Blood, Thorns, Credit, Cheap Steaks, And Rotten Fruit

Harry How/Getty Images)

Win forever, boys, and always be jacked while doing so. (Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

Southern Cal 38, Penn State 24 – Gee, you wonder what USC could actually do if they went balls to the wall for a full 60 minutes every game. After 31 points in the first half, I’m betting Steve Sarkisian checked out mentally and started making calls on U-Dub’s behalf.  Never mind the result or final score, along with the Nittany Lions’ 17 fourth-quarter points: this was another blowout and a wish that the Trojans would either make good on their BCS game chasing again so we don’t have to go through this again (and I LIKE this Penn State team; that’s what made this game so damn frustrating, I thought SC would get a stiff challenge.) If Mark Sanchez actually decided to leave for the NFL on top of 4 TDs and 413 yards passing (along with a rushing TD), no one would blame him. Damian Williams is staying, him and his 10 catches for 162 yards. This is the kind of destruction that frustrates me as an SC fan for several reasons:

  • it gets the big heads slurping cardinal and gold jock again about an MNC when the Trojans had no business being there.
  • this fuels resentment from every other fan base out there, who asks why the fuck we lost to Oregon State (and they have a point)
  • we repeat the same cycle next year when the team comes out lackadaisical for a quarter or two

Whatever. I’ll take a Rose Bowl win and hope that we can keep it together enough next season to play a Big XII or SEC team in the BCS next year, either as an at large or in the championship game.

Virginia Tech 20, Cincinnati 7 – Will no one rid me of these meddlesome Hokies? God help the ACC if Beamer ever gets a consistent offense to go with his ballhawks on defense (they may be the Ravens of college football, everyone knows how they’re going to win and yet they still do it anyhow.)  They made a mockery of Cincy QB Tony Pike, who managed to look like the fifth-or-sixth string QB that he is, with coach Brian Kelly yelling at him about the read he’d fucked up after each of the four interceptions he threw.

Georgia 24, Michigan State 12 – Matthew “Fetus Boy” Stafford was two-faced in this game, or at least two-halved: looking like absolute crap with a 6-for-14 and a pick in a fairly dull first half, which reminded SEC viewers of the squandered potential that UGA had throughout the season thanks mostly to injuries that had decimated both their offensive and defensive lines. However, this is a Michigan State team utterly dependent on Javon Ringer (how Brian Hoyer became a starting D-IA QB sometimes, we’ll never know), and Stafford was able to turn it on in the last 20 minutes of the game, getting streaky with three TD passes and ending up with 246 yards passing on what’s probably his last collegiate game (although he could use another year, honestly.)

Iowa 31, South Carolina 10 – Anyone too shocked that Shonn Greene will make a very nice gift for a Top 10 team looking for a big running back willing to get the tough yards and move the chains? 121 yards and 2 TDs sealed his college career in Tampa, as he spent the afternoon stepping on the dicks of a Cocks’ team that was already hamstrung by the Ol’ Ball Coach’s Quarterback Follies — starting Stephen Garcia and his 3-pcik throwing self in the first half, and going back to the solid and utterly unspectacular Chris Smelley in the 2nd after the game was pretty much out of hand, given the Cocks’ offensive troubles, at 21-0.

Nebraska 26, Clemson 21 – There’s something to be said for coming back from a halftime deficit with a 20-point third quarter and holding off another comeback attempt by the Tigers via sacking Cullen Harper a ton and tipping some passes. I guess if you’re Nebraska and you’d lost your last nine bowl appearances, you take this sucker as a way to build on bigger and better things next year — maybe with another good season for Joe Ganz and a real return to the suffocating defense that was their trademark under Tom Osborne (along with the option). Bo Pelini’s off to a nice start in his first season. Let’s see where he goes from here.

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Ill-Advised New Year’s Day Bowl Predictions

marksanchezSo, so very fucking pissed at the programmers for this shit schedule of games. Jesus, the Rose Bowl’s the only game I want to watch, but lucky me, the Orange Bowl is the only one that starts after I leave work.

Outback Bowl: Iowa has a bulldozer in Shonn Greene and a workable defense that’s somehow managed to keep Kirk Ferentz employed (does he have pictures of the school’s president pulling a Catherine the Great or something? Jesus), and South Carolina is suffering from a severe case of ED on the offensive end (yes, wait for it and then yell at me.)  Defensively, they’ve seen backs as good as Greene before and not had much on them. Be taking the Hawkeyes here, even if keeps that asshole employed. 17-7, Iowa.

Gator Bowl: Two semi-useless rebuilding projects scrounged up good enough records to get invited here, and Bo Pelini’s Nebraska team doesn’t have the intensity on offensive he would like yet, while Clemson under Dabo Swinney appears to be finding its footing regarding what it would actually care to do on offense at times (memo: just keep running it behind C.J. Spiller and James Davis; the rest will work itself out.) The aggressive mediocrity of the Big XII North is probably a bit better than that of the ACC.  Nebraska by a touchdown.

Capital One Bowl: How the hell did this get to be a New Year’s Day game? Anyway, it runs up an SEC team (Georgia) and a Big 10 team (Michigan State), both equally flawed in various ways. Georgia’s flaws involve injuries to both lines, which derailed MNC aspirations. Michigan State’s are a bit more jarring: a rather mediocre QB in Brian Hoyer, resulting in a necessary leaning on Javon Ringer. Eight in the box for UGA all day as they push the Spartans into the pit, 34-10.

Rose Bowl: At least we’re getting somewhere now. I will reference my own defensive preview at Conquest Chronicles here, and re-assert that this will be a very close, defensively oriented game. However, Penn State has a weakness with pass defense and its safeties, while USC can be had with running game trickery and proper blocking. Southern Cal, 20-13, on two passing TDs by Mark Sanchez and a couple FGs.

Orange Bowl: Honestly, I know little about how Virginia Tech has managed to work its way to the top of the ACC again and even less about how Brian Kelly got Cincinnati to the top of the Big East heap despite having to go through six QBs to do it. Cincinnati, just for fun.

He Could Probably See Into Putin’s Soul, Too

Yes, he has apparently won AP's top sports columnist award three out of the last four years. I'm just as shocked as you are.

This man has apparently won AP's top sports columnist award three out of the last four years. I'm just as shocked as you are.

I know Bill Plaschke writes columns so ridiculously stupid that critiquing them and ripping him is like bringing a rocket launcher to the knife party, but I’ll be damned if mocking him for claiming he could judge the attitude of the USC football team just by observing them slouching and such ain’t fun.

STOP JUDGING ME LIKE THAT. Just go read.

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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Would A “Bush” Label Stick For Potential First-Round Picks?

This question is prompted by Dan Shanoff, who wrote this morning that New Orleans RB Reggie Bush is essentially Devin Hester with a devastating salary cap hit for his team attached — certainly not the revolutionary RB that he had been projected as back in the 2006 draft.  The pretty basic point about Bush, so far, is that he isn’t a between-the-tackles guy, and the breakaway speed he showed at USC isn’t quite so unique at the pro level, where even the mediocre linebackers are often fortified with SEC speed.

But the second, short part of his assessment of a possible “Bush-like” label for current college football star players with similar skills is a bit lacking:

There is an incredibly strong class of Bush-like players coming to the ’09 NFL Draft: Jeremy Maclin (a draft-eligible redshirt sophomore), Percy Harvin and Derrick Williams, to name the Top 3. Will the “Bush-like” label help or — to bring it back to the ’08 Election — hurt?

Labeling Percy Harvin with that brush may not be terribly far off, and that’s really the fault of his coach, Urban Meyer.  Meyer’s refusal to devleop actual running backs in Florida’s offense (don’t tell me you have Emmanuel Moody and Chris Rainey and can’t use either one of them in the backfield efficiently) keeps Harvin from developing more straight-ahead route-running  skills, and he still seems to be somewhat raw at it.  But as far as Jeremy Maclin and Derrick Williams go, those two — and many of your multi-option threats in that vein — are on the depth chart as wide receivers; they know how to run all the routes asked of them by their coaches.  You see plays run for them to get them into the backfield, not out of it — end arounds, reverses, etc. to throw wrinkles into the offense (and you can include Harvin there, easily.)  Those types of trickery are part of the playbooks of most of your NFL coordinators; they work best with a WR who has the basic skills, so defenses can’t peg it as a play for that particular multi-dimensional player right off the bat.

Hester is learning that at the NFL level, and Bush is pretty much turning into a slot guy and outside-running back at the pro-level.  Those aren’t good comparions at all. I think there is a better one out there, and considering how his rookie season has gone so far, “the next DeSean Jackson” might be the label that Maclin and Williams are looking at. So far, Jackson has two scores (one a punt return TD) and 335 receiving yards in 5 games. That’s not bad for a rookie that wasn’t expected to crack the starting line-up when camp opened.

Maybe Bush should have been a very short slot receiver instead. Hell, he might not have as many endorsements or that fat contract, but there are worse things to be in the NFL than Wes Welker.

Above The Rim: Isn’t It “Los Soles” Or Something?

Despite the Spanish cross-promotion that gave us “Los Spurs” versus “Los Suns” yesterday, Phoenix at least gave us a glimpse of something of what they could be when they made the trade for Shaquille O’Neal and held a team to under 90 points for once. If you’re getting 14 points and 16 boards from Shaq, he’s doing his job. Let’s face it: the Spurs’ Big Three didn’t have a great shooting day, but always give credit to a defense when a team doesn’t shoot well. For Phoenix, it’s somewhere to start.

Chicago is crumbling faster than a cheap Subway cookie. At least 7 points to the Pistons is a close loss, but when Chauncey Billups is torching you for 34 and you can’t put a body on Tayshaun Prince (15 points in the last 17 minutes of the game), you’ve got problems and you’re not getting in the playoffs this year. John Paxson may be trading his way down into the Bad GMs Club.

The Pau Gasol trade didn’t negate one thing about the Lakers: if Kobe Bryant isn’t having a good night shooting (at least in terms of accuracy, if not number of shots), they can lose to bad teams, and a one-point loss to Sacramento in this manner stinks. Beno Udrih (25 points, 10 assists) sunk two free throws to get the lead with 4.6 seconds left, then Kobe missed the fadeaway at the last second. Gasol had 25 points.

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