FIRST: THE WORD OF THE DAY IS CHEAPSHOT Can you say cheapshot, kids? Try it. Chuuuhhhhheeeaaaaaaappppshot. Good! Want us to use it in a sentence? A cheapshot looks like this:
Purdue's Zack Reckman can say it after a 28-21 loss to Northern Illinois, too. And now, without further ado, the Alphabetical.
A is for Antisapient. Mock him for having a 3-7 week, but reserve your finest invective for Stewart Mandel--the losing, silent combatant in the ongoing Duel of the Jews--for failing to understand the real enemy in the endless war against the spies of the Republic of Crapulence infiltrating the magnificent universe of college football.
But I've yet to hear a logical explanation for why ESPN has chosen to relentlessly interweave snippets from sappy 15-year-old Dave Matthews songs like Ants Marching into its college football broadcasts. It's true that when I hear that familiar fiddle, I do think of college -- as in, people blasting Under the Table and Dreaming in my freshman dorm hall at 7:30 in the morning -- but not football.
There is an obvious reason: they're shooting the gap of demographics, per pinheaded marketeers in Bristol staring at demographics.
Marketing guy one: Hey, college football fans are hicks!
Marketing guy two: Hey, that's kind of right? Except they're shaggy-haired frat boys with outdated musical tastes, too, right?
Marketing guy one: Hey, maybe we can put them both on GameDay, too!
Market guy two: Hell yeah! They'll eat it up like ESPN Mobile subscriptions! (They both continue to suck at life forever.)
That's how it happens. It's a couple of marketing shitheads wanking around and thinking you're an idiot, which by numbers you probably are. (See inclusive group "Humans.") Further amusing sponsorship triangulation for college football viewing: the lead sponsors for the CBS broadcast of the Tennessee/Florida game were Sonic, Natty Light, and New York Life. While driving blind drunk on pissbeer to get fried cheesecake bites, the college football fan will naturally wonder how they will provide for their children should anything happen to them. Of course.
B is for Blue-Penciled. Or edited, as in writing yourself into the present moment. There is the point in the college football season where, decisively and completely, you are shot headlong into the immediate and real present. This is the point where you shake off any real hangover from the previous season and see that yes, these teams are in fact completely different than the previous year, and not just neatly faxed copies of the previous year's editions.
Sportswriters have been carrying around a mimeographed copy of 2004 USC for a long time in their pockets, failing to adjust for the in-conference losses, the slow decline in offensive production, the toll that coaching brain drain eventually takes on even the choicest of programs. (Lane Kiffin counts. Barely.) Three makes a trend, but we are talking about sportswriters here, so it would take four--Oregon State twice, Stanford once, and now Washington--to finally deflate the ever-buoyant balloon popping USC instantly to the top of the rankings each preseason.
The adjustment should be a slight one, yes: from an instant two spot to five, perhaps, especially based on their current qb woes. Maybe it's best summarized in saying that instead of being assumed to be immortal, USC will now be considered "slightly killable." Whatever your terminology, the market correction stands, and will likely affect USC's chances if a BCS logjam piles up at the end of the year. This is not 2004 USC, and for the first time in a long time, a plurality of writers and voters will tighten up their credit lines when evaluating the Trojans.
C stands for Cromptulent. Urban Meyer told Pete Thamel he was shocked at Tennessee's lack of desire to win the game against Florida, but perhaps he shouldn't be given Tennessee's mystifying inability to find someone, anyone, anything (see: giant catfish) to play quarterback for the Volunteers. Jonathan Crompton threw six times in the first half, and when let off the chain in the second threw into double coverage immediately. There's a difference between regular smart, which Crompton reportedly is, and football smart. Reggie Nelson had difficulty qualifying academically off the field, but put a helmet on him and he turned into Football Steven Hawking, seeing ebbs and flows no one else did on the field before they even happened, and doing it all so much faster than anyone else that playing in a motorized wheelchair with near total paralysis didn't hamper him a bit. Wait, that's not right at all...
The point being: Crompton gets the starting job because he demonstrates all of the things required to be a leader on a football team, studies hard, and takes notes. He then takes all of this onto the field and immediately sets fire to it. This was the difference in a game Tennessee could have won: the constant self-immolation of their quarterback under the pressure of the moment.
D is for Decapitated. Dr. Joseph Guillotine was a man of mercy, but he did not actually invent the machine created for swift, efficient, and "painless" decapitations in the name of revolutionary justice. He merely suggested it. Its actual engineers were anonymous men working at the direction of mad revolutionaries who did not sleep, so deep was their thirst for blood and victory. In other words: Sergio Kindle, doing precisely what Will Muschamp was telling him to do for la Republique:
Like a revolutionary beheading seen in real time, it is wrong, so wrong, so obviously beyond the rule of law, specifically the recent and inconsistently enforced rule about leading with the head, or helmet-to-helmet, or whatever poorly interpreted rule a referee would like to cite in levying a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty. It is also gory, and involves a head rolling. (You can't see it, but it's in there. Taylor Potts is a gamer, though: Fifteen staples and some duct tape, and he finished the game after missing a series.)
And like a revolutionary beheading...you'd watch it again, even if you didn't want to, you sick, sick person.
E is for Effort. West Virginia did not lack it, especially Noel Devine, who gamely soldiered after 300 pound Jake Ricks when the universe, needing an excuse to fall on the floor pissing itself with laughter, decided to let the defensive tackle pick off Jarrod Brown and begin progressing down the field with ball in hand at roughly the pace of a juggernaut at an Indian religious festival. Devine pursued, caught Ricks easily, and then, in the words of Brian Cook, "Jake Ricks wore Noel Devine like a backpack" until Ricks collapsed from the stress of running fifteen yards. We wish we had pictures of this, but presumably everyone else was paralyzed with laughter, too, AP photog included.
What WVU lacked was another "E" word, execution. The Mountaineers turned the ball over six times and still somehow lost by a defiantly slim margin of 11 points at 41-30, perhaps because of the 509 yards offense they managed to clock on an Auburn team that, now with operant offense, has decided to neglect things like "tackling" on defense.
F is for Footbaw. Bob Davie was his usual awesome self during the WVU/AU game, saying things like "That guy there is a player" and "The reason that play broke down was because of pressure." Shamefully, ESPN did not have him live and miked for the rain delay, where Mr. Davie would have engaged in a lengthy description of the wetness of the water falling from the sky, and how consistently it fell from down to further downer. Mark, I tell you, that water...whoo, boy, when it hits you, it's wet, lemme tell you that. Just all wet wetness. Footbaw. Wetness.
G is for Grievance. Michael Floyd, please fill out the appropriate paperwork for a grievance against fate, the gods, gravity, and your turncoat of a shattered collarbone. Matt Grothe, you may also submit the appropriate forms for a grievance against the faulty design of the human knee, as your ACL decided to blow like a bad timing belt in a meaningless game against the state of Florida's 1-AA Patsy of Choice, Charleston Southern in the second quarter, no less, before you had a chance to rack up those sweet padded stats you get playing a D-1AA team.
(Please note the fine use of the term D-1AA in the St. Pete Times report on Grothe's injury. Bully for them, since the Newspeak of "FCS: Football Championship Series" has never properly caught on, and never will. Fight the power, Grey Lady of the Retirement Belt! You've got our steel in the battle against gibberish in football terminology.)
H stands for Heart (Total Eclipse Thereof) We thought Charlie Weis would be bailed out by ND's ability to overmatch Michigan State on the deep ball all day, and we were correct, though Michigan State pulled defeat from the jaws of victory with a late pick after driving the ball down into long field goal range to lose 33-30. Notre Dame should be concerned and delighted by this victory, with concern coming from Jon Tenuta's defense allowing 354 yards passing to Michigan State, a team not known for their fondness or proficiency for throwing the ball with starting sophomore Kirk Cousins, and this immediately coming on the heels of letting a true freshman split them asunder against Michigan. MSU was one overthrown ball to a wide-open Larry Caper in the endzone away from winning this game, and that is not, for lack of a better word, good.
Delight should come from your team's newfound sense of style. Remember: Good wideouts are eccentric, but the really excellent ones are full on balls-out fucking insane.
As a former collegiate band member, we heartily endorse this, though let's not try that in, oh, say the Alabama/Auburn game, because you don't really want to see what happens when a collegiate athlete takes on a band in a living, breathing game of "How many fifth graders/band members can you beat up?" For Tate, our guess is seven before the sheer weight of numbers starts to kick in, but for Tennessee's Eric Berry that number is infinite. He will take them all and the three guys who unload the equipment truck, too.
I is for Irregular. See: Florida State. Defensively amnesiac against Miami, offensively inert against Jacksonville State, and headed to BYU with little expected of them, Florida State finally saw what they needed: the kind of anger one can only get when confronted by a crowd of relentlessly polite people. Florida State hug 54 on BYU at home, had 512 yards of offense, and scored 23 in the second quarter to put an upset on ice before the half and simultaneously thin the ranks of potential BCS gate-crashers by embarrassing a team coming off an upset of Oklahoma. Now that they have defied expectations by beating BYU, they will now for their next trick lose to South Florida, because that is what inconsistent teams do: they inconsistentize. Inconsistentify. In....PLAY NOT GOOD, MKAY?
J is for Jackfruit A ridiculously large tropical fruit consisting of a long, greenish pod up to two and a half feet in length, the jackfruit possesses a lobed fruit with a perfumey aroma not dissimilar to a rubberier version of mango flesh. High in Vitamin C, its health benefits are balanced out by the dangers it poses when it falls from trees onto unsuspecting pedestrians. So: an immobile, insensate, and green thing that can only harm someone when dropped from a great height. A perfect metaphor for Boston College's offense thus far, an attack managing 54 yards on the day versus Clemson in a 25-7 loss featuring a halftime total of negative two yards for the Eagles. Jeff Jagodzinski: available for interviews any time, but then again, y'all already knew that, right? (Yes, yes you did.)
K is for Knollege Knollege: teh pursoot of gud ofisheeateing. The continuing comedy of ACC officiating comes to you this week from ECU/UNC, where everyone on the field save for Ron Cherry saw T.J. Yates get nailed by ECU's C.J. Wilson, who was blocked in the back by UNC fullback Anthony Elzy into Yates. Cherry, who had already called the game at his usual trepanned-schoolmarm's pace, made the right call any sane human being whose brain was not actually a ball of writhing rabid minks by calling a ten yard penalty on Elzy actually called a roughing the passer penalty on Wilson, giving UNC the ball on the 7 for what would become a score putting UNC up 31-17 and effectively ending the game.
Even Yates knew it:
"We got really lucky on that one," Yates said. "The guy got pushed into me. He nailed me. I know he didn't mean to do it. He just got pushed in the back. He got unlucky there."
The greatest part, if and when someone posts the video, is how close Cherry is to the play. He is literally standing in the best possible spot to catch the play, and still botches the play. That kind of talent isn't made, it's given to you by god. A shambling, syphilitic, and unemployed god, but still, a god of sorts.
L is for Landfall. At 8:15 p.m. EST in Coral Gables last Thursday, specifically. Place all the brakes of skepticism fully to the floor: they have only faced Florida State (in Late Bowden Decline stage) and Georgia Tech, a team whose last three games against D-1 opponents have been shaky at best. Their defense is still "New Car Smell" fresh in terms of youth, and their offense has been inconsistent rushing the ball.
Qualifiers, listed. Now let us say OMG HOLY SHIT JACORY HARRIS. Even without the Afro Butterfly he has looked positively godly in the pocket, unflappable to ridiculous extremes and possessed with the sick ability to see action unfolding fifteen and twenty yards down the field. He can do this because of a maturing 'Cane offensive line and the emergence of a coherent offense under Mark Whipple, but the suavity cannot be denied, and the iciness is frosty enough to allow for the wearing of Italian finery in the Miami heat. You don't go 20/25 for 3 TDS and 270 yards without some immense degree of confidence in your own pimphood, something Jacory Harris has richly earned thus far.
M is for Misadventure. Our favorite cause of death on a coroner's report because it usually means you expired in a manner they didn't want to print in the paper. Autoerotic asphyxiation? Misadventure. Internal ruptures due to an aberrant form of sexual behavior involving heavy machinery, livestock, or members of the Wu-Tang Clan? Misadventure. A misbegotten caper involving tackling a chandelier because it looked warm and inviting from the balcony overlooking it? Misadventure, or "How we spent our 23rd birthday," depending on if you lived or not.
There is no other word for what happened to Nebraska at the end of the Virginia Tech game other than "misadventure," a two-play anomaly unraveling a taut performance by the Cornhuskers on the road at Lane Stadium. Credit Bo Pelini for not dying of rage on the spot, or simply becoming a fine pink mist surrounded by a sweatshirt when Tyrod Taylor threw the game-winning TD. Raider Red, commenter extraordinaire, left this sage comment on the defensive line staying at home against the scrambling Taylor:
Re: VT’s GW touchdown…I’ve never seen a prevent pass rush before.
Neither have we, but Nebraska simply had a bullet with their name on it. If they don't hold their spots, they flush Taylor into a potential scramble into the endzone. If they do, then he has all day to throw, and...and that happens. We're short on explanations but...oh, Hitler, we knew you'd be able to explain it all to us.
N is for Ninja Throw. The theory behind Joe Cox's suddenly skyrocketing production? Playing night games, where the fair-hared, pale-skinned Ginger Ninja may practice the ancient arts of silently killing opposing defenses without the presence of his oldest enemy: the Sun. Cox passed for 5 TDs in a blow-for-blow duel with Arkansas, who now resemble precisely what Arkansas fans wanted, the exact opposite of a Houston Nutt team in being all passing offense and zero defense.
O is for Oregon, California, Whatever. Lou'd had a long day, too.
P is for Penicillin. Prescribed in huge quantities immediately, if t-shirt is accurate.
Additional bonus points awarded for using the Penthouse Forum spelling of the word to give it that little extra bit of class. I know you won't believe this, but I was talking with my wife one night about our sexual fantasies when in walked Mack Brown and the Pom Squad. I can't spill all the details, but I sure did put up one good Texas Fight! Coach Mack was impressed with my effort, and was even cool enough to autograph my wife's ass! Hook 'em! (HT: Shaggy Bevo.)
Q is for Quadrupling Down: Dave Wannstedt has tried us for the last time, as three weeks of betting on the inevitable pants-loading by Pitt against inferior competition has rolled over from week to week into what is now a thrice-loaded bet lapsing into quadrupling down. This is the stage in any real betting process where thick-necked men would be repo-ing your cars and eyeing your wife's jewelry, but a solid bet is a solid bet, one that looked so good when Pitt's defense looked initially confused by the Navy triple option, but then melted away in the annoying competence of a 27-14 victory. Thus, we quadruple down and bet ONE AMERICAN MUSTACHE on NC State upsetting them this weekend, because this streak of consistent football has to end, because it is the Wannstache, and we know how these things go. (Even if NC State looked awful against South Carolina in their opener...nay, most especially because they looked awful in their opener against South Carolina.)
R is for the Ragone Award For Quarterbacking Death Wish When Dave Ragone played quarterback for the University of Louisville in the 1990s, he refused to slide despite coaches' pleading, either because he thought it was unmanly to slide, or because he lacked eardrums due to them being knocked from his skull in his freshman year.
Either way, he is synonymous in our mind with quarterbacks who play like they think today is a good day to die, and to do it in front of tens of thousands of people on a football field. This week's Ragone Award for Quarterbacking Death Wish hereby goes to Fresno's Ryan Colburn, who decided sliding was for chumps (and those who like intact collarbones and shoulder joints.)
Colburn got the better of that hit, but got the full-body treatment just a few plays later when he was upended and hit by two defenders in the legs. If he didn't spend the next day weeping constantly, we salute you Mr. Colburn, for both surviving the game and for keeping the spirit of Louisville's most willing punching bag alive.
One further note on Fresno: they did manage to turn in a classic bit of WACtion with Boise State, but RB Ryan Mathews has a curious and limiting habit of only scoring touchdowns of 60 yards or longer. Clearly, he'll have to be a more versatile player since he will be unable to score from anywhere past the Fresno 40 yard line, since he's mathematically no good past that point on the field. Oh, and Boise State has no defense outside of Winston Venable, who has an SEC-class name and plays like it, too.
S is for Shiiiiiiiiiiiit (With 12 i's) The setting for Jahvid Best the instant when a defense realizes, in one common 11-man shudder, that he has a lane, and that they might be completely and utterly screwed on a play. There were at least two moments like this in the Cal/Minnesota game, including Best's first TD run, where the play broke, blockers met blockees, and everyone on the Minnesota defense instantly raised the hair on the back of their necks in a universal fear response when the geometry started looking worse and worse for decent pursuit angles.
This, viewers, is what it looks like when eleven men think "Shiiiiiiiiiiit" at once:
Five TDs on the day is individually formidable, but additional interest came from watching the mix of plays balanced between new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig's old Utah attacks and the classic pro-style Jeff Tedford playbook. Cal now runs a qb draw on third and short, something the old Tedford would have considered beneath his pro-robot brain. The evolution is a fascinating one to watch this year, even if it hasn't fully been put to the test in games against Maryland (owned for second year in row by MTSU) and Minnesota, who almost lost to Syracuse (winners, yes, this weekend over Northwestern) and Air Force. Their proving ground lies ahead in the Pac-10 schedule, with the crux coming against a wounded USC squad.
T is for Third Guy. He's our favorite announcer, and just the man to bring you that fleeting moment when Duke was actually tied with President of Awesometown, Todd Reesing, and the rest of the Kansas Jayhawks:
(From SBNation.com's live thread.) We love the immediacy the internet can bring to even crap games like this: "OMG KANSAS AND DUKE ARE TIED!!! Okay, that was for about three minutes. They're now up by 48 in the third quarter. Please disregard." We really shouldn't get excited by this for even a second, but it never fails to work, both because we are easily excited and gullible, and on rare instances because they hold and blossom into upsets you may now watch on ESPN360 with ease.
U is for Unsubstantiated: Teams whose victories against vastly inferior opponents contributed nothing to a greater understanding of a national picture in college football: Alabama (53-7, North Texas,) Penn State (31-6, Temple,) Ohio State (38-0, Toledo, and please don't mention Colorado losing to them validating anything they are, because Colorado is atrocious,) TCU (56-21, Texas State,) Mississippi (52-6, SE Louisiana,) LSU (31-3, UL-Laf.)
V is or Variance. What would be nice to see out of the Florida offense, who relied 2007-steezy on Tim Tebow, Tim Tebow, and Tim Tebow against Tennessee in a manner that even Dan Mullen found repetitive. If Florida does have a concern--and as we wrote yesterday, their concerns at this point are nearly identical to last year's offensively--it is this lack of diversity or creativity in their offense, something Meyer's been griping about openly since the season opener. Several players were flu-stricken, primary receiver Aaron Hernandez included, but if putting unproven by promising talent like Frankie Hammond on the field is necessary, it needs to happen quickly. It took until the Arkansas game last year for the offense to click; the LSU game is in roughly the same spot this year, and feeling things out on the ground in the bourbon and rage fog of Baton Rouge is not something you want to do.
W is for Wily. Al Groh, who instead of coaching has been using his body double, GENERIC WHITE MIDDLE AGED GUY IN SWEATSHIRT, to sub for him in games at the rate of $35 a night plus free pre-game buffet. Groh, meanwhile, is fishing somewhere off Naples, drinking cans of Busch Light, kicking back to some Loverboy, and absolutely dominating some bonefish. After losing to William and Mary and Southern Miss, Virginia will mysteriously bounce back to win eight games upon Groh's quiet return, because all Al Groh does is save his ass every year by winning football games by three points or less.
X is for X'Zavier Bloodsaw. I don't care if your name is any of the following:
Bullet Pussycrusher, Jorge Rapetree, Torch Mankiller, Justice Apeschitt, Mack Ten, Crankbait AIDSface, Mortal Cornblatt, Ache Contusiongiver, Splat Fleshrip, Maxim Knifeprüf, Big Richard Ladymaster, or any other awesome name you happen to construct from murderous and masculine words.
The trump card to all is the real, and the realness is painful when considering the majesty of X'Zavier Bloodsaw, quarterback for the NAIA levelTexas College Steers. The realness of losing 75-6 to Texas Southern was painful for Bloodsaw, too, but it was an improvement from last weekend's 92-0 incineration of the Steers by Stephen F. Austin. Laugh now, all. Bloodsaw will have his revenge, and is already working on his kickass theme song.
Y is for Yesyesyesyesyesyesyes Desmond Howard should consider this look every week on Gameday:
Z is for Zygotic. Describing the current state of development of the Washington football program, which took an immense step forward by dividing into cells and making some room for itself in the Pac-10 by beating USC with play described by Steve Sarkisian thusly:
"I don't know if we played good, but we played hard."
Grammar fail and on-field win is a push he will take all day. Kudos to a program still singed with the scorch marks of a long sojourn in football hell but climbing steadily earthward.