The Hangover Cure: Week 5

In Week Five, Upset Season 2.0 went live. (Sorry.)

Back to the Future

It was heartbreaking for this Florida fan to watch the Gators lose yesterday. But the manner in which they succumbed to Ole Miss was even more frustrating.

The Wheel of Offense came back from the 2007 season. The inability to stop a running back late in the game after doing a good job against him returned from the LSU game last year. The secondary’s aversion to covering wideouts, the hallmark of the second half of last year, reared its head late. The offensive woes on third down came back from the Ron Zook era. The lack of a featured running back haunted UF as it has since Earnest Graham (well, maybe Ciatrick Fason) left Gainesville.

This year was supposed to be different. There was a proven quarterback, or so we thought. There was speed everywhere, or so we thought. There was a young defense learning to discipline itself, or so we thought.

This team, we thought, was a national championship contender.

I think we thought wrong.

Back to the Future Part II

Ignore the Sports Illustrated covers, the invocations of Grantland Rice, and the Shaun Alexander proclamations of a new Bear Bryant run if you want.

But you can’t deny that ‘Bama’s back.

If Alabama can play the way they played in the first half last night for even one half of each game for the rest of the season, there isn’t a college squad out there that could withstand this brutal Crimson Tide.

It starts with the hulking offensive line and the vicious defensive line; it’s the trench play that the Bear would be proud of that keys this team, whether it’s by paving boulevards for the capable stable of Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram, and Roy Upchurch or through punching holes in opposing offenses with the elephantine Terrence Cody.

Heck, John Parker Wilson even looked like Joe Willie Namath on one throw, a gorgeous, looping bomb to Julio Jones in the corner of the endzone that was maybe the prettiest play all Saturday.

I’m not ready to crown anyone the national champion just yet, and I haven’t even seen Oklahoma for a full game, but the way that Alabama team played, it is going to be difficult to pick against them for the rest of the year.

After Saturday, the game I’m most excited about this year is the return of Nick Saban to Baton Rouge in November; you want some hate, some pain, some fire, you’ll want to be in or watch Death Valley that night.

Airplane!

Surely this isn’t Penn State, right? Surely there’s a hideous, offense-free loss somewhere on the schedule? Surely there’s a rash of defensive injuries waiting to sideswipe the season? Surely, JoePa is going to get hurt and the team is going to rally around him and then lose one on the road, right?

Well, what I know is that the “Spread HD” that Daryll Clark and Derrick Williams fuel has looked good against a conference opponent, now, and that this defense is a throwback in all the right ways. I worry a bit about how they’ll deal with the spread offenses Ohio State with Terrelle Pryor and a revitalized Michigan team will throw at them, but I think Penn State is surely the class of the Big Ten and clearly a top ten team.

And don’t call this too early: Penn State has a legitimate chance to play for the national title.

Ghostbusters

Don’t look now, but not only is Notre Dame 3-1, but the Irish actually have reason to smile at this point.

That win over Michigan in the sprinkles in South Bend? Well, now it’s a win over a team that beat a top ten team. The loss to Michigan State? It was to a team with a Heisman-worthy player on the road. Saturday’s victory over Purdue? Well, this team nearly knocked off Oregon and probably has another upset in it.

The potential pitfalls of North Carolina and Navy still lurk, and there’s only the most minuscule chance that this team could upend USC at season’s end, but Jimmy Clausen is quietly improving and the young team is quietly getting solid by the week. By virtue of their pathetic schedule, they’ll be bowling for sure, but, for the first time under the Ty Willingham/Charlie Weis regimes, I could see this team winning a bowl game.

It may not be waking up the echoes. But there are definitely ghosts sleeping a little less comfortably.

The Goonies

I quote from Wikipedia: “While sometimes called a fantasy film for its improbable, child’s-dream-come-true storyline, The Goonies does not actually use supernatural elements.”

Swap some nouns, and try telling that to Wisconsin fans today.

Michigan played its worst half of football and went down by 19, then forced the Badgers into their worst while playing its best in the second half, storming back with 27 straight points and defending just well enough to hold off Wisconsin in the 500th game at and biggest comeback ever in the Big House.

There had to be something magical for Steven Threet to take off for a 50-yard run, or for Michigan to look as good, then as bad, as they did, logic tells us. But the reality we saw was so fantastic it had to be true.

Ishtar

The scene was all set for Georgia to be great. The blackout was supposed to be intimidation squared, and the black shirts and black endzone lettering added to the ambience.

Then a certain Alabama prediction came true.

The Dawgs were drowned by a tsunami of 31 Crimson Tide points in the first half. They couldn’t stop anything. They couldn’t get Knowshon Moreno loose. They couldn’t even rely on Matthew Stafford arm, which went from cannon to Chad Pennington over the course of the night.

They scored 30 points in the second half and never made the game close. They allowed no points in the third quarter and never seemed like they had stopped ‘Bama.

When ESPN cut to shots of Uga VII in a mobile fridge at the end of the game, even he looked disgusted. Last night was a letdown of massive proportions.

48 Hours

The storyline of the weekend, though, was that the 48 hours from Thursday to Saturday everything proved that we thought we knew was wrong and that looking back just a little ways could perhaps give us the answers we seek.

Suddenly, Oklahoma is again among the nation’s best, having survived the early-season jitters of past years, and the Red River Shootout will probably pit top-five teams. Suddenly, it’s the Old World powers in the SEC West that are rising up, with Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee all falling in inter-divisional play on Saturday. Suddenly, it’s the traditional powers like Alabama, LSU, Penn State, Texas and Brigham Young that look great, and ones like Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and, yes, even Florida State that look better than they have.

There’s a fleet of interlopers around, certainly, from SEC East leader Vanderbilt (my body actually made a weird noise as I typed that) and undefeated Northwestern to unbeaten and untested Missouri (I think we can say that Illinois is no better than perhaps good on defense after last night) and the battle-hardened, beef-squashing South Florida team that smacked NC State and will just improve with Mike Ford at tailback. Plus, Duke’s 3-1, so check your local forecasts for the Rapture.

And this storyline will change as we head into October and beyond. There’s an SEC shocker or two waiting, and a Big 12 team may still collapse, and USC could rebound and look scary again, and I could go on forever with possibilities.

But what we should know by now, really, is that we know nothing, and that the ride is much more fun this way. See you next Sunday.

(The Photo of the Week is over here.)

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