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Sunday Morning Quarterback

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Saturday, October 29, 2005

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While taking two extra hours, when only offered one...

The SEC, once, was supposed to be all about speed and great athletes, and the Big Ten was about attritionally crushing your opponent by running, defense and punting. Uh, not no more. Given that was ever true, the tables have flipped, when Ohio State and Minnesota each scored as many as was scored by both teams in the Florida-Georgia or Tennessee-South Carolina games; there was also Michigan and Northwestern rolling up 44 combined points in the first half. Ted Ginn, Laurence Maroney, Tyrell Sutton, Brian Calhoun and, hell, Antonio Pittman made any of their counterparts down South look like plodders.

What that means as far as the relative strength of these conferences is debatable. As Pat Forde suggests, these teams are fighting in two different wars whose tactics have evolved with experience and innovation. SMQ guesses Big Ten defenses will catch up fast, as SEC defenses have, and turn Midwestern Stadiums back into the Somme within a decade.


OHIO STATE 45, MINNESOTA 31: Not much effort to cover or tackle here. Ohio State's offense was sensational and multi-faceted (Troy Smith: 233, two TDs, Pittman: 186, big 67-yard burst for TD, Santonio Holmes: 94 yards, two TDs, Ginn: 100-yard kick return SMQ can't imagine you've seen replayed more than 20, 25 times since Saturday afternoon) but Purdue, Penn State and Wisconsin all looked great on offense against the Gophers, too. For its part, Minnesota had 578 yards - 396 passing, for a change that failed to improve the top-ranked rushing team's chances of winning despite also gaining 182 on the ground against the nation's top rush defense. Translation: again, big passing stats mean very little towards victory.
- Pittman's big touchdown run was almost a given before the snap: Minnesota attacked Ohio State's four-wide set exactly the way Jim Tressel would have hoped, by spreading DBs out over the receivers while also playing two-deep behind them, which left just one linebacker in the middle behind a four-man front. Easy trap call, good blocking, and nobody's there to stop Pittman.
- SMQ had been wondering why Maroney wasn't generating more Heisman buzz entering the game, and the guy busted off over 100 in the first half. After halftime, though, Cupito had to carry things (always a nauseating sentence for Minny fans), because this was Maroney's second half line as a rusher:
- Rush for no gain.
- Rush for no gain.
- Rush for no gain.
- Rush for 3 yards.
- Rush for 1 yard.
- Rush for 6 yards.
- Rush for 3 yards.
- Rush for a loss of three yards, fumbled at the Minn 28, recovered by OSU at the Minn 28 (Buckeyes go up three touchdowns three plays later).
Cupito, meanwhile, threw for 199 yards in the second half, and his team was outscored 28-14. Gophers needed the running game to control the clock and keep its awful defense off the field, and it couldn't deliver.

FLORIDA 14, GEORGIA 10: Wait, is that...could that be - *SMQ rubs his eyes* - is that a real fullback in Florida's offense? All year, SMQ has said Urban Meyer is playing old-school, cloud of dust ball out of funky formations, often lead-blocking or attempting to misdirect with a receiver or back motioned in from the slot, and finally the coach appears to have scrapped the pretenses - and, thankfully, the option. Except for the shotgun, this looked like an old, straight up I-formation or "strong" pro set and wing attacks SMQ ran on his athletically-challenged high school team; it was about as effective, too, after a couple gimmick-free drives stunned the Georgia defense. This game belonged on ESPN Classic alongside Ohio State-Michigan 1974.
- When Meyer did call a pass, it was excessively safe: Leak completed 15 of 20 for only 108 yards. That's 7.2 yards per completion. Then, when the defense is stuffing your opponents' first-time starting QB, why take a chance?
- Georgia definitely wins this game with D.J. Shockley. Tereshinski made some runs, for God's sake, and nearly escaped pressure on occasions Shockley would have easily gotten away. If only, if only, but - great touchdown catch on terrible throw from Thomas Brown notwithstainding - Tereshinski wasn't good enough to hold down the fort long enough to keep legit national title hopes alive.
- Not to sound too much like SMQ's NFL namesake here, but Florida, minutes after earning a first down on a 21-yard fake punt run by Eric Wilbur, sent Wilbur out to punt in the fourth quarter on 4th and 7 from the Georgia 29. UF kicker Chris Hetland is perfect (8-8) on field goals this year, including 3-3 from longer than 40 yards. After an illegal shift penalty, Wilbur booted a touchback for a net 14-yarder. If you're going to put the game on the defense anyway, what is the point of this kick?

FLORIDA STATE 35, MARYLAND 27: SMQ caught only the very end of this game, whose score intrigued him throughout the second half of Georgia-Florida, and mentions it primarily to laud muscular Maryland tight end Vernon Davis. On the Terps' eventually failed final drive to tie the game, Davis had two impressive short catches: on one, he caught a third-and-five pass at four yards, ploughed forward with a tackler hanging on around his knees and two more hitting him high and picked up the first down. Davis then caught a short pass in the flat, was hit immediately by one of Florida State's highly recruited stars, and proceeded to grab this this blue chip stud and violently throw him to the ground like he was a seventh grader before bulldozing on for a first down. The Terps lost, but Davis may have made a million dollars with these two incredible physical displays.

MICHIGAN 33, NORTHWESTERN 17: SMQ caught only bits between preparing and eventually embarking into the cold night for social purposes after the third quarter wearing a metal whistle, short, 1970s-style coaching shorts, his 1996 Vancleave Bulldogs Lift-a-Thon t-shirt and a headache-inducing tight square cap. He apparently missed little in the fourth quarter.
- More big, meaningless passing numbers, this time from Brett Basanez, who threw for 326 yards, only 59 of which came in the second half.
- A very different game if Tyrell Sutton doesn't fumble on the Wildcats' first drive ("A freshman is still a freshman," noted Bob Davie, because juniors and seniors do not fumble), leading to a gift touchdown for Leon Hall. Northwestern probably ties it up there, or at least scores, and takes a lead at some point, rather than playing from behind all night.
- Brian has been pounding the Henne inaccuracy beat all season, and this game (judging without benefit of video review and extensive chart sophistication) may have been his worst. SMQ watched Henne put the ball short, wide, over, behind and everywhere but in the general vicinity of his open receivers' hands time after time. He threw three picks. This against the worst defense in the country? Jackson and Grady - with some help from receivers Breaston and Manningham, who had the Wolverines' only 20-yard runs - carried the day here.

It would have killed him, but SMQ did the ESPN GameTrack thing online to follow Southern Miss' fourth quarter collapse (14-0 third quarter lead, 17-7 into the final frame) and eventual 21-17 defeat to NC State, and would have loved to see the tension in the closing moments before Jasper Faulk's fumbled punt sealed the game for the Wolfpack rather than having to reload that mini-field for anticlimactic updates every couple minutes. Is it supposed to go so slowly?

Urban Meyer is flexible, Florida is alive...Vince Young can do whatever he wants with the ball whenever he wants...Never count out Steve Spurrier...UCLA...can't...be...STOPPED!

Realistically, the Gators are likely hoping to hang onto the ball and bog this down into a turnover/field position mudder, a la the Tennessee game. The defense is good enough to handle that if it's not put in bad situations.

Admittedly, he was wrong immediately after this statement, when he picked Georgia to win, but was dead on about Florida's efforts to emulate its biggest success by drawing the Bulldogs into a clinchfest, which UGA was only to happy to oblige.

Tech still hasn't beaten anybody worthwhile, and was walloped when it tried. Baylor, too, has been unsuccessful against worthy opponents, but hung tough with Nebraska and took Texas A&M (again) and Oklahoma to overtime. The Bears are on the verge and need a breakthrough win to catapult bowl fever; Guy Morriss deserves a legitimate Gatorade bath.

Baylor had its chance for the upset, down 6-0 with fourth and goal on the Texas Tech three in the third quarter and having already missed a field goal, and only picked up two yards. The dam broke when Tech converted a third and 31 from its own two, flipping field poisition and scoring on its next possession.

Vince Young: 15-30, 229 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, 21 rushes, 267 yards, two touchdowns; Mr. Young entered Vick territory Saturday in terms of outright fear he has to strike in a defense. It's about time, given he's hit 63 percent of his passes with a two-to-one TD-INT ratio, that SMQ and other doubters acknowledge that Young can thrown the ball, too. With his size, potentially a better pro prospect that Vick (Michael)? Discuss.

Upset of the Week

For South Carolina, the 16-15 stunner comeback at Tennessee is a wake-up: Spurrier's got the Cocks at 5-3, 4-2 in the league, with a good chance to win two of the next three. The USC team that lost 48-7 at Auburn has won three in a row and is on the verge of becoming a bowl lock.

Tennessee won't be back in anybody's top 25, and will have to bust through the November cupcakes just to be bowl eligible unless something strange happens at Notre Dame next week. The first three losses, close and to good teams, were forgivable, but this one stinks. UT is 3-4, 2-4 in the SEC.

Time to Re-think...

For SMQ, UCLA as a semi-fraud. Needing a fourth quarter comeback against the likes of Washington, Washington State and Stanford isn't impressive in any one of those games, especially for a team with a recent history of softness. But getting it done each time, and also against Cal, while mixing in legit big wins over Oklahoma and Oregon State, has SMQ contemplating the karmic power behind these Bruins.

On that note, the top of the SMQ Top 25 this week will feature some extra scrutiny and re-assessing.

SMQ Complaint of the Week

What is the point, exactly, of the Jeep commercial that portrays kids marvelling at fish, as if in an aquarium, through the enclosed sunroof as a family driving an SUV emerges from the ocean?

There are doubtless many fine features of this engineering marvel which SMQ could not begin to describe, but even as the company streses, in fine print, that it is "not suitable for underwater use." What kind of person could be motivated to buy a vehicle based upon a fictionalized depiction of events that could not in anyone's wildest and most earnest attempts possibly be recreated in real life? And, of all the possible fantasy traits Americans secretly desire in out humongous vehicles, is an underwater driver number one? Why not show the SUV curing cancer?
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12:36 PM

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