Who's That Guy is an orientation tool for use in navigating college football's vast landscape, and is filmed in front of a live studio audience.
Who Is He? Baylor running back Shock Linwood.
Where Is He From? Linden, Texas.
Years Played: He's freshly unboxed! Linwood played his first collegiate snaps in Week 1 of 2013 and has recorded carries in eight games this year.
Follow the Bouncing Ball: A largely unheralded prospect out of Linden-Kildare High, Linwood received offers from a handful of FBS programs, but only one other offer from a Big Six school (TCU). His first 100-yard game came in October versus West Virginia, where he actually trailed Lache Seastrunk's rushing output by almost 50 yards, because that's the kind of thing that happens when you play offense for Baylor.
Sometime around 2 a.m. ET on Sunday, the winless Hawaii Warriors, who'd either led or tied the San Diego State Aztecs for four full quarters, found themselves stalled out near midfield. Time expired on what would have been a game-winning touchdown drive to trigger the team's first victory of 2013. As the officials reviewed the overtime procedures, we watched from a couch five time zones away, 14 hours into a nonstop college football binge, the 12th such bender in as many weeks. Clusters of adults with jobs and houses and no discernible ties to the University of Hawaii put down their midnight coffees, abandoned their phones, and launched into an animated This Is How We'd Do It armchair coaching session. For a then 0-9 team that plays its home games 4,500 miles away. Why?
There's a bias-free case for disinterested third parties to cheer on the toppling of every conference front-runner. There's a perfectly valid reason to raise our glasses every time a relentlessly immobile quarterback lurches free of the pocket for a cartoonish gain. There's a real motivation behind our obsession with cataloguing every clip of a winded defensive lineman trundling down the field with a purloined football, and why "MYRON PRYOR! 310 POUNDS OF GLORY!" will hold a place in our hearts until the end of days, and it doesn't stop with "because fat-guy touchdowns are the best." They are, but that's not the point. The point is the endless hours of amusement that can be yours for the low, low price of making a habit of taking joy in the unexpected.
Enter Week 12, which featured, among other occurrences, a Duke football team making its way into the Top 25, a Georgia-Auburn finish straight out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting, and Ed Orgeron gunning for a division title. Never mind the bats, the boils, or the rain of frogs in Northwestern alternate jerseys. It's all part of the plan.
The race to the BCS games commences each August as a clown car of near-limitless capacity. It careers into Week 1 crammed with 120-some teams, each anointed with some degree of possibility, however finite, of stringing together a perfect season and hoisting that crystal ball, or tossing oranges into a joyous throng, or ruining a perfectly good mascot outfit with greasy corn chip smears. (And good grief, that somehow looks even weirder written out than when it's actually happening.) Each week, squads tumble out, forced to trundle along behind. Every so often, bloody-minded interloper clowns with hooks for hands are discovered clinging to the undercarriage. This isn't symbolic language; why do you think nobody wants to tackle Jordan Lynch?
And no matter how tightly packed the contraption might seem rounding into November, no matter how dearly we might all wish to conclude the regular season with a handful of undefeated teams to confound the half-assed system that puts on the big-money games, it's just so famously difficult to make it through a full slate of FBS play unscathed.
In Week 11: The intact AQ squads get some elbow room; Oregon gets kicked into the sawdust; and Alabama remains in the driver's seat, maintaining a level speed of precisely five miles above the legal limit.
That hypothetical we posed yesterday, about whether it'd be more painful to be knocked out of the running for the national title by an outright loss or by the cruelty of polls and unfeeling computers and the glaring lack of a playoff system? Following a nasty pair of prime-time top-10 weeknight games, two of the FBS's best programs might be able to compare notes.
"We don't hold the cards anymore," said Oregon coach Mark Helfrich following his Ducks' failed comeback rally at Stanford, "but we never hold the cards."
He's right and he's not. In the absence of a playoff system, the last handful of contending teams can't control what exactly the pollsters and computers do with them. But it's still on them to make the best case. Last night Baylor did that, and Oregon did not.
What do you get when fully half of the teams in the BCS top 10 don't appear on the weekend schedule and four of those that do put on decisive wins of varying degrees of ruthlessness? We come not to criticize our corporate mothership, which did not engineer the expansive talent gaps between the Buckeyes and Boilermakers or the Tigers and Cavaliers, but by the second quarter of the noon games our remote trigger finger had achieved a measure of sentience and was creeping of its own free will toward the National Treasure/National Treasure: Book of Secrets double feature on ABC Family. You snort, but behold the results from Week 10's top BCS teams:
1. Alabama: OFF
2. Oregon: OFF
3. Florida State: PUMMELED NO. 7 MIAMI, 41-14
4. Ohio State: ANNIHILATED PURDUE, 56-0
5. Stanford: OFF
6. Baylor: OFF
7. Miami: PUMMELED BY NO. 3 FLORIDA STATE, 41-14
8. Clemson: OBLITERATED VIRGINIA, 59-10
9. Missouri: TROUNCED TENNESSEE, 31-3
10. Oklahoma: OFF
And here is Nicolas Cage straddling a banister and screaming about haggis:
Take heart: Week 10 may have been short on suspense, but it produced a revealing crest for the ACC's regular season and served as the inhale before the plunge for every other undefeated title-contending team. And what else do you get when half of the top 10 isn't on the schedule? Four of those five teams are scheduled to play one another three days from now.
But let's not skip to Week 11 just yet. Interesting things went on in Week 10. We're acting like they didn't. They did. We're sorry. Haggis weakens our morals and so does Helen Mirren. Movements and moments from all over:
Who's That Guy is an orientation tool for use in college football's vast landscape, and is filmed in front of a live studio audience.
Who Is He? Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro.
Where Is He From? San Antonio.
Years Played: He's a third-year Red Raider.
Follow the Bouncing Ball: Amaro, a regional recruiting coup for the Red Raiders who was also pursued by Baylor and Texas A&M, saw action in all 12 games as a freshman, recording seven catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns. His promising sophomore campaign was derailed during Tech's blowout win over West Virginia in 2012: After scoring the Raiders' first touchdown on a 39-yard catch from Seth Doege and rolling up 156 total receiving yards, Amaro was knocked out of the game when a helmet to his abdomen fractured a rib and lacerated his spleen. Amaro missed the remainder of the regular season, returning only to catch two passes in Tech's Car Care Bowl win over Minnesota before being ejected from the oddly spiteful contest.
The haves in this week's BCS top five seem so very have-y, don't they? All neatly arrayed in their reds and greens and golds, with so many blowouts and close scrapes behind them, and so few remaining obstacles between them and a balmy January evening in the Rose Bowl. It's all very exciting, and it should be. They've earned this. It's been a privilege to witness.
Now, would you like to hear how each conference's impending champion could still go terribly, terribly astray? We're winding up Week 9 with a mostly arbitrary and entirely nonbinding conference-by-conference look back at the weekend that was and a breakdown of the sure things and pitfalls remaining:
Texas Longhorns wide receiver Mike Davis had himself an unacceptably intimate encounter with the knees of Iowa State defensive back Deon Broomfield during Thursday night's Longhorns-Cyclones game:
Broomfield shared his thoughts on the incident after the game via Twitter, and got right to the point: "Mike Davis really tried to take me out." Davis took issue with the understandably torrential wave of criticism: "I play to the whistle Sorry I was taught that." The proclamations continued the next day, like so:
“You see those six suites over there?” the man in the purple shirt says, pointing across the construction zone. “Those are $15 million apiece.”
Fifteen million. How many have you sold? I ask.
The man in purple smiles proudly. “All of them.”
Hi from TCU. Or “Texas Construction University,” to use the too-cute name circulating through the athletic department. By the time the Horned Frogs become a full-fledged Big 12 team this fall, their stadium will have been rebuilt. More important, their entire je ne sais quoi will have been rebooted. Today in our advanced college football studies, we look at the means by which a BCS-busting small school morphs into a $15 million-per-suite school. “One of the mottoes we have is not to do anything gaudy,” says Mark Cohen, TCU’s director of media relations. Well, of course not. We’re talking about college football here.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Angels hurler Jered Weaver threw MLB's second no-hitter of the season, striking out nine and walking one in a 9-0 win over the Twins. "Why couldn't you be perfect?" screamed Weaver's mother, who was actually Weaver himself wearing a wig and staring in a mirror. "You're nothing! You'll always be nothing!" Man, Jered Weaver is complicated.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Kobe Bryant scored 27 points and Pau Gasol had a crucial block at the buzzer as the Lakers edged the Celtics in overtime, 88-87. I'm not saying Boston has had a rough sports week, but Bill Simmons is standing behind me as I write, tapping a baseball bat against his palm and asking weird questions like, "Would you consider yourself a happy person, Ryan?"
The reserves for the All-Star game were announced Thursday, and the list included veterans like Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, and Steve Nash. More like Old-Star game, am I right, gang? I mean, who picked these guys, Naismith himself? I hope they don't die from shock when they see that all the peach baskets have been replaced with nets, YAKNOW? (*Makes a series of wacky faces, curls up in a tight ball on the floor, cries softly, reaches for a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts*)
It's come to my attention that college basketball fans prefer not to read anything negative about their favorite teams. And now that Eli Manning has ushered in the postpartisan age that President Obama could only dream of, I feel inspired to stay positive. So, for the convenience of Kansas and Missouri fans, I've divided this post into two distinct sections. Jayhawks fans should skip right to the second section, where I blame Saturday night's 74-71 loss squarely on the referees. Tigers fans should read the first section, where I credit Marcus Denmon's heroics for the epic win, and forgo section two in favor of eating an orange or being affectionate with a loved one.
For the first dozen years of its existence, the Big East was a basketball conference, and yea, it was a glorious thing to behold. At most Northeast schools (outside of Pennsylvania), football was a secondary concern, and the Big East established its identity through the hard-ass persona of John Thompson’s Georgetown teams and the thrilling and undisciplined playground antics of Pearl Washington and Walter Berry. In a sport where conference affiliation often means very little come tournament time, the Big East distinguished itself through prodigious talent and sheer physicality. Which is something it could never do in football over the course of two decades, no matter how hard it tried.
Mark Titus will return next week with another Only Partially Biased College Basketball Spectacular, but it's Friday now, and we're going to take a short programming break. So everyone just catch up on the ones we posted earlier in the week, cool?
Mark Titus is the founder and author of the blog Club Trillion. His book, Don't Put Me In Coach, chronicles his career as a walk-on benchwarmer for the Ohio State basketball team and is scheduled to be released in March. You can follow him on Twitter at @clubtrillion.