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In honor of
major sports story of the weekend wasn’t St. Louis winning the World
Series, no one outside of eastern Missouri and the greater Detroit area
could even name who played in it. The passing of Red Auerbach was
certainly sad, but as a friend of mine put it, “he was still alive?”
No, the big buzz was about USC losing a regular season game, and
rightly so. The Trojans had won 27 straight Pac 10 games, 38 regular
season games, and 18 straight on the road before being upset by Oregon
Has everyone really realized what an amazing run it’s been, and
continues to be under Pete Carroll?
The last three losses came thanks to a tipped two-point conversion in
the final moments against Oregon State, one of the all-time greatest
performances by Vince Young in a thrilling 41-38 Rose Bowl, and in
overtime, thanks to a missed field goal, against Cal in 2003. Under
Carroll, ten of the 11 losses have come by seven points or fewer. In
fact, the average loss has been by an average of 3.9 points with the
worst defeat coming to Notre Dame in 2001, 27-16. It’s sort of wrong
that it takes a loss to fully appreciate everything USC has done. If USC
bounces back immediately and keeps on rolling, as college football fans,
let’s enjoy the ride.
maybe, Boise State can play
you forgot, Boise State obliterated the same Oregon State team that just
beat USC. Actually, that’s wrong. The Beaver team the Broncos beat had
top RB Yvenson Bernard when it got its doors blown off 42-14. Yeah, I’m
front and center in the line to argue about how lousy Boise State’s
schedule is and how the team doesn’t deserve to play for the national
title ahead of several one-loss teams, but that doesn’t mean the team
can’t play. Are you really sure Boise State can’t beat someone
tough? Look at how Texas Tech (who lost to Colorado) pushed Texas. Look
at how Ole Miss battled Auburn. Look at how Oregon State beat USC.
The Broncos don’t have the talented depth to survive a season unscathed
in a top league like the SEC or Big 12, but in this crazy year where
upsets are happening all over the place, are so sure they couldn’t beat
someone in the top ten. Dismiss from your mind that opening day blowout
loss at Georgia last year; that was last year. These Broncos have a
veteran quarterback, a legitimate All-America candidate in RB Ian
Johnson, and, arguably, the program’s strongest, most talented defense
Count me in.
If the Broncos go unbeaten, I want to see them play in a BCS game. No,
not the national championship, but sure, give them their spot in the sun
in the Fiesta against Texas or in the Rose against either Michigan or
Ohio State. I don’t care if they end up losing by 30; it’s all about the
opportunity. With that said, I humbly request that you don’t throw this
back in my face when I’m whining after the Longhorns get up 27-0 in the
The rivalry so nice let's do it twice
If the purpose of the BCS is to
pit the nation's two best teams against one another, why hasn't there
been more of a groundswell about a rematch between Michigan and Ohio
State in Glendale if 1) the teams play a competitive game when they meet
in Columbus Nov. 18 and 2) the Big East fails to deliver an undefeated
team? If you believe, as I do, that the Buckeyes and the Wolverines are
the two best teams in the country today, why would you feel any
differently if, say, Michigan loses to Ohio State 26-20? Or, even worse,
if the favored Buckeyes lose after having cruised through their
schedule. Listen, as it stands today, there are no dominant one-loss
teams in America or any that lost early and have been unstoppable since.
So why shouldn't the loser of next month's epic game emerge out of a
crowded field if the criteria is to select the two most deserving
programs? Yeah, a rematch in a major bowl game would absolutely suck for
everyone outside Columbus and Ann Arbor and good luck making sense of
things if they split, but after USC lost on Saturday, don't we have to
at least explore the possibility that Ohio State and Michigan are the
two best teams in 2006, regardless of who wins in 20 days, 13 hours, 42
minutes and 26 seconds?
Will watch TV for food
getting paid for being officials and replay reviewers, correct?
If that's the case, I'd like to apply for a job,
especially in the replay booth in either Corvallis or Lubbock.
The worst injustices in the world are the ones
happening in places such as Darfur, Baghdad, Kabul, Colombo, Moscow
(especially if you're a Russian journalist), and numerous other locales
where poverty, war and oppression reign. But for what it's worth, some
pretty outrageous football felonies are being committed by arbiters who
are making astonishingly bad calls in the face of ample evidence to the
Lots of calls made by officials (and reviewers)
are judgment decisions, but a handful of plays are clearer than clear,
and when these obvious plays arise in key situations, it should be
refreshing for everyone involved. After all, when you see a replay and
find that a given play had a definite outcome, there's a sense of relief
even among fans of the disadvantaged team. Why? Because the integrity of
the competition is upheld.
A team that fumbles--and sees on the jumbotron
that it did indeed fumble--knows that it made a mistake. Knowing that
you goofed is a much better feeling than wondering whether or not you
messed up. When calls are clear, the disadvantaged team knows that it
stumbled; the refs don't have to be blamed, and everyone can focus on
the quality of play as the deciding factor in a football game. The
integrity of college football increases each time a losing team doesn't
have to think the refs took a game away from them. A healthy sport will
involve losing teams who lose because of their own ineptitude or an
opponent's excellence; a diseased sport, on the other hand, will feature
teams who will hold the officials primarily responsible for a close
So with all this being said, there were clear
calls in Corvallis and Lubbock--clearer than clear, in fact--that were
somehow missed. Steve Smith of USC was viewed by replay officials to be
in bounds on his late 4th and 2 "catch" against Oregon State. Texas Tech
receiver Joel Filani clearly caught a first-down-gaining pass with 2:27
left in the first quarter of Saturday night's game against Texas. Replay
officials, though, overturned it.
At the end of the day, the calls didn't matter
since Oregon State ended up holding on against USC and Texas Tech got a
pick-six a few moments after it got jobbed, but that's not the point.
Since we're bothering to pay people to do jobs in a billion-dollar
industry, we could bother to make sure that someone will see Smith's
foot out of bounds, or Filani was firmly in control of a football.
Again, where can I get an application form? I
already watch 13 hours of TV every fall Saturday to begin with.
And the new nation's longest loser with
16 straight ...
5. The scrawl came across sometime Saturday afternoon…”game
losing streak is over”. That’s all I saw, but I knew instantly what it
meant – Temple had ended its 20 game losing streak. Al Golden’s Owls
had knocked off Bowling Green on Saturday to give the first year head
man his first collegiate victory…and first Gatorade bath as well.
I spent my afternoon in
Durham at Wallace Wade Stadium watching Vanderbilt take on winless
Duke. My friend and former college teammate Bill O’Brien is Duke’s
offensive coordinator, after having spent his coaching career with
Georgia Tech and Maryland. All afternoon, his offense struggled to put
points on the board and loss number eight seemed to be on its way. But,
then the offense started to click in the fourth quarter. After a couple
of TDs, a successful two point conversion and a beautiful onside kick,
the Blue Devils were within 16 with seven minutes left. RB Justin Boyle
then had an incredible 32 yard run for a TD to get them within ten, but
the two point conversion came up, literally, inches short. Having to
now onside kick again down two scores, the Commodores recovered and
scored one play after a near sack on third and three turned into a long
run down to the one yard line
I watched Bill much of
the game and saw him pulling aside his true freshman QB Thaddeus Lewis
throughout the afternoon. It was obvious how much coaching he had to do
in this situation. How much coaching do other coaches have to do?
Think about it…what do you think Jim Tressel tells Troy Smith when he
comes off the field? Nice throw? Beautiful run? What do you tell a
true freshman QB when he misses a read…again and again?
All season we’ll talk
and argue about the Ohio States, the Michigans and the West Virginias of
the world, yet it’s these moments – a team like Temple getting a hard
earned win or a team fighting all afternoon to get one – that make you
appreciate how hard it is to actually get a win in college football.
Bill and I suffered through an 0-10 season many eons ago and it’s not
pretty whatsoever; now he’s coaching through one. For these kids and
coaches, it’s not about the BCS formula or style points, it’s about just
one time having more points than the other guy when the clock hits all
zeroes. Temple got to experience it yesterday and now the watch will be