The off and on appearance of our ode to Jim Cramer, Buys and Sells, covers the milquetoasty action of week three:
Michigan. Workmanlike is an overused word, but we'll take it here and apply to Michigan if only to say that in a way, they remind us of a construction worker in a barfight: calm, been there before, and composed enough to remember that the pool ball in a sock isn't as useful a weapon as a well-wielded beerstein and a level head. The defense, offense, and everything in between is grumbling along nicely at this point, leading us to the mediagasm that could be the Michigan/Ohio State game, which really could have national championship implications of the first order, provided neither team remembers they're in the Big Ten and improbably drops a game or two in between. In nine months, "Ron English ______ "will begin popping up in the birth registers around Ann Arbor, just as "Jim Herrmann" suddenly gained popularity as a name for abused pet cats and individual pieces of toilet paper in the area last year.
Jim Cramer, drunk off the excitement of a hugely important UM/OSU game.
Stat of potentially dubious importance: rushing yards yielded by the Wolverine defense. Their season high to this point: 42 yards, given up to Vanderbilt. This either means Michigan has not faced a rush offense worth diddly-poo at this point, or they are really good. TBD.
Washington! Gets the superflous !, just like Jeb! Bush's campaign signs, since the gift-wrapped excitement around either must come with a heavy does of irony given the bland contents of the actual package. Tyrone Willingham's team beat Fresno State and made a death-defying comeback against UCLA this past weekend. Isiah Stanback now takes the spot reserved preseason for Trent Edwards of Stanford as "underappreciated conference qb," thanks both to his dual-threat numbers and Edwards' participation in the ongoing conflagration that is Stanford football. (Again: never, ever, ever hire anyone named "Buddy" as your head coach. Ever.)
They're not a Pac-10 title contender. But they now look like they're going to have a winning record, an estimable accomplishment given the fact that Rick Neuheisel gambled away the entire athletic budget in Monaco in a single night and sent the program into a Top Gun flat -spin scenario where the coach landed safely and the program ended up ejecting headfirst into the canopy. The Huskies are as good a junk-bond Pac-10 buy as there is, what with Arizona State flaking out in a low-intensity players' revolt, UCLA still breaking in a new Olson, and Oregon State heading for another 5-7ish year.
The real lesson from this: if you have a golf-addicted coach, send him to a place with a high annual rainfall, where he will be forced to spend time inside and doing football-type stuff. Ty Willingham should never venture to the east of the Olympias again.
Thank god for precipitation.
Texas. Now that they're running the ol' single wing again, should be nigh-unstoppable for the rest of the season. Henry Melton would like the ball more, please. With cheese. And jalapenos on top. And a side of cookie bread, too.
Ole Miss. Jeez, they're really kicking some ass out there. Actually, this isn't true. We just typed it to avoid the Orgeron's wrath. They're actually mentioned down in the sells, and mentioned emphatically. Don't read this out loud...he may be listening.
Arkansas. If you're a charter member of the Houston Nutt fan club (which we are,) then your dessert for the weekend came in the Alabama/Arkansas game. The formula for a big Nutt-y win unfolded with mathematical precision:
1. Being completely outplayed by the other team for 58 of the 60 minutes of regulation.
2. Catching every break imaginable, including fluky turnovers, missed kicks by the opposition, and subintelligent strategic decisions made by the other side. (Shula's playing for the field goal with a kicker whose confidence was visibly shattered by that point in the game.)
3. Winning in a manner that could only be described as de puga, or "from the buttocks/ass."
The from-the-ass element comes with Alabama missing a potential game-winning field goal in overtime and then dying when Mitch Mustain completed a brain-frying touchdown on an audible after doing nothing over the last four mintues of the game but give Alabama every chance imaginable to win the game. His last seven passes went something like this: 1/7, 3 ints, 1 td. Equals...victory.
The peak of the Houston Nutt Victory game came with the reviewed call in the fourth quarter and the reaction shot. We can't recall the exact details of the review, but Arkansas won the call, and the split-screen reaction nearly made us drop our drink. On one side, Mike Shula, just a few eye-twitches away from catatonic calm on the Alabama sideine, turning to his assistants to confer; on the other side is Nutt, whooping, hollering, fist-pumping and twitching like a hillbilly who just fell drunk into a nest full of yellow-jackets. Nutt, at times like that, resembles nothing as much as a single Lynyrd Skynyrd fan rocking out to the guitarapalooza section of "Free Bird" alone in his bedroom.
Houston Nutt: And this bird you cannot change.
Arkansas lines up to take their karmic enema for this theft of a game next week at Auburn, but after that they live right, swinging through a breezy four-game stretch that should have them hanging somewhere around 7-2 headed into a home game against Tennessee. They're another SEC junk bond with high yield potential, especially given the vicious defense and the warp-shift running of Darren McFadden, who's getting better as his toe heals up.
Speaking of schedules with a creamy filling....
Notre Dame. We're now on record as thinking that this team, they are not good. Credit for not laying down and dying against Michigan State, but that role was already being played by John L. Smith and his team, who took the field for the second half like they'd just finished watching Dying Young at the break.
Their toughest game until USC--that's their last game of the season on November 25th--is probably Purdue next week, and given the carpet-bombing they endured last season by the Irish, they'll probably be in the Drew Stanton Fetal Position® by the second half. Cruising, racking up poll votes, and headed to their inevitable BCS bowl appearance...that's what you may blame John L. Smith's...let's find the mot juste here...look what you made us do. We're going to have to type this, and it's all your fault, John L. Smith.
From here on out, you shall be known as [NAME ALSO REDACTED]. Your shame shall be boundless, and your teams shall find no purchase on the rocky soil of our polls or radar.
O perdurable shame.
Ole Miss. Got blown out by Wake Forest. There's adjectives, clauses, and evidence that could support this further, but we repeat: lost to Wake Forest. People of Oxford, do not stare at, address, or even embrace the Orgeron for the remainder of the season. We suspect that he is dangerously unstable, angry, and ever-so-slightly radioactive from anger. Thank god they fired David Cutcliffe before things really started going downhill...
Caller 5, welcome to the O Show. I'm so about to kick your ass.
Michigan State. Yup.
North Carolina. Clemson scarred them this weekend. The worst thing about this team is the sensation that they're playing underwater, running with lead-plated jackboots, whatever or however you care to phrase the fact that they've recruited slower and slower players until they've arrived at this lowly state of flailing helplessly after Clemson players. Not just a bad team--a genuinely outclassed team in terms of talent and ability. Bunting and his otherwise superb mustache are already functionally extinct.
Arizona State. It would be true to form to bet on Dirk Koetter roaring back to coach this team to their equilibrium state of 8-4/7-5, but Rudy Carpenter's in a very, very tenuous headspace now that the coach has mismanaged his personnel, allowed players to dictate who starts, and made an imbroglio that may last the entire season with his team. Defeated in very certain terms by Cal this weekend, faces Oregon and USC in the next two weeks, and looking wobblier than Johnny Majors leaving Applebee's.
Georgia. As compelling a storyline as the qb controversy may be, the single biggest weakness of this Bulldogs team is their offensive line. Right now their offense is in a very toxic place, chemistry-wise: two young and inexperienced qbs who will hold the ball too long throwing to receivers who drop passes all balanced out by three immensely talented running backs trying to eke out yards behind a line that does not seem all that enthused about run-blocking. This means people getting hit, getting hurt, and doing it all at a disturbing rate. Mark Richt is as steady a hand as one could want on the wheel, but Georgia's headed to 8-4ish, even with their mad demon defense.
The offense phoned in three quarters of the Kentucky game, while the defense nearly blitzed Kentucky back into the thick of things before the Kentucky O-line bonked and allowed the Gator d-line to play Hop on Pop with Andre Woodson for the second half. We're beginning to suspect that they might be really good--really good--but our inner David Hume cuts off our optimism before it starts. The importance of beating the eyebrows off Alabama can't really be overstated--the lingering demons of the Gator teams of the 2000s include a series of letdown games, faulty execution at critical moments, and the inability to come out and simply annihilate opponents of worth. A proper exorcism at home is needed.
Missouri. 4-0, but as happens in the early bits of a long 12-game season, means next to nothing at this point. Begins their Big 12 schedule in earnest next week versus Colorado, who may not be deplorably bad after all.