Category Archives: College Football

How a Punter Became the MVP of The Biggest Regular Season Game In Years

The above statement is not a mis-print. It is not meant to be some out of the box proclamation that infuriates college football purists or bottom of the page commenters (not that I have any of those). It is not my attempt to be different or to disregard some of the other performances on the field last night. Rather it is simply a statement of the facts. LSU punter Brad Wing, in a game that featured an absolute lack of offensive play making, seemed to be the only player intent on doing just that; making plays. Indeed, his 73 yard punt may have been the play of the game.

"'The Aussie Annihilator'? 'The Punter From Down Under'? 'Wing, Australian for Roll This'? I'm really bad at nicknames...

With 11:07 left in the fourth quarter LSU was forced to punt from its own end zone after what seemed like the 50th three and out of the evening. With Alabama wide receiver Marquis Maze back to receive, Wing launched an arcing punt right at the receiver that went over 50 yards from the line of scrimmage in the air. As the ball neared the Alabama 40 yard line Maze decided not to bother with a fair catch, instead allowing the ball to roll all the way to the Alabama 18 yard line. In a game where offensive yards were at a premium the decision to not even fair catch around the 40 was a somewhat inexplicable move.

"Should I catch this? Nah, I shouldn't catch this."

Two things led to that play. The first was a huge (if not slightly lucky) interception off of a throw by the receiver Maze out of a wildcat formation. It looked as if another Alabama receiver had made a beautiful leaping grab before the LSU defender stripped the ball out coming down. The second was Alabama’s return formation all night against LSU’s punt game. Alabama left its defense in the game on punts, protecting against potential fakes that Les Miles has been known for throughout his career. Indeed Brad Wing had scored on a long fake punt run earlier in the season (the Australia native is actually pretty athletic) that was called back on a taunting penalty. By leaving the defense on the field there was relatively little protection for the returner Maze. I should also add that Maze spent most of the second half hurt, affecting his lateral quickness visibly on subsequent offensive drives for the Tide. It also seemed to affect his mentality on the return. Still, not fair catching a ball he could’ve easily run up to is a pretty big lack of awareness.

"Maybe Brad Wing can some day star in an otherwise great guilty pleasure movie ruined by Keanu Reeves."

That was kind of the name of the day for Alabama though. Throughout the game the Tide ran a number of formations with three receivers bunched close in (a “trips” formation) on one side and a receiver (usually Maze) isolated on the other. With about four minutes left in the second quarter and the Tide on the LSU 17 Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron had trips left and an isolated receiver (this time Darius Hanks) on the right. With a wide open receiver in the left flat McCarron rushed the throw on a fade right into the end zone and an incompletion. One look at a furious Nick Saban on the sideline and you knew where the freshman McCarron’s eyes should have been. Bama finally got its first points of the game on a field goal, but after missing three kicks prior to that it was clear that three points was more of a win for the Tigers than the Tide.

The special teams in general were a huge disadvantage for Alabama all day. They went two for six on field goals (something I’d personally never seen before), including one block in the first quarter and a huge miss on their overtime possession. Meanwhile LSU’s kickers seemed completely loose and collected the whole time. On all three field goals their place kickers were completely in control, while Wing made people actually pay attention to a punter. I said last week that having a loose coach, loose team and loose mentality might come into play in one of the most pressure filled and hyped up regular season games in history. I said that LSU would have an advantage in that case playing for Les “The Mad Hatter” Miles. It was no more apparent than in the team’s respective kicking games, where Alabama looked incredibly nervous playing for one of the most methodical coaches in football. While Les looked natural being fired up on the sideline, Saban looked completely out of character. It translated to the players and subsequently to the outcome of the game.

"Strange. He was so nice in that Sandra Bullock movie."

All in all Armageddon was a weird contest, and somewhat of a letdown. While it was exhilarating to watch a ton of future professionals on both defenses it was thought that the offenses would flash at least some of their characteristic athleticism. Aside from a couple of phenomenal Trent Richardson plays (yards after contact should count double statistically) the offenses on both sides looked completely out of sorts throughout the evening. On a day and night where there was a number of exciting college football contests (including a Kansas State – Oklahoma State shoot out that was running parallel to The Duo of the Deep South) Armageddon had less excitement than a bad Bruce Willis movie. Oh well.

"In Bruce's defense, if the poster had Ben Affleck on it from 1998 to 2008 chances were it was just awful."

Still, after seeing the AP and coaches polls today, where Bama is ranked fourth in both, there’s a very real possibility for a re-match in the national championship game. If that happens then maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a touchdown…on defense. That would be truly apocalyptic.

"This ^ is what happens when you search 'armageddon football' on Google images. Seriously, what the shit internet?"

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “No, I did not forget that there were over 50 other games played on Saturday, I promise. On a day and night when Texas won by 32, A&M became completely mediocre, Cincinnati cleared up the Big East picture, Oklahoma State nearly broke their fans hearts again and Stanford and Oregon set up a poor man’s Armageddon game, there was a whole mess of things to talk about. Week 10 break down is on its way.”


NCAAF Week 8: Sparty’s (non) Hail Mary, Red Raider’s Revenge and How Bout That Big XII?

Dear, Wisconsin. Ohhhhh Wisconsin. I had you all pegged as this balance of power running, phenomenally accurate arm strength, un-Big 10 like athleticism (read: good thing) and a down right nasty defense only to see you go out and do…this. Saturday night started out well enough for you. Two 1st quarter offensive touchdowns, dominant defense, a deafening East Landing crowd turned relatively mute in a matter of minutes. And then, in as weird a momentum shift as I’ve ever seen, Heisman trophy candidate Russel Wilson threw the ball away from his own end-zone only to have the refs call it intentional grounding. That meant Sparty’s first 2 points and the ball back, after which they scored on a 34 yard reverse to suddenly be down by only five. After blocking a field goal attempt on your next drive, Michigan State proceeded to go 80 yards, scoring on a 4th and 2 from your 35 to take a 16-14 lead. Huh? How did a team with such phenomenal ball control ability and defense allow that 16 point swing in less than a quarter of play. From there the momentum was all MSU. That they scored on a hail mary at the end of regulation to win the game after blowing a 31-17 (i.e. same 2 touchdown lead you started off with) only cemented how strange this game became…and how indicative it was of your bad luck/brain farts over the past decade. Your inability to stop big plays on defense combined with just enough good Mark Dantonio defense to become a perfect remedy against the steamroller you guys had been riding for over seven weeks. Woof.

"Sincerely, A guy whose nickname is based on that ^."

Wisconsin has had a number of good teams that took national title hopes into late October, or finished with one or two loss records and just enough regrets. Outside of Ohio State, they’ve quietly been the Big 10’s most consistent program since 2000. All that’s been missing is a truly great quarterback, with next level Heisman-esque potential to bring the Badgers a national title, which of course they got this year. While it looked good for six games, we now know that the football gods just won’t allow the state of Wisconsin to dominate football at both of its highest levels. Oh well. In 2012 it’ll be back to quarterbacks named Nate Tice and Joe Brennan and questions like whether you can, in fact, win the Big 10 just by running the ball. But for now, let’s see if Wisconsin can’t make a run at the Big 10 Title with a bit of help.

"You know why Wisconsin didn't win on Saturday? Because they didn't have Aaron Rodgers...Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers..."

The icing on the cake was Michigan State’s unlikely yet all too familiar way of winning football games under Mike Dantonio. Remember the fake field goal game winner at Notre Dame last year or when they scored 23 unanswered points to beat Illinois weeks later? How about the interception return for touchdown that ended Michigan’s undefeated run this year? The hail mary, especially when you consider how the game played out, should have actually been expected. Even if there’s a distinct possibility that the hail mary didn’t actually go for a touchdown (I’m still not sure if he broke the plain) is there any doubt that MSU would’ve pulled it out anyway? Honestly, they just saved everyone a few nutty overtime periods that would’ve essentially produced the same result. So congrats Spartans, you are officially the New York Jets of college football (you know, minus all the slap-your-forehead trash talking, insane coaching stunts and sub-par quarterback play). Bravo.

"Future SAT question: 'Ron Zook is to Rasputin as Mark Dantonio is to ______' (hint: he's pictured above)."

In other parts of the country, LSU and Alabama set up a regular season game that will decide, among other things, “which undefeated SEC coach has more southern moxie,” “how many times can LSU coach Les Miles outfox himself…and have it somehow pay off,” “the SEC West division, SEC Championship and possibly national championship,” and “can a player actually be arrested on the field in the middle of a play.” Heady stuff. We also found out that the geniuses at Stanford managed to do something no one else has been able to do; make Andrew Luck relatively meaningless in a big Stanford win (or really any Stanford win). Of course, everyone probably thought he went for those 400+ rushing yards all by himself anyway.

Wait, you mean Andrew Luck wasn't snapping himself the ball? Or solving quadratic equations in between plays on his wrist band? Andrew Luck? Andrew Luck Andrew Luck Andrew Luck...."

Lastly, Oklahoma was stricken with an ailment it has become quite familiar with in recent years; Red Raider’s Revenge. Texas Tech has managed to play spoiler for both Big XII heavyweights in recent years (how the Halloween catch keeps getting brought up in my own posts I will never know), but they’ve particularly had it out for the Sooners. Tech beat Oklahoma in ’99, ’05, ’07 and ’09. In ’07 the Sooners we’re 9-1 and ranked #3. Add in this year’s win and that’s two top 3 rankings ruined by the Raiders in five seasons. Only Texas has beaten Oklahoma that many times in the span, and they certainly haven’t gotten two wins against top 3 ranked Oklahoma teams in that time. Shit, this is making me depressed.

"It's like Montezuma's revenge...except with more puking."

Here are some take aways from this year’s installment: Tommy Tuberville’s now super-underrated head coaching record against top 5 teams (he’s 5-5…), how good Texas Tech QB Seth Doege is (24-4 TD:Int ratio), the rescinding of the “Big Game Bob” moniker that Stoops had somewhat gotten back in September (you don’t get to be Big Game when you can’t win an over-matched opponent game) and Oklahoma’s mediocre passing offense. That last one is huge by the way, because even if Oklahoma gets past the increasingly difficult remainder of the schedule (they still have K-State, A&M and Baylor who have a combined 16-4 record) they still have to go to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys, in case you forgot, rank second in passing yards in the country. So…have fun with that Sooners.

"This ^ is not an embellishment...Yippee."

On to the week 8 games: I know there was a lot of Big XII talk above but guess what? That conference has two 4-2 teams, two 5-2 teams, one 6-1 team and two 7-0 teams. With five or six games left to go for each and the meat of the new round robin Big XII in-conference format to boot, most of these teams haven’t even played each other yet (and they all have to). That’s all about to change as we near November, and with no conference championship game there could be all kinds of intrigue going into the first weekend of December! Yes please. To kick it off we have two huge mid afternoon games on Saturday; Baylor at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma at Kansas State. To clarify; that’s all 3 of the Big XII’s top 10 teams plus a Heisman Trophy contender for the bears. If they add West Virginia this week then this conference might be nearly back from the dead.

"And Boise. For god sakes Chuck Neinas add Boise!"

Clemson at Georgia Tech; this was supposed to be the poor man’s LSU-Bama. Now it’s just another Clemson game that ACC commissioner John Swofford has to sweat out while he hopes to keep his conference football relevant. Stanford at USC; remember when Stanford put itself on the national map back in 2009 by crushing USC at the Coliseum by 34 points? Since that game Stanford is 20-3 and has spent most of the time in the top 10. USC is 16-7, and while that’s certainly respectable for most teams it’s also exactly how many losses USC had from 2003 to 2008…total. I think Stanford will make it 3 straight and 4 out of 5 versus the Trojans, but they might actually have to work for this one. Illinois at Penn State; who would have thought two weeks ago that the Nittany Lions would be the ranked team in this match up (and 7-1)? Oh that’s right, every Florida and Illinois fan whose ever been burned by the Zooker…so like millions of people. Georgia at Florida; this has to be mentioned because it used to semi-officially be called the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (and I’m trying to do everything I can to keep that going). It also has to be mentioned because, while the Gators have seemingly given up, the Bulldogs have won five straight and are on the verge of giving Boise State a legitimate SEC win on its schedule. Go Ugga! Navy at Notre Dame; Brian Kelly, I dare you to lose to Navy for the third year in a row and fourth time in five years. Seriously, the Irish are not above firing you after two seasons. BYU at TCU; did you know BYU is 6-2? Yeah, me neither.

"Great, now I've been Zookered..."

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “The next time someone tries to sprint across midfield, belly dance, chest pump a 300 pound man, and then try to touch ME? I’m kicking them in the shins. Just saying Jim Schwartz…pussy.”