The Week That Were: 09.21.13

Written September 23rd, 2013 by MaliBuckeye

Monday’s menagerie of thoughts and wonderings on Saturday’s shenanigans comes with music. It was an “ugly” weekend, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make a silk purse out of it all.

Before we dive into the scores, it’s important to remember how trivial college athletics is in the big picture of things. Unfortunately, this is only brought home when we remember the frailty of life, and there were three chances for reflection this weekend.

Ohio State started with a tribute to Columbus Newscaster Dom Tiberi’s daughter Maria, who lost her life in a traffic accident this week.

UCLA followed suit later on Saturday with a 10 man play from scrimmage to honor wide receiver Nick Pasquale, who was killed in a traffic event last week.

And sadly, we found out on Sunday that Cincinnati freshman Ben Flick died after yet another motor vehicle incident.

Again, football is fun… but it ain’t life.

Mid-season Form

Mid-season Form

Let’s stay in the Buckeye State with a reminder of the awesomeness that Ohio State unleashed on Saturday. Sure, it was an undermatched opponent, but that doesn’t mean that the game was insignificant for those that played in it. And, while this was the best block of the week by FAR, the game was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Ohio State did allow ten runs and have two errors in the victory.

PS- I didn’t know that Pam Oliver was a Cal grad. At least TBDBITL seems to think so and responded to criticism in a different way than Charles did earlier.

Ken will be by later to respond to those pundits who seem to have issues with Ohio State’s 76 point victory, but I’ll add only this- I sure don’t hear any bitching about Baylor or Louisville or Miami doing the same on Saturday, and when Oregon did it earlier in the year against an FCS program, they jumped Ohio State in the polls.

You know who doesn’t have a problem with playing until the final gun? The Pirate Cap’n… that’s who.

As you can see up there in the right corner, Coach Kelly and the Irish are celebrating another win in the very friendly confines of South Bend. And by “very friendly”, I mean the kind of affectionate that allows a receiver to climb over the back of a defender and still benefit from the pass interference call. The “Sparty NO!” moment might have happened as soon as Michigan State left the locker room; it’s certainly an uphill battle when you’re playing 11 on 16. Read More

The Week That Were: 9.15.13

Written September 16th, 2013 by Scott

Where to start, where to start.

Alabama got revenge, Michigan almost got upset by Akron, Texas still can’t play defense and Nebraska, well, Bo Pelini better have his resume updated.

But we must start with the odd finish to the Wisconsin-Arizona State game in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

The Sun Devils led 32-30 in the waning moments. The Badgers had executed the 2-minute drive to near perfection and were in position to attempt a game-winning field goal.

Yawn, yawn. Sounds like a typical game. OK, here’s where it got weird.

Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave did something that resembled a stumble, kneel down or plopping down of the ball.

Perhaps his knee touched, perhaps there was a whistle. Arizona State players saw a loose ball and hopped on it, and stayed on it.

The officials eventually decided it was still Wisconsin’s ball, but time ran out before the Badgers could get the field goal unit ready.

Game over.

Problem is, according to the rule book, the officials should have been flagged for illegal procedure because they gaffed big time.

Worse than Leon Lett in the Super Bowl. Worse than Ray Finkle and the laces facing the wrong way (thanks Marino). Worse than Marty Mornhinweg electing to kick after winning the OT coin toss.

According to an excerpt from rule 4-1-3-o “A live ball becomes dead and an official shall sound his whistle or declare it dead: When a ball carrier simulates placing his knee on the ground.”

Stave was attempting to take a knee. This much we know. So he was down and either ASU should have been hit with a delay of game or the crew should have stopped the clock to sort it all out.

Oops. Read More

The Week That Were: 9.7.13

Written September 9th, 2013 by MaliBuckeye

Given the rain delay in the BYU /UT game this week and the deluge of rushing that befell the Longhorns after kickoff, there’s only one option for this week’s soundtrack.

See, this is why there should be no polls before the first weekend in October.

Hook’em

Once again, we see a number of teams that got votes due to their “name recognition” shown up early in the season, and others who are rising to the occasion still find themselves with a long way to go until November.

Cases in point: Texas, Notre Dame, Florida, and Southern Cal; all of whom lost on the same Saturday for the first time since September 11, 1976.

For the Longhorns, it’s been a slide into mediocrity for a while now. I’m not sure that people really understand the significance of the Mack Brown era… As the flagship school in of the top three recruiting hotbeds in the country, Brown’s teams have historically underwhelmed with the exception of two “lightening in a bottle” moments- Vince Young and Colt McCoy. Outside of their leadership behind center, the program has struggled; and it can be argued that some of this is due to poor coaching (see the Major Applewhite -vs- Chris Sims debacle) or poor recruiting (Texas recruited the last two Heisman winners as defensive backs, and didn’t reach out to Jamies Winston- this year’s new hotness).

While those things may be true, Mack seems to think that the issue is defense; as evidenced by the 550 yards rushing that they gave up to BYU on Saturday, the majority of which happened in the first three quarters. In response, Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz was fired on Sunday. Before you get excited, Austinites- his replacement is none other than Greg “GERG” Robinson, who’s amazing Michigan defenses gave up over 100 points in two games against Illinois.  I’m sure he’ll get the team motivated to return to the lofty status that UT should assume.

But you’ve also got to think that this is merely shuffling chairs on the Titanic- when your team plays so poorly that Shaggy Bevo’s servers go down as they did on Sunday, then you’ve got yourself a problem. Read More

The Week That Were: 8.31.13

Written September 2nd, 2013 by MaliBuckeye

For those unfamiliar with this feature, consider it your cheat sheet for the conversations around the grill on Labor Day. As always, these come with a melodic interlude to play gently in the background during your perusal… because you’re that important to me.

Haircolor Brought To You By Home Depot

It was the best of times, it was the… well… best of times. Football was played, plays were made, and the long summer doldrums finally came to an end.

Sawkaralyna got us started off in style, scoring on the third play of their first possession and kicking off the annual “Hey, we’re pretty good! Oh, that’s right… we have to play  in the same conference as Alabama/Georgia/Florida/LSU… nevermind.” The only significant storyline to come out of this game, other than the fact that sometimes “new school clothes” aren’t always fashionable, is the fact that ESPN’s love-fest for all things Clowney turned into the predictable hate-fest for the sophomore after he didn’t balance the budget/solve global warming/play like a Heisman candidate. Whatever helps them get their ratings points, right?

Speaking of firsts, the news this offseason was about the new “targeting” rule and it’s potential impact on the game.  Your future trivia answer to “who was the first college player to be ejected under this rule?’ is none other than Tulane’s Lorenzo Doss. Small Ohio State related fact that’s stuck in my brain for some reason- In 1995, the NCAA decided to crack down on “showboating” and OSU’s Terry Glenn was the first person flagged after signaling “First Down” following a catch against Boston College in the Kickoff Classic.  What a cute rule that was…

At any rate, the impact (see what I did there?) of the new rule was certainly felt across the first weekend; Northwestern had a game-winning drive extended after Cal’s best pass rusher was flagged for “targeting” on a tackle in the end zone, Texas A&M lost a player for a similar infraction (although, to be honest, it was a really bad call), and Oregon had to go and “one up them” (as always) with this potentially crippling hit against Nicholls State. To be fair to the defender, though, everyone in the stadium was yelling “Duck!” to the Nicholls QB. At least that’s what I think they meant…

Another major story this weekend was the debilitating sanctions that hit Heisman winner Johnny Manziel following the “autograph” scandal. I can’t imagine what it was like for him to sit there on the sidelines for that time, missing the change to be with his teammates and… yeah, in the time it took you to read this sentence, his “suspension” was over. I wish my car had a suspension that cushy…. Read More

The Week That Were: 12.1.12

Written December 3rd, 2012 by MaliBuckeye

Getting ready for the next phase of college fandom, that wonderful world filled with gifts of college hoops and bowl catastophies. As such, here’s the soundtrack for this week’s look back.

Robert Frost once said, “Nothing Gold can stay”; and so, another leaf turns and this college football season comes to a close. Before we jump into Championship Weekend, let me take a second to say “Thank You” to a great Ohio State blog and BBN member who hung up their keyboards this week- Dave and Drew, Godspeed on the next adventure.

It Gets Better

Well, the crapocalypse is surely upon us- we’ve now got the choice to pull for Notre Dame or for Alabama in the Mythical National Title game come January; although I’m still holding out hope that the Mayans were right.

Alabama punched their ticket to yet another dance via a dominant second half performance against a very game Georgia team. Throughout the first half and into the third quarter, it looked as if the Bulldogs had figured out a way to neutralize the Bama defense, a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown only extended the sense of dread that Alabama fans must have been feeling throughout the sold-out Georgia Dome.

And then Nick Saban remembered that he had a running game.  From that moment on, the Crimson Tide’s offensive line and stable of running backs managed to decimate the Georgia defense, churning clock and yardage. After running all over the Black and Red, it only made sense that Alabama’s last score would come on a beautifully executed play action pass- everyone, including the cameramen and your humble correspondent bit on the fake, and McCarron’s ball was perfectly targeted for the score.

Again, kudos to the Georgia team; they refused to give up even under dire circumstances and dwindling clock. They managed to drive to the red zone in a short amount of time, but then made decisions that I’m still trying to figure out.

After passing for the first down on the Alabama 8 yard line, Georgia chose to run a play and not spike the ball for clock stoppage goodness- they had used their last time outs forcing the Tide to punt on the previous series. The process of setting the play up itself cost them a good 5 seconds or so, and then they chose to run the following attempt:

There’s a lot of things that went wrong here- the pass was tipped at the line, and the receiver should have intentionally dropped it (although that’s a hard thing to do, as it goes against years of practice). But the decision to not control the clock a bit better at the end send Nick Saban to Miami to defend his team’s national title, and ended up pushing Georgia to game against the B1G Championship Runner Up (more later). Read More

The Week That Were- 11.24.12

Written November 26th, 2012 by MaliBuckeye

Mark May looking stupid? You bet I'm going to post it

As you’re reading this, I’m somewhere above you making the phrase “flyover states” a reality, and heading back to the left coast. As such, this week’s review will be a bit shorter than previous ones, but know that I’ve only got one song on my mind as I write it

And now, we know the form of our destructor. Notre Dame has finished the season undefeated, and will play for the National Title, most likely against an SEC team of some semblance.  Who knew that the Holy See was so closely connected with Tikal? We said early on that it would be an amazing accomplishment for the Irish to finish the year undefeated- and yet, here we are. Granted, they faced a down Southern Cal, a “choke-prone” Oklahoma, and struggled against Purdue and Pitt, but they stand atop the polls as our nation’s finest team.  So, let the “Oh, I’ve totally been a Notre Dame fan forevah” crap begin- they’ve deserved it.

And, in an eerie way, they’re similar to a team that we just honored on Saturday in The ‘Shoe- unranked, under the radar, winning with great defense/limited mistakes/a lot of luck. The expectation is that they’ll get clown stomped in their bowl match up, but who’s to know? Any one, any where, any time… isn’t that what our flawed “single elimination Bowl Championship Series” has taught us?

Whoooo!!! Whipped Topping!

One of the more controversial aspects of the Irish resurgence has been the Heisman candidacy of linebacker Manti Te’o, seen here getting really excited about seconds of sweet potato pie on Thursday. His statistics are pretty similar to Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, who may not win B1G first team honors, minus the fact that Notre Dame’s scheme has allowed Te’o to achieve seven interceptions this season.

From all that I’ve read, Te’o is an incredible human being and strong leader for his top ranked team; the Heisman trophy would not be dishonored by his name on it (unlike certain other Trojany folks we might mention). That being said, there’s still  a lot of controversy on whether he should be a finalist for the award, and I can see arguments either way.

The fact of the matter is that, in addition to his play on the field, Te’o is benefiting from the National Broadcasting Corporation.  By this, I’m not only referring to NBC’s deal to broadcast as many Notre Dame games are are possible, I’m also eluding to the Peacock’s impact on sports coverage as a whole.  NBC, as you may know, has television rights to the Olympics, and has chosen to shape their telecasts of those events in a way that tries to reach the broadest audience possible. So, they’re less concerned with the actual results and scores and game achievements and more interested in establishing narratives and storylines for the “casual” fan to connect with and appreciate. As if being the world’s best was somehow not interesting enough.

This isn’t limited to NBC by any means, ESPN’s continual decision to push narrative over fact has significantly impacted their coverage of sports for the negative, as most Buckeye fans can relate to.  However, NBC was, along with ABC’s “Wild World Of Sports”, one of the first to mainstream this philosophy- being great is not as intriguing as being great AND having a powerful “story”.

Which brings me back to Te’o: As you may know, he’s overcome some incredible tragedies in his life recently, including the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend just this season. These are horrible events, and it’s remarkable that he’s been able to perform at a championship level in the face of them; I’d probably be up to my ears in a bucket of Cracklin’ Oat Bran in a similar set of circumstances.  But the question remains: Does “Solid numbers on a great team with a powerful personal narrative” override “Amazing numbers on a good team that totally relies on you“, particularly when the award has been acculturated to represent the “best” college football player in the nation (who’s most often an offensive skill player)?

I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Read More

The Week That Were: 11.17.12

Written November 19th, 2012 by MaliBuckeye

We’re going to do things just a little bit differently this week, given all of the amazing news and events that happened this past weekend. So, this will be part Silver Bullet Points, part Monday Morning Commentary, and the usual chunk of random observations from Saturday’s events in the world of college football.  Here’s something to listen to while you’re fighting the urge to tl;dr- we’ve certainly got a lot to be Thankful for.

Prepping for Kiffy?

In this year’s edition of the Battle For Los Angeles, the upstart UCLA Bruins jumped out to a quick lead and held on to “upset” the Trojans by ten points on a gray day in Pasadena.  While the Bruins obviously have been playing much better football this year, you’ve also got to wonder if the trajectories of the programs have now crossed, particularly given some of the issues that continue to swirl at Southern Cal.

As the team that was picked by many to contend for the national title, the frustration for many SC fans has been swirling since the loss to what we now know is a pretty good Stanford team. That game highlighted the Trojans’ issues with depth; injuries since then have continued to create problems and have certainly didn’t help in their back to back losses to Arizona and Oregon. The defeat by the Ducks made things even more problematic, since SC’s defense was a point of strength for them under current coordinator Monte Kiffin; their being gashed turned up the heat on the current coaching administration. And now, to lose to “little brother” has many wondering if it’s not time to make a change.

Coach Kiffin’s actions certainly haven’t helped this season- cutting media opportunities short, banning reporters outright… it certainly makes sense that he’d not want to leave the Rose Bowl via the obvious entrance on Saturday night.  Other controversy swirls around Lane as well; while possibly not related, it’s definitely not helping matters at all.  You may remember “inflation-gate” and the termination of a student manager following the revelation that game balls for kickers were under-inflated against Oregon. For those not infatuated with special teams- a “flatter” pigskin has a much larger “sweet spot”; as a great Buckeye Planet poster pointed out, the Trojan’s kicking game has not been anywhere near as efficient ever since they were penalized for this “mistake”.

In addition, earlier this week Tennessee was dinged for recruiting issues that occurred under Kiffin’s one year tenure in Knoxville- issues that involved Chip Kelly’s favorite videographer, Willie Lyles.  Given the length of the investigation into Oregon’s program and this new decision at UT involving Lyles, you’ve got to think that there’s more than a few million good reasons for Kelly to take the Pete Carroll route and jump to the NFL ASAP.

What does this mean for Kiffin? At this time, it’s difficult to say, but losing Matt Barkley for the matchup against Notre Dame this weekend, combined with the continuing scholarship losses for the next couple of years would certainly be reason to wonder how warm his office chair will be getting this winter.

Sentient?

Interestingly enough, the other two programs involved in “affair du Lyles” also had difficult weekends. Derek Dooley’s Volunteers lost to cross-state foe Vanderbilt, and it wasn’t even close. The win ensures that UT will have a losing season for the third time in as many years, and was only the second victory for the Commodores in 35 years.  Following the game, the inevitable happened… Dooley was fired, effective immediately.  If you’re an Ohio State fan, you’ve got to wonder if this might have an impact on current recruits looking at both programs… Vonn Bell is the name that pops up, but there may be others in the 2014 class. This year’s season ending clash between the Vols and ‘Kats will feature both coaches in either interim or lame duck status… it’s going to be a fun coaching carousel for the SEC this season.

Lyle’s third “partner” in all of this felt the sting of their first loss on Saturday, at home, to a Stanford team that should be in the conversation about the top programs in the nation.  Remember, they’re a botched call from extending overtime in South Bend and possibly ending the Irish Nightmare that we are currently facing.  I was most impressed with The Cardinal’s defense on Saturday- disciplined, aggressive, and never seemed to give up the big play to an offense that most often looks like throwing kerosene on a bonfire… one blink, and it’s over. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything. Ahem.

Does Nike gear wick away tears?

The loss can easily be attributed to a lot of things- Oregon being too confident, and this being the Duck’s annual brain fart game; Questionable officiating, A “trap” game, with the resurgent Beavers looming Thanksgiving week… But all of these would not do a service to the great work that the coaches at Stanford, starting with Jim Harbaugh, have done in building a program that can certainly play with anyone in the country. It’s also why I think that Alabama, if given the usual bowl prep to face Oregon, would beat them- I believe that the Tide’s defense is more athletic and much more disruptive than Stanford’s… and the template we’ve seen in the Ducks’ losses over the past four years is now pretty well known. You just need to have the horses to pull it off; Stanford did on Saturday, and now control their PAC12 destiny. They’ll need to beat UCLA twice in two weeks to do so, but doing so may have the Oregon Ducks on the outside of the BCS championship game AND the automatic Rose Bowl berth… along with USC.  It’s been that kind of year.

Oh, and on Saturday Northwestern, Stanford, and Vanderbilt all won.  Nerds, y’all.

Commentary: Polls and Playoffs Read More

The Week That Were: 11.10.12

Written November 12th, 2012 by MaliBuckeye

Oh, college football… How I love you!!

2012 Version

Well, that happened.

While a lot of people were saying that Alabama was ripe for a loss against a Texas A&M team that’s been playing really well over the past few weeks, most of this felt like lip service. You know, the kind of things that ESPN makes one person say on the Gameday set in order to appear unbiased.

And then- “Johnny Football”.

There are a lot of reasons why Alabama lost- coming off of an emotional win on the road in Death Valley, LSU’s offense showed a lot of people the issues that the Tide have in their secondary, Saban’s fear of the high speed offense is based on his knowledge of his team’s weaknesses; but the fact of the matter is that the Aggies outplayed Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, in several key areas of the game.

The Crimson Tide defensive front was stifled, for the most part, by the aTm offensive tackles. Combined with concerns about a quarterback’s mobility, the Tide were not able to mount the type of disruptive pressure that they are so used to.

Alabama’s offense made key mistakes and turnovers, and seemed out of rhythm all night long.  The three turnovers didn’t help, particularly when the Tide defense couldn’t get any of their own… and the mental errors were even more egregious. On the final interception, it seems to me that the receiver on the end of the line of scrimmage did a poor job getting depth in the end zone, making it easy for defenders to cover both him and the primary target.  In addition, with Bama’s defense stiffening and forcing a punt, to have a member of their punt return/block team create a neutral zone infraction for an automatic first down is an aggressive penalty, but one that is terrible to have happen in that circumstance. Again, the intensity was there for the student in question, but the lack of focus eventually cost them a final chance at victory.

Yeah, He's Good

But we can’t miss the point here- this game was won by Johnny Manziel’s continual ability to make plays and put the Tide defense on their heels.

After the third week in a row with this type of performance (Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State), the redshirt freshman has lifted himself into Heisman candidacy- and for good reason.  Given the lack of a clear “star” this year, given Matt Barkley’s struggles, the game this weekend was his “Flutie to Phelan” moment; outstanding performance in high profile opportunity. I’ll leave the debate to others, but will certainly enjoy watching the electricity that all of these candidates provide.

Even if he doesn’t win this year, you’ve got to think that next year’s Heisman race is going to be something spectacular- Braxton Miller, Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Everett Gholston, Tahj Boyd, DeAnthony Thomas… and those are just the ones I’ve got off the top of my head.

(And since I’m on the topic, I think that Marquis Lee needs to be included in this year’s debate. But that’s just me).

Does this loss end the run of SEC titles in the final year of the BCS? Well, not exactly… more on this in a bit.

Read More