Delayed by events unforeseen to us...this week's Buys and Sells with Orson and guest editor Hannibal Montegna. Enjoy.
Ohio State. Sell based on challenge of tough road trip and little proven offense last week; buy based on demonstrated existence of offense and superb performance of defense against Washington's tricky spread led by Pacific Time Zone Tebow Jake Locker and his little sprinting midget friend Louis Rankin. Like a rich man in the realm of dating, it is not necessary for Ohio State to be good at scoring to get dates; we only need know that they can actually find the right slot for tab A when they need to to put them on the buy list, so shiny are their pants and Tag Heuer watch.
"Oh, man, I was really surprised. I've never seen Todd like that," Wells said of the 23-year-old junior replacement for Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith.
A ringing endorsement it is not, but it's enough to put the IBM of college football back in the buy column. (Since the actual "Big Blue" is 1-2, its natural rival will have to suffice. That sound you hear are the scouring winds of infinity ripping through the fabric of reality. Pay them no mind.)
Kentucky. When Andre Woodson's final bomb to Steve Johnson arced gracefully through a respectful audience of Louisville defenders, we thought to ourselves: my, that's a great crowd. Really.
Some venues the people are classless: talking over the music, answering loud cellphones, smacking their lips and bringing food into the show while calling out the requests for songs no one wants to hear. (Hey! HEY! PLAY "MY HUMPS!" I DON'T CARE IF THIS IS A DECEMBERISTS SHOW HIPSTER DICKFACES!!!!)
But Louisville...those people on the Cardinal defense are an audience: interfering with little, letting you the bits you like letting you string thing out, and finally, when you want to finish with a flourish, allowing you to do something that takes a while like a play-action pass for the win without so much as breathing on the artistes carefully going through the steps of the play. Just a great crowd to play with, them.
We've typed two paragraphs of elliptical slagging of Louisville's 30.7 ppg-allowin' defense in order to say that yes, Louisville's defense is in a shambles, and no, it doesn't mean Kentucky won't do very well in the SEC East, since no one else is playing much defense at all, and even if they are (South Carolina, Georgia) the offenses have succumbed to points anemia and given them little help. In the East, who scores wins, something Kentucky (48.7 ppg) can do in buckets.
Boston College: BC’s schedule was set up backwards, giving the Eagles three straight conference games to open the year with the intent of killing Jeff Jagodzinski with worry – coaches are inherently neurotic and early tune-ups are valued as protection against a slow start submarining an entire season. Michigan is still alive for the Big Ten title, right?
If the Eagles opened up in the same fashion as the Wolverines against Wake Forest, N.C. State and Georgia Tech, they’d be dead ducks in the ACC. But Matt Ryan has been mostly terrific (two 400-yard games sandwiching a much weaker game in a defense-driven win over N.C. State), the run defense has been inpenetrable (40.3 per game against good backs) and all three games were decided by at least two scores. Now comes the soft part of the schedule: BC’s next four games are Army, UMass, Bowling Green and Notre Dame.
Florida: It is still possible that Tennessee is a bad team with untenable youth, but that would ignore the Gators’ own overwhelming youngsters – Tebow, his backup, Harvin, James, Fayson, one starting o-lineman (and the backup who replaced him), all three linebackers and the top three cornerbacks are all in their first or second year in the program. And they dominated their first test of the season. The defense may prove vulnerable at some point against an offense with a running game, which Tennessee definitely lacks, but who’s going to defend the offense? The Vols played well until Tebow started throwing it over their heads, then had no chance short, long, left, right, or anywhere in between.
Auburn: Can’t block, can’t throw. Can run a little, but not enough to overcome the fact a fifth-year senior is being lustily
booed in favor of an equally error-prone true freshman. Hey, at least he’s only a freshman!
But Auburn still has five SEC games in front of it that it would enter as an underdog right now, four of them on the road, all against currently ranked teams with established quarterback situations. I would describe the Independence Bowl at this point as "wildly optimistic."
Washington: You could see the Husky fan base deflate when Ohio State opened up the second half Saturday by blocking a field goal, scoring on a bomb to Brian Robiskie, forcing a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and scoring another touchdown. It was visible: in about 40 seconds, an entire stadium sat down and grieved, "Oh shit, we’re still just an
annoying 5-7 team." If UCLA doesn’t snuff out whatever embers remain this week, USC will next week.
Louisville: I held on the Cardinals last week because the atrocious defense against Middle Tennessee seemed like a first half aberration, and whoever has designs on beating them has to keep pace with Brian Brohm, anyway. Turns out, this is not such a chore when Louisville’s defensive backs repeatedly decline to keep pace with opposing receivers. Middle Tennessee, for the record, lost its opener to Florida Atlantic (though the Owls did shame Minnesota
Saturday, whatever that’s worth) and managed 90 yards total offense against LSU. Louisville’s offense has to go into every game expecting to need six touchdowns to win, and walking on such eggshells – even Brohm-backed eggshells – is no way to build a portfolio’s value.
Michigan State: This seems like about the time of year the Spartans nosedive in horrific,
psyche-scarring fashion. A loss at Notre Dame Saturday in any fashion would qualify as a catalyst.
Auburn: Seconded just so we can say that Brandon Cox has played the two worst games we've seen by a quarterback this year: the USF game was negligent, but the Miss State one was simply farce. 42 yards of passing and he keeps his job, meaning that freshman backup Kodi Burns, when asked for the salt at the table, tosses the ketchup through a nearby window in response.
Arizona. Ah, the whimsy of picking Arizona to "get over the hump" in year three! Fit existing patterns (year three is the big year for any new coach!) and a flashy new offense (Mike Leach-style five wide whizzbam!) into one Procrustean bed of optimism and you get a loss to UNM, an 1-2 record and an upcoming hammering at the hands of Cal this week, and little glee left in the tank.
Kansas: Statistically, KU has been amazing – the Jayhawks’ average score is 53-7; they’re fourth nationally in scoring offense and scoring defense. The skeptic: Mangino and Co. have been feasting on Central Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana and Toledo. The believer: a blowout is a blowout, and CMU and Toledo aren’t as bad as all that – both could be bowl teams.
And again, they were appropriately destroyed with such jowelly rage the athletic department face-stompers are determined to erase all evidence from the record. One more wipeout is on deck against Florida International, then a chance to build some real cred with the underbelly of the Big 12 slate: Kansas State, Baylor, Colorado. Could wind
up winning six again, or – because they miss Oklahoma and Texas from the South and play in the sickly North– could win ten.
Purdue: Kansas east, because they’ve played the same teams in a different order: Toledo, I-AA patsy, Central Michigan, all crushed by the Boilers in similar fashion as their prairie doppelgangers (save aslightly more forgiving defense as the blowout goes on in Purdue’s case). The next two weeks could be worth a couple more deceptively hollow runaways against
Minnesota and Notre Dame, either of which is capable of giving up 60 to this passing game if their starts are any indication. Reserve judgment until Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa and Penn State come in a five-game stretch.
Texas: I’d sell on a team with a weaker brand that had struggled to put away Arkansas State and Central Florida, as the Longhorns have now, in addition to trailing disappointing TCU 10-0 at the half. Essentially, UT has played one good half all season and five bad-to-mediocre halves. But Texas is also one of the very few teams with the talent to sleepwalk at times and turn nasty when it gets into conference games. This is not preferable, especially when the most obvious answer to mediocre play is that the team is just mediocre. The ‘Horns’ past success
has earned them a chance to improve before they’re dismissed - which will not be long if the questions linger.
UCLA: The Bruins were thoroughly routed by previously 0-2 Utah in the stunning score of the weekend (44-6) due to a barrage of mistakes and ill-timed misfortune. They moved the ball pretty effectively, though, so where this looks like the potential beginning of another downward spiral under Dorrell, LA should still have some confidence if it
hangs on to the ball.
Arkansas A team so unpredictable and unpredictably managed predicting how the name of the team will be spelled next week constitutes a gamble of sorts. "RAyz0rbax" for the internet age? Ray's Oar Backs to endorse sculling accessories? Raze Our Backs, as put forth by internet wags bemoaning the continuing mania of the Nutt era in Fayetteville? Speculation is all you have with Arkansas, who hemmed and hawed about McFadden's injury in the 4th quarter against Alabama and flipped lids by passing on their final third down of the game, nearly tossing a pick and stopping the clock in process--giving Bama the time they needed to win with 8 seconds left.
Still, they almost had the game in hand against a vastly improved Crimson Tide. Oh, and Houston Nutt's crazy. This team could beat LSU. They could lose to Ole Miss. They could be at your door demanding cake and punch, for all we know. Avoid depending on them to even exist.
Georgia Tech. We would call them maddeningly inconsistent, but the enthusiasm needed to drive the whole bit up to maddeningly requires passion, something Chan Gailey football teams appear to lack. Their initial victory over Notre Dame holds little value as a quality win now; their loss to Boston College holds little in the way of hope of change, as Tech's offense charged headfirst into a wall all night without adjusting and showed zero inclination to trust Taylor Bennett with the game, leaving the defense to blitz into the able hands of Matt Ryan again and again. From arched eyebrows of interest to "meh" flicks of the hand in a week: this is Georgia Tech football being put on the hold list, and this is how it usually happens.