Alright, I'm going to cut through all the small talk, and all the bad jokes, because we need to jump into everything that happened in college football yesterday. It really was a nutty day.
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Anyway, back to football, and...
1. Let Me Start By Saying This: God Bless Les Miles. Because only the Mad Hatter/Riverboat Gambler/Dumbest Man in America could singlehandedly hijack the day from Florida-Alabama and Oregon-Stanford, with his latest "Worst coaching of the decade," moment. I was really starting to wonder if maybe Les was beginning to figure out this coaching thing. Now I’m convinced more than ever that he couldn’t even figure out how to add 6 + 4 unless we gave him a calculator.
Simply put, the end of the Tennessee-LSU game was the single craziest ending to any game, in any sport I’ve ever seen. It combined tension, anxiety and downright stupidity into one of the biggest, “What the hell is going on?” moments of my life. It’s pretty hard to leave me speechless, since after all, I make my livelihood with words. But the finish to Saturday’s game did exactly that, and honestly, I really don’t know how old Les continues to get away with all this stuff. As a reader named John L., wrote me, “I’m an LSU fan, and happy we won. But Les once again made the case that he should be working at McDonalds.” I mean really, I’m not even sure about that. The cash register might be too complicated for him. The only job Miles is qualified for is to pick up garbage on the side of the highway.
As for Tennessee, that might be the single most brutal regular season loss I’ve ever seen. It takes a lot to see players sitting on the field crying after getting beat in the first weekend in October, but that’s exactly what happened Saturday. Poor Derek Dooley put his guys in a position to win, and they played their hearts out. They deserved better. I’m not a Tennessee fan, but I feel for all of them, as well as their players and coaches right now.
Anyway, let’s get off Les and LSU, and go back onto the field. Because I thought…
2. The Thing That Impressed Me Most About Oregon Last Night: Was their complete team effort. We always talk about Chip Kelly’s offensive attack and rightfully so. They’re fun to watch. They never quit. And as we’ve learned this year, no point total is out of reach.
But at the same time, Oregon doesn’t win Saturday night if their defense doesn’t step up. Honestly, it was that unit that impressed me the most,
and like the offense, it was a total group effort. The lineman refused to get pushed around. The linebackers filled gaps. The defensive backs jumped routes like they knew what Andrew Luck was doing, before Andrew Luck did.. If Stanford wasn’t gift-wrapped some points early, this one would’ve turned into a laugher. Which it basically was anyway.
And back to Oregon’s offense for a second, because I want to make one more point. Everyone talks about their speed, and again, with good reason. But their skill position guys are freakin’ strong too. I noticed it a few weeks ago, and last night justified it: Their ball carriers never seem to go down on first contact.
Stanford was supposed to be the “physical,” team Saturday, but it turned out that Oregon was all along. Who knew?
3. One Final Note On Stanford-Oregon: Actually, two. First, I thought that their recovered onside kick in the first half may have been the biggest momentum-changing play of the entire college football season. The Ducks were slowly gaining confidence at that point, but that play was where they grabbed the game's momentum, and ripped it out of Stanford’s hands, like two kids fighting for a toy in the sandbox on the playground.
But for all the importance in that play (and there was plenty), I thought that when Oregon forced the Chris Owusu fumble in the third quarter, that was the single, biggest play of the entire college football season so far. It may have swung the entire Pac-10 race (and in turn National Championship race) as we knew it.
If you don’t remember, it was about halfway through the third quarter, the score tied at 31 and Stanford got hit, fumbled and Oregon recovered. A play later they scored a touchdown and were up 38-31.
That one, single, fumble and recovery turned into a 10 point swing, and was the biggest moment, in the biggest game to date. The college football season completely changed because of it.
4. As For Florida-Alabama: What is there to say about Alabama at this point? Just another, ho-hum, boring win over a Top 25 team huh? Yawn. Whatever.
To me, what was most impressive about the win though, was that like Oregon it was a total team effort. Alabama did it in all three phases of the game, their offense, defense and special teams all made big plays. For all the talk about the interceptions, the game probably swung for good on Julio Jones big punt return late in the first quarter. Like the Oregon fumble recovery, it was one final, "Buckle up your chin-strap boys, we're here to stay," moment. Well, Florida never buckled up their chin straps (more on that coming in a second), and Alabama never ooked back.
Really, besides that, I don’t take much out of that game. I thought it was one going to be one-sided, and that’s what it actually turned into. I even said after the Arkansas win last week that I thought that South Carolina was going to be a tougher next week than Florida would be this week.
I guess we’ll find that out next Saturday.
(By the way, want the craziest stat of the Florida-Alabama game? Greg McElroy didn’t throw for 100 yards, and neither Trent Richardson or Mark Ingram rushed for 100 yards either. And Alabama still won by almost 30 points. Now that my friends, is scary!)
5. As For Florida, I’ve Got To Say That I Don’t Think They Ever Recovered From Their Failed Jump Pass On The First Possession Of The Game: First off, I’ve got to say, that as much as I love Urban Meyer, that was just a terrible, terrible play call. The jump pass might work there against Georgia, LSU or Kentucky. But it ain’t happening against Alabama. Their defense is entirely too well coached.
Also, isn’t the jump pass a little gimmicky at this point? I mean, I get why the Gators broke out a few years with Tebow: They were up-and-coming, playing LSU at home, had something to prove, and it’d never been done before. It was fun and different. And it worked.
But now Florida is an established entity in the college football world. If they wanted a touchdown there, they needed to buckle up their chin straps and go take it from Alabama. Not try and get cute with them. If Meyer didn't think his team could pick up the one yard they needed for the touchdown, he should've sent out his field goal unit. Points were to valuable to just give away there. Either pound the ball for seven, or settle for three. But you can't come away with nothing.
6. Staying With Florida, The Most Disappointing Thing For Them Has To Be: That they actually looked really good on their opening drive, I really was impressed with their physicality. But after the failed jump pass they quit. Their toughness wasn’t there. And Alabama sensed it, and went for the jugular.
And if you’re Urban Meyer or Steve Addazio today, the most disappointing unit on your team has to be the offensive line. Look, we know John Brantley is young. That the defense needs some work. That Jeff Demps was less than 100 percent. But there’s no excuse for the offensive line to look as unprepared and unmotivated as they did Saturday. They’re supposed to be a strength of this team, but after the first series looked scared, and like they wanted to be anywhere but Bryant-Denney Stadium Saturday night.
Which brings me to my final point: I’ve seen a lot of things in my day watching college football. Some good. Some bad. And as Les Miles proved Saturday, some which I’ll never see again. But I never thought I’d see the day where an Urban Meyer coached team quit. I saw that Saturday.
7. One More Point On The Night Games: Because after USC lost to Washington, I half-jokingly said on Twitter that I wondered if Pete Carroll had left USC because of the NCAA sanctions, or because he just knew he didn’t have talent. Really, I didn’t think it was that far off.
But for some reason, it really touched a chord with a lot of people. Some called me over reactionary. Some just called me dumb. Unfortunately, I think it’s time to look in the mirror USC fans. The talent on your roster just isn’t there. You’re a slightly above average football team right now. That's it.
Remember, this is the same USC team that beat the University of Virginia by three points at home. Not Virginia Tech. The University of Virginia, which just happens to be the same team that lost by damn near 30 at home to Florida State on Saturday.
This is the same USC team that needed a second half run to put away Minnesota two weeks ago. A Minnesota team which lost to the illustrious South Dakota Coyotes a week before their game with the Trojans. And it’s the same USC team that lost last night to Washington. A Washington team that got beat by a hopeless BYU squad, and got down-right spanked by Nebraska a few weeks ago.
I said this a few weeks back and I’ll say it again: Other than Matt Barkley, I don’t see one elite player on this roster, especially on defense. For a unit that once put Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews and Taylor Mays on the field at the same time, I don’t see one first round draft pick playing on Monte Kiffin's side of the ball. Apparently I wasn't that far off Saturday either. The Trojans gave up over 500 yards of offense to Washington. Not good.
So to USC fans, I stand by what I said. The talent isn’t there, and it isn’t getting any easier, with the rest of the Pac-10 slate coming up. If you don’t want to believe me, fine. But you’ll see for yourself next weekend at Stanford. I don’t expect it to be pretty.
8. Sticking With Teams I’m Not Sold On…We’ve Got Oklahoma!: Yes, Saturday’s win was nice, but I still don’t think Oklahoma is a Top 10 team. I haven’t thought it all year, and I don’t think it now. Sorry Sooners fans. I’m underwhelmed.
After watching them a few times earlier this year, there was something that just didn’t seem right about this team that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Watching Saturday’s game, I think I figured out what it is.
Here goes: I think that their fast-paced, faster moving offense, lulls everyone into a false security when it comes to this team. I do think that Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray are all super talented players, which certainly helps things. But I don’t think the defense is great, and I’m going to go out there and say that the offensive line is just downright bad. When Oklahoma needed to pick up yards on the ground Saturday- and Texas knew the run was coming- they couldn’t do it. Now I know Texas’ defensive front isn’t as bad as they looked against UCLA a few weeks ago. But still, they’re not the ’85 Bears either. Oklahoma needed to exert their will on the Longhorns, and I never felt like they did.
Which is why I think Oklahoma is in for a loss, sooner rather than later. One of these games, they’re going to come out flat, Landry Jones isn’t going to be as crisp as he was on Saturday, and the Sooners are going to need to run the ball, and won’t be able to do it. I don’t know if it’ll happen against Texas A&M, Oklahoma State or Missouri. But they aren’t finishing the regular season undefeated. I just don't see it.
9. As For Texas: I think that Todd Blackledge said it best during the broadcast, when he mentioned, “Texas just doesn’t have one guy on offense that scares you.” I couldn’t agree more. But I’m going to take this one step further. Texas hasn’t had a really good running back since 2005, and this is the first year it's catching up with them.
The truth is, that because of the abilities of Vince Young and Colt McCoy, the Longhorns have been able to get away with a bunch of schlubs at running back for a long time. If you had two working arms, two working legs, could block and run under a 5.0 40, you could've played running back at Texas these last few years. But now? They’ve got the much less mobile Garrett Gilbert at quarterback, and without the threat of a running game, every defense is letting loose on him. It’s not his fault, but poor Gilbert is helpless out there. Somebody fire a flare, the kid needs an S.O.S.
Let’s go back to the running backs though, because since Selvin Young left about four or five years ago, I can’t think of one single back that stands out for Texas. For all the success that Mack Brown has had recruiting and developing players at every other position on the field, it sure seems like he and his offensive staff have whiffed big time with all these running backs.
Which leads back to last night, and after that Oklahoma game, where I couldn’t help but wonder: Are Texas’ running backs limited by the system that they’re in? Or is the system limited by the running back’s that Texas has?
It’s a fair question, and one that I don’t think we have an answer to right now.
10. In The Early Games: I think Miami established itself as the team to beat in the ACC. And I think it’s because they finally wised up and took the ball out of Jacory Harris’ hands.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have no personal beef with Jacory, and have been rooting for him since he wrestled the starting job away from Robert Marve a few years ago. But while I wouldn’t say that Harris has regressed these past couple years, I think it’s safe to point out that he hasn’t developed the way many of us expected he would either.
And if you didn’t watch yesterday’s game, while the box score might say that Harris was the star, that’s hardly the truth. The defense took control early, and the running game put things away late. After some early picks, Harris was mostly a bystander and game-manager.
The defense in particular was outstanding, and may be better than any of us realize. They made Kyle Parker look uncomfortable in the pocket all afternoon, and except for one or two big plays, the Clemson running game was pretty much a non-factor too. There was nothing fluky about Miami’s win Saturday afternoon. They were better than Clemson in just about any way one team can be better than another.
And looking at the big picture, who in this conference is beating Miami right now? North Carolina’s a mess off the field. Georgia Tech’s a mess on the field. Virginia Tech is, well, ehh. And I’ll believe Florida State is good when I see it.
This is Miami’s conference for the taking. And if they do take it, I think it’s because of the running game and defense. Not their big-name quarterback.
11. I Thought ESPN’s Rece Davis Summed Up The Auburn-Louisiana-Monroe Game About As Well As Anyone Could: When he said, “The turning point in this one was when Gene Chizik’s team walked into the stadium. Yup.
And I still think that if Alabama is to lose a game this regular season, it will come at the hands of their biggest rivals. This Auburn team is really good.
12. Speaking Of Really Good: Two words- Denard Robinson. As Verne Lundquist would say, “My goodness!”
We really are running out of words in the English language to describe this guy, so I’m really going to stop trying. All I’ll say is that he’s already had two games where he’s passed for 200 yards and rushed for 200 as well. WOW!
All I’m going to say is, should we just give him the Heisman Trophy now? Or do we have to wait until December to make it official?
13. I Didn’t See The Ohio State Game: So I don’t feel totally comfortable talking about them. But from what everyone told me, it sounds like Jim Tressel went back to his close to the vest, field position and defense, “Tressel ball,” game-plan. And really, I’m not sure if I like it.
Again, I didn’t see a ton of the game so I don’t want to commentate too much. But if it’s true, the Buckeyes could be in trouble going forward, and here’s why: This isn’t 2006 anymore. The Big Ten is too good to try and win every game 17-7 or 13-6, or 3-0. If Ohio State keeps trying to do that, they’re going to get clipped eventually by someone. Iowa. Penn State. Wisconsin. Dare I say, Michigan?
Now I know a win is a win, but I guess Saturday left me worrying about the Buckeyes a little. As recently as Friday afternoon I was calling them the “Most complete team in college football.” But now, I’m really not sure. At some point they’re going to have to score points against really teams.
14. To All The Mark Richt Apologists: Well? Where are you all hiding today? Because I haven't heard much from ya...
I would comment more on this, but I plan on writing a separate article on the subject later in the week. In the meantime, does anyone happen to know Will Muschamp’s phone number off-hand?
15. One More Random Thought, And Then I’ll Let You Go: Because I know you’ve got better things to do. And as for me…well…like I said, you’ve got better things to do.
Anyway, I’m going to throw something out there, and I want you to remember that your buddy AT said it. Vanderbilt isn’t a half bad team. I’ve seen them up close and person now twice, once at Ole Miss a few weeks ago, and against my UConn Huskies yesterday.
No, they’re not going to win the SEC East, but they are going to surprise someone in that division. Mark my words. If Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky fans are ready to mark Vandy as a check in the win column well, they’ve got another thing coming to them. This team is tough in the trenches, and have solid, if not spectacular skill position players. Watching them against UConn Saturday, the final score was a lot closer than 40-21 indicated. Again, they're a good team, and they're going to get somebody before the end of the year. It might be Tennessee. It might be South Carolina. It might be someone else. Just pray it isn't your team.
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