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UCLA's quarterback clearly has the talent to succeed as an NFL starter. The question is whether or not he can avoid enough mistakes to become a superstar.

28 Sep 2009

One Foot Inbounds: Big Man on Campus

By Robert Weintraub

I spent the weekend with the in-laws in Florida and spent much of the endless drive down with two screaming kids in the back of the minivan fantasizing about a different life, one where I was the Big Man on Campus quarterback at one of the Big Three Florida schools. "What a great life that must be!", I thought, as my newborn projectile-spat on my shirt.

But this week, not so much. Florida's Tim Tebow, for a few blessed minutes, thought the Rapture had come and he'd been delivered to a better place. Unfortunately, it was actually teammate Marcus Gilbert's knee to the back of his head, and when Tebow realized it, he couldn't stop throwing up. Kryponite, thy name is (Kentucky defensive end) Taylor Wyndham. Luckily for the Gators, they have two full weeks to nurse Tebow's bruised brain back to 100 percent -- or at least enough to read the defensive end -- before visiting Death Valley. Meanwhile, they romped again, to stay the consensus No. 1 team in the land.

Not so fortunate was everybody's feel-good redemptive tale, Miami. The torrential rain in Blacksburg rinsed the renewed swagger right off the Canes. Quarterback Jacory Harris is cucumber-cool behind center, but his usually sun-drenched hands struggled to grip the slick ball, and Virginia Tech put serious heat on him. A sack and strip by cornerback Dorian Porch on the first series of the game pretty much ended matters right then and there. Miami tight end Jimmy Graham, a converted hoops star, didn't help matters by dropping a pair of passes just when The U seemed to be getting some momentum back. He's no Tony Gonzalez just yet. On the other side of the ball, running back Ryan Williams was superb, providing Virginia Tech with a replacement for the injured Darren Evans. A return to ACC title game, a prospect that seemed dicey, looks possible after Saturday's performance.

As for Florida State, I got a lot of stick from Warchant Nation for under-ranking the Noles after they pummeled BYU in Provo. Well, here's a ranking for you guys -- FSU is the No. 4 team in the state (and Florida International and T.Y. Hilton might give them a run). South Florida was supposed to be one dead torero after senior quarterback Matt Grothe went down for the season. But the Bulls rallied behind B.J. Daniels, who was ignored by Bowden and his staff despite starring right down the road at Tallahassee Lincoln High. Daniels made big play after big play, while Seminoles quarterback Christian Ponder continued to be the definition of erratic. In his defense, Ponder was harassed all game by South Florida's relentless rush line. George Selvie, you know about. Craig Marshall and Jason Pierre-Paul, you don't -- but you should. Pierre-Paul, in particular, could be phenomenal on Sundays -- he is quick, active, and has the wingspan of a California Condor.

If there was a defensive player of the week who didn't wear South Florida green and gold, it was Louisiana State safety Chad Jones. He personally rescued the Bayou Bengals from defeat at resurgent Mississippi State (I wanted to name check Cowbell Coach Dan Mullen last week after an impressive win over Vandy but ran out of room). First, C.J. conjured Billy Cannon with a scintillating punt return for a 91-yard score. Then, with the Bulldogs inches shy of the goal line and a probable upset, Jones leapt to deflect a third-down play-action pass that was wide open behind him. Jones bit, recognized, and went vertical in a blink -- it was an amazing play. Then, on fourth down, he was part of a posse that stuffed Mississippi State quarterback Tyson Lee shy of paydirt.

Another stud turning in a spectacular special teams play was Georgia's A.J. Green. The gangly wideout went up like a windsock to reject a would-be go-ahead Arizona State field goal, then hauled in a bomb to set up the winning field goal going the other way. ASU had zero offense in the game, but hung in thanks to an ultra-aggressive defense, led by fabulous freshman middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict. He didn't have the grades to get into USC, but he sure looks like a combination of Maualuga, Polamalu, and Charles Jefferson of Ridgemont High (who also didn't have the grades to get into USC). It's always a good sign when a linebacker is deemed special enough to get to wear jersey No. 7, as Burfict does. He was everywhere between the hedges, almost willing the Devils to victory. On one Bulldog fourth and 1, Burfict slammed into the umpire in his anticipation of the snap count. The play was blown dead, and the ref got chesty, thinking Burfict purposefully hit him. Cooler heads prevailed, no penalty was called, and then Burfict came flying in again, right over the top, slamming the ball carrier for a loss. It was an incredible play, lost in the field goal duel at the end.

Another freshman giving a great effort, again, was Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier. The young'un is getting the Favre treatment already -- he threw a late touchdown pass after getting smacked up pretty good against Indiana, cause the announcers to scream, "The legend builds!" Hey, he's played four games. Nevertheless, it was a dramatic win for Big Blue -- Forcier couldn't lift his right arm due to a shoulder injury, but he managed to go downfield for the winner. Two images stand out. When Forcier left the field, hurt, he interrupted his stagger to race over to replacement Denard Robinson and urge him on. Then, after Forcier's touchdown pass, a teammate on the sideline brainlessly gave him a smack right on that injured shoulder. Forcier winced in agony. Is that any way to treat a legend?


  • Penn State's now-annual colossal choke to Iowa was presaged by a shot of JoePa standing hatless in the State College downpour, looking utterly miserable. I couldn't help but think of President William Henry Harrison, who died from exposure while giving his inaugural speech.
  • How about Oregon, donning throwback unis, then getting a throwback performance from embattled quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who had been brutal in 2009. I tried to warn Cal that Autzen Stadium was a tough spot in last week's Seventh Day Adventure column, but Jeff Tedford, the poor man's Pete Carroll when it comes to botching winnable conference games, wouldn't listen. It was over after the Ducks' first touchdown, when they went for two and made it. Now that's chutzpah.
  • I anointed Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy after his very first game, and he continues to make me look good. His 80-yard bomb to Marquis Maze to tilt the Tide's 35-7 rout of Arkansas was thrown into an ice bucket from 50 yards away.
  • Houston knocked off Texas Tech by a singleton to hang another Big 12 pelt in the field house. But hopefully Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajowon, and other Phi Slamma Jammas in attendance didn't talk any trash to Red Raiders lineman Brandon Carter. The senior All-America candidate is not only 6 foot 7 and 354 pounds, but also sports several head tattoos and a blue barbed wire hairdo. That may or may not be the cause of Carter's suspension -- Sunday Carter was stripped of his captaincy and suspended indefinitely for the old standby, "violation of team rules." Apparently, coach Mike Leach has lost the team. Another Tech player, linebacker Marlon Williams, tweeted from his "Kos 39" account: "Wondering why I'm still in this meeting room when the head coach can't even be on time to his on [sic] meeting." If Williams is honoring the Daily Kos with his Twitter handle, then Leach must be an arch-Republican.
  • Shout-out to Brandon Banks of Kansas State, who had two kickoff returns for touchdowns in a rout of Tennessee Tech. Maybe the plaudits should go to the blockers, though -- Banks was never touched on either return.
  • Weekly Syracuse Domination Update: Despite a cheeky effort by the Maine Black Bears (who knew they even had a football team? I thought they only played hockey and hacky sack in the Pine Tree State), who faked two punts and recovered a pair of onside kicks, the Orange cruised to a 41-24 victory. Delone Carter is the player of the week, with four touchdowns against Maine's neutral zone trap. The ‘Cuse, .500? And you thought Boise in the Top Five was strange ...

The OFI Top 25

(Editor's Note: Every week, Robert Weintraub participates in the CBS Blogpoll. This is a copy of his ballot. In future weeks, arrows will appear next to each team's name according to their movement from the previous week.)

Rank Team
1 Florida
2 Alabama
3 Texas
4 Ohio State
5 Boise State
6 Virginia Tech
7 Houston
8 Oklahoma
9 Southern Cal
10 Cincinnati
11 Auburn
12 Michigan
13 TCU
14 Miami (Florida)
15 LSU
16 Notre Dame
17 Georgia
18 California
19 South Carolina
20 Oklahoma State
21 Iowa
22 Kansas
23 Brigham Young
24 Nebraska
25 South Florida

Lurking -- Ole Miss, Utah, Georgia Tech, Oregon, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee State.

Posted by: Robert Weintraub on 28 Sep 2009

32 comments, Last at 01 Oct 2009, 3:08pm by Seb


by DaninPhilly (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:12pm

I'll ask the questions I've been asking all day long: How can Alabama not be ranked #1 right now? They controlled the game against Va Tech, outgaining them about 500 yards to 150. The score was close only due to a few fluke plays, which Alabama overcame. This is the Va Tech team currently ranked #6, which just whipped soundly #14 Miami.

So, what's the thinking here?

by Fourth :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:42pm

You're right, there's a good case for Alabama. I think the reason Florida is still number one on the vast majority of ballots is the combination of poll inertia and preseason expectations / last year's results / guesswork still factoring in to the equation. Last year's results do count for something, especially when you consider Florida brought back all 11 defensive starters (and all 22 on the two-deep) from a defense that held Oklahoma to 14 points last year. Many people, myself included, don't like to start ranking based -solely- on resume until much later in the season. Search the mgoblog archives if you're really wanting to get into the weeds on resume vs non-resume ranking early in the season.

Florida hasn't had a shot at a team as good as VaTech yet. They will in two weeks. And more importantly, Alabama will have its shot at Florida in a couple months if all goes according to plan.

by Scott de B (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 5:36pm

Miami was an incredibly overrated team. They might not be top 25, certainly not in the top 20. Virginia Tech was outplayed at home by a scrappy Nebraska team who nevertheless is in the 15-20 range. I would rank VT around 16 or 17.

by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:45pm

I'm still confused how Cal can be ranked when Oregon is not. How, exactly, is Cal better than Oregon? Oregon's loss was not as bad and came to a better (and undefeated) team, Oregon's OoC schedule is at least as hard as Cal's, and Oregon destroyed Cal.

Just curious - why is Cal on there at all, and Oregon not?

by Fourth :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 3:59pm


This is a good question, I've seen it happen on other ballots too. Even the AP got this right, and I thought the purpose of the blogpoll originally was to point out how ridiculous some of the old ranking traditions (such as anchoring) were. So much for that, I guess? I suppose we'll see when the entire poll is published.

I think the real reason Oregon is being left off of ballots is everyone watched that Boise St. / Oregon game, and probably hasn't seen Oregon play since, including the blowout over Cal (because Miami-VT was on at the same time and ABC showed that to everyone not on the west coast). So, people are rightly knocking Cal down to the 20's, but forgetting that Oregon is 3-1 with a blowout over Cal and a close loss to top-10 Boise St.

by aster (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 6:03pm

Even if the voters have not watched a minute of Oregon's games since the BSU loss, wouldn't the box score speak for itself? Cal and Oregon have identical 3-1 records and Oregon just beat them head-to-head..... by 39 points. 42-3. This was not a close victory, it was complete domination.

If you don't buy Oregon in the top 25, fine, but ranking Cal ahead of them is just sloppy.

by Kal :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 6:30pm

My suspicion is that so many people had Cal really high that they're afraid to knock 'em down so far. They're also afraid that Oregon is a one-hit wonder. I totally understand not wanting to rank Cal that much lower, and I understand not wanting to rank Oregon super high; I would've said in the 20s. What I'll never understand is wanting to rank Cal over Oregon, especially given who they've played and how well they've done.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 4:56am

I'd understand Cal still being in there much better if Ole Miss hadn't totally dropped out. They were equally disappointing, but at least Ole Miss was somewhat in the game.

by Fourth :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 4:08pm

Couple more critiques for ya -- Ohio State and Michigan.

Ohio State is 5 spots ahead of USC in this ballot and I don't see how you justify that. Yeah, OSU has the "better loss" (to USC, hah) but USC has the better win (over OSU, go figure). I realize it's tough after the top 3, but your numbers 5-10 all have better resumes than the Buckeyes.

And Michigan? They gave up about 2 million yards to Indiana and likely needed that atrocious call at the end of the game to save the win. Again, this is Indiana we are talking about. Do you really think Michigan could go even .500 against the teams ranked below them? Of course, if you move them down, you have to take Notre Dame down a peg as well. And with their 3-point win over a lousy Michigan State and 4-point win over Purdue, that shouldn't be hard to do.

by navin :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 5:15pm

Looks like you addressed my Notre Dame and Michigan claims from below.

by navin :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 5:13pm

What has Notre Dame done to deserve a ranking by anyone? Most of the teams in the lurking category have been more impressive.

Michigan at #12 is even more disappointing. Their credentials are only slightly better than Notre Dame's, and they consist of 1) being Michigan, and 2) beating Notre Dame.

by jayinalaska :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 7:45pm

I'm a Notre Dame homer, but I have to agree with navin. I would put the Irish around 25 right now. They have a very good offense, but, with the exception of the Nevada game, the defense has been average at best. --Jay

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 7:26pm

1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. Virginia Tech
5. Iowa
6. Cincinnati
7. LSU
8. South Florida
9. Houston
10. Missouri
11. Boise State
12. Miami
13. TCU
14. Oklahoma State
15. Southern Cal
16. Michigan
17. Georgia
18. Penn State
19. Nebraska
20. Ohio State
21. Florida State
22. Auburn
23. BYU
24. Oklahoma
25. Oregon

by robwein (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 7:29pm

It's funny, when you do these polls, you don't (at least I don't) start with the lager picture in mind. Often, it just works out the way it works out. That's the only explanation I have for Cal v Oregon--Oregon was just so awful until Sat, and Cal so good, and the disparity so great until then, that I just couldn't make the complete 180 turn off a single game. But in the wide angle lens, probably the Ducks should be higher.
I'm no Irish fan, but I think that was an impressive win on Sat. night, given their injury load, and a comeback win on the road at night.
As for Bama v Florida, I simply think Florida wins in a game on a neutral turf. That's about the difference between them at the moment.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 5:32am

What had Cal done to impress? They blew out a terrible Maryland team (1-3 with their one win being in OT against James Madison), Eastern Washington, and were tied with Minnesota before getting a couple late TDs. Much like Ole Miss, their ranking was based solely on people thinking they would be good, as opposed to actually having shown something on the field.

by Rover (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 7:39pm

In the first quarter, Oregon and Cal (twice) faced 4th downs in their opponents territory. Cal punted on 4th and 6 and again 4th and 8, gaining 24 yards and 16 yards field position. Oregon went for it and scored their first points. When playing a high powered offense, in a mean road game, you can't be timid.

Also, Tedford threw about 75 of the time in that quarter. Riley is not accurate. The receivers have dropsy. When playing a high powered offense, in a mean road game, you need to shorten the game and run it.

Coach's turnovers and game plan that emphasized the worst part of the offense?

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 5:21am

There's timid and then there's stupid/desperate. They lost that game because they flat out didn't show up, not because the coaches weren't already going for it on fourth down in the first quarter. Cal's shown basically nothing this season; the week before they had to pull away late against a very average Minnesota team.

by Rover (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 1:26pm

They definitely showed up, I saw them in uniforms and pads on the sideline. Are you saying those weren't Cal players, it was imposters?

That's more farfetched and less informative than wiriting that Cal played timid and incomprehensibly abandoned the run game in the first quarter.

by TomCat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 2:40pm

No, he's saying that going for it on 4th and 8 in the first quarter would have been stupid. And anyone who's ever watched a down of football is with him on that one. They got blown away, managed a single field goal and never stopped Oregon all day. And your take is things would have been different if only they'd tried a couple 4th down plays early on? Wow, you're a genius.

by danb (not verified) :: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 8:22pm

Iowa at 21? I understand the squeaker against UNI still taints them with some, but that was opening week and people need to realize that UNI isn't just garden variety FCS school. They beat Iowa State 35-3 on the road and were up three scores on Arizona until garbage time. Then obviously everyone saw the PSU game.

Iowa's opponents are 12-0 in games where they didn't play Iowa. Arizona won a big Pac-10 game Saturday, UNI is dominating everyone at that level to an absurd degree and Iowa State has had convincing wins over (admittedly bad) Kent State and Army. Penn State is at least a top 25 team and Iowa physically handled them in an extremely tough environment.

by Derek (Brooklyn) (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 11:39am

It is bizarre. I would like to see someone argue that Michigan and Notre Dame (with a loss!) have better resumes than the Hawkeyes.

Michigan has played all 4 games at home, beating Western Michigan (2-2), Eastern Michigan (0-3), Notre Dame, and Indiana (3-1). Opponents combined record: 8-7

Notre Dame beat Nevada (0-3) at home, lost to Michigan on the road, beat Michigan State (1-3) in a close game at home, and beat Purdue (1-3) in a close game on the road. Opponents combined record: 6-9

Iowa has two wins away from home (against an in-state rival and a decent Penn State team).

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 4:45am

"I couldn't help but think of President William Henry Harrison, who died from exposure while giving his inaugural speech."

He died a month later...not during the actual speech itself. Though, that certainly would have been an inauguration to remember...

by Eddo :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 10:15am

You're 100% correct; he didn't die at his inauguration. But Rob's sentence is also correct. The clause "while giving his inaugural speech" modifies the word "exposure".

by dbostedo :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 11:24am

If we're going to get super picky, can you use "while" to modify a noun? Doesn't while modify a verb, which mean it would modify "die" not "exposure"?

If that's the case, it should have been stated that he "died from exposure the occurred while..." or something similar.

by Eddo :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 12:11pm

Yeah, it's not great grammar, but it's acceptable, I believe.

For instance, the sentence, "He died from choking while eating a hot dog," uses "while" to modify the gerund noun "eating", and it reads perfectly fine.

by TomCat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 2:49pm

Harrison didn't die of exposure. He died of pneumonia. And since he didn't display any symptoms until 3 weeks after the inauguration, the common belief that it was the bad weather that killed him is probably incorrect.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 2:50pm

[further nitpick]
Hmm...yeah, maybe my statement was too loose....gerunds would work. But I can't think of a "regular" noun that would work with the word "while". Only things that indicate actions or events, which would be verbs or gerunds...since "while" implies something happening at/over a particular period of time. So :

"died from exposure while" -> while modifies died
"died from being exposed while" -> while modifies "being exposed" (and has a whole new meaning that can be read into it)

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 5:07am

Regarding Texas Tech and Mike Leach losing the team... I don't know if that is really happening, but his high risk tendencies certainly helped them lose that Houston game. Up 5 in the 4th quarter they could have kicked the FG and been up 8. Instead he went for it, and set the stage for Houston to win. There's a time to take risks and a time to take the points and I think Leach guessed wrong on that one.

by Tom Malone (not verified) :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 4:30pm

You know you're on a special college football blog when gramar usage is discussed without discussing someone's mother.

We can debate the merits of FLA, AL, and TX, but they are (so far) head and shoulders above all the other teams. Arguing about who should be number 4 is hard because so many teams can make a case. The interesting thing to watch for is how Boise will be kept down no matter what they do. If anyone above them loses, voters will try to keep them out of top 3 on schedule grounds. If Oregon wins the PAC-10 (very possible), Texas loses (less possible), and Boise runs the table (almost a lock), they look good for number 2 (because AL and FLA will knock each other in SEC title game, if one doesn't lose before then).

And Oregon AT HOME should be rated in the top 25. Away, they aren't the same team.

by Kal :: Wed, 09/30/2009 - 2:14pm

@And Oregon AT HOME should be rated in the top 25. Away, they aren't the same team.

I don't know that there's enough information to verify that, one way or another. So far they've had one game away, and it was a singularly horrible game for the offense - but their defense played better than almost any other game save the Cal one, and it was against their toughest opponent so far. They've since had two games at home that the offense was meh with, one where they did well. Two games where the defense did superb, one where they were meh.

Looking back at last season, they did well away too at times. The worst games were in poor weather conditions - whether they were at home or away.

Anyway, sweeping statements like this are a bit overblown. There's too few variables, and last year certainly was a contraindicator of this; their only losses were to USC and Cal (at both) and a loss to Boise St...at home.

by t.d. :: Tue, 09/29/2009 - 9:59pm

I think Boise State merits the #5 ranking, and no matter what they do (unless they lose), they will still deserve #5. Their resume consists of beating one 'good' team, at home, in the first game of the year. People complain about the lack of connectivity in the FCS. As others have pointed out above, Boise State's resume is not significantly better than Northern Iowa's. Give the Broncos a good BCS game against a team from one of the top four conferences, but keep them out of the championship game.

by Seb (not verified) :: Thu, 10/01/2009 - 3:08pm

If beating 2 top 20 teams, one on the road, and losing to a top 10 team on the road who almost beat Bama doesn't get you into the top 20, nothing does, Mr Scott von Recency Bias...even if they lose to a better OU team.

ND, Cal, OklaSt haven't beat anyone of note, neither has half the top 25.