Saturday, November 26, 2005
SUNDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK
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While tinkering with his Obviously Flawed Computational System for rating teams...
Playoffs?! You're talking playoffs?! The GameDay crew was, with characteristic banner-toting for the crooked status quo. The system looks like it's going to work this year, so Corso's fine with it. Desmond Howard thinks the controversy in a playoff would only be pushed back to the eighth team instead of the top two. Kirk Herbstreit continues to push for a "plus one" game after the traditional bowls.
Well, hell, why is every single other team sport on every level on the planet still operating under a ridiculous playoff system? Why aren't they all under any pressure to convert to a poll and computer system to determine their champion? It's so much more fair! Every game matters! Playoff systems are controversial anyway, so who needs them? Those I-AA kids are wasting their time.
Drumbeat, drumbeat, drumbeat! And when a playoff finally is in place, they'll all say, "finally!"
Don't worry, man. Next year, maybe we'll get a bid to the MPC Computers Bowl.
SMQ WATCHED... Little, due to work-related duties. But he did catch some glimpses of:
WEST VIRGINIA 45, PITTSBURGH 13: This was the right time - Thanksgiving night, only game on TV - for West Virginia to rise up and knock the holy hell out of a team most people still thought of decent. Want a stat? How about 451 yards rushing? WVU averaged 7.3 yards on 62 rushes, 15 of them for ten yards or more. On the bright side for Pitt, the pass defense remains in the country's top five!
Good to hear Mike Tirico isn't restricting his condescention act to Mississippi. SMQ thinks Tirico and Herbstreit have been about as good as any booth team this season, but Tirico's "They're always so nice and proud of their state!" routine during the annual Egg Bowl broadcast was grating. He pulled the same thing on West Virginia Thursday, going out of his way to note that West Virginia is often the butt of jokes and criticism. What is the point of this? "Wow, these hillbillies can put on a football game!" It's the equivalent of Herbstreit turning to his partner and saying, "You know, you really do speak well. Good for you!"
VIRGINIA TECH 30, NORTH CAROLINA 3: Caught only a couple plays of this one, but one of those was Jesse Holley's "sickest man in the world!" drop of an easy, easy touchdown pass that would have put UNC on top just before the half. The difference between being up a point at the half to a heavy favorite on the road and being down by four, as UNC was, was evident in the Heels' flat second half effort. Maybe Holley's drop didn't make that much of a difference - V-Tech was clearly just a superior, more physical team - but the mental boost it could have provided, rather than deflation, would have at least made for a more competitive second half.
NEVADA 38, FRESNO STATE 35: Oh Fresno, how could you? We loved you! We believed in you! We didn't abandon you when you lost to big, bad USC. We understood. But now, now we have no choice: you have to drop, Bulldogs, for your own good. Now think about what you've done and maybe next week you can come back.
It probably does nothing to diminish Reggie Bush's Greatest Performance of All Time, but Nevada's no-name Robert Hubbard had 219 yards on 20 touches against the Bulldogs - just shy of eleven yards per touch - and scored three touchdowns. It should have been four, too, if Hubbard hadn't slid down at the FSU one-yard line on a long run with no one close to him with about 30 seconds remaining to keep the clock running rather than give explosive Fresno the ball back, even with the Bulldogs now down ten. The Vandy-Florida refs could have flagged him for excessive unselfishness! Last night was, by the by, Hubbard's first career 100-yard game. The Bulldogs' D, and Top 25 respectability, takes a nosedive.
First Dallas Baker plays against South Carolina with a punctured lung, now Nichiren Flowers catches the icing touchdown with Crohn's Disease. What next, is Tyrone Prothro going to be crunching around during 'Bama's bowl game? Makes Wyatt Sexton look a little, uh, uncommitted.
When playing NCAA Football 2006, SMQ has complained when several times a member of his pixillated team has run directly in the path of another member of his team who is at the time preparing to fair catch a punt, thereby causing a fumble, usually by moaning, "that would never happen!" What kind of player would just blindly run right in front of his punt returner and let the ball bounce off him to be had by any and all pilers-on? Answer: Fresno State's Elgin Simmons, who, with his team getting the ball back down 31-27 late in the fourth quarter, planted himself in the grill of waving teammate Adam Jennings so that the incoming ball plopped against his helmet to the turf, where it was recovered by Nevada. Instead of getting a chance to drive for the lead, Fresno instead watched Flowers haul in the winning touchdown on an appropriately aggressive third-and-ten call to essentially put the game away.
What is this "Pistol" offense Chris Ault is running out there in Reno? It's just the flexbone, or alternately a standard one-back set, depending on what it's trying to accomplish on a given play. The tailback still lines up behind the quarterback. The shotgun aspect, just like in Urban Meyer's pro set look, doesn't do much of anything except make it look weird. It found great success against FSU because Nevada's line generally outplayed Fresno's. Why are analysts still going googly-eyed over every ordinary, standard set that happens to put the quarterback in the shotgun?
GEORGIA 14, GEORGIA TECH 7: After watching gaping holes and blown coverages out West, it was refreshing to see a tight well-played defensive struggle, the kind that makes every play intense and the field seem about as wide as those of the arena variety, a subtle effect SMQ has always relished.
Georgia's go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty not only because it was perfectly executed against great coverage, but also because it was a great call to exploit what Georgia Tech was throwing at the Bulldog offense. Tech had been bringing guys from everywhere all night, as it has all season; the previous play, D.J. Shockley had caught the Yellow Jacket nickel back before the snap cheating off the slot receiver for an obvious blitz. Yet Shockley audibled to a draw away from the blitz instead of the hot route into it, and Thomas Brown was dropped for no gain. The next play, with Tech coming from the offense's left again, UGA went max protection to pick up the blitz, Shockley play-actioned the draw with Ryan McClendon moving inside as if to block before sprinting upfield, then exploited the mismatch by lobbing up the score to his best receiver. UGA didn't do much on offense, but it was smart and took advantage of the best opportunity it had late.
As a backup quarterback, there couldn't be much bigger insult than your team calling a timeout to let the starter regroup from a minor injury rather than put you in the game for one play, as Georgia Tech did when Reggie Ball came up slow with a facemask full of turf early in the fourth quarter. Was Ball - 18 of 35, two picks, 64 yards rushing at the end of the night - so valuable that Taylor Bennett couldn't take a single snap? And the fruits of this oh-so-important stoppage to allow Ball's return? False start, incomplete pass, punt, no way to keep Georgia from running the clock down on its last series before punting the ball to Tech with only six seconds left. Clock management begins with not wasting time outs before the crunch.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Fresno: Can a fourth-place WAC team still be ranked?...Florida State and Colorado: Losers of five out of six, collectively, can still be conference champions, too!...West Virginia: Can run the ball, but needs help with the pie...Iowa State: Again, decided losing in relative anonymity is better than being embarrassed in front of millions.
SMQ WAS RIGHT ABOUT...
"Georgia Tech Wants: ...Make the defense respect Calvin Johnson out of the gate - get No. 21 in UGA's head; opportunities open up elsewhere if the Bulldogs are forced to abandon normal responsibilities to throw the house at Johnson."
Johnson had the touchdown catch early, but otherwise was silent until the fourth quarter. Georgia kept Demario Minter locked on Johnson all night, and Tech never made them pay for it. The other two Tech weapons, Daniels and Bilbo, meanwhile, had 19 touches for 102 yards, and no play longer than 12 yards. Minter gets credit for doing a good job, but opening up other avenues against a very good Georgia defense required making it pay an inordinate amount of attention to the best receiver in the country, and the Jackets didn't take enough shots at him - especially on its last gasp drive to tie, when Bilbo's lackluster stop route greatly aided Tim Jennings' icing pick.
SMQ WAS WRONG ABOUT...
"Read it and weep: Nebraska's rush offense ranks 110th in the country. The Huskers used to rush for 89.6 yards in a quarter! Now they'll be lucky to finish on the plus side against the nation's second-best rush defense...COLORADO 30, NEBRASKA 13."
Bill Callahan: Where did that come from? Nothing that has happened in the previous 22 months could have predicted a 497-yard, 30-3 Nebraska rout Saturday, nothing. So the Huskers did only eke out 105 yards on the ground (2.5 per carry); the total offense exceeded its averages by about 180 yards and a touchdown, and bested Colorado's defensive averages by 160 yards and almost two touchdowns. That is crazy!
Though not as crazy as Colorado still getting to play in the Big XII Championship - even if that reward does mean a terrible blowout on national television for the second straight week.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:
West Virginia's Offensive Line: 451 rushing yards as a team; Pat White and Steve Slaton went ballistic on Pitt's defense, and Travis Garrett, Garin Justice, Ryan Stanchek, Jeremy Sheffey and ringleader Dan Mozes are the reason. One of the most impressive rushing displays in years, at least.
Upset of the Week
Well there's Nebraska, and Nevada, and also SMU. But none of the trio of Colorado, Fresno State or UTEP lost as much Saturday as South Florida, which could have gone into a national showcase game with West Virginia next week with a chance to slip into one of the big money affairs in January. Instead, the Bulls lost to sagging Connecticut and will have to settle for some generic Your-Name-Here Bowl during December Bowl Week. At least, though, USF is finally going to a bowl; it's deserved a postseason trip two of the past three years and hasn't gotten it.
JUST WHEN YA THINK YA KNOW A FELLA...
Time to Re-think...
Bill Callahan's eminent demise in Lincoln. If you had one game to save your job, on the road, against your hated, division champion rival, that was it. The Huskers now hit the bowl season with some optimism.
Similarly, Bobby Bowden has always said he'd call it quits when his program started to sink. Um, three straight losses, for a school that recently only lost three regular season games over a five year span (1996-2000), is only the latest sign of St. Bobby's demise. A fourth straight loss looms in the ACC Championship; then there's a potentially tough bowl game. Might FSU really go 7-6? Yikes.
Bobby Bowden signals his team's chances of beating Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship.
A FINE WHINE
SMQ Complaint of the Week
This is entirely his own fault, but SMQ is always disoriented by scrolling scores at the onset of basketball season. "Wait, Iowa's scored 45, and it's only the second quarter? I didn't even know they were playing!"
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