Chomp

AP/Chris O'Meara

AP/Chris O'Meara

Florida 24, Oklahoma 14Well, I wasn’t too far off, a touchdown a piece. Not bad.

We come not to bury Tim Tebow; we do have some praise for him, and he had a very good second half after a bland first half with two picks. The reason the “Greatest QB EVAH!” (according to just about every damn commentator Fox and ESPN can muster) was even able to overcome his early mistakes was because Charlie Strong and his defense put an absolute lock down on the Oklahoma no-huddle offense, forcing them to slow down, call time outs they normally don’t, and did what not even TCU could do: hold them under 20 points by tightening up when the Sooners got into the maroon (I can’t believe I borrowed that from Easterbrook) and red zones, including an early 4th down stop that set the tone for the rest of the game.

Sam Bradford could only finish a couple drives to Jermaine Gresham, not looking anywhere near the form that earned him a Hesiman Trophy, because he was rushed and his receivers covered fairly well most of the night. It was a slog ’em out where Florida, for the most part, when it scored, did what I thought it would do:  get the ball moving down the field, keeping it out of the hands of that offense, and the Gators would hamstring themselves with some dumb, cheap false start penalties, too.

Let’s be clear: Tebow is not the most dominant or best player ever in college football, no matter what Crazy Uncles Verne and Gary, various Four-Letter talking heads, and Thom Brennaman tell you*. This is the first national championship that is all his own as a leader; he was an important cog in 2006-2007.  This wasn’t dominance on the level of Vince Young in the 2006 Rose Bowl; that’s still the gold standard when we think of pure, unvarnished football domination by one player in the modern era, and rightfully so.  But to give Tebow his due without slurping, I’ll say this: that Gator team feeds off his energy and his presence. This is visible.  There are a lot of great athletes on that team, and they all deserve credit — Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy, Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, Anthony Hernandez, the Pouncey twins, Brandon Spikes, Jeff Haden, Jarious Jenkins, et al.  — but Tebow’s virtue is that he’s really good at being the leader of the team along with being a great athlete at the collegiate level. No more, no less.

(*Brennaman’s aural fellatio was particularly obnoxious, and thankfully captured by the Big Lead: “In such a cynical, sarcastic society, oftentimes looking for the negative on anybody or anything, if you’re fortunate enough to spend five minutes or 20 minutes around Tim Tebow, your life is better for it.”

Go back to the Big Ten network, take Charles Davis with you, and never come back after next year. ESPN’s rights to the BCS cannot come soon enough, not only for these hacks but the studio guys [die in a fire, Chris Rose] and all their other impromptu announcing teams, including Zombie Pat Summerall.  Fire your entire truck and graphics crew while you’re at it.  An idiotic number of band shots and an inability to break down what defenses were doing are the death of television football broadcasts, and Fox is not helping, on either the pro or collegiate levels.)

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Ill-Advised BCS Championship Game Prediction

Getty Images/Doug Benc

Photo: Getty Images/Doug Benc

Not like this ever pans out or means anything. Please see everything under the “previews” category so you can observe my hit and miss ratio at this sort of thing, always.

So, consider the spectacle in Miami tomorrow, in which we only have the track records of the two 12-1 teams competing at Dolphins Stadium and their conferences to wage any sort of hacking through the guesstimation muck in order to consider what the end result of a BCS “championship” game might be (championship in quotes for damn good reason; Utah’s bid being the top one) between Oklahoma and Florida. We have the team with the fastest athletes playing the team that runs its offense the quickest.

Ultimately, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Florida will have all its playmakers, no matter how gimpy Percy Harvin may be — and OU is missing DeMarco Murray, which will hurt them in a sizable way, despite the capable back-ups available to take his place, Murray is a unique presence in that backfield.  Secondly, after watching two of the Big 12 South’s teams look rather pedestrian in bowl games, the equation is starting to skew a bit — and that’s before you consider that Bob Stoops has spit the bit in four consecutive BCS appearances, most recently, the Orange Bowl loss that was a wonderful rebound fuck of sorts for West Virginia after Rich Rod’s ignominous and acrimonious exit; as a result, WVU then decided to turn that ho Bill Stewart into a housewife (and has paid for it by wasting Pat White’s senior year in a bowl named after the dudes who fix your brakes.)

Meanwhile, the UF offense does not come unfocused much, and while the OU defense was stout enough to get by, there’s something that’s always unnerved me about a tema that’s compelled to put up half a hundred as often as possible — and sometimes they’ve actually kind of needed it (witness Kansas State, in which the Sooners actually allowed a 20+-point swing when up by gangbusters; it didn’t matter in the end, but you notice.) By default, it appears Florida’s defense will likely be the second best the OU offense faces, behind TCU — but the Horned Frogs don’t have anything close to an offense attack to respond in kind.

I will say Florida, 31-21, thanks to slow play from Tim Tebow and his corps of speed talent — an offense just as capable of slowing the pace down in order to keep the Sooners’ O and Sam Bradford off the field.

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: That Was Supposed To Be Competitive, Right?

Honest question: is 35-3 a bad enough beating for Ohio State that we can no longer consider them candidates for the BCS championship game? After watching USC’s offensive pick apart the secondary and the Trojans’ front seven on defense get after Todd Boeckman early and often, it seems that Jim Tressel’s ethic and mentality in Columbus may need just as much of a change as Lloyd Carr’s did in Michigan. That wound up with Carr leaving and Rich Rodriguez replacing him, but I am not suggesting such a drastic step.  What it may require is Tressel stretching out his recruiting area — because he can get every athlete in the Midwest and many in the Atlantic part of Big 10 territory that he likes, but he isn’t attracting players that can be difference makers in out-of-conference games.  I don’t think Beanie Wells would have made a lick of difference, either, and you know what? I don’t like the Buckeyes much when they have to play Penn State are their spread offense later this year, either.

They may not be able to get by Wisconsin, who grind out wins. For every play that Fresno State made against the Badgers in the San Joaquin Valley, the Badgers had answers and their defense was able to keep Tom Brandstater in check.

The dirty little secret about USC? They have the easiest path to the MNC game because the Pac-10, usually good for 2nd in conference strength behind the SEC these days, is in a down cycle. USC was one of only two Pac-10 teams that won an out-of-conference game convincingly, and I would rather not count Oregon State-Hawai’i as any sort of meaningful OOC game. Oregon lost another QB and snuck by Purdue in OT, to be fair.

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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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There Isn’t A Couch Left In Morgantown Today.

(Video of Matt Vasgersian calling West Fuckin’ Virginia FB Owen Schmitt a runaway beer truck courtesy of Awful Announcing. Matty V also noticed the whole Dingle-Berry joke that the Mottrams brought to us a while back.)

West Fuckin’ Virginia 48, Oklahoma 28Damn, what the fuck was that we were talking about how OU was gonna destroy the Big East team, rudderless and without the offensive genius that brought them this far?  That highlight above from Schmitt was the longest run in Fiesta Bowl history (57 yards) until fellow rusher Noel Devine ran so fast that you might want to describe SEC players as having WVU speed for a 65-yard score in the fourth quarter.  It was 20-6 at the half when OU started to make a comeback — scoring via Chris Brown’s 1-yard touchdown run, but then Bob Stoops made the errors that have cost him four straight BCS bowl games — calling an unsuccessful two point conversion and then on-side kicking it way before it was necessary.  The scary thing: most of those WVU players will be back next year: Pat White and his dual-threat rushing-receiving yardage, Noel Devine will be, and it sounds like Steve Slaton will stick around. Maybe Morgantown will have better days without its favorite son coach, although having the offensive coordinator going with him to Ann Arbor might make a dent. Let’s just say that this makes yet another year that Oklahoma was expected to dominate a bowl game, and came up short.