drive going five wide and the next one using Trent Richardson as a battering ram. The Tide’s back-up tailback is the best player I’ve seen in college football this season. You have to go back almost thirty years when Barry Sanders backed up Thurman Thomas to find a "great and greater" combination like this.
On a tradition soaked Saturday, the best game of the day happened in Notre Dame Stadium, which is precisely why NBC lays out all that jack in the first place. Michigan’s Denard Robinson, 2010’s first breakout star, passed for 244 and rushed for (gulp) 258, including an 87-yard touchdown, to give Michigan a 21-7 lead. Notre Dame fought back and took the lead on a 95-yard pass play from Dayne Crist to Kyle Rudolph. Robinson returned for his encore: winning the game with a two-yard score with 27 seconds left. Michigan 28, ND 24.
The second breakout star of the season is South Carolina’s freshman tailback, Marcus Lattimore, who didn’t quite beat Georgia by himself, but was most of the difference in a 17-6 Gamecock win over the Bulldogs. Georgia assisted their hosts by taking dead aim at its own foot a couple of times, including losing a crucial fumble inside the five.
Ohio State took some shots from the speedy Miami Hurricanes, who scored on an 88-yard kickoff return and a 79-yard punt return. But the Buckeyes made the big defensive plays, intercepting Jacory Harris four times to ensure an impressive 36-24 win. Terrelle Pryor ran for 100 and passed for 200 with no picks, which is a pretty good recipe for Buckeye victory.
Sweet Mother of Mary, Virginia Tech, ruin your own season if you want, but ruining Boise State’s along with it is a blatant lack of sportsmanship that would make Conrad Dobler sympathetic. James Madison 21, Virginia Tech 16. Now they not only have the Federalist Papers, but also the second-ever lower division victory over a ranked team to brag about. Jeff Sagarin’s going to love this one.
Texas and Florida are now out of the penalty box. Even though both trailed early, the two kid genius quarterback offenses started to get on track in a 34-7 Longhorn win over Wyoming and a 38-14 Gator win over South Florida, punctuated for the second week in a row by Jeff Demps re-enacting his NCAA 60-meter finals win at the expense of an opposing secondary.
Texas and Florida were solid, but Oklahoma was downright pissed and took it out on Florida State in a 47-17 rout that at times brought to mind the 2008 OU squad.
Colorado and Colorado State lost 103-13 against Cal and Nevada. Ski season, anyone?
Oregon trailed Tennessee 13-6, but then tied the game on a LaMichael James 72-yard touchdown run where every single Tennessee player had a chance to tackle him. James started right, didn’t like what he saw, went back left, found a crease, changed speeds, got caught up in traffic, cut right, broke a few tackles, went back left, stopped off for a Coke, signed an autograph, changed his shirt, then scored. And the rout was on. Ducks 48, Vols 13.
Shaky Smithson is not the drunken comic sidekick in a Randolph Scott film. He’s actually Utah’s punt returner. Pretty good one, too. Utes 38, UNLV 10.
Also in the Mountain West, Air Force just worked BYU, 35-14.
Marshall had West Virginia on the ropes Friday night, but let them escape in overtime, 24-21.
On Thursday night, Mississippi State gave Auburn all they wanted, but fell just short. Auburn 17, MSU 14.
Iowa won the coveted Cy-Hawk trophy game, easily topping Iowa State, 35-7.
Les Miles did not (yet) find a way to lose to Vanderbilt. LSU 27, Vandy 3.
Kansas lost last week to North Dakota State, 6-3. The Jayhawks changed quarterbacks and the new guy, Jordan Webb, led a fairly stunning 28-25 upset of Georgia Tech.
There was some pay-to-play on the schedule, but not a lot. TCU did roll up 62 on Tennessee Tech. Arkansas beat ULM; Wisconsin beat San Jose State, Nebraska over Idaho, etc, etc, etc…
Texas Tech scored 20 fewer points on New Mexico than Oregon did…and still won 52-17.
USC scheduled an easy home opener against Virginia and crushed the Cavaliers, 17-14. Wait a second, what? This isn’t working out the way it is supposed to so far.
If anyone stayed up to watch it, Stanford was pretty impressive in a 35-0 shellacking of UCLA.
Impressive Showing of the Week: Oklahoma
2. Ohio State
3. Oregon Without Jeremiah Masoli
6. Probably Texas
7. Maybe Florida
10. South Carolina
Boise State is eleven because life simply isn’t fair. Iowa waits in the wings.