To take the analogy one step further, I was actually more like a third-grader on summer vacation. Just like a small child, without structure in my life, I’m a mess. And until I took last week off, I didn’t realize how much structure this article actually provides me, not just on Sunday's but to the rest of my week as well.
Anyway, let’s get to the recap. For you first timers, this article isn’t strictly football, but instead part analysis, part insight, and of course, part making fun of Verne Lundquist. Because it wouldn’t be a Sunday morning without laughing at something old Verne said the day before.
There’s Only One Appropriate Place To Start: And it isn’t with Les Miles, TCU or Stephen Garcia’s terrible hair + quarterbacking combo.
Nope, the appropriate place to start is with Joe Paterno.
Look, I’ve made a million jokes at the guy’s expense on this website, and truthfully, if coach actually knew how to use the internet, I’m pretty sure I would’ve heard from him by now. With that said, what he did yesterday is no laughing matter, as Paterno got his 400th win!
Let me repeat that. Joe Paterno got his 400th win yesterday. That's unbelievable!
Think about that for a second. A coach would need to average 10 wins a year (and for the record, no coach averages that, not Urban Meyer, not Nick Saban, nobody) for the next 40 years just to match Joe Pa, and that’s assuming that Paterno never wins another game. Which he will. To put it in a different perspective, say some hot-shot coach took over your program next year. He’d have to win an average of 10 wins from now until 2051 to get to where Joe Pa is now. Incredible!
What’s so cool about Joe Pa’s record though, is the fact that rarely do we know we’re seeing history right in front of our eyes. Well that happened Saturday; no one will ever come close to that record. Not in our lifetime, or anyone else’s (at least at a powerhouse FBS school). To put things in perspective, stress almost made Urban Meyer retire at 45 last year. Joe Pa is 83 and going strong.
Either way, let’s show a little love to Joe Pa! To coach, congratulations. I hope you poured an extra glass of Ginger Ale to celebrate last night.
You deserved it!
Onto The Second Biggest Coaching Story Of The Day…Les Miles: Because we reached a monumental moment with him too yesterday: That moment being, that I've decided to retire all Les Miles jokes for the remainder of the 2010 season. I’m done. Finished. When you outcoach Urban Meyer and Nick Saban in the same year, you earn that right.
Also on Saturday, I had another completely unrelated Les Miles thought. Here goes: I think that part of the reason we all think Miles is such a dope - at least in large part- is because he’s not a good public speaker. Seriously, the guy is terrible. His halftime speech with Tracy Wolfson yesterday set the English language back 25 years.
At the same time, I’m close with a girl who teaches kids with speech problems, so I’m keen on this stuff. And I’ve got to ask: Is it just possible that Les Miles has an undiagnosed speech impediment? I mean he clearly has at least decent communication skills, you don't recruit as well, and win as much as he does if that's not the case. And generally, Miles seems like a relatively normal guy. At least until he gets in front of cameras, at which point he becomes Warren from There's Something About Mary. Is it possible the man just needs a public speaking class or two?
It’s just food for thought, but it’s worth thinking about. Another thing worth thing about, is that the guy is way smarter than we give him credit. He proved it again Saturday.
Let’s Get To The Game Itself: Simply put, the reason I picked Alabama to win this game was because I just didn’t think LSU would be able to score points against the Tide’s defense. If you’d told me before the game that Alabama would finish with 21 points, I’d have thought they’d win, by a comfortable margin. Know why I say that? Because I picked Alabama to win 20-10 on Friday. That’s why.
So what happened? Well, LSU’s offense came to play, that’s what. Even in the first half when the numbers didn’t reflect it, they were actually moving the ball decently. If it weren’t for a few dropped passes, LSU might have had the halftime lead.
And in the second half it all came together. Credit Jordan Jefferson here.
I’ll be honest, I’ve basically seen every one of LSU’s games, so I knew that Jordan Jefferson had been pretty lousy this season. But I had no idea that he hadn’t thrown a single touchdown pass since the first game of the year against North Carolina. Now that my friends, is lousy.
Well clearly Jefferson used the bye week productively, and looked like a totally different quarterback out there on Saturday. He was quick with his decisions, and his throws were right on the money, something that hadn’t really been the case all year. And starting in the second half, his receivers were actually nice enough to oblige him, and catch a few of his passes. Weird I know.
Either way, like I said, I picked Alabama to win this game because of their defense, and also because to their credit, nobody used their bye week more productively than the Tide did last year. Well this year it was LSU that looked even better with a week off. And it got them their biggest win of the season.
Now To Alabama: I thought Nick Saban described his team better than I could on Saturday night when he said the following: “This group has become too results oriented. We haven’t developed into the team we can be.” Bingo.
He’s correct. It was weird watching Alabama Saturday, because even on TV, something just didn't feel right about them. What it is, I still don't know. But there’s no doubt that as Saban said, they're not the team they can be right now. If they'll ever get there remains to be seen.
Again, it was just a strange day. Watching the first half, it seemed like Alabama completely controlled the game, yet only had seven points to show for it. In the second half, they never really got going until they fell behind, and absolutely needed to turn things on. Which obviously is never a good sign.
At the same time, I don’t think this coaching staff had their best day either. While I don’t think you can blame them for the blown fourth down call, there were some other inexcusable sins, especially not being ready for that fake punt. Les Miles pulls out the bag of tricks every chance he gets, and you've got to be prepared.
Also, there are a few other things to dissect here, starting with offensive coordinator Jim McElwain’s fascination with the passing game. Because I’ve got to ask, what’s the deal? Is he trying to get Greg McElroy better draft position in April? Does he not trust his offensive line to open holes in the running game? I don’t get it. But I do know that he went to the pass way too much yesterday. Now I understand that Trent Richardson wasn’t 100 percent, but at the same time, Mark Ingram was. Why not go to him more? Even when Alabama had the lead to open second half, it was pass, pass, pass. Their first drive after intermission was five straight throws and a punt. That’s not Alabama football at all.
As much as you can blame the coaching staff though, what it really comes down to is emotion, and the motions Saturday. Alabama played without any emotion (do you remember anyone getting excited after anything?), and at times it seemed like it was going through the motions. On both sides of the ball.
And while you can blame the defense all you want in the second half, in the first half they got absolutely no help. Alabama forced two straight three and outs to start the game, and the offense- which is supposed to be the strength of this team- came up with nothing. I’m not saying it’s easy to score on this LSU defense, but I do feel like if this were last year, the offense would’ve mustered at the very least a field goal in that situation. That’s what this team was about back then: All 85 guys playing together for the good of the team. The offense picking up the defense. The defense picking up the offense. I even wrote an article about it after last year's Iron Bowl. Well that’s not happening this year.
I’ve got nothing else to say about the Tide, except that you can blame the coaches, but for these players, it’s time to look in the mirror. The talent is there, but it doesn’t seem like the effort is. Maybe they just need to go into that Auburn game as an underdog, I’m not sure. Of course they’ve got just as tough a game with Mississippi State next weekend.
To The Rest Of The Slate: And to TCU-Utah. Sadly, if you’re a fan of either of these teams, you won’t be getting much analysis from me, since as I mentioned on Friday CBS College Sports isn’t a part of my cable package. While a lot of you were nice enough to write in and tell me that Comcast was having a free preview weekend for the network, you’ll be glad to know that preview didn’t extend to my area of the country. Believe me, I spent an hour on the phone with them Saturday morning pleading, to no avail. Eventually I did find a feed online, although I’ve got to be honest, it wasn’t very good. I’d have had better luck with a black and white TV and tin foil on the antenna.
As for the actual game, from what I saw, it looked a lot like last year; essentially that it was Utah’s boys against TCU’s men. What impressed me most (as it always does) was TCU’s dominance in the trenches. On offense they were running at will early, and gave Andy Dalton (and Jeremy Kerley when he threw) plenty of time in the pocket as well. Meanwhile poor Jordan Wynn was running for his life, and Matt Asiata wasn’t running anywhere, period. I love Asiata’s game, but TCU’s defense didn’t give him a chance to do anything yesterday. At least not when it mattered.
Big picture, somebody asked me on Twitter what I thought the results of yesterday’s games meant for the BCS standings. Honestly, I don’t think much will change, especially at the top where Auburn and Oregon will be No. 1 and No. 2 in some order.
After that, I expect TCU to hold strong at No. 3, and if anything, yesterday’s win should’ve helped them widen the gap between they and Boise State.
Fair or not, I think that if a non-AQ school does play for the title, it seems like the Horned Frogs’ to lose.
But Aaron, Who Is The Best One Loss Team?: I said on Friday that I thought Alabama and Stanford were neck and neck, and with the Tide losing Saturday, I’ve got to give the edge to Stanford. Although, LSU certainly made their case Saturday for this spot as well.
As for the Cardinal, I’ve got to admit that I’ve got a full on man-crush on their whole team. And while everyone talks about Andrew Luck, what I love about the Cardinal is everybody who plays around him. The way Jim Harbaugh uses tight ends, fullbacks and H-Backs, somebody might as well cue up the Glenn Miller Band, because it feels like 1956 all over again (Or at least the way I imagine it). And while the Pac-10 has always been known as a finesse conference, Stanford is as physical as any team in the country. That includes LSU and Wisconsin amongst others.
Another thing I love about Stanford is how fundamentally sound they are. I know that sounds like a typical “smart school” cliché, but I don’t necessarily mean it that way. What I do mean, is that I enjoy watching them because they’ve just got a well-coached, NFL “feel,” to them. They stick to their assignments and don’t beat themselves. In college football that’s a luxury a lot of teams don’t have.
I’ll wrap up on Stanford by saying the same thing I said on Twitter Saturday night: If there is a God, he or she will figure out a way to get LSU and Stanford matched up in the Sugar Bowl this January. Can you imagine the Cardinal’s running game against LSU’s rushing defense? I’m salivating at the mouth just thinking about it.
Staying In The Pac-10: I’ll just quickly mention Oregon, since there really isn’t that much to say about their game with Washington. Well except, that as sloppy, ugly and half-hearted as the effort was, the Ducks still scored 52 points! How is that even possible?
Either way, based on what we saw from Arizona Saturday night, I just don’t see anybody beating them (or even keeping things close) this regular season. I'm comfortable saying that the Ducks will play in the title game come January. Shocking, I know.
Moving Back To The SEC: Something stunk Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium, and let me tell ya, it wasn’t anyone cooking gamecock at their tailgate.
Nope, instead, the problem was the Gamecocks on the field. And really, the same problem that I mentioned as concerning on Friday came up Saturday night: The idea that everyone spent the whole week telling South Carolina’s players that Saturday’s game ultimately meant nothing. And unfortunately, they played exactly like that. It wasn’t just bad, it was embarrassing. Truthfully, I think the athletic department should reimburse anyone who paid to get into the stadium Saturday night.
What was weird about this one was that I felt like there was a parallel to the Alabama-LSU game, in that, for the smallest period of time, it seemed like South Carolina had control the game, and just couldn’t take advantage. The missed field goal early especially killed them. Had that kick gone through the uprights, the score would’ve been 10-10 early in the second quarter. Instead, South Carolina missed it, 1:15 later Ryan Mallett put Arkansas in the end zone again, and Cocky was playing catch up from there on out.
Really though, I thought the dumbest, most inexplicable play of the game was South Carolina’s fake punt right before halftime.
I mean, I do understand why Steve Spurrier went through with it. His team was flat-lining, and the old (and possibly senile) ball coach was trying to give them any spark he could.
At the same time, it was still the wrong call, at the wrong time, against the wrong team. You might be able to get away with that against Tennessee, or even Florida or Georgia. But if you fail against Arkansas, Ryan Mallet will make you pay. Which is exactly what he did, putting the ball in the end zone again to make it 24-10 right before halftime. From there, the game was over.
A Few More Lingering Thoughts On This Game: While it’s way too early to start speculating about next week’s South Carolina-Florida game, I do think the game-plan has been laid out pretty clearly on how to beat South Carolina. Essentially, it’s to take away Marcus Lattimore, and make Stephen Garcia beat you. It’s what Arkansas did last night and it worked. It’s what Auburn did a month ago and it worked. Through injury it’s what Kentucky did, and it worked for the Wildcats too. Now it’s Florida’s turn. We always see 15 shots of South Carolina Ellis Johnson in the booth whenever the Gamecocks play, not its time for him to earn his money. Johnson is going to need to pull out all the stops to put up points on Florida's defense.
Another thought I had watching Saturday night’s Arkansas game, is that I found it interesting how everyone expected South Carolina to be the multi-dimensional offense Saturday night , yet instead it was Arkansas. Their offense didn't really get going- and didn't really open the flood-gates- until running back Knile Davis got going. Once they did, it was all over. For my money, Davis may have been the best player on the field Saturday night.
Starting To Wrap Up: First off, feel free to make fun of my Friday picks. All my friends sure are. I’ve been doing the College Football Preview column every Friday for two years now, and never had a 3-7 weekend. Which is exactly what I had Saturday.
At the same time, I want to give myself a tiny bit of credit, because I sniffed out Oklahoma State as the favorites in the Big XII South over three weeks ago. That was before Texas lost to Baylor. Or before Oklahoma lost to Texas A&M. Now, for the first time in a long time, I’m not looking like a total dope. And believe me, when you're as lousy at picking games as I am, you'll take any sign of progress.
And as crazy as this is going to sound, I’ve got another wacky Oklahoma State prediction: Brandon Weeden’s name will start getting thrown around in the Heisman Trophy discussion.
Now I’m not saying he’s going to win it, or even be invited to New York. But at the same time, he’s second in the country in passing yards with just under 3,000 and tied for most touchdown passes with 26. I don’t care if he’s a system quarterback or not, most guys couldn’t put up those numbers in any system.
Beyond that, Oklahoma State’s got some showcase games coming up. Truthfully, it’s one thing to put up monster stats when nobody is paying attention, yet quite another to do it against Texas and Oklahoma in the next three weeks. Even if neither of those teams are very good.
Either way, I’m guessing that over these next few weeks, everyone in college football is going to finally see what I’ve been saying for weeks: Oklahoma State is a damn good team.
Finally, Let’s Wrap Up By Hailing The Victors: It wasn’t pretty. And it wasn’t how most Michigan fans expected to get bowl eligible (As I joked Saturday afternoon, the Big Ten’s new motto should be “45 yards and a cloud of dust"). But Michigan is now 6-6. And they’ll be playing in some bowl game, somewhere this January.
Now as I’ve mentioned this before, this one is a bit personal for me. I have no affiliation with Michigan, but I was at a Big East school when Rich Rodriguez was at West Virginia. And after Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College left, it was Rodriguez, Pat White and Steve Slaton that carried the flag for the entire conference, as the only legit team in the conference for awhile. For those of you in SEC and Big Ten country, you have no idea what it’s like to hear for four months a year how awful and undeserving your conference is in the college football. It was like a bad Maury Povich episode that didn’t end, until West Virginia went into the Georgia Dome and beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in 2006. Even if things did end lousy between West Virginia and Rodriguez, every team in the Big East and their fans owe him a debt of gratitude.
Whether yesterday’s win saved his job for another year, I don’t think anybody knows right now. Honestly, with every Jim Harbaugh win at Stanford, I think it only adds to the pressure squarely on Rodriguez's shoulders. A win next week against Purdue would obviously help, but now I'm starting to wonder if they'll even need a win against Wisconsin or Ohio State to close out the year.
Still, I’m happy for the coach. Hail to the Victors. Enjoy bowl season!
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