Monday, October 29, 2012

Week 9: Oh that's exactly what I expected

O RLY, NOTRE DAME? Yeah ... about that. I was generally right about Landry Jones and the Oklahoma wideouts having their way with Notre Dame's secondary but definitely wasn't right about the amount of scoring that would produce; Oklahoma ended up with 364 passing yards (at a pretty solid 7.0 yards an attempt) and all of 13 points. It could've been a totally different game if Oklahoma had punched it in on either of its two red-zone possessions in the first half (the second one actually produced a touchdown that got called back on a hilariously late holding penalty) rather than kicking two field goals and going into the half down 10-6, but alas. Notre Dame's defense did basically what it's done all year (a couple sacks, 50 rushing yards, etc.), and that plus two big plays equaled a win just like pretty much all the others this season. Speaking of which, ND's offense was only slightly better than usual, with about a third of the total yardage coming on a 62-yard Cierre Wood touchdown run and a 50-yard bomb in the fourth that set up the go-ahead score. Everett Golson went the usual 11 for 25; amazingly, this team is getting basically nothing from its quarterback and is gonna go into the USC game 11-0 with a legitimate chance to play for the national title. In other words, 2012 Notre Dame = 2002 Ohio State. The 30-13 thing was a little deceiving since the last 10 of those ND points were a byproduct of Oklahoma having to go balls out in the last five minutes and turning it over on the wrong side of the 50 twice. Oklahoma very easily could've won that game; Notre Dame actually did and looked like the slightly better team in doing so, which wow. As for Oklahoma, the realistic best-case scenario at this point is winning out and hoping to go to a BCS game at 10-2 since it's highly unlikely K-State is gonna lose twice, which is what'd be necessary for Oklahoma to win the Big 12. Commence laughable complaints about Bob Stoops only have a .900 winning percentage.

Cocktail party craziness: I have no idea how Georgia won. I really don't. I mean other than the turnovers. Obviously. So here's the thing: For the first time all year, somebody totally stopped Florida's running game (2.0 yards a carry) and forced Jeff Driskel to throw, which didn't work out so well since the O-line can't protect him very well and he can't hold on to the ball. Driskel personally accounted for five turnovers (three fumbles and two picks), all of which nearly resulted in Will Muschamp's head exploding and one of which was in the end zone right before the half and directly cost Florida at least three points. Georgia didn't really have any more success on offense than anybody else has against Florida (273 total yards and three picks by Aaron Murray) but put together one amazingly fortunate drive that included an iffy defensive holding call on a blown-up screen on a third-and-10 play, an incompletion that was overturned to a rather generous catch after a review and then a broken-tackle touchdown. And that's to say nothing of the most ridiculously fortunate turnover in the history of turnovers:

Wowwwww. And thus ends Florida's national title hopes since Georgia -- the team that lost by four touchdowns to South Carolina three weeks ago -- now just needs to beat Ole Miss and a historically terrible version of Auburn to win the SEC East (and then get killed by Bama). Crazy. BTW, Georgia should send the SEC schedule-making guy a bottle of some super-expensive bubbly for leaving both Bama and LSU off the regular-season schedule and thus making a 7-1 conference record possible.

The stupidity of the universe: Marcus Lattimore should've been playing in the NFL after his freshman year; there hasn't been a running back at his level of physicality since Adrian Peterson. Instead he's had his legs destroyed twice in the last 18 months, with the most recent destruction being one of the most horrifying injuries I've ever seen (no hyperbole):

Ughghghghgh. According to South Carolina, the awfulness encapsulated in that video has been officially diagnosed as a hyperextension with accompanying ligament damage. The bad news is that he's obviously gonna need extensive rehab and will be out for at least a year; the good news is that it's not a career-threatening injury in a sense that there was no permanent nerve damage or anything along those lines. FYI, Lattimore never took a redshirt and thus has a medical redshirt available. Given the time frame for his recovery, it sounds likely that he's gonna miss all of next year and would need said redshirt in order to finish his career in the distant future of 2014. I mean, he could enter the draft but would be costing himself a crapload of money by doing so; he'd be a top-half-of-the-first-round pick if healthy. As for South Carolina, the loss to Florida last week pretty much eliminated any chance of getting into the BCS, so the difference between 10-2 (the best-case scenario) and 9-3 (the worst-case scenario if the offense can't do anything against Clemson) is largely inconsequential, especially compared to the look on Lattimore's face when he ripped his helmet off knowing that the next month of crushing SEC fools had just turned into a year and a half of pain and rehab. Yeesh. BTW, today is the guy's 21st birthday.

Ummm nooooo: All that "Mississippi State controls its own destiny in the SEC West" crap -- which was ridiculous to begin with considering the backloaded schedule -- was forgotten after about 19 minutes Saturday, at which point it was 21-0 Alabama. A.J. McCarron did whatever he wanted, T.J. Yeldon did whatever he wanted and Alabama's defense did whatever it wanted (Mississippi State finished with 256 total yards and didn't score until it was 38-0). It was never legitimately competitive at any point, which duh; Mississippi State is a pretty good team but nowhere close to the level of Alabama. I mean, the Fightin' Cowbells' best win this year is either an 18-point victory over Auburn or a 10-point victory over Tennessee, and those might be the two worst teams in the SEC (Kentucky doesn't even count). Alabama's closest game this year: the 19-point win over Ole Miss (followed by the 27-point win over Michigan woo). If LSU doesn't get any closer, nobody will until maybe the SEC title game. Alabama wins ALL OF THE THINGS.

K-State is probably for real: Texas Tech hung in for about two and a half quarters and then got run off the field, partially because of turnovers and partially because the defense just couldn't stop Collin Klein. He ended up with the usual line: 19 for 26 for 233 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 83 rushing yards and two more TDs. Amusing stat that I'm pretty sure I've seen somewhere before: Texas Tech outgained K-State and lost by 31. Yeah. A bit of explanation: All three of Tech's turnovers got run back into or near the endzone, which eliminated a bunch of hypothetical Kansas State yards. What's more useful is the stat that says K-State scored on its last eight possessions (!!!), which was obviously more than sufficient since the defense allowed a total of one drive longer than 11 yards from the time it was 10-10 until the time it was 55-17. So ... considering that Texas' defense is terrible, TCU can only score against Texas Tech and Baylor has lost four straight, the hypothetical losses on K-State's schedule are getting pretty hard to find. They get Oklahoma State at home this weekend; get through that one and 12-0 (and maybe a spot in the national title game) becomes a legit possibility.

So long, Oregon State: Let's be realistic here: There was no chance Oregon State was going unbeaten this year. None. Sean Mannion and the defense yadda yadda yadda; the difference between Oregon and Oregon State is massive, hence Oregon State's average margin of victory this year of 7.9 points against a schedule that's included one team currently ranked in the BCS (that being Arizona), and there are just too many other good-ish teams in the Pac-12 for one good-ish team to survive against all of them. Speaking of which, Washington apparently is quite good at beating undefeated-and-overranked Pac-12 teams, which is weird since Washington can't actually score against anybody. Seriously: U-Dub is the only BCS-conference team in the country that hasn't scored more than 21 points in a game this year. Even Auburn has scored more than 21 points! How is this possible?!? Anyway, Oregon State still has a decent shot at 10-2 (assuming Sean Mannion/Cody Vaz don't throw four picks in any other games); I don't see ASU and Stanford as being unbeatable. And that'd probably be good for a BCS bid since, given the mediocrity of USC, the Big Ten (the eligible portion), the ACC beyond Florida State and the Big East beyond maybe Louisville, the BCS bids will be there for the taking. Really, the team that was hurt the most by Oregon State's loss was Oregon, which would've benefited significantly in the computers from an end-of-the-regular-season game against an unbeaten top-10 team. Alas.

Oregon lol: Colorado put up about as much of a fight as expected, which is to say none at all. It was 14-0 less than three minutes into the game, 28-0 after a quarter and 42-0 after 19 minutes. Colorado had acquired 14 yards when it was 41-0. Oregon finished with 617 total yards, including 425 rushing yards (!!!); Colorado had 245. Oregon had the ball for just over 27 minutes and scored 70 points, which lol time of possession. I honestly have nothing insightful to add from a useful-takeaways standpoint but really wanted to document some of the statistical hilarity. Actually, I will add this: Oregon isn't gonna get jumped in the polls and thus will probably go to the title game by going 13-0 since that would mean a win over a 9-3/10-2 Oregon State team and probably two wins over USC. Kansas State and Notre Dame have already played their most meaningful games; Oregon hasn't, which means the strength of schedule and computer rankings will only go up, and that will probably be enough to close the pretty small gap that currently exists in the BCS.

DeAnthony Thomas Ridiculousness of the Week: Just watch and be entertained:


USC confirmation and Arizona coronation: So USC isn't that great. I've been suspecting as much for a while but figured the talent on offense would probably be sufficient to beat everybody except Oregon; apparently not. To be fair, they did put up over 600-plus yards on Arizona's craptacular defense, but the running game is meh (which makes it unreliable) and the defense can't consistently stop any good offense. With the Oregon game still to come, it's very possible that USC won't even play for the Pac-12 title, although that would require either UCLA beating USC or somebody else winning out. Oh, and the BCS is gone barring a win this week, which no. As for Arizona, RichRod FTW. UA is now fourth in the country in total yards (553 a game) and two plays from being 6-1 after going 4-8 last year and generally being awful. Of the three losses, only the one to Oregon didn't come down to the last play, and that game was more competitive than any other Oregon has played this year. Arizona is legitimately good, mostly because the offense is doing all the things the Michigan offense was just starting to do in 2010. The reasons: Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey. An athletic AND accurate quarterback + an uber-talented running back = good times for RichRod. The guy knows how to run an offense. And as statistically terrible as the defense is, Jeff Casteel knows how to coach the 3-3-5 and knows how to make adjustments: USC had five three-and-outs in seven full second-half possessions and scored a total of 15 points, and the Oklahoma State game earlier in the year was very similar. Here's a crazy prediction: If Arizona beats UCLA this week, the team that has never won an outright Pac-10/Pac-12 title will play for one (and lose) against Oregon.

Player of the Week: Marqise Lee. Geez. He had 255 receiving yards at halftime and broke both the USC and Pac-12 record when he hit 299 yards on his 14th catch of the game with 11 minutes left in the third quarter (insert head-asploding gif here). The guy looked to be about two standard deviations of speed faster than anybody in the Arizona secondary, and the result was stuff like this over and over and over:

He finished with 345 yards (breaking the previous conference record by 52 yards) and a respectable two touchdowns.

The game that didn't matter: Ohio State! Penn State! With nothing on the line! Penn State actually hung in for two and a half quarters before a pick six, an Ohio State stop inside the 10-yard line and two soul-crushingly long touchdown drives featuring a lot of Braxton Miller (and little of anything else) opened things up a little bit; it was 7-7 at the half and 28-10 at the end of the third. Urban Meyer apparently figured out whatever it was Penn State was doing defensively since Ohio State did literally nothing on offense over the first six possessions and then scored four touchdowns on drives totaling 309 yards over the next five possessions. That was to be expected, I guess, given that Ohio State's done pretty much the same thing to everybody else (except Purdue, inexplicably). The real problem for Penn State: the lack of a running game, which really hasn't existed all year. Matt McGloin is probably the best passer in the conference, but getting 69 non-sack rushing yards on 24 carries is just lighting downs on fire. The pick six didn't help, either. Regardless, Penn State is 5-3 and is probably gonna end up no worse than 7-5 (the remaining schedule includes Purdue, Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin), which is insane. Ohio State will definitely be 10-0 heading into the Wisconsin game and therefore will probably be 11-0 heading into the Michigan game. No comment.

Woo Leaders Division: Wow. Purdue lost to Minnesota by three touchdowns (!) in a game that was 34-7 at the half. Minnesota!!! Wisconsin lost to Michigan State in overtime and lost quarterback Joel Stave to a broken collarbone, which might be problematic with games left to play against both Ohio State and Penn State. Amazingly enough, Indiana might actually win the division. Yeah. Indiana. The Indiana that's 1-3 in the conference and lost to Navy last week. They're averaging just under 35 points a game and have games remaining against Iowa (which can't score), Wisconsin (pending), Penn State (ineligible) and Purdue (winless in the Big Ten). Basically, wins the next two weeks would probably put Indiana in the Big Ten title game (the tiebreaker against Wisconsin would be the difference) and result in everyone everywhere laughing at the Big Ten, albeit somewhat unfairly since Ohio State and Penn State are both pretty decent but cheaty. I'm for serious here: If Wisconsin doesn't win the division, Bret Bielema should probably be fired because there has never been a more winnable division in the history of divisions.

The Big East! Louisville and Cincinnati actually played a pretty dang entertaining game Friday night; Louisville survived and is now the frontrunner since Rutgers, while still undefeated in Big East play, just lost to Kent State by 12. And yes, I realize that Kent State is 7-1. I don't care. Any team that loses to Kentucky by 30 is unquestionably bad. A couple questions: Why did Rutgers let Kent State run for 242 yards (kneeldowns excluded) at over 5.2 yards a carry? Why did Gary Nova throw six interceptions (!!!) against a defense that was 68th in the country in pass efficiency? I don't get it. Anyway, Rutgers still has to play at Cincinnati and at Pitt, which means Louisville might actually have the conference wrapped up before going to Piscataway for the regular-season finale. And realistically, Louisville is probably gonna be unbeaten at that point (?) despite having nothing more impressive on its resume than ... uhhh ... the five-point home win over North Carolina? Wow. Louisville might actually be a pretty decent team (and Charlie Strong almost definitely is a pretty good coach) but won't ever have to prove it except against teams that are presumably comparable just because they're having similar success against the same steaming pile of mediocrity. Upshot: Whichever teams wins the Big East might or might not be any good since the only real points of reference are in the Big East.

Uhhh Texas? Mack Brown was one good drive away from having Austin Torch & Pitchfork set up shop on his lawn Saturday. Fortunately for him (and Texas), Case McCoy put together said drive and then threw the go-ahead touchdown pass on a spectacularly designed play-action fake on third-and-goal from the 1 with 12 seconds left, and that was just enough for a three-point win over a Kansas team that finished with 39 passing yards (lol) and came into the game below 90th in both scoring defense and total defense. Wha??? David Ash was downright bad; he got yanked after going 8 for 16 with two picks, both of which came inside the Kansas 20. Texas' only touchdown drive before the fourth quarter started in Kansas territory and consisted entirely of four running plays. It probably shouldn't have been as close as it was between the two aforementioned picks and Texas getting stopped on a fourth-and-1 at the Kansas goal line in the third quarter, but still. Between the early four-play touchdown drive and the two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, Texas had eight possessions, and none of them produced more than 27 yards. Against Kansas! In conclusion, Texas makes no sense whatsoever.

That's the end of that: Ohio isn't unbeaten anymore after a 23-20 loss to Miami (Ohio), a team that even with Saturday's win is 4-4 with an offense that's 80th in total yards and a defense that's 115th in total yards allowed. I have nothing to add here. It's the MAC.

Post-Week 9 top 10: So ... I have no idea what to do after the top two. I still think Florida's the best of the rest (games featuring nine turnovers, including the one in the video at the top of this post, tend to be not entirely representative of overall quality) but am much less sure about that now than I was a week ago; probably any of the teams after Oregon and before Florida State could justifiably be ranked third, with Notre Dame/Florida State representing the threshold between the "really good" tier and the "good" tier populated by the assortment of these-guys-definitely-have-weaknesses teams. South Carolina probably deserves a spot based on resume but just isn't a top-10 team without Marcus Lattimore, as unfortunate as that is. And please ignore everything below Georgia.

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. Florida (?)
4. LSU
5. Kansas State
6. Notre Dame
7. Florida State
8. Oklahoma
9. Georgia
10. Ohio State (ugh)


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