5 Thoughts, Week 2
Week 1 - Is TCU Deserving?
1. It's Over, So Go Do Something Productive
Denard Robinson has everyone buzzing, the Boise State debate will rage on, and the fun of a great second week has garnered plenty of attention, but it all might be meaningless. The real story so far, and the one with the same theme that will dominate college football until there is a playoff system, is that the season might be over.
With the computer element only counting for a third of the BCS vote, all that matters is who the top two teams are in the Coaches and Harris Polls. Historically, voters never move teams down after good wins, no matter what anyone else does, and if someone does beat one of those top two teams and is unbeaten, then it simply replaces the defeated team.
Last year, everyone had Florida No. 1 to start the season and Texas No. 2, and it was generally accepted that if all things were equal, an unbeaten SEC champion was going to play for the national title against an unbeaten Longhorn team, and the rest of the world didn’t matter. With Alabama and Ohio State cementing their top spots in this year’s poll, the same might be true.
It doesn’t matter if Oklahoma blows everyone on the slate away by 40. Boise State can obliterate Oregon State by 50 and not be threatened the rest of the way. Oregon can keep putting on a show every week with jaw-dropping efficiency and effectiveness. It doesn’t matter. If Bama and Ohio State win out, that’s your national title, or, if Iowa, Michigan, or Wisconsin go unbeaten, beating the Buckeyes along the way, or if Florida, LSU, or any other SEC team finishes unscathed, it’ll be playing for the title.
Eventually, someone is going to be really mad about this. While college football has the best regular season by far, it’s the only sport where teams can go into a season, be perfect, and have no chance to play for the championship. At the moment, 118 teams are simply going through the motions if Bama and OSU roll through the rest of their respective slates, and with the way the two played this past weekend, they don’t look like they’re slowing down before hitting Glendale.
2. At Least Gordon Hayward Missed The Shot
It has become fashionable to fire on the ACC for its pathetic start to the 2010 season.
That doesn’t mean the conference isn’t going to be a whole bunch of fun.
It’s easy to dog the conference when it loses so many high profile games, but Florida State getting thumped by Oklahoma isn’t that much of a stunner and Miami was supposed to lose at Ohio State. Virginia Tech’s pouting clunker against James Madison after its loss to Boise State didn’t help, and Georgia Tech’s loss at Kansas was a PR disaster, but the rest of the league hasn’t been quite as bad as you might think.
North Carolina deserves credit for coming as close as it did against LSU after all the sanctions and suspensions. Virginia showed up and pushed USC in the Coliseum, Maryland came up with a nice win against Navy, and Wake Forest, BC, Clemson, and NC State, along with the Terps, are all 2-0.
Alright, so that’s trying to put a Band-Aid to covered up a severed limb, but the league needs something positive to go on. Virginia Tech was supposed to be a national title contender, Georgia Tech is the defending champion, and Florida State and Miami were supposed to be “back,” for the fifth year in a row, and it hasn’t happened. So now the ACC has to put a spin on things and try to get back some measure of respect.
The non-conference slate might be a wash at this point, but this might be the wildest and craziest ACC race ever. Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State, and Georgia Tech really are good, and once they hit their stride in the middle of the season, the league should be far better. The Wake Forest – Duke game last weekend was one of the most fun, underground battles of the weekend, and there’s still the North Carolina issue with a team that could be special if all the parts are back at some point.
As an ACC apologist over the last three offseasons, I’m trying to spin this. Check back in a month and the league might be worth the attention it was hoping to get before the year began.
3. This Cupcake Tastes Funny
If you’re the athletic director at a Division II school, don’t stray too far from your office phone. One of your counterparts from the FBS might be trying to reach you soon.
FBS programs schedule opponents from the FCS in order to set up an early season scrimmage, chalk up an easy win, and get reps for as many players as possible. The sparring partner gets a hefty paycheck and the home crowd gets to celebrate repeatedly. Everyone is happy, right? Well, like some repressed working class, those FCS speed bags have started punching back in September, and the FBS doesn’t seem to know what’s hit it.
With Appalachian State serving as the movement’s version of Leon Trotsky, the FCS is taking its booty and a pound or two of flesh while it’s in town. The first two weeks have been a revelation for this underclass of Division I football. It’s already claimed victims from the SEC (Ole Miss), ACC (Virginia Tech), Big Ten (Minnesota), Big 12 (Kansas), and MAC (Akron and Ball State) to go along with a bunch of close calls. The gap, while still wide, has narrowed in recent years, making those match ups not the gimmes that they were designed to be. So, knowing how damning these defeats can be for a program and a coaching staff, how does the AD adjust in the future? Do you retire these meetings altogether, filing them under the “nothing to gain, everything to lose” heading? Or do you take another step backwards and schedule Division II opponents, like Lock Haven or Western Oregon? You’d hope that it might motivate schools to just go ahead and schedule more compelling non-conference games that benefit everyone from fans to the outlets carrying them.
In the big picture, the early season showings from the FCS might end up being a boon to smaller leagues, like the Big East, WAC, and Conference USA, which might be forced to look in that direction if realignment reduces membership. Joining forces with, say Villanova or Montana State, becomes a lot more appetizing if you’ve already seen them compete effectively against FBS competition.
4. SEC East Insanity
5-3 could very well win the SEC East. 6-2 definitely will win the division. Those are scary thoughts.
Even more scary: Those thoughts are not really revolutionary. In fact, there are probably a good many people in the Southeastern United States who think that 5-3 would definitely earn a ticket to Atlanta at this point. Given Florida's utter incompetence, Stephen Garcia's lack of improvement, and Georgia's shaky tackling, who the heck knows just how crazy and cluttered things could be in this division, which no longer looks like Florida and the five dwarfs. Craziness is to be expected, fluctuation the order of the day. In many ways, Florida's game with LSU on Oct. 9 could determine whether Florida will enjoy leverage heading into November.
Buckle up if you live in the SEC East. (In the West, Arkansas must substantially improve by Sept. 25 if it wants to have any shot at catching the Tide this year.)
5 Job Application: SEC Replay Reviewer or Big Ten Official
By Matt Zemek
Yes, the people who review plays in the booth or officiate on the field are sincerely trying to do their best. They're not bought off and paid for. They are making an honest attempt to provide players, coaches and fans with a legitimate competition that is fairly adjudicated.
However, just two weeks into the season, we've already had our fill of unconscionable embarrassments served up in both the booth and on the field.
In the booth, the SEC - which presided over the atrocious non-call against LSU in its loss to Alabama last season - jobbed Georgia in its game against South Carolina.
Replay clearly showed that South Carolina receiver Justice Cunningham was dragged down by a Georgia defender at the 33-yard line, just under a full yard short of the yellow line (which is very accurate, certainly within 2-3 inches). Yet, an absurd forward-progress spot put the ball at the 34, good enough for a first down. Georgia coach Mark Richt smartly challenged the ruling, which should have been a slam dunk. Yet, the replay-booth reviewer at Williams-Brice Stadium upheld the ruling on the field.
There are no words for that kind of self-evident incompetence. None.
Then came the Penn State-Alabama game, where the Big Ten crew completely embarrassed itself on live television. Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick recovered a teammate's fumble on the Penn State 2, but then lost the ball shortly after landing on the ground. One could debate whether Kirkpatrick was down or not, but one thing was absolutely clear: The officials ruled the play dead at that point. The on-field ruling was that Alabama possessed the ball. Yet, after a replay review, the head referee said that the ruling on the field was confirmed... "PENN STATE BALL!"
Again, if the folks in the SEC need a replay-booth reviewer, I know I could do a much better job. And if I can't do it, let's pick an unemployed person who can use the money in these tough economic times.
As for Big Ten officials, let's downgrade that crew and put them on Minnesota games for the rest of the year, so that more consequential games don't get butchered to the detriment of a conference title chase.