Week 5: Indefensible

Welcome back sports fans!  It was a wild week in college football.  Let’s get right to it.


I. (Lack of) Cover Story

Quick: what is the common denominator for the teams below?

Arizona — 35
Oklahoma State — 36
North Carolina State — 37
Virginia — 38

San Diego State — 40
Marshall — 41
UAB — 42
Ball State — 43
Tennessee — 44
Akron — 49

If you said that the numbers above correspond to the total points scored by that team in Week 5, you are only half right.

What is noteworthy is that each of the teams listed above LOST!  That’s correct: eleven teams scored at least 35 points on Saturday, but still lost their game.  (I’ve deliberately saved the best — or worst, depending on how you look at it — for last.)

What is going on??

College football ain’t what it used to be.  For many programs, defense is either optional or nonexistent — or perhaps defensive coordinators simply haven’t kept up with the explosion of up-tempo offenses that have taken over the sport. 

Whatever the explanation, college football is on the verge of becoming a travesty.  Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem with the occasional high-scoring slugfest.  But when 11 teams lose on the same weekend despite scoring five, six, or seven touchdowns, something is wrong.  The football team should not be outscoring the basketball team (Wisconsin and Princeton excepted).  The game needs balance. 

Oh yes: I forgot to mention the worst offender of all from this weekend.  Baylor scored 63 points.  In regulation.  AND LOST!  That’s seven touchdowns!!

Consider these absurd numbers from Saturday:

700: Baylor’s total yardage in their loss to West Virginia — again, in regulation.  700 yards for one team should never happen.  700 yards and losing????  I can’t comprehend it.  (West Viriginia’s total: 807.  Frightening.)

To understand how this happened (if that is possible), check out these highlights:

09/29/2012 Baylor vs West Virginia Football Highlights – YouTube

Continuing with the numbers:

629: Akron’s total yardage against Miami of Ohio — again in a losing effort!  (Miami needed all 705 of its yards to win 56-49.)

215: Tavon Austin’s receiving yardage for West Virginia on Saturday.  That would have been a school record, except:

303: Stedman Bailey — Austin’s teammate — recorded this many yards receiving IN THE SAME GAME.  In trying to explain how one receiver sets a school record with 215 yards only to be outdone by his own teammate in the same afternoon, I can offer…nothing.

In conclusion,

45-51-656-0-8: for those of you who aren’t QB’s, that is the stat line for the overwhelming Heisman favorite — at the moment — Mr. Geno Smith of West Virginia, who completed 45 of 51 attempts for 656 yards, with zero interceptions, and eight touchdowns.  You read that correctly: 6 incompletions vs. 8 touchdowns.  If you’re scratching and shaking your head in amazement, welcome to the club.

For more improbable stats, you can visit

http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/blog/eye-on-college-football/20406283/super-sized-stat-saturday-crazy-numbers-put-up-in-college-football

if you are so inclined (or don’t believe me).


II. Around the Nation

Generally I don’t use bullet points when writing sports summaries, but there were so many things worth mentioning that in this case I am forced into summary action.

  • In a homecoming of sorts for Norm Chow (former offensive coordinator for BYU), his Hawaii team traveled to Provo, only to be throttled by the Cougars, 47-0.
  • Middle Tennessee State may be the best team in the state of Tennessee (middle or otherwise) after out-rushing Georgia Tech — in Atlanta — 49-28.
  • Miami of Florida moves to 4-1 after a second consecutive high scoring, last minute victory, this time ousting North Carolina State, 44-37.
  • After a rough start, Penn State has recovered with three straight wins, this week over reeling Illinois, 35-7.
  • Northwestern — Northwestern?! — remains undefeated thanks to their 44-29 win over perennial doormat Indiana.
  • Army…oh dear oh dear oh dear.  Losing to Stony Brook is bad enough (see, they don’t even get boldfaced), but to lose 23-3?  Pathetic.
  • Arkansas started off well.  Playing at Texas A&M, the Razorbacks led 10-7 after one quarter.  Unfortunately, they got outscored 51-0 in the other three quarters, and are 1-4 for the first time in two decades.
  • Duke is — wait a minute, what is Duke doing in this blog?! — oh yes: Duke is now 4-1 after defeating Wake Forest 34-27 in Winston-Salem.  Could the Blue Devils make a bowl game for the first time since Steve Spurrier?
  • Cincinnati scored a big win for the Big East by defeating Virginia Tech, 27-24, on a long pass play in the final seconds, which must have Frank Beamer pounding his fists.
  • Georgia goes to 5-0, but not before a stern fight from Tennessee, which put up 44 points on the Dawgs — only to lose 51-44.  Georgia will be ranked in the top five, but their defense suddenly is a big question mark.  They can’t expect to give up 44 points each week and win.  Oh right: we’re playing college football in 2012.  Silly me.
  • What happens when 4-0 Ohio travels to 0-4 UMass?  Answer: a lucky escape for the Bobcats, who scored 17 in the final stanza to post a 37-34 win.
  • Ohio State found a way to get to 5-0, this time beating an overrated Michigan State team that does have a defense — but no offense — 17-16 in East Lansing.  Michigan State was ranked, but probably should not have been.  Credit Urban Meyer for finding a way to win yet again with a team that he himself has described as being not very good.  I agree.  This is a fraudulent 5-0…but you play who’s on your schedule.
  • Proof that you can’t spell “Idaho” without 0: North Carolina 66, Idah 0.  If teams could be ranked 0, I would actually rank Idaho 0th.  They are that bad.
  • Houston, Rice, Illinois, Virginia.  What do they have in common?  Louisiana Tech has defeated them all — three of them on the road — to start 4-0.  This week’s victim: the Cavaliers, who were upended 44-38 in Charlottesville.  Would some poll PLEASE put this team in the Top 25?  It looks like Sonny Dykes and his Bulldogs are going to run away with the WAC title this year.
  • Did I say someone was going to run away with the WAC title?  If so, I was wrong.  San Jose State might be the best team in the conference — and clearly was the best team in the Bay Area this weekend — after traveling across the country to SHUT OUT Navy in Annapolis, 12-0.  After coming up just short against Stanford in the season opener, the Spartans have won four straight and could have a huge winning streak before they face their stiffest test — at home against BYU — in November.
  • Houston defeated Rice, 35-14, in the We Lost to UCLA Bowl.
  • Florida State hung on to defeat South Florida, 30-17, and remain fraudulently undefeated, a la Ohio State.
  • For 30 minutes, Kentucky forgot that they were playing South Carolina, and actually led 17-7 at the half.  Order was restored in the second half, however, when the Gamecocks outclassed the Wildcats 31-0 to win going away.
  • The beat goes on for Western Kentucky, which defeated in-conference challenger Arkansas State, 26-13, on the road.  Willie Taggart for President!  If he can take an 0-12 team to these heights (11-2 in their last 13 games, losing only to Alabama and LSU), surely he can fix the economy.  And Congress.  And Washington DC in general.
  • LSU defeated no-name Towson, but 38-22?  That’s it?  You’re telling me that Towson was within two touchdowns of LSU — at the END of the game?  That doesn’t make LSU look very good.  That makes Washington look even worse (having lost to LSU 41-3 earlier in the season).  For those of you who like connecting the dots: these results indicate that Towson would be a 22-point favorite over Washington if the game were played at Tiger Stadium.
  • Louisville played through extremely sloppy conditions to defeat winless Southern Mississippi in a driving rain, 21-17, and remain undefeated.
  • Fresno State showed that they are a force to be reckoned with in their first year in the Mountain West, this time upending San Diego State 52-40.  It will be interesting to see who emerges as conference champion this season.
  • In a stirring victory in Lincoln, Nebraska rallied from a 27-10 deficit to outscore Wisconsin 20-0 over the final quarter and a half.  The Badgers are now 3-2 and are lucky to have that record.
  • The best team in Texas: Baylor?  Nope, lost to West Virginia 70-63.
  • Houston?  No, their victory over Rice was their first of the season.
  • Texas Tech?  Almost: they have moved to 4-0 after a quality road win over previously unbeaten Iowa State, 24-13.
  • TCU?  They’re in the same boat as the Red Raiders, having also to moved to 4-0 with their 24-16 win at SMU in the Protestant Bowl.
  • OK, then it must be Texas, who pulled out a thrilling 41-36 decision over Oklahoma State in Stillwater to move to 4-0.  This included a conversion on 4th-and-6 to extend the game-winning drive.  Texas it is.
  • Or is it?  Ladies and gentlemen, I declare that the best football team in the Lone Star State is none of the aforementioned universities, but rather, UTSA: you know, the University of Texas at San Antonio!  In their first year in the FBS, the Roadrunners (!) have compiled a spotless 5-0 record, defeating such powerhouses as…well…they did beat New Mexico State this week — on the road — by three touchdowns!  And let’s not forget their dramatic season-opening victory over South Alabama (a Sun Belt conference member), also on the road.  People!  When UTSA defeats USA (yes, that’s South Alabama’s acronym), you must take notice.  You cannot deny the power of the Roadrunners.  Anyone who defeats the USA at their house deserves respect.  U-T-S-A fight fight fight!



III. Pac Time

USC and Utah were idle this Saturday, in advance of their Thursday night tilt this week.  Speaking of which:


Washington 17, Stanford 13
: let’s see…a ranked team travels to play against an unranked underdog for an ESPN Thursday Night Special, and — loses.  What else is new?

Stanford, on the heels of their magnificent 21-14 victory over USC, could not keep it together in Seattle.  The Cardinal led 6-3 at the half, then increased their lead to 13-3 after an interception return for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter.  But Stanford could not do anything productive on offense all night, and this time, their defense did not hold up.  Washington converted on a critical 4th-and-1 in their own territory, breaking off a 61-yard score to tighten the game at 13-10.  Then, with just under five minutes to play, UW connected on a 35-yard pass play to steal the game and record their first victory over Stanford since 2007.

Stanford’s game plan to run, run, and run some more, followed by effective game management by QB Josh Nunes, simply failed in this game.  After 615 yards and 65 points in a blowout over Washington last year, the Cardinal managed a paltry 235 total yards (only 65 rushing) and 10 first downs this time.  Stanford was a poor 5-for-18 on 3rd down conversions.  The defense did its job, holding UW to just 313 total yards, but it wasn’t enough. 

This is a huge win for Washington, and a head-scratching loss for Stanford, which must figure out its offensive issues quickly if it wants to have any chance to be a player in the extremely competitive North division.  Sorry, Andrew Luck is no longer available.


Oregon 51, Stupid Washington State 26
: who needs De’Anthony Thomas when you have Kenjon Barner?  The “other” Ducks running back merely carried 20 times for 195 yards — an absurd 9.8 yards per carry average — while racking up four touchdowns on the ground, in addition to 37 yards receiving.  His 80-yard dash to the end zone in the 4th quarter not only put the game away, but prompted this delightful quote: “It felt like the end zone was running away from me.”

To their semi-credit, WSU did keep it close at the half (23-19).  But that might have been the worst thing they could have done, for according to Oregon safety Avery Patterson, the remarks from the Oregon coaches at halftime were not suitable for printing.  Their words of, ahem, inspiration resulted in 21 points, scored in a span of four minutes, in the third quarter.  Ballgame.

Is Oregon beatable?  Perhaps: their QB threw two interceptions in this game, and WSU is not exactly a world beater of a team.  The Cougars amassed 26 first downs — the same total as Oregon.  Having said that, Oregon’s defense returned an interception for a touchdown for the third time this season, and continues to play at a high level.  Oregon may be beatable, but you’re going to have to play awfully well to do it.


UCLA 42, Colorado 14: would the Bruins shake off a tough home loss to Oregon State and bounce back against an undermanned Colorado team in Boulder?  Answer: yes.  UCLA learned valuable lessons in their loss to the Beavers, and put those lessons to work immediately.  After a horrendous performance on 3rd downs last week, the Bruins went 7-for-15 this game, while holding Colorado to 2-of-15.  UCLA had 29 first downs to CU’s 14 and committed just one turnover to two by the Buffs.  Perhaps most significantly, the Bruins did not crack when the game was in the balance. 

The first of these two situations occurred on UCLA’s first possession of the game, which saw Hundley get sacked, then fumble.  Colorado could have taken the game by the horns, but the Bruin D held, forcing a Colorado punt.  The offense righted itself and UCLA went up 14-0 before Colorado could answer.  Then, in the second half, with the Bruins ahead 21-7, Colorado completed a long pass play into UCLA territory, but Tevin McDonald punched the ball free, forcing a CU fumble to end the drive.  The Bruins never looked back after that, icing the game with three more touchdowns to win, 42-14.

This game was by no means perfect, but it was a conference win on the road, and a game UCLA had to have.  We’ll see just how strong the Bruins are when they face three more conference foes in October — the month which was the bugaboo of the Neuheisel era.


Arizona State 27, Dumb Cal 17: no offense, Cal, but you have no offense.  Arizona State shut down the Bears at Memorial Stadium, holding Cal to 285 yards and 17 points, a week after USC kept the Bears out of the end zone entirely.  Cal QB Zach Maynard was harassed relentlessly all game, getting sacked six times; he finished an atrocious 9-for-28 for 126 yards.  Adding to their misery, Cal racked up 12 penalties for 119 yards.  It is not a good time to be a Cal fan, and an even worse time to be the coach.  Fans voiced their frustration by booing the team off the field at halftime, with ASU leading 17-7.  Personally I do not think fans should ever boo their team off the field unless there is an obvious lack of effort.  Cal was not suffering from a lack of effort; they were suffering from a lack of execution.  It does bear asking, however, why the coaches did not adjust to Arizona State’s defensive pressure.  If your offensive line is having problems with pass protection, then either (a) start running the ball, or (b) switch to quick, short pass routes.  Why Cal chose not to do this after halftime remains a mystery.

For their part, ASU continues to look like the main challenger to USC in the South Division.  The Sun Devils picked up their first win in Strawberry Canyon since 1997.


Oregon State 38, Arizona 35: in what was easily the conference game of the week, the Beavers continued their resurgence with a thrilling road victory, scoring the game winning touchdown with 1:09 to play in Tuscon.  Both teams were hitting on all cylinders offensively, with Oregon State accounting for 613 total yards to Arizona’s 545.  The quarterbacks had career days: OSU QB Sean Mannion went 29-of-45 for 433 yards and three TD’s, without an interception, while Arizona QB Matt Scott went 31-of-53 for 403 yards and three touchdowns as well — but with two interceptions. 

The Beavers led 17-7 at the break, but Arizona quickly retook the lead at 21-17 in the third quarter.  From there, the lead changed five more times until Mannion’s final touchdown throw.  This is Oregon State’s third consecutive huge victory — remember that Arizona defeated Oklahoma State 59-38 earlier this season — and it means that the Beavers, yes the BEAVERS, are worthy of at least a top 15 ranking, if not top 10.  They have won in every way possible: with stifling defense (holding Wisconsin to 7 points), explosive offense (38 points at Arizona), and a balanced game plan (shutting down UCLA, 27-20).  You have to hand it to Mike Riley.  I don’t know how he does it!  It’s Corvallis, for heaven’s sake, and the team’s mascot is a BEAVER!  (Am I repeating myself?)

 

IV. Power Rankings

With this week’s results, ASU secures its foothold on the #2 position in the South, while Oregon State moves up to challenge Oregon in the North.  Washington jumps Stanford — for now — as the #3 team in the North, despite Stanford’s win over USC; this is due to the Cardinal’s obvious and troubling problems on offense, particularly at quarterback.  Cal and WSU remain at the bottom of the North; likewise, Utah and Colorado in the South.

South

1. USC
2. Arizona State
3. UCLA, Arizona
5. Utah, Colorado

North

1. Oregon
2. Oregon State
3. Washington
4. Stanford
5. Cal
6. WSU

It is worth noting that the conference currently has six (!) teams ranked in the AP poll:

#2 Oregon (about right)
#13 USC (too high)
#14 Oregon State (too low)
#18 Stanford (too high)
#23 Washington (WAY too high; see my comments regarding LSU above)
#25 UCLA (on the bubble; perhaps should not be ranked until next week — if the Bruins beat Cal)

 

V. On Deck

Should we really look ahead to this week’s games?  Sure, why not.

Arizona State and Colorado have byes — in advance, yet again, of a Thursday night game.

USC at Utah: a classic trap game.  USC is a much better team.  Utah is reeling after their 37-7 drubbing at the hands of Arizona State last time out.  Furthermore, the Utes have major injury problems on offense.  So this should be an easy win for the Trojans, right?  Wrong.  All you have to do is look at Stanford this week.  I don’t know what it is, but there is something about these Thursday night games that spells bad news for ranked (and favored) road teams.  USC’s approach should be to do exactly what UCLA did against Colorado this Saturday: namely, don’t do anything unorthodox.  Simply execute, and you will win.  If USC avoids turnovers and penalties, they should win this game fairly easily — the operative word being “should.”  Needless to say, this is a must win for the Trojans if they want to have any chance of staying in the national picture.  Utah, meanwhile, will be desperate to save what appeared to be a promising season.  If it gets interesting, Troy will be in trouble.  Look for Kiffin and Co. to take the crowd out of this one by halftime — or at least try to.

Arizona at Stanford: the battle of the just-missed-it’s.  Arizona played a great game but came up short against Oregon State.  Stanford played a rotten game and gave it away to Washington.  This therefore becomes a quasi-elimination game: the winner stays alive in the conference race, while the loser likely will have too much ground to make up.

Stupid Washington State at Oregon State: if you don’t know who I’m rooting for in this game by now, you are pretty pathetic at understanding tone, or perhaps you don’t know how to read at all, or were too lazy to read the previous commentary and wanted to skip ahead to this section.  (Fine, be that way, Mr./Ms. Instant Gratification.)  Needless to say, I am cheering for the BEAVERS to utterly and completely destroy the Cougars.  If they do, Oregon State will be 4-0 and could go on to win 8, 9, or even 10 (!) games — a dramatic turnaround from last season’s 3-9 campaign.

Washington at Oregon: had this game been played at Washington, who knows what might have happened.  But this game is being played at Autzen, and Oregon will not lose it.  Washington was very fortunate to beat Stanford this week.  They will not be so fortunate against the Ducks.

UCLA at Dumb Cal: it is only fitting that I end this week’s column with this most intense of UC rivalries.  Here are some facts for you to ponder.

0. UCLA defeated Cal in 1972.  UCLA then defeated Cal in 1973, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, and 89.
0.25. For those of you who are numerically challenged, UCLA defeated Cal a stunning EIGHTEEN straight times during that span.
0.5. UCLA played at Cal in 1990.  I was a UCLA student.
0.75. UCLA’s winning streak ended that season.  I was an unhappy student.

1. I have attended every UCLA game played in the Bay Area vs. either Cal or Stanford since 1990, save for the Stanford game in 1993 when I was opening Hedrick Hall for Welcome Week activities.

2. UCLA’s last win at Cal came in 1998 when Cade McNown was the quarterback. 
3. That means that Cal won in 2000.  And 2002.  And 2004.  And 2006.  And 2008.  And 2010.
4. I was at each of those games.
5. Did you notice that I always call them “Dumb Cal”? 

OF COURSE I WILL BE AT THE CAL GAME ON SATURDAY!  I will not make a prediction on the game, but I *WILL* make a “hope.”  I hope that Cal once again sputters on offense, that its offensive line cannot solve its problems, that UCLA’s defense will terrorize Cal’s backfield all game, and that UCLA will open the game fast and furious so that there is no drama in the second half.  I’ve waited 14 years since my last win in Berkeley, and that’s long enough.  Goodbye, Cal, goodbye losing streak, and goodbye Jeff Tedford.  You did a great job with the Bears, but I’m not letting my team allow you to keep your job.  We are better than you this time, and while you’re on the way down, it’s high time for UCLA to move on up like the Jeffersons. 

Destroy the Golden Bears!!!

See you next week — hopefully as a happy student.

–Mr. G.

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