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.

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.


Fighting On In Other Locales

The staff at Conquest Chronicles has welcomed me aboard as an editor this week, and I make my debut with a quick guide on how to translate talking head speak when the topic of Pete Carroll taking an NFL job again comes up.

You Want Him, U-Dub? We’ll Help Sark Pack

sarkisian(Partial headline credit to ParagonSC of Conquest Chronicles.)

Rece Davis just dropped a bomb on ESPN during the halftime of Louisville-Rutgers (in which the Scarlet Knights are up 49-0; Mike Teel has thrown 7 TD passes and pushed Steve Kragthorpe into the river with cement shoes), and announced that USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will be the head coach at Washington next season, after both Pat Hill and Mike Leach supposedly interviewed to replace Ty Willingham. This came from Joe Schad, who now has it up on the Four-Letter’s dot-com apparatus.

Really, U-Dub?

Most Trojan fans will be more than happy to wish Sark well and send him on his way. Sarkisian is a better choice to revive a moribound program than an intense guy like Hill (who reportedly took his name out because U-Dub wanted to wait to name a coach and he wanted to know before his bowl game) and an offensive mind like Leach, who probably used the interview partially to drive up his hand in Lubbock (and also to drive interest in Auburn)?

Really, U-Dub?

I was actually waiting to write a post telling U-Dub to do anything it has to in order to get ahold of Leach and bring him to the Pac-10, because what this conference needs is an outsize character to recruit and compete with Pete Carroll on and off the field. (Rick Neuheisel isn’t there until he at least makes the annual UCLA-USC game competitive.) Not only that, but Leach would have given something for the Seattle sports fan to feel good about in a year where Land Thieves invaded and stole the Sonics, the Mariners hit rock bottom in baseball, and the Seahawks look like the J.V. squad of the NFL after years of dominating their lame division.

Additionally, rescuing the last couple years of Jake Locker’s collegiate career are a priority.  Sark is a good QBs coach and okay calling the plays, but trying to bring back a program to respectability and salvage the talent of a star QB, so far wasted by Willingham, is not for an offensive coordinator considered nowhere near his mentor Norm Chow.

Any coordinator not named Chow is not a giant loss to USC, because the emphasis on the styles of play both offensively and defensiely comes from Carroll — the assistants are there to execute it, but the fount of what the team wants to do comes from the Humanitarian.

Sark certainly has the ability to become a good head coach, and training under Chow and Carroll isn’t a bad place to get your bearings. But it’ll take a lot more to convince me that U-Dub will be anything in the next couple years with him. At least with Lane Kiffin, you know the guy was nuts about recruiting. I’ve never heard such a thing abotu Sarkisian. The brass in Seattle needed a slam dunk; instead, starved sports fans in Seattle will be hearing the sounds of their neighbors from Bellingham, Death Cab for Cutie, when Sarkisian is introduced:

Running For The Roses, And Nothing Else


If there’s any better proof of just how shitty, corrupt and ridiculous this little experiment called the Bowl Championship Series is right now, it’s that there are analysts out there (Mark May, Mel Kiper, looking at you) who suggest that USC still has a shot to make the BCS championship game — never mind that there has to be an absolutely epic collapse for this to happen.

And this is coming from a USC fan.

Essentially, what has to happen is that both Alabama and Florida have to lose before the SEC championship game, Texas Tech has to falter, and after the three-way clusterfuck in the Big 12 South is worked out, then you probably need Missouri to beat whomever survives in the Big 12 championship. There’s a lot of this still being a possibility given the ruckus of last year, but to count on that, if you are a fan of the Trojans, is like being at a party and saying the certified 9.5 woman at a party will want to go home with you for the night if the five guys before you with better clothes, more money, and an actual personality all fail miserably — and even then there’s not guarantee, because we haven’t even talked about Oregon State.

(I know that was a strain of an analogy. I’m sure you have a personality. Really, you do.)

Oregon State going through the gauntlet of California, Arizona, and Oregon to finish the season is doable. Frankly, if the Bears don’t pull it off, the Beavers will be going to the Rose Bowl. So the Trojans need obvious help, and they’re not doing themselves any particular favors with their offense. The defense is the nation’s best, legitimately dangerous (if a bit too liberal with incurring penalty flags), but they’re carrying an offense that can’t get out of its own way right now.  The mediocrities of Arizona and Cal should be fertile ground for at least 24-30 points. Not every game can be a time to tee off on U-Dub or Wazzu, but ESPN’s Joe Schad had a report from linebacker Brian Cushing teeing off on the offense for “not playing as a team,” which is more or less what’s been visible on tape.

In the past few years, it’s been rare that you could say a USC offensive performance was boring.  They may have run up the score in blowouts, but you couldn’t say it wasn’t entertaining, seeing the individual talent on display. Now, the pro-style offense has somehow regressed to absolutely dull drives — mostly in the “rush, incomplete, pass to get a third down, pass on first, rush, rush, punt” variety. It’s not as bad as three and out, but a bit more frustrating.

Despite unease about Mark “Vinnie Chase” Sanchez, I’m not putting this all on him. The only reliable receiver he appears to have who can get open is Damian Williams and Joe McKnight hasn’t become the revelation everyone was waiting on yet. But to see this team in BCS contention?  No discussing it until it’s actually plausible, please.

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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