Thursday, October 31, 2002

For whatever reason, the top teams all seem to get ranked opponents at home this weekend, with a few exceptions, including Ohio State hosting Minnesota, Wisconsin travelling to Iowa, VA Tech playing perhaps its toughest foe to date, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame renewing its rivalry with BC (for some reason, they always seem to play the week after the Irish face FSU), and Oklahoma squaring off against Colorado in Norman.

At the beginning of the season, one could have listed about four or five games on their conference schedule that would have been viewed as most critical in determining whether or not consensus Pac-10 favorite Washington State would reach the Rose Bowl: USC, Oregon, Washington, UCLA, even Stanford. But one match-up that would have seemed on paper to be a breather for the Cougars was this weekend's battle with Arizona State, with the winner being in commanding position to claim the conference championship. On the other hand, games that looked great on paper at the beginning of the season that have almost no buzz now would be the post-adolescent drink-a-thon in Jacksonville surrounding the battle between undefeated Georgia and unimpressive Florida, and what had been a great rivalry in the '90's, Texas and Nebraska.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Coach Bobby Bowden of the extremely overrated (hey, they lost to Louisville) FSU Seminoles has benched Chris Rix in favor of Adrian McPherson. Rix is basically screwed; the toughest part of the Seminoles' schedule is behind them now. Rix lost to Miami and Notre Dame, while McPherson's first start comes against Wake Forest, with games to follow against mediocre Georgia Tech and 2-6 North Carolina. He should be 3-0 and secure in his job before he has to face a decent football team in NC State. All because McPherson had a couple of garbage TDs in the blowout loss to the Irish.

Monday, October 28, 2002

The battle for the Rose Bowl was narrowed Saturday, with perennial powers Michigan, Penn State, Oregon and Washington all falling by the wayside. Both conferences now feature three-school races: in the Big 10, it's Ohio State, Iowa, and surprising Minnesota all undefeated; out west, Wazzou and Arizona State lead USC by a game in the standings. The most impressive win of the week was Iowa's 34-9 blowout in Ann Arbor, a game blown wide open after a tight first half. The Wolverines still have to play at Columbus, and after their worst home loss in 35 years, may have to settle for a mid-tier bowl game. Oregon lost their second consecutive home game, 44-33 to USC, an unthinkable distinction for a school that at one time had gone several years without a defeat at Autzen Stadium. For the Trojans, the victory was especially sweet, as the Ducks have aggressively marketed themselves in Los Angeles the past two years, draping multi-story advertisements for the team on some local buildings; as might be expected, USC didn't like having the school to the north rub its nose in its recent decline.

Notre Dame edges closer to Miami in the latest BCS numbers, but still trail. The margin is so slight that an Irish win over BC this weekend should be enough to get them past the Hurricanes, even without a change in their poll numbers(which range from No. 4 to No. 6). Although Miami's schedule is slightly tougher the rest of the way, should Notre Dame remain undefeated, the likelihood they will improve their poll ranking will assure them of a Fiesta Bowl berth.

In SEC play, Georgia came from 24-21 down at Kentucky to whack the Wildcats 52-24. The Dawgs' passing attack in the second half was otherworldly; both David Greene and DJ Shockley directed scoring drives and threw TD passes; they combined for "only" 357 yards passing but with a big fourth-quarter lead didn't need to put the ball in the air. They also added 172 yards rushing without Musa Smith, who was held out with an injury. As for Kentucky, they looked terrific on offense in the first half but weren't able to sustain it, and their explosive return game was held in check. They're still a fine team, but Georgia is the class of the SEC. The Bulldogs can clinch the division with a win against Florida this week.

Alabama broke a seven-game losing streak to Tennessee, 34-14 in a game largely marked by Tennessee fans and players whining that they only lost because of one Alabama drive where the Tide got the benefit of a bad call and later kicked a fieldgoal. After playing tough early in sloppy conditions that led to five Volunteer fumbles, Tennessee looked nothing like a football team for the last 35 minutes of the game. Tennessee did score a TD late in the first half on a kickoff return (Alabama's special teams are pitiful) but had only one touchdown drive. Though Casey Clausen was still hurting, it really didn't matter; with their running game AWOL the entire game Tennessee couldn't have won with Brett Favre at QB. Alabama played both Tyler Watts and Brodie Croyle again, but Watts was largely ineffective other than a short TD run. Croyle accounted for all 128 of Alabama's passing yards on 5-7 passing. The RB-by-committee provided most of the offense with 172 yards rushing.

Auburn shocked LSU 31-7 at Auburn and threw the SEC West race into total disarray. LSU turned the ball over five times, four on interceptions, and dug itself a 17-0 halftime hole. LSU is not a good passing team even with Matt Mauck in the lineup. With him hurt they're hopeless. Despite playing catchup the entire game Marcus Randall could only throw for 79 yards on 9-20 passing; he was more valuable on the ground where he ran for a team-high 74 yards. Auburn shut down Domanick Davis, while Ronnie Brown ran for 95 yards and two TDs against the formerly strong LSU defense. Jason Campbell finally got the QB job after relieving Daniel Cobb three games in a row, but he didn't have to do much.

Arkansas hammered Ole Miss 48-28 and the Rebels appear to be setting out on their annual downhill slide. Once again, turnovers were the story, as Ole Miss turned it over five times to once for Arkansas. Eli Manning did rebound fairly nicely from last week's abuse at the hands of Alabama, throwing for 414 yards and being sacked only once, but the Mississippi running game was absent again. Arkansas, meanwhile, pounded out 257 yards on the ground, led by Fred Talley's 136... Vanderbilt managed to avoid yet another depressing nadir by coming back to beat UConn 28-24. Yes, UConn has a football team! And Vandy only beat it by four thanks to a late TD run by Jay Cutler! You know it's a matchup of bad teams when you start thinking that a game between the schools' women's basketball teams would be more interesting.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Notre Dame is officially back. Yesterday's 34-24 win at FSU almost assuredly means they will pass Miami in the BCS rankings this week. To make matters worse for the 'Canes, both schools will probably be heavily favored in their remaining games, with the exception being the Irish's season-ending battle with USC. Miami, on the other hand, is more likely to lose at least once (to VA Tech at home), but the declining fortunes of Syracuse and Tennessee, two of their remaining road opponents, make it unlikely for Miami to pass Notre Dame in the event they remain unbeaten. In fact, it's more likely that they could be passed by either OSU and/or Georgia, an impressive 52-24 winner over J-Load and Kentucky.

Friday, October 25, 2002

As has been feared, Jacob Young, an All-American center at Nebraska a decade ago, has been identified as one of the victims of the terrorist attack two weeks ago in Bali. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Probably the only game standing between Notre Dame and a BCS bowl is Saturday in Tallahassee, where FSU (the alma mater of Ned Racine from Body Heat) is a ten-point favorite. The Big-10 showcases two BCS elimination games, as Penn State travels to the Horseshoe to play the Buckeyes, and Michigan hosts Iowa. Oregon hosts USC in Eugene for the third straight year (it has to do with the decision made a few years ago to not compel the SoCal schools to bypass the NoCal schools in the rotation, as would have happened this year). Unbeaten Georgia goes to Lexington to take on the Pillsbury Throwboy; Lorenzen's principal competition for the Heisman, Ken Dorsey, leads Miami into West Virginia to take on another candidate for that award, Avon Cobourne.
Correction: Today's game will mark the fourth time in five years USC has played in Eugene; the teams played at the Coliseum in 2000.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Two pretty decent games Thursday night kick off an intriguing weekend of football. The unbeaten and overrated Wolfpack of NC State travel to Clemson, while BYU, always an entertaining team, plays defense-minded Colorado State at Fort Collins. The Cougars have a tendency to play wide-open, four hour games; since this game begins at 7:00 p.m. Pacific, it might even end after Game 5 of the World Series.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Well, so much for the Seneca Wallace for Heisman campaign. Oklahoma did a number on the Cyclone QB, and pretty much had the game won by the middle of the second quarter, 49-3. At this point, the Heisman race is pretty much Ken Dorsey's to lose; the consensus seems to be that he should have won last year, but the voters decided to reward Eric Crouch's career, not unlike what AMPAS did when it gave Al Pacino an Oscar for "Scent of a Woman", or Paul Newman for "The Color of Money". Ohio State remained undefeated by edging Wisconsin, 19-14, while Oregon suffered its first loss at home to Arizona State, 45-42, the second straight year the Ducks have blown a big lead at home to a mid-level team in the Pac-10. Notre Dame used a gritty defensive performance to shut down Air Force, 17-10; of their remaining games, only Florida State this week and USC at the end of November really stand between the Irish and an undefeated season.

And speaking of the Trojans, from what I saw in Saturday's 41-21 win over Washington, maybe USC is about ready to reemerge after a long dry spell, and show off a team comparable to some of the fabled squads of the past, such as 1978, 1979, 1980, 1985, and 1992. Yes, in my opinion, the USC Song Girls are back, after having slumped for the better part of the last decade, coasting along on their reputation, a pale shadow of their former greatness. The high quality of the Songleaders this season is a testament to the tradition of the program, and a return to the glory days of the Long Blonde Line from the late-70's, and the classic "Silicon Valley" squads of the Tollner/Smith eras. Fight On !!

Oklahoma tops the first BCS rankings, followed by Miami and Notre Dame. Unlike last year, when the Hurricanes trailed most of the year before finally hitting the tough part of their schedule, the tail end of their season will be much softer, with only games against overrated Tennessee and a home date with VA Tech standing in the way of another undefeated season.

In SEC action, Georgia keeps rolling on, crushing Vanderbilt, 48-17. Well, who doesn't crush Vandy? The Dawgs are now 7-0, 4-0 in the SEC, and a game and a half up on South Carolina (whom they've already beaten) and Florida. If they win the Florida game the SEC East title should be theirs; the only other question is if they can win out, and if they do if they'll have a shot at the National Championship. David Greene had a nearly perfect day, completing 20-of-23 passes for 319 yards. Musa Smith did play, rushing 14 times for 102 yards, but he's expected to miss next week against Kentucky. As for Vandy... Let's just forget them, shall we?

The CBS game, and hence the putative game of the week, saw Alabama massacre Ole Miss 42-7. Santonio Beard, the power back in Alabama's three-headed RB by committee, scored five touchdowns (tying Shaun Alexander's school record) and rushed for 138 yards on only 13 carries; the Crimson Tide as a whole rushed for 234 and passed for 222. Tyler Watts started but reinjured his foot in the second quarter; Brodie Croyle replaced him and made the most of it, completing only 6 of 11 but for 179 yards. Eli Manning looked good early but spent most of the last three quarters on his back, being sacked three times after not being pressured all year and getting hit when he wasn't sacked. Manning wasn't really bad, but the Rebels had no running game (totalling four yards) and he wasn't nearly good enough to overcome that.

Florida beat Auburn in overtime, 30-23, after Auburn's Damon Duval had a potential game-winning kick blocked late in the fourth. Florida led most of the way, including 23-7 going into the fourth, but Auburn rallied to tie it behind Jason Campbell, who relieved Daniel Cobb for the third game in a row. They did it, moreover, without Carnell Williams, who left in the first half with what turned out to be a broken left leg that finished his season. Backup Ronnie Brown ran for 163 yards, though, and Campbell did well enough... Ron Zook might well have been out of a job today if Florida had lost the game after blowing a 16-point lead in overtime. Tommy Tuberville is in hot water now, not least because he called a fake punt from his own eight-yard-line that led to a Florida FG. My prediction is that Tuberville needs to beat either Georgia or Alabama to save his job. Auburn also has games against LSU and at Ole Miss left on the schedule and could easily finish 5-7.

Kentucky rallied to beat Arkansas 29-17 for its first SEC win and now needs only one more win for bowl eligibility. Well, except for those pesky NCAA sanctions that will keep the Wildcats from a trip to glamourous Shreveport, LA in late December. Kentucky got no running game (you see that a lot in teams that lose SEC games) but Jared Lorenzen was decent and the Wildcats returned a punt for a touchdown. In addition to the punt return, Kentucky also had TD drives of 12 and 17 yards. The Razorbacks, meanwhile, have lost two games (Alabama and Kentucky) they expected to win, plus one they didn't (Tennessee) in six overtimes, all in the last four weeks.

LSU, definitely in the driver's seat in the West with all the other teams in the division either reeling or on probation, thrashed South Carolina 38-14. The Tigers ran for 231 yards, but the Gamecocks had 148; the big difference between the teams is that South Carolina can't throw the ball, probably because they have no quarterback. Corey Jenkins takes snaps, but he's essentially a running back, and carried the ball (15 times for 41 yards) more than he threw it (12, completing 5 for 65 yards)... Mississippi State beat Memphis 29-17. This was State's biggest win of the season! They have three wins, coming against Jacksonville State, Troy State, and Memphis no-longer State. There's every chance the Bulldogs won't win another game.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Is there some earthly reason that Purdue insists on wearing dark yellow jerseys at home? They look ugly, and its impossible to tell which team is which on TV. It's as distracting as the new Buffalo Bills road jerseys; you pretty much have to look at the helmets to distinguish the teams. BTW, Hesiod has a typically eviscerating commentary on the blue field at Boise State. Having seen last night's game, all I can say is that he understates how horrible the field looks, even though the good people in Boise now have that faux-turf they use in Seattle and Philly; the old Astroturf looked like blue cement. Then again, their basketball court is pretty freaky looking, too. Well, I've said my piece; it's time to get moellered.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Another pretty good weekend on tap, mixed in with the World Series, should give sports fan plenty to see. Perhaps the top game involves No. 2 Oklahoma hosting the eleventh-ranked Cyclones of Iowa State: whether the Sooners can stop a real quarterback will be put to the test on Saturday (btw, I think the one thing we can predict with absolute certainty is that no matter how great a season Seneca Wallace has this year, Chris Simms will be drafted ahead of him). The only match-up of undefeated teams occurs in Colorado Springs, where Air Force takes on Notre Dame. There are a lot of "ifs" involved, but I can see the Falcons defying the C.W. and getting picked for a BCS bowl, even the Fiesta Bowl, if they win Saturday and remain undefeated the rest of the way. USC and Washington play in what is an elimination game for the Rose Bowl, whilst once-mighty Florida and Auburn get together in an elimination game for the Poulan WeedEater Bowl. And, natch, its Homecoming Week at Berkeley, where CAL seeks to overcome the prison gang rape it received last week from the officials and beat its hated rival to the south, UCLA, at the same time their counterparts face-off in the World Series.

Monday, October 14, 2002

The biggest weekend of the college football season to date produced few upsets, but some surprises. Miami had to rally late, than watch a last-second field goal drift wide, to edge Florida State, 28-27. In what is becoming increasingly a dog-bites-man story, Oklahoma trailed for much of the game before finally pounding Texas, 35-24. As noted below, Florida got blown out at home by LSU, 36-7, in what was a reminder to the rest of the country that Steve Spurrier had, indeed, left Gainesville, while Georgia took charge of the SEC East, 18-13, over Tennessee, in a game that was not as close as the score would indicate.

Outside of the South, there were some pretty decent games as well. John Navarre led Michigan to its second late comeback of the season, beating Penn State in overtime, 24-21. UCLA had Oregon on the ropes before getting killed by its special teams, blowing an extra point and a field goal, 31-30. CAL jumped out to an 18-point first half lead, but a phantom touchdown and a spirited effort by the Trojan defense allowed USC to prevail, 30-28. And finally, Notre Dame and Air Force both won to set up next week's showdown between the nation's two worst undefeated teams.

Well, the changing of the guard in the SEC East is complete. Georgia defeated Tennessee 18-13. The game was actually 18-0 in the fourth, but Tennessee rallied with two late TDs. Georgia recovered a questionable onside kick, then converted on fourth down to run out the clock. After running roughshod on Alabama last week, the Bulldogs never got their running game going, averaging two yards a carry for the game. But the defense knocked Casey Clausen out of the game and the passing game was good enough to produce a touchdown and three FGs. With the win, Georgia moves to 6-0 and fifth in the national polls.

Meanwhile, the East's traditional juggernaut has collapsed. Florida was trounced by LSU, 36-7, Saturday night. The Tigers rushed for 249 yards and picked off Rex Grossman four times. The Gators are now 4-3 and still have Auburn, Georgia, and Florida State on the schedule. LSU is 5-1 and tied with Ole Miss for the lead in the West at 2-0 in SEC play.

Arkansas recovered nicely from the six-overtime marathon against Tennessee last week to crush Auburn 38-17 behind 418 yards on the ground. The Razorbacks are 1-2 in the conference, but with their losses coming to ineligible Alabama and non-division Tennessee, they can still make a run in the division. Auburn is 2-1 in conference but still hasn't settled on a quarterback and looks very vulnerable.

South Carolina upset Kentucky, and the idea of Kentucky being upset in football is unusual to say the least. Middle Tennessee finally beat an SEC team, though admittedly Vandy isn't much of an SEC team. At any rate, the Commodores are now officially only the fourth-best college team in the state of Tennessee. Mississippi State was almost even more embarrassed, holding on to beat Troy State (from Troy, Alabama, south of Montgomery, if you're wondering) by the unusual score of 11-8. And Ole Miss had no sandwich-game problems between Florida and Alabama, drubbing Arkansas State 52-17.

Friday, October 11, 2002

The biggest Saturday of the college football season so far features two classic rivalries, Florida St. vs. Miami and Oklahoma vs. Texas (the complete schedule here). In addition, Georgia can take control of the SEC East with a win against Tennessee, while LSU and Florida attempt to keep their dwindling BCS hopes alive in Gainesville, Oregon vies to remain the only undefeated Pac-10 team when it travels to the Rose Bowl to play UCLA, and Michigan and Penn State play what is in effect an elimination game in the battle with Ohio State for the Big-10 championship. Lesser tiered games include USC and CAL at the Colliseum, BYU travelling to undefeated Air Force, North Carolina hosting NC State, and Pitt playing Notre Dame beneath Touchdown Jesus.

I suppose this is, for lack of a better term, athletically incorrect to say, but is there a more overrated rivalry in college sports than Texas and Oklahoma? To put it another way, how many times in the last thirty years has Texas beaten the Sooners when both teams were good? Once, maybe...the Longhorns have been boring, predictable and bland since the rest of the country caught up with the wishbone, or at least since Earl Campbell graduated. This game is the football version of the Yankees and Red Sox; the fans supposedly hate each other, so the rest of us are supposed to pretend its a legitimate rivalry, even though one team always gets punked by the other. But the good news is, Chris Simms will get to start Saturday, and no doubt will look as impressive as he did last season against Oklahoma.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

I got half of my upsets right, at least. CAL had come close to upsetting Washington in each of the last four years, only to fall short at the end, keeping a losing streak going that had dated back to 1976. On Saturday, Jeff Tedford was able to take the Bears where Roger Theder, Joe Kapp, Bruce Snyder, Keith Gilbertson, Steve Mariucci, and Tom Holmoe couldn't as CAL beat UDub, 34-27, in Seattle. It says something about the recent history of the program that this was the first time CAL had ever beaten two teams ranked in the Top 15 on the road in the same season; in fact, CAL's victory at East Lansing three weeks ago was the first time they had beaten a ranked non-conference opponent anywhere since 1974.

The only other thing worthy of note from a completely uninvolving weekend of college football was the fact that Texas and Oklahoma, which meet up this Saturday, are simply not credible national championship contenders. It's one thing for the Sooners to struggle against the Missouri Tigers on the road before eking out a win, but it's quite another for Texas to almost lose, at home, to an Oklahoma State that was routed two weeks earlier in Stillwater by UCLA.

And yeah, I admit that Eli Manning may not be as overrated as some of the other quarterbacks in his family.

Monday, October 07, 2002

No time to write a comprehensive SEC recap this week, sorry. I didn't get to watch much football anyway; it was a very hectic weekend. Some impressions... It appears that we're seeing the changing of the guard in the SEC. Georgia, with a win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa, asserted itself as the team to beat in the SEC, and as the conference's only national championship hope. Florida turned the ball over four times and lost to Ole Miss in Oxford, and is a team in disarray. And Tennessee needed six overtimes to finally overcome Arkansas in Knoxville. Neither the Vols nor the Gators looks anything like a match for a Georgia team that, despite a close score, was really the first team this year to outplay Alabama.

One last note... Georgia players said they were inspired by a quote of Pat Dye's saying that they weren't man enough to beat Alabama. Which is weird -- they're letting a Georgia graduate and former Auburn coach provide their bulletin board material against Alabama? Does that make any sense?

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Without further adieu, this weekend's schedule, featuring a number of good conference match-ups involving ranked opponents, including USC and Wazzou, Penn State facing Iowa, and Georgia travelling to Alabama. In other action, UCLA tries to avoid a second loss to a team that got walloped by its crosstown rival when it meets up with Oregon State; Florida gets a chance to lay yet another beating on an overrated QB named Manning when it goes to Ole Miss (ED.-btw, whoever linked here through a Google search for "Ole Miss sorority girls" deserves some appreciation--although this site was a dead end, the other, more relevant sites were greatly appreciated); and Ty Willingham gets to coach against his former team in South Bend. Potential upsets include Missouri hosting Oklahoma the week before the Sooners play Texas, and CAL trying to knock off Washington for the first time since the Ford Administration. And a special congratulatory note goes out to the AD's of Miami and Nebraska, for having the courage to schedule UConn and McNeese State, respectively.

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