Monday, November 19, 2012

Week 12: Commence head asplosion

O RLY??? So ... Oregon. I don't even know. Well, I kinda know: For the first time all year, Oregon's O-line got physically dominated by the other team's front seven. That's literally the only possible way to stop that offense since it allows the secondary to do secondary stuff rather than having to freak out about stopping the run, and the results were 3.1 yards a carry outside of Marcus Mariota's 77-yarder (which produced nothing due to a fourth-down stop) and 14 points. Oregon had scored 30 or more points in 23 straight games and hadn't scored 14 or fewer since losing to Boise State in the 2009 (!) season opener; no mas. Mariota picked a suboptimal time for the worst game of his career, which that definitely was. I mean, yeah, he got stuck in a lot of third-and-long situations, but he finished at 5.6 yards an attempt with a touchdown, a pick and a couple terrible throws -- one on a fourth down and one on a quick read to DeAnthony Thomas after the aforementioned 77-yarder -- that were the functional equivalent of turnovers since Oregon should've had points both times and instead got none. And speaking of that 77-yard run, watch DeAnthony Thomas:

AAAHHHH TURN AROUND AND BLOCK SOMEBODY!!! That would've been a relatively significant touchdown since ... like ... ya know. Without it, this -- which probably wasn't even a touchdown -- turned out to be the difference between probably winning it all and probably not even playing for the Pac-12 title (Stanford will represent the North barring a loss to UCLA next week, which is very possible):

Guh. Game of inches, man. Game of freakin' inches.

And for those who think I'm an idiot (read: everybody), plays like those are why, IMO, performance matters more than results: Results are often largely dependent on variable stuff like officials' crappy pass-interference/goal-line calls and kickers missing chip-shot field goals and kicks hitting uprights and whatnot. Performances, um, aren't. In that regard, I take back everything I said about Oregon being able to put up a crapload of points on Alabama but still have little doubt that Oregon would dominate everybody else except maybe LSU and Notre Dame, the two teams that could regularly duplicate what Stanford did via front-seven awesomeness. Note that I still think Oregon would beat those teams more times than not but not necessarily dominate them. As for Stanford, it's probably worth wondering what would've happened against Washington and Notre Dame had Kevin Hogan been playing all year. As it is, a team that lost (allegedly) the best quarterback in the history of ever, a couple All-Pac-12 linemen and a couple good receivers is two wins over UCLA away from going to the Rose Bowl while Oregon goes to the Fiesta Bowl or the Alamo Bowl or something. Crazy.

Uhhh K-State? That made no sense whatsoever. A Kansas State loss wouldn't have been the most head-asploding thing ever; a loss by four touchdowns to a Baylor team that can't stop me (by myself) from scoring at will pretty much was. K-State finished with 76 rushing yards at 2.6 a carry, and that was problematic sine Baylor was absolutely having its way with a K-State defense that had held the four ranked teams on the schedule to an average of just under 22 points. Kansas State hadn't trailed by more than a touchdown all year but had three first downs when it was 28-7 midway through the second quarter, which LOLWUT. To be fair, Baylor has the best offense in the country according to FEI, but ... I mean ... 580 yards and 52 points (all in the first three quarters)? That's a paddlin'. Also a paddlin': The line play. The aforementioned nonexistence of the running game was due entirely to the O-line just getting dominated (by Baylor!). Collin Klein did basically nothing on the ground and ended up forcing a couple throws late when scores were necessary, producing an unimpressive line as follows: 27 of 50 for 286 yards with two touchdowns and three picks to go along with 39 rushing yards and one score. He probably needs a pretty good game next week to win the Heisman, with the alternative being Johnny Football becoming Johnny Heismanziel forever. As for K-State ... ummm ... yeah. Every presumptive weakness ("presumptive" because those weaknesses were only hypothetical before Saturday) was exposed times a thousand; that tends to happen when losing by a billion to a team that might not even go to a bowl game. So is K-State (a) the team that beat Oklahoma on the road, destroyed West Virginia and Texas Tech and has a defense in the top 10 in rushing yards allowed and the top 15 in points allowed or (b) the team that just had unspeakable things done to it by a .500 version of Baylor in a game that wasn't really even competitive? I don't know, man; all I know is that a team that can do that even on its WORST DAY EVER isn't that great. As for what's left, a win over Texas next week would still yield a BCS game, which is something, whereas a loss would probably yield no Big 12 title, a much-less-appealing bowl game and a Fiesta Bowl appearance for Oklahoma (which has been to the Phoenix metro area for approximately 17 postseasons in a row). Bill Snyder is still a wizard.

Game of the Week: Holy pants. Oklahoma gave up 49 points and 778 yards (!!!!!) and won! And that's the story of West Virginia's season. Landry Jones went 38 for 51 for 565 yards and six touchdowns, the last of which came on a fourth-and-3 with 24 seconds left and Oklahoma trailing by the totally normal score of 49-44:

Clutch. Amazingly, Jones' line wasn't even the best of the day since Tavon Austin got relocated to running back for the day and went for 344 yards (lol) and two touchdowns on 21 carries for a respectable 16.2-yards-a-carry average. Defense: There wasn't any. As mentioned above, West Virginia put up 778 total yards and 9.5 yards a play, just slightly better than Oklahoma's 662 total yards and 8.1 yards a play. Pick a number and it was ridiculous. And since nobody could stop anybody, West Virginia made it mildly interesting at the end but just ran out of time and ended up throwing a hail mary from midfield that, if successful, would've produced the most appropriate ending ever. Alas. So ... Oklahoma finishes with Oklahoma State and TCU; wins against both would probably put Oklahoma in a BCS game, as usual. West Virginia is now 5-5 after being ranked in the top five three weeks ago and would be in danger of missing a freakin' bowl game if not for the regular-season finale against Kansas. I don't even know what to say about that other than to offer an open suggestion to Dana Holgorsen to rehire Jeff Casteel or find somebody vaguely comparable.

OMG things in Los Angeles are very important: USC had two turnovers in its first eight plays from scrimmage against UCLA and trailed 17-0 by the middle of the first quarter, and that was pretty much it; USC was definitely the better team for the latter 40-ish minutes of the game but never had the ball trailing by fewer than 10 the rest of the way. The reasons: Brett Hundley, Johnathan Franklin and a UCLA defense that got a crapload of pressure and forced a lot of mediocre throws (Matt Barkley finished 20 for 38 with thee touchdowns and two picks). Hundley and Franklin cumulatively averaged 6.9 yards a play at a pretty consistent clip, with the result being one first-half punt in five full possessions, a 24-0 lead early and only a brief period of third-quarter difficulty that turned out to be irrelevant. Thus UCLA is now claiming to be #kingsofLA, which lol OK I guess. Regardless, UCLA is headed to the Pac-12 title game against either Stanford (if UCLA loses to Stanford next week) or Oregon; I can totally envision "the flu" going around this week at UCLA since only one of those scenarios yields a realistic shot at the Rose Bowl. As for USC, seeing as how Barkley is done for the year with a separated shoulder and the lines aren't very good (there's little depth or experience at this point), I don't think a win over Notre Dame is likely, meaning a 7-5 finish is. That apparently won't be enough to get Lane Kiffin fired; another 7-5 season might be. That said, it'd be interesting to know how much better this team would be if Khaled Holmes at center and Devon Kennard at defensive end hadn't missed every meaningful game. An elite player on each line would've made a pretty substantial difference in at least three of the four to-date losses, and 9-2/10-1 would be, like, obviously preferable to 7-4 en route to 7-5.

Good times: Notre Dame is now atop ALL OF THE POLLS after destroying a bad Wake Forest team by roughly a billion. I was going to point out something about the improvement in the Notre Dame offense but have to qualify any appearance of improvement with the reality that Wake Forest is awful defensively; Florida State put up 52 points, Clemson put up 42, etc. Wake is 71st or worse in every category of relevance, which makes 38 points and 500-ish yards allowed the norm. Still, I do think the ND offense is figuring out a few things offensively, specifically some ways to get Tyler Eifert the ball (he's had a season-high six catches in each of the past three games) and the usefulness of the deep ball with defenses loading up against a pretty effective run game. Defensive caveats taken into account, Notre Dame has put up 21 or more points in four straight games after doing so just twice in the first seven games; that's not bad considering that the defense gives up about 10 a game. They've also had an amazing string of good fortune that started with Pitt's missed field goal, continued with the refs inexplicably not noticing that ND had two guys with the same number on the field, reached new levels with Oregon's off-the-upright missed kick Saturday night and has now claimed Matt Barkley, who was pretty much the one reason a lot of people expected USC to beat ND. I've said it before and I'll say it again: 2012 Notre Dame = 2002 Ohio State, which means an inexplicable double-overtime win over Alabama for the national title is pretty much guaranteed.

Tresselball redux: Ohio State finished with 206 yards and 14 points in regulation and still beat a Wisconsin team that hadn't lost at home in November in, like, many years. It was pretty much the exact opposite of most of Ohio State's other games this year seeing as how those have generally featured pretty mediocre defense and a lot of yards/points via Braxton Miller going off. Wisconsin actually rushed for over 200 yards and finished with around 350 overall but wins the Inconvenient Fumble of the Week award for this:

Derp. Wisconsin ended up getting the ball back and scoring the tying touchdown with about 30 seconds but could've won it on that possession if Ball hadn't gotten a little greedy trying to break the all-time NCAA touchdowns record (he tied the record earlier in the game). Alas. So Ohio State is the outright winner of the Whatever Division and is still unbeaten heading into the Michigan game. That cheating worked out pretty awesomely (I'm not sure if I'm even being serious or sarcastic about that since it netted Urban Meyer and a potentially undefeated season but also some massive violations that are rendering said potentially undefeated season totally meaningless).

Catch of the Week: I'm more impressed with the hanging-on-while-getting-hit part than the one-handed-catch part:

Stefon Diggs is pretty good for a freshman, BTW.

Good defense: Clemson led NC State 13-0 midway through the first quarter, trailed 24-13 about eight minutes later and led 48-24 about 15 minutes after that. The final: Clemson 62, NC State 48. Clemson finished with 754 yards; NC State had a meh 597. Tajh Boyd went 30 for 44 for 426 yards and five touchdowns as well as 103 rushing yards and three more touchdowns. So yeah: Tajh Boyd accounted for eight touchdowns against an actual team. Dang. Clemson might actually be pretty good but is gonna end up either 10-2 with no wins over teams above .500 or 11-1 with one win against teams above .500 depending on what happens next week against South Carolina. Does a moderately competitive loss to Florida State combined with a bunch of wins over bad ACC teams (and Auburn) really warrant a BCS bid? I don't even know.

Player of the Week: Montel Harris. Remember Montel Harris? He plays for Temple now and went absolutely HAM against Army, finishing with 351 rushing yards and seven touchdowns (!!!) -- and he could've had nine touchdowns if Matt Brown hadn't vultured Temple's first two scores. Absurd. Similarly absurd: Temple finished with 534 rushing yards. Maybe even more absurd: Temple threw a total of four passes and still barely threw fewer than Army, which got to seven only by throwing three in the fourth quarter. Anyway, in the Not Against Army Division, both Tavon Austin and Tajh Boyd probably deserve recognition; see above.

Shameless Heisman Hype Play of the Week: This is Johnny Manziel attempting ("attempting" being the operative word) an extra point:


WACky WACkiness: So Louisiana Tech apparently won't be going to a BCS game. Louisiana Tech also won't be winning the WAC after losing in overtime to Utah State, which is gonna finish unbeaten in the conference since next week's regular-season finale is at home against Idaho. BTW, Utah State led that game 41-17 with a minute left in the third quarter; Louisiana Tech then went off for 24 points in 16 minutes, the last of which came on a field goal as time expired in regulation. And with all that, Louisiana Tech finished 11 points below its season scoring average (lol), which was problematic since Utah State had the aforementioned 41 points in three quarters and scored again in overtime. Utah State also finished with 646 yards, which whoa. So Louisiana Tech = 2007 Hawaii except without the unbeaten record and BCS game.

Oh yeah the Big East exists: Rutgers' win over Cincinnati means Rutgers and Louisville are gonna play for the Big East title in two weeks regardless of what happens in the interim. I know you don't care; I just felt obligated to include this here since the Big East vaguely resembles a major conference.

On a related note: This AP lede pretty much says it all:
Georgia Tech, a team that was routed at home by Middle Tennessee and fired its defensive coordinator at midseason, will get a chance to play for a BCS bowl bid.
Woo ACC! To be clear, that team won't actually get to play in a BCS bowl since Florida State will probably win the ACC title game by five touchdowns.

Press Conference of the Week: Ah, Les Miles:

Never stop being Les Miles. That said, I'm not entirely sure why LSU -- coming off five straight reasonably impressive performances against ranked teams -- needed 17 fourth-quarter points to come back and beat Ole Miss. That made about as much sense as everything else that happened Saturday.

And more: Why was South Carolina tied 7-7 with Wofford in the fourth quarter? Why did South Carolina get significantly outgained by a Wofford team that attempted three passes (seriously) and turned the ball over three times? I dunno.

Keep fightin' the good fight: Colorado played one of its most competitive games of the year against Washington -- it was only 7-0 U-Dub at halftime, for some reason -- and still lost by four touchdowns and got outgained 476-141. Assuming a not-very-close loss to Utah next week, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that Colorado will finish with the worst statistical offense and the worst statistical defense in the country (and that included four provisional FBS teams for 124 overall). In summary, Colorado is terrible.

Helmets of the Week: Virginia Tech busted out the following for Saturday's game against Boston College:

I mean, obviously; is there any other week-of-Thanksgiving helmet option when your mascot is a huge turkey?

Post-Week 12 top 10: Err ... umm ... yeah. All that stuff I said at the top. I realize Notre Dame has won all its games; that's great and wonderful and yadda yadda yadda. There's still no chance I'd take Notre Dame to beat Alabama or Oregon on a neutral field because Alabama and Oregon are, IMO, better teams based on their bodies of work (and by "work" I mean "performance over the course of the season"). That's all there is to it. Past performance is better than past results as an indicator of future results, hence the ESPN story the other day (I can't find it now) that polled Vegas and had Oregon as a hypothetical 14-point favorite over Notre Dame and Alabama like a 9.5-point favorite. Rankings are intended to be an indicator of which teams are better than which other teams, and records are a crappy way to assess "better." Anyway, the LSU/Notre Dame/Florida State tier is harder to differentiate, and I could justifiably put Kansas State just about anywhere behind Notre Dame. The bottom four teams also could be rearranged in just about any order depending on your preference/mood/whatever. I just don't see Georgia as a legitimate national title contender; the loss to South Carolina was awful, and if not for a glorious gift from the scheduling gods of no Alabama, no LSU and no A&M, Georgia would be sitting at 8-3 right now and hanging out with Michigan in the rankings. But seeing as how chaos reigns, Georgia will undoubtedly beat Alabama and then play Notre Dame in the most inexplicable title game ever.

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. LSU
4. Notre Dame
5. Florida State
6. Florida
7. Kansas State
8. Oklahoma
9. Texas A&M
T10. Georgia
T10. Ohio State


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