Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Week 11: That was interesting

An uncomfortable scene and the game within it: It was pretty difficult to root for or against the Penn State players (not the old guys who aren't there anymore), so I just kinda watched and tried to imagine what it'd be like to sit in the stands as a fan. I couldn't do that either, so I just watched the game. Bo Pelini was right (I think) when he said they probably shouldn't have been playing that day given the circumstances. The pregame prayer was the only thing that felt totally real. Then again, I don't know how long would be long enough to let that go away. Hiding from it isn't possible. Anyway, the Penn State offense was about as anemic as always and the Nebraska offense was better enough to build a 17-point lead that turned out to be enough. Taylor Martinez went from good in the first half to awful in the second half; it was bad enough that Rex Burkhead started lining up at QB with Martinez behind him to run the option and try to break something big. That went well, and by "well" I mean "disastrously" since Burkhead got crushed immediately after taking the snap on two occasions and fumbled on one of those two. Still, Nebraska put up 188 rushing yards on an excellent defense -- mostly because of Burkhead -- and is now sitting at 9-1 heading into the Michigan game. It's very possible that the winner takes the Big Ten's second BCS spot. Penn State is still nominally tied for the Leaders East Division lead but finishes at Ohio State and at Wisconsin, and a loss in either game = no division title (probably). One more note on the atmosphere, specifically relating to this line from ESPN's Ivan Maisel:
All day long it continued, this never-ending balancing act between honoring and remembering the victims while supporting the players. The divide was everywhere.
There shouldn't have to be a divide between two things that aren't mutually exclusive. A lot of people pick a side and support it to the extreme because they never zoom out and think about the shades-of-gray stuff that engulfs this world. There are terrible people everywhere; some blame falls on the structure in place at Penn State and the amount of power yielded to the important dudes, but Penn State is not evil. There's an important distinction to be made there.

Oregon is still Oregon: Opinion validated. Woo. What looked like it was gonna be an epic game after a quarter was over after two and a half, which seems to happen a lot with Oregon. Fun fact: Oregon had -1 total yards (!) at the end of the first quarter and still led 8-0 because of a huge (and very un-Luck-ian) pick. After putting up an impressive -21 total yards on the first two drives, Oregon's remaining possessions went like this: touchdown, touchdown, fumble, touchdown, end of half, touchdown, punt, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, running-out-the-clock turnover on downs, game-ending kneeldown. Ridiculous. The crazy thing is that Stanford's defense actually did a really good job containing the Oregon running game and still gave up 53 points. There's a reason Darron Thomas is the starting QB. BTW, Andrew Luck was fine. Andrew Luck was Andrew Luck (outside of the one aforementioned mistake) and probably still deserves the Heisman. But there were way too many mistakes by everybody else, specifically an O-line that wasn't prepared for a decent defense and receivers who couldn't catch; Luck's second pick was a slant that hit the wideout in the hands and turned into an incredibly unfortunate pick six. So ... Oregon is now No. 4 in the BCS and a few percentage points behind Alabama. Trying to decide which team is more "deserving" is pretty much impossible, but everybody calling Alabama's loss "better" because it was in OT should rewatch the Oregon-LSU game and consider that Oregon pretty comfortably outgained LSU and lost in large part because of two fluky special-teams turnovers that led directly to touchdowns. That's not "destroyed," Mark May.

It's all over for Boise: That was ... umm ... surprising. I guess Boise's losses always are, but still, TCU has been relatively meh by TCU standards this year (especially on defense), and the game was in Boise, where the good guys hadn't lost a conference game since the Clinton administration. None of that mattered because Casey Pachall absolutely shredded the Boise defense up and down the field; he had three 70-ish-yard touchdown passes and finished 24 of 37 for 453 yards and five touchdowns. Wowza. And Boise still could've won by stopping an extremely ballsy two-point play ...

... that should've been stopped in about three different ways but instead resulted in Josh Boyce doing a bunch of ridiculous things to get to the endzone. BTW, going for it was unquestionably the right call. TCU's kicker is pretty good but had already missed a PAT in that game, and with Boise's track record at home, you take the win there if you can get it. It's not like it was gonna be difficult to get somebody open against the craptacular (on that day) Boise secondary. As for the final minute, the pass-interference call was awful and a total bailout. The guy was facing the quarterback and watched the ball go 10 yards over his head before contact was made. That's why there's an "uncatchable" exception in the rule book. Again, awful. Even more awful: the game-ending kick. Good Lord. I'm not sure I've ever seen a middle-of-the-field kick miss by 20 yards before. As always, a Boise loss = "rabble rabble four losses in the SEC rabble rabble overrated." Cut-and-paste rant here: Boise is a legitimately elite program. They beat 12 or 13 out of 13 teams a year, most of them much less talented but a few of them comparable; believe it or not, that's pretty typical of most major-conference schedules. Say what you what about "one-game season" or whatever, but when given the chance, Boise has beaten Oklahoma, Oregon (twice!), Georgia and Virginia Tech in the past five years. Losing one game to a not-that-great team every couple years does not undo elite status; if it does, nobody's elite, because everybody puts up a full-of-suck performance every once in a while. Boise has done literally everything within its power to prove itself as a program. Don't confuse the lack of an opportunity to play in a major conference with the lack of ability to compete in one.

Oklahoma State goes ham: Hey, remember when Texas Tech beat Oklahoma? Didn't Texas Tech seem kinda good at the time? I mean ... like ... geez. This is everything you need to know about the Oklahoma State-Texas Tech game: After 15 and a half minutes of game time, it was 35-0. Okie State scored a touchdown on its first nine complete drives and probably could've put up 100 if not for the backups going in with about four minutes left in the third quarter (Brandon Weeden went 31 of 37 for 437 yards and five touchdowns in two and half quarters lol). And this was in Lubbock. Speaking of which, in the three games since beating Oklahoma, Texas Tech has been outscored 159-33 (!!!). No comprendo. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has achieved total offensive domination and has averaged 52 points in its last five games, all against decent Big 12 teams. After a win (probably by 40) this week over Iowa State, it's on to Bedlam for by far the biggest game in school history. Over/under on number of in-game shots of T. Boone Pickens in his suite: 15. For the first time this year, I'm starting to think Okie State might actually be the better team, if for no other reason than the consistently absurd offense. It's pretty hard to get a grasp on Oklahoma when you combine the by-and-large awesomeness with the Texas Tech debacle and the Ryan Broyles injury. Settling it on the field FTW.

Georgia puts a paddlin' on Auburn: Srsly. It was close for a quarter, at which point Georgia scored three touchdowns in a span of about five minutes and made it 35-7 going into the half. Game over. Aaron Murray's line: 14 of 18 for 224 yards with four touchdowns and no picks. He could've gone for 400 and six scores if he needed to, but he didn't since Auburn's offense (195 total yards) wasn't any better than its defense. With that, Georgia is now a home win against Kentucky (lol) away from playing for the SEC title despite losing to the only two teams on the schedule that are currently ranked. Tell me again about how Boise couldn't compete in the SEC plzkthx. To be fair, Georgia definitely appears to be getting better and might actually make life interesting for LSU in the SEC championship game, but the more likely outcome is a 10-3 finish and a spot in the Capital One Bowl. Whether that's enough to save Mark Richt remains to be seen. As for Auburn, a win over Samford this week and a loss to Alabama next week (I'm pretty confident about both of those things) = the 7-5 record I predicted before the season. The surprising part is that they seem to be making little to no progress, especially on offense and especially at quarterback. Getting Kiehl Frazier ready to be the full-time guy next year has to be priority No. 1 in the offseason (unless/until Gus Malzahn leaves, in which case replacing him becomes priorities 1-500).

Look, it's Virginia Tech: I almost forgot about these guys, which makes sense since they played no decent nonconference teams, lost to Clemson by 20 and then played nobody good(-ish) until beating Georgia Tech on Saturday. This is becoming an annual thing: lose a game early, be forgotten, beat a bunch of nobodies and then win a game in November and cause everybody to say, "oh yeah, Virginia Tech is 9-1." So yeah ... Virginia Tech is 9-1 and is probably gonna finish 11-1 and play in the ACC title game. I'm not sure whether that says more about Va. Tech or the ACC; it's hard to get excited about a team that had to squeak by East Carolina and Duke and has no wins over ranked teams. Still, the defense is right at its usual levels (11th in yardage and eighth in scoring) and the offense is becoming kinda-sorta fun to watch, with David Wilson now leading the country in rushing yards (1,360) and Logan Thomas averaging almost four total touchdowns a game over the past month while drastically cutting down on his picks. I don't think there's any question that both Clemson and Va. Tech are a notch behind the other one-loss teams, but at least this year's ACC winner will be (mostly) deserving of a BCS bid, which hasn't always been the case.

Game of the Week: I gotta go with Kansas State-Texas A&M. Hilarious stat: There were 68 points scored after the start of the fourth quarter. That's absurd. To the highlights!

Collin Klein was in beast mode all night: He finished with a not-that-exciting 281 passing yards and a TD but also had five (!) rushing touchdowns, with those coming from 2 yards, 3 yards, 2 yards, 25 yards and 1 yard. Again, beast. It's still hard to believe Kansas State is legitimately good, but just playing a bunch of close games (let alone winning most of them) is a huge step forward from where this team was a couple years ago. Bill Snyder = magician. As for Texas A&M, I mentioned this a few weeks ago but will repeat it here: A&M is the most unclutch team ever. They've led by double digits in the second half of all but one of their losses this year, which is crazy. Against K-State, they led by 14 midway through the first quarter and led by 10 with six minutes left in the game. No lead is safe.

Play of the Week (and best punt return ever!): This one was easy:


Player of the Week: Ummm ... errr ... I dunno. Nobody really jumps out statistically like Alex Carder did last week, so I'll take Casey Pachall for playing out of his mind against Boise. Or Brandon Weeden. Whatever.

This week's totally illogical stuff that happened: Texas put up five points (yup, five) and 247 total yards against a Missouri defense that's giving up 399 yards (73rd nationally) and 24.5 points (52nd) on average. Mizzou also allows 141 yards a game on the ground; Texas had almost exactly half of that, which was in large part due to the top 16 running backs on the roster being dinged up but is still totally pathetic, especially for a team with a run-first quarterback. In other Big 12 insanity, Kansas -- which was allowing a hilarious 50.2 points per game prior to last week -- led Baylor 24-3 after three quarters before completely collapsing and losing in OT.

Florida State can haz field goals against Miami? Sure, now they can make field goals. Sweet, sweet irony. Anyway, this is how you win when you get outgained by 150 yards, produce nothing on the ground and commit 10 penalties: pick off a pass in your own endzone, get an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown (that part is kinda important), count on your quarterback to not do anything stupid and then hold on for dear life at the end. Success! It's crazy to think how meaningless this game has become given what it was 10 years ago and how the ACC seemed to be organized specifically to set up an FSU-Miami title game every year. That game has literally never happened.

Big East Suck Watch: Any hope the Big East had for a champion with 10-plus wins ended Saturday when Cincinnati lost to West Virginia and lost Zach Collaros to an awful-looking broken ankle. Cincy still nominally leads the conference at 3-1, but I'm not sure that lead lasts very long with Collaros gone and a couple relatively tough (by Big East standards) road games coming up. West Virginia is probably the best team overall and has the tiebreakers on both Cincy and Rutgers but finishes at home against Pitt and at South Florida; I'm not counting on anything from anybody in this conference since the whole thing has turned into a football-ized version of coin flipping. Seriously, all but two teams (USF and Syracuse) are within one game of the lead. Long story short: The Big East champ is going to be a (probably) unranked and nondescript team that finishes about 8-4 and gets killed in whichever BCS bowl gets the last pick.

Yup, Houston Nutt deserved to go: Ole Miss lost to Louisiana Tech on Saturday. At home. By 20. The end.

Post-Week 11 top 10: Feel free to argue about everything after LSU. I still have no idea what to do toward the bottom, and that probably won't change since there's a massive drop-off after about the top six.

1. LSU
2. Oregon
3. Alabama
4. Oklahoma State
5. Oklahoma
6. Stanford
7. Boise (the alternatives all have at least one equally egregious loss)
8. Wisconsin
9. Clemson
10. Arkansas


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