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jones Top Ten - Week Thirteen - 2011

If you had been with Lewis and Clark, Oregon never would have become a state.

My wife the navigator does not generally put up with my smart-assery and this was no exception.

If you had been making the turns for them, they would have ended up in New Orleans.

The ubiquity of the GPS has eliminated most of these spousal interactions. But the presence of such a device in our car has not prevented me from driving south on Texas Farm-to-Market 13 between Troup and Henry’s Chapel, which is about the biggest slice of "middle of nowhere" East Texas can serve. There’s not much of Texas I haven’t seen; now I can check FM 13 off the list. I was raised in the Panhandle, schooled in Austin, and married into East Texas (Cass County, far enough behind the pine curtain that even the Presbyterians handle snakes). I believe both Dallas and Houston are great cities and I would rather talk about what makes them great than spend my time bitching about their flaws. I’ve hiked the Big Bend, driven the border road through Presidio and dined in Matamoros. My father went to school in Galveston; my sister raised her kids in Beaumont and my mother’s family has lived at all points in between. My late uncle, J.A. Edwards, was the last real cowboy in the family. We’ve had farmers and roughnecks and doctors and lawyers and teachers. I saw a very young Dwight Yoakam play in the bull barn at the XIT Rodeo in Dalhart. I love the San Antonio Spurs just a little less than I love my children.

My Texas story is not much different than many of yours. I just get the privilege of writing about it occasionally. And I like the Aggies. Love some of them, actually. They are my friends and neighbors. One of them pastored me as a child and one I barely knew cried with me when he put down the best dog I ever owned, a burnt-orange and white Brittany named Truman. I don’t really give a damn about conference realignment, or the Longhorn Network, which I have never seen, and I think every college game played at Jerry World seeps just a little bit more humanity from my unapologetic and anachronistic Southwest Conference soul. There is a growing segment of Aggie fans that drive me crazy, but so, too, do my own people. That’s family. I will miss the Aggies. I don’t agree with their decision, but I carry no ill will. Life’s too short.

But damn am I glad it ended like this…

Texas 27
Texas A&M 25

Pardon my indulgence. This was, charitably, about the 10th most important game of the college football weekend. I have little to write about the game itself. Mack Brown, despite recent dissatisfaction with him, has always found ways to win throughout his tenure at Texas (pick six, punt return, personal foul, game-saving scramble from the least-talented athlete on the field, 40-yard field goal, ball game—Nebraska fans watching at home could have told their Aggie friends how this was going to play out). Texas A&M, under both Mike Sherman and his predecessor, have done the opposite. An Aggie squad with legitimate top ten aspirations (and offensive talent) finishes 6-6.

The second, third and fourth most-played rivalries in history have now fallen victim to conference re-alignment. Thanks, college football!

The truly important game of Thanksgiving weekend was LSU/Arkansas. This one was a classic…right up to the point that it wasn’t. That point was when Tyrann Mathieu returned a punt 92 yards to tie the game, then subsequently forced and recovered a Hog fumble to set up LSU’s go ahead score. The rest of the afternoon was a brutally efficient demonstration of the power of roster. To whit, LSU has more good (and great) players than any other team and they know how to use them. LSU 41, Arkansas 17.

Alabama staked their own claim, giving the ball to Trent Richardson over and over again to see if Auburn could stop him. Uhm, no, with the tiny consolation that Richardson didn’t score a touchdown in running for 203 yards. Alabama 42, Auburn 14.

There is almost no way for Alabama to lose out on a spot in the BCS title game. You can do the math any way you want to do it and it comes out crimson.

LSU still has the matter of winning the SEC title game against Georgia, who went to 10-2 with a 31-17 win over Georgia Tech. Of course, even if LSU loses, they will still have the best resume of any team in the country. Fitting that the BCS title game is in New Orleans. They’ve thought of everything, haven’t they? Maybe the SEC presidents could replace the Electoral College next November. I’m sure Vince Dooley has always wanted to be president.

Listening to Michigan/Ohio State on the radio during a road trip is like turning the clock back 40 years. Of course, nostalgia has its limits: intermittent AM reception is now replaced by crystal clear Sirius XM, which is a dramatic improvement that your resident luddite does not take for granted. Denard Robinson is fun to watch, but somehow, he is also fun to listen to. Five TDs, 170 on the ground, 167 through the air, who needs video? Michigan 40, Ohio State 34 in a real classic that breaks a seven-game Buckeye winning streak over the Wolverines.

Wisconsin made an absolute mess of Penn State in a 45-7 win that assures them a spot against Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten title game, a re-match of the miracle finish earlier in the season. Wisconsin would be set up to play LSU were it not for two unlikely Hail Marys. Makes me wonder what the Virgin Mother has against Wisconsin. Drunkeness? Dancing? Styrofoam hats?

Michigan State defeated Northwestern, 31-17, in by far the worst Big Ten "rivalry" game. At least Purdue and Indiana have the intra-state thing and a cool trophy.

Nebraska beat Iowa, 20-7, in a game that already makes sense as a traditional rivalry. It seems like they should play a game of chicken between two combines at halftime. That’s entertainment.

Let me get this straight. You take a bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy. Put fried chicken on top of it. Then you add bacon and cheese. And we wonder why ours is the first justice system in the world to arbitrate the right to pay for only a single airline seat when it can’t possibly contain the person purchasing it?

Houston goes undefeated with a 48-16 blowout of Tulsa, not a bad football team. The Cougars in a BCS bowl? Yep, just win the Conference USA title game next week and make travel reservations. Then hope your opponent doesn’t have a secondary. I would suggest Oklahoma.

Speaking of, the Sooner safeties did not betray them in a dominant 26-6 win over Iowa State. That sets up the bedlam game with Oklahoma State as the de facto Big 12 title game.

Boise State beat Wyoming 36-14 and hoped Houston would lose, which they didn’t.

Virginia Tech played their best game of the year and annihilated UVa, 38-0. The Hokies are sky high heading into their annual appearance in the ACC title game.

Their opponent, Clemson, is just about done for the year. The once resurgent Tigers got physically whipped by South Carolina, putting up 153 yards of offense in 34-13 loss. Despite the whiff of disappointment (or is that Stephen Garcia on a Sunday morning?) in Columbia, the Gamecocks went 10-2, a historic high. The SEC isn’t just the top two; ‘SC and Georgia, along with Arkansas, are easily the best third through fifth teams in any conference. A remarkable year for the SEC, by any measure. Vandy topped it off by crushing Wake (a 5-3 ACC team), 41-7. That’s bowl eligible VANDERBILT and they will be a handful, until someone hires away James Franklin anyway.

Stanford is a couple of touchdowns better than Notre Dame and proved it by winning by a couple of touchdowns, 28-14. Andrew Luck threw his 80th touchdown, breaking a record held by an obscure Cardinal quarterback named John Elway.

Oregon easily beat Oregon State, 49-21, and will play UCLA in the Pac 12 title game next Friday. Wait. UCLA? Yes, the 6-6 Bruins jump ahead of ineligible USC. If the Lord is just, the Pac 12 will fly Stanford in to play the second half after Oregon takes a 35-3 halftime lead.

Baylor took a 31-28 halftime lead on Texas Tech, but then lost Robert Griffin to concussion symptoms. His replacement, Nick Florence, was impressive. I mean, if you find throwing two perfect touchdown strikes on successive possessions when the game is on the line impressive. Baylor went on to lay 66 points on the Red Raiders and won by 24. Baylor was impressive on offense, but if Texas Tech had been responsible for stopping Napoleon, there would be fresh croissants in Moscow every morning.

The week started with not a single team in the Big East ranked in the top 25. The best teams are probably Cincinnati and West Virginia (who is now ranked after a 21-20 win over Pitt). The best conference record is held by Louisville, quarterbacked by a kid named Teddy Bridgewater, who is not at all bad and has a name that is half 1970’s R&B sensation and half astronaut. I assume someone will sort all of this out after next week, when a perfectly average college football team will score a BCS bowl out of the deal while Boise State gets sent to the Fight Hunger Bowl.

Impressive Showing of the Week: LSU, and it is starting to get boring, quite frankly

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Oregon

5. Stanford

6. Arkansas

7. Virginia Tech

8. USC

9. Wisconsin

10. Georgia