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Sunday Morning Quarterback

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Friday, December 30, 2005

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Slate (for SMQ's money - or, in the case offree Web pages, time - still the most must-read every day site on the ol' Interweb) goes college football-wacky this morning with not one but two solid offerings after an almost entirely CFB-free fall.

"Solid," of course, being in the eye of the beholder: Every Day Should Be Saturday has already justly taken note of Ad Report Card's Mike DeBonis (what happened to Seth Stevenson? SMQ hopes S.S. is still the go-to guy, since it took him so long to warm up to Stevenson after the loss of his original ARC fave, Rob Walker) piggybacking on Mssr. Swindle's multi-part riff on the ubiquitous university spots during games.

The highlight of the wretched, derivative, hack MSM assessment:
The University of Southern Mississippi, though, wins the Ayn Rand Memorial Self-Actualization Award. What do a pensive painter, a guy in a library, and a woman at a computer have in common? "The courage to think for themselves and a university that fosters it. Southern Miss: Freeing the power of the individual."
That probably doesn't qualify as a glowing review, but at least DeBonis got the name of the school right, and that's good enough from a national non-sports writer.

(Pretentious underclassman SMQ, by the way, was - independently of any university curriculum, where she never came up - a big Ayn Rand fan late in his Southern Miss career. Maybe, instead of academic accreditation probation, USM should hang its hat on objectivist studies).

DeBonis' criminal omission: No mention of Victors in Space ("Space, bitches. Space.").

The other Slate contribution is a beauty, a titan of the CFB Blogosphere's two favorite pastimes: naysaying and Worldwide Leader-bashing.

It comes from New Republic editor Jonathan Chait, who revives his 2002 takedown of soon-to-be defeated juggernaut Miami with a takedown of current juggernaut USC - or at least ESPN's weird, jump-the-gun coronation:
Remember those old Saturday Night Live sketches featuring Chicago Bears fans who go to comic extremes in their genuflection before their team and its coach? The "Super Fans" are so confident in their team that they quickly dispense with predictions ("Da Bears, 62 to 3") and focus instead on hypothetical matchups. What would happen if the Bears players were all 14 inches tall? What about if Coach Ditka had to play the New York Giants by himself? "I gotta say Ditka 17, Giants 14."

Something eerily similar to this is happening on ESPN this week. In the run-up to what promises to be a classic Rose Bowl game between Texas and USC, the network has glossed over the question of whether the Trojans are better than the Longhorns. Instead, they've taken it upon themselves to decide whether USC is the greatest team in the history of college football. In recent days, a SportsCenter feature has pitted this year's USC team against the great national champions of the last 50 years. So far, at least according to ESPN, the Trojans have dispensed with history's great football juggernauts with greater ease than they dispatched, say, the 2005 Fresno State Bulldogs.

For instance, the ESPN crew discussed a hypothetical game between USC and the 1997 Michigan Wolverines. That Michigan team had a spotty offense, but its defense was phenomenal, allowing less than nine points a game. The Wolverines had probably the best pass defense in college history, with 23 interceptions and just five touchdown passes allowed. It had Charles Woodson, who bucked history by winning the Heisman Trophy as a defensive player, along with three other future NFL cornerbacks. They held what was then the highest-scoring team in the history of the Pac 10 to 16 points.

What did ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit predict as the final score? 34-17, Trojans. ESPN's Mark May? USC, 49-14. Will the reader please note that mediocre defenses like Arizona State and Notre Dame held USC well below 49 points this year?

My favorite, though, was the matchup with the 1991 Washington Huskies. That team outscored its opponents by a staggering average margin of 42-9. Herbstreit's conclusion? "There's no way that that defense could stop SC." May: "It wouldn't even be close."
Um, ditto. Further reading reveals that the 2005 Temple Owls, under many hypothetical circumstances, could be among the top college football teams of all time.

Not that agreeing that the WWL's SC fellatio is far beyond the bounds of anything resembling objective reason means SMQ's picking against the Trojans Wednesday, of course.
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10:30 AM

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And don't let the name fool ya - second guessing the phenomenal athletic feats and split-second decisions of college kids under extreme physical duress is for every day of the week.

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