Tuesday, November 13

week 11 recap

It's been a long and trying season. Not only in that we've had to endure weeks of the possibility that two teams from the weakest conferences would breeze their way into the title game, not only in that injuries possibly cost us a chance to see the matchup everyone's been arguing about for the last four years... but for me personally, I've done most of it while living with two n00bs who don't have cable. Rabbit ears, friends' houses, and sports bars... even streaming boradcasts online. Ah, the joys.

A new apartment and a quirky cable guy arrived just in time to catch a great Oregon-ASU game and watch BC fall to FSU. And yesterday, I finally got to enjoy something that had been a weekly tradition for the entire 2004 and 05 seasons - spending over 10 straight hours watching college football. Glorious. A recap:

After some Saturday morning office work, I arrived home to see Michigan somehow losing to Wisconsin 23-14 in a game where PJ Hill didn't play. In their defense, Chad Henne was knocked out early and Mike Hart never played. But this is a game they won 27-13 a season ago when the Badgers had Hill and Stocco. My question is - what has happened to Michigan's defense? Since surrendering 42 to Ohio State a year ago, the unit has lost its identity. 32 to USC, 34 to Appalachian State, 39 to Oregon. Sure the 37 points were inflated as the offense started turning the ball over deep by going for it on desperation 4th downs... but yesterday's loss marks the fourth conference game they've allowed more than 20 points; last season, Ohio State was the only Big Ten team to accomplish that feat. After this loss, even upsetting Ohio State probably can't save Lloyd Carr, and now we have to question how good Ron English really is.

Missouri still has a focus problem in the second half of games. After taking a convincing 24-9 lead over A&M at the half, Mizzou got outscored 10-0 in the 3rd to find themselves back in a game. This happened in their season opener against Illinois and the following week against Ole Miss. Kansas State and Kansas are too explosive on offense for Mizzou to lose focus - national title hopes are on the line here, as winning out coupled with an LSU or Oregon loss would probably put the Tigers at #2. This team may be talented enough to win the NC or at least a high profile BCS bowl, but they will need to play at their highest level over the course of 4 quarters to win the conference and for that matter a January bowl game.

After back-to-back weeks of 21-0 and 17-3 opening deficits, Texas did something I like to call "showing up at kickoff." Texas Tech was a team whose offense was supposed to give Texas's defense, with its porous secondary from a year ago, serious difficulties. The Longhorns scored 28 points on their opening four possessions, totaling 24 runs and an efficient 5/7 passing, physically asserting themselves in contrast to the Red Raiders' more finesse/timing-based offense. Eventually Harrell and Crabtree did torch the Texas defense (195 yds receiving?!) but this game was all about Jamaal Charles and the offensive line. Oh and McCoy didn't do a bad job keeping up with Harrell in terms of per play averages -- where has that been all season? In any case, Texas stands at 9-2 despite the fact that they could easily be 5-4. Barring a complete collapse by OU to lose the Big 12 South, the Horns have two games remaining - the rivalry game at Texas A&M and whatever bowl game they are invited to. A win in at least one of those games will keep the nation's longest streak of 10+ win seasons alive at 7.

Of course the game everyone is talking about is Ohio State's loss to Illinois. I watched this one in its entirety and I have to say, it was a very strange game. It started out in a frenzy - two plays of 65+ yards for a 7-7 tie. Then Ohio State had a long 9-play drive that led to a 14-7 score, and they never really seemed to give up control of the game until the very end. Illinois went three-and-out, and Ohio State was driving to take a double digit lead when Boeckman was intercepted. Illinois capitalized on the short field to retie the game at 14. The rest of the first half was a lot of failed drives and it seemed like the Illini were hanging on by a thread to keep it tied. Then suddenly they went for it on 4th down and got a huge gain, then sputtered their way into the end zone just before halftime. It still felt like Ohio State should be winning rather than losing, and perhaps that's why Tressel seemed so calm. The Illini's first drive of the second half went three and out, and Ohio State drove deep into the red zone. Boeckman was intercepted in the end zone on a crazy tipped pass to a linebacker which was followed up with a devastating 80-yard scoring drive. Ohio State responded with a long drive of their own, and Illinois got the ball back with just seconds remaining until the 4th qaurter, up 28-21. Of course by now most of the nation had tuned in to see the upset in the making. On their final two drives, Illinois accomplished basically nothing other than to run 6 and 8 minutes off the clock. They ran the same play over and over and it was always just enough to get a first down in three or four plays - converting 5/7 third downs and 1/1 fourth down. In between the two drives, Ohio State gained 18 yards on two plays before being intercepted yet again. Ohio State had just three drives in the entire second half - a 48 yard drive on a short field that ended in a red zone INT, a 76 yard scoring drive, and an 18 yard drive that ended with an INT on a 40-yard bomb on first down. It was a weird loss, but when a heavy favorite loses to an inferior team (not to insult Illinois, but at this point OSU is still a better team) that's usually the case. It took both QBs killing Ohio State to pull this one off.

Navy and North Texas each gained over 600 yards in a 74-62 victory for the Midshipmen. I didn't see a single snap in this game but holy crap...

With Ohio State losing, Oklahoma moved up to first in line for a BCS title bid should LSU or Oregon lose. The Sooners have played eight outstanding games of football this season and this weekend's game was among them - an utter annihiliation of Baylor that I'll summarize as follows: Baylor punt, OU touchdown, Baylor punt, OU touchdown... Okay, so they did give up well over 400 yards to the lowly Bears who are winless in conference play. It was also evident, as it has been in most games this season, that the Sooner offense could score at will. I don't know what happened in the second half of that Colorado game, bt if the Sooner offense had played anything like they have in pretty much any of the other 16 halves they've played (throw out the ISU game which was garbage), we'd be looking at an unbeaten team. In any case, the future at OU looks amazing with Bradford and Murray both being outstanding freshmen, but OU wants to win something big this season. The schedule has been a little lacking and if OU wants to jump Oregon, they'll probably need Kansas to be 11-0 with an impressive win over Missouri before getting blown out in the conference championship. Not entirely inconceivable.

Okay... Miami... seriously... THAT'S how you're going to play your final game in the Orange Bowl, one of the great college stadiums? Place this one clearly on Wright's shoulders - three interceptions, a fumble, and less than 100 yards through the air. I only watched bits and pieces of it, but i felt embarassed for the Canes every time I flipped over.

Tim Tebow played the part of Superman yet again, and you have to think that if Florida had any kind of decent defense they'd be 9-1 if not 10-0. The team has been held below 24 just once and below 30 just twice. With the way the conference is shaping out, UF may wind up third in the SEC East, and I pity whoever gets them in a bowl. On the other side of the field, what in the world happened to South Carolina. Phil Steele barely had time to say "I told you so" following their impressive win over a hot Kentucky team before they squeaked by North Carolina then dropped four straight conference games, giving up 99 points in the most recent two. McFadden and Tebow are both great players, but you can't let the opponent's star player go off on you like that in back-to-back games. They're already bowl eligible, but that Clemson game looks the complete opposite of what it did a month ago.

For LSU, it may have been against grossly inferior opposition, but the receivers making plays that they should make in their sleep is definitely a good sign. They'd be 10-0 and have a few less dramatic victories if that had been the case in October.

Okay, Kansas is a team I'd seen less than an hour of live game footage of during the season. I must say, this team is good! Their schedule has been complete garbage and it reaches a 7-week low this coming weekend, but that all changes for the final game (or two?) starting Nov 24. Back to this game, though, the offense was brilliantly creative, very precise, and had the ability to be physical which a lot of times the surprise teams don't. The defense perhaps could have done better against the run, but the corners were outstanding and really the whole secondary looked good. KU is actually for real. They could win a BCS game and if they don't make it there, they should do well in whatever other bowl they go to.

Boston College fans didn't deserve this. Yes, I've ranted all season about how OSU-BC would be proof that the BCS is all about getting the easiest schedule possible, but once FSU took care of that the Eagles did deserve a strong finish to their season. Ryan once again had multiple interceptions and the defense had no answers for a Terps offense who had barely totalled 40 points over their last three games. The ground game went nowhere and during MD's 21-point outburst they had to basically abandon it... amazingly Ryan had a little fourth quarter magic left after the VT game, but not quite enough. The Eagles are clearly on the downturn as they really should have lost their last three games, during which Ryan has thrown seven picks. Will Clemson beat them next, probably relegating them to a late December bowl? What about Miami? Okay, that was just a joke.

Even though the mighty have fallen, most Saturdays it's still good to be king. And some things haven't changed even this crazy season, like the fact that Cal just can't quite beat USC. Forsett turned in one of the best games of his career, but was matched nearly yard for yard by Chauncey Washington. Booty didn't do much but apparently just not throwing two interceptions like Longshore was enough. Following Stefan Johnson's eventual game-winning score, Longshore fumbled away possession at the start of one drive and had a costly interception as the Golden Bears had established a long drive into USC territory. This feeling has got to be getting old for Cal.