Posted Jan. 8, 2015

Oct 31, 20111

Thoughts From The Valley: Surviving. Advancing.



HOW I AM FEELING: 8-1. Yes, that's right: I am feeling 8-1. Penn State 10, Illinois 7. Goddamned 8-1. I don't know how we're 8-1. I just know we are 8-1, and I am gonna enjoy the hell out of that, along with the fact that My Beloved Penn State Nittany Lions now need to win just two out of their last three games to earn a bid to The Jim Delany Festival aka the Big Ten Championship Game. 8-1, folks. Indeed, 8-1.

WHAT I AM DRINKING: Literally, I am drinking Route 113 India Pale Ale from the Sly Fox Brewing Company. Metaphorically, I am drinking 8-1.

WHAT I AM LISTENING TO: Penn State play-by-play radio man Steve Jones, calling the final three minutes of the game that allowed Penn State to reach 8-1. Viva Steve Jones.

VILLA UPDATE: The World's Most Beautifully Named Football Club is most certainly not 8-1. I know you'll be surprised to hear this, but my ill-fated chaps at the Villa played to (wait for it ...) yet another draw this weekend. This time, it was a 2-2 stalemate with struggling Sunderland. Two more points dropped. One more result closer to the relegation battle. Up The Villa.


Well, it's only five days away now.

The game we’ve been waiting for since the day the season kicked off—LSU vs. Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, in the de facto BCS National Championship semifinal—is officially Up Next.

I'll admit: I'm pretty damn excited about that.

And, yes, I want to give you permission to be excited about it, too.

While it is indeed true that ESPN will bludgeon us all week with the kind of hype and SEC slobberation that only ESPN can muster, and while it is indeed true that, in the wake of This Titanic Matchup, we will very likely be subjected to weeks and weeks and weeks of lobbying from the SEC powers-that-be aimed at ensuring that we get an LSU-Alabama rematch in the Mythical National Championship game (this would be nothing short of disaster, I assure you), I am going to choose to ignore the noise (and yes, that's the best word to describe it: noise) and simply enjoy this game for what it very clearly will be: A classic.

It will be brutal and it will be beautiful. It will be gutwrenching and gutpunching. It will be black and blue and bloody and brilliant. It will be one of the finest games of college football that we will ever see here in God's Green Earth.

It will be Ohio State-Michigan in 2006, it will be Oklahoma-Texas in 2008, it will be Florida State-Miami in 1991, it will be Oklahoma-Nebraska in 1971, it will be Army-Notre Dame in 1941.

But most specifically, it will be LSU-Alabama, No. 1 vs. No. 2, in a game that will reverberate through the decades.

Which is to say, it will be college football, at its very, very best.

Saturday cannot arrive soon enough.


THREE: It can all come crashing down so fast. Just ask the Wisconsin Badgers. Two weeks back, this bunch was sitting at 6-0, flying high after a roaring start fueled by the spectacular play of quarterback Russell Wilson. Then came the last-second stunning loss at the hands of Sparty. And then, this week, there came the even more stunning last-second loss at the hands of Ohio State--a loss that was delivered via the incredibly inaccurate arm of Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller, who before completing that 40-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith had connected on only six passes for 49 yards the entire game. So how did this happen? How did a poor passing quarterback make such a hugely important throw against a pretty good Wisconsin defense? Well, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Miracle Of Braxton happened not so much because of Braxton, but rather because of a fundamental defensive breakdown by the Badgers. Essentially, what happened is this: The Buckeyes put one of their three wideouts in motion, shifting him form one side of the field to the other. But the Badgers' defensive backs simply failed to adjust for the switch, and therefore left Smith wide freaking open. Explained Badgers defensive coordinator Chris Ash: "We had a certain coverage called. They changed the formation. And we didn't get it communicated 100% before they snapped the ball. So we had guys who were in the wrong position. We had two guys on the wrong page." And now, they've got two losses. Season over.

TWO: Longtime readers know that I'm a proverbial Big Fan of Harrisburg Patriot News Penn State football columnist David Jones. And I have to say, Jones' really nailed the essence of this 2011 Penn State team with his column this week--a column in which he referred to this bunch, in an admiring way, as "cockroaches." Wrote Jones: "This PSU team simply isn't good enough to avoid weekly challenges. Every single game against any BCS-conference team is a back-alley fight for them. And they keep finding ways to survive anyway. The more you see them, the more you have to admit it's a lovable trait. They're cockroaches. Ugly and tenacious and very hard to kill."

ONE: We all know it to be true, and yet so often, we choose to ignore to it. The "it" of which I speak is the tried and true football cliché that states (accurately) that "defense wins championships." For evidence, I give you the Clemson Tigers, owners of one of the most fantastically explosive offenses in the nation ... and one of the most dysfunctional defenses in the nation. That offense carried the Tigers to a thrilling 8-0 start. But that defense is solely responsible for the fact that the Tigers are now 8-1. In a result that was really not all that surprising in the least (as I texted out to My College Football Friends on Saturday morning: "I woke up feeling a Clemson loss coming on), the Tigers saw their undefeated season come to an end with a 31-17 loss against Georgia Tech. On the day, the Yellow Jackets rushed for a staggering 363 yards. Said Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele: “They're a well-coached football team. We knew that coming in. They just lined up and whipped our tails.”

TOUCHDOWN: It may be a bit trite, and it's certainly nothing I haven’t said 1,000 times on this site already, but I feel compelled, in the wake of that fantastic action we witnessed on Saturday, to reiterate this: College football is the greatest game in This Great Nation. Nothing comes close. If you do not watch college football, you are wrong. About everything

OVERTIME: Thoughts on the column? Thoughts on the podcast? Care to share you feelings about LSU-Alabama? Or about Penn State being 8-1? Well, drop us a note at or

Connect with TCFA

Facebook Twitter Podcast RSS feed Subscribe via email

Search our archives

Want to look for a specific name or topic? Enter the keywords below.

We're on Stitcher!

Our show is on Stitcher!

Listen to us on your iPhone, Android Phone, BlackBerry and WebOS phones. Stitcher is Smart Radio for Your phone. Find it in your app store or at

Stitcher SmartRadio- The Smarter Way to listen to radio

Love TCFA?

Please consider supporting TCFA with your kind donation.

Get FREE Private Registration ($8.99/yr value) when you register or transfer one or more domains for $7.49

About this blog

Welcome to The College Football Athenaeum, home of the intelligent college football fan. You have found a college football magazine unlike any other, a site where the game is studied and savored, discussed and enjoyed, loved and celebrated. More about TCFA


2013 Season

2012 Season

2011 Season

2010 Season

    2009 Season

      2008 Season

        2007 Season