Run and Shoot: November 2008 Archives

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November 30, 2008

Notre Dame's Regression Hits A New Low

Even at his most optimistic, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis can't have imagined it to be this bad. Since moving on from Franklin Township High School in New Jersey 19 years ago, he's been considered one of football's greatest offensive minds.

(This is the kind of season it's been for Charlie Weis and Jimmy Clausen)

But Saturday night at the Los Angeles Coliseum, things hit rock bottom in a loss to USC.

The night's biggest cheer from the Notre Dame section in the Coliseum occurred at 7:20 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. That's when James Aldridge ran for 15 yards through the middle of the USC defense. It was a loud and thorough cheer. But be assured, it was a loud and thorough mock-cheer. That’s because that run collected first down No. 1 of the game for the Irish on the last play of the third quarter.

That was nearly all the Irish fans had to cheer about, as USC went on to a breezy 38-3 win on Saturday night.

At that point in the game the ugly truth was right there in black, white, cardinal and gold, USC 31, Notre Dame 0. The yardage was even uglier: USC 360, Notre Dame 38. And first downs was 17-1, you know who.

"USC is the team you have to look at when you look at playing for championships." A defeated Weis said in the post-game press conference. "If you ever want to be a championship team, you have to beat a team like that."

Or, in Notre Dame's case, you have to actually be able to not embarrass yourself against them first. With tonight's loss, the Golden Domers have now dropped seven straight games to the Men of Troy, by an average of four touchdowns. And it's not just against these guys. Since 1999, ND is 1-15 against teams ranked in the Top Five.

It just wasn't supposed to be this way.

Charlie came to South Bend hailed as THE guru. The mad man behind the Oz-like curtain that made Tom Brady so unflappable on those New England Patriots Super Bowl teams. But even with All American prep stars like Jimmy Clausen leading the way, the guru's charges have been rendered punchless.

Going against the top defense in the country tonight only meant that matters were going to get worse. The Irish had 20 offensive snaps in the first half for nine yards. Clausen had tossed two picks and been thrown for 19 yards in losses. To make matters worse, the running backs corps of Armando Allen, Robert Hughes and James Aldridge had 13 net yards.

In other words, game, set, match, and who knows, maybe even Notre Dame career for the eggman. Yes, you've heard all the rumblings over Charlie's job, especially after last week's terrible 24-23 loss to Syracuse, another game where the offense didn't show up when it needed to.

"You can’t really correlate this with last week" Charlie asserted. "This was a championship level team and I think you saw the discrepancy between these two teams tonight. So comparing the Syracuse game to this USC game is like apples to oranges."

And right now, Notre Dame is rotten fruit by either comparison.

It didn't start out that way, Weis led the '05 and '06 teams to two of the most prolific passing seasons in Irish history, finishing one and two in the UND record books for passing yardage behind the strong arm of Brady Quinn to Jeff Samardzija. With those guys setting the pace, the Irish scored 440 points on the season, the most in school history. And everybody remembers how valiantly his charges played in that near-win over the vaunted SC team of 2005, a 34-31 loss that ended in the controversial Bush Push.

But tonight, the only controversy to those sarcastic Domer fans was that there was no semblance to the glorious output of those teams. The Irish ended the night with 91 yards of offense, eight punts, four first downs, three points and no clue how to fix it.

"He (QB Clausen) was under duress on fundamental pass plays." Weis sputtered. "I could understand being under duress with seven or eight guys coming at him. But they were doing it by rushing four guys. We had no answer for it."

Clausen affirmed that, while also being a deflector for Coach Weis.

"They have one of the fastest pass rushes we’ve ever faced." Clausen said. "But Coach Weis was not the reason we lost today. It was the guys on the field."

Try getting that past those Notre Dame fans that clapped vigorously after the last play of the third quarter.

(Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick gets barraged by media members wanting to know Charlie Weis' future in the bowels of the Coliseum. The tight-lipped A.D. would say "nothing has been decided" and "They will meet and make evaluations at a later date.")

November 23, 2008

11 Lessons Learned from Week 13

Sam Bradford called it "the most fun he's ever had playing in a football game."

Brian Kelly said it was "the biggest win in Cincinnati school history."

Mike Leach said, "Judging by how they handled us and the fact that we beat Texas, I'd say Oklahoma deserves to be rated higher."

Joe Paterno said, "I'm planning on coming back, yeah. I never planned otherwise."

Joe Tiller said, "This win won't change my mind, I'm done with coaching."

Greg Robinson called Syracuse's win at Notre Dame "truly a great day for our program."

And Barack Obama said he "doesn't know a single fan who disagrees with him that there should be a playoff in college football."

Yes people, this was a statement week in college football. And now, as we head into Thanksgiving week, we're down to just two more weekends of action. And though it doesn’t always hold true when it comes to politicking for the BCS, action is always supposed to speak louder than words.

(The refs are howling at football players that don't hear them. Texas Tech and Oklahoma players get into a skirmish before the kickoff of their game in Norman.)

(...Ohio State and Michigan show that they don't like each other too much either.)

(...Utah and BYU get into a slap and tickle fight in the pre-game of the Holy War.)

(...and Louisville and West Virginia get a little pushy as well. It's always funny to me that six or seven old guys with no protection are the ones trying to break up fights between dozens of angry, well-armored, college guys who aren't exactly Rhodes Scholar candidates.)

So with that, here are the 11 Lessons we learned from this week in college football.

Lesson 1-
There actually IS such a term as "student-athlete" in major college athletics.

I'm sure you've heard by now, but Florida State's Myron Rolle, a free safety on the Seminole football team, found out that he earned a Rhodes Scholarship on Saturday afternoon in Birmingham, Alabama, then flew on a private jet (hopefully not one provided by a rich FSU booster) to Maryland's Byrd Stadium.

Once there, he entered the game against Maryland with just over a minute left in the first half and played the rest of the game, helping FSU dismantle Maryland by a 37-3 count.

So that means, while the rest of his teammates were humming some inane rap song with a bad clap-track and a guitar riff ripped off of a heavy metal ballad, Mr. Rolle was thinking about his prestigious days of study in England he'll have before becoming a really wicked-good neurosurgeon. That's a student-athlete story we can all cheer for.

Lesson 2-
We discovered why the Ghost of Barry Switzer never completely goes away from Norman.

After treating Texas Tech like junior high tackling dummies, we realized that Coach Switzer's old philosophy of "Hang a half-a-hundred on 'em by halftime then send the players into the stands to sign autographs" is back in 2008. In their last four games, the Sooners have scored 58, 49, 38 and 42 in the first half alone.

Sure, the Big Red getting a win over Tech on Saturday night wasn't a shock, but to see them Switzerize the Raiders without breaking so much of a sweat was like a cold bucket of water getting poured on you while you are sleeping. Guess this defense has overcome the Ryan Reynolds injury, don'tcha think? Holding Tech to five straight scoreless possessions to start the game is a good indication of that. And to be honest, if OU gets by Okie State this coming weekend, regardless of the score, the Sooners deserve to be one of the top two teams in the country. No ifs, and or buts.

But one question: Why was Sam Bradford still in the game late in the third quarter throwing touchdown passes while his team had already put up more than 50 points?

Lesson 3-
We now know of five reasons why OU should be ranked No. 1 at this moment.

1- Ours is a "what have you done for me lately?" sport.
Remember how LSU got into the national title game after winning the SEC title game? A week prior to that the Tigers lost to Arkansas at home. We have a short memory. And our short term memory tells us that Oklahoma is playing the best football in the country right now, even though I said the same thing about Florida last week.

2- Unlike anybody else out there in college football, the Sooner defense figured out a way to stop Tech's offense.

3- With Cincinnati knocking on the BCS door and TCU improving to 10-2, OU's non-conference wins (which were lopsided at that) may be the most impressive of all the top flight teams.

4- Oklahoma didn't lose to an unranked team at home, like some people did.

And 5- Florida's SEC wins are starting to look weaker and weaker as those teams begin to wilt.

(Hey li'l missy, how about dinner at my place? Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly has the Bearcats one win away from a BCS bowl game, thus improving the non-conference schedule that Oklahoma played this season.)

Lesson 4-
Hate to rehash lessons here, but we learned that the ACC doesn't deserve any more Top 25 spots again this season.

Last week's Lesson No. 5 talked about how ACC teams that were playing as ranked teams had gone just 8-15 in those games. Make that 8-18 as this week we saw that unusual trend continue, and get markedly worse.

Georgia Tech beat No. 23 Miami, 41-23.
North Carolina State lambasted No. 22 North Carolina 41-10.
Florida State Myron Rolle'd No. 24 Maryland 37-3.

So, yes, do the math. Just to prove this whole ACC fraud thing isn't a fluke, these three ranked teams lost by an average of 24 points.

Lesson 5-
Without Joe Tiller, Purdue football would never have dug itself out of college football purgatory.

(Just like Robert Patrick in the movie Terminator 2, Danny Hope is just a newer, sleeker version of the man he'll be replacing at Purdue next year. Can you say "replicant"?)

The Boilermakers were some kind of inspired on Saturday. They sent the best coach in school history off with a resounding 62-10 win over Indiana to secure the Old Oaken Bucket one last time for their outgoing coach. Of course, this also begs the question, where has THIS kind of effort been all season long? But I digress. Needless to say, Purdue will miss the big guy from Wyoming.

Check out these high points of the Tiller era:
- Prior to his arrival in 1997, Purdue had only played in five bowl games.
- Took Purdue to bowl games in 10 of his 12 years.
- His 87 wins is the most of any coach in Boilermaker history
- In 2000, brought the Boilers to their first Rose Bowl since 1966.
- Prior to Tiller, Purdue had gone 12 straight years with losing records.
- His 2006 team featured a school-record 15 Academic All Big 10 players.

Lesson 6-
Penn State is really slapping itself silly over that pathetic Iowa loss now.

Sure, the 11-1 Lions will head to the Rose Bowl for only the third time in school history. That's nice. That’s a nice little cross country trip to play a game in a warm climate that doesn't mean a whole lot. And the way the Lions looked in their 49-18 win over Michigan State on Saturday, this team appeared much more BCS title game worthy anyway.

Ah, but there's that last-second loss at Iowa peering its ugly head out of the rat hole. That loss could go down as this year's biggest inexplicable choke of the season. Especially when you look at how well the fighting Nittanies played on Saturday. They racked up 557 yards of offense and went 13-for-17 on third down conversions. The Lion defense also held Javon Ringer to just 42 yards rushing with a longest gain of nine yards.

Lesson 7-
The Rose Bowl should go ahead and sever its tie-ins with the Big 10 and Pac 10.

Talk about a no-win situation, the Rose Bowl doesn't appear to be making many fans this season. Once again its Big 10-Pac 10 contract is going to assure us of something we all don't really want to see.

First, if Oregon State wins the Civil War on Saturday, the Rose Bowl gets a rematch of a game already played this season: OSU vs. Penn State. Then, if Oregon beats the Beavers, USC will once again be stuck playing a Pac 10 team on January 1st. And the way those games have gone lately, its not making those "prove it" people in the SEC or Big 12 very satisfied. In fact, it probably wouldn't surprise me if Trojan fans themselves wouldn't mind seeing Oregon State beat UO, just so the Trojans can play in a BCS game against some new blood, preferably from the South.

(The Oregon State sideline nearly sees their Rose Bowl hopes go up in smoke as they watch the last second field goal that beat Arizona.)

Lesson 8-
This is the time of year where we find out all those people with the philosophy of "the regular season IS a playoff" are the biggest hypocrites in sports.

Case in point: Utah is unbeaten. That’s 12-0. And to the Utes credit, their schedule was no gimme either. On Saturday Brian Johnson and Co. witch-slapped No. 16 BYU in the Holy War 48-24, behind Johnson's near-perfect 30-for-36, 303 yard day with no turnovers. Oh yeah, and the No. 1 team in the country is also unbeaten. So if that stays that way, then these "regular season is a playoff" people have to admit that Utah vs. Alabama is the only true matchup for the title game.

(Head coach Kyle Whittingham - middle - enjoys the last few minutes of the win over BYU. That blue canister you see in the bottom left of the picture is an ice bucket that is about to be poured over his head.)

And no people, I'm not saying that's the way I think and that Utah should be in the BCS title game, I'm just showing you that anyone that doesn't want a playoff because the regular season IS a playoff, that's their matchup and they should be happy with it.

Oh wait. Boise State and Ball State are unbeaten too. Aye-yaye-yaye!

Lesson 9-
The Notre Dame players didn't deserve to get pelted with snowballs from the student body. But the administrators that gave Charlie Weis a 10-year contract sure do.

With Saturday's inexcusable 24-23 loss to Syracuse, a 20-point underdog with a lame duck coach, Weis is now 28-20 in his tenure. That comes out to a 58% winning percentage, or, roughly the same percentage that Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie had when they got the boot from Play Like A Champion U.

And of course, the sad part is that this Flailing Irish team is now 6-5 and about to be a sacrificial lamb for USC's defense. That bloodletting will leave them at 6-6, with most of those wins coming against some of the worst teams in major college football. Yet, these slappies will still get to go to a bowl game. Gah!

Lesson 10-
The major college school presidents aren't the only greedy, fat white guys that don't want to have anything to do with playoffs.

Harvard beat Yale in "The Game" on Saturday 10-0 to improve to 9-1 and won a share of the Ivy League championship. But the Crimson is not allowed to participate in the I-AA (now called the FCS, or something like that) playoffs. Why? Because Ivy presidents won’t lift a "playoff ban" that has existed since 1951. And what are some of the reasons for this presidential ban on the Ancient Eight playing in the post-season?

- The playoffs interfere with exams.
- No post-season helps "maintain the integrity of Ivy League football."
- It also helps prevent the "escalation in intensity and player size."

So you think you're frustrated with no playoffs in major college football? Try that reasoning from what is supposed to be a league full of highly intelligent people.

Oh, on a side note, somehow the Ivy League allows post-season play for every one of its other 30 sports, some of which also occur during finals.

Lesson 11-
ESPN taking over the BCS from Fox is about the best off-field news all season.

The big Fox network never should’ve had a hand in televising college football's biggest games. That’s an NFL network trying to do the college thing and it stuck out like an insurance salesman at a rave party.

They've looked stuffy and awkward as hell trying to pull off the BCS announcement show, using Chris Rose as the master of ceremonies. Also big points off for Chris Meyers as the main sideline reporter, him being no Erin Andrews, of course. And I hope I never have to see Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer try to act like journalists again, interviewing college players and coaches. Plus, is it Fox that is responsible for having the national champion winning coach hurriedly put on a black leather jacket before they go up on the stage to receive the crystal ball trophy?

November 17, 2008

11 Lessons Learned from Week 12


This week in college football had all the excitement of the tour of a box factory.

Just about everything went as planned. Nobody in the Top 10 lost. In fact, those teams won by an average of 30 points. Nothing Earthshaking anywhere else on the college football landscape. Okay, maybe LSU's 28-point comeback against Troy, sure. But if you look at the final score of 40-31, you just shrug your shoulders.

Don't worry. While we motor on to next week hoping for something of substance, there were still some lessons to be learned from this bland college football weekend. Tell you what, let's cue the hyperactive rave music that they use on Access Hollywood and get to the lessons. It'll give this Saturday wrap-up a totally new dynamic, I swear.

(If Tim Tebow and Company keep playing as well as they have the last few weeks, Florida will be in the driver's seat for the BCS title game. Meanwhile, he's probably telling CBS's Tracy Wolfson, "You buy a hat like that and you get a bowl of soup with it.")

Lesson 1-
Gregg Doyel is right... well, half-right. Florida will be in the BCS title game.

I can't imagine these guys losing a game. Not with the way Urban Meyer has them playing. They remind me of the Russian national hockey team when they're on their A-game.

Just when I thought the Gators were due for a close call - you know how 19-22 year olds will take a week off from time to time - they lay out THIS 56-6 whitewashing over South Carolina. It was sooooo, Spurrier-esque and all. The Gators prove once again they are still pretty angry about that inexplicable defeat to Ole Miss. I mean, really angry. The Gamecocks came in allowing only 256 yards a game to their opponents. Florida had that early in the second quarter, on its way to a total of 519 yards.

The Gators have The Citadel and Florida State left to play before they go to the SEC championship game and dismantle Alabama. But let's be honest here, if any voter in any of the polls puts Florida behind Texas Tech and Alabama, they're living a lie. The Gators are the best team in the country right now.

Lesson 2-
This weekend had more revenge themes than a Chuck Norris movie.

Alabama 32 - Mississippi State 7.
It didn't look good early, and sure, the Tide needed some special teams magic and all. But in the end the Tide put to rest that inexplicable two-year losing streak to Coach Croom's boys.

(Bama's Javier Arenas gets his mates fired up before the Mississippi State game. Arenas ended up returning one punt for a touchdown and a second punt down to MSU's two yard line.)

Ohio State 30 - Illinois 20.
This time there was no drama as the Bucks roll. And a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that Terrelle Pryor is in a Buckeye uniform. The freshman wunderkind ran for 110 yards and teamed with Beanie Wells (143 yards) to grind out a win in Champaign.

Cincinnati 28 - Louisville 20
The Bearcats got off to a 6-0 start last season before the Cards crashed their party, starting a 3-3 tailspin down the stretch. But in Papa John's Stadium on Friday night, UC ended five years of frustration with the win in the rain. They also climbed to the top of the Big East standings, improving to 4-1 and 8-2 overall.

(Cincinnati players grab the Keg of Nails and celebrate the win over Louisville.)

Vanderbilt 31 - Kentucky 24
Twice in the last three years, all Vandy needed was a win over the Cats and they would've become bowl eligible. They lost on both occasions. But Saturday saw D.J. Moore catch two TDs and pick off two UK passes, the second one coming with two minutes left in the game, to help VU improve to 6-4.

Lesson 3-
We discovered that it was also a "Revenge of the Twos" weekend.

In the words of Austin Powers, who does No. 2 work for? Well, the following teams were all ranked No. 2 in the polls last year and got upset, but exacted some revenge for those hiccups this weekend.

USC 45 - Stanford 23.
With a 17-all tie at halftime, it looked like we might have a replay of last year's shocking upset in the Coliseum. But once again Pete Carroll proved to be one of the best halftime coaches in college football, as SU had the clamps put on them in the second half.

Boston College 27 - Florida State 17.
In 2007, Matt Ryan and Co. were No. 2 and playing at home before FSU came in to pull out a 27-17 upset. Here, the score was the same but the roles reversed with FSU being the ranked team this time.

Oregon 55 - Arizona 45.
Last year's Dennis Dixon injury changed the entire complexion of the national championship race. This time, the Ducks didn't have that crushing moment. Nor did they have the crushing defeat that deflated the team like it did last year.

Lesson 4-
Miami may not be completely "back" yet, but they're close.

Prepare yourself people, the Hurricanes-a-comin'. Thursday's 16-14 win over Virginia Tech saw a young team that grew up in front of our eyes. All those frosh and young starters Randy Shannon's charges has been playing with are starting to believe, especially on defense. D-end Marcus Robinson looks like he may be a beast-in-the-making, after gathering three sacks. Props to D-coordinator Bill Young who had his boys flying around and putting pressure on Tech. Their six team sacks was the key to the win.

The Canes are now 4-2 and in first place in the ACC Coastal Division and surely showing signs of a great team in the near future. But their final two games are risky ventures on the road at Georgia Tech and N.C. State.

Lesson 5-
Speaking of the ACC, it just doesn't pay to be ranked in that conference.

All three ranked ACC teams went down to defeat on Saturday, with No. 16 North Carolina losing at Maryland 17-15, No. 19 Florida State losting 27-17 at home to Boston College and No. 24 Wake Forest losing at N.C. State. 21-17.

In fact, this entire season has been a mish-mash of poor performances by ranked teams in the ACC this year. Seven of the 12 ACC teams have been in the Top 25 rankings at some point this season, but their stay has usually been short, since ACC teams are currently just 8-15 this season when playing as a ranked team. Miami, you’re the next one to the Top 25 podium. Don't screw it up.

Lesson 6-
We've found the college equivalent of Frank Reich and the Buffalo Bills.

It's Jarrett Lee and LSU. On Saturday night, in a half-empty Tiger Stadium, Lee led LSU back from a 31-3 second half deficit to beat Troy 40-31. Thanks mostly to the frequent Trojan receivers dropping numerous passes and to 30 fourth quarter points from an LSU offense that seemed to be going downhill in the second half.

And here I was at halftime all ready to write about how Troy was the best team in the state of Alabama. My how things change so quickly.

(LSU jogs out for the second half of the Troy game to thousands of people dressed up as empty stadium seats.)

Oh but don't worry, in digging that 28-point hole, Lee made sure to go ahead and throw his seventh pick-six of the season. But Lee would rebound despite getting benched in the first half, and finish the game 20-of-34 for 216 yards. Remember people, he's a frosh, he'll get better.

Lesson 7-
We learned that "Black Out" games are not only as common as belly buttons these days, they usually don't work either.

Go ahead, waste a large amount of money on another order of black uniforms, encourage the students to paint their bodies black and what the hell, pipe in AC/DC's "Back In Black" over the loud speakers, it’s probably not going to help.

Florida State decided to jump on the fad this week and ended up getting soundly whipped by visiting Boston College 27-17, dropping the 'Noles out of first place in the ACC Atlantic Division. In fact, I'm thinking out loud here, but has a "Black Out" game worked for anyone this year? With Georgia getting pile-driven by Alabama earlier this season, the most notable Black Out games appear to be the ones that don't work.

(Coach Jag joked after the win at Blacked-Out Florida State that he had his team dress up in black T-shirts on their way to the stadium, just to screw with the gods of Black Magic... if that Black Out superstition actually worked.)

And in case you're wondering, Colorado and San Diego State trotted out in all-black unis this weekend as well, both to dour results. And yes, I realize these teams wear all-black more often. But knowing what we know now, maybe they shouldn't.

Lesson 8-
Most game trophies are weak.

There are a few that aren’t so bad, like Wisconsin beating Minnesota 35-32 to win Paul Bunyan's Axe. That’s pretty cool. A giant 30-pound axe colored red on one side and gold on the other. I dig that. There's also the old oaken bucket that goes to the winner of the Indiana-Purdue game. Not bad. And who couldn't love "Floyd of Rosedale," the bronze pig trophy played between Iowa and Minnesota?

(Paul Bunyan's Axe is probably the coolest trophy in college football.)

But then there are these embarrassing ones. Like how Cincinnati beat Louisville, 28-20 on Friday night to win the "Keg of Nails." Sounds like a fraternity prank. Or how Missouri beat Iowa State on Saturday to win the Telephone Trophy, a half-gold, half-red phone trophy. Yes, thank you Ma Bell.

(Meanwhile, what the hell is THIS? A trophy with a phone at the top of it? That's weak.)

There are other pretty bad ideas out there as well (the Arkansas-LSU "boot" that is simply a trophy made out of the geographic shape of the two states or the "Peace Pipe" game between Bowling Green and Toledo), but we'll get to them later.

Lesson 9-
That loud "pop" you heard turned out to be the sound of No. 23 Tulsa's bubble bursting.

Two weeks ago the Golden Hurricane was being mentioned as a possible BCS buster. Then a loss at Arkansas laid those plans to waste. After re-configuring their goals, TU still had a Conference USA title to play for.

Well, nothing like a horrendous 70-30 loss at Houston to put those hopes to rest. Tulsa turned the ball over five times and allowed the Coogs' Case Keenum to throw a career high six touchdowns and go 24-of-37 for 402 yards.

And 70 points? It's as if the ghost of John Jenkins resurrected there on the Robinson Stadium sidelines again. The last time Houston scored 70+ in a game? A 73-3 clubbing of Louisiana Tech in 1991. Still, nothing compares to the UofH's 100-3 win over Tulsa in 1968, still the highest score attained in a game between two major college opponents.

Lesson 10-
If your team didn't get on TV somewhere this weekend, then they must have zero appeal.

According to what I could find, there were 37 college football games on TV this week. That includes games on ABC, CBS, the ESPN networks, CBS College Sports, The Mtn., Versus, The Big Ten Network, Fox Sports and Raycom.

So if I'm doing my math correctly, then 45 major college teams didn't get to be on TV this week. That number shrinks to 40 when you consider teams like Texas Tech, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Pitt and TCU had the week off.

Keep in mind people, even Fox Sports saw fit to televise the Baldwin-Wallace vs. Capital game.

Lesson 11-
If you're going to play the lottery anytime soon, here are some lucky numbers you can use.

2 – The number of first downs LSU had in the first half vs. Troy.
4 – The number of ranked opponents that Maryland has beaten this season, after Saturday's 17-15 win over No. 16 North Carolina.
6 – The number of points USC gave up to Stanford in the second half (on the last play of the game), bringing their season total points surrendered after halftime to 19.
8 – The number of losses Michigan now has on the season, the most in program history.
25 – The number of losses in a row for Indiana State, after Saturday's 28-0 spanking by Northern Iowa.
26 – The number of years its been since Vanderbilt was last bowl eligible.
211 – The number of yards Shonn Greene of Iowa rushed for vs. Purdue, bringing his season total to 1,585.
217 – The number of receptions Clemson's Aaron Kelly has in his career, the most in ACC history.
623 – The approximate number of fans that remained in Tiger Stadium for the second half of the LSU win over Troy.

(I don't know if you noticed this, but that damn TV commercial must've been shown about 50 times in the games I watched on Saturday. How are they able to afford their media buy? Are that many saps actually selling their old gold for a cheap return?)

November 14, 2008

When College Football Lost Its Cool

by Eric Sorenson

In this fad-a-minute world, everything will eventually lose its "coolness" edge. Dylan went electric. Starsky and Hutch became a spoof. Miami Vice transitioned into a fashion punchline.

Sadly, even college football has its own level of lost cool as well.

(Barry Sanders had an incredible senior year in 1988, rushing for nearly 3,000 yards if you include his bowl game romp against Wyoming. Though no one will get close to breaking his single season mark, the 1,000 yard club is easier than ever for a running back to attain.)

Don't get me wrong, the spectacle and popularity of college football is great. It's never been bigger, better or had more exposure. In this day and age, we can live like kings gorging on all the college football our senses could possibly take. We're like the dog with the ravenous appetite whose owner has gone to work and accidentally left the dog's 40-pound food bag open and on the floor.

But there are certain intangibles that made college football special back in the day, depending on how far your "back in the day" goes. Things that made it much more easily distinguishable from the staid, homogenized pro game. Certain flavors of the game that are gone and they really made the game cool.

Well here are a few things that I certainly miss that made college football seem so cool. Characteristics that the game will probably never recapture in the same way.

This one is obvious. You didn't have to own your own Fortune 500 company to get a seat between the 20s at a college football game. Now, the NFL fad of a "personal seat license" is beginning to creep further into the sport like an ominous shadow. Like those B-grade monster movies, if you listen closely you can hear the people screaming as it approaches.

Nothing beats the mental images of a Jeff Kinney with the entire front of his jersey in an Oklahoma Linebacker's hands, or a Major Ogilvie wearing a "half-shirt" cutoff in the Iron Bowl or an Earl Campbell rumbling with his shoulder pad flapping with every step because his sleeve was torn off on the previous run. It just made football players look like gladiators.

(Nebraska's Jeff Kinney in the landmark 1971 Game of the Century win over Oklahoma, 35-31. Kinney had his tear-away jersey torn to pieces in this game. Those types of jerseys are no longer allowed in college football.)

Before the CFA came along and, much to the delight of the college football nation, busted the televising of the game wide open, it really meant something to be on "national TV." You were REALLY on the big stage because ABC was the only network showing games. (Don’t get me wrong, I love today's TV free-for-all. Just making a point here.)

This one's pretty self-explanatory. Round-robin conference schedules rule, though rare they are nowadays. Today's 12-to-14 team conferences with their championship rematches just aren't cool. (Then again, neither were the days of the SEC playing only six conference games either. So, touche'.)

Sure there's still Georgia Tech, the Air Force flexbone and other variations, but it's not like watching the meat-grinder offenses of the 70s that could just run over you while nearly announcing what they were going to do on each play. Give me that bruising fullback and the mercurial slotbacks. Thomas Lott, Steadman Shealy, Rick Leach, Jack Mildren, J.C. Watts, these were the greatest athletes to play the quarterback position. Okay, except for Vince Young.

(Oklahoma's Thomas Lott, here in action vs. Ohio State in 1978, was one of the best in a long line of great wishbone quarterbacks under Barry Switzer.)

It's all about money now. Since Ron Prince didn't win double-digit games in his first three years, he's been wedged out of the job at Kansas State. Just imagine if K-State administrators had done the same with Bill Snyder? He didn't get to double-digits until his seventh year on the job. Without a little faith and patience, KSU would've never garnered a single mention in the national picture even today. Where has that philosophy gone?

(Bill Snyder, who gets my vote for the Coach of the Century, only won 13 games in his first three years at Kansas State. Last week, current K-State coach Ron Prince resigned under pressure after just three years. Had Snyder come around these days, he never would've been given the chance to orchestrate the biggest program turnaround in college football history.)

Coaches were always the old crotchety rough-and-tumble type that didn't give a damn if his players puked in practice. Hell, they'd set trash cans up at both ends of the field for just such actions. And if you were injured he'd just tell you to rub dirt on it, tape it up and get back in there. Now, most coaches would rather you take a pilates class.

Let me get this out of the way first, no, I don't miss the numerous injuries or the concrete-hardness of it. But do you remember how cool it looked when its popularity first took root in college football? Or how it looks in old highlights? And games in the rain that had wicked-huge puddles gather along the sidelines? Sure, give me the sod and the mud and the grass stains. But sometimes it's pretty freakin' cool to see the old turf. Classic.

Last week, at the Alabama-LSU game, the Golden Band from Tigerland played every so often, sure. But truth be told, they were shiftless and sitting on their hands most of the game while piped-in music blared through the loudspeakers. Granted, I don't want to hear “Boomer Sooner” 62 times in a three-hour game (yes, it's happened), but nor do I want to hear some weak rap song or the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" before every kickoff while the band sits idle in the stands.

Why am I always jonesing for those Gatorade commercials that use him as the spokesman?

These blazers led to one of the seminal lines from Spicoli on Fast Times at Ridgemont High, "Where'd you get that jacket?" Today, we get Pam Ward wearing a blouse while announcing a game. Eck!

(The legendary Bill Flemming, a longtime staple in college football broadcasting, sports one of ABC's old golden blazers while reporting from the sidelines at the 1977 Alabama-Nebraska game.)

Now they're all 325 pounds, laden with a spare tire over their belts and full of synthetics.

(It could be argued that the image and size of the modern offensive lineman changed when steroid freak Tony Mandarich became a huge hit at Michigan State, leading to his being a No. 1 draft choice and eventual NFL bust. Since then, the average size of offensive linemen has ballooned to well over 320 pounds.)

Long gone are the days of the kickers in the Southwest Conference who traded off 60+ yard field goals with the help of a two-inch placement tee.

Can't imagine a lot of people agree with me here, but I liked the all Texas conference. Nowhere else in major college history do we have a conference made up of entirely in-state rivals. (Well, at least the last four years of the SWC were that way.)

'Nuf said.

It just has a more organic and down-to-Earth feel than its new corporate headquarters in Indianapolis. Maybe that's just me.

Admittedly, this year we've got a couple more than in recent years, but it seems like the cross-country battles between major powers has become as regular as legitimate evidence of Bigfoot. Money, the BCS, money, television contracts, money, larger conferences, money and bowl eligibility have put a serious bite into interesting non-conference games. That and the fact that easier schedules also mean more Ws and more chances for your fans to chant their conference name because they have seven teams in the Top 25.

(The USC-Alabama game from 1978 was one of the great college football inter-sectional matchups ever. But getting teams like these two to play a pre-conference game like this now is nearly impossible. And by they way, this game also proved why USC deserved the national title over Alabama as both teams ended the season with one loss, but the Trojans beat Bama in Birmingham 24-14 earlier that season.)

Running backs going over the 1,000-yard barrier doesn't have quite the ring to it when you consider that now there are 12-to-14 game schedules out there. Plus, the NCAA recently decided that bowl game stats should count toward the season stats, unlike prior seasons where they didn't. That's why Barry Sanders' 2,628-yard season in 1988 will always be all the more impressive when you consider his 288 yards vs. Wyoming in the Holiday Bowl didn't count.

November 09, 2008

11 Lessons Learned from Week 11

There's no doubt that the best place to be on a college football Saturday has to be Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. Especially at night. The noise. The deep passion. The record crowds. The secret flasks of whiskey. That's how I spent my Saturday as I sat with 93,038 other SEC fans plastered in purple, gold, crimson and cream.

(A stadium record crowd of 93,039 was keyed up and foul-mouthed for Nick Saban's return to Baton Rouge. But the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide made three or four key plays to win 27-21 in OT.)

Like the rest of the football nation, I watched with keen interest as Nick Saban made his return to the place he won a national title just five years ago.

And in case you didn't know, LSU fans aren't the forgiving kind, feeling it treasonous that a coach could even consider leaving Baton Rouge for another coaching gig.

The fans were ready for Saban too, waving signs and wearing shirts that read everything from "Saban is a douche" to "Hey Saban. Up yours."

Even the Tiger Stadium P.A. tried to up the ante and rally the rabid Tiger fans as the third quarter came to an end. "The sun has found its home in the western sky - it’s now Saturday night in Death Valley!"

The crowd responded and the stadium became as highly-charged an environment as I have seen. But to the fans' dismay, Saban's 11 matched that intensity. Though not playing top flight ball, QB John Parker Wilson and his Tide-mates overcame some self-inflicted wounds, including having a last-second field goal blocked to end regulation, to pull out a 27-21 win in OT.

Loved or loathed, those Death Valley denizens saw Saban run off the field pointing at the cheering Tide fans in appreciation. Proving there were actually a large contingency that was quite happy with his crimson conversion.

Here are the other lessons we learned from college football this week.

Lesson 1-
If the president-elect of the highest office in the free world understands our plight, maybe those presidents of colleges and universities finally will too.

I don't know which way your political compass is pointing - and well, I don't care either - but as a fellow college football fan you have to love the fact that the first thing president-elect Barack Obama would fix in his sports world is, "We need a playoff in college football." Hmmm, maybe change IS coming.

At least far be it from the days when Tricky Dick Nixon went and crowned Texas the National Champions even before the bowl games were played.

Lesson 2-
It's time to quit second-guessing Texas Tech.

I've got my hand way high in the air as admitting I'm guilty of thinking the Red Raiders were going to meet their maker either last week vs. Texas or this week vs. Okie State. C'mon people, 56-20? Over the No. 9 Cowboys? Great jiggers of gin. Who ARE these guys?

Okay, let me say two things here. One- Texas Tech deserves a No. 1 ranking. Even if Alabama had beaten LSU by 30. This team is legit and I'm just one of an Army of writers who realizes they are now, for sure, in the conversation for the national title. And two- Graham Harrell deserves top billing in the Heisman race. If you don't agree with me, fine, then Michael Crabtree does.

("OMG, I'm LMAO, so I'll TTYL!" Tech QB Graham Harrell is getting the last laugh and has the Raiders running a high-octane offense.)

Lesson 3-
You CAN go home again.

Nick Saban proved he could go back and pull out a W in Tiger Stadium, just like old times. Oh sure, he wasn't welcomed in this home, but his team had enough cool confidence to overcome a lot of adversity - and a lot of its own bonehead mistakes - to subdue the Bayou Bengals in OT.

Clearly, Mr. Saban has always been quite the politician when it comes to pre or post-game comments, rarely causing drama with his usually well-thought out words. But you KNOW he wanted this one. With 93,000 screaming Cajuns cursing his name, this was sweet revenge on a fan base that was bent on exacting revenge of their own. No matter how ill-aimed that rage was.

Lesson 4-
The college football media won't get that "feel good" story of Joe Paterno’s final national title shot that it wanted so badly.

I don't know about you, but I had visions of Rob Houghtlin beating No. 2 Michigan flashing through my mind again on Saturday. Iowa's improbable rally in the fourth quarter enabled Daniel Murray to nail a last second field goal through the trees of arms provided by the Nittany Lions to essentially end PSU's national title hopes, 24-23.

Now that group of able Penn State seniors know how West Virginia of 2007 felt after that inexplicable loss to Pitt.

Lesson 5-
That giant blow of steam you just heard was the rest of the college football world gasping a sigh of relief that there won’t be a Big 10 team in the national title game once again.

Cruel I know, but that's college football fans for ya'.

Lesson 6-
The fate of a football game should never come down to a non-blocking, non-tackling, non-throwing, non-catching, non-running, non-athlete.

Not only was it painful to watch but it seemed downright wrong that TCU lost Thursday's game at Utah, 13-10, because a kicker couldn't make field goals of 35 and 26 yards in the final quarter. That just ain't right people. Especially when you consider the Frogs out-gained the Utes 416 to 275.

(TCU kicker Ross Evans had some painful moments, missing two 4th quarter gimmes which allowed Utah to rally and win on Thursday night.)

But props to UU QB Brian Johnson, who coolly went 7-for-9 for all 80 yards of the game-winning drive, culminating in his nine-yard pass to Freddie Brown with 48 seconds left in the game.

Lesson 7-
Utah should consider hiring a wicked-good dream team of lawyers.

In this litigious society of ours it shocks me that something like this hasn't happened already, but if the Utes do go unbeaten and don't get to play in the national title game, they should sue the BCS for not getting their shot at the brass ring. Forget just making a BCS bowl, the additional money and prestige for a school that makes the appearance in the title game comes out to a huge monetary bump as well. So who knows, maybe the opinion of the court would override the opinion of college football pollsters.

Lesson 8-
Long gone are the days when teams with lame duck coaches would go out and play like crazy over their heads and pull off big wins for the out-going skipper.

The four programs who recently saw their head coaches get tagged with lame duck status all went down with a whimper, not a bang.

- Wyoming 13, Tennessee 7
You know Coach Fulmer's team has officially quit. I mean, Joe Glenn is on the hot seat in Laramie with the worst team of his tenure and they go into massive Neyland Stadium and win? Gah.

(As bad as Wyoming has been this year, it's hard to believe that the Pokes were able to beat a dis-spirited Tennessee Vol team.)

- Akron 47, Toledo 30
Weird to think that the coach of the first MAC team to ever beat mighty Michigan is getting the exit boot soon. Coach Amstutz, we'll miss that omnipresent whistle.

- Arizona State 39, Washington 19
With the loss, Udub sees its losing streak sink to 11, the longest in school history. I could imagine Sonny Sixkiller is smokin' mad.

- Missouri 41, Kansas State 24
It doesn't seem like three years is enough time for Ron Prince, but this loss marks the fifth straight season that the Cats will finish with six losses. Where are you Bill Snyder?

Lesson 9-
I hate it when best-laid plans go awry.

I had planned on writing a good bit on the "firing" of Phil Fulmer, the coach with the third best active winning percentage in the country. I was going to bring up the fact that the SEC seems to be so harsh to another coach that didn't deserve it. How Fulmer did a good job in the most rugged conference in the country. And how this down season wasn't as bad as it seemed.

Then, Coach Phil's charges went out and lost to Wyoming. So with that, I say nevermind.

Lesson 10-
Like Beano Cook said, a coach’s contract is about as solid as the word of a politician.

Wasn't that Phil Fulmer getting a contract extension just a few months ago? Why do Athletic Directors even bother? Congratulations Tennessee administrators, you just guaranteed yourself a multi-million dollar buyout.

Lesson 11-
A .500 record should never be good enough for a post-season reward.

Consider this. Because you only need six measly wins to go to a bowl game, of the 119 teams in all of major college football, 92 are still bowl eligible.


Here was what Saturday in Baton Rouge looked like through my camera lens.

(Aye! Not a good look. Cowboy boots and short dresses that are thinner than tearaway jerseys? Hmmm, that's not dressing to impress, girls.)

(This may be the most innovative tailgate "toilet" I have ever seen. See the tire behind the port-a-potty? It's filled with kitty litter, to soak up urine. This was the first-class makeshift bathroom that was used at the tail gate party I went to. What the hell, better than the Katrina-ravaged Motel 6 room I stayed in that night.)

(Golly, Alabama's dance team is a rather fetching bunch. Don'tcha think? Hi girls.)

(And of course, no pictorial of an LSU game would be complete without a shot of some of the famed Golden Girls.)

(Judging by this pre-game picture, do you think the media had an interest in catching Nick Saban bringing his team out onto the field? Go ahead, try to count all the cameras here.)

(The real Mike the Tiger rests in his cage before his pre-game drive around the field. The cheerleaders hope the roof doesn't cave in as they are perched precariously on top.)

(Hey President Gore, you smell something funny? Chemical City belches filth into the North Baton Rouge sky. Believe it or not, this pic was taken on a "light day" for the chimneys. You should see when they have all 20 of those suckers fired up at once.)

(Li'l Mike Tiger is revved up and ready to go as the band roars into "Hold That Tiger" to get the crowd whipped into a frenzy.)

(Nick Saban gets out-run by the Bama cheerleaders as he leads his team out on to the field.)

(LSU's defense pressured John Parker Wilson into a pretty poor 15-for-31 day, but he had enough to pull out a W for his team.)

(Ummm, kids, welcome to Football 101. First off, whatever you do, don't ever try to extend the football out in front of you as you try to get across the goal line. Here, you see the result as LSU's Chad Jones knocks the ball out of Eric Alexander's hand.)

(What is this, SOCCER? Demetrius Byrd appears to be injured after fumbling away a catch. He would jog off the field with no problem.)

(Whoa coach! Keep your hands above the equator there cowboy.)

(At the end of the 3rd quarter the sun nestles down behind the Mississippi River and Tiger Stadium transforms into the toughest place in the country to play in for an opposing team.)

(Maybe LSU's offense needs to spend more practice time learning how to tackle? This was one of four Jarrett Lee interception returns for Alabama on the day.)

(BCS title game MVP Ricky Jean Francois got his big mitt on this last second field goal attempt by Leigh Tiffin, sending the game into overtime.)

(Somewhere under that mass of humanity John Parker Wilson has crossed the goal line with the game winning touchdown. Alabama maintains its No. 1 ranking with a 27-21 OT win.)

November 02, 2008

11 Lessons Learned from Week 10

(One of the best moments of the college football season. Cincinnati's Marshwan Gilyard flew into the crowd trying to catch a touchdown pass and went trucking over this poor little kid. Gilyard immediately helped the boy to his feet and gave him a hug before returning to the field.)

Wow. Just, wow.

The twists and turns of this college football season are becoming so... so, 2007ish. Texas Tech beats in-state big brother Texas, knocking the Longhorns from the No. 1 perch. Florida obliterates Georgia, knocking the Bulldogs from the national title chase. Penn State sits at home and gets leaped by other teams in the rankings.

If this first weekend of this month is any indication, we're in for one wild ride people. November spawned a monster. Again.

Lesson 1-
We discovered that Texas Tech DOES have a special moment to hang its 10-gallon black hat on.

Let's discuss the greatest moments in Texas Tech football:
1- Spike Dykes becomes head coach and is really, really funny.
"We're basically being held together by duct tape and bailing wire."
2- Gabe Rivera, the nose guard with the skinniest ankles in the world, becomes a first team All-American.
3- Zach Thomas is a general bad-ass in a Red Raider uniform.
4- Texas Tech upsets No. 1 ranked Texas on Saturday.

Yep, there is not a lot of great history to Texas Tech football, but in front of one intense, hyped-up college football fan base, the Raiders pulled off an improbable, impossible and impressive stunner over the Longhorns on Saturday night 39-33. Nice going Techsters. You’ve put your stamp on this college football season. No highlight package from the 2008 season will be complete without a couple of clips of this win.

(Michael Crabtree on a grab-and-go, with the game-winning catch with a second left against their hated in-state big brother Longhorns.)

Lesson 2-
It turns out that the Graham Harrell-to-Michael Crabtree connection is apparently just a tad better than the Colt McCoy-to-Jordan Shipley connection.

That last second, 28-yard touchdown pass was so out-of-thin-air. And yet so incredible. Is anybody else here having that LSU-like Flynn-to-Byrd-touchdown-pass-with-one-second-left-to-beat-Auburn flashback? Crabtree, facing a healthy dose of double-teaming on the night, caught 10 passes for 127 yards. Shipley wasn't as up to snuff, nabbing only six passes, with the biggest gain being 11 yards. He also had a couple balls he would normally have caught, go off his mitts.

Lesson 3-
Any time we hear the phrase "the biggest win in school history" it usually means that school is about to lose.

I love the energy and enthusiasm you had there Tech fans. Saturday night was beyond awesome, it's one of those college football scenes fans like you and I will remember for a lifetime. But Raider fans, enjoy the hell out of it now, because it's going to come crashing down soon. Sorry, it's just how history works in this sport dictated by 19-22 year olds. Every high has a low to go with it. Cruel, I know.

Lesson 4-
Revenge really is a dish best served cold.

These are the teams tasting the biggest bite of sweetness after Saturday’s games.
• Arkansas beat unbeaten Tulsa, 30-23.
TU offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is the OC who left Arkansas after bringing All American QB Mitch Mustain. Now he became the enemy and left with a black eye.
• Miami won at Virginia, 24-17.
Remember how the Cavs beat the H-E-double hockey sticks out of the Canes in their last home game in the Orange Bowl? Yep, that was the 48-0 whitewashing. Now the U puts the clamps on UVa's four-game streak.
• Millsaps beat Trinity, 56-27.
Speaking of remembering incredible moments, how about last year's 15-lateral, game-winning TD that Trinity pulled off in this game in 2007? Well, in a battle between Division III's Nos. 7 and 8 ranked teams, the 'Saps pull off the rout.

Lesson 5-
We discovered those revenge games pale in comparison to the one that took place in a tall outdoor cocktail glass in Jacksonville, Florida.

(Coach Meyer, apparently asking the referee if he can get a few more timeouts to prolong Georgia's misery. "Sorry coach, only three a half." As if 49-10 wasn't bad enough.)

Oh sure, you heard the "no comment" clips from Gator players all week about last year's Georgia touchdown stomp celebration. But be assured, Florida was peeved enough to hand Mark Richt the worst loss in his coaching tenure. And they were relishing the fact too. Wasn't there two time outs called by Urban Meyer in the last minute of the game? Damn, twist, the knife bro.

Tim Tebow may have lost out on the Heisman campaign, but who cares? A win like this has put the Gators into the national title conversation for being the most popular choice for a one-loss team. I don't know a football pundit out there (including me) who doesn't think they're playing the best football in the country right now.

Ummm, HOW did this team lose at home to Ole Miss again?

Lesson 6-
The next team up for making the Fraud List might just be - deep breath here - Alabama.

Have you noticed how weak the Tide's biggest wins are looking now? The two big Ws the Red Elephants have been hanging their trunks on have been over "Top 10" teams Clemson and Georgia. Well Clemson is now playing .500 ball and Georgia just lost to Florida by 39 points. Now throw in the fact that Bama has struggled against teams like Tulane, Kentucky and Ole Miss and you see why maybe this team isn't as strong as everyone is thinking it is. Will LSU expose them this week?

Just throwing it out there.

Lesson 7-
It was evident who the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time players this week were...

- Tulsa.
Everything was on the line, and the Hurricane allowed Arkansas to race out to a big lead and win the game on a special teams play, 30-23. This one will hurt for a while.
- Minnesota.
It's hard to bag on the Gophers. Look, this team went 1-11 last year. Getting bowl eligible in seven games was an unbelievable accomplishment for 2008. But the way they lost to the Wildcats was pretty shocking.
- Georgia.
The Dogs go from the ultimate respect last week (routing the defending national champs) to thinking Citrus Bowl now... or whatever that bowl game in Orlando is called these days.
- Connecticut.
For the second year in a row the ever-improving Huskies get blown out by the Mountaineers, 35-13. This shows they've still got a ways to go to be the Big East beast.

Lesson 8-
The list of BCS Busters keeps getting smaller and smaller.

Scratch Tulsa.

The Golden Hurricane couldn't play smart enough in their loss against an SEC team, and now sees their hopes at the big-money bowls go up into the bitter cold Memphis, Tennessee night as the Liberty Bowl seems to be their likely destination now.

On the positive side for the non-BCSers, Utah barely escaped Albuquerque with a 13-10 win over New Mexico and Boise State continues to cruise, lambasting New Mexico State 49-0. These two teams are now ranked Nos. 9 and 10 in the latest coaches poll, but with Oregon and Michigan stumbling left and right, their marquee wins are starting look less and less impressive.

Lesson 9-
This is actually an old lesson we learned long ago, but we all recall that Joe Paterno has had four of his Nittany Lion teams go unbeaten and not get the national title.

This week Texas Tech actually hopped the Lions to jump to No. 2 in the BCS. Thinking like this may prevent Press Box Joe and the boys a shot at another title. Just something to file away for now.

Lesson 10-
We discovered that the gods of Irony really do love to mess with our minds.

The most ironic single play of the day on Saturday was the game-winning touchdown by Northwestern in its 24-17 win at Minnesota.

Gopher wideout Eric Decker, one of the most sure-handed receivers in the country, has a ball tip off his hands on a last minute pass and bounce straight into the arms of Northwestern's Brandon Smith. Smith, not just wanting to set his team up with a game-winning field goal, races toward the Gopher end zone and scores with 12 seconds left in the game. (Cue the TV cameras on the shocked UM fan reactions here).

Keep in mind that not only did Decker NOT make the catch, when he usually clamps onto anything thrown his way like a venus flytrap on an insect binge, but Minnesota was also leading the nation in turnover margin as well. This just was so un-Gopherlike. It was, dare I say, like something that would happen in 2007.

Both teams are now 7-2, which in general is a pretty good mark for both of them. Hats off to you former Big 10 also-rans.

(Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka went nuts on the Gophers, rushing for 217 yards and passing for 143 yards. Yikes! And this from a backup?)

Lesson 11-
I don't think we REALLY want to consider people like Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit as college football "experts" anymore.

My apologies to all those crazed fans that show up for all those ESPN GameDay remotes from the sites of the biggest games, but these guys can barely predict their way out of a wet paper bag. Corso went 6-5 in his 11 picks on GameDay. Herbstreit went 6-4 (he didn't pick the Texas-Texas Tech game because he worked it that night, but my guess is that he would've picked the Longhorns.). No, I'm not talking about picking against the spread here either. Just straight up who will win the games.

And yes, guest picker Bobby Knight went 7-4.

(This is how I spent my college football watching on Saturday, flying to Boston and watching games on my Jet Blue flight. Jet Blue is possibly the best airline, having TVs at every seat, inlcuding the major networks, along with ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and even The Big 10 Network.)


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