Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
26 Sep 2011
by Robert Weintraub
It was another wild day among the college powers Saturday, but my attention was taken by a pair of smaller schools from Florida. I spent the afternoon producing the Atlanta Football Classic, an annual HBCU matchup at the Georgia Dome that featured Florida A&M tangling with Southern. The Rattlers won a thriller 38-33, coming from 16 down to snake the victory from Stump Mitchell’s Jaguars. Lavante Page scored five times to thrill the big crowd and break the school record. Hiss, hiss!
While my brain was with FAMU, my heart was with Florida International, who busted out to a 3-0 start and were nosing around the Top 25. I had the chance to talk to their radio analyst, a name you might recognize: Rick Sanchez, the former CNN anchor who lost a public debate with Jon Stewart and made some iffy comments about Jews in the media. He lost his gig and landed in the Panthers’ radio booth, seemingly an extremely random spot.
Turns out Sanchez’ son is a student at FIU, and he was a big fan of the team. Sanchez told me that "the athletic director said, ‘since you’re here for every game anyway, why not call them on the radio?’" Sanchez has led the nation in excitability thus far this season, yelling out his instant trademark phrase, "Ay, Dios Mio!!" after every big play.
Unfortunately, the game in "The Cage" Saturday night offered lots of excitement but a tough loss for FIU, falling 36-31 to Louisiana-Lafayette. Superstar wideout T.Y. Hilton continues to be hampered with a hamstring injury, but quarterback Wesley Carroll’s ankle was injured early in the game, a blow that was arguably more costly to their chances of winning. The Panthers couldn’t recover.
Ay, Dios Mio.
The more traditional Sunshine State schools had a mixed weekend. Florida continues to look much improved with Charlie Weis running the offense, and they destroyed Kentucky 48-10. The next four games will be a truer test of the Gators worthiness. In order -- Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia.
Miami followed up its whipping of Ohio State with a whimper, losing in front of a half-full, listless crowd to Kansas State. Jacory Harris was stopped just shy on a goal-line scramble by Tre Walker with seconds to play to cinch up the 28-24 win for the ‘Cats. Florida State couldn’t match the intensity it brought to the Oklahoma game, and couldn’t stop Clemson’s Tahj Boyd-Sammy Watkins combo in a 38-30 loss. Is it possible the Tigers are for real, and won’t lose key games down the stretch for once?
One team that just doesn’t lose many games is LSU, or as the acronym should be, TMB: Too Many Ballers. The Lesters just brought too many talented players for a game, often explosive West Virginia bunch too handle, winning 47-21. Jarrett Lee continues to make Baton Rougers struggle to remember just what that Jimmy...uh, Jason...is it Jordan? Jefferson looks like. Geno Smith was very good for the Mountaineers, but needed to be Gino Torretta to have a shot (hey, he was a good player at Miami, if not especially Heisman-worthy) at outscoring LSU. By game’s end, I was waiting for the Mountaineer mascot to do the honorable thing and point the long carbine at himself. Meanwhile, using the term "closer" for sports other than baseball is an odious cliche, but it does happen to apply beautifully to LSU back Spencer Ware, who hammers away on tired defenses with Mariano-like effectiveness.
And in the day’s most proficient refereeing, the stripes who ruled a blatantly missed PAT good for Syracuse, allowing the Orange a three-point lead that would prove critical in an overtime win over Toledo, did a heckuva job. The Big East immediately called BS on the ruling in a statement, and don’t look for the officials or replay judge to be working in the conference any time soon. But would the Commissioner’s office have been so quick to say Syracuse’s scintillating win was bogus if the Orange weren’t headed for the exits with Pittsburgh?
2. Boise State
5. Oklahoma State
8. South Carolina
12. Texas A&M
13. Virginia Tech
16. South Florida
18. Georgia Tech
19. West Virginia
24. Florida State
25. Arizona State
Just want to point out that the Associated Press has come around to where we have always been -- with LSU atop the polls. USA Today still has Oklahoma No. 1, and LSU No. 3, which is absurd given the Tigers’ schedule so far. It only gets tougher...
1. Jadeveon Clowney / Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina The Cocks duo dominated previously unbeaten Vandy, turning the Commodores into a JV team. Ingram scored his third TD of the season, recovering a fumble in the end zone (on offense), while chipping in two sacks, another tackle for loss, and a pass deflection. Clowney had two sacks and forced a pair of fumbles as SC dominated.
2. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU. This could be a weekly listing for the Demolition Man, who is beginning to approach Patrick Peterson’s level, which is astounding. The timing on that deflection pick was amazing.
3. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State. With all the hoo-hah surrounding Burfict’s mad dog persona in the buildup to the big win over USC, good on the Big V for limiting himself to a single personal foul penalty. Oh, there was also this huge interception and long return to change momentum in the first half -- those were nice too. Trojans QB Matt Barkley, who called Burfict "a dirty player" during the week, made the tackle, and Burfict helped him up and gave him a sarcastic swat on the fanny.
4. Craig Roh, DE, Michigan. The Wolverines stopped the brunt of Ronnie Hillman and the Aztecs run game, but Roh also helped shut down the SDSU pass attack as well. He finished with a sack, a forced fumble, and a tackle for loss.
5. Dre Kirkpatrick / DeQuan Menzie, DB, Alabama. Another combo package from the SEC, where the defenses run rampant. Bama’s secondary destroyed the Arkansas passing game, with Menzie’s pick-six being the game’s pivot point.
6 comments, Last at 28 Sep 2011, 2:41pm by Todd S.