Sunday, November 23, 2003

Week 12

You can keep Pitt, Clemson and Tennessee, winners in
games that were, in order, likely, plausible and
possible. A little eerie that they all happened on
the same weekend, but like Bob Slidel said in Office
Space, “there it is” (plus, SC needed all three of
those games, and anybody who isn't wearily resigned to
SC being on a magical run is not paying attention).

what put my jaw on the floor and kept it there was the
ass-kickin', wood-layin', shit-beatin' stompfest
administered to a nearly-Top 10 team by the
suddenly-74-Huskers Duke Blue Devils.
Break 'Em Up!!!!
I know Lein enjoyed that, as did Mandy who enjoys a
good Georgia Tech thrashing, but as the rabbi likes to
say, I wouldn't have taken that on a dare.

What we had this weekend, in one sense, was a
throat-clearing moment that we desperatly needed but
never got last year. A weekend when three teams on
the Will-We-Get-In-Bubble got exposed as the
DrKoop.Com-at-90-Bubbles they really were. You get
one about every third November, and it clears the way
for a genuinely nice title game - last year, for
example, you might have seen somebody sweep up Ohio
State, WSU and FSU. Put them all out of our misery.
Didn’t happen. So we got what we got.
This season, we needed somebody to shine a little
light on a few of the same – less Miami, much more FSU
and VaTech – and thankfully, somebody did. In no
small way, this weekend saved the season.
As for FSU and VaTech, when in this century has
either of them shown themselves to be a disciplined,
focused team that can play well in big games
On the VaTech side, you can’t be surprised – I
can’t ever remember this team winning a big game that
wasn’t Miami and half the time, they lose that one. I
mean, let’s remember – this “National Title Contenter”
played the Big East plus I-AA James Madison. As I’ve
said before, all I-AA games should be automatic BCS
losses. And – AND(!) – Pitt had only beaten them the
last two times they played. I guess the name “Vick”
on your roster buys you 10 or 15 poll slots you don’t
deserve. The story of this particular game should be
familiar to anyone who's ever seen an After School
Special - upstart wants it more - with Larry
Fitzgerald (3 catches on winning drive) in the Robbie
Benson role. No word yet on who plays
winning-TD-scoring running back Lousaka Polite (you
can look it up).
Now, as for FSU, I got a theory: first off, all
those #1 votes for OU should get transferred directly
to FSU Monday morning, because – as we all know -
everytime FSU fails to show up for a big game, they
suddenly become “legit.” This year with Miami, last
year with ND, every year before that... well, Miami,
again. Or their annual swoon to a dog on the road –
they walk away closer to the BCS than they were at
kickoff. So here’s the theory: I can only think of
two organizations that consistently benefit from
failure, and Jeb Bush is directly linked to both –
(By the way, to veer wildly into the political
realm: SENATOR Katherine Harris? Can we just rename
it the Politburo and be done?)
And now, ladies and gentlemen, a little bit late
but always on time, let’s give a big welcome to your
Chris Rix Meltdown! Put your hands together for 2
INTs, 16 completions and 4-for-14 on 3rd downs! He's
Chris Rix, everybody, and he's never at a loss for
choke-jobs or parking spots! Yow-zah! I kid cuz I
care! Chris Rix, everybody, tip your waitress!

Now let's discuss Miami, or as I'll now forever and
eternally refer to it, "ThisU." Cuz Kellen Winslow,
"he don't give a flyin' freak about nothin’ but
ThisU." LeBron, you're now #2 on the Next list.
Kellen Winslow is off the charts. This guy in an NFL
locker room? And to think, he’s just gonna miss his
chance to bitch-slap Melissa Stark on camera by two
years. DAMN! I saw it three times, and I'm still not
sure I didn't imagine it. "I Don't give a FREAK about
a Vol!" "This is war. He was trying to kill me. So
I'm gonna kill him first." And like the cherry on top
- say it!: "I'm a SOLDIER!"
Jim Healy, show yourself! Better still, when do we
get a Saturday Night Live sketch of Hardball With
Chris Matthews with Tracy Morgan playing Kellen? Come
ON! It would be better than the Harry Belafonte
episode (“I’m gonna say what the media is afraid to –
Osama Bin Laden is an Uncle Tom”).
Hand Him The Heisman. No dissent entertained.
He’s the greatest college prescence since Barry
So what happened to ThisU? I don’t mean to take
away from Tennessee – well, yeah I do. What kind of
call was that on 4th down to get in the endzone? An
END AROUND from the 1? That’s a losers call that
happened to pan out – no credit to the Vols. What
they DID do was dutifully sweep up all the mess ThisU
left them and barely not beat themselves. ThisU
handed the reigns to a freshman QB and he got worse
not better as the year went along. I haven't studied
it enough to know why this is true, but I suspect
something is deeply wrong with Brock Berlin (in
retrospect, if you're starting a guy who's on your
team cuz he couldn't start somewhere else, maybe
that's worth keeping an eye on). But the strange part
is, if at the beginning of the year, you'd given me
the chance to buy stock in a freshman QB being
sheparded along by Ron Zook or one under Larry Coker –
as Kellen says, “It’s all about ThisU.”
Funny how things workout. And I’ll also say
there’s a 30 percent chance that Kellen simply scared
Brock off his game. Picture it: It’s Syracuse week,
everybody’s loose, our young, mentally fragile
freshman Brock is a little lazy on a Tuesday, lobs a
few over Kellen’s head he should have zipped, and
suddenly Winslow’s in his face like an Infected in 28
Days Later. Goodbye Next Ken Dorsey, hello
brighter-orange Chris Simms.
Somebody should look into it.

Which leaves Ohio State, which hasn’t won – or
played - a road game in 15 years. Survives Penn State
by 1, 10 over Mich State, the beat goes on, badabum
dabum badah. I’m past the grudging respect part now
– as juggling acts go, I’m in bewildered awe of Jim
Tressel’s Muppet-like ability to keep so many balls,
bowling pins, chickens, lit-fused-bombs and other
Muppets in the air so long. I mean, we all know how a
Muppet act must invariably end (and Miss Piggy is
wearing a banana peel-dress at Michigan) but if
Tressel – and Krenzel – somehow get by Michigan , the
guys in the balcony might jump on the bandwagon.
(fun Evil Empire fact of the day: Microsoft word’s
spell check doesn’t recognize “muppet,” but DOES
recognize “Muppet.”)

Did anybody see Cal versus Oregon? I mean, not to
watch the game, but just visually absorb it? Holy
freak. My head almost exploded. You had the Ducks in
their green-and-yellow 70s Superfriends uniforms, Cal
in their own version of swooping-euro-Speedo design
outfits, and it was all arrayed on the 2-tone field of
Autzen. Just a BRILLIANT moment in Pac 10 football
history. I thought a preschool class had gotten loose
on Blaine’s Create-A-School. Football Anime. I gotta
go back to Logans Run for better costume design. If
you want to know when Joe Paterno had his
so-far-undiagnosed stroke, it was when this game got

I’ll say it: Anyone currently on the SC bandwagon
petrified of Oregon State? AFTER UCLA? Leinhart and
thems best put the hammer down by halftime, or I WILL
have a coronary. Just for fun, go look up USC ‘67,
your basic OJ-McKay-best-college-team-ever, and see
how they fared in a late-season gimme with Oregon

If I’m irrationally scared of Oregon State, I’m only
rationally scared of OU, and no more so now than I was
a week ago. I see that 77-0 (who do the Sooners think
they are are? Duke?), but I gotta slap down the
patented John Tamanaha 70-Point Game Theory, put forth
by JT in 91 after Penn State rang up 70-something the
week before they came to SC.
As John put it: “That just tells us Penn State is
very good. But we already knew that.”
Which we already knew about OU.
Anybody catch Reese Davis going head to head with
Trev over OU’s starting D playing out the third
quarter? Always fun to see Reese’s demeaner coming
back from commercials after those moments, when you
know Trev’s been threatening to snap his neck.
(If you need anecdotal closure: USC 21, Penn State
10. Only loss of the year.)

Attention - Hubris ahead: Can’t remember the last
time a “rivalry” week held so little tension. I
don’t mean to say “well, let’s just mail it in”
because i’m sure there’s an upset or two lurking out
there, but can you name a major showdown that isn’t
prohibitively one-sided on paper or even one that
means much? In short, all the rivalry games this year
will be contender-versus-spoiler – is that fun?
The only must-see game is probably Michigan-Ohio
State, for the Big 10 title (whatever that’s worth)
and the Rose Bowl, but that’s only worth so much since
the Pac 10’s best team will be in New Orleans or will
be hugely upset its not. Still, its Michigan by a
mile or at least it would be madness to bet it
differently. But then, maybe Tressell and Krenzel and
can put something together. I doubt it.
Florida-Florida State is a season-salvager for both
teams. Assuming the Gators are by then out of the SEC
title game, it’ll be fun to see Zook battle
gladiator-style for his job. SC-UCLA – the worst UCLA
in a decade against the best west coast team this side
– maybe that side - of Washington 91, which you could
dismiss with a wave of the “throw the records out”
wand, but the last two meetings have been listless,
ugly blowouts in which UCLA quit and the gap is larger
this time. For this game to be competitive, USC will
have to play very poorly, and then what have you got:
a good team playing bad. Set the TiVo.
Best game of that day should be Washington-WSU, but
even that one will be moot: if WSU beats ASU next
week, they clinch at least 2nd place – and an
SC-vacated Rose Bowl – before they ever see UW.
Still, no reason to think either will not play hard,
and you can watch Reggie Jefferson again.
Texas-Texas A&M might be fun –140+ collective
points behind OU, this could be like when Vic locked
the two rappers/drug rivals overnight in the shipping
crate in The Shield. Still, should be Texas big and
bloodless, and if it isn’t, fire the coach.

Though I guess, as Kathy Griffin put it, there’s a
little more wood in the campfire at Carolina-Duke, eh?

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