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26 Sep 2005

Confessions of a Football Junkie: You've Got Mail

by Russell Levine

Football games tend to fall into one of a few predictable patterns. Take, for example, the plucky underdog attempting to pull off the huge upset -- which is a college specialty. They get a few breaks early, build a decent-sized lead, and then the favorite, sleepwalking through the game thus far, makes a single big play and momentum switches 180 degrees. Suddenly, the underdog can do nothing right. Positive plays are undone by penalties. Loose balls bounce off people and end up in the arms of the opponent.

That was the scenario that played out in Eugene, Oregon Saturday as the Oregon Ducks hosted USC. Oregon jumped out to a 13-0 lead, but the warning signs of the Ducks' imminent demise were visible even before USC got on the scoreboard. Penalties and mistakes forced Oregon to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. And even though USC had done absolutely nothing on offense to that point, you could just sense they were about to explode.

Upsets in the making in college football are like the NCAA tournament. You see the score on the bottom-of-the-screen ticker and can't believe your eyes. If you're an obsessive, DirecTV-enabled college fan with every game imaginable at your disposal (uh, that's me), you immediately flip to the game (unless of course, you're watching your alma mater melt down in the second half of its road opener, a pattern so familiar it should be named Michiganitis ... but more on that later). Otherwise you await the next "let's go back to the studio for a game break and find out what's brewing in Oregon" with keen interest. A buzz spreads around the viewing world as everyone wonders if the underdog has what it takes to pull the shocker.

But if the whole nation was curious as the Ducks took their lead, the uncertainty sure didn't appear to affect the USC players. Sure, Matt Leinart was flustered a few times in the first half, But overall, the Trojans looked calm and relaxed, and there was an air of inevitability about their comeback. And when the comeback came, it came in a hurry. A 13-0 lead became 13-10 by halftime, and 31-13 by the end of the third quarter. All that was left for the fourth quarter was for Bush to pad his Heisman resume with a spectacular 11-yard touchdown run in which he reversed field and covered approximately two miles of ground on his way to the end zone, with the final block thrown by Leinart.

The final was 45-13, just the latest no-sweat second-half comeback for USC during its current 25-game winning streak. There were similar games against Stanford and Oregon State last year, as well as the squeaker against Cal. And, with road trips remaining to Arizona State (this Saturday), Cal and Notre Dame, USC could have a few more close calls yet this season. But at this point, any loss by USC would have to rank among the all-time college upsets.

Some may point to USC's occasional habit of sleepwalking through a first half and see the Trojans as vulnerable, but I think it actually makes them a stronger team for having been tested a few times per year. College football history is rife with teams (the Kansas State squads of the late 1990s come to mind) that fatten up on easy competition, but never learn how to play in a close game. Dodging some bullets over the last couple of seasons has taught USC how to play in those games and to not panic when it falls behind. Texas has picked up similar experience recently, both in the Rose Bowl against Michigan last year and in their come-from-behind win over Ohio State earlier this month. That's one of the reasons why I like the Longhorns to end up facing USC in the Orange Bowl.

Of course, just playing in close games doesn't always teach teams how to win them. Case in point are my beloved Michigan Wolverines, whose loss at Wisconsin was all too familiar to my fellow maize and blue devotees. Michigan dominated early, but left several points on the field in the first half. Then, they played not to lose in the second half and the wheels came off when things got close. At 2-2, the AP's preseason No. 4 team is unranked and in danger of having its season fall completely apart with a visit to Michigan State coming up this Saturday.

In happier news, despite my f-bomb dropping, hat- and remote control-throwing, and in general acting like a jackass performance while watching the game on TV, I'm pleased to report that my theory that I was not taking the losses as hard as I did a few years ago continues to hold. A quick postgame commiseration call to my Seventh Day Adventure partner Vinny, and I could already feel my outlook improving. And yes, I was happy that my kids were asleep for most of my personal display of idiocy during the second half. Thank goodness for night games.

Not all our fellow Michigan fans took the loss as well. I share with you here an email exchange between Vinny and one of our Michigan classmates who favors the immediate dismissal of Lloyd Carr. Vin raised a number of excellent points in Carr's defense:

From: Vinny
To: One Bitter Michigan Fan
Subject: Re: afloat in a sea of mediocrity...

OBMF, as painful as last night's game was, the one silver lining for me was that I wasn't watching the game with you. Now THAT would have been painful.

Lloyd Carr has won five Big Ten titles in his 10 years on the job. Who has won more? Nobody's even close.

Lloyd Carr is 4th among active coaches in winning percentage. Not good enough? OK, if you can get one of the top 3 active coaches, then go ahead and fire Carr.

Lloyd Carr has won a national title. How many active coaches have won more than 1 title? Three, and two of them are prehistoric. The other one is Pete Carroll. I'm sure he's available.

If that's not good enough, and if you want to win every single game at all costs, without regard to doing it the right way and running a clean program, just don the Scarlet and Gray and call yourself a Buckeye fan. That's what separates them from us.

* * *

Vin and I are on the same page on this one, and yes, Buckeyes, we Michigan fans are that arrogant about the way we do things in Ann Arbor compared to Columbus, but then you already knew that. Carr has done enough on and off the field during his time in Ann Arbor to earn the benefit of the doubt. He's not getting fired anytime soon, nor should he be. That doesn't mean I can't view the Wisconsin debacle with a critical eye, which leads me to...

Mike Martz Award

Yes, Carr picks up the award this week, and it's for sending a mixed message to his team. On its first possession, Michigan faced a fourth-and-goal at the Wisconsin one, and Carr uncharacteristically went for it. Even though the run was stuffed, I thought, fine, we're going to be aggressive today. Yet, with another goal-to-go situation just before halftime, Carr elected to kick a short field goal on third down with nine seconds still left on the clock. Even without a timeout, there was still a chance to throw one more ball into the end zone. If you're trying to set the tone and be aggressive early, why go conservative here? Predictably, the Wolverines went into a shell in the second half, and despite a flea-flicker that resulted in a go-ahead score, were beaten by a late Wisconsin touchdown on a QB sneak.

Anti-Martz Award

Something that arose from last week's column reminded me not to fall into the easy trap of always criticizing while rarely pointing out those worthy of praise. More on that in a bit, but first I wanted to recognize two outstanding coaching points from the weekend. First, from the NFL, who else but Bill Belichick gets credit for yet another innovative move, this one little-noticed in the wake of New England's come-from-behind win at Pittsburgh.

After the Patriots kicked the go-ahead field goal, one second remained on the clock. Every team uses the squib kick in that situation to prevent a big return. Belichick took it one step further. He had Adam Vinitieri squib the ball all right, but not deep down the middle like every other team. Instead, he kicked it little further than he would for an onsides attempt, meaning the Patriots' front line only had 15-20 yards to cover to make the tackle. Pittsburgh never had time to start pitching the ball backwards, rugby-style. It's a tiny thing, but tiny details win plenty of games in the NFL, and Belichick seemingly never misses one. Somewhere, I'm sure he had his team practice the kickoff situation with three seconds or less to play, when a crazy return is the only possible way to lose and field position doesn't matter at all. When that situation presented itself Sunday, his team was ready.

The other coach who deserves singling out is Belichick disciple Charlie Weis of Notre Dame, but not for any strategic call. I'm sure by now most of you have read the story of how Weis allowed a dying 10-year-old boy to call the Irish's first play against Washington. That the boy, named Montana after Irish legend Joe, didn't live to see his play, "pass right," run is tragic, but the fact that Weis ran it anyway, despite the Irish's being backed up on their own one-yard line (it went for 13 yards and a first down) makes Weis and his program just a little more difficult for me to hate, and I'm an avowed Notre Dame hater. I'm also pretty cynical, but once in while it's all right for a feel good sports story to be just that -- a feel good story.

Actually, Weis began to win me over when I saw a halftime feature on his family during the Notre Dame-Michigan State game two weeks ago. The Weises have a daughter, Hannah, who has global developmental delay, an autism-like syndrome and they have started a foundation to help people like Hannah who come from less fortunate families. Autism and autistic disorders are a cause that is very near and dear to my heart, and I can imagine that dealing with something like that at home can only help Weis to keep things in perspective. I'm sure that none of his considerable professional accomplishments mean as much to him as the milestones his daughter has achieved.

I'm never going to root for Notre Dame, but count me as a Charlie Weis fan.

* * *

Last week in this column I spent some time criticizing NFL announcers, particularly Brent Jones, whom I cited for blowing a call at the end of the Jacksonville-Indianapolis game.

It never occurred to me that someone I criticized in this column might actually read it, so you can imagine my surprise when I found an email from one Brent Jones in my inbox on Tuesday morning.

Jones felt I was unfair in my criticism and suggested I review the tape of the game as he had done. And he was correct -- I erred in suggesting he had missed an offsides call on the final play. The Indianapolis lineman in question had flinched, but not entered the neutral zone.

More importantly, Jones -- who is one of the better color analysts out there (something I wished I'd pointed out even as I criticized him last week) -- is a devotee of DVOA and advanced statistical analysis and describes himself as "totally obsessed with real value." Now, all we need is for that approach to spread virally throughout the broadcasting ranks.

I, in turn, would love to learn more about what goes into bringing you a three-hour NFL telecast on Sundays, and soon as he and I can find the time to do it, I'm going to ask Jones those questions and include the answers in a future column.

BlogPoll Ballot

Here's my latest ballot in mgoblog's BlogPoll. Last week's ranking in parentheses.

1. Southern Cal (1): You'll see that Bush TD run again at the Heisman ceremony
2. Texas (2): T-minus two weeks until the revenge bowl in Dallas
3. Virginia Tech (4): Vintage Beamer Ball in rout of GaTech.
4. Florida (5): Chris Leak seems to be mastering Meyer's passing game.
5. Georgia (6): Who knew D.J. Shockley could throw like that?
6. Florida State (7): DNP
7. Ohio State (8): Smith getting comfortable at QB?
8. Miami (Florida) (9): Would it kill Miami fans to, you know, show up at the Orange Bowl?
9. Michigan State (15): They've yet to display a weakness.
10. Tennessee (10): Phil, if you play Ainge again after that Plummer-esque INT, we need to talk.
11. LSU (3): I know the Tigers have been through a lot, but giving away a game like that is unforgivable.
12. Arizona State (16): Offense should be able to score some vs. USC. They'll need to.
13. Cal (12): They'll get their chance to move up when the Trojans come calling.
14. Alabama (21): They have a real shot vs. Florida this week.
15. Notre Dame (17): Charlie Weis, I salute you.
16. Boston College (24): Didn't allow FSU disappointment to carry over.
17. Minnesota (NR): Congratulations on finally beating a decent team.
18. Wisconsin (NR): QB sneak for the game-winner was a great call.
19. Texas Tech (22): I repeat, play somebody!
20. Virginia (25): Chances against the ACC's big boys are coming up.
21. Purdue (13): Could still have a big say in the Big Ten race.
22. UCLA (NR): USC game might be very interesting this year.
23. Georgia Tech (14): Ran into a buzz saw at VaTech, and Ball was not himself.
24. Iowa State (NR): Pulled one out against a fired-up Army.
25. South Florida (NR): Congrats on bombing Louisville. Now enjoy your afternoon at the Orange Bowl.

Dropped out: Louisville (11), Michigan (18), Iowa (19), Clemson (20), Oregon (23).

Games I watched: Portions of Iowa State-Army, Purdue-Minnesota, Penn State-Northwestern, Notre Dame-Washington, Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech, Louisville-South Florida, Michigan-Wisconsin, USC-Oregon, Arizona State-Oregon State.

Posted by: Russell Levine on 26 Sep 2005

63 comments, Last at 01 Oct 2005, 1:12pm by Harris


by MikeT (not verified) :: Mon, 09/26/2005 - 11:08pm


I'm gonna spend my column this week bashing Jessica Alba, in the hopes of finding her name in my Inbox...

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/26/2005 - 11:51pm

I'm more curious where you put Minnesota, Purdue, Louisville, and South Florida. I have no idea how to untangle that mess. As I said elsewhere, I'm just upset that most likely if Penn State wins next week now, they'll be ranked, what with Minnesota being ranked now. I still think them beating South Florida (and South Florida murdering Louisville) is enough for PSU to be ranked, but hey, that's just me.

by Ned (not verified) :: Mon, 09/26/2005 - 11:54pm

Watching the Jags/Indy game, Jones was throwing out more advanced statistics than I had ever heard before on a telecast. He was talking about the likelihood of teams scoring from different points on the field and stuff that would make Jim Armstrong proud. I thought he would be an ideal person to show our stats, but he apparently found them himself.

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Mon, 09/26/2005 - 11:56pm

From your description of his response, it sounds like Brent Jones is a class act.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:03am

I laughed in midsummer when the Harris poll was announced. "We'll start it at the beginning of October, that way preseason rankings won't affect things!"

Did anyone believe for a second that the Harris voters weren't going to use, oh, the existing polls to do their rankings? How many teams aren't within 1 spot of where they are in the main two polls that DID have preseason rankings?

Michigan ranked in the Harris poll - ugh...

In other news, Tennessee's musical quarterbacking has continued tonight, although Clausen in the second half has looked better than Ainge in the first. Still, I can't make any real decision as to which is better because both have had their moments during the season, and none are left in for more than a quarter or two, maybe a half - meaning it's hard for them to get into a rhythm with the offense. I think Fulmer really messed up this season going with the rotation, and Tennessee won't be able to recover. Even if they win the rest of their games, they will always question whether they could have done better if they had just given one QB a firm chance.

Speaking of random things that you mentioned, 5 years ago, if anyone had said "Yeah, in 2005, there will be three active Division 1-A coaches with at least two national championships - the first two will be the perennial Bowden and Paterno, and, oh, by the way, that third one is going to be Pete Carroll" you probably would have been shut away in an asylum. Just goes to show you never know what will happen when the right coach finds just the right fit somewhere.


by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:10am

I have seen teams kickoff like the Pats did late against Pittsburgh before, but I think the reason more teams don't do it is because it can make it EASIER for the receiving team to start throwing a whole bunch of laterals (because the player who picks up the ball has guys behind him) If you kick off deep the guy who catches it doesn't have anyone to lateral to initially and team-mates have to crcle round behind him or wait for him to run ahead.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:33am

If there's going to be an anti-Martz award, for the gutsy or clever coaching call of the week, what's a good name for that one...


by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:42am

Re: squib kickoff

I was glad when the Pats kicked off that way because I was afraid of a replay of the kickoff in the Carolina Super Bowl where the squib just allowed a good runback and good field position, resulting in Carolina scoring before the end of the first half.

I disagree Ryan, because the way the Pats kicked off, their coverage team was on top of the guy that fielded the return before he had time to do anything with the ball. He had guys behind him, but they had to stay in position to cover the field, so there was no way a lateral was going to happen. There was no time.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:55am


Tennessee, down 21-0 after the first half, comes back to tie it 24-24 and wins in overtime, 30-27.

Here's one thing I don't get. It's almost Martz Award-worthy to me. In fact, I'd say it should replace Carr on the Martz scale for the week. Or maybe it's more KCW "Coach's Edition" worthy.

Tennessee scores a figgie to tie it up at 24-24 with about 2:10 to go. LSU takes the kickoff (it's a touchback). They run it up the middle twice for no gain, draining the clock to about 1 minute, not calling either timeout. Then they throw a pass, stopping the clock, and punt to Tennessee (Tennessee throws an interception which leads to overtime).

LSU had two minutes and two (maybe three) timeouts in the fourth quarter of a tied game and didn't go for the win. They played for overtime. If there's 14 seconds left, fine, whatever, go to overtime. But 2 minutes left, and they don't even try?

That is not putting your team in the best position to win the game - and they lost it in overtime.

Now, I don't really care about either team, so winning or losing didn't matter that much on a personal level. But I don't like seeing cowardly football, and that's what I call that series of play calls by Les Miles (and the crowd let him know it).


by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:20am

Russ, whatever happened to Steve Breaston? Every Michigan fan I know thought he'd be an All-American this year. I think he's decided to join the Michigan drama department and try for a lead role in The Invisible Man.

Thank you, LSU and Tennessee, for giving us a game of the year candidate on a night that the Chiefs decided not to show up.

by Josh (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:29am

Brent Jones also had one of the greatest lines I've heard in a while during the Jets/Jags game Sunday. When Barrett of the Jets made a great play stripping a Jags WR, Jones said on the replay "it was like ripping the head off a doll . . . I have no idea why I just said that."

by GatorGriff (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:32am

Re #9: Correction...LSU only had one timeout, and while normally I would whole-heartedly agree with you, JaMarcus Russell was absolutely horrific in the 2nd half. He had just thrown a pick a few minutes prior (a HORRIBLE read and subsequent throw), and it was painfully obvious that Les Miles had zero confidence in Russell, and more confidence in going to OT at home. Not saying I agree, but as bad as Russell played in the 2nd half, it's hard to argue with his reasoning of going to OT at home.

That being said, what a meltdown by the LSU defense. Clausen can't throw an accurate ball further than 10-12 yards. Tennessee had no business even being in that game, much less winning it.

So now the question is: which ranking was correct prior to kickoff? Is LSU really a top 5 team, or is Tennessee really #10, and LSU isn't as good as their preseason ranking? Considering their squeaker at Ariz St, and their meltdown tonight, I think Tennessee is right where they belong at #10, and LSU probably deserves to be ranked somewhere between 11-15.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:54am

I disagree (not about the timeouts, you're right about them only having one, but with 2 minutes and the clock stopping on first downs I think it's still reasonable to go).

Case #1 is you having the ball with 2 minutes to go with the crowd on your side and the other team not having a chance to reciprocate, but a turnover could lose the game for you.

Case #2 is going to overtime, where every score gives your opponent the chance to match or beat it, and where a turnover still loses the game for you.

The arguments made for waiting for OT because the crowd's on your side, to me, are pretty much the same arguments one could make for going to a two-minute drill with the crowd on your side, just one guarantees the other team a last chance and the other doesn't. The risks are identical (turnover loses the game, but a turnover in regulation isn't as harmful as one in OT).

And you're right, Clausen is horribly inaccurate. That last interception of his (right before the end of regulation) wasn't within 5 yards of its intended receiver - and he was only trying to throw it maybe 15-20 yards downfield.

There were also a few terrible non-calls, particularly for holding, in the game, and one in particular was very costly for LSU, but one can't just blame that. That was a meltdown of amazing proportions. After the first half, you felt like the 21-0 score could have been 35-0 or more had LSU "wanted it to be so." Tennessee wasn't anywhere in that game.

So if you're Fulmer, what do you do? Clausen, who can't throw a ball accurately past 10 yards, but who brought the team back to win, or Ainge, who is more accurate, but young and "rough"? I don't think he can keep flip-flopping.


by jay sherloc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:59am

Check that half time score against USC. You say 13-10 Is that Correct? Do you even watch the games or only comment after the final score?

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:59am

This goes to TMQ's thing about a coach making a "fraidy cat" decision that tells his team that he has no faith in their ability.

Les Miles said to his team, in a loud (shall we say "experimental refrigerator decibel level"?) voice "I DO NOT TRUST YOU TO NOT TURN THE BALL OVER DURING A TWO-MINUTE DRILL."

The coach didn't trust his team to win the game, at home, with two minutes left and a timeout, so he ran out the clock. I bet if it was pre-1996 college football he'd have accepted a tie and walked off the field to a chorus of boos. Hell - Tennessee got the ball back with 23 seconds left and went for it. Fine, they threw an INT. Whatever. But they tried. Had they taken a knee, no one would have faulted them (I wouldn't have), but they tried.

Once Tennessee won the toss, it was easy to write "Game over" in the notebook. Once the coach makes it abundantly clear he doesn't think his team can do it, there's no reason for the team to think so, either.

Sorry for the double post. I actually accidentally hit "post" when I meant to hit "preview" on an edited post.


by jay sherloc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:06am

Is there an East Coast Bias? Look at Louisville a 42-14 loser to an unrated team, yet Oregon 3-1 loses to #1 USC who then drops out of the top 25? Hello!!! Get Real!!!

by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:18am

To be fair, Louisville was #8/#9 while Oregon was #24 in one and "#26" in the other - you may disagree with those rankings, of course, but the simple fact is that a top 10 team won't get dumped out the polls entirely on the basis of one loss, no matter how brutal... and a team hanging on to the bottom of the top 25 will always fall if it loses, no matter how valiant the effort (and really, Oregon got thumped.)

There may be an East Coast bias, but this hardly a worthy test case...

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:19am

Two minutes and a timeout in college ball is an eternity, and allows an offense to use the entire field, instead of having to concentrate excessively on the sidelines. It may be the equivalent of three and a half minutes and no timeouts in pro ball.

If I could make one change to college ball, it would be to keep the clock running on first downs. I'd also shorten halftimes.

by jay sherloc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:25am

All I can say is I'd love Louisville to play USC, UCLA, and Oregon for 3 straight weeks and see how they would do? 0-3 anyone?

by Tim (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:28am

Sigh. Now I have to at least feel conflicted about disliking Brent Jones as a commentator.

by jay sherloc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:29am

Oh, I forgot about California and Arizona State. But they aren't tough are they?

by Jay Sherloc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:36am

OK, I'm Biased! Give me a team who can play USC, UCLA, Calif, ASU, And Oregon and go 4-1? Texas, OSU, LSU. LOuisville? You name the team.

by jay sherloc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:40am

Oh, I'm sorry, LSU just lost to Tenn!!

by NF (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:42am


Apparently me and about three other people thought he said "it was like ripping the head off a dog" which made me go WTF. I asked someone if he just said what I thought he said, and the answer was no. Also, another great line (actually a polysyllabylic utterance): "Turnovers!!!" He said that when the Jets punt returner muffed the catch and about 3 Jacksonville players fell on it. The way he said it was what made it great. He just suddenly yelled it out after the Jags got the ball, as a segue into a quick recap of how turnovers affected the game. It was like a cheer.

by Russell (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:59am

Re: 14

Yes, it was 13-10 Oregon at the half. Click my name for the box score.

And Jay, if Oregon beats UCLA, Cal and ASU, they'll be ranked. But all they really have to hang their hats on at the moment is a win over Fresno.

by jay sherloc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 3:11am

Russell, thank you for the honest discussion. I was wrong about half time score as I thought it was 13-7. We're here to discuss frankly and not criticize. Please keep in touch!

by jay sherloc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 3:23am

Russell. Fortunately for Oregon they don't have to play UCLA this year. Next year, they play all 9 teams in PAC-10 and 3 solid teams unlike texas and Big 12 teams. They schedule patsies!!

by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 3:56am

Hoho, hold on, cowboy - let's not forget that the Cards demolished Oregon State the week before last, which gives them one more Pac-10 win this season than Oregon.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 5:08am

I like the college rules. I agree with the sentiment that these amatuers are looking more and more like professionals every Saturday. Why make it more like the pros?

Not to mention the excitement of crazy comebacks. I'll never forget the 1993 Boston College-Notre Dame game. That rule allowed Notre Dame to have enough time to go up 39-38 after being down 38-17. Then allowed Glenn Foley enough time to drive BC into field goal range in what seemed to be a 4 minute drive.

I think that Notre Dame team was my favorite of all time, with an offense led by the vastly underrated Kevin McDougal, Lee Becton and Derek Mayes. I don't know why Becton never made it to the NFL... maybe he was a product of the option? Probably same thing with McDougal.

by Russell (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 8:00am

Well Texas did schedule Ohio State this year -- on the road, no less. That's as tough as any non-conference game any of the conteders will play this year.

As for the college rules, I like the differences from the NFL. I would like to see a couple changes however. There's no need to stop the clock on first downs outside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half. Also, I'd like to the clock restarted on out of bounds, once the ball is spotted, on plays outside of those time periods. If they made those two chances, a televised college game might have a fighting chance of finishing in under 3:30. As it is, way too many of them are hitting the four hour mark and beyond.

by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 8:37am

So, you've got a content deal with FOX and have CBS Commentators following the site and the stats. How long before you guys get jobs calling the games?

by Terry (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 9:24am

Don't know if any of you saw this, but when Clausen threw that interception with about 25 seconds left in regulation, Les Miles immediately began frantically signaling for his team to call timeout. You could see his assistants telling him to knock it off, since the clock stops with the change of possession.

Could Miles not be aware of that rule, or did he just panic at the end of the game? Either way it doesn't reflect very well on his in-game abilities.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 10:52am

Of course, the Texas/OSU game was scheduled almost a decade ago, when Texas wasn't as much Texas as it is now, and Mack Brown has repeatedly said he regretted the matchup, saying that as a top team in a big conference, he has nothing to gain by ever playing a game like that (although lately in interviews he's softened a bit - he took a lot of criticism for his "I'll never do this again" stance and now he says he might, might consider it).

I agree that college games last too long. I don't know why at the start of the game the clock has to stop on first downs (fine, keep it for end of halves/games), or why a college game has to last significantly longer than a professional game, but it does.

However, I disagree with making halftime shorter. To the TV viewer, perhaps the halftime is too long. However, were I at the stadium, I'd be unhappy if they had to cut out the performance by the marching bands (both the home team and visiting team get to play after all) just to satisfy impatient TV audiences. Having gone to zillions of college games over the past decade, I love watching the bands do their thing and consider it an essential part of the college game experience.

Louisville may have one more Pac-10 win than Oregon does, but Oregon and Louisville are both identical in their conference standings - at the bottom, looking up :) Although I'd say Louisville has a better chance than Oregon at their conference's BCS berth...


by B (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 11:30am

I want to request that the Anti-Martz award not be named after Bellicheck. If you have to name it after an active coach, I suggest you should use this week's other award winner, Weis.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 11:42am

So now the question is: which ranking was correct prior to kickoff? Is LSU really a top 5 team, or is Tennessee really #10, and LSU isn’t as good as their preseason ranking?

the answers are: neither, no,no and yes

by Domer (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 11:48am


Matthew, I loved that '93 ND team, too. Kevin McDougal was unbelievably underrated.


By all means, please keep Llloyd Carr. Other than the graduation rate of minority athletes, I have no complaints about him.

by HLF (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:00pm

I'm not really mad at Carr about the debacles this season and last, but three more years of John Navarre Jr. at the helm are going to drive me to drink. I thought we finally got rid of him (sigh). He doesn't ever make a second read -- he decides who he's throwing to in the huddle. This might fly vs EMU, but it won't fly in the big games.

I've been spoiled the last decade or more with superior college QBs to watch, and this makes it doubly painful. Like Navarre, Henne has the build and arm strength, but he just doesn't ever look off coverage or throw to the side his first read wasn't to. And I don't think Michigan's EVER had "skill position" guys on offense like they have this year, but they're going to waste. Finally, Henne never ever ever hits someone in stride (other than the occasional deep bomb) -- his passes always have to be stretched back or down or up for, throwing off the YAC. I know he's only a sophmore, and likely he's the best "we" have to work with, but coming off the Navarre trauma, I'm ready to not suffer through more of the same.

Go Blue!!

by Fiver (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:05pm

In other news, Tennessee’s musical quarterbacking has continued tonight, although Clausen in the second half has looked better than Ainge in the first. Still, I can’t make any real decision as to which is better because both have had their moments during the season, and none are left in for more than a quarter or two, maybe a half - meaning it’s hard for them to get into a rhythm with the offense. I think Fulmer really messed up this season going with the rotation, and Tennessee won’t be able to recover. Even if they win the rest of their games, they will always question whether they could have done better if they had just given one QB a firm chance.

I dunno, if a QB can't get in a rhythm over several drives, maybe he's just not good. I don't think the QB carousel is the problem. I think the carousel is the result of the QBs being the problem.

Neither QB shows consistent mechanics. Ainge was throwing off his back foot unnecessarily and Clausen was side-arming the ball unnecessarily. Ainge made some bad decisions in the first half (like that "who wants it?" ball he underhanded out of his own end zone). Clausen is a master of the overthrow, as has been noted, but he seems to make better decisions, even if he can't always get the ball there.

Remember, Fulmer sees these guys in practice. If they look in practice the way they look in the games, then why not shuffle them looking for a hot hand?

by El Angelo (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:06pm

I would name the Anti-Martz award instead the Norman Einstein Award, after Joe Theismann's timeless quote.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:30pm

I like the Norman Einstein name.

By the way, great job, Harris Poll: 0-4 Idaho, one of the worst teams in college football, got 5 25th-place votes.

I [i]hope[/i] that those people simply were confused between Idaho and Boise State (but Boise State was unranked in the poll, so who knows).


by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:46pm

I don't want the college game to completely mimic the pro game, but four hours for a non-overtime game is too much like golf, for cryin' out loud. Also, stopping the clock with every time out favors the team with more talent, since it takes away the opportunity for a scrappy, savvy, team to shorten the game to their advantage. One of the worst aspects of college ball is all too frequent mismatches (which the BCS system promotes), and lengthening the game merely aggravates the problem.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 12:49pm

Make that "stopping the clock with every first down". Sheesh.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:17pm

Make that “stopping the clock with every first down". Sheesh.

stopping the clock with every time out is also unfair to bad teams

by Joey (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:21pm

I hate ND but that was one of the classiest moves by Charlie Weis I've ever heard of. I saw it written someplace his QB asked what they were going to run and Weis told him, "We don't have a choice, we're throwing to the right." The young boy's family was watching the game and didn't think there was any way Weis would actually do it. Imagine their feelings when it went for 13 yards. You did good, Charlie. And nice play call, Montana. RIP.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:24pm

Hey, I don't care about fairness, however that is defined. All I care about is promoting competitive games, and lengthening the game by stopping the clock with every first down works against that.

by chris (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 1:35pm

Referring to comments #27,30, and 33, Big 12 teams easily had the worst non-conference schedules of the top leagues. Nearly 60 percent of their games came against Sun Belt teams or Division I-AA, which explains why (a) that league has the quietest group of unbeatens you'll ever run into; and (b) Texas' No. 2 ranking could be vulnerable as the year goes on.

Looking at non-conference matchups, A-level games come from top-six leagues, plus recent Top 25 programs (ND, Boise, etc.). B-level games come from the next four leagues (plus Navy). C-level games are Sun Belt or below Division I-A.

Judged by that crude measure, the Big 12 schedules are the worst, by a pretty wide margin. Next is the SEC. After that, the other four leagues are pretty equal. Surprisingly, I'd give the gold medal to the ACC, followed by the Pac-10, Big East and the Big Ten.

Finally, how many college bands are worth the full 15-20 minutes? (HBCUs, USC, Ohio State and Michigan are obvious exceptions.)

by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 2:46pm

Most college bands are very good. Indiana has one of the better music programs in the country so I'd imagine their band being quite good and I know Purdue has a good band, plus the largest drum - Big Bertha.

I would bet that the teams that are on TV more often are teams with large student bodies and would have better bands. The schools like Idaho or Montana may not have great bands but it's not like they're on TV all that often.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 3:53pm

Woo! Russell ranked South Florida 25th, which means that Penn State's beat a ranked opponent in his opinion. :)

by Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 5:32pm

I propose calling the anti-Martz award the Stram. The man who called 65 Toss Power Trap deserves the honor.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 5:35pm

"19. Texas Tech (22): I repeat, play somebody!"

But notice how they've steadily moved up while not playing somebody. They climbed three spots just this week by playing nobody, while teams that did play somebody lost. For a team just looking for prominence and a ranking but without serious title aspirations, playing nobodies is a very successful strategy, as illustrated by your yelling at them while still raising them.

They'll be ranked in all the major polls at least until they lose, play in some 2nd-tier bowl game, and use that as a recruiting pitch as they (in theory) make the transition from interesting mid-major to actual national power. At some point in that transition they will have to actually play somebody (in theory), but right now it's working out just fine playing crap teams like Steven F Austin.

by JPS (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 6:42pm

Nice story about Brent Jones, and that thankfully there are conflicts that don't end up with heads being bitten off. Congratulations!

by Erasmus (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 6:53pm

I am pretty damn excited about the Florida-Alabama game this weekend. Alabama needs to have their offense perform in the 1st half though if they want to win this game. Bama's defense alone should be good enough to make it close, but a slow start like in the other 3 home games will be terrible. Bama can hold a team like Arkansas to 6 points with 4 possessions that started inside the 50 (including one that started on the 11), but not Florida.

by chris (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 7:08pm

Trogdor (comment #50), TTU is an example of why why Top 25 rankings are especially worthless until early November and why Top 10 rankings shouldn't start until October. Up to that point, the polls are only useful to help the media hype a lot of mediocre matchups.

Best to have a preseason poll to set a foundation, but nothing else for at least another month. The approach encourages pollsters to rate a team's overall body of work, not just last week's game or where they started.

But to be fair to TTU within the current system, the team did finish last season pretty strong. So, depending on how many returnees they have, it's not completely out of the realm of possibility that the Red Raiders are one of the top 15-20 teams in the country. I sincerely doubt it, but if they're frauds, even playing in the weak Big 12 should smoke them out.

by Joey (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 8:37pm

I've come to the conclusion Russell's poll is an in-joke he is pulling on everyone to show how pointless polls are. What other explanation can there be? He gets on Texas Tech every week for not playing anybody, but moves them up weekly anyway. That'll show 'em!

by R. Moses (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 8:39pm

"How ya doin'?..."(waiting for response)

"I like the blog. Long time reader, first time commentator."

The Anti-Martz Award should be renamed "THE FRITZ POLLARD AWARD". The college and pro Hall of Famer made great (and courageous) decisions every time he stepped on a football field.

by Russell (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 9:57pm

The thing to remember about polls is that the only one that matters is the final one. Yes, I've been moving T-Tech up, but they will eventually play somebody, and if they lose, I will take their ridiculously weak schedule into account when I decide how far to drop them.

by Joey (not verified) :: Wed, 09/28/2005 - 1:19am

Re: 56
"The thing to remember about polls is that the only one that matters is the final one."
Certainly true with your poll, Russell. Sadly untrue in college football's sham of a system. In 2001, Illinois came out of nowhere to win the Big 10, suffering only a single loss. They had no shot at the BCS title game, though, largely because of their lousy average ranking. It had taken them an entire month to crack the Top 25 because the teams who had been ranked above them were frequently given the benefit of the doubt even if they lost and/or didn't play anybody. This is one of the great arguments for not doing polls until a few weeks into the season.

by ChrisS (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 1:02am


I agree with your analysis of Carr and no way should he even be considered as 'fireable'. He does somewhat deserve the doing less with more criticism.
On the FG attempt at the end of the half Carr said that the clock (incorrectly) ran down to 6 seconds on the penalty and based on that he sent in the FG team. Then the clock was reset to 9 but he didn't want to try to get the offense back on and screw something up.

by ChrisS (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 1:03am


I agree with your analysis of Carr and no way should he even be considered as 'fireable'. He does somewhat deserve the doing less with more criticism.
On the FG attempt at the end of the half Carr said that the clock (incorrectly) ran down to 6 seconds on the penalty and based on that he sent in the FG team. Then the clock was reset to 9 but he didn't want to try to get the offense back on and screw something up.

by ChrisS (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 1:03am


I agree with your analysis of Carr and no way should he even be considered as 'fireable'. He does somewhat deserve the doing less with more criticism.
On the FG attempt at the end of the half Carr said that the clock (incorrectly) ran down to 6 seconds on the penalty and based on that he sent in the FG team. Then the clock was reset to 9 but he didn't want to try to get the offense back on and screw something up.

by ChrisS (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 1:04am


I agree with your analysis of Carr and no way should he even be considered as 'fireable'. He does somewhat deserve the doing less with more criticism.
On the FG attempt at the end of the half Carr said that the clock (incorrectly) ran down to 6 seconds on the penalty and based on that he sent in the FG team. Then the clock was reset to 9 but he didn't want to try to get the offense back on and screw something up.

by ChriS (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 1:07am

Sorry about the multiple copies, unexpected IE behavior. Although crappy IE behavior should be expected

by Harris (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 1:12pm

Rutgers beat Pitt on Friday, dropping the Panthers to 1-4. I think we can officially begin the Dave Wanestedt Moustache/Death Watch.