This week is "All Games Get Thrown in a Hat." Do I go with potential rout Alabama versus Tennessee? Or Zook-fest Northwestern versus Purdue? Or Overrated-alert Penn State versus Northwestern? ACC implosion Maryland versus FSU? MACular bird-fight Temple Owls versus Bowling Green Falcons? But no to all of that, I'm going with Bad Pun Game of the Week: Rutgers versus Louisville.
But first, last week's Blowout-tacular. Since I had 5 games "sous surveillance" (pretentious French way of saying "on watch" that I just made up), we'll deal with them in aggregate. So last week is Good Team versus Bad Team.
First off, Good Team outscored Bad Team 259-51. That pretty much sums up the weekend for Bad Team. In a little more detail, Good Team outgained Bad Team 2874-950 and out-rushed them 1621-590. Good Team had 133 first downs to Bad Team's 52. Bad Team was 14 of 67 on third down. I couldn't bring myself to do the punting stats, but I imagine they punted around the Earth. So, the takeaway is that when the top 5 play conference cupcakes, bad things will happen. This should not be news.
This week is Rutgers versus Louisville. Louisville is 2-4, and the polite thing to say is they have a stingy defense, at 16th nationally giving up 17.7 PPG. The not polite thing is to say they suck at offense, ranked 111th and scoring 16.3 PPG. They've got a win over Kentucky 24-17, and three straight losses to Marshall, UNC and Cinci, and haven't scored three touchdowns in any of those three games. Rutgers is 5-1 but not so fast my friend. They went to double OT against Syracuse, and beat Navy by a point last week. They lost to UNC 24-22, so head-to-head I think Louisville has the advantage. Since this game is the Cardinals versus the Scarlet Knights, I'm giving it the slogan "Scarlet Fever: Catch It!"
UGotW gets a bye week! Not two, not three, but all five of the top five play cupcakes! Sweet, delicious, in-conference cupcakes. This has to be the easiest column since last year's New Mexico/New Mexico State tilt that got one of the two teams their first (and I think only) win of the season.
So here's what passes for research for me: go to ESPN's scoreboard, flip ahead to the next week. What do I see but #1 LSU playing Tennessee, #2 Alabama playing Ole Miss, #3 Oklahoma playing Kansas, #4 Wisconsin playing Indiana and #5 Boise State playing Colorado State. I mean, it doesn't get any easier than that.
Cupcakes? Cupcakes. Or since we're all doing MST3K references this week, DEEP HURTING! Rock climbing, Joel. Rock climbing.
First off, Tennessee has already been beaten by a Florida team that has fallen out of the top 25. Last week, they scored a mighty 12 against Georgia. I was hopeful that the 12 would be all FGs, but 2 FGs and a TD with a blocked extra point gets a +1 for originality and style. Another bonus point for Tennessee for managing negative rushing yards against Georgia. LSU has only the 100th ranked passing offense, but giving up only 12 points per game, who needs it?
Staying in the SEC, we come to Ole Miss. They've got losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia to open 0-2 in conference. Alabama looks a lot like LSU on paper: 80th ranked passing offense, 1st in points allowed. Alabama has two shutouts for the season, and hasn't allowed more than 2 TDs yet.
I'm supposed to be nice to Kansas, since it's my wife's school, but what can you say? They are 120th in points allowed, pushing close to the 50 points per game margin. To be fair, it looks like they have a reasonable offense on paper (11th in rushing), but they must be playing traffic cones and office furniture on defense. This is shaping up to be a month to forget for the Jayhawks, after playing #6 Oklahoma State, #3 Oklahoma, #17 Kansas State and #22 Texas. Oklahoma is coming off a 55-17 pantsing of Texas.
Indiana already has losses to Ball State, Virginia and North Texas on their resume. Up to last week, none of those losses were more than 6 points, but if you need to equivocate a loss to North Texas, you're not very good. Wisconsin, on the other hand, is very good. The phrase "Crushin' Fools" comes to mind. They're #3 in points for and #2 in points against, and averaging over 500 yards per game. Plus they had a bye week after welcoming Nebraska to the BIG conference.
Last, but not least is Colorado State. Yes, the Rams are 3-2. Their wins are: 14-10 versus New Mexico, 33-14 against Northern Colorado, and an overtime win against Utah State. Boise State continues to be the bully on the playground, picking on the little kids. Since Georgia, they've played Toledo, Tulsa, Nevada, Fresno State, CSU, Air Force, and UNLV before finally playing TCU, who does not look like the TCU of previous years.
So here's my sporting advice for the weekend: take the over. I don't know if anyone will push triple digit scores, but I expect to see lots of 60's, 70's and probably a 80 as they all fight to make up ground on each other.
Some days I feel like a mouse among elephants compared to some of the diaries around here. I mean, WolverineBlue has to get diarist of the week, and I didn't even open his site. Fun fact: ESPN doesn't change the week on the NCAA scoreboard until Tuesday.
On to Week 6, in which the field is down to 5 zero-win teams: UAB, New Mexico, Oregon State, and two from the Sun Belt (motto: It's the Fun Belt!): FAU and Western Kentucky. Seriously, what's with this year? EMU has 3 wins, CSU is leading the MWC, and Rutgers is leading the Big East? Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria! This looks like it's going to be another year for the Big East Championship Hot Potato. Hopefully the last tie-breaker is a mascot sack race. This week I don't make fun of mascots for a change! But first:
I'd like to make a musket-related joke about Virginia's firepower downing the Vandals, but I just can't. Any game that has 16 punts does not get any sort of positive offensive efficiency comments from me. Virginia will get a +1 for the spectacularly named Trey Farquhar. I hereby declare that all kickers should be named Trey. And point guards. And waiters. Extra bonus if his brothers are named Uno and Due.
Elsewhere, Hawaii won the Frequent Flyer Miles bowl 44-26. Louisiana Tech had 3 turnovers and 8 penalties. When asked for a comment, LT's QB said "Hey, did you get to go to Hawaii in college on someone else's dime? I didn't think so."* Speaking of fitting names, ESPN's recap lists a "Tank Hopkins", but unfortunately his real name is Melvin. I hereby also declare that Stephen Hopkins's nickname be Tank as well. Or Ironhead.
*Not a real quote.
This week: Big, Bad In-conference games!
Er, Bad Games In Big Conferences. Arizona (1-4) versus Oregon State(0-4). Seriously, who would have thought Arizona would be 1-4. To be fair, they played Oklahoma State, then started conference play against Stanford and Oregon. Arizona had a chance against USC, but failed to recover an onside kick that could have set up the tying drive. Such is life. You may remember Oregon State from such games as 35-0 against Wisconsin or 27-19 against UCLA. When your QB has passed for 1000 yards on the season and only thrown 2 TDs, that's a good indication that something is wrong.
Closer to home, we've got Minnesota (1-4) vs Purdue (2-2). Since Minnesota doesn't play Indiana this year, this will have to do for Dysfunctional B1G football. We should all be well aware of Minnesota's problems on and off the field (seriously, coach, hope you feel better. You just might want a lower-stress job, like airline pilot or something). Purdue has been schitzo this year, and continued against ND. Marve returned for the second half, and TerBush thew an INT on the first play of the game. In summary: Purdue running - decent. Purdue anything else - average to not good.
One last special recognition to the WAC, for having two games with two one-win teams : Louisiana Tech versus Idaho and UNLV versus Nevada. Bold prediction: Louisiana Tech will lead the NCAA in frequent flyer miles.
Get out the globe and encyclopedia (ok, Google Earth and Wikipedia, since it's 2011), it's time for the Ugly Game of the Week. But first:
Georgia beat Ole Miss 27-14. When the ESPN summary calls your QB "efficient", that's about the faintest praise you can get for a win. Things we learned: 1. Ole Miss is officially not good. They had 8 first downs, two turnovers, and under 200 yards of total offense. 2. Ole Miss has now lost 10 of their last 11 SEC games. So they're like the SEC's Minnesota, then? 3. Mark Richt may still have a job, Huston Nutt may not. 4. Huston Nutt sounds like the mascot for the Astros or something, like the Philly Fanatic or the Capitol City Goofball. Can I play Baby Elephant Walk when he gets fired? Well, I'm going to.
Elsewhere, San Jose State beat New Mexico State 34-24 proving once and for all that Bad Team versus Bad Team equals entertaining game. SJSU came back from a 24-17 deficit to pull out the win in the 4th quarter.
Last, Ohio State handily defeated CU 37-17. Ohio debuted a new wrinkle in their offense called "Screw It, We're Not Passing" and it was effective. OSU passed for only 110 yards, but it didn't matter. The Buckeyes ran for 220 yards and that was that.
We start off with the "Historically Significant Mascot Bowl", featuring the Virginia Cavaliers(2-2) against the Idaho Vandals(1-3). Virginia has wins against Indiana and W&M, and loses to UNC and Southern Miss. Idaho has beaten NoDak, and loses to the likes of Bowling Green and Fresno State. But that's not even very important. For you non-history buffs out there, the Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that sacked Rome in the 5th century. How they ended up in Idaho, I have no idea (ok, I do, but it's not very interesting. "Sports team named by quip from local sportswriter" does not a catchy byline make). Virginia, on the other hand, chose what could be the least intimidating mascot until someone names their team "The Yorkshire Terriers" or "Fightin' Lichen (We're Likin' the Lichen!". The Cavaliers get their name from people loyal to the crown during the American Revolution. Evidently the Commonwealth of Virginia was particularly partisan toward the King. I mean, it's this:
I don't know about you, but I'm picking against powdered wigs in this one.
The granddaddy of the week is the World's Furthest Conference Game, with Louisiana Tech (1-3) taking a long layover to play Hawaii (2-2). That's a 4000 mile road trip.That's like Russian hockey league-level road trip. To put that in perspective, here are some things that are not 4000 miles apart: NYC to London. Ann Arbor to Anchorage. Hawaii to Tokyo. Low Earth Orbit. You get the picture. Yay jet lag. Hawaii has beaten CU and lost to UNLV. Louisiana Tech one win against Central Arkansas, and that was overtime. Enjoy the poi, guys. To be fair, they've got to OT twice, and lost three games by a total of nine points.
Welcome to week 4, and the season has started taking shape. There's still a number of 0-fers going out there, including surprises like Boston College and Oregon State. Not as surprising is the fact that about half of the Sun Belt conference doesn't have a win yet. Lucky for them there's always conference play.
This week we highlight three games. Is highlight the right term for this column? Maybe "Spotlight of Shame" is a better term. We start in the SEC with Georgia versus Ole Miss. Georgia is 1-2, but the two losses are to Boise State and South Carolina, while Ole Miss has losses to Vandy and BYU. Ole Miss is sporting offensive numbers near the 100's, so look for Coach Giggity's Rebels to take sole possession of the SEC - West basement. Sidenote: I love that the divisions are South Eastern Conference - East and South Eastern Conference - West. Maybe the Big East will use that naming scheme if they split into the Big East - East and Big East - West. As a personal note, I will always cheer against any team named for or referencing the South in the Civil War.
Next we have San Jose State versus New Mexico State. Over the last three years, the two teams have combined for 10 wins. If there was ever an argument against regression to the mean, this is it. Or maybe their mean is just bad. Bear in mind that New Mexico State's win this season came against Minnesota, while NMSU is near the 100s in most offensive categories.
Finally, the big game this week is the Dan Hawkins Memorial Buyout Bowl, featuring Colorado and Ohio State. Oh how it does my heart good to be able to put OSU in here. First, this game is on ABC/ESPN, so the nation gets to watch. Second, Ohio eked out a win against Toledo in week 2. Third, they're coming of an impotent loss to Miami last week. Ohio's QB job is a pick-'em, and CU looked reasonably good last week against CSU and against Cal. I still can't cheer for CU after '94, but I will still happily wish for OSU to lose. So it's this:
I'll do my best to fit in here amongst all the Saturday navel-gazing. For me, Saturday was an exercise in How to Go Nuts and not Wake Up a Sleeping Three Month Old. But on to this week in train wrecks. First, let's catch up on the first two weeks "action".
Week One brought some humdingers. Bowling Green versus Idaho featured punts of 71 and 81 yards. I'm not sure how you punt 81 yards, but the guy that booted one 71 has to feel pretty bad about it. Maryland versus Miami was as big of a mess as expected. Maryland kicked 4 field goals for most of their 24 points, then gave up a pick-6 in the last minute to blow it. That game should be in the UGotW Year in Review. Crab cakes and football, that's what Maryland does? Well, the crab cakes are good.
Week Two featured Iowa making a bold move by refusing the Cy-Hawk trophy by giving up a late TD to Iowa State to tie, then losing in triple OT. In a twist, TCU bombed Air Force 35-19. AF scored two 4th quarter TDs to make the score reasonable. Air Force then declared TCU a state sponsor of terrorism and left Predator drones circling the stadium. CSU/UNCO was attended by 25,000 students dressed as empty seats to watch CSU club the Bears 33-14. Three CSU picks kept this from getting really messy. CSU had 28 first downs to go with only 4-14 on third down. That means they didn't need third down very often.
This week is Mascot Week! First off is the UTEP Miners versus the New Mexico State Aggies. I'm a sucker for good ol' blue-collar mascots, preferably mascots wielding weapons. This one comes down to pick-ax versus pistols.
Next is one of my favorite categories: Non-Plural Mascot fights! The Alabama Crimson Tide play the North Texas Mean Green. North Texas's real mascot is some sort of eagle, but I don't think eagle wins against elephant, not even if it's one of the eagles from Lord of the Rings (nerd!). They've already lost to FIU and Houston, so we may have to watch North Texas for a possible 0-for-season.
Last is Creepy/Crazy Mascot matchup, featuring the Indiana State Sycamores versus the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. "Big Red" was created in 1979 and we can only assume there were drugs involved, and possibly a medical procedure. I guess calling your team the Fightin' Polyps was out of the question. Big Red in action:
If that's not nightmare-inducing enough for you, they are playing this:
Indiana State decided not to go the Stanford route and have a tree on the sidelines, and created Sycamore Sam instead. Why they didn't cartoonize Larry Bird into a mascot, a la UNLV I'll never know.