5 Thoughts - Oct. 11
(What to do with BYU)
(The problem with the polls, and the new star QBs)
(The sleeper team to watch out for)
(The Big East apology)
(To Tebow or not Tebow)
1. But if Cincinnati, Iowa, or South
Florida go unbeaten, I'll listen.
Doing what we do and after years of covering and
dealing with all the teams, I really don’t have any biases when it comes to covering college football. Oh sure, there are few programs that I don’t shed any tears
for when they lose, and it’s always fun to see the underdogs win and the little programs beat the big Goliaths, but when it comes to who I root for, I always
hope for the possibility of an epic, titanic, this year’s Game of the Century-type of showdown. These games don’t always have to involve the regular names that we all know and enjoy;
they can be battles like this Thursday night’s Big East tilt between Cincinnati and South Florida. They can be lower on the radar, like if Nevada keeps its running game rolling and blows through the rest of the conference season before finishing up at Boise State with the WAC title on the line, but for the most part, like any fan, I want to see Ali vs. Frazier.
No offense to the rest of the SEC, or to UT-Chattanooga, FIU, and Florida State, but there’s a part of me that’s going to be hoping for Alabama and Florida to get through the formality of the remaining regular season games without so much as a hiccup.
It has become apparent that there’s the Tide, the Gators, and 118 other
teams selling tickets. Texas is beating everyone without a problem, and it’s going to take an upset to keep Mack Brown’s club out of Pasadena, but a Longhorn-SEC Champion national championship would probably take a backseat to what would be the mother of all SEC Championship games. That’s not to say Texas couldn’t win it all, and the excitement and hype would be off the charts if it was Tebow vs. McCoy, but after the classic we got last year when Florida got by Bama to play for the national championship, I want to see more now that both teams are better.
The rest of the SEC is a big bag of blah, and if anyone beats Alabama or Florida it’s either going to be a fluke, there will have to be a perfect storm of missed plays and mistakes (like there were in the Ole Miss win over Florida last season), or there will be a significant injury to cast a pall over the
upset. (Would you like to see what USC could do against Washington if Matt Barkley was playing? How about Oklahoma vs. Miami and BYU if Sam Bradford was under center for the full 60 minutes?)
Outside of something strange happening, if Bama and
Florida aren't unbeaten and playing each other on
December 5 in the Georgia Dome, it's their own
fault. I've used this logic for years when it comes
to USC, and it applies to Florida and Alabama this
year. If these two play up to their talent level,
they should each go 12-0. ... no excuses.
Considering the way Alabama beat Virginia Tech, and with the way the USC
passing game is mediocre, and with Oklahoma’s defense failing to come through
in the clutch against the Cougars and Canes, I’m comfortable with the idea of Florida, Alabama, and potentially Texas, as the best teams in America, and I’m comfortable with the hope that these three will end up playing their own mini-playoff at the end of the year.
But in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the ruthless
efficiency of Alabama and the effective and
underappreciated game management of Florida. These
two really are that good.
2. And if it's good the first time ...
You want to really bring the SEC-hater in your life to a boiling point? Tell him that it’s now possible we’ll see a repeat of the SEC championship game in Pasadena a month later.
It may not be likely and there’s a long way to go, but what happens if Florida and Alabama remain unbeaten all the way to Atlanta on Dec. 5? Both knocked down significant road hurdles on Saturday, the Gators at LSU and the Tide at Ole Miss. And ‘Bama moved up to No. 2 in the latest AP Poll, a signal that voters are starting to form an opinion on the two best teams in the country. Sure, a rematch will require some help, but are you convinced that Texas is going to win the next eight games? How about Iowa or the winner of Thursday night’s Big East showdown between South Florida and Cincinnati? Boise State? I love you, blue, but when a team’s only win over a ranked opponent happens before Labor Day, I’m going to struggle with it playing for a national championship.
There are only nine unbeatens left in the country, raising the likelihood that there’ll be a bunch of one-loss teams vying in December for a Rose Bowl berth. If 12-1 Alabama or 12-1 Florida is in the mix, and has only lost to the No. 1 (or No. 2) team in the country, doesn’t that make for a pretty compelling resume? Just a little something to get you fired up between now and the Week 7 slate of games.
3. Yes, kickers are part of the game, too.
Reform movements aren't made in a day or in a week, but as the result of steady forward progressions that eventually break down the defenses of the people or groups unwilling to institute radical changes.
So, let's evaluate the past week in the world of sports and apply it to college football: Tell the Detroit Tigers and Brandon Inge that instant replay shouldn't be used in ALL aspects of baseball. Tell the Minnesota Twins and Joe Mauer that instant replay shouldn't be used in ALL aspects of baseball after that missed call along the left field line in the late innings of Game 2 of the ALDS against the New York Yankees.
Then switch to the gridiron this past Saturday and tell the LSU Tigers that pass interference calls shouldn't be subject to replay review. Riley Cooper tugged on a jersey; the CBS cameras caught him in the act. Tell LSU's team why that can't or shouldn't be reviewed and turned into a 15-yard penalty against Florida. Tell Tiger fans why that play can't be overturned by rule.
ESPN writer Joe Schad--presumably unconvinced that Florida's last field goal was definitively good in the LSU game--wondered aloud on Twitter this past weekend why there isn't a way to see if field goals can be proven to be good. Well, for one thing, the networks need to install micro-cameras on each upright and have them look straight up in the air. Secondly, though, if the networks get off their duffs and install said cameras (college football also needs goal-line cameras in every big game for the same basic reasons), instant replay should be able to review if all of a football is traveling inside the upright in flight, which affects how field goals are evaluated when the ball is higher than the top of the upright in question.
If you think that field goals don't need to be subjected to replay review, just ask longtime Michigan Wolverine fans, who to this day will tell you that a last-minute kick in the 1974 Michigan-Ohio State game was incorrectly ruled no good, costing Bo Schembechler a trip to the Rose Bowl.
In all the major team sports, pro and college, it's simply no longer fair or acceptable--with all the money that's at stake in the athletic-industrial complex--for replay to be used only in a few select instances. Use it all the time, in almost every conceivable and realistically applicable situation, or don't use it at all. Why create a technology and install mechanisms for its use, only to legislate the system out of existence on several different occasions when it could ensure even fairer outcomes in important competitions?
Instant replay: It's meant for hit-by-pitch batters and left-field fair ball calls. It's meant for pass interference and field goals. It's meant for the pros and the colleges. It's meant for baseball and football. It's meant to do a lot more work in college football than it's currently allowed to perform.
Expand the use and availability of instant replay in 2010, NCAA Football Rules Committee. You have absolutely no excuses if you fail to do so. Fans of the 2009 LSU Tigers, the 1974 Michigan Wolverines, and countless other teams, would readily agree.
4. Back to that Boom Boom Pow.
This may seem ridiculous to some people, especially after everything that has happened throughout the season in Norman, but Oklahoma might just beat Texas this Saturday. Sam Bradford looked pretty darn good against Baylor, even if he did have some rust. You can bet Sooner fans are now worried about his knee almost as much as they were fretting about his shoulder, but he should be fine. OU’s offense wasn’t at 2008 levels in the win over the Bears, but it did look balanced and impressive and could give Texas some problems, especially as Bradford gets more comfortable. The Longhorns, meanwhile, didn’t look all that strong against Colorado, especially offensively. Once again, Texas doesn’t run the ball all that well, not the best thing to be bringing into a game against a foe with a strong defense against the run. (Baylor rushed for six yards Saturday.) Even though the Sooners lost to BYU and Miami, they are now a much different team, and they’ll be bringing a newfound confidence into the showdown in Dallas. And if OU can find a way to control Jordan Shipley, the Texas passing attack will falter, since nobody else has established himself as a downfield threat. It’s too early to declare for the Sooners, but a game that looked like a cinch earlier is now a lot more interesting.
5. If they walk like a duck and quack like a
There isn’t a staff in America that’s done a better job of coaching in the first half than the one from Oregon.
Chip Kelly and his assistants, namely defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, have been magnificent at righting the ship after that hideous opener at Boise State. You remember that Thursday night. The Ducks were spanked by the Broncos and lost LeGarrette Blount following a suspension. All of the preseason goals had been vaporized, right? Wrong. Block by block, the coaching staff has built the program up to where it was in August, nearing the top 10 and very much alive for a Pac-10 championship. Not only has it won five straight games, but it’s continued to overcome adversity and hardship. QB Jeremiah Masoli didn’t even play in Saturday’s win at UCLA. Ditto three-quarters of the opening day secondary, including the team’s best cornerback, Walter Thurmond, who’s done for the season. New faces and underclassmen everywhere, yet the results remain the same—Oregon keeps winning and the defense, in particular, continues to raise the bar. Kudos to those players with the next-man-in mentality, but there’s a coaching clinic taking place in Eugene this fall.
No one knew exactly what to expect from Kelly once the coach-in-waiting label disappeared in the spring. It’s still too early to make any conclusions, but at least through the first half of 2009, he sure has been a Chip off the old Bellotti, keeping the Ducks from veering off course after a very rocky start.