Posted Jan. 8, 2015

Oct 17, 2011

Thoughts From The Valley: Confusion and Happiness



HOW I AM FEELING:  A tad confused. For two reasons: 1. After a very odd and very sluggish 23-16 win over Purdue, My Beloved Penn State Nittany Lions are now 6-1, and I cannot for the life of me figure out how this is possible; 2. Everyone keeps saying that Michigan lost to Michigan State on Saturday, but by all appearances, Michigan actually lost to South Florida. But then there's this: My elder daughter, The Ever-Demanding Anna, scored her first-ever goal in the Springfield Soccer League on Sunday. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. Anna seemed mostly unaffected by it.

WHAT I AM DRINKING: Victory Hop Wallop. The temperatures have started falling. Time for hops. A lot of hops.

WHAT I AM LISTENING TO: The autumn breeze and slow rustling of the leaves as they fall gingerly from the beautiful pin oak in my back yard. It is sunny and 68 and so perfect that one must be left to wonder if this is indeed what heaven will be like. Viva October.

VILLA UPDATE: The World's Most Beautifully Named Football Club suffered its first defeat of the season on Saturday, and it was an inevitable one. Manchester City, which is now owned by an oil baron and can therefore buy whomever they want whenever they want, thoroughly gashed the Villa defense en route to a resounding 4-1 win at the Etihad Stadium. Adding insult to injury? City's last goal was scored by James Milner, former Villa star who was lured to City by gobs of money, and was assisted by Garreth Berry, former Villa star who was lured to City by gobs of money. Money first. Everything else second. Up The Villa.


We are officially past the midpoint in this college football regular reason. Which means it's time to take stock of where we are—to figure out what we know, to ponder what we don't know, to look at the (dwindling) weeks ahead, and to fruitlessly attempt to project where we might be come mid-January.

So let's get it, shall we?

1. In theory, and as discussed in last week's TCFA Podcast, 2011 could finally be the year that the BCS gets blown to bits. And here's why: As of today, the following schools remain undefeated, and have a good-to-decent shot of finishing undefeated: Alabama or LSU from the SEC, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State from the Big 12, Wisconsin from the Big Ten, Stanford from the Pac-12, Clemson from the ACC and Boise State from The Whatever Conference They Are In (For Now). Which means, of course, that we could end up with an undefeated Oklahoma vs. an undefeated LSU in the national title game (I'm going to assume that the winner of the SEC and the winner of the Big 12 will get the nod here), an undefeated Wisconsin vs. an undefeated Stanford in the Rose Bowl and an undefeated Clemson vs. an  undefeated Boise in either the Fiesta or Sugar or Orange Bowl. I mean can you even imagine it?

2. Of the teams listed above, I think at least four will run the table: One from the SEC, one from the Big 12, Wisconsin and Boise.

3. This is the most wide-open Suzuki Heisman race since 2002 (the year Carson Palmer won it, even though Brad Banks or Larry Johnson should have), and yet I find myself not thinking about the Suzuki Heisman at all.

4. Ohio State may well have saved their season with that ugly-as-hell 17-7 win over Illinois, but let's not get carried away just yet, Buckeyes fans. While it is indeed impressive that you limited high-flying Illinois to just 285 yards, it should be pointed out that Your Miserable Offense only managed 248. THAT'S BAD. Thank the Lord for Boom Herron, huh?

5. Speaking of bad offenses, Penn State had better hope that Silas Redd (three straight 100-plus-yard rushing days) does not get hurt. Because at this point, he is the offense.

6. Don't ask me about the Penn State quarterback situation. I don't want to talk about it.

7. Notre Dame remains completely and utterly undefined under Perceived Savior Brian Kelly. Can't tell you where this program is headed. Will say this, though: If Kelly can't fix this, nobody can, and Notre Dame may therefore never become Notre Dame again. Which would be sad, of course. But such is life.

8. Oregon's loss to LSU way-back-when effectively knocked them out of the Mythical National Title Race but I have a feeling that the Ducks (41-27 winners over Arizona State on Saturday night) shall return to The National Scene before long. Too much talent there.

9. Maryland is kind of a mess under new coach Randy Edsall, and may indeed continue being An ACC Also-Ran under Edsall's stewardship, but I think by now we should all realize why Edsall left UConn for An Allegedly Lateral Move to College Park: It was, as it turns out, not a lateral move at all. Edsall knew the Big East was dying/dead. He knew he needed to run for cover. So he did. Only problem? He found cover at Maryland.

10. South Carolina is 6-1 after a 14-12 win over Mississippi State. And yet there is the sense that the Gamecocks are trapped in a nightmare of a season. There was the whole Stephen Garcia nightmare. There was the horrible loss to Auburn. There was Ole Ball Coach's ridiculous meltdown. And now? Well, now there is this: Marcus Lattimore, probably the single greatest player the program has had since George Rodgers, is out for the year with a torn ACL. Horrible. Awful. Depressing. And, yes, the end of Carolina's season. Congrats, Georgia. You just won the SEC East.


THREE: As mentioned above, Michigan played South Florida Michigan State on Saturday. And if only because Michigan State looked like South Florida, I was rooting intesenly for Michigan. I can live, I suppose, with "throwbacks," and so I can live with what Michigan wore (they at least suggested some sense of "history"). What I cannot stand, and will not excuse, are these horrific Nike ProCombat creations, which essentially destroy a team's identity and, in Michigan State's case, actually introduce colors THAT ARE NOT SCHOOL COLORS to the uniform. Michigan State's colors are green and white. Not green and gold. Hence, they should not wear green and gold. They should wear green and white. Pretty simple. I hate everything about ProCombat uniforms. Everything.

TWO: The "excessive celebration" calls are officially out of hand. We saw what happened to LSU last week. We saw what happened to Navy a few weeks back. And this past Saturday, up in Happy Valley, Penn State wideout Chaz Powell was the latest victim of this ridiculous rule. After making an absolutely huge play for the Nits—returning a kick to the Purdue 3-yard-line, therefore helping secure a Nits win—Powell committed the cardinal sin of, well, tossing the ball gently in the air. I mean, that's all he did. You could have watched the play 100 times and never even thought to yourself, "Hey, that should be 15 yards." And yet, under the guidance of The Truly Incompetent Dave Witvoet, the Big Ten officials calling this game watched the play one time and thought to themselves, "Hey, that should be 15 yards." And so it was. In attempting to explain his decision after the game, Witvoet said the following: "He jumped up and he threw the ball up in the air. It's an unsportsmanlike call." This is an especially interesting explanation, given that Powell did not, in fact, "jump up." He just stood up. Which is what you have to do after being, you know, knocked down.

ONE: The first BCS rankings came out on Monday. Just a few things of note: 1. Wisconsin and Clemson were ranked No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, which placed them behind Boise State, at No. 5. Oh, and Stanford? They're at No. 8. 2. OH MY GOD PENN STATE IS RANKED NO. 21. 3. Apparently, the Big East does in fact still play football, because West Virginia came in at No. 15. 4. LSU and Alabama were ranked No. 1 and No. 2. And Christ, is that game gonna be a war or what? College football time and space will stop that day. I can hardly wait.

TOUCHDOWN:As Longtime TCFA Reader Krista Hawley pointed out this weekend, we here at TCFA apparently "captured the zeitgeist" last month with our trip to and report on The Grove at Ole Miss. Because in the last week, both The New York Times and Parade magazine have followed up with their own stories about The Glories Of The Grove. And both come to the same conclusion: The Grove is perfection. As Times travel writer Dwight Garner wrote: "This is a sight to see, almost certainly the most convivial landscape in college athletics. A sea of tents in red and blue, the Ole Miss colors, are packed tightly among mature oak, magnolia and elm trees. Many of these tents are tended as carefully as summer homes. You’ll find good linen, elegant pitchers filled with chilled bloody marys, flat-screen televisions, the occasional chandelier. “Y’all behave last night?” is a pretty standard greeting. A visitor from the North finds that food on toothpicks and drinks in clear plastic cups are pressed upon his person at every turn." Sounds familiar. I want to go back.

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