Sunday, September 30, 2012

Scattershot: Desultory Musings From Around College Football

Welcome to this week's edition of Scattershot, in which we delve into the Pac-12's logic puzzle, nonexistent defense, uber-existent offense, and the foundations of dominance showing the tiniest microfractures here and there.  As James Brown (the Godfather of Soul, not the NFL halftime personality) would say, "Let's get it on the good foot!!!"

And Speaking Of Good Feet ...

Middle Tennessee State did unspeakable things to Georgia Tech's defense, courtesy of one of the most dominant rushing performances I've ever witnessed.  Some kid name of Benny Cunningham, a senior who until yesterday had only racked up 91 yards and two scores all season, pummeled, dodged, juked, and smoked the Yellow Jackets to the tune of 217 yards and 5 touchdowns.  We tend talk about running styles like we talk about famous guitar players; usually guys have a distinctive signature in the way they operate.  Conversely, Cunningham was like a studio musician out there, adapting to whatever the situation demanded and playing the style necessary for success.  When he needed to hit the hole running north-south, he did it.  When he needed to change directions behind the line or make ankle-shattering cuts in space, he did it.  And when he needed to run to contact and pick up extra yards by lowering his shoulders and putting DB's on their asses, he did that too. 

Last week I wrote that Al Groh's position might be in danger after Tech's awful second-half defensive showing against Miami.  I brought the subject up to a die-hard Jackets fan at work and he vehemently disagreed, arguing that Groh's schemes were full of good ideas but the defensive front gets zero push and you can't expect the secondary to cover forever.  He's not wrong, but at some point you have to start scheming to fit your personnel.  Groh has seemed unwilling to change things up, and yesterday he again failed to make adjustments that might have helped.  (Like, oh I don't know, a novel concept such as stacking the box when you're getting run over like a raccoon on I-75 South.)  I can't entirely fault Tech's D for being exhausted since their offense coughed up four turnovers which swung some critical moments, but I still say the Al Groh hot seat watch is permanently in effect until further notice. 

The Parker Posey Game Of The Week

Here's everything you need to know about yesterday's West Virginia/Baylor game:

Geno Smith (WVU): 45/51, 656 yards, 8 TDs

Nick Florence (Baylor): 29/47, 581 yards, 5 TDs.

"All right you little freshmen bitches ... AIR RAID!!!" (it's at 0:53 in the clip.)

Also, last week I wrote the following about Old Dominion's Taylor Heinicke (55/79, 730 yards, 5 TDs): "I'm fairly certain no other signal caller will come close to topping that performance this year."  Whoops. 

Standardized Testing

After Washington pulled off a stunner on Thursday night and upset Stanford 17-13, the PAC-12 resembles nothing so much as one of those annoying logic questions they used to ask on the SAT.

Washington beat Standford.  Stanford beat USC.  All three teams have only one loss. 

Yet the AP Rankings have USC #13, Standford #18, and Washington #23 (despite the Huskies' only loss coming at the hands of LSU.)

To reiterate: the national rankings are the exact inverse of the who-beat-who hierarchy. 

Q. So who's the best team in the conference?

A. Oregon.  Duh.   

Scrappy Is The Watchword

Speaking of the Ducks, both they and the Crimson Tide got more than they bargained for yesterday. Relatively speaking, of course.  I mean as much as teams like that can bargain for anything besides absolute obliteration of their opponents.  But they did resemble the heavyweight champ taking a few good shots in round one from his lesser challenger, and realizing that he has to respect that right hook at the very least.  Up against Ole Miss and Washington State respectively, Oregon and 'Bama weathered physical and feisty first halves from clearly inferior teams.  The Rebs and Cougars didn't flinch in the face of the two best teams in the nation, playing with fervor and abandon, hoping to make up in reckless arrogance what they lacked in talent.  Of course, inevitably, they got stomped.  Oregon did their gonzo-blitzkrieg routine in the third quarter to put the game far out of reach for Wazzu, who trailed by only 3 at the half.  Alabama had a tougher row to hoe, as the Rebels' vicious defense limited them to a mere 6 second-half points.  Luckily for the Tide, their own D came up with three picks and held Mississippi to 14 total points, enough for a comfortable victory overall, despite the bumpy ride.  It wasn't exactly a red letter day for the Rebels and Cougars, but even causing us to think "hey, they could make a serious game out of this" for a half was impressive in itself.     

DEE-FENSE!!!  DEE-FENSE!!!  Dee ... oh. 

The SEC East's two juggernauts showed some flaws yesterday on D.  Georgia gave up a ridiculous 44 points to Tennessee, including 20 unanswered that gave the Vols a 2nd-quarter lead.  To be fair, there were some mitigating circumstances involved in this ugly, ugly win.  Tennessee is actually a decent team this year, and Tyler Bray is no slouch at QB.  Also, it appeared early on that Georgia had some slight difficulty adjusting to the return of defensive standouts Alec Ogletree and Bacari Rambo.  Though it seems counterintuitive, getting those two excellent players back threw Georgia off a little from their established defensive rhythm until they settled down.  Those caveats aside, the Dawgs' crystal football aspirations won't allow for this kind of defensive showing against anybody else for the rest of the season, especially next week at South Carolina. 

Speaking of the Gamecocks, 17 points doesn't seem like a terribly egregious tally to cough up ... unless it's against Kentucky.  Yes, Steve Spurrier's team clamped down when it mattered and pitched a shutout in the second half, but they were behind 17-7 to the pathetic Wildcats at intermission which, frankly, can't happen if they want a legit shot at the Georgia Dome in a few months.  We'll see which team can most effectively recalibrate over the week when they meet next Saturday.

Your Weekly Notre Dame And FSU Are Relevant Again! Update 

The Irish moved up a spot to #9 in the rankings despite not having played a game this week, thanks to Stanford's loss to Washington.  They'll have the opportunity to justify the move when they play the Cardinal in South Bend on October 13th.  

The 'Noles swapped places with LSU to wind up at #3 after a 30-17 victory over South Florida.  It was s good win, but their uptick in the rankings probably had more to do with the fact that the Tigers gave up 22 points to something called "Towson."  Presumably this is an institution of higher learning which also fields a football team, but I honestly had never heard of them.  Oh well, they gave Les Miles a good fight.  I salute you, random CAA school.

Enjoy the NFL games.  Happy Sunday.

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