In case you were out dressed up as Grimace to serve as a decoy for a hamburger-related heist, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
The Denver Nuggets stayed hot, winning their 12th straight at home, 107-92, over the Los Angeles Clippers. Denver pulled away late, despite the mind games of Blake Griffin. Nuggets forward Andre Iguodala said after the game, "Blake kept calling me the Iguanodon, which I get, but he also kept calling [Nuggets center] Kosta Koufos the Koufosaurus. I don't even think that's a real dinosaur." When asked what he was up to, Griffin responded, "I just think dinosaurs are cool," before jutting out his mouthguard and winking.
The Pittsburgh Penguins stormed back from a three-goal deficit to beat the Flyers in Philadelphia, 5-4. I'm sorry, I mean the city formerly known as Philadelphia, which is now officially Philahellphia, as the local government has been seized by enraged Flyers fans. Martial law currently reigns in the city, with sober rationality the only official crime on the books. Fortunately, this has caused nothing to change for the citizens of Philahellphia in the aftermath of this rare American coup d'etat.
The football rivalry between Oregon and Oregon State, nicknamed the "Civil War,” has always had something of an image problem. Take the name, for starters: Though quite common, it’s not as deliciously ironic as the BYU-Utah “Holy War,” or as geographically appropriate as the West Virginia–Pittsburgh “Backyard Brawl.” But for decades, that name was all they had. Neither school was even remotely on the national radar before the mid-'90s. And if they were, it was because of their Disneyfied color schemes and innocuous mascots.
But now, the “Civil War” sounds entirely quaint seeing as how the Beavers have taken after the Ducks’ Decepticon rebranding and the two schools will appear to be reenacting Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen this December, right in time for Christmas. By this point, I don’t think I have to preface you on why it’s major news when Oregon State’s Nike-sponsored gear is dropping jaws. My lord, have you seen these new Oregon State unis? Being that Phil Knight is a UO alum, I’m unsure if OSU has much pull in Beaverton (oddly enough), but it appears as if the school took a gander at Nike’s Pro Combat line and said, “We’re trying to win football games, not look like we’re going to church.” Those Neopolitan face masks!
The lesson was important: The Beavers already had one of the most recognizable color schemes and logos in college football, but as coach Mike Riley tweeted, it’s all about luring 18-year-old kids who might base the next four years of their lives on the possibility of wearing socks that are inscribed with “hip hop hooray.” Oregon State can serve as an example for many other second bananas across the college football landscape that are seeking to gain ground on their more respected rivals through some kind of radical and ridiculous rebranding. Sure, it looks a little desperate and they might always be no. 2 compared to their wealthier, more successful elders, but there’s nothing wrong with being Solange these days. Here are some more glaring opportunities:
In case you were out pretending like you've seen and have an opinion about Oscar nominee Amour, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
The Cleveland Browns have filled their vacant head coaching position, hiring Rob Chudzinski away from the Carolina Panthers. It has also been reported that Chudzinski is targeting former San Diego head coach Norv Turner to be his new offensive coordinator. "I can't imagine a more Cleveland set of hirings than Chud and Norv," said longtime Browns fan Milt Johnson. When asked to try harder and really push his imagination, Johnson let out an exasperated sigh, saying, "Fine, I guess that they could have hired like Chan Gailey and an old, overweight Golden Retriever named Honey, but I don't really know how having a dog as an offensive coordinator would work."
In case you were out seeing if it was really as cold as the guy on TV said it was (it was), here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
The New York Knicks snapped the San Antonio Spurs' seven-game winning streak, with a decisive 100-83 victory at Madison Square Garden. "Doesn't matter," said Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich after the game, "just a meaningless game, in a meaningless regular season, in this meaningless march to death we call life. Right, Tony?" He then looked back at his point guard, Frenchman Tony Parker, who nodded sagely at his coach before putting out a Gauloise between his fingers.
Oregon showed off its speed on both sides of the ball, beating Kansas State, 35-17, in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. In a postgame interview, ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe asked veteran Kansas State coach Bill Snyder if he felt the game had finally started to pass him by. Snyder replied, "I don't know. We ran into a good team, but I guess I did kind of feel like Tommy Lee Jones in that movie, you know, that one?" Rowe suggested, No Country for Old Men, but Snyder shook his said, saying, "No, you know that one where he's old." Rowe continued prompting Snyder with films starring an older Tommy Lee Jones, such as Men in Black II and Space Cowboys, but Snyder responded, "No, I think he's like a cop and a dad." Rowe, visibly frustrated at this point, said, "He's a cop and a dad in everything!" She then continued listing Tommy Lee Jones movies until Snyder realized he was thinking of Clint Eastwood.
When my wife read Friday's post, she asked me why I cared who was the beefiest or bulkiest player in the country. And I have to tell you guys I didn't have a good answer. Let's move on to this week's epiphanies and observations.
A few years ago Brian Britt realized he had to make a change. College football season was approaching, and he needed a new way to find out who was best equipped to lead his team. The pace of the game was speeding up, and the evidence was right in front of him. When Britt had first come to the University of Oklahoma, Mike Leach, who had helped popularize the fast-moving “Air Raid” attack, was offensive coordinator. Now Leach was winning at conference rival Texas Tech, legions of programs had adopted similarly swift styles, and the pressure was on for Britt to find a way to adjust.
College football fans in the past decade have been witness to an explosion in the number of teams who play fast. Hurry-up, Air Raid, zone read, spread — whatever name an offensive scheme answers to, the end result is the same: a headache for the opposition, who often can't get off the field quick enough to substitute. But just as the players on the field and coaches on the sideline have been forced to contend with the changing speed of the game, so, too, have the play callers in the stands. Because Britt, you see, isn't a defensive coordinator: He's the director of the Pride of Oklahoma, the Sooners' marching band.
It first occurred to me that Britt's job may have gotten more difficult over the past 10 years while watching the annual intrastate rivalry game with the Oklahoma State Cowboys that's lovingly referred to as “Bedlam.” The game was the 107th of its kind. It was also the first to go to overtime. And in the waning moments of regulation, as the Sooners hurried toward a game-tying touchdown, I first noticed something that years of watching college football had trained me to ignore: the band.
I'm one of those people who adhere to a strict famine-and-feast diet on Thanksgiving Day. I'll starve myself throughout the day, trying to not let the aromas floating in from the kitchen drive me insane, just so I can gorge myself like a crazed animal when 4 p.m. rolls around. From an informal poll of friends and family, it seems like this is a pretty common tactic. I'm ashamed to admit that I had to eat an apple to hold myself over at noon, but otherwise I held firm. And the feast was glorious. I didn't stop eating until midnight, when my wife hit me with a pan and knocked me into a deep, 18-hour slumber.
The whole Thanksgiving situation is a lot like the first two weeks of college basketball. The morning starvation is the offseason, when you want to avoid lesser temptations like recruiting updates or NCAA investigations or Tony Parker's eight-month press conference. Sometimes you need to check in on those things just to hold off the hunger, like with my apple. And then, when the season finally arrives, it's a delicious cornucopia of tournaments, amazing matchups, surprising players, and crazy upsets. I can't stop watching. I can't, and I won't! I've now binged on college basketball for two straight weeks, and from the depraved den of hoops gluttony, I bring you my 25 November epiphanies.
It's Rivalry slash Thanksgiving Week, when teams who have historically aggravated one another by virtue of shared geography, but who may not even be in the same conference in 2012, meet up for an annual gathering of bad feelings. This is the week for Florida–Florida State, Georgia Tech–Georgia, South Carolina–Clemson, and more. But before we get to the top 10 games, let's take a quick look at the perfect scenario for the final few weeks of college football, and let's do it in stream-of-consciousness form. For the ultimate comedic and poetic payoff, here's what has to happen:
Oregon loses to Oregon State, Georgia loses to Georgia Tech, Florida loses to Florida State, Alabama loses to Georgia in SEC title game, Georgia Tech beats Florida State in ACC title game, Kansas State loses to Texas, Stanford beats UCLA then loses to UCLA in Pac-12 title game, Louisville beats Rutgers but loses in a bowl game, Wisconsin beats Nebraska in Big Ten title game, Notre Dame loses to USC, Oklahoma wins out, Kent State and Northern Illinois both lose in bowls.
First, none of those outcomes are unlikely. All of them put together? Highly unlikely. But humor me for a second, because these are the teams that would earn automatic BCS berths if that scenario plays out: Georgia Tech, Georgia, Louisville, Wisconsin, UCLA, and Oklahoma. And the national title game would probably be Notre Dame vs. Georgia. Now, let's say Notre Dame, at 11-1, loses to 11-2 Georgia. Also, Ohio State beats Michigan this week.
The result? Zero bowl-eligible teams with even a one-loss record, and a BCS champion in Georgia that lost 35-7 to South Carolina, and suffered a hypothetical loss to Georgia Tech. The whole college landscape is a dusty wasteland. And then, rising amid the destruction, like a glorious phoenix, is Urban Meyer with his 12-0 Ohio State team. So riddle me this — could the AP poll, which is independent of the BCS, really put the Buckeyes anywhere but no. 1? I say no, and that means Ohio State would win a split national championship. The same Ohio State that's banned from postseason play because some kid got a free tattoo, and the same Ohio State that barely beat Cal at home, escaped from Indiana, and needed a miracle to beat Purdue in overtime.
And when all that happens, I'm going to phone up the BCS and just start laughing in their faces. A dude can dream.
It can’t be overstated just how impressive Stanford's 17-15 overtime victory over Oregon was. Stanford almost entirely shut down Oregon and its record-setting offense, the same offense that shredded the Cardinal 53-30 last season. Last year, Oregon's victory kept Stanford out of the national championship conversation. This year, the Cardinal might have returned the favor.
Last week, I described how Oregon's flashy offensive attack is, at its core, truly about old-school, fundamental football. Stanford's defense — Stanford’s entire program — is unequivocally about the same. On offense, the Cardinal are a power football team, with most of their passing game based on play-action. On defense, they use a "one-gapping," attacking 3-4 system — the same system brought to Stanford by current San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio just a few years ago.
A century before the Saturday evening that will forever be recalled for the painful death of Bill Snyder’s 16 preceptsin Waco, and for the gumming up of Phil Knight’s fast-twitch widget-production apparatus in Eugene, and for Les Miles’s epic Lebowski Speech — tell me he doesn’t resemble Jesus Quintana just a little at the 1:39 mark — Notre Dame was just a tiny Catholic college in Indiana with a progressive strategy and a dream of defeating the U.S. Army. This goes back to the summer of 1913, when Irish quarterback Gus Dorais and an end named Knute Rockne worked together as lifeguards in Sandusky, Ohio, practicing a newfangled stratagem on the beach known as “the forward pass.” They unleashed it on the first day of November, against a bigger and stronger West Point squad; the Irish won, 35-13, and an epoch’s worth of treacly film scores were birthed.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
No. 13 Stanford stymied no. 2 Oregon's vaunted offense and all but ended the Ducks' national title hopes with a 17-14 overtime upset. In what can only be called a copycat crime, an enraged Oregon fan used pesticide in an attempt to poison the famous Stanford tree, and was undeterred when the tree kept yelling "I'm a person! I'm a mascot!"
Despite Alabama's loss to last year's Big 12 also-ran Texas A&M, reports of the SEC's death are greatly exaggerated. And entirely premature. That conference is like the sunrise. You can't stop it.
From a statistical standpoint, there is only a 1-in-7 shot that all three of the remaining unbeatens in college football — Notre Dame, Oregon, and Kansas State — finish the regular season without a loss.
People freaking out that a 12-0 Notre Dame might not play for a national championship are having the wrong nervous breakdown. Those people should have the heebies and/or jeebies about either of the SEC teams in the current BCS top five (Alabama and Georgia) ending up in Miami. Historically speaking, it's not at all unlikely that multiple teams near the top of the polls still lose. Should that happen, and should the SEC step its way into another title game, it might also be totally undeserved.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Facing a hostile road crowd, AJ McCarron led no. 1 Alabama on a game-winning drive, completing the winning touchdown pass with 51 seconds remaining as the Tide beat no. 5 LSU 21-17. McCarron said he was motivated by school pride, the desire to win a national championship, and the pulsing pain emanating from the remote-activated chip implanted in his skull by Nick Saban.
Let's run down the top 10 games, reveal your perfect Saturday, and keep things quick, breezy, and noncommittal, like the cool person at a party of nerds.
The Top 10
10. Pittsburgh at no. 3 Notre Dame
Before facing USC in the final game of the year, Notre Dame has to beat Pittsburgh, Boston College, and Wake Forest to preserve an undefeated record. These are three games the Irish should win, no doubt. But somehow, some way, old-school Notre Dame would lose one of these. Since the David Gordon kick, there's been a medium-to-heavy curse lingering over South Bend, and it seems to be most effective when the opponent is weak. The common wisdom this year is that the defense is too strong to allow a letdown of these proportions, but is it true? Or will the curse find a way through the alleyways of fate and deliver another loss?
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
The New York Yankees are out. CC Sabathia struggled and the offense remained dormant as the historic franchise lost 8-1 and were swept out of the ALCS. Instead of adding to their record 27 World Series titles, the Yankees hit .188 for the postseason, the lowest single-year total for any team with at least seven playoff games in MLB history. The unbelievable loss marks the first time that America's signature team has been swept out of the playoffs since 1980. Their opponent will head to the World Series (which, again, the Yankees have won 27 times).