Rushing The Field: Poll Anarchy

Well, seven weeks in and we’ve got the same damned problem we had last year with college football (or non-problem, for without these issues, the sport isn’t as half as fun to discuss or opine on.)  The field has leveled out so greatly that you have three of the top five getting knocked off on a Saturday.

Oklahoma and Texas were essentially trading blows for about three quarters, with Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy upping the ante on who would be favored in the Heisman race. Texas turned it in the 4th quarter: prodding Bradford into picks and getting big play from McCoy (who was 28-35 passing, good accuracy) along with a huge 60-yard run from Chris Ogbonnaya, and the Horns took the win 45-35. However, any analysis of this game without a lament about the sorry Big 12 officials in charge is incomplete. I understand the reasons for stringent rules about roughing the passer or personal foul calls; you want to keep people from getting hurt. McCoy flopped twice on ruhses out of bounds that got called for 15-yard flags, he and Bradford both were given the gift of flags on roughing penalties that shouldn’t have been called, an OU interception that should have been in the first half wasn’t, and the OU punter put on an acting job that Cristiano Ronaldo would have been ashamed of.

The Swamp is an entirely different beast of a stadium, particularly for a new starting QB like Jarrett Lee in his first road game as LSU “supplied the butt” for Florida to whip, in Mike Patrick’s parlance.  Florida got out to a 20-0 lead at one point; LSU closed it to 6 points, but the Gators’ defense finally stepped up, turning the multitude of running backs of LSU into an ineffective rotation, and forcing them to try to win on Lee’s arm — never a good prospect for a redshirt freshman.  Urban Meyer’s squad wound up putting half a hundred on ’em in the first complete game where Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin were not the sole playmakers in the Gator spread.

T. Boone Pickens’ money is apparently going to good use; it’s enough to buy a defense when there apparently was none.  A 28-23 upset of Missouri at Columbia gives Oklahoma State some of the respect they’ve been seeking, as no other team made Chase Daniel look out of sync as often as the Cowboys did (Mizzou fans may be tempted to blame the fact that Daniel was wearing #25 in honor of a fallen teammate rather than his usual #10 jersey), forcing him into crucial picks late.  Zac Robinson was a revelation for those of us who haven’t taken the time to watch him, pulling touchdown passes out of his ass. One in particular impressed me in the second half: he rolled out left and had NOTHING at the time downfield, he’d just avoided a sack, and to avoid another one, he hurled it to a spot in the end zone where he had two receivers against one cornerback — leap, catch, touchdown.

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Rushing The Field: Another SEC Barnburner

Seriously, if we’re gonna go through this every week with SEC teams in the night game on ESPN, it’s gonna be a real long, nail-biting season.  LSU pulled out the victory in the Tiger Bowl against Auburn thanks to a late touchdown pass from Jarrett Lee, who was subbing after Andrew Hatch got concussed, to Brandon LaFell to end a game largely characterized by the hard hits on both sides along with fits and starts on offense that have to infuriate Auburn fans. I mean, just watching the passing on Tony Franklin’s offense look spectacular one minute and awful the next has to drive the Auburn faithful nuts rights now.  So much more of the game was about the heavy hitters on defense, and the eight guys LSU rotated in and out on the D-line came through and pounded Chris Todd in the end to secure the win.  Les Miles would also like to remind you about the size of his play-calling balls.

When UGA’s Rennie Curran took Rudy Carpenter’s helmet with him on a sack in the first half of Georgia’s visit to Tempe to face Arizona State, I knew this game was going to be in favor of the Dawgs, and ugly in the second half. Matthew Stafford now has a new target in A.J. Green, who caught for more than 150 yards last night and a score on top of two more touchodwns from the reliable Knowshon Moreno.  Carpenter now has a fifth off-brand orifice thanks to an offensive line that can’t protect him; at least two of them were provided by USC’s Rey Maualuga.

The Tennessee Volunteers just flat out gave up when Florida came to town. The final score does say that the Vols got on the scoreboard, but really, when you’re down 27-0 in the third quarter, do any points after that count?  It wasn’t exactly a spectacular game for Tim Tebow, and that offense still looks a little too dependent upon him and Percy Harvin, but the Vols defense had very few counters and the Vols on offense — well, this is a team with two studs at RB in Arian Foster and Monterio Hardesty whom they can’t open holes for and get the ball to. Jonathan Crompton is still being asked to do way too much.  In joining Steve Spurrier as the second Florida coach to beat Tennessee and Phil Fulmer four times in a row, Urban Meyer would be perfectly within his rights to snark, “You can’t spell Outback without UT.”

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The Shakedown: Six Days ‘Til Kickoff

Come next Saturday, I’ll be planted in front of the TV for every Saturday afterwards as giant dudes bash heads for school pride (or something like that.) Better take a look at who’s competing for the chip this year, and who’s got the best shot. (Note: this is how I’ve arranged the top 10, I know Georgia’s #1 going in, folks.)

(Rey Maualuga is coming for you, puny quarterbacks.)

1. USC – This isn’t pure SoCal homerism. I think the Trojans get the better of the Buckeyes and the Pac-10 isn’t a whole lot outside of Arizona State this year. If Mark Sanchez (or Mitch Mustain) can be anything resembling good and there is a wide receiver that stands out, they have the easiest path to get to the MNC game. The defense will be nasty, but the offense needs a star to pop out — whether that’s Joe McKnight, Vidal Hazelton, Damian Williams, somebody needs to be a go-to-guy. Of course, you can win big-time with team effort, and the fact that the Pac-10 looks to be in a bad swoon (Arizona State is the only other program that has any upside to look at this year) means a nice, laid-out path to the BCS game. Of course, we wrote all this last year before Stanford.

2. Ohio State – If there is any sort of karmic justice in the sport, OSU will find a way to nab a 2nd loss after losing to USC, thus promptly knocking them out of title contention. However, it took a miracle from Illinois to do it and they still have the best talent in the Big 10, by a long shot.  Their odds of making it back to the BCS title game really do depend on how much the defense can make up for losing Vernon Gholston to Sundays and whether Todd Boeckman will be consistent enough in throwing to the two Brians at wide receiver. If not, the Sweater Vest may bring in Terrelle Pryor earlier than he’d like to.

3. Georgia – The Dawgs’ in-conference schedule will eat them up. Probably won’t have more than one loss, but I don’t think they make it unscathed. They could live up to this pre-season #1 ranking they have if Matthew Stafford can up his completion percentage and Knowshon Moreno continues the form that had everyone drooling last year. Probably second best defense in conference to LSU.

4. Oklahoma – Bob Stoops has a real good chance to go undefeated in the Big 12 — but that defense allows way too much on the ground. The Sooners have laid eggs in their last few bowl games, but bring Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray back for what was a good, solid offensive attack last season. That said, there are few coaches I loathe more than Stoops — he’s whiny and petulant, an SEC coach without a bit of the inherent humor that comes with coaching in that conference.  He should be fortunate that OSU has lost two straight BCS championship games — otherwise, someone would notice he’s 0 for his last 4 BCS bowl games in the past four years.

5. Mizzou – If the Tigers’ vaunted defensive haul is true, then Chase Daniel and Co. stand a real good shot at taking out Oklahoma come Big 12 Championship Game time — and even though teams will probably double team Jeremy Maclin all season, it will only make Daniel and the spread attack in Columbia that much more dangerous. The thought that Gary Pinkel has a bunch of defensive starters returning and is confident that this team will keep others out of the end zone could make them a dark horse favorite if the tops falter.

6. LSU – Fear the Hat, but Les Miles has a quarterback deficiency. If Ryan Perrilloux hadn’t been such a dunce cap, this team likely would have been #2 pre-season with their loaded status at all the skill positions on offense and a robust defense returning, even with Glenn Dorsey moving on to play on Sundays. As is, they’re a favorite for the SEC West crown and a chance to knock off UGA.

7. Florida – The Gators are here until the team proves it has a secondary, essentially. I don’t care how much Tim Tebow you throw at opponents — there are teams they won’t be able to keep out of the end zone and there are defenses (the U, LSU, Georgia) that will pound Tebow, Percy Harvin, and Emmanuel Moody around.

8. Texas Tech – Mike Leach’s Pirate Academy could put a very real scare into OU, Texas and any of the Big 12 South’s regular powers. I don’t expect them to make a championship game yet — but the defense will be a load better and Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree are back. If nothing else, Leach’s teams are nothing short of fun to watch — and hopefully Fox Sports will do a lot of regional games with them.

9. Clemson – In a very, very weak ACC (Virgina Tech is offensively depleted; Boston College is trying to replace Matt Ryan), Tommy Bowden is running out of excuses. He has Cullen Harper, a backfield tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller (plus a freshman back by the name of Jamie Harper hoping to get PT), and he’s fallen short the past few years. An ACC title has to be his or he may not be back.

10. West Virginia – The Mountaineers go as far as Pat White’s legs and arm will take them, and as long as Bill Stewart will stay out of the way as head coach. (This was still an epic hiring error.) They certainly won’t be in a position to make the BCS game — not that the conference is great, but when USF has your number, no division is yours.

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Lazy Friday Video Posting.

It is what it is. First, add some of the more cracker-like LSU fan base + beer + questions about low-income housing being destroyed, and you get this, thanks to Rumors and Rants:

Second: That Diet Pepsi Max ad offended the football gods, Cowboys, and you paid for it — via KSK:

Jason Garrett was kept out of that ad for a reason, people.

LSU Wins Second Meaningless Title.

At least Ohio State didn’t get totally whupped, although it was 31-10 in the third and all points after that for the Buckeyes seemed wasteful. Here’s to the Louisiana State Tigers, the champions of Bizarro College Football Season, and fittingly, not universally considered the best team in the country by anyone with a pair of working eyeballs (unless you are the pollsters, who feel obligated to prop up the system this year because most everyone else sucks just as much.)

It’s rough because it’s not like this isn’t a good team; Matt Flynn’s 4 touchdown passes and the series of stops, turnovers, and a blocked field goal by Ricky-Jean Francois (also above in the photo) proved to be something closer to the LSU we saw against Mississippi State and Virginia Tech earlier in the season. But it’s as if they were the least bad — they won the games they had to in order even qualify for the championship game (looking at you, Georgia), and the result is even less satisfying than an 8-8 or 9-7 NFL team winning the Super Bowl, no matter what the Mad Hatter might tell you about the quality of his team’s losses.

LSU has won its two titles in bad circumstances: in 2004, having to split a title with USC when the computers shut the Trojans out of that year’s title game, and now this year, when everyone else fell by the wayside in worse ways. I suppose losing twice in triple OT to in-conference teams that wound up being unranked is the least bad option for a national champion — USC disqualified itself with the Stanford loss, UGA couldn’t even win its division (and it now figures that its president is clamoring for an eight-team playoff), Oklahoma was exposed as Ohio State’s Big 12 equivalent, Hawaii was a victim of what Boise State had done to our expectations last year, and West Virginia falls apart when Pat White leaves the game for any period of time.

As for Ohio State and Cheaty McSweatervest: You can spin all you want about a re-building year, and any year you make a BCS title game is a pretty good year, but, like everyone else that fell below you, you’re a victim of your crappy conference’s stubbornness about ending the season by Thanksgiving (I’m a Pac-10 fan; we have an equally stubborn set of administrators) and your addiction to in-state cupcakes. Fortunately, you have scheduled USC for a home-and-home the next two years, and this is the essential solution, as the Wizard of Odds declares — make more power teams play BCS conference foes, and punish those who don’t in the computers.

Photo: AP/Rob Carr

Les Miles Is Not A Big Fan Of ESPN Today.

(All video in this post comes via Awful Announcing.)

I slept through Gameday this morning, so I missed Kirk Herbstreit claiming that LSU coach Les Miles would be headed to Michigan on the show. Miles didn’t, and managed to get very, very pissed off during an emergency press conference a few hours before the SEC championship game to say he’s staying in Baton Rouge:

“I am the head coach at LSU. I will be the head coach at LSU. I have no interest in talking to anybody else…I’ve got a championship game to play, and I’m excited about the opportunity of my damn strong football team to play. It’s unfortunate that I had to address my team with that information this morning.”

ESPN spent the rest of the day parsing the full statement of Miles for ways that he could still have gone to Michigan in order to save their bacon, eventually passing it off as LSU intercepting it after the bombshell by making a huge offer. They could have simply spoken to Miles himself, much like CBS’ Tracy Wolfson did:

Gee, wasn’t that simple? These are the reasons people bag on the Four Letter so much; when they are wrong, they are comically wrong, and it’s a need to “get it fast and get it first” via speculation rather than, say, waiting until there’s an actual announcement about Les Miles’ future from him and LSU.

A Legal Jungle For The LSU Tigers?

Pokey Chatman will not go quietly, and this is not good news for LSU — but it may clear up for us what parts of the allegations against her regarding an affair with a player are substance and what are fiction.

Attorney Mary Olive Pierson says Chatman wants to be compensated for the remaining years of her contract, and says her client was forced out — made to sign a letter of resignation in two hours. Also at issue is whether the school had a policy regarding coach-player relationships (Chatman’s camp alleges there wasn’t, and she wouldn’t have resigned if her attorney knew there hadn’t been one.)

That kind of belies that Chatman was involved in some form of inappropriate relationship, but what we know and don’t know about the accusations leveled by assistant Carla Berry, also viewed in light of Berry’s departure from LSU, raise more questions about the inquiry and the process than they provide answers. However, does anyone think that with the accusations of an inappropriate affair hanging over her, that she would be hired again? There are male coaches that get involved with former players, but this is a double standard on the part of officials that will give those looking at Chatman pause when it comes to hiring.

A final note: not even a week after the dismissal of the charges of the Duke rape case and “Nifong” is already being used as a pejorative.