I should be doing this shit for a living...this is what last week looked like for me...
-The Good: Oh, lordy, where do I begin. WELL. I was pretty much the only one in the country that realized Virginia Tech is still significantly better than North Carolina State. I was also pretty much the only one in the country that knew Florida wouldn't even come close against Alabama (the trendy phrase on ESPN last weekend was "Florida will keep it closer than a lot of people might think"). I nailed my Upset of the Week, picking Michigan State over Wisconsin--pretty much the only one who picked that one too. I also picked Iowa and Oklahoma but those were easy. Plus I nailed the Tulane/Rutgers spread (Rutgers was favored by 17.5 and LOST).
-The So-So: Pretty much the only thing that belongs in this category is the fact that I picked Oregon over Stanford but I only picked them to win by 3 points. Not great considering they won by 21...but sort of misleading considering Stanford jumped out to a 21-3 lead in the first quarter.
-The Bad: All of the spreads other than the Rutgers/Tulane spread. I got murdered on those things.
-The Kick-Catch Interference Rule:
"ARTICLE 1. a. When a Team B player makes a fair catch, the ball becomes dead
where caught and belongs to Team B at that spot.
b. When a valid fair catch signal is made, the unimpeded opportunity to catch
a free or scrimmage kick is extended to a player who muffs the kick and still
has an opportunity to complete the catch. This protection terminates when the
kick touches the ground. If the player subsequently catches the kick, the ball is
placed where it was first touched (A.R. 6-5-1-I-IV).
c. Rules pertaining to a fair catch apply only when a scrimmage kick crosses the
neutral zone or during free kicks"
OK. OK. What?!?! How is this possibly the actual rule? I ask this because this issue came up in the Miami-Clemson game this past week. Here's what happened: Miami was up 27-14 in the third quarter and was forced to punt. The punt returner signaled for a fair catch and then proceeded to muff the punt--here's where it gets weird--directly into the hands of Tommy Streeter, the awaiting coverage man who was standing right in front of the guy, trying to psych him out, as kick coverage guys often do. Now. According to this rule, when that ball bounced off the punt returner and into his awaiting arms, he was supposed to purposely drop the ball and let it hit the ground...and then try to recover it. The call on the field was Miami ball. It was reviewed. The call was reversed and Tommy Streeter was retroactively called for kick-catch interference (which, I thought, was one of the things replay couldn't do was call retroactive penalties but I haven't exactly read the NCAA rule book), giving Clemson the ball with pretty good field position instead of Miami the ball in the Clemson red zone with a chance to put the game away. Give me one good reason why this rule possibly exists.
Side note: Streeter was again called for kick-catch interference on the next punt because he apparently didn't give the return man enough room to field the punt (in spite of the fact that he didn't touch the guy and he made the fucking catch). BREAKING NEWS (from 2003): College football's 'halo rule' eliminated.
-While we're on the subject of the Miami-Clemson game, I can't get over how completely and utterly different Kyle Parker played at home against the Hurricanes compared to how he played on the road against Auburn a couple weeks ago. Auburn and Miami certainly have two of the best defenses in the country but you'd have a hard time making a strong case that one is significantly better than the other. In the overtime loss to Auburn, Parker was 20-34 for 220 yards and 2 TDs and remember he got his ribs crunched at the end of that game which made him miss a couple open receivers (including one in the end zone). I don't know if the rib injury was still bothering him against Miami but he went 14-33 for 149 yards with 3 interceptions and a fumble. Granted, his receivers dropped a few balls but he also missed more than his fair share of open receivers. I couldn't believe it was the same guy.
-A few notes on USC's second consecutive embarrassing last-second loss to the Washington Huskies: I watched the replay of this game a few days ago on ESPNU. First of all, you probably won't hear all that much about it but before Washington drove down to kick the game-winning field goal, USC had a chance to extend their lead to 5 and force the Huskies to score a touchdown by kicking a 40 yard field goal. What followed was one of the ugliest kicks I've ever seen. It was barely long enough, had absolutely no hangtime and ended up clanging off the upright. The next thing I noticed was that, at the end of the game, one of the announcers (I wish I knew who it was) said that this loss "takes away the national championship" for USC. Really, dude? Have you been living under a rock the last 3-4 months or something? The last thing I noticed was the incredible poise and maturity of Jake Locker. I know I really hammered him last week for his stinker against Nebraska, and deservedly so, but what really struck me about Locker is that his receivers were whiffing on perfectly thrown balls left and right and yet he never once showed even the slightest frustration. Every time one of his receivers would drop a perfect pass he would have this kind of "Ahhh man, oh well, we'll get em next time" body language. It was pretty impressive. I still don't buy that he can make every throw because they were talking about how he was having trouble throwing from in the pocket all night and had most of his success rolling out but you can't deny his intangibles.
-Very few people are actually paying attention but the Baylor Bears are now 4-1 with an emphatic conference win over Kansas 55-7. Robert Griffin III may be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country; he's completing 62% of his passes (including over 70% in his last two games) for 1351 yards and 11 TDs and is second in the Big 12 with a 151.40 QB rating while also rushing for 221 yards and 4 TDs. The remaining slate is eons harder than the first five games but there are winnable games against Texas Tech, Colorado, Kansas State, and Texas A&M so there's no reason for Baylor fans not to hope their team can make a bowl game for the first time since 1994
-Few people in sports are as lucky as Les Miles. There's an old cliche in sports that sooner or later your luck always runs out. However, Lucky Les is an interesting case study in that, with a few exceptions, his luck never really seems to run out. If there are such thing as Football Gods, they are overwhelmingly on his side. Everybody gets a bounce or a call go their way every now and then but this guy almost seems like he's been playing Russian Roulette with the same bullet in the same gun for like 3-4 years now. In fact, other than totally flubbing the clock management in the Ole Miss loss last year, can you thin of another time when Les has ended up on the wrong side of one of these wacky plays/endings? It's pretty incredible when you really think about it.
#1 Alabama @ #19 South Carolina
Steve Spurrier with two weeks off to prepare is always pretty scary. He'll have Stephen Garcia and Marcus Lattimore dialed in and ready to systematically dissect Alabama's young but talented defense. This one, unlike the Florida game last week, actually will be closer than a lot of people think. However, if Bama's defense can make Ryan Mallett fold in the clutch, then Stephen Garcia doesn't have a chance. He'll turn the ball over in a few key spots late to help Mark Ingram put the game away.
Hobbitcore sez: Alabama
#17 Michigan State @ #18 Michigan
Denard Robinson has been the most exciting and most talked about person in college football by a rather wide margin so far this year. He'll get his yards again this week but not enough against one of the most balanced offenses in the nation and the first real defense he's seen all year.
Hobbitcore sez: Michigan State
USC @ #16 Stanford
Both teams are coming off crushing Pac-10 losses. The similarities end there, however. One lost to the best team in the conference (and one of the top 3 in the country), one lost to one of the worst. One team plays defense and one does not. One team will win, one will not. Guess which one.
Hobbitcore sez: Stanford.
#12 LSU @ #14 Florida
This is kind of a tough one to pick. These teams are almost mirror images of each other; they both have ferocious defenses but neither can be bothered to play any offense, despite having athletes all over the field. I like Trey Burton to be the difference in this game after being a non-factor against Alabama last week.
Hobbitcore sez: Florida
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Oregon State @ #9 Arizona
Call me crazy but I'm not really sold on Arizona yet. Beating Iowa is great and everything but a 10-9 win over California doesn't exactly inspire confidence. The defense is ranked 3rd in the nation but they haven't faced anything close to the dynamic attack of the Beavers. I like this one to erupt into a shootout and I like the Rodgers brothers to make a few more plays than Nick Foles to secure the win the Beavers need after coming up short against Boise State and TCU.
Hobbitcore sez: Oregon State
GAME OF THE WEEK
#23 Florida State @ #13 Miami
All you're gonna be hearing this week is how this game is finally nationally relevant again. Well, not quite. It won't be Miami v. Florida State again until both teams are in the top 10 when they meet. This is, however, one of the most interesting renditions of the game in years as well as another pivotal moment for two teams who have been traversing the long hard road back to prominence for several years now. Miami returns home after a grueling road trip through Ohio State, Pittsburgh, and Clemson. They have yet to play their best football, thus far unable to eliminate bonehead mistakes, and yet they're still 3-1 and favored to win the ACC. The Noles failed their only major test of the season miserably, suffering a 47-17 loss at the hands of Oklahoma. Florida State is ranked #1 in the nation in sacks and the Canes are #2 so both offensive lines have their work cut out for them. In spite of that, with the way Florida State's defense has been playing, Christian Ponder is going to have to have a whale of a game against a Miami defense that's been playing out of its mind all year. Jacory Harris will probably throw one or two interceptions but, like last year, they won't be enough as he'll also make a couple big plays through the air and the running game will get a big boost with Graig Cooper returning from injury, especially in the second half, when they'll be able to use a fresh set of legs to put the game away.
Hobbitpick: Miami 34, Florida State 24
Keys to the Game
-Have more takeaways than turnovers
-Establish the run early and often
-Capitalize on Jacory Harris mistakes
-Establish the running game
-Make the Canes offense one-dimensional (force them to throw)
Tennessee (+11) over Georgia
Utah (-6.5) over Iowa State
Arizona State (+1) over Washington
UCLA (+8) over California
Auburn (-6) over Kentucky
My Heisman Ballot (if the voting ended today)
1. Denard Robinson
2. LaMichael James
3. Cameron Newton
ACC: Miami over Florida State
Big 12: Nebraska over Oklahoma
Big East: West Virginia
Big Ten: Ohio State
Pac 10: Oregon
SEC: Alabama over Florida
BCS Championship: Oregon over Alabama
Sugar: Boise State over Oklahoma
Orange: Miami over West Virginia
Fiesta: Nebraska over TCU
Rose: Ohio State over Stanford