Run and Shoot: 11 Lessons Learned from Week 14

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11 Lessons Learned from Week 14

Polls. Computers. Politicking. Facebooking. Banner-pulling. Placard-holding.

Why do I feel like if I bore into the Earth's core in this college football world I'd find Alfred E. Newman at the controls. What, me worry?

(Sam Bradford and Oklahoma sent the college football world topsy-turvy with their win at Oklahoma State this weekend, catapulting the Sooners to No. 2 in the BCS rankings)

Look, if the Barack Obama Invitational were put in place this year, we'd have none of this Hatfield & (Colt) McCoy feuding over who deserves to go where at all.

In fact, we would instead be left with a pretty cool three weeks of football. Here's how the bracket would look as of today:

1- Alabama
8- Penn State

4- Florida
5- USC

3- Texas
6- Utah

7- Texas Tech
2- Oklahoma

Oh sure, I'd like to see fewer rematches, like the 2-vs-7 game, but look at some of those other matchups and potential head-to-heads! (Ahhhhh, there's that wishful endorphin rush).

Instead, we're left with reality. Sad, sad, reality.

Here's this week's 11 Lessons we learned in our withering college football world.

Lesson 1-
We will all soon find out that this is the worst week to be a college football fan.

I don't know if it's like this for you, but this is the week where all my NFL-based friends laugh hysterically in my face over the fact that a popularity poll is what decides the two teams in the biggest game of the season in my favorite sport. And I have no comeback for that.

Their easiest and most obvious dagger to my college pigskin heart? "So what if the NFL just decided at the end of the season to hold an opinion poll as to who the two best teams are and put those two in the Super Bowl. Sound good there Baldy-locks?" (Laughs ensue)

Lesson 2-
Texas just learned what karma is all about.

Oh sure, the Longhorns are all up in arms about Oklahoma getting voted into the Big 12 title game. And they should be. But look beyond the anger. This is payback My Name Is Earl-style.

(Sorry Longhorn fans, this tactic just didn't have any effect on the hordes of computers out there.)

Rewind to December 4, 2004 when Cal had just won at Southern Miss by 10 points (which included taking a knee with a minute left inside the USM 10 yard line) and was ranked No. 4 and in line to get picked up by the Rose Bowl, since No. 1 USC was going to the Orange Bowl to win the national title. But then Mack Brown publicly politicked and allegedly made a number of glad-handing phone calls to his poll-voting cronies, begging them to rank his Longhorns ahead of Cal in the final regular season poll. This tactic worked. Cal's lead over Texas in the coaches poll went from 48 points to five points allowing the Horns to jump the Bears in the final BCS poll and get the Rose Bowl bid.

Guess what Longhorns, 2008 is your karma for 2004. OU gets to go to the Big 12 title game because you *only* beat them by 10. Only this time it looks like it cost you a shot at the national title. Grin and Bear it.

Lesson 3-
See, Alabama CAN win impressively.

And it's about time. It was good to see the Crimson Tide finally pummel someone they should've pummeled all along in its 36-0 crushing of Auburn. And I just re-checked the box score, it's legit. No special teams returns for touchdowns, no tipped interception returned for touchdowns, no recovered fumbles by a fat lineman for a touchdown, not even a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. This was a manhandling bar none.

Auburn was held to 170 total yards and had more punts (9) than first downs (8). Finally, Bama looked worthy of No. 1. Now, will that last more than six more days?

Lesson 4-
Meanwhile, beyond the Tide and Florida, we found out that the rest of the SEC is tailspinning.

All those people that say the SEC is the best conference, even the ACC is giving you a Bronx salute. Sure the Seminoles got bombed by the Gators, that was expected. But beyond that, three other ACC teams toyed with their formerly stronger SEC mates.

Wake Forest subdued Vanderbilt 23-10, sending Vandy to a bowl game with a 6-6 limp on its ledger. Clemson breezed by the ole ball coach 31-14, leaving the Gamecocks 1-4 vs. FBC teams with winning records. And Georgia was out-optioned by Georgia Tech 45-42, begging the question: Who says the SEC's defenses are too fast for good old option football?

Lesson 5-
Once again we are shown how much LeSean McCoy loves to play against West Virginia.

McCoy helped Pitt burn the BCS dreams of the rival Mountaineers for the second year in a row with a career-high 183 yards. And like all good running backs, McCoy got stronger as the game went on, getting 84 of those yards in the fourth quarter.

("Can't we just play West Virginia every week?" LeSean McCoy would love that, after ripping the Mountaineers for 183 yards and the game-winning touchdown in the Backyard Brawl.)

Lesson 6-
We learned for the umpteenth time that most conference championship games are unnecessary.

Unless you're in love with money.

ACC: Boston College (9-3, 5-3) vs. Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3)
Nope. Sorry. Don't need it. This game was already played back in October with BC winning 28-23. Besides, who wants to see the same two teams play in the ACC title game for the second year in a row? Just skip it people.

(Mike McLaughlin is a 250-pound version of Knowshon Moreno, leaping this Maryland blocker on the way to a sack of the son of the drummer for Ratt.)

MAC: Ball State (12-0, 8-0) vs. Buffalo (7-5, 5-3)
Really, do we need Ball State to put a possible BCS berth on the line? Buffalo lost three MAC games. BSU was obviously the best team in the conference. This is pretty awful. Especially if the Cards should happen to lose.

Big 12: Oklahoma (11-1, 7-1) vs. Missouri (9-3, 5-3)
First off, nobody in the Big 12 North deserves to be in this game. It just makes no sense. Plus, with the Big 12s history of the conference title game ruining national title runs, it's amazing they would bother to keep risking it.

Lesson 7-
Even USC fans realize it's time to get out of this Rose Bowl contract.

At the 9:24 mark of the second quarter of USC's 38-3 win over Notre Dame, the Coliseum Jumbotron showed its out-of-town scoreboard. And there it was: Oregon 37, Oregon State 10. Halftime.

First a group of cheers rang out from the Trojan crowd, since this meant another undisputed Pac 10 title. Then, you could audibly hear the muttering. And dare I say, even some groaning. It dawned on Trojan fans that for the fourth year in a row it appears as if their team is headed across town to Pasedena on January 1st. And worse, they are going to play another Big 10 team.

Almost every Trojan fan I talked to while tailgating before the game went so far as to hope Oregon State would win its Civil War game with Oregon just so SC could go somewhere new and play a more marquee Big 12 or SEC team. Alas, barring a Missouri upset in the Big 12 title game and some funky voting after that, the Trojans will beat another Big 10 team and still leave people in the South and Midwest wondering if this team is really all that good or not.

Lesson 8-
We learned that coaches can lose their mojo very quickly in this sport.

Dare I say, those people that claim Tom Brady made Charlie Weis, well, I think they're right. Especially after watching Notre Dame slog through nearly three quarters before even picking up its first first down of the game vs. USC.

The Irish finished the game with four first downs and 91 total yards. Long gone are the days when Coach Weis looked so brilliant while Brady Quinn led the Irish to its highest passing yards total in school history. That was 2005. Today? Well even in the post-game press conference, Weis himself admitted he didn't know how to counteract simple football.

"He (QB Jimmy 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."

Charlie has lost it.

Lesson 9-
We discovered that Ball State deserves something better than the post-season destination they're going to get.

The MAC has bowl tie-ins with the Motor City Bowl (against the No. 7 Big 10 team), the GMAC Bowl (against a Conference USA team) and something called the International Bowl (against a Big East team).

Behind the magical arm of Nate Davis, this might be the best MAC team since the 1970 Toledo squad that went 12-0 and finished No. 12 in the final poll. And yes, I'm saying better than Ben Roethlisberger's No. 10-finishing Miami Ohio team of 2003. With that as a back-drop, do we really want to see these guys from David Letterman U. take on same lame fish like UConn or East Carolina or North Carolina State? No. Give them a big conference challenge people!

(Love is... having a Ball! SuperQB Nate Davis has been the catalyst behind the best season in Ball State history.)

Lesson 10-
We learned why the college football season should be moved back.

Weather. This weekend saw the triumphant return of "football weather" to the scene. Rain in Athens. Mud in Tallahassee. Snow in Kansas City. You remember when you were a kid and playing backyard football with your buddies? The most memorable times were when games were played in the elements. The mud, the rain, the snow. It made you feel like warriors. So I say give us more of these manly games. Give us less of the 95 degree, 100% humidity games of September. Besides, nobody likes to see games delayed 20 times by guys laying on the hot turf with cramps in their legs from the heat.

(Okay, so maybe it IS just end zone paint, but Tim Tebow looks more like William Wallace screaming for freedom, with blood running down his face.)

Lesson 11-
We learned why the oafish Mike Leach can also be absolutely brilliant.

He said it and I believe it. They should settle the Big 12 South by whichever team has the best team graduation rates. Why the hell not? For once this is a chance to put academics into the equation. Lord knows we rarely get the chance to put "student" into student-athlete.

And if you didn’t catch it earlier, those graduation rates are:
Texas Tech: 79%
Texas: 50%
Oklahoma: 46%


It was a rather bland game, particularly if you were an Irish fan. SC acted more like Alice Cooper's pet python and simply squeezed the life out of Notre Dame with a constricting defense that didn't surrender a first down until the last play of the 3rd quarter. Then again, a junior college team probably could've pulled a similar feat against Charlie Weis' punchless offense. So since most of the interesting action was happening on the sidelines of this game, most of these pictures are from there. Enjoy...

(There are 20-to-25 honorary plaques around the base of the parastyles in the East end zone of the L.A. Coliseum. Here is an homage to the great Knute Rockne who initiated the idea of bringing his great Notre Dame teams of the 20s out West to play the Trojans.)

(Apparently, the 1960 Democratic convention was scheduled for the Sports Arena next door. But there was such a demand for tickets, they moved the convention to the Coliseum where JFK gave his acceptance speech at the base of the parastyles. This event allegedly inspired Barack Obama to hold this year's convention in Mile High Stadium in Denver.)

(As USC enters the Coliseum, Pete Carroll gives a quick hello to an Imax movie crew that is documenting the 2008 Trojan season.)

(If Rey Maualuga wants to wear some South Pacific leis around his neck as he walks into the stadium, well... I'M not going to tell him not to.)

("Hmmm, where on this Ipod did my mom put my Jonas Brothers songs!" Jimmy Clausen is jammin' out in pre-game warm-ups.)

(Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe are out on the field checkin' out the teams before their broadcasting of the game begins. It's hard to tell here, but at the time Holly was dancing to the song that was playing on the loud speaker.)

(The USC band enters the stadium. Now... where are those Song Girls?)

(Former Notre Dame All American Chris Zorich looks like he's about to kick my ass for taking a picture of him while he's on the phone.)

(The polarizing coach of Notre Dame strides onto the field as the pre-game warmups get cranked up. No, I didn't intend to intimate that he was going to be taking part in the calisthenics and wind sprints himself.)

(Pete Carroll visits with former Domer All American Joe Montana and his wife. "Sorry Joe, but we're about to put your alma mater's coaching situation into serious jeopardy tonight.")

(The Notre Dame cheerleaders limber up quite impressively before kickoff.)

(Just after the two teams got into a rhubarb near the tunnel, ND quarterback Jimmy Clausen went around the field doing the USC "Victory down" sign to the Trojan crowd.)

(ESPN's Holly Rowe is talking on the squawk box to somebody in the production truck. As weird as it sounds, she's better looking in real life than on TV.)

(Best celebrity sighting of the whole day: Red Hot Chili Pepper bassist Flea. Nice. And I might add here that the name "Flea" is quite appropriate. That dude couldn't have been more than 5'6" or so.)

(This was the first time in the history of the USC-Notre Dame series where the entire UND band was brought out West for the game. Don'tcha think they could've waited until the team got a little more competitive to bring the whole dog-and-pony show?)

(The Irish cheerleaders yell encouragement to their mates right before kickoff.)

(This picture was pretty indicative of how things went for Weis, Clausen and the rest of the Irish on this night.)

(Former ESPNer Gary Miller striking his Tommy Trojan pose as he goes over his notes before the teams run out onto the field. He now works for a local station in L.A.)

(The Irish players sing their alma mater in front of their fans after the game.)

(Between them Beano Cook would probably say these two will have five Heisman Trophies. Jimmy Clausen and former Irish flinger Ron Pawlus take part in the alma mater ceremony.)

(Wonder if Charlie Weis' son will also never play a down of football in his life just like dear old dad.)

(Pete Carroll gives out a hoo-raw! to the fans as he runs toward the locker rooms after the 38-3 mauling. And I think that's Bubba Smith playing his security policeman there.)

(Coach Weis gives his explanation of how his team played so poorly. He said he "ran out of answers" in trying to contain USC's very effective four man rush out of what were very basic defensive schemes.)

(After the press conference, Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick was barraged with questions about the future of coach Charlie Weis. He never really gave much of an answer for the rabid media to be satiated with, as you might expect.)

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