Sunday, September 12, 2004

INDEX Sept 12-18

Stat Of The Weak:

86: As the t-shirts say, "Alaska Grown"

"Well-Timed Glances At The TV" Weekend
1: Plays I had to watch in FSU-Miami to watch Chris Rix throw an interception. I turned on the game as soon as I got in from work on Friday and the picture was hardly on the screen long enough for Musberger to say something dumb and up went a pass from the guy in white and down it came to a guy in orange. Say this for Chris Rix – he’s almost certainly the greatest quarterback of all time, as measured by vaulting. Hell of an effort on that mid-game first down, vaulting an honest 18 feet to pick up a first on a busted scramble. Not in the class of the all-time QB vault Gold Standard put up by Elway in the Super Bowl (chills thinking about that one), but right there with Blaine’s effort against UCLA in 2002. Hell of a play by Rix. If it wasn’t for those 12 or 43 interceptions in crunch time against Miami, he’d be a legend. I mean, in a good way.
2: Days after the FSU game it took ESPN to label a struggling QB (UGAs David Green’s wasted first-half against South Carolina) as “Rixian.” There’s lots of reasons to hate Rix, but that seems a bit off-sides.
And that is two items on the Index, about 1 more than that dreary, boring, predictable FSU-Miami game deserves.
2: Consecutive plays I saw in the Texas-Arkansas game where Cedric Benson ripped off a long TD or a long run to inside the 3. I honestly don’t remember if the second was a TD or not, because I was watching the late-night ESPN replay after 2 glasses of wine and 2 Alaska Summer Ales (drink ‘em now, cuz winter’s coming) and fading in and out of sleep on the sofa. But twice I opened my eyes, Young takes the snap, handoff to Benson, and he’s off to the races.
Like I said, it was a good week for random glances at the TV.
0: According to Professional Student Danny Allen, number of passing attemtps Texas has to limit Vince Young to if they expect to beat OU.
2: Pts Mack Brown went for after the go-ahead touchdown hoping to give Texas a 7pt, rather than 6pt, lead in the 3rd quarter.
0: Pts they got out of it when the 2pt attempt failed. which let Arkansas come within a turnover of beating, rather than tying, Texas in the last minute.
120: According to Danny's Rule, max number of seconds that can be left in a game before a team with the lead should seriously consider going for 2. Exceptions can be made, but not on the road with a lead against Arkansas.

1: Weeks The Dream lasted for Rutgers. Blown out by I-AA New Hempshuh?!?!?!? What can that possibly mean for Michigan State?

I heard Gene Wojo interviewed on a radio show and they put the Q to him: should the Big East be dropped from the BCS? Now, on the surface, this is a little like should Franky have been thrown off the San Diego Real World – she was a cancer that brought down the level of everyone else’s game, and so is the Big East.
We’re not actually in this mess because of the Big East. In fact, in some sense, the Big East did all it could to prevent this. We are in this mess because of Miami and Va Tech and the holier-than-thou ACC. Collectively, they used The Big East like a drunk freshman. And so you have to ask, after a party with unpleasant outcomes, do you stop inviting freshmen to your parties? Of course not! You NEED drunk freshmen, because juniors are so stuck up and pissed and don’t put out unless you tell them- wait. This metaphor is going the wrong way.
Startin’ again: The Big East did nothing wrong. Its two top teams, behaving like raging sluts, got lured away by the ACC, behaving like raging neo-conservatives. The Big East acted like, depending on your metaphor, a loser boyfriend or France, doing everything it could to prevent it. As much crap as we give pro teams for moving cities, those programs and the ACC have escaped unscathed for their betrayal of the Big East, though I suppose you can (though I won’t) debate just how much of a betrayl it was.
So now the Big East has no real teams. Certainly none that appear capable of beating Boise State (though you could plausibly bend that statement to fit any conference in the country). But that’s not the Big East’s fault, really. And maybe West Virginia or BC or Pitt will actually pick it up and produce a top 10 team. At least now, they’ll get the chance to prove they do belong (good for them if they do) or fail miserably and publicly trying (exactly the punishment you’d wish on a conference unable to live up to its ambitions).
That said: the whole BCS, as I’ve said before, is actually a Big East invention – the commissioner of the Big East is – surprise! – commissioner of the BCS!!!! No Way!!!! You mean, they invented it, precisely because… they couldn’t hack it on the field?
And… there is now clearly a class of western programs superior in every sense to the Big East – Boise State, Utah, Fresno State, TCU… any one of those teams would easily – easily – win the Big East (in fact, I be delighted to see any of them land in the Pac 10). Throw in Colorado State, Marshall, Southern Miss (maybe the best of them all). In fact, there are probably 10 schools in non-BCS conferences who would be favored in every game if they were in the Big East.
So in keeping with my politics, I’m going to be inclusive rather exclusive– make the BCS more, not less accessable. Liberty and Justice for all. “Hope is on the way” (and seriously… where is John Edwards? Almost certainly the most magnetic American politician currently breathing – clearly our nation’s answer to Tony Blair – and he is a distant fourth in public exposure between the top 2 spots on both tickets. The Rs are getting Cheney in public more than the Ds are getting Edwards out there? Fire Bob Shrum. Yesterday).
Let the Big East play for a spot, but open it up to others, too.
And then drop the whole f’in thing into the deepest part of the ocean and forget it ever existed.

17: Missouri's rank last week, behind an All-American-class QB stud who holds several run-pass “only-guy-ever-to…” records and is routinely mentioned at the front of the Heisman pack. It has a defense full of seniors. This is the Prove It year of the coach’s rebuilding run. And he appears to have done it – they have the horses to outright win or raise hell in the fight for the Big-12 North this year.
And that, by implication, puts them within a Big 12 title game of the Show.
So, to warm up for the campaign ahead, the Tigers scheduled a game about as far away from the limelight as they could, in some backwoods hollow called Troy, Alabama, at what used to be Troy State but is now just Troy University which makes it your basic “life skills” school with an Auburn complex.
Troy opened with an upset of Marshall – a big-time win, but an easy one to dismiss – and Missouri headed to Alabama as an 11 point favorite for a sleepy off-week contest.
And they arrived to find themselves in the crosshairs of that most mythical of college events, The Biggest Game in School History.
On a Thursday Night.
Whatdaya reckon happened?

273: Listed weight of Troy’s Junior Loussant, a senior offensive tackle.
52: Yards Loussant ran for a touchdown, outsprinting Missouri’s defense, after a Troy fumble bounced directly into his arms, to tie the game at 14.
24: Unanswered points Troy scored from the second quarter on after falling behind 14-0.
3: TDs Troy scored in that run, which went like this: trick play (halfback pass); Loussant’s surreal fumble return (though “accidental lateral” is more descriptive); and a somebody-please-make-a-damn-play lob into the endzone that saw both particpants – QB and receiver – execute their roles with both feet in the air. As Troy’s QB threw the pass, a Missiour defensive lineman smashed into him in full sprint, driving him up, back and completely off his feet (and three yards back onto his ass – not quite Quinton Coryott, but not far off) and the receiver caught the ball in the endzone at least 2 feet in the air over a defensive back.
3: Years as a Division IA program for Troy, rechristened this year from Troy State.
50: Years, minimum, that Troy’s coach believes“they’ll be taking about this team for,” according to his shouted, post-game, mid-mob interview.
1: Rank, among “hardest jobs in America,” that he claimed he now has in preparing for his next opponent… New Mexico State.
Just another homerun postgame interview for a smalltime southern coach.

0: Number of times I heard ESPN’s Herbstriet or Corso – who can always be counted on to say something stupid – call Troy’s football team “the men of Troy.” Now, Troy’s players are, in a literal sense, “men of Troy,” but their mascot is – predictably – the Trojans. You may have heard that USC, a program that occasionally draws mention in this space, also plays under the monicker of Trojans. The word “Troy,” however, is not in that institution’s title nor that of any obvious nearby geographic formation. Yet let ESPN – or any-friggin’body with a media guide and a Jim Murray complex - cover an SC game and you can’t go 3 snaps or 2 paragraphs without a “second and long at the Irish 34 for the Men of Troy…”
And yet, at a school actually called Troy, nobody said it.

1: Debut spot on the “Classicly Funny Stadium Name” Poll for Troy’s Movie Gallery Stadium. They got the logo and everything on both 20s. Easily displaces Louisville’s Papa John Stadium from the top spot. Movie Gallery, if that doesn’t ring a bell, is basicly the Waffle House of movie rental places. From what I can tell, it has found a niche in the south (maybe elsewhere, too, but that’s where I’ve seen it) in small, back-highway towns too small or remote for a Blockbuster. As an example, if you take the backroads from Valdosta, GA to Tallahassee, Fl, you pass at least two of them in decrepit roadside strip malls (needless to say, no Blockbusters along the same route). It’s the kind of business– from signage to architecture to used movie racks – that just screams mom-and-pop, despite being a chain. And I just LOVE that they are the title sponsor of a the football stadium in desperatly-wants-to-be-big-time Troy, Alabama.

0: Points in my post-Va Tech analysis of SC that were wrong. To recap: the engine that drove SC’s offense in that game was Lendale White, not Reggie Bush (though, obviously, it was the O-Line that matters most); it was the lack of a passing game that was most troubling; the defense is a suffocating curtain against anything except a Vick-type QB.
1: Games I continue to be ahead of the media on SC’s success this year.

CSU runs a distinctly un-Vick-like offense, with a very capable passing QB working with good receivers or handing off to very capable running backs. But the QB himself is not a threat to Playstation-scramble his way upfield for 40 yards on any given snap. And though it is a traditional offense, CSU ran it well enough to come within a yard of beating Colorado at Boulder a week ago.
And SC’s defense devoured it.
Turnovers, sacks, gang tackles, as Petey Pablo put it, “anything you can handle.” Or not handle. And with nothing but pass-pass-handoff offenses ahead on the schedule, things look good on the D side.
Now, on to USC's misunderstood offense:
322: USC rushing yards against CSU, which sounds terrific (and, i guess, is), the most since...
331: Yards USC rushed for against Ohio State in 1990, a game on the road and shortened for lightning (had they played the last few minutes, you could probably tack on 20 or more yards). That was an historic game for other reasons, though - it was the very last dying flicker of the Old SC before the dawn of the Long Dark Era just recently emerged from.
3: TDs rushing for Lendale White against CSU, who had been the driving force behind the Va Tech win, but didn't get much attention when Reggie Bush picked up his scraps to catch - catch - 3 easy TDs.
But just as Bush got his TDs on White's shoulders, all 3 of White's chip shot TDs against CSU were bought and paid for by the remarkable efforts of Matt Leinhart. Forget about the best-since-1990 rushing yards - Leinhart was poison.
123: Rushing yards for White.
84: Rushing yards for Bush
74: Rushing - rushing - yards for Leinhart.
305: Total yards personally accounted for by Leinhart.
7: First downs + Touchdowns picked up by White (passing, rushing or receiving).
7: First downs/TDs picked up by Bush
16: First downs/TDs picked up by Leinhart (pass, rush)
19, 23: Length of Leinhart scrambles to pick up two of them.

4, 3, 11: Same stats (first downs/TDs for each) in the “real” game, everything up until SC took a 21-0 lead and CSU basicly surrendered.
Now, you can write all this off to Norm Chow – reasonably – but somebody has to execute it, and ‘product’ QBs don’t scramble for 42 yards when the system breaks down.
You can also write it off to CSU (backs broken by Colorado or similar) and argue that if USC runs into a secondary well equipped to stop the short-to-medium passing game, then they are in trouble. And that’s a damn good point. Rejoinder: a) against the only team to do just that in 3 years, Va Tech, the running game came through behind White and b) nobody else has.

So what did we learn today?
We learned that if you believe it’s consistent first downs that win games (hint: they do) than it isn’t White or Bush or the ghost of Marcus Allen, but Leinhart that drives the train. And we learned that SC’s passing game – invisible at Va Tech – is fiercely alive, at least against mid-tier defenses like CSU’s (and speaking of the word “fierce” in odd contexts, did anybody catch the Real World Philly debut where Flaming Gay Guy Willie felt up Raging Slut Sarah’s fake tits (on invitation) and pronounced them to be a “fierce” boob job, meaning they felt real? And how about a few seconds later when Sarah, in full predator mode, stalked over to Idiot Party Guy Landon and dared him to grab a handful and he recoiled backwards from her in fear so hard that he knocked over a painting? I have grave concerns about the Philly cast and the prosects for the season which I’ll discuss elsewhere, but that moment was priceless).

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