Saturday in Review 10/16/10

The chill rolls in, the leaves change colors, the pretenders separate from the contenders, and I still sneer and complain about the Big 10’s strength of schedule. Gotta love October.

#1 Ohio State-18, #16 Wisconsin-31

Wisconsin jumped out to a 21-0 lead on the Buckeyes, and that is a surefire recipe to get yourself taken out of the game (see Texas v. Nebraska further below). Ohio State looked like the underdog in Madison on Saturday night, and they only ever resembled a #1 team for a brief period in the late third and early fourth quarters, when they held Wisconsin scoreless and pulled within three points of the Badgers. Then they allowed a touchdown and a field goal, which sort of undid all the good done by their little scoring spurt. My point? Well, it’s not easy being #1 right now, and thankfully the Big 10 has beaten up on itself handily enough that we don’t have to see their representative get clocked in the national title game unless something REALLY weird happens this season. “Get clocked?” you ask indignantly. Yeah, I don’t think the Big 10 is prepared to go up against good nonconference competition, especially when you consider that they haven’t played any to begin with. No, I do not care what you say about the Oregon/Ohio State game last season. That’s the beauty of college football. Last season at this time, Florida looked well on their way to a national title. Now they’re a 3 loss team. Things change. (NOTE: Not all things. Our next game proves that.)

#3 Boise State-48, San Jose State-0

A game that isn’t really as close as it looks. This one was 41-0 at the half, and Boise State put in their backups for most of the second half. They’ll continue to throttle opponents like this for the forseeable future, in a desperate bid to gain a spot in the Top 2 in the BCS. I fully condone and endorse this manipulation of the system, as it might nauseate enough people to get us a playoff.

It really must suck to be San Jose State, considering their schedule dragged them through the wringer, forcing them to play 5 ranked teams in their first 7 games. Add to the mixture that they’re one of the worst football teams in the nation, and you have a giant headache for the Spartans, who could realistically go 1-11 considering that they’re 1-1 against 1-AA teams this season, and there’s no more Southern Utah’s on the schedule.

Texas-20, #4 Nebraska-13

Nebraska faced a huge test at home, against a team that looked to be on the downward slide. And they simply didn’t pass the test. Honestly, this looked like a flashback of last season’s Nebraska team, with the Huskers defense holding up their end of the bargain, whilst the offense looked mostly lost. Texas only gained 69 more yards than Nebraska on offense, but Nebraska sputtered early and never really drove particularly well. No matter what team you play for, giving your opponent a 10-0 head start 5 minutes into the game is not a recipe for success.

Don’t let the score fool you, this game probably should have been 20-6 or 20-9 at best for Nebraska. Their lone touchdown came from a punt return, Taylor Martinez looked like a freshman, and Nebraska shot itself in the foot repeatedly as they racked up 94 yards in penalties, many of those at unbelievably crucial times. In short, this wasn’t the “perfect storm” that sportscasters so often mention (too much, I might add) but it was a mixture of good preparation in the bye week by Texas, and a few too many mistakes for Nebraska. Sad, as I was hoping to see the Huskers roll into the title game. Still, one less obstacle to Boise State I suppose…

BYU-3, #5 TCU-31

TCU started out relatively slowly in this one, but they eventually got the job done. BYU, however, is a shell of their former selves, and that’s something that voters are acutely aware of. Like it or not, TCU will probably lose at least one spot in the rankings this week, simply because they “only” won by 28. It’s not right, but apparently TCU and Boise are expected to slaughter opponents to stay in the same place in the rankings, while Auburn squeaking past Kentucky last week by 3 is grounds for them to move up a slot in the polls. Explain, please.

Iowa State-0, #6 Oklahoma-52

Iowa State is the Big 12 equivalent of Duke in the ACC or Vandy in the SEC. The occasional big upset, but normally a punching bag of the top tier teams. Oklahoma is now the front-runner for the Big 12 Championship. So I guess everything old is new again. Disregard whatever moron said that “things change” crap on the Ohio State game.

#13 Arkansas-43, #7 Auburn-65

A major disaster from the defensive perspective. I mean, we’re talking a breakdown of epic proportions here. Ryan Mallett getting hurt was pretty much the best defensive play either of these teams made in this game. Since there’s not much more to say about the game itself, (I mean, this thing comes out late enough that you’ll have had the chance to watch the game on ESPNU during their replays on Monday and Tuesday) allow me to use the remaining space here to rant:

I hate this style of football. High scoring, high flying football just does nothing for me. I think it’s because the scoring isn’t so much the result of super talented offenses (remember, this is the same Arkansas team that managed a whopping 20 points on the same Alabama team that surrendered 35 to South Carolina the next week) than as a result of poor defense. If you have an offense that can steamroll everyone, fine. I am not going to fault you for scoring 60 some-odd points on a team that, in theory, can’t stop you. Boise State, for example, has to do that to even stay competitive. No, my problem is with the defenses. Most of these points can be laid at the feet of poor tackling. Arm tackles do not work. Ever. Michigan lost to App State in part because they thought they could wrap up smaller players with arm tackles. Of the 3 touchdowns Wake Forest scored against Virginia Tech on Saturday, 2 were on long runs that should have been stopped earlier, had the defensive player actually wrapped up his man instead of trying to give him a passing hug. And how many times have you seen a player going for a big hit mistime the strike and let a man through? Or get blocked on his way? It happens frequently at all levels of football. Big hits are unnecessary, they’re just nice add ons. I don’t care what a defensive stop looks like, I just care that the stop is made.

Let’s put this another way: German Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz once said that the primary purpose of a warship is to remain afloat. Well, the primary purpose of a defense is to tackle. Wrap up the legs and you can stop anyone. No, those bone jarring hits that give players concussions and lead to 40 year old former players drooling in their chairs like advanced Alzheimer’s patients don’t happen. So what? If your team wins a national title by winning every game 14-3, is that any worse than winning every game 42-35? Oh, you’ll be labeled “boring” if your defense just tackles instead of sending people to the hospital. WHO FRIGGIN’ CARES?! Stop going for big hits or cheap arm tackles and just wrap the man up using your entire body! It’s that simple! Either that, or I’m just a cranky old man caught in a 24 year old’s body.

Ole Miss-10, #8 Alabama-23

Look, you just read a lot of words up there. So I’m going to keep this one short-ish and vaguely sweet. This surprises no one. I am still of the opinion that Alabama is one of the 4 best teams in the country. Meaning that they’d make the final four if we had a playo–I sound like a broken record, don’t I? Any hoo, my one issue here is with the title on the ESPN recap of the game. “Alabama rebounds?” Really? The Tide didn’t look that good, and let’s not forget that Ole Miss lost to their 1-AA cupcake in their first game this year (Yeah, they didn’t even have the (invalid) “we were tired” excuse that Virginia Tech did). So let’s not call this a “rebound.” “Expected” might be a better word. And Ole Miss…welcome back to reality. We’ve missed you down here.

McNeese State-10, #9 LSU-32

Until they actually lose a game, I am officially giving up on trying to analyze LSU. This team gives me fits to a degree that you cannot imagine. This is a 7-0 team that’s in the Top 10 that should probably be 4-3 and unranked at best. So you know what? In lieu of an LSU review, here is a picture of a kitten.

#10 Utah-30, Wyoming-6

Utah is apparently more boring than Wyoming. How do I draw this conclusion? Simple: Look at the scores. There must be less to do in Utah, because they have time to drill their football team into an elite force around the nation. No, this game wasn’t broadcast in North Carolina. I had to put something here, though, but I can’t use the kitten gag again.

Illinois-6, #11 Michigan State-26

Illinois had quietly been having a halfway decent season. That’s really only from Illinois’s perspective. For everyone else it’s more of a “Oh, you’re .500 halfway through the year? Well, that’s better than average. For you.” Anyway, that whole “halfway decent season” came to a halt in this game. One wonders whether Illinois is destined for another year with one conference win. Then one actually bothers to look at the schedule and realizes that they have Indiana and Minnesota and they should make it into a bowl. Yeah, I should talk about Michigan State, but what do you want me to say? They seem to be good, but then again, so did Nebraska. So…yeah. Let’s move on.

#12 South Carolina-28, Kentucky-31

If you hear a thumping sound coming from the southeast, it’s the sound of thousands of South Carolina fans banging their heads against the walls of their local sports bars. Unless you’re in Las Vegas. Then you might want to switch hotel rooms.

Sorry, got off topic there. Any hoo, this is one of those games that’s a head scratcher. You wonder if South Carolina lapsed this week, or just got lucky last week. Anyway, I apologize to Kentucky.

Oh, and one more thing: WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT LAST PLAY?! 11 seconds left and Spurrier calls his last time out. That I get, but why do you throw a pass with even a risk of an interception? South Carolina’s QB should have never thrown a pass unless he saw his receiver standing alone in the end zone waving his arms, helmet in hand, and a sign that said “THROW IT HERE MORON!” in neon lettering. Otherwise, throw it away and kick the field goal. Or, even better, play it safe and kick the field goal. Yes, I admire risky play as much as the next guy, but you’re on the cusp of getting perennial punching bag South Carolina declared a national powerhouse. Don’t blow it! This isn’t NCAA 2011! Moving on…

#14 Iowa-38, #24 Michigan-28

Dear Michigan,

I’ll confess that you’re not as bad as last year’s team. Don’t get cocky, last year’s team was a 5-7 disaster squad who won all their games against pathetic competition. But with that said, you are an improving football program. Unfortunately, you’re still probably the 7th best team in your 11 team conference. Iowa has a decent defense, but your offense was so overhyped and overrated to start the season that it really doesn’t surprise the observant among us that you’re beginning to fall apart, Michigan. But fear not, Wolverines, you have Penn State, Illinois, and Purdue coming up on the schedule. So you could win 3 more straight before Wisconsin and Ohio State trash you to end the season!



PS: Iowa…make up your mind whether or not you suck. Please do so before you play Wisconsin this week.

Boston College-19, #17 Florida State-24

Florida State is, as our own Sloppy Joe put it, a schizophrenic team. They came out and demolished a decent Miami squad last week, and they narrowly skated by mediocre Boston College this week. My prediction for the Seminoles? Either an ACC Championship or a 40 point loss in the Music City Bowl. My prediction for the Eagles? A nice long winter at home in Boston.

#18 Oklahoma State-34, Texas Tech-17

Texas Tech did the right thing by firing Mr. Abuse, Mike Leach. Well, they did the right thing morally. Football wise, it’s looking like kind of a disaster. Mind you, Tommy Tuberville will need a year or two to right the ship, but the question is whether or not he’ll be given enough time to do it. And Oklahoma State has quietly gone undefeated. I guess the sports media learned from last year’s experience of proclaiming them the best team in Oklahoma, then watching them fall apart to a mediocre performance in a mediocre Cotton Bowl. Still, we’ll get to meet the real Oklahoma State soon, when they play Nebraska, Kansas State, and Texas in 3 of their next 4 games, followed by the season closer with Oklahoma. So…the Cowboys will finally be tested starting next week.

#19 Missouri-30, Texas A&M-9

Missouri is right there on the list with Oklahoma State of teams that are equal parts untested and undefeated. Missouri gets Oklahoma and Nebraska in coming weeks, so I guess we’ll see the real Tigers soon enough. Texas A&M, meanwhile is looking like they might play the spoiler for someone at some point in time. Not sure who, nor am I sure when, but Texas A&M is certainly not going to compete for the Big 12 title. And you can take that absolutely obvious statement to the bank!

#20 Arizona-24, Washington State-7

Wazzu still sucks. Nothing new here. Arizona probably should have beaten them by more. No, I don’t have East Coast Bias, there just weren’t any games of any interest in the western part of the country thus far in the Top 25. Let’s change that…

#19 Nevada-21, Hawaii-27

Now, I’ve only caught the highlights of this one, so take that as a warning. ESPN is notorious for spicing up their highlights to make it seem like games were either better than they really were or more of a blowout than they really were, depending on the situation (see also, that Alabama article I linked to above). But from what I’ve seen and from looking at the box score, Nevada’s vaunted pistol offense was decidedly mediocre in this game. They did nothing in the first half at all, and they allowed Hawaii a 17-0 halftime lead. Again, not a recipe for success. Do I always repeat myself this much in Saturdays in Review? Yeah, I think I do. Also, Nevada’s loss hurts Boise more than anyone else. Here’s hoping they don’t pull the upset now. That would suck for those of us who hate the BCS…

Mississippi State-10, #22 Florida-7

OK, first off, why was Florida still ranked? Because they had lost to two ranked teams? Is that it? Because that’s still dumb. Alabama beat them worse than they did Penn State! Florida doesn’t have Tim Tebow any more. Get over it. Lord knows that if the voters don’t then the Gators won’t. And Florida looks mostly lost when it comes to offense. Mississippi State isn’t that good, honest. It’s just that Florida is slowly but surely being revealed to be a mediocre SEC team. No shame in that, the SEC is still good, but Florida ain’t what they used to be. And I hate to think what this is doing to Urban Meyer’s heart…

#23 Air Force-25, San Diego State-27

San Diego State has actually been fairly good this season, losing a close one to Missouri and dropping a controversial decision to the BYU Cougars last week. So it’s not that surprising that they pulled off the upset this week. Air Force, meanwhile, couldn’t stop the impressive rushing attack of the Aztecs, which kinda makes me wonder how they managed to stop Navy. Whatever it is, they’d best figure out how to stop good offense and good defense quickly, since they’ll be going into Fort Worth next week to try and stop TCU. Good luck with that. And now…

Tales from the Bottom 95

Virginia Tech won again, so go Hokies…NC State is looking more and more like a team that had no business ever being ranked, after ECU jumped out to a 21-0 lead and beat the Wolfpack in OT…Washington upset Oregon State in double OT, and good job to Jake Locker again. See? I can be nice. It just doesn’t happen often…Clemson won big, so Dabo won’t get fired at the end of the season–probably…Georgia crushed Vandy, thereby keeping Mark Richt effigies down to a decent level once again…Rutgers clipped Army in OT, so either Army’s getting better, Rutgers is much worse, or both…Carolina beat UVa in a battle of teams I detest. Pity that they couldn’t both lose…Florida International has picked up 2 wins in a row. Go Panthers!…Indiana narrowly beat Arkansas State…Western Carolina got crushed by Wofford this weekend…

Aaaaand lastly, Fallout New Vegas comes out this week. So, Sloppy, please send an early e-mail, as I probably won’t see sunlight between now and Saturday…