This week, I’m doing it pro-Bono.
Every year in the last few has been the Year of the Freshman in college athletics, it seems, and there are a few players who extend that trend this fall.
Georgia’s A.J. Green was fantastic yesterday in the desert, making great catches in coverage and receiving the only touchdown Matthew Stafford threw; Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor was very good in his first collegiate start, tossing four TDs and taking all but one snap as Todd Boeckman languished on the sideline, and it’s clear Pryor’s growth or growing pains will determine Buckeyes’ fortunes as the season progresses; Julio Jones is going to be the key to Alabama’s passing game and the balance to their strong ground troops; Janoris Jenkins has shored up some of Florida’s coverage woes and vastly improves upon the flammability of last year’s secondary.
There will be more, too. Just wait a week.
There’s nothing better in college football, as far as I’m concerned, as a night game in the SEC. The liquid-fueled passions of the fans get more and more intense as the day wears on, tailgating turning to touch football turning to tension, and the whole of the emotion gets released in one very loud roaring whoosh at the beginning of the game and echoes for sixty minutes.
And LSU and Auburn played a pseudo-nail-biter that did not disappoint. After a first half of impotence, LSU came alive with Jarrett Lee at the controls and Andrew Hatch staring at pink unicorns, and the Bayou Bengals made play after play on the Plains of Auburn. The Auburn defense melted late and Brad Lester left the field a little too early, but once LSU scored quickly in the third quarter to cut a halftime lead of 14-3 to 14-10 and recovered a surprise onside kick, there was an air of inevitability for the boys from Baton Rouge.
That’s not to say that Auburn’s not a very goodteam: as a Florida fan, I’m ecstatic that these Tigers, especially, rotated off of our schedule, because their defense is malicious at its best and their spread offense is only getting better. But the SEC West is LSU’s to lose until someone knocks Les Miles’ crew off their pedestal, and it wasn’t going to happen last night.
Circle, underline, dot and star Alabama’s visit to LSU on November 8th. It’s probably going to decide the SEC West champion, and it’s a matchup of two of the nation’s best teams.
Oh, and it’s Nick Saban’s return to the cauldron of insanity that is Death Valley.
Blood will be shed.
There’s one more weekend of September for college football, but it’s in October that things will get really testy.
Oregon’s at USC, Auburn’s at rising Vanderbilt, and Ohio State goes to Camp Randall on the 4th.
The 9th is a Thursday with the two best ACC schools playing, Clemson at Wake Forest.
Florida hosts LSU and Texas plays at Oklahoma on the 11th, plus there’s the Tennessee-Georgia grudge match, Penn State at Wisconsin, Oklahoma State at Missouri, and Arizona State at USC.
The 16th has potential BCS interlopers BYU and TCU playing in an intersectional, interdenomenational treat.
The 18th puts Missouri and Texas on the same field in the Tigers’ only test before Kansas, whose date at Oklahoma is the other big game.
The 23rd has the now-diminished Auburn at West Virginia tilt.
The 25th has Alabama at Tennessee, Georgia at LSU, Wake Forest against a dangerous Miami team, Texas Tech at Kansas, and Penn State at the Horseshoe.
The 30th has South Florida at Cincinnati in one of the Bulls’ trickiest games.
And the 1st of November, a just-miss, has the world-ending Florida-Georgia game.
The Unforgettable Fire
With the serious, career- and life-threatening injury of Brouce Mompremier, South Florida’s senior linebacker, last night, in a homecoming for him at Florida International, with his mother in attendance, it’s timely to respect just what these players do.
They play a game of violence and savagery and speed, aiming to maim opponents or trample them en route to the promised land. It is a game of glory, to be sure, but, as George Carlin would remind, it is a stern game more analogous to war, pure and simple, played out on fields where killing is thankfully no object.
When a player is hurt in the way Mompremier is, it’s no small task to keep him in our thoughts. (Update: Mompremier has been cleared to return home. Good for him.)
And the same goes for Dante Love, who I somehow missed while writing this. The Ball State receiver was injured and taken to the hospital with his parents in tow during yesterday’s game against Indiana. He underwent five hours of surgery and now has mobility in his arms and legs.
It’s very, very good to know that these players will likely improve from this point. But, certainly, a little kind thought never hurt anyone.
Rattle and Hum
Missouri’s offense keeps ticking along, overcoming a few turnovers with another great game by The Quarterback Brought to You By Pizza Hut’s P’Zone, the Heisman-to-be that is Chase Daniel. He picked apart the Buffalo defense, throwing for a disgusting 439 yards in Mizzou’s 42-21 victory.
And you want a jaw-dropping stat? Daniel completed more passes in that game, 36, than he’s missed on all year, 33. He’s currently got an inconceivable 75.9 completion percentage.
Missouri suffers from a schedule that, outside of Illinois, sets up perfectly for them by providing challenges spaced far apart and against teams probably inferior to them. But Daniel is carving it up like few before him in the Big 12.
If we’re not, as a sporting public, paying attention to Penn State, let us do so now.
The Nittany Lions are averaging 52.8 points a game. They have yet to give up more than 14 points in any of those games. Daryll Clark has seven touchdowns to just one interception. The running game has one back projected for over 1,000 yards, and another for around 800, and each is averaging over seven yards a carry. The defense is allowing just 222.3 yards per game and has seven interceptions.
Those stats, though, have been tallied against Nobody, Nobody Tech, and Nobody State.
Now, Illinois comes to State College for Joe Paterno’s team’s first test this year.
You know how there are mistakes you make that you know you’ll learn something from, but, in the time immediately following the mistake, you think it isn’t one?
That’s Tennessee giving Phil Fulmer an extension and Kirk Ferentz and Greg Schiano taking theirs at Iowa and Rutgers. Tennessee was lifeless and inept against Florida, which I’ll get to later, but Ferentz’ team was underwhelming against a similarly mediocre Pittsburgh squad and the Scarlet Knights could do nothing to stop Navy’s option.
At least Syracuse’s Greg Robinson beat Northeastern this week.
Oregon was a splashy, effervescent Pac-10 team this year: all spread offense and tempo-based attack, bullying ground game and aesthetically pleasing when airborne.
That bubble popped Saturday, with the big, mean bullies from Boise State coming to Oregon and delivering straight shots to the jaw for three quarters. The Ducks rallied for 19 fourth-quarter points with their third quarterback, who was probably fetching water bottles for Dennis Dixon at this time last year, but Boise was much too far in the clear at that point.
The Broncos return to prominence as a team we’ll be saying laudatory things about until late this year, and the Ducks, struck by bad luck and the injury bug, fade from their nova potential again, cursed to the Holiday Bowl or something similar.
And before that, East Carolina succumbed to bad defense and stammering offense against NC State, making an unknown, Russell Wilson, into a brand name for Wolfpack fans.
It was already sort of smoke-and-mirrors stuff for the Pirates in their special teams-heavy wins against Virginia Tech and West Virginia, but the freshman quarterback made all the throws and ran expertly against them, outplaying ECU’s senior leader Patrick Pinkney, who has to be sick after his fumble in overtime essentially lost the game.
All That You Can’t Leave Behind
Florida State will not be an elite college football team until Bobby Bowden retires or dies and leaves the program or leaves the coaching aspects of it to others.
His star is beyond tarnished by several years of substandard play, and last night against Wake Forest was just confirmation of that. FSU committed seven turnovers and played the game down at the skill level of a less athletically gifted Wake team. When you’ve got the potential to outrun every school in the nation on your best day, and this is in no uncertain terms still the talent Florida State pulls, it is inexcusable for the execution on gameday and development of players in weeks between to hamper your team.
The Jessies and Joes, as Ron Zook called them, make up for a lack of Xs and Os prowess. But it’s no coincidence that it took Urban Meyer’s time with Zook’s players, or Les Miles’ work with Nick Saban’s blue-chippers, for highly talented teams to win titles.
Bobby Bowden may be canonized and literally bronzed in Tallahassee. But for the sake of the once-proud Seminoles, for whom T-shirt slogans like “Unconquered” are poignant mementos of swagger long gone, he’s got to go.
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
Florida, as Spencer puts it, is ready to explode. There’s way too much speed and offensive talent on this team for them not to utilize it at some point. It wasn’t necessary against Hawai’i, or Miami, or, indeed, after the sublime Brandon James and the quietly dominant defense had their moments, in the evisceration of Tennessee; some Saturday, though, against LSU or Georgia or, perhaps, Vanderbilt, Florida will be down and need to throw.
The hope, I suppose, is that the intermediate-to-deep passing game that was so effective in 2007 will come easily to the Tebow and Co. attack. But offensive coordinator Dan Mullen is either holding back or obscuring the nonexistence of the rhythm that goes along with that; the Tebow-smash-and-death-by-a-thousand-draws-and-pitches playbook he’s been calling from shows nothing like that except for a handful of plays against the three teams so far, and those have all been predicated on heavy lifting by the running game.
Now, there’s something nice about seeing the proven 2006 formula (stout defense and effective if unspectacular offense) being tweaked for this pass-rush deficient team. But what’s the point of having toys like the Gators do if you aren’t going to use them? I’m waiting for the fireworks.
Look at the faces, frozen in motion in the background.
Knowshon Moreno is that good.
(Bonus: this tells a story very, very well.)
Thanks for reading; I’ll be debuting something new on Monday. (And by Monday, I mean next Monday.)