I believe the premise has been sufficiently introduced by the title, so I shall tarry no further.
1.There Will Be a Rematch
This is depressing enough to me that I can barely muster the energy to dispute it. Like most reasonable people, I do believe that Alabama and LSU are the two best teams in the country. But I don't care. They played, the Crimson Tide lost. That was their national title shot. Everyone knew the winner of that game would likely make the BCS title game; it's not like the stakes were a secret. And as long as there's a legitimate one-loss team somewhere out there, preferably one who finished the season on a high note (sorry, Houston), that team should get a crack. Obviously, that team exists in Oklahoma State. With a 44-10 win over Oklahoma, the Cowboys stated their case emphatically.
After the frenetic highs of Week 12, Rivalry Week was a slow coming-down party. In 16 games involving ranked teams, there wasn't a single upset -- at least by the rankings. Most of the games weren't even close. The rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and several avenues of escape were cut off.
It's Sunday night, and I literally just stopped hyperventilating from the frenetic action of Week 12. I've got a paper bag next to me just in case. This was the classic “forget everything you know” chaos-fest, with results that look and feel wrong up and down the scoreboard. When Oklahoma State lost Friday night, it felt like a crazy fluke. Turns out it was a harbinger of things to come, and not even the strangest loss of the weekend. In fact, if you had to boil the insanity down to a short blurb, here's one good option:
With a loss to Iowa State on Friday night, the Oklahoma State Cowboys completely destroyed any chance they had of making the BCS title game. Just 24 hours later, the chance was back.
And really, could things have gone any different after Lee Corso's hilarious ... incident ... at the tail end of Gameday Saturday morning? Maybe that was the true harbinger. Nothing could follow form after that. (Also, am I the only one who likes Corso even more now?)
I honestly don't know where to begin, so let's just count down the 10 craziest games.
1. It's tough to be a kicker. 2. The 2-point conversion is a cruel mistress. 3. The marquee games disappointed, but everything else delivered.
I feel bad giving the Oregon-Stanford blowout short shrift, but the result can really be summed up in two words: speed kills. The Stanford run defense, which had been one of the nation's best prior to facing Oregon, gave up 232 yards. From the size of the holes LaMichael James was exploiting, it felt like Stanford was playing a prevent defense all game. In fact, if you'll let me brag for a moment (and I hope you will, because I'm so often wrong), everything I predicted in the preview essentially came true. The words of the prophet:
Five titles for the book about the Alabama-LSU game:
"The Questionable Classic"
"Czar Nicholas Comes Unglued"
"The End Zones Were Not Breached"
"The Foster Debacle"
"Catch the F*&%ing Ball, Michael Williams"
Or maybe it should have something to do with soccer. Over the weekend, Twitter was afire with living room pundits comparing LSU-Bama to the beautiful game, and their words were not flattering. These analogists, diametrically opposed to anyone who believed the long defensive standoff was a sign of something epic, were peeved at the pace of play and wanted more scoring.
For the past two Saturday nights, football fans have lived a charmed life. Last week, we got the Hail Mary Game. This week, there was a slice of triple-overtime insanity when undefeated Stanford survived a scare from USC. Those were the best games of the year, and the Musburger-Herbstreit duo were on the scene for both. There's a lot of season left, but it's hard to imagine a better back-to-back stretch. Somewhere in the world, a prime time TV programmer is dancing a jig. And so am I, because this was the most surprising week of the season.
Across the college football landscape Saturday, undefeated heads were rolling. Georgia Tech lost, Illinois lost, Michigan lost, and for a while, it looked like that unlucky group would welcome a fourth member. Humility and history beckoned in College Park, as no. 8 Clemson trailed Maryland 35-17 in the third quarter. The usual spark was missing. Quarterback Tajh Boyd had a terrible first quarter, highlighted by an interception return for a touchdown, and the Tigers defense showed no signs of making a stop. In situations like these, there are two choices for the favorite: go quietly into the night, or
I think bragging is a terrible offense. There's nothing worse than someone who can't have a minor success without broadcasting it to the world. It's a sign of deep insecurity and shallow character. Boasters, braggarts, and grandstanders are the worst people in the world. I'd never have one as my friend.
Which is why I'm not going to get into the results from my Week 5 preview. Was I a perfect three-for-three in upset predictions, calling wins for Auburn, Kansas State, and Pittsburgh? Sorry, that's not for me to say. Did I pick Clemson's win at Virginia Tech, Wisconsin's effortless romp, Alabama's domination of the Gators, the wild unpredictability of A&M and Arkansas, and Illinois' tenuous hold on an undefeated record? Who knows, man. Who knows. If it were true, I wouldn't flaunt that record here. It's not my place. And if people* want to go around saying I'm some kind of expert with a sixth sense about the game, that's their business. As a professional, I try to stay outside that fray.
I'm just here to be humble and talk college football. Let's get to the Week 5 action.
Let's confront the scourge of college football. Forget the boosters, the agents, the arrests, and the embarrassing lack of a playoff. Those distractions can be stored in the attic of our minds on Saturdays. What's really aggravated me recently — and what I'm convinced will soon have a major impact on a big game — is the excessive-celebration penalty.
On Friday night, BYU and Central Florida were knotted at 17 in the fourth quarter, when UCF forced BYU to punt. It was a booming 61-yard kick, and J.J. Worton had to sprint toward his goal line to receive it. The ball went off his hands as he tried to make the catch, and BYU's Michael Alisa recovered at the 8-yard line and ran into the end zone. Because it was a "muffed" punt rather than a fumble, BYU wasn't allowed to advance past the point of recovery. But members of the punt unit, thinking they had just given their team a critical lead, were ecstatic. They formed a massive, celebratory pile in the end zone, and the flags flew for excessive celebration. Instead of first-and-goal, BYU was pushed back to the 23. The Cougars eventually scored, but the penalty could have changed the outcome of the game.
And what's the point? There's so much adrenaline in football, so much violent tension, that to expect players not to celebrate after a score is absurd. What's behind this conservative ideal? Exactly whom does celebration hurt? Why don't we want players to express their joy and showcase their personalities?
Football is supposed to be fun, but the draconian rules feel designed to stifle that aspect and turn the players into automatons. Any flicker of personality is punished. In its absence, we're supposed to revere some imaginary stoic star who calmly hands the ball to the official after a big touchdown and trots back to the sideline. It almost feels like the NCAA is trying to enforce a broader moral code, and, hypocrisy aside, that is most definitely not its place. It makes me so mad I could dance in front of a referee.
If I had to design the touchdown celebration rules, they'd be a lot shorter than the NCAA's Rule 9-2. This is all you need:
1. Don't taunt, bait, or demean an opponent. Keep the celebration about you and your team. 2. Keep it under a minute. 3. The team with the best choreography gets a four-point bonus.
I'm willing to negotiate on the last rule. Otherwise, one and two are all you need.
Let's move on to the Week 4 highlights before I make myself dizzy.
It was a fine, solid, decent week in college football. Not great, because that would imply the promise of high drama was realized, and that didn't happen very often Saturday. It was a bit of a day-long tease, in fact, with game after game ending one or two plays short of delirium. But as a table-setter, which is all we can really ask, Week 3 delivered.
First, let's begin with some
That no. 1 ranking next to Oklahoma's name didn't feel quite right. As I mentioned in the preview post, the Sooners are 1-5 in their past six BCS bowl games, and they've had some trouble beating Texas over that same stretch. I didn't trust them, and maybe I got a little too swept up in the narrative of Florida State's resurgence.
When I was a kid, before I knew any better, I rooted for Notre Dame football. You can blame the influence of my stepfather or my Catholic roots or the musty old books I found in the school library, with their whitewashed tales of Knute Rockne. It certainly didn't hurt that starting in 1991, every Irish home game was on television. In any case, one of the greatest moments of my young life came in 1993, when Notre Dame beat Charlie Ward and no. 1 Florida State 31-24 in the second-to-last game of the season. All that remained was to knock off Boston College at home, and the Irish would have a shot at a national championship.
But things didn't go as planned. The Eagles jumped out fast and held their ground. It took a furious 22-point, fourth-quarter comeback for Notre Dame to reclaim a slim lead near the end, but David Gordon, BC's left-footed kicker, found himself lining up a 41-yard attempt with seconds left to pull off a stunner. The kick wobbled, and appeared to be heading right. I still remember the tiny swell of hope as I let my mind map out the ball's trajectory. It would veer wide, wouldn't it?
No. Gordon had done his worst.
A year or two later, I realized there was no good reason for me to support Notre Dame. In college football terms, I became a man without a country. That's continued to present day, and it's actually quite a nice break from the usual stress of affiliation. But the melodic strains of those two weeks in 1993 have persisted, reemerging from time to time in my personal sports landscape. Ward played 10 seasons for my New York Knicks, including the ill-fated 1999 trip to the NBA Finals. After his starring role in my personal sports tragedy, Boston College coach Tom Coughlin later balanced his karmic output in one of my greatest triumphs — a New York Giants Super Bowl win against the hated, undefeated Patriots. And 17 years to the day after his kick, David Gordon married my elderly Aunt Gloria.
Just kidding on that last one. Nevertheless, the connection lingers. That's the origin story, and this is Gordon's Left Foot.