Sunday, December 02, 2012

Week 14: The end (kind of)

Insert Gary Danielson joke here: So ... Alabama. Wow. I don't even know where to start; what a freakin' game. Alabama trailed 7-0 and had the lead less than 12 minutes later, trailed 21-10 and had the lead about 12 minutes later, then trailed 28-24 (after Georgia went ham on the ensuing possession) until doing this:

And then it was over (the interception). And then it wasn't over (the interception wasn't really an interception). And then it was over:

Wow; that was supposed to be a back-shoulder fade and ended up in the worst place at the worst time (or at least with not enough time) for Georgia. Commence FIRE MARK RICHT RABBLE. So Georgia finished with 394 total yards (about 150 more yards than Alabama's defense usually gives up), got the lead early after an epic fake punt, returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown, finished with one turnover to Alabama's two and still lost (albeit barely). And Alabama finished with 512 total yards, 350 rushing yards (!!!) and 32 points to accompany arguably the best defense in the country and ended up five yards away from 10-2 and the Cotton Bowl. Really, the blocked field goal kinda skewed the numbers; if that kick gets through (everything else being equal), Alabama wins 35-21, which whatever. But Georgia still did some legit things: again, the 394 total yards, five rushing yards a carry (sacks excluded) and four drives of 75-plus yards, three of which ended with touchdowns and one of which ended on the play above. I'll admit it: Georgia's pretty good. I was skeptical mostly because of (a) the Florida game, which Florida would've won if not for Fumblegeddon, and (b) the rest of the schedule, which was an implosion against South Carolina and basically nothing particularly impressive. But that was impressive. As for Alabama, I stand by my assertion from last week that the defense has regressed at least a little. LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia averaged 415 yards and 24.7 points against Bama, with most of that being generated through the air. I mean, Bama's defense is obviously good; it might not be as good as the rankings indicate, though. That said, Notre Dame's offense isn't A&M's or Georgia's and might not even be LSU's, and Notre Dame is all that matters at this point. It's also worth noting that Alabama had the aforementioned 512 total yards, 350 rushing yards (!!!) and 32 points -- all of them earned -- against a defense that came into the game in the top 20 in both points and yards allowed, which probably had something to do with having a borderline-dominant running game and the national leader in pass efficiency in A.J. McCarron. Geez. Upshot: Alabama is one win and one laughable 2013 schedule away from being a legit dynasty (pending Nick Saban getting offered a trillion dollars to coach the Browns). It is what it is.

Photo of the Week: Nick Saban is McKayla Maroney:

Somebody start a meme, plz.

Uhhh Nebraska? Good Lord. I mean ... like ... Good Lord. Wisconsin's drives went as follows: touchdown, punt, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, missed field goal, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, punt, touchdown, run-out-the-clock stuff. Wisconsin finished with 539 rushing yards (!) at 10.6 yards a carry (!!!); those numbers are not skewed but in fact entirely indicative of Nebraska's complete and total inability to stop every play from being a first down. I mean, 31 points oughta get you within 38 points usually, right? More amusing numbers: Wisconsin attempted 10 passes and finished with 640 yards. Wisconsin's third-string running back finished with over 200 yards on nine carries (lol). And so on. I have no idea how Bo Pelini still has functioning blood vessels. So Nebraska is 10-3 after having allowed 38, 63 and 70 points in the three losses. I honestly wonder if any team had ever won 10 games after having allowed 60-plus points twice. I can say for certain that Wisconsin is the first Rose Bowl team ever with five or more losses, which gack. That said, the later-in-the-year Wisconsin was infinitely better than the start-of-the-year Wisconsin, which had no offensive line (before firing its O-line coach) and therefore no offense whatsoever, although those seemingly inexplicably crappy games against Oregon State and Utah State seem slightly more explicable now that it's known that Oregon State and Utah State were both pretty good this year. The later-in-the-year Wisconsin averaged over 200 rushing yards a game over the final seven weeks and lost three games, all in overtime. Actually, Wisconsin' five losses this year were all by three points and all to bowl-eligible teams, which makes 8-5 seem slightly less blah. Record aside, it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility that Wisconsin could win the Rose Bowl, although Stanford's defense no way resembles Nebraska's.

In other Rose Bowl-related games: Stanford got a slightly better game from UCLA the second tie around since UCLA had, you know, motivation to win rather than motivation to lose. And it almost mattered; the "almost" is necessary because Kevin Hogan did this to tie it up early in the fourth quarter (go to the 0:54 mark) ...

... and UCLA kicker Kaimi Fairbarn (since UCLA is required to have oddly named Polynesian kickers) did this on last relevant play of the game (go to the 1:20 mark):

D'oh. For all that awesome stuff that'd been written about Stanford's defense over the previous two weeks, UCLA ended up with 461 yards, 194 of which came from Johnathan Franklin, and probably would've won if not for an extremely costly Brett Hundley pick that got run back 80 yards and turned what should have been a 21-7 UCLA lead into a 14-14 tie. Assuming Hundley improves even marginally going forward and Jim Mora doesn't leave for Auburn/Tennessee/wherever, UCLA oughta be in pretty good shape, especially with USC being somewhat of an unknown in the short term. Stanford already is in pretty good shape; they ended the regular season with four straight wins over ranked teams (although I'm unclear as to how UCLA went from 17th to 16th in the rankings after losing by three touchdowns in the regular-season finale), and they're going to their third BCS bowl in a row, which ... like ... what? The post-Jim Harbaugh drop-off has been amazingly minimal/nonexistent, although there must be nobody at Stanford noticing since the announced (read: ridiculously exaggerated) attendance was just over 31,000. For an on-campus conference championship game! Come on, people. Actually, if Hogan had been playing all year, Stanford might have run the table; the Washington loss was by four and the Notre Dame loss was in overtime, and Josh Nunes was pretty bad in both games. Alas. They'll have to settle for their first Rose Bowl since 1999, where they'll probably be favored to get their 11th win for the third straight year.

Game of the Week: Northern Illinois. Kent State. MACtion! But with actual things on the line! Amazingly, Kent State got outgained 531-260 and got all of 15 rushing yards from Dri Archer but still forced overtime by scoring three touchdowns in the final 4:32 of the game, a span that also included a four-play, 75-yard NIU drive right after Kent State had tied it at 27. To the highlights! Except it's the MAC, so there aren't any (not embeddable ones, anyway)! Just know that there was craziness. More craziness: Jordan Lynch is now the national rushing leader with 1,771 yards and could be the first quarterback ever to (a) lead the country and (b) get to 2,000, although that's pretty unlikely given that he'd need to go all Denard in the bowl game. Even more craziness: That bowl game will be the Orange Bowl against Florida State, meaning NIU will be the first MAC team ever to play in a BCS game and the Orange Bowl will be the first BCS game ever to fail to sell 10,000 tickets. That BCS berth required some help, of course. NIU had been 21st but beat 17th-ranked Kent State (to jump ahead of No. 19 Michigan and No. 20 Boise State) and got losses from No. 16 UCLA and No. 18 Texas as well as a pathetic effort from No. 12 Nebraska that gave NIU some extra movement in the human polls. Result: a glorious and inexplicable autobid for NIU (in the top 16 and ahead of one of the autobid conference's champions) and a Cotton Bowl berth for Oklahoma, which would've played in the Sugar Bowl if not for an amazing confluence of events that were wildly unfortunate for Oklahoma but amazingly fortunate for NIU and the rest of the MAC.

Gettin' it done: So Kansas State is 11-1 and headed to the Fiesta Bowl. Bill Snyder is a wizard, etc. K-State actually trailed 10-7 at the half (with the one touchdown coming at the end of an epic one-play, 1-yard drive after an interception), then did the following with six second-half possessions: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, fumble, touchdown, touchdown. Oddly enough, K-State got outgained by almost 100 yards and won by three touchdowns, mostly because of three post-turnover touchdown drives that went a total of 50 yards. Woo Texas quarterbacks! Speaking of which, Texas is gonna finish the year either 9-4 or 8-5, which meh. That program so desperately needs to find the next Colt McCoy (and I don't think Case McCoy is that guy) and maybe the next Will Muschamp. As I mentioned last week, since Colt McCoy graduated, Texas has gone 11-14 in the Big 12 and 21-17 overall. Interpret that as you will. As for Kansas State's quarterback situation, why is Collin Klein not the Heisman favorite? He had one meh game in a game in which the K-State defense got absolutely lit up like a Christmas tree (Johnny Manziel had worse games against both Florida and LSU), he's one huge passing game away from being the third player ever with 20 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns and he's got freakin' Kansas State going to the Fiesta Bowl despite finishing 42nd in total defense and having, like, maybe two other All-Big 12-caliber players. If that Baylor game had been played in September rather than November, Klein would probably be a significant favorite right now (just like he was before it). Just sayin'. Be interesting to find out whether having that last big-ish game against Texas will be of any significance in the voting since "what have you done for me lately?" and "what have you done that excites me?" seem to be the only questions that really matter.

The Big East title-game-type thing: Teddy Bridgewater is the balls. The guy played on one ankle and finished 20 for 28 for 263 yards with two touchdowns and a pick against a pretty good Rutgers defense that totally shut down Louisville's running game, giving up 42 yards on 41 carries. And most importantly, he did this in the final minutes:

Balls. That said, Rutgers would be headed to a BCS game if not for an amazingly untimely illegal-man-downfield penalty on an otherwise-perfectly executed fake field goal that went for a touchdown and would've made it 21-3 midway through the third quarter, effectually ending the game. Instead, Rutgers punted, Louisville went down and scored, Rutgers fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Louisville took the lead a few seconds later on the above-embedded touchdown pass. Derp. So Louisville is headed to either the Orange Bowl or the Sugar Bowl despite finishing somewhere at the very bottom of the BCS rankings and in a four-way tie for the Big East title with Rutgers, Cincinnati and Syracuse. The Big East! Even more Big East-y: That BCS-berth-deciding game featured two teams that won't even be playing in the Big East in a couple years.

The ACC title game: It happened. Florida State did what I expected for most of the first two and a half quarters, then turned into Turnover State and let Georgia Tech back into it before being reminded by Orange Bowl officials that a Georgia Tech-Northern Illinois Orange Bowl would've resulted in mass suicides everywhere. If there's anything to take away from that game, I suppose it's that Florida State's offense is still prone to random and not-really-explainable lapses; I mean, 96 yards in the second half against Georgia Tech's sieve of a defense? Not good. The running game was actually OK (196 yards), unlike in the NC State game, but E.J. Manuel finished with all of 134 passing yards on 21 attempts with no touchdowns and a pick against the 82nd-ranked pass-efficiency defense in the country. So I dunno. Still, Florida State was obviously the best team in the ACC this year and probably a deserving BCS team, which hasn't been said since at least 2005 (the last time FSU actually won the conference). So Florida State is at least something resembling Florida State again; that's mostly a credit to Jimbo Fisher, who probably isn't leaving for Tennessee/Auburn/wherever since, as mentioned a few words ago, Florida State is at least something resembling Florida State again and will have a pretty manageable path to the Orange Bowl (and maybe more) for the foreseeable future.

I'm confused by Baylor: Seriously. Baylor didn't win a game in October, with two of the four losses being of the not-particularly-competitive variety to TCU and Iowa State. Since then: blowout of Kansas, one-touchdown road loss to Oklahoma, blowout of then-No. 1 Kansas State, win over Texas Tech, win over Oklahoma State. Wha? I have no idea how/why Art Briles doesn't have SEC teams offering him ginormous sacks of cash; he has Baylor (Baylor!) 17-8 over the last two years and just got a post-RGIII team to 7-5 despite playing in a conference in which nine of the 10 teams finished with at least six wins. Dang.

The end but not really: So that's it. Except for Army-Navy. Sigh.

Post-everything top 10: There's not much else to say/write about the teams at the top. That said, I don't really know what to do with Georgia given an overall body of work that includes a lot of blah, a five-touchdown loss to a not-that-great South Carolina team, a win (albeit an extremely fortunate one) over a borderline-elite Florida team and an oh-so-close loss to probably the best team in the country. I'm also not really sure what to do at the bottom considering that there are a bunch of comparable teams that could go there, so I'm taking the easy way out; it's my hot body, I do what I want, etc.

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


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