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    I'M SURE STEVE SARKISIAN WON'T TOTALLY EMBARRASS HIMSELF ON NATIONAL TV

    The Factor Five Five Factor Preview is EDSBS's best, and only, Thursday preview. It measures each team based on five precise categories which were decided long ago when Phylicia Rashad came to Spencer in a dream and told him to use these. Unrelatedly, Spencer had been painting all day with the windows closed.

    NEBULOUS STATISTICAL COMPARISONS OF DUBIOUS VALIDITY

    Would you like to cite a statistic about Cal's defense? How about this: that despite giving up scads of yards and points every game and playing every single snap completely ablaze with disastrous football fire, Cal is somehow...49th in defensive FEI? And yet also 91st in S&P? This probably results from Cal's special ability to give up first downs (most in the nation allowed,) long plays (124th in the nation, tied with Oregon,) and yet still do pretty well on a drive-by-drive basis when it comes to overall impact on the game. Cal's defense is the mediocre husband you can't justify divorcing because he doesn't make the big mistake by blowing your savings on a boat for the lake, but still likes to buy ten dollars of scratch-off and a carton of Marlboro Reds every day of his life on the way home from work.

    USC is superior in pretty much every major statistical category, but never tell Steve Sarkisian the odds when a sure home victory on national television is on the line.

    ADVANTAGE: CAL

    CAL, YOU'VE BEEN FACTOR'D

    MASCOT

    It's important to note that USC's mascot is Traveler the horse, not the person who rides him onto the field. (The school used to have a dog mascot named George Tirebiter but abandoned that after 1957, because they are stupid.) Here is a real line about Traveler on USC's web site:

    Legend has it that Heisman Trophy tailback O.J. Simpson decided to come to USC after seeing Traveler on a televised football game.

    MURDERHORSE.

    Cal's bear mascot, Oski, can put a straw into his eye and drink from it. It's extremely terrifying and has undoubtedly led to several hospital trips from drunken students who want to know if they possess this ability. His face looks like the bottom of a big toe that has stepped on a raisin. Killing capability: unknown.

    You think we're gonna piss off a murderhorse?

    ADVANTAGE: USC

    USC, YOU'VE BEEN FACTOR'D

    AURA

    The Coliseum is a huge, old chunk of battered fascist concrete located in a knotty part of L.A.'s commuter intestine. We say fascist with a note of affection, because the whole USC mythos depends on finding a scary dude with a sword and a repetitive military chant sort of adorable. Which, for the record, we do, particularly when USC is 3-1 at home this year (albeit against the Cals and Wazzus of the Pac-12.) It's not the Coliseum of the Pete Carroll era, but Sark's still got plenty of time to grow into the dictator that stadium needs strutting its sidelines.

    /plays "Gangsta Lean" as loud as we can for Pete Carroll

    The Coliseum's Yelp page generated the most California complaint ever:

    LAColiseumAintGotFrostyMonster

    USC ain't got that frosty Monster beverage we've become so accustomed to at all of our spectator events, but it's still an intimidating enough place to play without it. Bitches.

    ADVANTAGE: USC

    USC, YOU'VE BEEN FACTOR'D

    NAMES

    USC
    Max Tuerk
    Olajuwon Tucker
    Damien Mama
    Su'a Cravens
    Robby Kolanz

    Cal
    A.J. Greathouse
    Harrison Wilfley
    Lucus Gingold
    Addison Ooms
    Quentin Tartabull

    Talk to a USC fan about football for more than three minutes and the subject of sanctions will inevitably be raised. Beyond the simple scholarship numbers and bowl games, it's impossible to quantify the loss those sanctions really caused. Conference championships and national title appearances can't just be assumed, but we can say this: those sanctions forced USC to make some tough decisions about the roster. Decisions that maybe kept them from having a Greathouse or Ooms or Wilfley.

    It's tempting to play "what if?" But it also doesn't lead us anywhere. You lose this round, USC. You lost it the minute Harrison Wilfley signed his letter of intent.

    ADVANTAGE: CAL

    CAL, YOU'VE BEEN FACTOR'D

    GRUDGES/SCORES TO SETTLE/SHEER CUSSEDNESS

    Ten losses in a row to USC means the ledger sides with Cal here, including a 62-28 loss last year in Sonny Dykes' first year in Berkeley. (The ledger, to be fair, usually sides with Cal when it comes to football misery.) It's not even like Sarkisian's got any beef with Cal, since he never lost a game to them when he was at Washington, either. Unless the Trojans work up some weird Nobel Prize envy-- DAMN YOU RANDY SCHEKMAN, WINNER OF THE 2013 NOBEL FOR YOUR PIONEERING WORK IN PHYSIOLOGY-- this is Cal's harvest of well-earned ire to win.

    ADVANTAGE: CAL

    BY A SCORE OF 3-2...Cal is your Factor Five Five Factor Preview undisputed predicted winner. Print this column and take it to your local Olive Garden, where it is redeemable for one extra breadstick per basket. Insist on speaking to the manager if they try to claim otherwise.


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    CAL REMAINS OUR FINEST NOT REAL GOOD FOOTBALL ENTERTAINMENT

    CAL IS THE GREATEST MEDIOCRE FOOTBALL TEAM OF OUR TIME

    Cal cannot help but live the same nightmare over and over again: down huge early after USC threw to Nelson Agholor five hundred times, humiliated after a grandiosely inept fake punt, and then nearly redeemed by a 28 point comeback that, true to form, fell just short. We adore them and ask them to change nothing, ever, and are rooting for them to beat Stanford or BYU either way to get to bowl eligibility. (That punt happened, and they still nearly came back to win! This team is a Buster Keaton movie.)

    TWIS. It's a bit late in the week for last week's angst unless that angst belongs to LSU fans divining the dark legislative secrets of the SEC. In that case, they are timeless because crazy, like amber and honey, never really lets anything rot.

    TUBERVILLE STAY TUBERVILLE. You may not want to die, and you may not want to lose by a field goal to Tommy Tuberville, but this is life and you will have to do both eventually. The ECU Pirates last-second loss to the Bearcats may have also been affected by another factor, though.

    Yes. His name is Gunner, and he thus must by rule own a pair of Zubaz, Munchie.

    THEY REALLY HAVE A CHANCE! No really, they do, and where are you going don't you have faith in math--

    RUN THE "DARN" BALL. If Miss State's going to beat Alabama, it needs to do what practically no one can do: run the ball on the Crimson Tide. When was the last time you really remember someone not named Johnny Manziel running well on Alabama. Marcus Lattimore in 2010? Even then, Lattimore only had 93 yards, because Alabama's been supernaturally good against the run, and yes Alabama is still the football opposite of hope.

    ETC: There's only one wrench in the country that can attach nuclear warheads to missiles, because Thor has wrenches, too.


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    A LOSS TO TCU IS NOTHING

    Kansas State lost a 41-20 blowout to TCU last weekend, but don't weep for Bill Snyder. The Wildcats will bounce back, not only because they are a resilient football team, but also because Bill Snyder has seen worse. He has endured your Crystal Pepsis and random tornadoes. He has tasted the bitter flavors of gas lines and stagflation. Bill Snyder's arc through history has been a long one, and with one recurring trajectory: the. man. goes. on.

    LONDON 1666

    BillSnyderGreatFireOfLondon

    DEADWOOD 1882

    BillSnyderWildWestBarFight

    NBC, 2011

    BillSnyderPaulReiserShow

    TEANECK, NEW JERSEY 1937

    BillSnyderHindenburg

    SKAMANIA COUNTY, WASHINGTON 1980

    BillSnyderMtStHelens

    NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA 2005

    BillSnyderKatrina

    MIDDLE OF ATLANTIC OCEAN ABOARD LUXURY CRUISE LINER 1912

    MT ARARAT ????

    BillSnyderArk

    (Thanks as always to LSU Freek for the illustrations.)


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    WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE FOR LUNCH FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?

    The unique manner of loss this time was, as always, a new low. The falling behind was an old move; so was the comeback and the numerous fourth down stands. Florida's done that before: holding the fort, pushing back on the ground, and doing everything in the world to get back into the manageable, 20-17 game that is the ideal of every single Will Muschamp game ever.

    The new parts: losing on a blocked field goal, and then allowing South Carolina to block a punt and set up the tying touchdown. The tying TD came on a speed option fumbled into the endzone, recovered by South Carolina. This meant overtime, the inevitable Florida field goal, and then South Carolina running the spent defense into the ground and setting up the winning TD.

    That was new. Thank you for the novelty, Will Muschamp. All due credit there: your innovations never cease.

    Everything in the way this football team is coached adds up to an infectious machine capable of generating hard-fought, innovative failure. A win over Eastern Kentucky gets Florida to Bowl eligibility, for some reason. A likely loss to Florida State follows. This is weird place to be. Our coach is already fired, and yet he's still here. This is quantum failure, Will Muschamp. There are a thousand universes, and multiple fired and un-fired Muschamps, and in every last one of those universes the Gators are a bad football team.

    So nothing changes. Fire him or eat the same shit sandwich every day for life, Florida.


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    An instantaneous survey of the teams in the best position for the College Football Playoff at this moment, based on what happened this weekend and what's yet to happen going forward.

    1. Florida State

    America's team once again delighted a nation by extending its win streak to 26 in a 30-26 win over the Miami Hurricanes. They fell behind early to be sporting, then stormed back with a flurry of passes and the occasional lightning strike run from freshman Dalvin Cook. Oh, and yes, they got a TD that bounced into Karlos Williams' hands off a Miami defender's hands, because Auburn has loaned all its demonic luck to FSU for the year. (Probably in exchange for paying off Gene Chizik's contract.)

    Via ABC

    Maybe the Playoff at this point is best viewed as black comedy. Watching Alabama beat this team to a flat patch of cheap asphalt would be a delight, and watching FSU pull this same bullshit on Alabama would be an equally dark pleasure. This is the best college football team in the country right now. They remain precisely what we as a nation deserve.

    Threats: Boston College and Florida at home. Florida State is already 12-0 going into the ACC Championship Game.

    2. Alabama

    Beat the No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs in a 25-20 game whose score only really indicates Dan Mullen's dogged commitment to covering the spread.

    Alabama still underwhelms on offense, something on one cares about as long as the defense continues to mature into a kind of living pesticide for points and offensive yardage. It is doing just that, killing the run and forcing teams to pass the ball as the only viable option. Dak Prescott was probably the best hope to do that in the SEC, and he threw three interceptions against Bama on Saturday. Even in an uneven year, Nick Saban's retirement is the only real rival Alabama has on the horizon.

    Threats: Auburn on the 29th in the Iron Bowl. Yes, the same Auburn coming off a 34-7 loss to Georgia this weekend.

    3. Mississippi State

    Defeats come in many flavors, but Mississippi State has its own custom flavor. It's a new one, actually: to be dominated by Alabama for much of the game, keep the Crimson Tide within striking distance, and then take no less than fewer possibly productive red zone visits and throw them directly into a waiting incinerator with interceptions. That incinerator is Alabama football, and it burns brightest when you throw the combustible hopes of your football team into it.

    On the upside, Miss State scored more than 10 points against Alabama for the first time in the Dan Mullen era. Take a tiny step towards your goals every day, and you'll probably still watch someone faster and bigger run away with them, Bulldogs.

    Threats: Likely just Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, with no SEC Championship unless Alabama loses again.

    4. Ohio State

    Won a game playing behind The Wall in the land of the White Walkers, defeating Minnesota 31-24. Minnesota is a good football team, but the hardest part about pulling out a win in such a hostile environment is the psychological warfare employed by the seasoned locals.

    Via ABC

    THAT MAN IS EATING A DILLY BAR IN A SNOWSTORM. HE DOES NOT CARE ANYMORE WHETHER HE LIVES OR DIES.

    J.T. Barrett accounted for 389 yards of offense by himself, the Ohio State defense clamped down on Gophers running back David Cobb when it had to, and Ohio State is playing brilliant football at just the right time.

    Threats: The Big Ten Championship, probably against Wisconsin, whose Melvin Gordon inspired Jon Bois to make these charts.

    TEAMS WITH ONE LOSS THAT WISELY CHOSE NOT TO PLAY FOOTBALL THIS WEEK

    Oregon, a team that would easily be in the final four were it not on its bye week. (Typically, we don't include teams that didn't play a game in the week of the given Threat Watch.)

    TEAMS WITH ONE LOSS THAT ARE WAITING IN THE ANTECHAMBERS OF THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF

    TCU, which falls out this week as a penalty for struggling with Kansas in an underwhelming 34-30 performance.

    Baylor, just waiting to see if hanging 70 on Kansas State would be impressive enough to get it into the top four.

    NOTRE DAME wait no I'm sorry ahahahahaa--

    TEAMS WITH BRAND NEW, HEALTHY, ELEVEN-POUND BABY SECOND LOSSES

    Arizona State, stunned late in Corvallis by the Oregon State Beavers 35-27.

    Duke, beaten 17-16 by Virginia Tech.

    Nebraska, pummeled 59-24 by Wisconsin and those record-breaking 408 rushing yards.


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  • 11/16/14--12:39: Will Muschamp is gone
  • The Florida Gators declared the end of a four-year era. The primary emotion, maybe even for the outgoing coach himself, is relief.

    1. Getting a coach fired is taking your socks off after a long day. It is warm sunshine on a bare ass. It is the eggs, bacon, and coffee heralding the beginning of the end of a skull-shattering hangover, and possibly the cinnamon bun you eat on the way out the door in a desperate attempt to feel anything good at all. It is a peasant's delight, a mobgoer's holiday, and a vandal's Christmas. I was powerless, the fan says; then, when given the chance, I threw you off a cliff, and took all your stuff. Because, at long last, I could. It's better than peeing after drinking a 144-oz. Coke and waiting out the end of a movie. It's as much of a relief as a swift death a day before getting indicted.

    2. The reason for that special day: Florida announced Sunday that head coach Will Muschamp will leave after four years of haphazard, uneven, dumb, frustrating, mind-numbing, incoherent, spasmodically successful, errant, physical, bullheaded, cantankerous, minimalist, stupid, ugly, inedible, mismanaged, horrendous, helpless, brutish, nasty, janked-up, spluttering, sloppy, undisciplined, possibly cursed, flustered, doomed, hamfisted, courageous, brainless, antediluvian, Cro-Magnon, hard-hitting, misguided, bedeviled, hard-lucked, injury-prone, and inevitably unsuccessful football.

    3. There is no limit to the variations of failure here. Muschamp was blown out at home on Homecoming by Mizzou, 42-13, and sniped by a late field goal, completing a 30-27 home collapse against LSU. Alabama could have scored 60 on the Gators, but got bored and politely declined the option in a 42-21 road humiliation. When Florida lined up for a late punt against South Carolina after the Gamecocks had already blocked a game-clinching field goal, the kick was blocked before the ball was ever snapped. Don't ever tell anyone you can't block a ball with your mind; Florida did it, and then handed it to South Carolina with a smile. The confidence in delivering losses was the only constant Florida had left, something it got down to some time after the worst loss in program history: a home defeat by Georgia Southern in 2013.

    Did you forget that happened, the low point of lows for an entire era? He did that. Will Muschamp's signature loss of signature losses is him misspelling the word "fart" in spray paint across "The Birth of Venus."  It's an atrocity almost admirable in its accidental, perfect malice. For the record, I think Will would spell it "p-h-a-r-t," because that's the funniest possible misspelling of the word.

    4. Muschamp himself seemed lost for answers.

    "Why has it happened like this? I can't sit here and give you a reason. I can't put my finger on it," he said in an October interview, in which he all but acknowledged that without a win over Georgia, he was done, and that even beyond that, there were no guarantees. Even yesterday, after his mostly reliable special teams kicked the last nails into his coffin, he remained flummoxed. "I don't know what else to say, other than that," was his refrain in the press conference following the game. He looked as he always did after losses: disheveled, blinking less than a person should, and looking 45 degrees to the floor as he spoke.

    5. A lot of coaches look bad after losses, but Muschamp was the only one I knew who concerned other coaches. I'm worried for him. People around him said his hands would be noticeably colder after a loss. When he passed me following a 2013 loss at Miami, his skin was a bloodless color like the belly of a recently gigged frog. A lot of coaches have obvious physiological reactions to losses, but Muschamp changed color after losses like a chameleon seeking cover against the whitest blank wall he could find.

    His anger during games, spectacular as it was, was nothing compared to the terror of looking at him and thinking: are we going to have to call an ambulance for a coach? Again? You have to believe he had no answers for how his teams kept losing, and also that the first person he took it out on was himself. If anyone felt hopelessly confused by the Muschamp experiment, it was Muschamp himself.

    6. It'd be pitiable if Muschamp hadn't done all that without tying every heavy stone he could find to his neck before diving into the deep waters of the Florida job. He let someone talk him into taking Charlie Weis on as offensive coordinator. He recruited poorly on the offensive side of the ball and watched haplessly as the Dalvin Cooks of the world ended up in Tallahassee. He shuffled the offensive staff randomly and lost on almost every gamble he took. He started Jeff Driskel long after it became clear that Driskel was a shattered prospect and turnover slot machine. His teams committed flagrant personal fouls at the worst imaginable times.

    He doubled down on extreme offensive conservatism and winning one-score games a full decade after the rest of college football gave up on the concept. Muschamp did all of this at a school where, stylistically, no one wanted it.

    7. That all sounds like it makes sense, but there are still some things about the past four years of Florida football no one can explain. No one will be able to explain how, even in the midst of an 11-win season, Muschamp nearly lost to Louisiana-Lafayette and needed a punt block to prevent another disaster at home, or managed to win so many games with fewer than 100 yards passing. The stat lines from Florida's wins defied all reason and precedent; so did the box scores from its losses.

    In the end, there were more of the math-breaking losses than wins. Muschamp's teams went 9-12 over the last two years, the worst stretch in Gainesville since the Charley Pell era. Somehow, despite fielding some of the best defenses in school history and hiring the man Texas wanted to replace Mack Brown, this all failed.

    8. Muschamp was the Franz Reichelt of coaching. He built that parachute himself. He risked his own life on it working. That ended with similar results, but you have to admire the commitment to a bad idea either way.

    9. With his firing, there has to be relief. Relief that the people in charge no longer have to go to work knowing they're going to have to fire someone they really like, relief that you can ask Muschamp to stop doing this thing he clearly doesn't know how to do, relief that no one has to watch his teams play devolved football anymore, and relief that he can go rebuild his career somewhere else. Muschamp has to be relieved. Watching this football team play seemed to be as stressful to him as it was to fans wondering when, not if, it would come flying off the rails and into the nearest elementary school.

    10. You'll read a lot of things about how the mob won. Muschamp was a nice guy. He restored the program to stability following the departure of Urban Meyer. That's half-true. Muschamp did reduce the number of player arrests, kept a generally clean house, and was well-liked around the program. He also drove attendance into a well over the past two years, pissed off the younger boosters who onboarded during the Meyer years, and made an embarrassment of the program on the field.

    In the end, it was a relief, but don't forget what this was in its lifespan: a dumb, misbegotten idea created with the best of intentions and the worst of results. There are four people who still believe he can be a head coach at the University of Florida. I suggest you swindle them out of every last dime they have, because they deserve nothing less.

    11. In conclusion: RIP, Big Dumb Will Muschamp Football. In the end, you were too dumb to live and too ugly to mourn.


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    THE NICEST EX IN THE WORLD SAYS IT WAS HIS FAULT

    THE NICEST BREAKUP EVER. Will Muschamp may have been a disappointment as a football spouse, but he's going to make a wonderful ex. (So far: there's still time for him to trash our credit and put holes in every piece of drywall in the house.) Now comes the part where everyone get soft and nostalgic about him, which is fine. Here are the highlights from the Missouri game.

    EVERYONE IS VERY CONFIDENT ABOUT THINGS AND CONFIDENCE. Florida is very confident about Bernie Machen's confidence in Jeremy Foley confidently finding a coach who can confidently lead the Florida football team confidently back to confidence. The first rule of communications is to use the word for the lacking attribute as many times as possible, and never say an accurate thing ever.

    UM, SURE. Doc Holliday sure does fit the mode of "blustery recruiter no one else is considering," so you have to assume he's high on Jeremy Foley's list.

    A NEW AND BOLD ADVENTURE TO THE CENTER OF A STORY'S COLON. It is astonishing how far up its own ass the Jameis Winston autograph story can go, but when Darren Rovell's involved rectocranial inversion is a given, and will be accomplished to degrees heretofore unseen in mortal man. The real lesson in all this is that the NCAA's rules empower grown men who make money off unpaid athletes' autographs, and any system that does that deserves to be burnt to the foundations immediately. (Also, this is not a story, and is Rovell pitting sources against each other over nothing because he couldn't get a larger story out of this.) (JOURNALISM.)

    WYATT TELLER'S CRUEL BREAKFAST PLANS INCLUDE YOU. Oh, the grandeur of a pancake block looped in GIF form.

    NDNATION'S BLOCK IS ON FIRE. "And the root cause is Kelly treating 84 guys like chattel and kissing the ass of a QB with the heart of a hamster who cheats on tests."

    FRANK CLARK, GONE. Michigan released him from his scholarship yesterday after his arrest on domestic violence charges.

    ETC: Of course the tiny 46 year old Jewish lady who keeps Drake from ruining his voice lives in Atlanta. Dave Chappelle interview for real? DAVE CHAPPELLE INTERVIEW FOR REAL.


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    WASH THAT TROPHY WHEN YOU GET IT BACK, YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE IT'S BEEN

    Sex and football are both games of two halves, and Steve Sarkisian doesn't believe in the female orgasm.

    Makes sense that the Bear Raid starts shuttin down as we get closer to winter, though.

    Thought I was watchin "My Girl" this weekend. Turns out it was "Cole Stoudt Against Georgia Tech."

    Drop off something like that in the middle of the night and you should at least light a match, Todd Graham.

    Minnesota's lucky. Normally a snow fight with a bunch of Ohio State guys ends in a DEA raid.

    Eating ice cream in the snow is pretty intimidating, but if that Minnesota feller'd done it in a Saban mask Ohio State would have lost by 19 points and be looking for a new coach.

    You let Melvin Gordon have a long par 4, Nebraska.

    Need to hire Ed Orgeron to come up to Lincoln and put the "lack shirts" back in "Blackshirts."

    James Franklin was so excited to get to six you'd think he was an Auburn math major.

    I'm glad Virginia Tech's gonna make a bowl. Mall Santa Bud Foster only gives you burpees and summer sausage and buck knives without safety latches.

    Marshall's won 10 games but won't play for anything meaningful in January, which is one hell of a Georgia impression.

    Getting a million a year to put up six points per game in Atlanta makes Chad Morris an honorary Hawk. That ACL tear's scheduled for Wednesday against the Bucks, buddy.

    Heck, Clemson, if you wanted to lose in every school in the state of Georgia, you shoulda just printed a chemistry textbook.

    Tim Beckman guaranteed eight wins in 2015 if they kept the staff together. Don't know if you can find that many of 'em hanging around in the Penn State parking lot, but I wish 'em luck all the same.

    Well, Dak Prescott, we shoulda figured a Mississippian going to Alabama would result in a bunch of terrible reading.

    Call Miss State the ice cream truck because they ring bells and stop to make handouts every ninety yards or so.

    Course, Nick Saban's gonna insist he just grayshirted Mississippi State.

    Dan Mullen's ancestors must have flown over. It's just not in his DNA to beat the Tide even once.

    Feel bad for Will, but Florida football scores have to look like a lot of Floridians: over fifty, lopsided, and covered in blood.

    Right now they look like a lot of other Floridians: under 30 with terrible credit.

    You gotta know your fanbase, which is why I make South Carolinians comfortable by doing what they do: going upstate to dump a body in a lake at least once every other year.

    Might as well call us the asthmatic jogger, because we only needed two blocks to beat Florida.

    Say what you will about Bo Pelini, he's an innovator. Never seen a defense line up in Tiananmen Square formation before.

    That's what you get for running the Scantron defense against UNC, Pitt.

    Not getting into Northwestern at the deadline? Well, Notre Dame grads should be used to that by now.

    If Brian Kelly's gonna go for two when he only needs one, shouldn't he be coaching at BYU?

    Is plagiarizing Tommy Rees' game a violation of the honor code at Notre Dame?

    They say the key to charity is to give until it hurts, so I guess Notre Dame's offense is a 501(c)(3) now.

    My wife said Kliff Kingsbury was handsome enough to leave her defenseless, and I said "Well, you and Texas Tech both, honey."

    Don't know why that Georgia score surprised anyone. Auburn football's built around getting kicked out of Athens.

    Wonder why they don't shoot more dirty movies in Boise. After watching Washington this year, it seems like everyone's dick looks bigger there.

    Mike Stoops played at Iowa, so I see why he's gettin' extensions in years where he doesn't even make a bowl game.

    I wouldn't huddle either if we had to talk about what y'all just did, Auburn.

    David Shaw losing to Utah and Oregon? Well, that Michigan audition is coming right along.

    Yeah, they don't always play real clean, but the Noles avoid the trials that matter.

    Blowing that lead had to hurt. But if there's anything Miami locals can sympathize with, Al, it's getting something repossessed in public.

    Good move by Florida State defense to mark the Canes as spam in the second half. Twitter's a pretty good nickelback in the right scheme.

    Can't spell "no touchdowns in the second half" without the U.

    Least Miami can screw things up for the rest of the country outside of a presidential election year.

    Not even the homeliest Reno cocktail waitress has been shut out by Bret Bielema, LSU.

    Just make sure you check The Boot with a blacklight if you win it back, Les Miles.

    LSU is a bad dryer at a laundromat. You might can put as many in as you like, but you're never getting a quarterback.


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    WHAT IS IT, AND DOES ANYONE HAVE IT, AND WHY WASN'T THIS A MIXTAPE TITLE AT ONE POINT IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY?

    This week's Shutdown Fullcast includes the following critically important conversations:

    • reviews the college football rankings and finds out UCLA and Minnesota are the two greatest teams in college football
    • examines the precise levels of "Fuck Marshall" contained in those rankings
    • discusses the mysterious concept of GAME CONTROL
    • answers reader questions, including telling you the exclusive secret to avoiding paying your student loans
    • looks at the week ahead and weeps tears of boredom
    • completes the longest sustained gag in the history of the podcast

    As always, listen or download directly here, subscribe and listen on iTunes under Podcasts/Sports, or follow along in the handy Soundcloud widget below.


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    GO NOLES

    BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE HAPPENS. Thoughts and best wishes to anyone effected by the library shootings in Tallahassee.

    THE GEEK RENAISSANCE MAY BE OVER. Hinton writing about Stanford does make the situation in Palo Alto seem more than depressing for Stanford fans watching the window of possibility close on the Cardinal. It would get a lot worse if Michigan, in flux on the leadership side and looking for something roughly compatible to their academic-athletic model, hired Shaw away. (Not that Shaw's not to blame somewhat here, but he's certainly not blameless.)

    SIX MINUTES REMINDING YOU THAT YOUR JOB IS PRETTY EASY. Marcus Lutrell speaking to the Alabama football team is yeah, that mandatory must watch kind of viewing, and also is still something you might want to watch.

    INHERENT GAYNESS WOULD BE A PROGRAM STRENGTH, IMHO. Not according to Miami fans in this week's TWIS, but that's not surprising if you're familiar with the Hurricane fan's first and last move in the game of football rhetoric. Remember: that's the fanbase that had a dude call Holly a "f****t" leaving the Florida game in 2013 because we didn't talk to him. THAT'S commitment to innovation right there.

    THE READ OPTION, DONE BEEN READ. VT did a great job on it by stacking the edge against Duke.

    HOUSTON NUTT CALLED A TIMEOUT BECAUSE THE GAME KNOWS MORE THAN YOU DO. We didn't even ask him to do that, but there he went anyway because he is Houston Nutt, and video games render reality accurately 100% of the time.

    ETC: Oh man Ava's in so much trouble in the last season of Justified.


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    With seven or so teams still in the running for college football's national championship, it's time to assess how the game's gone so far.

    No. 3 Florida State

    Beset on all sides by threats, but still sitting on a valuable piece of football property it almost owns completely, the EU of college football, the ACC. Europe would rather be watching basketball, is overly proud of public transit, and thinks New York is what America is really like.

    If this does not move you, extend the comparisons a little further. UNC is France, rich and full of surrender. The University of Miami is Italy, because they're periodically great in between bouts of grandiose corruption. Notre Dame is Turkey, because they're not full members and are doing pretty well following long, nostalgia-poisoned malaise. Wake Forest is probably San Marino. Ireland is Syracuse, because no one remembers if they're in or whether they want to be in in the first place.

    Florida State, like anyone holding Europe, is just hoping everyone else gets kneecapped. There is not much they can do with the hand they've got, but they can hope everyone else falls down a well. They are all too happy to help.

    Duke's in Iceland, waiting to crash FSU's party. Like Iceland, Duke's a fine bunch of people you tend to forget about.

    No. 1 Alabama

    DAMN RIGHT THE TIDE ARE THE U S OF A. And Canada and Mexico, a necessary combination of territories some Alabama fans will point out assumes the coming of the New World Order. That's a mindless conspiracy theory, but do consider the kind of linemen you can pull from Alberta and some of the outstanding running backs Nick Saban would sign off the soccer fields of Mexico City. Get that midfielder on a proper training table, son, and you got yourself a Heisman contender.

    Alabama's camping out on territory similar to FSU's, albeit with fewer external threats. Their dangers are predictable: No. 14 Auburn and maybe No. 10Georgia are the national debt and collapsing infrastructure. (Map distortion leads UGA to look like a larger threat than it actually presents, but it's still a threat.) Alabam-erica is fine unless either or both comes crashing down at the last second.

    The Tide are also big, strong, and -- as spread coaches all too happily point out -- sometimes a little heavy on the hoof when faced with more nimble competition. Just like America, man. Just like America.

    No. 2 Oregon

    Sitting comfortably in the home of the beautiful game, Oregon is secure as long as it takes care of its chief threats and finishes the season with a nearly clean sheet.

    There is the No. 9 UCLA uprising in Patagonia the Ducks might want to quash once and for all, but only if the Bruins don't do that for themselves first. This might be the best plan, since the first rule of surviving Pac-12 football is "don't do anything, and see if the other team shoots itself in the leg first, because it definitely will do that exact thing."

    Like Argentina, overvaluation and the corresponding brutal market corrections have beaten the Bruins up, but failed to totally eliminate them.

    No. 7 Baylor

    One of those Risk games where you roll well, but still end up fighting over the same desperate stretch of territory with some jerk. That jerk for Baylor is TCU; for TCU, that jerk is Baylor. If their neighbors stumble, they're capable of breaking out with alarming speed, but getting loose of their position is step one, and it's a huge step. They also get very little out of the territory they chose in the first three moves of the game. No one respects a quality seizure of the United Pony Emirates anymore, man.

    No. 5 TCU

    I put both Baylor and TCU around the Middle East because, like Texas, it's hot, it has lots of oil, and no one ever misses church.

    The chief difference is positioning. TCU has a better chance at the moment to take land if either FSU or Oregon slips, thanks to a marginally better schedule.

    No. 6 Ohio State

    If you can hold Asia, you can win the game easily, which means maybe Alabama belongs here, since the SEC champion is a lock for a title spot most years. Screw Risk's points system.

    Instead, think of Ohio State ruling over the metaphorical steppes of the Big Ten. Sure, it's mostly empty space, but it belongs to the Buckeyes and the Buckeyes alone, and they rule it with a despot's temper and brutal methods. Once they clear out that insurrection in Kamchatka, they've got this place locked down, if they don't succumb to external threats.

    No. 16 Wisconsin is waiting out the last rounds in the coldest corner of the board, which is precisely where Wisconsin should be. Probably get the dice one more time, and when you roll enough sixes, you can ruin anyone's day. Melvin Gordon is the pair of loaded dice to use only in emergency. This is that emergency, Wisconsin.

    No. 4 Mississippi State

    Getting Australia in Risk is like what every football team hopes to do: get to the end with only one loss, and take your chances from there. The game gave you that, Dan Mullen. You control territory and stand a good chance of taking advantage if larger powers can't surpass you.

    The game also failed to tell you the other circumstance, that you'd be hemmed in. (Also, Starkville is the Alice Springs of Mississippi, so the comparison goes further than mere strategy.) So like Australia in most games, it sounds good in theory to be here in this exact spot, and yet ends up being so much more complicated than you thought.

    You'll also notice some No. 8Ole Miss stuck in Papua New Guinea. That's because Ole Miss has distributed resources very badly, yet has enough left to pose some danger.

    Marshall

    Floating on the barge they have lived on since being denied a spot in the game at the start.


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    THE ONLY PREVIEW WHERE YOU GET A MEANINGLESS VOTE

    The Factor Five Five Factor Preview is a statistically illiterate and arbitrarily weighed preview posted too late in the day to be of any real worth to anyone. Here it is anyway.

    NEBULOUS STATISTICAL COMPARISONS OF DUBIOUS VALIDITY

    [beeeeeeep]

    "What are the only defenses worse than UNC in the category of total defense, which while faulty as a metric overall still provides a stunning categorization of the realm of stankassedness UNC's defense has fallen to in the year 2014?"

    "That is correct."

    ADVANTAGE: DUKE

    DUKE, YOU'VE BEEN FACTOR'D!

    MASCOT

    Duke:

    Here's the thing - why does the Blue Devil wear a mask? If you're Satan, or at least one of his unholy minions, isn't it kind of pointless to try to disguise yourself? If the Blue Devil wants to rob a bank, nobody's gonna say, "Yeah, not really sure who the guy was. Had horns sticking out of his head and pointy ears and a goatee. But the mask really makes it hard for me to make a solid identification. Sorry, officer." And it's not as if getting caught by the police should matter. You're the DEVIL. Just Hell-magic your way out of the holding cell!

    UNC:

    Such a cute and cuddly animal, just like the kind you'd see at a petting zoo. A petting zoo where succession to the throne is achieved via head-butting patricide. Game of Thrones has nothing on the Wars of Rameses.

    ADVANTAGE: UNC

    UNC, YOU'VE BEEN FACTOR'D!

    AURA

    Wallace Wade Stadium was built in 1929, the year of architect Frank Gehry's birth and the start of the Great Depression. These are relevant for two reasons. The first: Like Frank Gehry, most Duke fans have more money than you, and would rather be doing something else besides watching football. The second: Frank Gehry and Duke football have the same number of national championships in football.

    There is a strange historical note to mention here: Wallace Wade Stadium is the only place outside of the Rose Bowl to host the Rose Bowl. In 1942, the game was held there between Duke (anyone could go to a Rose Bowl in the 1940s!) and Oregon State due to a ban on large public gatherings on the West Coast.  The fear: that the Japanese would target 90,000 people gathered in the same place. Despite the war ending, Duke Football has followed the order not to draw large crowds ever since.

    All you need to know about Wallace Wade besides that: there are no backs on the seats, zero frills, and a maximum capacity of around 70%. Oh, and they lost that Rose Bowl, too, despite making Oregon State travel thousands of miles cross-country by train.

    ADVANTAGE: UNC

    UNC, YOU'VE BEEN FACTOR'D!

    NAMES

    Duke:

    Hud Mellencamp
    A.J. Wolf
    Bronson Bruneau
    Takoby Cofield
    Mackenzie Sovereign

    UNC:

    Norkeithus Otis
    Mikey Bart
    Allen Champagne
    Bentley Spain
    Jack Tabb

    We can't do this. We can't pick one of these sets over the other. How are you gonna look Hud Mellencamp in the eye and tell him he's no Bentley Spain? Can you possible explain to Allen Champagne that he's not a match for Mackenzie Sovereign?

    So, for the first time ever, we're opening this factor up to public vote in the poll below this post. You, the people, will decide which names win. We do not envy the decision before you.

    GRUDGES/SCORES TO SETTLE/SHEER CUSSEDNESS

    Since 1990, Duke has beaten UNC only three times. Outside of a horrendous defeat in 2003, the only beam of hope in all that football purgatory for Duke has come in the past two years with consecutive defeats of the Tarheels. That's gonna happen to you, Larry Fedora. You could have to walk in and answer the question, "Who was the last coach to lose two in a row TO FUCKIN' DUKE?" The answer is hilarious, because the answer is "Mack Brown."

    Three in a row hasn't happened since 1955, when Duke was coached by...Bill Murray. WHAT CAN'T THE MAN DO?

    ADVANTAGE: UNC

    UNC, YOU'VE BEEN FACTOR'D!

    FINAL TOTAL: UNC 3 (OR 4), DUKE 1 (OR 2).

    Ha! Your vote is meaningless to the final outcome. This is a lesson in the futility of civic participation. Thank you for playing.

    Poll
    Which Names Should Be Factor'd?

      163 votes |Results


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    An instantaneous survey of the teams in the best position for the Playoff at this moment.

    1. Oregon

    This is all a forecast, so let's get meteorological. Things look clear for Oregon through the next week or so, after their 44-10 defeat of Colorado this week. They even look pretty nice through the 14-day forecast as they head into the Pac-12 Championship, likely against UCLA, a team the Ducks beat pretty soundly in October. Their only opponent in between is Oregon State, a team who by rule will make a "passionate, but ultimately futile" effort against a superior team.

    If the forecast holds, the Ducks finish the season as Pac-12 champions with one very close loss to an excellent Arizona team. That's not a perfect resume, but in a season of deep imperfections, it would be the nearly perfect day with light showers around 11 a.m. Given the weather lately, that's about as good as it can get.*

    *This is a forecast for clear skies, so anticipate a Cat 5 typhoon out of nowhere at any minute. Have Marcus Mariota carried by Oregon staffers across campus to all of his appointments, and have Nike's bioengineers ready his replacement legs, just in case he needs them down the stretch.

    Threats: Oregon State and the constant specter of a rivalry game, i.e., performing at levels said team has no right performing at for longer than one quarter. And whoever survives the Pac-12 South.

    2. Alabama

    Slides down in this nearly meaningless four-team order because it played Western Carolina in a 48-14 paycheck game, and in the course of enjoying a romp over an FCS team, injured starting tackle Cam Robinson and star wide receiver Amari Cooper. This is part punitive, because I hate these paycheck games whenever they're played, and also more forecasting because ...

    Well, mostly because the Iron Bowl is next week, and if Blake Sims doesn't have Cooper at full speed, then he's missing a huge chunk of Alabama's passing game. How big? Cooper has 1,349 yards receiving this year. The next Alabama receiver in terms of yardage is DeAndrew White with 319. It matters, even if you are Alabama and about to face a team playing defense like 11 toddlers running around under a parachute.

    That said: finish this and win the SEC title, and they're in with a resume as good as or better than Oregon's.

    Threats: Auburn, and whatever shambles out of the East.

    3. Florida State

    No one will give Boston College the proper amount of credit in a 20-17 loss to FSU, and that's a shame. Steve Addazio's turned that team into Stanford East: burly, power running offense complemented by a defense that limits mistakes and forces opponents to go underneath coverage for gains. They're also like Stanford this year in their inability to score when they really have to, and that's how we talk you into believing in the Seminoles even if you happen to hate them.

    If Boston College had just run the ball down the stretch and hit a field goal or two, this would be a much easier Playoff picture. Florida State is not letting anything be an easy discussion, and for that and their utter unkillability, they're in. Also they have the best kicker in the universe in Roberto Aguayo, an unsexy and completely necessary part of this formula. When FSU crossed the 40 on the last drive, the game's outcome became a formality thanks to Aguayo's range and reliability.

    Threats: Florida next week and Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game.

    4. Mississippi State

    No, I'm not happy about this, either, but if you're looking to validate Alabama's ranking, you can't punish Miss State for a loss against the Tide too much, even if Miss State spent this week pummeling a hapless Vanderbilt team, 51-0.

    If Ohio State wins the Big Ten outright and beats Michigan, it could go here. If Baylor and TCU finish huge, one of them could go here. You want a definite answer? I dunno. Go ask an idiot who thinks there's a clear answer here. I'd rather be honest with you, dear reader.

    I'd put Miss State here based on their resume, but know this: something really bad and unfair will happen at this spot, and you should just prepare for it in advance. (Given Mississippi State's history and general luck, the chances of that "something bad" happening to MSU? VERY MUCH HIGH.)

    Threats: A heartbroken Ole Miss team in the Egg Bowl. Not getting to play in the SEC title game, potentially.

    ONE-LOSS TEAMS FROM THE BIG 12 THAT WILL ATTEMPT TO SCORE AS MANY POINTS AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS

    TCU, idle this week, and Baylor, winners of a 49-28 grudge match over Oklahoma State. Without losses somewhere else, both teams will have to rely on shock, awe, and the sheer watchability of Big 12 football to get them in.

    P.S. Baylor STOP SCHEDULING CRAP GAMES EARLY. I LOVE YOU AND WANT TO PUT YOU IN THE PLAYOFF, AND BUFFALO'S MANGY PELT AIN'T GETTIN' MUCH AT THIS HERE TRADING POST.

    ANYONE ELSE LURKING WITH TWO LOSSES?

    Wisconsin, possible Big Ten title opponents for Ohio State, coming off a 26-24 win over Iowa. The Badgers' chances of getting in are super remote, but they're out there if everything else falls apart.

    Same for Georgia Tech, because all the Jackets have to do is beat Georgia and Florida State in consecutive weeks, and ahaahahahahaa sure that's easy.

    Georgia (55-9 over Charleston Southern this week) and Mizzou (29-21 winners over Tennessee on the road) are both at 9-2 and in line for a shot at the SEC West's champion, and thus cling to life.

    The Arizonas (both 9-2) could get in line with a UCLA loss, but if the 9-2 Bruins get clean through Stanford, they get the shot at Oregon.

    MARSHALL?

    No.


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    IF YOU'RE GONNA RUN THE IRON BOWL WITH LIVE CALLER COMMENTARY, WHY LIMIT IT TO FOOTBALL GAMES, SEC NETWORK?

    Seriously, if we're going to do this, we have to open up the possibilities SEC Network.

    SCENE: The ghost of King Hamlet appears on the parapets of the castle.

    Paul Finebaum: We'll go to Colin in Mobile. Hello Colin.

    Colin: Hey Paul, first time caller, long time listener. I just wanna say this about Denmark. I think they're getting disrespected here. That's a good defensive team. They gotta recruit against Germany, Norway, Sweden, and probably whatever trash the Spanish Netherlands send through there.

    Paul: Um hmm.

    Colin: They're the Mississippi State of the region. Also this ghost. Elsinore's got one and Bryant-Denny doesn't? I don't wanna tell Coach Saban how to run his business, but if the Bear showed up to tell me to commit to Bama, I'd listen. Just sayin'. Ain't nothing Denmark can do that Bama cain't. I'll hang up and listen.

    Paul. Yes. Thank you Colin.

    SCENE: Claudius makes the following admonishment to Hamlet still grieving about his father:

    'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,

    To give these mourning duties to your father:

    But, you must know, your father lost a father;

    That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound

    In filial obligation for some term

    To do obsequious sorrow: but to persever

    In obstinate condolement is a course

    Of impious stubbornness; 'tis unmanly grief;

    Paul: We go to...Ed, in Defuniak Springs. Welcome to the show, Ed.

    Ed: Hey Paul, I just wanna say that Claudius is pretty spot-on here. Hamlet's like a head coach here. He just had his coach die on him, sure. But this is about the program. He's gotta man up here and think about the team.

    Paul: Ed, he just lost his dad. I mean, doesn't the man--

    Ed: Paul this ain't about him! This is about the team and he's gotta be the captain. He's actin' like Urban Meyer after Saban beat his ass in Atlanta and you saw how that worked out. Both ah them didn't deal with a murderer and look how that worked out for both of them, Paul.

    SCENE: The King's ghost tells Hamlet to avenge him.

    Paul: Next up we have...Derek! Derek from Hoover, you're on the Finebaum Show.

    Derek: Paul I'm so mad you haven't talked about Auburn once yet in all this. I know you're out making love faces with Saban in a rowboat somewhere. Aren't you?

    Paul: Derek, we're watching Hamlet and taking questions. What's this got to do with Hamlet?

    Derek: IT'S GOT EVERYTHING TO DO WITH AUBURN. Taking orders from a ghost? That's Bama, y'all always talking about the Bear, and what he'd do. And he says you gotta avenge Bama, so they do. And who's on the throne?

    Paul: Claudius?

    Derek: That's right. Claudius is Auburn cause he's taking care of business. He mighta got there by bending a few rules but he's got Norway in check, and he's making his lady happy.

    Paul: Derek, he committed murder--

    Derek: WINNERS AREN'T RACING WITHOUT DOING A LITTLE BIT OF RUBBIN', PAUL. Claudius ain't freaking out about every little thing like you Bammers do. He's just about getting things done. And then here comes Hamletbama, just hemming and hawing and not getting it done. And what happens in the end?

    Paul: You tell me, Derek.

    Derek: He kills everyone including his own dumb ass while Fortinbras stands outside with his dang army. You know who that is here?

    Paul: I can't possibly imagine, Derek.

    Derek: That's Florida State. Now Jimbo gets all of our stuff including our recruits. You happy now, Bama? You done taking orders from ghosts and gettin' everyone killed along the way? That's how Florida State wins things, Paul! I'm gone.

    Paul: Thank you Derek.

    SCENE: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter

    Paul: Let's bring on...Danny from Maryville.

    Danny: I just wanna know: how does Shakespeare keep givin' the ball to all these characters without losing the plot? And if you find out, can you tell Lane Kiffin, since he only likes throwing the ball to Amari Cooper? That's all, Paul, Roll Tide.

    Paul: I'll see what I can do, Danny.

    SCENE: Hamlet stabs Polonius, hiding behind a rug in his mother's chambers.

    Paul: Hello, Tom from Baton Rouge, you're on with the Finebaum show.

    Tom: Just wanted to say that's a hell of an interception by Polonius there. Sometimes you just gotta be in the right place at the right time, and he's Johnny on the spot in this play. Love the show, Paul, keep on doin' what you do.

    Paul: Thanks, Tom.

    SCENE: Hamlet talks to Yorick's skull by the graveside.

    Paul: And to...Nate from Pensacola, Nate you had something to say about motivational tactics.

    Nate: Yes, yes I did, Paul. I just wanna say this. You ready?

    Paul: Yes, Nate, I believe I am.

    Nate: If that skull's Bo Schembechler's, I believe Hamlet just nailed down that Michigan opening.

    Paul: Thank you, Nate.

    SCENE: Hamlet faces off in a duel of poisoned swords with Laertes

    Paul: We have Steve from Cullman on the line, Steve welcome to the Finebaum show.

    Steve: Paul this makes me sick. This is Les Miles clock management on Hamlet's part. And another thing: Why we messin' around with poison here? You got a sword, use the sword. This coaching staff needs to stop thinking too much and RUN THE DAMN SWORD.

    Paul: How do you even--

    Steve: RUN THE DAMN SWORD, PAUL. THAT AND DEFENSE WINS GAMES. HAMLET'S THE DAMN WASHINGTON STATE OF PROTAGONISTS AND THAT WON'T CUT IT IN SCANDINAVIAN ROYAL POLITICS OR THE SEC. Roll damn Tide.

    [/hangs up]


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    The Seminoles know their role. Do you?

    Florida State -- if you want to address them as a whole, collective personage -- knows. They know. They know you hate them, and their quarterback, and their fans, and their fans on Twitter, and their win streak, and their war chant. They know you hate how, a year after winning a national title with landslide results and obvious dominance at every position on the field, they now escape games like a burglar leaping over the fence with one cheek of his pants in the guard dog's mouth. They know. Oh, they know.

    They know, which is why you see garnet and gold themed "haters gonna hate t-shirts" floating around campus on game day, even now, when most fans are shuffling around in hastily purchased ponchos or waterproof fishing jackets. They'll zip down the jacket just to show you: look, we are comfortable with this role. We know it now, we have the dialogue down. After offering me a shot of Fireball and cider, one tailgater tells me, "Listen, if you want to hate, go ahead. We'll keep on winning. That's the bottom line here: winning." It's rehearsed, but the line delivery is perfect and unaffected.

    These are the heels, and once you know you start prejudicially looking for that heel behavior in everything. As it turns out, there's plenty to choose from in Tallahassee. Florida State suffers from the villain's grandiose addiction to statues and trophies: the Bowden statue pointing forward forever (realistically depicted with Bowden's bowling pin physique),  the giant, 31-foot-tall "Unconquered" statue of Chief Osceola holding aloft a gas-burning spear, resting atop several tons of Italian-carved Saudi granite; the sod cemetery, containing turf prizes from big wins sitting next to the gates to the Al Dunlap Practice Facility for football. The plaque mentions Al Dunlap's high record of achievement, and his obvious generosity to the university. It does not mention his SEC ban on being an officer or director of any public company, part of a $500,000 settlement Dunlap paid to settle charges of fraud and mismanagement as CEO of Scott Paper and Sunbeam.

    That's one of Florida State's most generous boosters. Before you ever get past the stained-glass tribute to Bobby Bowden, the allegations of extensive cooperation between the Tallahassee Police Department and school administrators in cases involving football players, the giant statues typically only found in Pyongyang, the human lightning rod of a quarterback, or the recurring instances of football players dodging crimes others might not find so elusive, there is that.

    If you did not find them camera-ready to play the bad guy for any other reason, the fact that "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap's name is on the practice field at Florida State should have clued you in here. You could not cast a small-town baron with the sheriff in his pocket any more perfectly than Florida State football.

    *It feels like an SEC school, right down to the mash-up of "That's My Kind Of Night" by Luke Bryan and "Jump Around" by House of Pain booming out of the windows.

    ***


    Jeff Gammons, Getty Images

    But before you just put a black hat on Florida State completely, conduct this experiment. You have a team with abundant young talent, the best quarterback in the nation (albeit one who can be astonishingly streaky), the best kicker in the known universe and a defense featuring a sophomore safety capable of destroying every last plan your opponent wanted to have.

    This team wins close games. Yes, they fall behind, but possess an uncanny ability to refuse the three-count, roll out of the pin, and finish games flying off the top rope. They do this with consistency, but also with variety: sometimes it's the safety, sometimes it's the quarterback, and sometimes it's the brilliant combination of dumb luck and a refusal to quit at any point in the game. It takes quantifiable seconds off your life, but in theory should be anything but boring.

    This team gets to the end of the season three games shy of a definite appearance in the playoff, all the while secure in the guarantees of youth, continued recruiting success and unquestioned potential down the road. You'd be happy, yes? You'd be taking out outlandish wagers in your favor, and banking for the future like a cocaine baron at the high point of their success in a drug epic. You would be purchasing tigers and mansions. You would be, for lack of a better word, optimistic.

    Take that team and give it a name, and call it the 2014 Florida State Seminoles, and then invalidate all that good feeling. "This team is going to kill me" is a common theme among fans. The defense isn't young, but is instead "sloppy," allowing too many yards to Miami in a near-upset in South Florida. The run game isn't maturing, they're "non-existent," and abandoned too quickly by Jimbo when the team needs it.* Roberto Aguayo is the lone saint on the team, and even he missed one against Louisville.

    "You sure that wasn't the Miami game?" I ask.

    "IT WAS THE DAMN LOUISVILLE GAME."

    They remember the misses most this year, even in a year where they have yet to lose a game to anybody.

    ***

    Take that team and give it a name, and call it the 2014 Florida State Seminoles, and then invalidate all that good feeling.

    The rain never stopped for long. In between royal audiences for Burt Reynolds and a long, cinematic introduction of Nobel Prize chemist Sir Harold Kroto ("Nobel Prize winner...AND SEMINOLE FOOTBALL FAN," the announcer booms), FSU fans watch nervously as their otherwise fantastic football team does things the 2013 team never did. Otherwise reliable receivers drop balls. The defense misses assignments on Boston College's tricky run fits, with the Eagles substituting in linemen and fullbacks and H-backs and whatever other bulk they keep throwing in off the bench. The secondary blows an assignment on a Tyler Murphy scramble, leaving a wideout blazing open for a long passing TD in the second quarter.

    *Like all fans, Seminole fans believe the run game is either underutilized or overdone. No coach in the history of football has ever run the ball the correct number of times, and none ever will.


    At the half, it's 17-10. BC ties it up in the third quarter on another missed run fit on an option play. In fact, BC has this game in hand in the fourth quarter, thumping right along down the field with their run game and little else. That is all most will see this weekend, since they probably didn't watch the game, and that's kind of an issue here if you're going to say Florida State is playing down to opponents. They'll see 20-17, say the 2014 Florida State team under performed, and move on to the next game.

    I sat and watched the whole thing and have the waterlogged jeans to prove it, and would counter with this:

    1. Boston College is a really good football team, and a horrendous matchup for Florida State's weaknesses. They mobbed the ball, dominated time of possession, ran midline plays against the inexperienced middle of Florida State's defense, and held shape on defense, preventing big plays by the Seminole offense. They even bossed around FSU's offensive line on occasion, and pressured Winston more than any team I can remember. They are good, but in this situation, on the road and against a team it knew how to attack, they were excellent.
    2. All of this happened to Florida State, and they still managed to win a football game against an opponent they had every last reasonable right to surrender to. Boston College played a better game, and made one key sequencing mistake, calling a trick play that worked against the Seminoles last year in the red zone on their final drive. BC missed the ensuing field goal attempt, and then Roberto Aguayo, gravity and other laws of nature took over from there.
    3. Florida State only got nine possessions total, lost a defender to a targeting call, played against a really smart, conference rival, power run/option team, turned in a C+ effort in a lot of departments, and still won the game. If Florida State fans say they won't get credit for beating a good team, that's probably the time when their bunker mentality and reality meet. They're right, and Boston College dragging some unsuspecting team in a bowl game will have to change their minds too late for FSU to benefit.
    4. Oh, and this is not the 2013 Florida State team. Just in case this entire year did not make that clear, or if you missed the calendar. They're something different, and not as dominant, and yet still undefeated.

    All that happened, and despite all that for the 27th game in a row, the Seminoles still won. Filing out of Doak Campbell Stadium, in the rain and out towards the bars and tailgate tents and behind a rain-jacketed wall of cops making their way grimly into the night to conduct game traffic and arrest the stray drunk or two, no one seemed as happy with it as they should be except for the stadium security guards doing the chop and smiling in the direction of opposing fans.

    ***

    I had a moment sitting in the rain, which in the third quarter kicked up with extra energy. Florida rain falls in no fewer than three directions at once: there's down, and then the humid upfall from rain hitting the ground and hugging the ground in a low, impossibly humid fog, and then the random Brownian motion spirals in the air. You can't see the last variation most of the time, but stadium lighting blows it out nicely if you look up, like I did, and see it whirling in curlicues over the lip of the roof of the luxury boxes.

    The Florida State band was playing the "Game of Thrones" theme, and it was sometime in the third quarter. FSU was on their heels, football-wise, which happens. No team, no matter how well-suited for the role, no matter how villainous, delivers their lines perfectly and forever. It's all so fragile, even if every opponent meets The Mountain and immediately begins making the mistake of delivering soliloquies and getting fancy and theatrical when what they need most is to finish the fight. Boston College wanted a flourish at the end. They ended up on the pile with the others, but it takes a toll, even on the villain.

    And I can't ask you to have sympathy for the Seminoles. But consider the villain for a second, and realize how short that lifespan is in college football. The New York Times, with reporters camped out in Tallahassee for the foreseeable future, turned their softball coaches show into a trend piece about sycophantic idol worship in college football. (Which, yeah.) They played this game after an on-campus shooting that injured three and wound up with the campus police killing the gunman somewhere in the vicinity of the built-in Starbucks on the ground floor. Lineman Derrick Mitchell was in the library when the shooting happened, and was stuck there until 5:00 a.m. as the police searched for a second shooter. I went by the library before the game; only a piece of plywood nailed up over the spot where a floor-to-ceiling window and a few other wary, lingering pedestrians made Strozier library look any different than any other nondescript brick building.

    Before Florida State there was Florida, and before Florida there was USC, and before them the Hurricanes, and before them Nebraska, and then Florida State and/or Florida.

    Don't even consider, if possible, the case of their star quarterback, the one who can't ever be cleared in either direction after the Tallahassee Police Department botched an investigation into a sexual assault case since dismissed by the authorities. Ignore him, even if he got into a bizarre shoving match/tussle/episode with a ref trying to allow Boston College to substitute in a no-huddle situation. (By standing not over the ball, but instead like a running back trying to hide perpendicular to the center on a trick play.)

    Try to abstract the situation, if you can, and consider both how remarkable this streak is, and how the reaction to it is not. Before Florida State there was Florida, and before Florida there was USC, and before them the Hurricanes, and before them Nebraska, and then Florida State and/or Florida, and swirling back on and on through a cycling of villains doing things the wrong way, all for shorter lifespans than anyone bothers to remember.

    With the rain blowing in three directions and the inevitable Red Vipering of Boston College ready to unfold, I just wanted to press pause on it all and remember: this has all happened before. Six years prior on the same field in the same weather, Florida State lost a blowout to Tim Tebow, his face and uniform stained red with the paint from the Seminoles logo in the end zone. That all collapsed with astonishing speed a month and a year later, and hasn't been the same since. Same for all the other villains of yesteryear, all with their own moment of neglected triumph before the inevitable slide into chaos.

    I wanted to tell Seminole fans the same -- that no one can properly point to the moment when you gave up on enjoying winning, and began to weigh the present against unattainable, sometimes imaginary pasts. I wanted to, for just a moment with the "Game of Thrones" theme blaring in the background and have some sympathy for the bad guy, or at least those watching the bad guy. That's how the story ends: The Mountain wins, but ends up getting poisoned in the process and dying a prolonged death no one thought he'd ever meet. That's not just a Florida State metaphor here. That's for anyone whose team ends up playing the villain, and who discovers just how dark it gets when you go for the throne.


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    SERIOUSLY YOU DON'T NEED AN INFRARED THERMOMETER TO MAKE AN OMELET DAMMIT

    This week's surprise Shutdown Fullcast--the only thing ever delivered early in the history of this website--covers these important topics prior to the Thanksgiving marathon football hibernation:

    • FSU is fine but Tallahassee is kind of scary
    • UCLA can honestly be called "pretty good" at football
    • why Minnesota will be #25 forever
    • how Alton Brown would be the most annoying roommate ever
    • Will Muschamp still believes modern farming techniques are tricks of the devil
    • Drinking in Pullman is like getting drunk in a Christopher Nolan movie
    • How Ole Miss could finish 8-4 and owowowowowowow stop thinking about it--

    As always, subscribe and listen on iTunes under sports podcasts, download directly here, or simply listen in the Soundcloud player below.


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    OREGON NEEDS HELP BURNING STUFF

    OREGON'S A RURAL STATE. And you know this because where most state's rival coaches do anti-DUI ads, Oregon's coaches have to tell you to be careful when you're burning shit in your backyard.

    (Via)

    IT'S UP TO PAUL RHOADS AND THAT MEANS TCU'S IN THE PLAYOFF. You're damn right TCU ran up the score, mostly because they had to, and also because Texas made it so irresistible in the end. Bill's correct: if everything holds and TCU manages to avoid an upset at the hands of Iowa State, TCU will likely be in the playoff even if Baylor scores 500 points on Kansas State. (Baylor cannot score 500 points on Kansas State, because Bill Snyder even has a plan for the "lose by a resume-crippling margin" plan in his playbook. He was at Dunkirk, and he took notes.)

    OH LOOK, AN LSU GAME HAD A CURIOUS AND DISASTROUS ENDING. An uncalled offsides infraction, an interception at the last second, and another game in the Les Miles era comes to the ending you've come to expect. LSU happened to win this one, something made a lot easier by the wretched Texas A&M defense and the Aggies continued inability to do what everyone else in the SEC has managed to do: run a spread offense against a John Chavis defense.

    SPEEDY NOIL DID PROVIDE MOMENTARY RELIEF. The swim move as save should not go unnoticed in the loss.

    ARMOGEDDON. It's a catchy name for the rivalry, but let's remember the real reason to be grateful for this game and for Mizzou coming to the SEC: it means we don't have to watch Kansas/Missouri anymore.

    SOMEONE HAS TO WIN THIS GAME. Allegedly! Because Virginia and Virginia Tech still have to play a football game, even if Frank Beamer is approaching his dream of the perfectly null football game. (Quality work on the tail end of that URL, Streaking The Lawn.)


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    1. It has a soccer robot.

    droidball

    If that's a Brazuca it'll never go anywhere in a straight line, but if it isn't an official Adidas ball it'll be vaporized by FIFA stormtroopers in a matter of seconds, anyway. Definitely sport-ish, though, especially since J.J. Abrams movies already look like overly long Nike World Cup ads.

    2. It has racing.

    XWingSkimmin

    There's no reason whatsoever to fly X-Wings just a few feet off the surface of a lake besides "it looks cool as hell," and maybe "there's a NASCAR race they're about to fly over, and this is their cool approach shot for the boys in the broadcast truck." Look close enough and you'll see a Bass Pro Shops sticker somewhere on one of those X-Wings. The Rebellion doesn't pay for itself, which is why pilots shout out sponsors after shooting down TIE fighters.

    3. Giving nerds what they want is a sport. You think this isn't? Ohhhhh, just wait and see how real a sport it'll be. The entire purpose of this reboot will be to avenge the three leaden George Lucas prequels by doing what each of those refused to do: give longtime fans precisely what they wanted to see. Jar Jar Binks will be absent, or possibly destroyed in the first 30 seconds of the film. Lightsabers will have 500 different blades; the more evil the character, the more unnecessarily complex the blade will be. You want the antiseptic CGI universe of The Phantom Menace gone? Nothing in this trailer looks like it's been washed EVER, including that dirty little bootleg soccer robot. You want none of the long-winded, soulless dialogue of the Lucas films? BOOM. J.J. Abrams might not even let people use conjunctions before being attacked by dirty-helmeted stormtroopers. Make no mistake: this is a sport, and he's gonna win right down to the last lens-flare.

    [/woooooosh]

    [/lens flare]


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    An instantaneous survey of the teams in the best position for the Playoff at this moment.

    1. Oregon

    They might have only beaten Oregon State in a 47-19 thrashing, but consider just how dodgy every other team looked in their otherwise normally winnable rivalry games. Remember the ease with which Marcus Mariota dispatched Beaver defenders, and, most importantly, note how healthy he looks at the end of the season going into the Pac-12 championship game. It's handy, too, that they get a title game rematch against the only team to beat them this season, the Arizona Wildcats. This is all very tidy, isn't it? We all also thought the Egg Bowl would determine the eventual national champion back in October, when we were all younger and full of naiveté. (P.S. WATCH YOUR ASS, OREGON.)

    Threats: Only Arizona, their opponent in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

    2. Alabama

    Another comforting favorite voters can cling to at the end of the year -- even if they struggled mightily with Auburn before pulling away and letting Amari Cooper carry them to a 55-44 revenge win. Nothing much has changed about Alabama. Their corners are suspect, Blake Sims has one or two head-scratching moments in each game and the run game disappears in favor of 20 passes in a row whenever they're remotely threatened. They also still have Cooper, play at least one half of outstanding defense a game, and have a punter who can boot a ball 70 yards through the air. As long as Mizzou doesn't ask them to kick a field goal to win the SEC Championship, they're all but in the playoff.

    Threats: Mizzou, the least horrible team in the SEC East, in the SEC Championship Game.

    3. Florida State

    Jameis Winston threw four interceptions and the Seminoles still won a fiercely fought 24-19 rivalry game against Florida. This probably confirms a lot of things you already think. If you believe Florida State is a team that, over the course of the entire season, finally found a run game and leaders on a spotty defense, then yes: this is what you probably saw here. On the other hand, if you believe that FSU continues to skate through a weak schedule on the basis of sheer talent and depth, well, you probably saw that here. We're not here to persuade you one way or another. We're here to point to the stubborn fact of their loss-free resume, and gesture towards the waiting final curtain of the ACC Championship Game.

    Threats: Georgia Tech, fresh off an improbable upset of Georgia. Remember how Boston College gave FSU fits with midline options and running right at the FSU defensive front? That's like, all Georgia Tech does, ever. They may not win, but they'll be annoying as hell.

    4. TCU

    This is the spot where everyone starts screaming, and with reason. We can't help you feel better about any of this other than to say that TCU is really good, beat the hell out of Texas this week 48-10, and has a marginally better resume than fellow Big 12 contender Baylor. When the history of college football in the year 2014 is written, remember the road to the championship ran through Minneapolis (TCU's vaunted out-of-conference win), and not Buffalo (where Baylor beat a hapless Buffalo team.)

    Threats: Lowly Iowa State in the Horned Frogs' last game of the 2014 season.

    TEAMS SITTING RIGHT THERE WITH ONE LOSS WONDERING WHY YOU DON'T LOVE THEM

    Ohio State, which did beat Michigan 42-28 but lost starting QB J.T. Barrett for the rest of the year with a dislocated ankle; Baylor, survivors of a 48-46 game against Texas Tech, and probably righteously angry about not making the playoff; Marshall, losers of a 67-66 fracas against Western Kentucky.

    TEAMS WHO NO LONGER HAVE ONLY ONE WIN AND WHO WILL NOT ATTEND THIS PARTY

    Mississippi State, out after a 31-17 loss to Ole Miss and in need of new buses after a postgame fender-bender on the way back to Starkville.


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    Consistently good but never great with Bo Pelini at the helm, Nebraska needed to get out of the rut.

    Nebraska isn't totally insane for firing Bo Pelini. Seven seasons of Pelini at the helm yielded no conference championships in either the Big 12 or the Big Ten, a losing record against ranked teams, and an unofficial residence in Orlando as the designated 9-3 or 8-4 team bound for the Capital One bowl. (Most likely against Georgia.) (No one ever needs to see a Georgia/Nebraska bowl game ever again.)

    It is hard to say precisely what the peak was for Pelini. It could be 2009, when Ndamukong Suh singlehandedly destroyed Mizzou before the Huskers came within one extremely contested second of beating Texas in the Big 12 Championship. 2012 might be up there, too, when the Huskers came back in four different Big Ten games behind Taylor Martinez's frenetic running, only to lose to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.

    Both of those teams had something in common: they went 10-4. Pelini also produced teams that went 10-4, or 9-4, and did so with an uncanny consistency.

    So it's not like Nebraska, after seven years of this, doesn't know what they just left behind. They also know what the situation in Lincoln had become for Pelini: a place where his private frustrations wound up getting leaked in the media, and where the coach would show up with a cat to the spring game because he is funny, and also clearly didn't care much what anyone thought of him anymore. It is not like Bo Pelini was covertly asking to be fired. Rather, he was quoted last year as explicitly saying that he didn't care if they did.

    It might be a case of the most predictable motivations, sure. Nebraska may still believe they can do better than 10-4 despite running a football program in a state with a population base just a bit larger than the city of Philadelphia. There are other programs with similar profiles who routinely outperform expectations. Bill Snyder has a JUCO pipeline set up in tiny Manhattan, Kansas. Tennessee, another program whose glories all bear expiration dates from the 1990s, is now pulling elite talent to Knoxville under Butch Jones. It can be done, and it's not insane for Nebraska to believe it can be done in Lincoln.

    It's also not insane to assume Nebraska knows what they are. They know that Tom Osborne's walk-on program is dead, and that the triple-option factory is dead forever, and that other programs now have weight rooms and recruiters with Florida connections and all the other things Nebraska leveraged to create the Big Red Machine of the 1990s. They know better than anyone at this point that it's not 1995.

    Nebraska fans also know what they had: a coach who'd hit a kind of opulent rut, and was stuck in it, and who after seven years was as tired of them as they were of him. Nebraska, at the very least, wants what anyone wants coming out of a long, tumultuous relationship: a new variety of underwhelming.


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