Thursday, November 23, 2006

Imperfect 10s (Pitchforkin' The Pigskin)

Is there any argument?
THE single greatest football announcing moment of this calendar year occurred in the first week of January -- in the BCS title game between Texas and USC -- when 93-year-old Keith Jackson saw 'SC coach Pete Carroll stop for the briefest moment on his way down the sideline as he said something to #10 seated on the 'SC bench.
93-year-old Keith Jackson then informed America that it appeared imminent that Coach Pete was ready to make a switch at QB, replacing #11 Matt Leinart with #10 John David Booty.
Never mind the fact that backups DON'T sit on the bench during a game. Or that no one saw Leinart "getting injured" up to that point.
Or that if #10 was preparing to come into the game, he wasn't warming up his right arm to replace Leinart's left arm.
Or that the #10 that 93-year-old Keith Jackson saw was actually linebacker Brian Cushing.

Thankfully, Keith Jackson retired after that game (to see if he could find his coherency and lucidity which retired in 1995) -- but Cushing is still around "on the defensive side of the ball" for 'SC and he's the #10 for the Troy Boyz who is NOT J.D. Booo-tayy, who plays "on
the offensive side of the ball."
Early sidebar: That's always a vintage colloquialism ... using "offensive side of the ball" and "defensive side of the ball" to, we guess, make "offense" and "defense" sound more prolific or scientific, we guess ...

Seems as though "10s are wild" in '06.
Let's see, there's Ohio State's #10 (Troy Smith) who, last week, all but clinched the Heisman Troy-phy with the "W" against Michigan. And, this week, the feature game offers USC's #10 on the offensive side of the ball (Booty) and the Trojans' #10 on the defensive side of the ball (Cushing) vs. Notre Dame's #10 (Brady Quinn) who plays on the offensive side of the ball.
Second sidebar: There's a lot of people out there who think that ND's "Brady" is the one who'll replace N.E.'s "Brady" (super-hunky Tom) as the next dreamboat QB. However, for the people out there who own a Patriots #12 jersey (or who would like to see their boyfriend-girlfriend wearing nuthin' but a Patriots #12 jersey), they might've forgotten that Tom Brady wore #10 at Michigan ...

If there's a #10 on the back-burner, it must be West Virginia sophomore TB Steve Slaton, coming off that monster game vs. Pittsburgh by tuning up for Rutgers next week with a battle against South Florida. And, no one's talking about Cal's #10 Marshawn Lynch since his Heisman candidacy died early on -- just as no one's talking about Navy's #10 Kaipo-Noa Keheaku-Enhada because, apparently, his Hawaiian last name is so much more difficult to pronounce than standard last names such as "Tuiasosopo" and "Gbaja-Biamila."
Sidebar, part III: Two of the most-appealing national champions of the past 15 years -- Florida State '93 and Oklahoma '00 -- had star linebackers who wore #10 (Derrick Brooks and Torrance Marshall) and last year's national champ, had a #10 at the controls "on the offensive side of the ball" (Vince Young) ...

The jockeying will continue this weekend to see just who is worthy to face the Buckeyes in the BCS title game on Jan. 8.
Kinda makes ya wonder about the notes SweaterVest Tressel will be taking Sat. nite when he clicks on ABC. If SweaterVest scribbles onto a legal pad, "Must stop # 10 ..." will we know who SweaterVest Tressel is referencing?

Speaking of unclear meanings, what's the deal with this week's Sports Illustrated cover? We see the photo of #10 Troy Smith -- and the block-lettered proclamation is: "The Best. Period."
Is SI stating that Troy Smith is the best (period) -- or that the Buckeyes are (period)?
Is SI asserting that Troy Smith is the best QB EVER (period) or that the Buckeyes are the best team EVER (period)?
Is SI claiming that all previous polls were bogus, but now, with SI's blunt "Period," SI's blessing has made it official?
Would it not have been wiser to have it read: "The Best. Period. Case Closed. End of discussion"???
Or is SI's real subliminal message: "The Best ... Period ... We don't have to answer to you, so step off, Jack!" ???
Sidebar, fourth installment: Does "S.I." stands for "super insecure"???

Until we receive confirmation from the lab boys, we need to run down this handful of games which are shaping up nicely to have some serious impact on bowl games which range from the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl to the Brut Sun Bowl.
Sidebar, No. 5: Remember in college when you'd splash on some Brut (by Fabrege) before that "big date" (which you hoped would result in minimal effort to achieve the bed-sheet sweat-up)? In retrospect, it sure seemed silly to apply an aftershave which was 99.9 percent alcohol when nowadays all the guys gotta do is spray some Tag and chicks' shirts and undies are on the floor in one-tenth of a nano-second. In other words, it was better when Vitalis was sponsoring the Sun Bowl ...

Anyway, let's make this rundown a crisp and well-executed hate crime:

Notre Dame @ USC -- The real story here isn't about how the ND seniors which were in Tyrone Willingham's '03 signing class (Quinn, Samardzija, Zbikowski, Abiamari) are hoping to avoid going 0-4 vs. 'SC.
No, there are more-important factors in play here, such as: "How can Charlie Weis work green into the road uniforms?"
Last week, the Farting Irish wore the green shirts in the win vs. lowly Army. Since this is a road game wherein ND must wear the white shirts, it makes ya wonder if Weis would have his lads outfit themselves in green PANTS.
Think about that one for a minute.
Then again, with the way ND wears black socks with their black cleats (Brady wears those black knee-socks, yahoo), it may not matter.
It wasn't always this way. Here on the cover of the game program from the '82 game at the Coliseum, we notice that ND QB Blair Kiel is wearing white cleats, white socks, a white jersey with a green #5 and green wristbands as he's being pursued by George Achica.
Yup ... I was at that game (my dad got the tix, but Pops made me go w/o him when his arthritic knee left him on the D.L. for the afternoon).
'SC won w/o my dad, anyway ... a 17-13 victory which was meaningful because it was the "Win One For The Fat Man" game -- the last of John Robinson's first stint as 'SC coach.
'SC finished with a 8-3 record that year (no bowl game due to NCAA probation) and the win over ND was the last one for 'SC until a 27-20 win over ND in '96 (the fourth year of Robinson's second go-'round with the Trojans).
The weird thing about that one was that a family friend of my then-buddy was at the game -- and that spectator died of a heart attack without seeing the end of 'SC snapping its 13-year winless streak against ND.
I blame you, Blair Kiel. Your bad karma and mediocrity is what causes knee injuries and heart attacks.
Same to you, Sean Salisbury ... who has mentioned this week that he'll be on the sideline with his son.
"Standing around on the sideline" ... that's exactly what the Trojans' leading passer in '82 (Salisbury) did as we who were seated in the Coliseum watched Scott Tinsley direct the "the offensive side of the ball."
All ribbing aside, you can't say enough about 'SC's defense this year, given the before-the-season retirement of the Doublemint-twin, smashmouth DBs, Brandon and Ryan Ting.
It was always so exciteTING to watch them put a hurtTING on enemy ballcarriers and pass-catchers.
Without the Ting Twins, you gotta wonder if Pete Carroll has any other secret weapons that he can unveil -- such as the one he unleashed on an unsuspecting Cal opponent last Sat. in prime time.
Buehler looked like a prototypical 'SC linebacker -- tall and robust with hands and elbows taped up and equiped with a neck roll -- when he was sent out in the third quarter to attempt a 49-yard field goal with Troy trailing, 9-6.
Buehler drilled the kick ("with plenty of leg to spare" as they say) and everyone on the 'SC sideline seemed to have a good chuckle.
The booming kick by the kid (who may be a recruit from an 'SC intramural team) ended up as a sidebar after Booty tossed the two fourth-quarter TD passes which were the difference in the 23-9 victory.
It's doubtful that ND can furnish new heroes, let alone do anything to "wake up the echoes." In fact, the only quality opponents that ND has faced in the Weis Era have knocked Charlie around like he's a giant Weebil.
No change this time.
USC 27, Notre Dame 15

Texas A&M @ Texas -- Which t-shirt to wear for this one? It's sad when you have two Longhorn t-shirts and one A&M t-shirt -- and you really aren't stoked by either program.
Reveille ... THAT'S a handsome mascot.
Texas was mighty sloppy and outta sorts in that loss to K-State, but with nearly two full weeks to recover, they'll probably pull through.
Wronghorns 18, A&M 11

LSU @ Arkansas -- America is a better place when we are afforded the opportunity to spend the day after Thanksgiving transitioning from Texas' COLT McCoy QBing on ABC to LSU's COLT David PKing on CBS.
It's almost as though we're living a dream life in the United Colts of America.
Anyway, ever since Arkansas bailed on the SWC and joined the SEC before the '92 season, the Razorblades and Bayou Bengals have regularly made this the regular-season-ender.
And, even though the Razorblade call their 72,000-seat, on-campus stadium their home, the the Hogs and the Tigers always play this one in Little Rock's, 55,000-plus-seat War Memorial Stadium.
Two years ago, LSU came into War Memorial Stadium to face a team which, despite a 5-5 record, was 15-0 in that arena since Houston Nutt took over before the '98 season.
Shoulda played that one in "the Nutt House" on campus.
LSU won, 43-14 and ruined any remote chance that the Hogs had of going bowling.
This time, there's a lot more at stake for Little Rock-native Darren McFadden, the sophomre tailback who would be the Heisman Trophy winner if A) Sophomores were eligible, instead of unofficially ineligible and B) Level of teammate talent and opponent skill-level was factored into the equation (Troy Smith played two tough games and 10 scrimmages).
McFadden has 1,303 yards rushing with 12 TDs and he's 3 for 3 passing with 2 TDs -- and he's just fun to watch in that Nutty offense.
Aside from McFadden, though, the weapons on the offensive side of the ball, other than Marcus Monk ... yeesh. Casey Dick isn't much a QB and phenom Mitch Mustain is stil learning.
Also, Arkansas has already clinched its berth in the SEC title game next week (against Florida) so, without a miracle handy to reach the BCS title game, motivation and a sense of urgency could be a key.
After all, losing to LSU and beating the Gators still gets the Hogs to whichever bowl they were 'sposed to go to (as pre-determined by God).
LSU? A win by the No. 9-ranked team over the No. 5-ranked team (on the road) helps solidify a BCS-bowl opportunity. And, while Arkansas did barely enough to beat patsies such as Utah State, Alabama, Vandy, Mississippi State, LSU has pulverized all the weaklings (winning by 42 points three times, by 32 over Fresno St., by 31 over Miss. State and by a 49-0 score over supposedly-improving Kentucky).
JaMarcus Russell has THE cannon of an arm in college football (last year, he threw one 70 yards on the fly at the end of regulation of the loss to Tennessee, launching it from his own 30 to where it was intercepted on the goal line ... frickin' phenomenal).
Still, the kid lacks consistency.
But, he'll probably have enough to get it done this time.
LSU 22, Arkansas 18

Florida @ Florida St. -- The only enjoyable aspect of FSU football these days are the time spent looking at receiver DeCody Fagg and wondering why Bowden doesn't get that big Fagg more involved in the offense.
Of course, DeCody Fagg reminds us of the great names FSU has had at receiver the past 15 or so years.
Laveranues, Tamarick, Anquan, Atrews, Talman, Craphonso, Chauncey ... who we leaving out?
Actually, there's another delightful angle to FSU football -- and it involves opening an Excel spreadsheet and charting Bobb-buh as he tries to stay ahead of JoePa in the horse race of:"Which Septuagenarian Coach Will Reach 400 Career Wins Before His 100th Birthday?"
In bar-graph elegance, we have charted that, beginning with the final year of the old millennium (1999), Paterno had 307 wins, Bowden 292.
Then, the race got interesting.
Thru '99 -- Paterno 317 (breaking Bear Bryant's record of 315), Bowden 304
Thru '00 -- Paterno 322, Bowden 315
Thru '01 -- Paterno 327, Bowden 323
Thru '02 -- Paterno 336, Bowden 332
Thru '03 -- Bowden 342, Paterno 339 (Bobb-buh surpassed JoePa on Oct. 25 with a 48-24 win over Wake Forest, the 339th win of his career -- a game in which Chris Rix passed for 339 yards. JoePa was stuck on #338 for almost two months)
Thru '04 -- Bowden 351, Paterno 343
Thru '05 -- Bowden 359, Paterno 354
On Thanksgiving Day '06 -- Bowden 365, Paterno 362
JoePa got crushed during the rebuilding years of '00 and '01 (kinda like the way his leg was crushed against Wisconsin a few weeks ago) when PSU won only 10 games total while FSU won 19, not to mention the woeful seasons of '03 and '04 when his Nits won only seven games while Bobb-buh and the 'Noles won 19.
But, now JoePa is on the mend (sort of ... PSU goes into its bowl with an 8-4 record) while Bobb-buh has flattened out.
And, Bowden doesn't figure to get daggum Win #366 vs. the Alligators. Let's face it: Chief Osceola and the flaming spear driven into the 50-yard line at Doak Campbell ... NOT INTIMIDATING TO ANYONE.
Just ask Wake Forest, which came in and bitch-slapped FSU, 30-0, two weekends ago.
Hard to believe that it was 10 years ago when the No. 1-ranked Gators came into Tallahassee to face the No. 2-ranked 'Noles and crawled away with a 24-21 loss (in a game in which Spurrier griped mightily that future NFL'ers Reinard Wilson, Andre Wadsworth and Peter Boulware were cheap-shotting his precious QB, Danny Waffle, well after the whistle).
Good gravy, that FSU team was loaded. Two future NFL fixtures on the OL in Walter Jones (Seattle) and Tra Thomas (Philly) and a receiving corps which was so deep (with Andre Cooper, E.G. Green, Wayne Messam and Peter Warrick) that newcomer Randy Moss had to leave before ever playing a down.
However, the Gator pass-catchers back then -- Ike Hilliard, Reidel Anthony and Jacquez Green -- were actually better than FSU's ... and Danny Waffle proved it when he lit up FSU's exploitable secondary in the Sugar Bowl.
Everyone remember that as a 52-20 blowout, but the game was 24-17 at the half.
Another thing: In case anyone asks, that 31-yard TD catch by Hilliard in the second quarter -- the one where he made a leaping catch on the slant route, landed, stopped on a dime, then cut and veered back to the sideline ... THAT was the best catch in college football history.
The athleticism ... the instincts ... the vision ...
It was the best.
"Because I said so, that's why."
Oh ... this game.
Who gives a flyin' fig?
Alligators 23, Semis 12

Wake Forest @ Maryland -- The Deacs are gonna be breathin' fire after what The Turtles did to Wake's field hockey team in the NCAA championship match six days earlier.
Let's face it ... it's impossible NOT to get caught up in the Demon Deacon, feel-good funfest.
Looks as though Wake is more than the program which graduates 80-85 percent of its student-footballers (and 95-100 percent of its b-ballers) while Maryland is usually among the bottom three in the ACC's graduation-rate paradigm.
By the way, there's no amusing, clever, tongue-in-cheek way to say it: The Ralphfrigerator's team is one sorry-assed 8-3 team.
Probably the worst 8-3 team ever.
Not because we said so, but because we've watched 'em.
On Sat. nite, we watch 'em go down.
Wake 22, The Turtle 19

Boise St. @ Nevada -- Someone made a very good point the other day (but we can;t remember who it was or where we were, etc ...).
Doesn't it serve the Wolf Pack's best interests to tank this game?
That is, tank it in a discreet, non-obvious manner (unlike a tank job where it's SOOOO obvious that point-shaving is taking place).
Seriously ... UNR's chances of winning aren't great, anyway, but, let's suppose the Boise Boyz are a little off their game on Sat. since they will be playing away from the legendary SmurfTurf back home.
If UNR were to pull an upset, that would knock Boise out of a sure-fire BCS bid -- which would mean a $13-15 million windfall for the WAC would go out the window.
So, breaking down the X's and the O's here (which isn't what we do in this space, anyway) doesn't make much sense.
Economic viability is the name of the game here.
"Can you believe it?! Reno just fumbled on it's own 1-yard line AGAIN!"
Footnote: Ron Franklin is doin' the play-by-play for this game; Dr. Jerry Punch is workin' the sideline. What makes this interesting is that, back in the day, some of us liked it plenty when ESPN had Franklin and Punch as members of its broadcast first string, but ever since the Worldwide Leader became part of The Disney Football Enterprise, the mission statement became "America Needs More Herb Kirkstreit In Its Diet."

Speaking of which ... Herbie will be doing the game tonight (Thanksgiving) in the presentation of "BC vs. The U at The O.B."
Flutie's 'sposed to be in the booth to spend 1,000 minutes talking about his Hail Flutie and 0 minutes discussing the other parts of the game which made that 45-42 win over Miami great 22 years ago (such as Kosar flingin' the ball everywhere and frickin' Melvin Bratton runnin' all over the place).
For Flutie, a chance to reminisce ("okay, twist my arm, I'll talk about it again") sure beats where he was two weeks ago when he was stuck in a pressbox in DeKalb, Ill. watching a Fog Bowl classic between Northern Illionis and Toledo (last week, the featured MAC Sack o' Crap featured a game from The Other Miami where Rece, Lispy and Mark May were sent to report on "The O" -- which may or may not be what they call Miami of Ohio, right, Big Ben? -- beating BGSU, 9-7, in the all-time Mud Bowl).

Now, just so we have our records up to date: While 93-year-old Keith Jackson gave us THE finest ("period!") piece of announcing from this calendar year, technically ... that Rose Bowl was part of last season.
And that means that THIS season' top-notch broadcast moment goes to Herb Kirkstreit, who had a gem during the Ohio State-Michigan game five days ago.
When Brian Robiskie caught that short TD pass from Heisman Troy-phy in the fourth quarter, Herbie tried to inform America that "this is what college football" when Robiskie hauled in the pass with both sets of toes barely inbounds.
Herbie spent a minute or two acknowledging the work of a side judge who he I.D.'ed as "John Lucivansky" (sp.?).
Lucivansky (sp.?) eyeballed Robiskie and thrust his hands in the air in the univerally-accepted signal for "touchdown!" (period).
Said Herbie: "Good technique."
Dude wasn't kidding around, either.

Sayeth a son to his father when Homer was smothering Bart and Lisa: "Dad, I think we liked your half-assed under-parenting better than your half-assed over-parenting."

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