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21 Sep 2009

One Foot Inbounds: Upset Weekend

By Robert Weintraub

Which is more potent, swine flu or Buckeye hangover? I suppose the latter, since Florida managed to stagger to victory despite dressing several key players in dire need of some chicken soup and Purell. Southern California was not so fortunate, falling to a Pac-10 weak link for what feels like the 20th consecutive season. Despite warnings from wise souls like coach Pete Carroll and OFI commenter "Tom Malone," the Trojans fell to earth after a big win against Ohio State. This time, Washington -- a team that until last week had lost fifteen straight -- was the culprit. Given that the Husky sideline sports enough former Trojan coaches to open a Pacific Northwest Heritage Hall, the 16-13 You Dub win is the very embodiment of the non-shocking shocker.

The short winning field goal by Erik Folk means USC will need help to reach the BCS title game and confirms my suspicions, formed watching last week’s game from Columbus, that these Men of Troy are a far cry from recent squads. That holds true with or without star frosh Matt Barkley at the helm. His replacement, Aaron Corp, had the secret, naughty prayer from the depths of his black heart answered, and got to step in for the injured Barkley. And he was awful. But Southern Cal has tough trips to Strawberry Valley, South Bend, and Eugene ahead, and weren’t likely to get their weaknesses ironed out in time to win them all anyway, regardless of who was barking signals.

When assessing his defense earlier this week, Nick Holt -- one-time Trojans defensive coordinator now manning the DC gig for the purple and gold -- admitted "there are deficiencies with personnel." Green replacement quarterback or not, his guys stuffed a squad full of elite players on the line, on the flanks, and in the backfield. Senior linebacker Donald Butler was the star, making a dozen tackles, forcing a fumble, picking off a pass, and presenting an Emmy Award. Actually, few people in Hollywood want to see any more of Butler -- or Corp, for that matter.

Another former Trojan assistant found himself actively encouraging the soft bigotry of low expectations this week. Indeed, Lane Kiffin game planned around the concept that simply not getting crushed by Florida was a victory in itself. While accused of many vile perpetrations, no one has yet called Kiffin "Typhoid Lane," so we’ll assume he didn’t recruit a Vol undergrad to get injected with flu virus and walk around Gainesville for a few days (frequenting the weight room and nightclubs) hoping to infect the Gators.

The Vols just played very tough defense, ran it well enough to kill some clock, and forced a slightly off Gators squad into enough missteps to lose respectably, disappointing all who wanted Urban Meyer to embarrass the coach who cannonballed into the SEC pool earlier this year. It didn’t happen, but the Volunteer Navy is sobered by one fact: Their quarterback is still Jonathan Crompton -- 93 yards passing and two picks can spoil any quasi-feel good moment. The good news is, Crompton is a senior and can’t do any damage past 2009. The bad news is, there isn’t much in the replacement cabinet. Perhaps star recruit Jesse Scroggins will change his mind and shun USC for Knoxville. If only Kiffin can convince him that losing by less than expected is somehow better than losing when favored to win...

Meanwhile, did I miss the day in the offseason when safeties were deemed ineligible to play on Saturdays? Everywhere I turned -- Boise State-Fresno State, Georgia-Arkansas, Auburn-West Virginia, to name three -- there were guys running over vast stretches of grass with nary a safety in sight. Yes, the spread of the spread makes it tough on the last line of defense. But "my goodness!" (to quote a play-by-play guy in one of the aforementioned games here), the tackling was shoddy and the positioning atrocious. Even the great safeties were off. USC’s Taylor Mays was hurt and missed the Washington upset, while Tennessee’s Eric Berry was flattened by a quarterback. Although, said quarterback was Tim Tebow, who is to passers what Wilt Chamberlain was to volleyball.

Boise-Fresno, the Battle for the Milk Can, was particularly absurd -- or entertaining, depending on how much you liked that old Mattel electronic handheld football game where you maneuvered your dot past three other dots. (When I ponder what today’s kid has on offer to waste away a rainy afternoon compared to when I was a wee lad, I weep.) This 51-34, 987-yard Mike Martz wet dream featured about a bakers dozen worth of long plays. The biggest and best came when Broncos wideout Titus Young (named for Titus Andronicus?) chased down a fumble in the end zone after teammate Jeremy Avery was stripped at the tail end of a 75-yard run. Avery and fellow junior tailback DJ Harper combined for 23 carries and 293 yards, thus raising the question -- does anyone miss Ian Johnson except romantics who enjoyed his proposal on national TV?

Notre Dame disappointed a nation of Jews avoiding Rosh Hashanah services by slipping past Michigan State. Kirk Cousins was the afternoon’s Haman: The Spartan quarterback threw a horrendous pass off his back foot that was picked off near the goal line in the dying seconds of the 33-30 loss, one play after overthrowing a wide open receiver in the Irish end zone. Charlie Weis thus wriggles off the hot seat he would have been broiling on were Notre Dame 1-2. It wasn’t totally a happy new year for the Damers. Receiver Michael Floyd’s injury makes a dynamic Irish offense much more defendable. Last season, Floyd missed the Syracuse and USC games, both losses, and ND’s passing and total yards dropped by about a third. Golden Tate is good, but he’s not the elite talent Floyd is, especially in the air.

Speaking of religion, a few Mormons may have uttered their first-ever swear words after watching BYU get drilled by Florida State. You know, the teahm last seen nearly losing to Jacksonville State? I haven’t seen anything in Utah that shocking since Nikki pushed Roman down the stairs in "Big Love." Seminoles freshman defensive back Greg Reid is officially lightening fast, and the Cougars played like they were thinking about that BCS bowl in January, rather than letting loose on a talented but inconsistent FSU bunch. Bronco Mendenhall, BYU coach, now cedes the mid-major BCS inside track to the Broncos of Boise State. Wild horses can’t drag me away from the TV when Boise plays, but I’m not sure their schedule will allow them to slip into the Big Boy Money Grab again this season. Houston might be more fun, anyway -- provided the Cougars don’t emulate USC and slip up at Tulane or Central Florida or some other Conference USA snake pit.


  • Jahvid Best -- wowzers. Cal came away with a tough win at Minnesota thanks to the nations’ best back touching down five times. I look forward to some games at Minnesota’s new outdoor stadium in weather more suitable for ice fishing. With a decided home field advantage at last, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Gophers make a leap in the Big Ten power structure.
  • Which handshake was more awkward, the Lane Kiffin-Urban Meyer dead fish or the Rex Ryan-Bill Belichick limp dishrag?
  • Anyone else watch Boise-Fresno and wonder why Joe Buck was doing the game? It was actually Joe Tessitore, but he sounds so much like JB he may actually replace Jack’s son on the HBO show (which isn’t a bad idea, come to think of it).
  • Third best hit of the weekend -- the aforementioned Tebow-Berry collision, an appropriate meeting of the returning SEC offensive and defensive players of the year, the first time that’s ever happened. The respective trophy cases almost shattered from the seismic impact.
  • Second best hit of the weekend -- The U’s Jordan Futch blindside block of Georgia Tech’s Steven Sylvester, bringing new meaning to the term "Ramblin’ Wreck."
  • Best hit of the weekend -- the lone good defensive play from the Boise-Fresno game, a flying, headfirst (don’t tell the refs) blast of quarterback Ryan Colburn by blitzing Boise linebacker Winston Venables. Colburn was left looking like Patton Oswalt in "Big Fan" after he gets jacked up by Quantrell Bishop.
  • Which assistant coach would you rather play for, Kentucky’s Joker Phillips or Auburn’s Trooper Taylor?
  • Maryland flirted with catastrophe last week, but escaped in overtime against James Madison. But Middle Tennessee unplugged the Fridge Saturday thanks to a fantastically named dual threat quarterback Dwight Dasher, who led Middle to a 32-31 win in College Park.
  • What’s with the new TV trend of cutaways to depressed fans from the visiting team, as the home crowd goes ape over touchdown? Weird.
  • How about a shout out to receiver Mike Williams from Syracuse, my alma mater, for a huge game chasing down Greg Paulus outlet passes, to the tune of 209 yards and two scores, in an epic 37-34 win over Northwestern. The game definitively rests the case that Syracuse not only has the superior journalism school, but football team as well.


1. Florida --
2. Alabama (+1)
3. Texas (+1)
4. Cal (+2)
5. Miami (+10)
6. Penn State (+1)
7. Ohio State (+1)
8. Ole Miss (+1)
9. Boise State (+1)
10. Virginia Tech (+2)
11. Oklahoma (+2)
12. USC (-10)
13. Houston (+1)
14.Cincinnati (+3)
15. Auburn (+7)
16. Michigan --
17. Notre Dame (+2)
18. LSU (+7)
19. TCU (+5)
20. Georgia (+4)
21. Oklahoma State --
22. BYU (-16)
23. Nebraska (-3)
24. Kansas (UN)
25. North Carolina (UN)

Lurking: Utah, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, Clemson, South Carolina, West Virginia, Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee State

Posted by: Robert Weintraub on 21 Sep 2009

33 comments, Last at 24 Sep 2009, 1:21pm by Shevin


by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 1:45pm

So Texas plays a tough conference game against a competent opponent and comes away with a victory. Alabama has no conference play and smacks around patsy North Texas. So Alabama gets 2 and Texas gets 3? You, sir, are what is wrong with NCAA Division I college football.

by hrudey (not verified) :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 3:48pm

Virginia Tech > Texas Tech. QED.

by t.d. :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 7:31pm

I suspect Texas Tech would beat Nebraska by more than a point on a last second drive.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 1:51pm

And Nebraska outplays a higher-ranked Va Tech on the road but loses by one, so they fall and Va Tech rises? Huh? Shouldn't a 12th ranked team beat a 20th ranked team at home by more than one?

by bird jam :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 2:26pm

And if BYU is still worthy of being ranked, how is FSU not even "lurking"?

by Kibbles :: Tue, 09/22/2009 - 5:04am

The other ranking critiques seem mostly like nitpicks, but this one seems like a genuine glaring oversight. FSU played the #5 team in the country to a near-draw and absolutely bludgeoned a second top-25 team on the road.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 2:04pm

Does USC's gags against markedly inferior athletes reflect more more poorly on Pete Carroll than USC's great play against top teams speaks well of Pete Carroll?

My guess is that Lane Kiffin will be able to recruit a lot of the cream of high school defensive talent. If a seventeen year old wanted to maximize his chance of playing defense in the NFL, or getting drafted on the first day as a defensive player, spending four years being taught by Lane's old man would be a good start.

by bird jam :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 2:24pm

Tennessee actually got a commitment from the Manute Bol-ish Tyler Bray, but Kiffin et al are still working on Scroggins as well. But your point remains - the cupboard is currently bare, although Crompton's loss of eligibility (I believe he already graduated) will be a nice addition by subtraction.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 2:29pm

Five dots. You're just remembering the "line". Three linemen, one LB behind them, and one DB. I tried to use a code block to display the formation and I was denied.

Sorry, but an illegal hit shouldn't be the "best" hit, particularly not at this level. NFL players might be less likely to injure themselves and their fellow union members with head-first tackles if it weren't encouraged at lower levels. Plus there are plenty of perfectly legal hits to celebrate ... one of the nice things about a full-on college football weekend is that there are so many games you can watch. (Especially now that more I-AA and lower-level games are available if you have the right channels.)

If memory serves, USC generally wins the Pac-10 title because shortly after their annual shouldn't-have-lost game, Cal or the next closest competitor promptly does the same. Looking at California's upcoming schedule (at Oregon, USC, at UCLA), a matching loss by the Bears sure wouldn't be a surprise.

by Tom Malone (not verified) :: Tue, 09/22/2009 - 11:24am

I don't know the rule (making my comments irrelevant, but anyway), but is a head first hit to the QB's shoulderpad really illegal? And I thought the defender had to duck his head for the hit to be deemed illegal? Personally, I thought it was a good non-call.

As for the Pac-10 point, USC needs to run the table and everyone in the conference needs to lose at least once for USC to win the PAC-10, except for UW, which needs to lose twice in conference (they already have one, to Stanford). More simply, USC needs to beat Cal before conference title should even be discussed.

by Rover (not verified) :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 2:47pm

Strawberry Valley? East Coast geographic ignorance.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 3:45pm

I think it's like Happy Valley, except less happy and with more strawberries.

by neilalice :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 7:05pm

Cal's Memorial Stadium is in Strawberry Canyon, part of the UC Berkeley campus. It's gorgeous, and the Trojans can check out the view of the San Francisco Bay when they visit in two weeks.

by bear goggles (not verified) :: Tue, 09/22/2009 - 1:56am

And hopefully that's all they'll enjoy, except maybe some delicious yet affordable strawberries from Monterey Market.

I have a feeling 7-2 takes the Pac-10 this year and it comes down to some kind of tiebreaker. I think USC doesn't make it. I hope Cal does, but special teams (especially atrocious kickoffs) will likely do them in at some point.

by Rover (not verified) :: Tue, 09/22/2009 - 1:49pm

Exactly, there's a Strawberry Canyon and Strawberry Creek but no Strawberry Valley.

Anyone notice Tedford's mincy fraidy cat punt (All Rights Reserved, TMQ) from the 50 on 4th an short? That timidity is what I call a "coaches turnover" and it may cost them against a better team like USC.

Riley is pretty inaccurate, they should focus on the throws he can make and only call those because with Oregon & USC's offensive struggles, Cal should win those games if its offense doesn't shoot itself in the foot.

by beargoggles :: Tue, 09/22/2009 - 3:28pm

Riley's accuracy has improved a lot this year (check the numbers), and it helps that his receivers have improved a lot. He throws a fantastic deep ball and throws well on the run (the anti-Longshore). He still occasionally airmails one, but his biggest problem is holding onto the ball too long sometimes and taking sacks.

And yes Tedford needs to show more stones. I don't have a problem with the midfield punt with a good defense (depends on game situation). I have a lot of problems when he kicks 50 yard FGs on 4th and short, which I've seen a lot of over the years.

by kevinM (not verified) :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 3:13pm

While the Floyd injury hurts, I think there's a major difference between 2008 and 2009. Jimmy Clausen and Armando Allen are both MUCH better now than they were as sophomores. Clausen has been among the best QBs in the country so far.

OTOH, the defense stinks.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 3:33pm

WVU is lurking but Pitt is not? Washington beats USC and doesn't even make it to 'lurking'?

by Bobman :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 5:02pm

Yah, I think UW, with some QB health and maturity and the slew of USC staffers might well win 7 this year. That deserves a lurking notice, but maybe not yet. Wait a few weeks. Locker is a MUCH better passer than in years past and it's his 4th season starting, for Pete's sake.

There was a failed TD pass attempt in the game in which he had a clear 12 yard alley to run for the score, or about 7 for the 1st down, but instead passed for an incompletion and settled for three. Sark has really improved Locker's weak passing game. Now maybe dialing back on his instincts just a tad would result in a very good caliber collegiate QB.

by huskyfan12345 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/22/2009 - 2:24am

"it's his 4th season starting"

Uh, no.

He redshirted his first year, started 9 games his second, started 2 games his third before being lost to a broken thumb. This is his third season starting.

by jebmak :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 3:55pm

Regarding the dispondant fans.

I wish that after they show fans going crazy after something good happens. They would show those exact same fans after something bad happens.

by Dr. Jacques Trerapé (not verified) :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 4:07pm

Imma Gator, but FSU is not even lurking? Gave your #5 Miami all they wanted, destroyed your #22 BYU at their elevation and time zone. JaxSt was an obvious trap game -- sign of immaturity, sure, but not so bad as to eliminate them from your consideration

by David B (not verified) :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 6:18pm

Hey, no mention of NIU's epic win in Lafayette? C'mon give my MAC darlings a little love. The fake punt that sealed it might have been the best play in the school's not so glorious history. Jerry Kill has guts and the best name in sports.

by Jeff (not verified) :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 6:45pm

"I look forward to some games at Minnesota’s new outdoor stadium in weather more suitable for ice fishing. With a decided home field advantage at last,"

The really cold weather doesn't usually hit until the NCAA football season is over. Fall is pretty nice in Minnesota. You can get some cold days in late November, but given that Minnesota's last home game is against South Dakota State, and is only on Nov 14, I doubt that it will give them too much of a home field advantage.

If they played football in January, it would be a different story all together.

by Roscoe :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 7:05pm

When I was in the service we did cold weather training in Minnesota (Camp Ripley)to get ready for a deployment to Norway. The Norway weather was a piece of cake compared to Minnesota (something to do with the gulf stream, they tell me).

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 11:10pm

I grew up in Wisconsin and spent time in Minnesota. Winter doesn't really hit until later in December with the worst months being January and February.

Suggesting it will be legitimately cold in Minny during the Big Ten season (below 20 degrees F) is ridiculous. And anyone has played active sports in cold weather knows you feel a good 10-20 degrees warmer than the ambient temp due to being so active. Which is why 20 degrees feels like 35 and so on. Very manageable.

Now if one is suggesting there could be inclement weather, such as rain, that is a distinct possibility. But that applies to all the Big Ten venues.

by robwein (not verified) :: Mon, 09/21/2009 - 11:12pm

Rankings are always going to upset somebody, and I'm still working out the kinks myself. So far as FSU is concerned, I tend to discount non-FBS wins, so this was the 'Noles first legit win. I had them lurking originally, as well as Pitt and some others, but I looked up and realized I had about 12 lurkers, which felt a bit ridiculous. As for Bama/Texas, Bama's win over VT on a neutral site trumps UT's over TT at home, sorry. Plus I feel Bama would beat Texas. BYU did beat OU, let's not forget, so they didn't deserve to fall totally out of the rankings. I should probably have UW lurking, but let's see them win a conference game on the road before we get all warm and fuzzy about the Huskies.
As for glorifying the illegal hit, Zillionsfan, you're probably right, I shouldn't have. Although it should be acknowledged that no flag was thrown.

by t.d. :: Tue, 09/22/2009 - 1:10am

The national championship game isn't going to be a rematch of the SEC title game, so Texas has no reason to complain. They've looked rusty. Alabama hasn't yet established that they have a good quarterback. Tebow looks like he really misses Havin and Murphy. Everybody has looked very beatable.

by http://www.TomahawkNation.com/ (not verified) :: Tue, 09/22/2009 - 1:57am

Seriously? FSU beat BYU 54-28, and pulled their starters when they were up 54-21, in Provo Utah! They lost to your #5 team by 4 points, on a dropped touchdown pass on the final play of the game.

I don't see how you can justify your poll with respect to those teams. This doesn't seem very FootballOutsiders-esque. It reads like a generic national writer.

by AB (not verified) :: Tue, 09/22/2009 - 4:12am

Not a member of the "Tomahawk Nation" but have to agree.

By all means ignore the victory over a Div II team - but that leaves you with (i) a final-play, dropped-pass defeat against a team you have as #5 in the country (and which itself has a big win to corroborate that) and (ii) an absolute shellacking, on the road, of a team that you previously ranked #6 and still regard as #22.

Based on that 2-game CV, how can you possibly rank Florida State below (i)Clemson, which has a loss to a team outside the top 25, and, even more ridiculously,(ii) MTSU, whose signature win is a one-point road "upset" of Maryland, which itself required OT to beat James Madison, its only victory to date!

Of course there is room for subjectivity, especially at this stage of the season. But MTSU over FSU is simply indefensible, and you do your credibility further harm by trying to defend it.

by bubqr :: Tue, 09/22/2009 - 8:22am

Is that really an ad for head and shoulders with Polamalu ??
I mean, does it make you buy this shampoo ? Polamalu's hair ?

by Tom Malone (not verified) :: Tue, 09/22/2009 - 11:17am

Obviously, this is the greatest article ever written . . . and USC is the biggest underachiever this decade. Sickening.

by Shevin (not verified) :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 1:21pm

Maryland beats Rutgers this week. Bet on it.