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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Above The Rim: That’s Just Sick

(Thanks to the FanHouse for the tip to the video.)

That Rajon Rondo dunk was likely the eye-dropping play as the Celtics sealed up a playoff spot with a win over the Pistons — a likely playoff match-up that we’ll all be dying to see. KG had 31 points, Rondo had 16, and center Kendrick Perkins had 10 points and a bigger 20 boards. Rasheed had 23 and Rip 15 for the Pistons.

Who does 50 points and 10 assists? LeBron James does — and was two rebounds away from another triple-double in the Cavs’ victory over the hapless Knicks. New York area hoops lovers can only dream of James signing with a Brooklyn-bound Nets team when watching him — and a Cleveland fan rushed towards the bench to give effusive praise.

16 in a row for the Rockets after taking it out on Indiana with Tracy McGrady’s 25 points. 15 straight points scored by Houston in the second quarter helped lead to the blowout. Is this team better without Yao? Maybe. It’s too soon to tell — and upcoming games against the Western Conference powers will give us a better idea.

The Denver Nuggets are the little, adorable girl with the curls. When they’re good, they’re angelic — and the firepower they showed against a Suns team on the decline was a nice display. 30 points and 13 boards for Melo, Iverson leads with 31, and J.R. Smith kept hitting shots off the bench for 20. This while Shaq gave a great effort on the boards with 18 rebounds, and Amare Stoudemire led the Suns with 22 points.

Jason Richardson wasn’t exactly happy to leave Golden State via trade in the draft — and he finally got a measure of revenge, scoring 42 points as the Bobcats took one from the Warriors, who are now only one game ahead of Denver for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.

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Above The Rim: Calling The Comeback

Lakers 93, Blazers 86 – Kobe scores 30 as the Lakers come back from 15 down against the Trail Blazers, who reflect the youth on their squad by not being able to close out with a big lead. Jordan Farmar had 21; LaMarcus Aldredge led the Blazers with 24.

Bucks 105, Cavs 102 – Michael Redd nails the final three with the buzzer sounding, as LeBron’s new supporting cast struggles in its first road game — shooting 4 for 13 combined. James had 35, while the Bucks’ Mo Williams led all scorers with 37.

Rockets 94, Wizards 69 – No Yao, no problem…for now. It helps when your opponent scores only 21 points in the first half to help spot you a 28-point lead, y’know? Luther Head led the Rockets with 18.

Suns 127, Grizzlies 113 – Six Suns finished in double figures, with Steve Nash, Amare Stoudamire, and Grant Hill all pumping in 20+. Shaq had 13 and 11 boards, his best game in a Suns uniform so far. Rudy Gay led Memphis in the losing effort with 36 — the Grizzlies let the Suns pull away late.

Vanderbilt 72, Tennessee 69 – What a comedown. Shan Foster had 32 for the Commodores, who upset the Vols a day after UT tops the men’s hoops poll for the first time ever. Maybe they’re better when Chris Lofton barely scores; he had 25 (no, probably not better when that happens.)

Indiana 72, Ohio State 69 – The Hoosiers keep on playing with win #2 for interim coach Dan Dakich. Armon Bassett led with 23, Eric Gordon had 17, and Kosta Koufos ralled the Buckeyes close with his 21. Dakich says all the right things, brushing off the extra (and unwarranted plaudits) from the IU faithful.

Missouri State 83, Drake 68 – Keno Davis’ squad isn’t immune to the letdown, as the Bears shot 59 percent in the game in order to knock off the 20th ranked squad.

Photo: AP/Kevork Djansezian