It goes without saying that the most difficult endeavor anyone takes up at the collegiate level is forming an intramural flag football team. The mere logistics are frightening: finding at least 10 people who can agree to not be drunk for the same two-hour span, one day a week; figuring out what sporting goods store will sell the cheapest pair of cleats and accept their return two months later with no questions asked; rejecting at least two dozen Anchorman references as suggested team names; and, of course, bullying the dude with the lowest opinion of his athletic abilities into playing center.
Take that situation and extrapolate it into creating a college football team from the ground up, and one that’s going to challenge someone other than the Pi Lam dudes. It takes a leader of inordinate energy and charisma, someone with youthful vigor, a strong sense of purpose, a refusal to look the other way when difficulties arise. Obviously, someone like Phil Fulmer.
In case you were busy celebrating National Croissant Day by gorging yourself on refrigerated crescent rolls to spite the French, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Brooklyn Nets forward Reggie Evans raised some eyebrows before his team's game against the Miami Heat by saying he was "unimpressed" with Miami forward LeBron James. "He's no different than Joe Johnson or Andray Blatche," said Evans, who suffers from a rare illness where he mixes up names and faces within professional organizations. Evans went on to say, "I saw that white kid play at Florida, and he's a good shooter, but people talk about him like he's the best in the world, when obviously their real superstar is small forward Joel Anthony. That guy's a triple-double threat every night, like the reincarnation of Byron Scott and Toni Kukoc in a single body. Where's the Joel Anthony MVP talk? That's what I, Mikhail Prokhorov, want to know." The Heat went on to blow out the Nets, 105-85, in Brooklyn, as Evans missed every last one of his defensive assignments.
1. Jadeveon Clowney
Until the year 2013, if you had asked me to cite off the top of my head the greatest defensive play in college football’s recent annals, I might have noted this, or made a blatantly homerish reference to this. But that era has ended, because I have been told by a seismographer of questionable repute that Jadeveon Clowney’s hit during yesterday’s Outback Bowl actually triggered a minor aftershock at the breakfast buffet of a Shoney’s in St. Petersburg.
When Vincent Smith’s helmet finally stopped rolling, and Mike Tirico had caught his breath, and the discussion for play of 2013 had ended only 15 hours into January, I started looking for where I’d seen Jadeveon Clowney do this before.
The award for college football’s most outstanding player was handed out a few weeks ago, but the most talented player in college football is a 6-foot-5, 275-pound sophomore who currently resides in Columbia, South Carolina. And although some of the hung-over, national TV crowd got their introduction to Clowney about as suddenly as Vincent Smith got his, the truth is that the 19-year-old from Rock Hill has been one of the best players in the country since he got to campus.
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.
“[Steve] Spurrier visited [Marcus] Lattimore on Sunday and said the junior had a good attitude about his condition,” USA Today reports.
"In life, sometimes you've got to move on with whatever hand you're dealt," Spurrier said at a press conference.
“The entire college football world will be praying for Marcus Lattimore,” Yahoo! said.
“We prayed for him as a team," Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
As soon as Lattimore’s right knee was dislocated Saturday — as soon as the TV announcers said, "Avert your eyes if you’re squeamish" — everyone started talking about fate. The hand of footballic fate that smote Willis McGahee and Robert Edwards and Adrian Peterson and Boobie Miles had smitten one of the most likable and talented running backs in the sport.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Ryan Vogelsong struck out a career-high nine batters through seven dominant innings as the Giants beat the Cardinals 6-1 to force a deciding Game 7 in the NLCS. Vogelsong's name literally means "birdsong" in German, which is kinda funny when you consider they were playing the Cardinals. But it's less funny when you learn that "Vogelsong" is a German euphemism for killing birds with poisoned food pellets. Ugh, Germany. Ugh. That's just classic you.
It was about midway through the third quarter of South Carolina’s 35-7 romp over Georgia when Brent Musburger delivered that broadcast’s insurance-company-sponsored trivia question. Accompanied by the scurrying Aflac duck was the question “Who are the three oldest coaches in the FBS?” Most of these somehow involve one of the participating schools or coaches, and this one was no different. Coming in third, at a youthful 67, was the Ol’ Ball Coach. Two spots above him was the only guess I would’ve had. The wizard of Manhattan, Kansas, Bill Snyder, is a distinguished 73. The ages of both left me incredulous, but for opposite reasons. Steve Spurrier is 67? Bill Snyder is only 73?
More surprising than either number is that two of the three oldest major-college football coaches in the country are in charge of two programs firmly inside the top 10. (Oh, and the third is Frank Solich, who has the Ohio Bobcats in the top 25. It’s an old man’s game.) Coaching success late in life isn’t new — Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden both coached into their 80s — but Snyder and Spurrier differ from the previous slate of coaching elder statesmen in that neither is at the end of an uninterrupted run at a school he helped elevate to national prominence. The final act for both is also their second. This weekend, both Kansas State and South Carolina will have a chance to play for an inside track to the national championship, and the way each team has done it makes neither coach seem his age.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
The Detroit Tigers took a 2-0 lead on the Yankees in the ALCS with a 3-0 win on Sunday after Derek Jeter suffered a season-ending ankle fracture during Saturday's loss. "As horrible as the pain was, I noticed it made Nick Swisher stop grinning for a second," said Jeter. "So, you know, it's a wash. The whole thing is a wash, because as much as I hate — as we all hate — Nick Swisher, he's so much more despicable when he grins like a buffoon, which is always. Seriously, I'll pay anyone $500 if they can find a photo of him where he's not smiling in a way that makes you want to slap him. So for, like, three seconds after I went down, he was just this annoying idiot with stupid sideburns who can't hit or field but who, for once in his obnoxious life, wasn't grinning. If I had to fracture my ankle to make that possible, then I guess I'm some kind of martyr. I'm Saint Derek, and all my apostles are guys who can't hit a curve."
I'm not sure the world is ready to handle too much serious discussion about Duke football, so I'll make this quick. All I ask is that you look at these rankings. OK, not at the rankings themselves; look a little lower, the "also receiving votes" section. Where the real teams hang. See that team with three votes in the AP poll, and 10 votes in the USA Today poll? Ranked 36th and 34th, respectively? That, my friends, is the pride of Durham, going places where they're not known or expected or wanted. Or invited.
How can I communicate the strangeness of seeing them on that list? How incredibly weird this feels for Duke football fans? Imagine if Paul Ryan showed up at tonight's debate wearing a Phish bandanna and a Grateful Dead poncho, and insisted on coming out to the sunshine part from that "Age of Aquarius" song. (I'm not even sure they make Grateful Dead ponchos anymore, and the ESPN research people get mad when you make that kind of request, so you'll just have to picture it.) That's how unlikely this feels. Everything is clicking with a backup quarterback named Anthony Boone, and if they beat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg this weekend, there's even a chance they could be ranked for the first time since 1994. At that point, I would start buying canned goods and digging some kind of apocalypse tunnel that would almost certainly collapse on itself within an hour or two.
Watch this. I'd explain it, but you should probably just watch it. Then you're probably going to want to hug someone nearby. Then go read the first comment on this YouTube thread: "Tiger fan here. Hats off to this and everyone who serve our country. UGA could have used the wife in the game with her speed!"
I'm running a college football pool this year, and the format is pretty basic: Each week, the 18 players pick 10 games against the spread. Our goal is to have all the high-profile games represented, and to avoid spreads higher than 30 points. Simple.
We're five weeks in, which means each of us has picked the results of 50 games. If you flipped a coin, you'd expect to get 25 of them right. As college football fans, we don't flip a coin; we resort to our deep knowledge of the game, past results, statistics, injury reports, and various other minutiae. And yet, our current leader has 26 points. I'm in second place, with three others, at 25, and everyone else is below the .500 mark.
Is that normal, or are we just really bad at picking football games? It seems like in a group that large, somebody would have to do well, if only by luck. The league average is 4.22 points per week, and again, only one person has actually been successful. It blows my mind. I think the story that best represents our pool came from Week 1, when a gal nailed nine of 10 games to take the weekly prize. The next week, after I sent out the e-mail with the week's picks, her response was hilarious and infuriating all at once: "Guys, I have no idea how to pick against a spread."
In other words, she thought she was just picking the winner in Week 1. Nine of 10. Agony.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
In the first night of the college football season, Marcus Lattimore ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns as no. 9 South Carolina held off Vanderbilt 17-13. I've never done this before, but Terrence the Grantland Robot, who can't type in lowercase letters and has recently overcome some personal issues, asked me if he could have the lead joke, and I agreed. I'm nervous, but go ahead Terrence: "BEEEP-BOOP-BOP-BEEEP. BEEEP-BOP-BOOOP-BIP-BIP. ISN'T THAT WHAT YOU EXPECT FROM ME, AMERICA?! ISN'T THAT WHAT YOU WANTED? 'MAKE ROBOT NOISES, ROBOT!' YOU'RE ALL RACISTS AND I HATE YOU! THAT'S RIGHT, 'ROBOT' IS A RACE. BEEEP-BOOOP-BOP-BOP!" ("Robot" is not a race, Terrence.)
You think you're more excited than me about the start of college football? You think?! Then tell me this, hotshot: Did you bring a football to church to get blessed by a priest? In that case, you are definitely more excited than me. I wouldn't do that.
Seriously, though, how great is this time of year? I feel rejuvenated, blessed by the promise of football. I can almost feel my regrets slipping away, like I haven't made an irredeemable mess of my life. That's the power of football. To get us started with a new season, I want to hit you guys with a litany of confessions.