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BUYS AND SELLS: WEEK ONE

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Our weekly tribute to Jim Cramer returns with a heavy heart as we continue to mourn the loss of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. Irwin's death at the hands of a stingray spells doom for all things Aussie in the market this week, since combined with Mel Gibson's arrest most Americans will now think of venom, barbs, fangs, death, and Holocaust denial when it comes to the country of The Fatal Shore. CRAMER FEELS DOWN ON ANTI-SEMITIC STINGRAY INC SELL SELL SELL!!!


Jim: not bullish on Australia this week.

Bizarre conflations of wildlife and Mel Gibson aside...here's week one's investing guide for the high-stakes college football trader.

BUYS

Tennessee. Occupying the uh, duh slot in our rankings, Tennessee finished with 35 points that could easily have become fifty or sixty if they hadn't gotten old school with it and inserted the 2nd stringers in sometime just after the half. Joel's golly neato flash graphics illustrate the case in indisputable fashion: Tennessee owned field position, ran wherever they wanted to, passed wherever they wanted to, and in general looked like the antithesis of the precious Randy Sanders attack that sank them last season.

What's better still: on a day when teams were breaking in new attacks, looks, and wrinkles across the country--Cal's less than successful tweaked offense, Miami's "Erickson '86" sets, and Auburn's "blitz so fast you overrun the play completely" attack--Tennessee looked like the evil, burly villian of past Tennessee teams. Between Phil pumping that big ham on the end of his arm in the air and Tennessee receivers breaking tackles for huge gains off five yard curls in single coverage, the "I Love the '90s" vibe proved contagious in Knoxville.

We shouldn't be happy about this, but we like our thugs in the story to be compelling, skilled, and still detestable. Tennessee's never really lost the detestable factor, but the compelling and skilled bit is back in force. We have them in two weeks in K-vile. Relevant T.S. Eliot quote: "And in short, I was afraid."


Like Pun said, "You ain't even en mi clasa."

USC. Another obvious pick, but anyone taking the contrarian's bet on Arkansas pulling the upset woke up with burn marks on their ass from the USC offense. The run game, which allegedly was in danger, looked fine. The pass game, allegedly in danger, looked better. The forgotten factor for most: the USC offensive line factory, the best in the nation at this point in putting a lot of very agile beef between the opposing defense and the lethal skill players at USC. No data on the defense at this point, though, since Arkansas' offense tried to gum USC death while throwing a few fumbles at the Trojans just to see if it would calm them down. Seeing as they only scored fifty points against the Razorbacks this time, opposing teams take note: that strategy may have actually worked.

Florida. What the hell--through all the flaws, they actually looked like a team with composure, a willingness not to let their quarterback get hammered relentlessly, and a defense capable of taking the ball away when it mattered most. The discovery of a man who can apparently speed-skate on turf, Percy Harvin, helps, too; he had Florida field oohing and ahhing like they'd just discovered fire as he led the team in rushing and displayed a shimmy that even [NAME REDACTED] would have recognized as mindbending talent. They'll face another quality tomato-can of an opponent next week in UCF, so take their stock while it's riding high before a week three slugfest with Tennessee on the road (read: likely loss.)

Oregon. Jonathan Stewart at halfback, Dennis Dixon at qb, and Garren Strong at wideout looked just fine as a fantasy trio versus Stanford in the Ducks' opener. Jeremy Gibbs didn't have a bad game either, just getting a sack, a forced fumble, and blocking a kick in his first attempt at replacing Haloti Ngata at tackle for Oregon.

After this weekend, they look to have the only realistic shot at supplanting USC in the Pac-10, since UCLA's defense remains a phantom (though they shut down Utah this weekend, something Georgia Tech couldn't do, though Chan Gailey equilibrium is more to blame for that.) The Ducks also face Oklahoma coming in two weeks. If they're not heavy faves already, they should be after watching Oklahoma flounder late against UAB before the "All AP, all the time" offense actually bailed them out against the Blazers.


Ladies and gentlemen...the Oklahoma offense.

Ohio State. Sure, Colt McCoy had a fine debut against the Mean Green of North Texas. And yes, OSU played Northern Illinois, who's in the MAC. The matchup of these two Bengal Tiger apex predators against lesser game spurred some of the funniest unintentional comedy of the weekend as Atlanta talk show hosts debated who played the better opponent prior to next week's matchup in Austin. ("The Green win the Sun Belt every year, Jeff!" "The MAC OWNS the Sun Belt's mother, Tim!!!") Who knew that people could get so passionate about the Sun Belt? Besides us, who as we've mentioned before piloted the MTSU Blue Raiders to five straight national championships out of the Sun Belt in NCAA 05 with Coach Pardo Fescue. That's right passion, there....

Anyway...who was more impressive? They both killed their hors d'oeuvres, but OSU has an advantage because of Troy Smith at this point. Colt McCoy will make a mistake that Smith likely won't, and that'll be the deciding factor in a close game between two teams with the same top-tier talent and deep, veteran coaching staffs.

Oh, and Corso's all over the fact that Gene Chizik as a DC hasn't lost a game in 23 games. Did we mention he had Cal running all the way to a national title? He's like the friend in 2000 who wanted to tell you all about this Amazon and Enron stock he was trading. It was gonna be HUGE, man, and you should totally get in on this sweet stuff while you can, man. Corso's the trend canary: if he notices it, the mine's about to explode.


Corso noticed? Shit...

SELLS.

California. As ghastly a first half as anyone could have constructed for Jeff Tedford, but he should have foreseen this with a hearty endorsement from Lee Corso pregame who had them competing for a national championship. Immediate disaster followed, of course: Tedford's offense had beefy dudes in orange ripping it apart with crowbars for the entire first half and then some before John Chavis ate his celebratory cookie bread and called the attack off poor Cal, who then racked up a few dignity points on their way off the map of 2006 national relevance.

We've watched the film a few times now, and this much is apparent.

--Cal's defense failing to tackle is to blame for at least three touchdowns alone, including the neck-breaking coup de grace of Monterio Hardesty humiliating a whipped Cal defense by tossing a pile of Cal defenders aside for the final Vol score. They had no idea what was coming at any point with UT receivers running Fulmer-wild behind the secondary for scores and missing simple tackles on short routes that turned into long scores.

--They've still got qb problems. The onus was on Nate Longshore to do something with the D cueing in on Marshawn Lynch. He didn't, and Joe Ayoob didn't look great either. Tedford's got to get his genius on fast to raise a new qb rapido before they get into the meat of their Pac-10 schedule.

--Cal was living on advance credit. For the most part, any and all preseason hype on Cal bubbled up from their potential: brilliant coach, talent in abundance, and the notion that the evolutionary leap to contender happens magically in 2006. Instead, Cal remains the team that has fallen to USC twice in close fashion, got gunned down by Texas Tech in a bowl game, and now got a Buford Pusser stick-whompin' on Copperhead Road courtesy of Tennessee.

Colorado. Coach Yoda, Dan Hawkins, loses his first game at CU 19-10 to...Montana State. Assume this is complete devastation hangover from the Barnett era, scratch any and all interest in the upcoming CU/UGA game in Athens, and hold off on buying that copy of "Zen and the Art of Archery" for another month or six.


Where's the chapter on losing to 1-AA teams?

South Carolina. As bad as South Carolina's line looked at times last year--and yes, they looked just fine against Florida, pre-empting the inevitable comment--they looked worse against Miss. State in a glorified rugby scrum of a game, giving Blake Mitchell no time to find receivers downfield and open up the Gamecock attack. Next week's USC/UGA game looks to be four quarters of stuffed runs and quarterbacks falling backwards. The OBC said it himself at the Florida pregame celebration of the 1996 team: "It's a lot harder to score fifty in the SEC than it used to be." At this rate, the Gamecocks should hit fifty somewhere around week four.

On a slightly connected note, Quentin Culberson has become the designated wearer of the "Jerious Norwood Squandered Talent" moniker for Miss State players, a defensive monster who's bound to go high in the draft and be the only MSU player mentioned positively by name in game broadcasts.

Maryland. William and Mary managed to control the clock on the Terps. Do not buy green bananas at this point for this Maryland team, who's brain fog continues in the beginning of a crucial year for Ralph Friedgen.

HOLDS.

Notre Dame. Seemingly defensible on offense, though we cannot claim data on the offense since excepting a few nice runs by Tashard Choice and the requisite jump balls to Calvin Johnson Notre Dame did not in fact face an offense on Saturday night. They did instead face a complex performance art installation of an offense, created to signify the futility of sport in a materialist world by mimicking action while taking none, expending effort uselessly, and making show of accomplishing nothing. Chan Gailey's devastating masterwork of absurdist playcalling doesn't belong on ESPN Classic, but would be better suited to MoMA, where legions of soon-to-be underemployed art majors may pore over it with impunity.

(Apologies. We just can't overstate how much Chan Gailey sucks at his job. Tech had an easy shot at beating Notre Dame--Notre fucking Dame!--and spent the second half...honestly, we don't know what they were doing. No goddamn clue. If it wasn't performance art, then it was just ineptitude. We watched the game in a crowded bar and couldn't hear the announcers, but when we saw Gailey put on a headset in the third quarter we knew all was lost for the Jackets. )

With the lack of data on D and the lackluster performance on offense, saying Notre Dame's a title contender of any sort defies logic, especially with Penn State and Michigan on the docket for the next two weeks. Hold until next week at the earliest.

Florida State Jeff Bowden's still calling the plays. Yup. With five minutes left and the ball in Miami's half of the field, Bowden called three straight passes and ran no time off the clock in a 13-10 grinder of a game. The calls included two patented JB jump ball specials. Atrocity, but still not as bad as Miami's offense, where no one really seemed to know where to be at any given point in a play.