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    The Top Whatever ranks only the college football teams it feels like ranking, as of this exact second.

    1. Arizona State. Oh, who’s 2-0 right now, with a gritty comeback victory in a desert heater against a mean Michigan State?

    Not Chip Kelly, the vaunted college genius whom no one made fun of when he was hired. Not Jimbo Fisher, who got $75 million guaranteed to move to Texas A&M. Not Dan Mullen or Willie Taggart, other coaches who got hired to no ridicule by the so-called pundits. Certainly not Scott Frost, who’s lost not one, but two games in his much-ballyhooed debut at Nebraska.*

    *Losses for Scott Frost: Lightning and Colorado, respectively. Shut up, lightning is undefeated.

    Who is 2-0?

    Michigan State v Arizona StatePhoto by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
    F*** WITH HERM AND GET SOME MONEY

    None of you considered Herm Edwards, and that’s fine. Herm doesn’t need your help anyway. The Sun Devils are undefeated with a 64-year-old former ESPN commentator leading them.

    Down 13-3 going into the fourth quarter, the Sun Devils rallied behind timely passing from Manny Wilkins, a game-winning field goal from kicker Brandon Ruiz, and the exhortations of a crazed man who hasn’t coached in college since 1989. UNDEFEATED AND NUMBER ONE, BABY.

    You might ask: Will the Sun Devils be here next week?

    Will any of us, really? Does it matter? What matters for The Top Whatever is that for a shining moment seen by at least 58 people on the East Coast at 1:30 a.m., Arizona State stayed undefeated after getting ridiculed for hiring a man with a worse Kansas City Chiefs winning percentage than Todd Haley.

    The point is: Week two national champion Arizona State Sun Devils, you have been considered and considered well.

    P.S. Arizona might want to look at hiring Todd Haley, now that we look at that Houston box score. There have been worse ideas.

    P.P.S. The Big Ten is now 0-10 in Tempe against Arizona State, per the AP. Herm is going to win the Big Ten title, too.

    2. Georgia. Let’s just make this a rule. It’s a rule Georgia fans can understand fully, because it involves golf.

    Par for Georgia in this particular era of Bulldog football is 20 passes. If Jake Fromm throws more than 20 passes, then there is a tiny but real chance Georgia may lose. If he doesn’t, Georgia will not lose.

    Since Fromm threw 18 passes on the day, that puts Georgia at 2-under for the day, in the clubhouse with a 41-17 win over South Carolina. The Bulldogs ran the ball like Sony Michel and Nick Chubb were still back there, let the Gamecocks do absolutely nothing on the ground in return, and appear to have lost nothing from the formula that got them to the national title game last year.

    The Dawgs get No. 2 this week for facing a division opponent, changing nothing from 2017, and reducing one of their toughest opponents to an easy 18. If you think these are mixed metaphors, you are not a Georgia person, i.e. someone who has repeatedly skipped the spring game to watch the Masters without blinking.

    P.S. KIRBY SMART IS THE SWING COACH TIGER WOODS NEEDS, Y’ALL.

    3. Trevor Lawrence’s hair.

    Sir Lance-a-Big-Lots is over here with the “Immigrant Song” blasting out of nowhere every time he takes his helmet off. Look at that butterscotch god. Ain’t even a starter, and he’s got someone with a fan standing in front of him like he’s about to launch into an encore version of “Halo.”

    4. Clemson. The takeaways from an early 28-26 road struggle against Texas A&M will be fast, furious, and fickle on both sides. So: let’s state a bunch of things that could all be true at once.

    • Texas A&M has great wide receivers and an elusive quarterback in Kellen Mond. These are precisely the kind of things someone needs against Clemson’s defense, where the primary strength is a line that will swallow up quarterbacks whole. Get the ball out fast to talented wideouts.
    • Generally if a team is going to beat this version of Clemson, they’re going to have to do it through the air. The Pitt loss in 2016, to a lesser degree the loss to Syracuse in 2017, and Texas A&M coming close in 2018 all involved teams short-circuting the Tigers’ advantage at the line of scrimmage. This isn’t something a lot of teams can do.
    • Dabo Swinney’s teams usually have a scrum on the schedule, and usually win in ugly but admirable fashion. The 2015 team had a 20-17 brawl on the road with Louisville. The 2016 team had a 19-16 drudge over Auburn to open the season, too.
    • They also had a 30-24 game over Troy — Troy! — that no one remembers because Clemson went on to win the national championship. That still happened, though, which is why after a day of hyperventilating over narrow road wins, it helps to remember that this is September. Approximately one team in college football has its problems figured out, and no one cares what Alabama’s problems are anyway.
    • Texas A&M didn’t win, but looked great in a loss that could have easily gotten away from them after Clemson took a 21-6 lead. Take a lap and feel great about losing by two to one of the top five teams in the nation, Aggies. Not even making a joke about how much your little motormouthed coach gets paid. He got A&M within a two-point conversion of overtime with Clemson in week two of his tenure.
    • If that seems like what he should have done anyway, well: LOOK AT WHAT FLORIDA AND FLORIDA STATE DID UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT. RECONSIDER YOUR FORTUNES.
    • Oh, and two of those best teams in the nation seem to be doing just fine at getting one quarterback the majority of the reps while also making playing time for another, so maybe we all need to rethink the position at the college level? It’s a sport with shifts at every other position.
    • Steve Spurrier has said this for over 20 years, because Spurrier is pretty much right about everything.

    5. Pitt fullback George Aston’s Neck. Pitt lost 51-6 to Penn State, but it wasn’t because George Aston didn’t lift enough weights.

    Aston is down to 240 pounds and can now only do 30 reps at 225 on the bench. Pitiful, son, just pitiful*. That neck is now probably down to a mere 30 inches in circumference.

    Now that Pitt has lost by 45 points to Penn State, I feel confident, now more than ever, that they will beat someone they absolutely should not. Hey, look, Pitt plays Notre Dame on October 13th! That’s certainly not the game I’m talking about, nope.

    * This is joking please do not hurt me I am old and you are very young and strong and fast

    6. Stanford. Punted eight times and only had 13 first downs over USC in a 17-3 win. These are all positives for Stanford, who likes to book very short football games, ugly on the field and pretty on the spreadsheet.

    Counterpoint? USC might be kinda mediocre without departed QB Sam Darnold papering over a lot of weaknesses with late game heroics.

    Still, punting that many times and strangulating USC had to make David Shaw very happy. To the photo tool!

    USC v StanfordPhoto by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
    SEE LOOK HE ALMOST LOOKS LIKE AN IMITATION OF HAPPY THERE

    Ah, yes, that’s practically ebullient for Shaw. It’s “mildly pleased” for anyone else, but trust us, as experienced David Shaw watchers, that is beyond giddy. If he looks like that, the Cardinal are in a good place.

    7. Mississippi State. 31-10 over Kansas State but it wasn’t even that close. Kylin Hill and Nick Fitzgerald combined had 370 yards rushing. The defense prevented K-State from setting sail on 28-play drives. Everything Mississippi State wanted to happen happened, and nothing K-State wanted to happen happened.

    The Bulldogs should be 4-0 when they host former coach Dan Mullen on September 29th. They should be 5-0 after that, because Florida just lost at home to Kentucky, looked inert at best on offense, and lost top cornerback Marco Wilson for the year to an ACL injury. Do you like watching ineffective blitzers giving up huge plays while Miss State head coach Joe Moorhead cackles and draws up plays on the sideline? WATCH THIS GAME THEN.

    That’s a request, I’m a Florida fan and I’m not going to watch it, so someone will have to tell me what happened without getting too graphic.

    8. Penn State. 51-6 over Pitt, so that 45-38 result over App State might have been an aberration. Either that, or App State is much better than Pitt, which is difficult, given how hard Pitt is to pin down, quality-wise.

    Either way, the terrifying stat for anyone facing Penn State is: even after losing two fumbles, Penn State still outpaced Pitt by 45 points. James Franklin’s teams can do some weird things to math.

    9. Alabama. The Tide smoked Arkansas State 57-7, but do not have a quarterback named “Justice Hansen.” There’s one advantage not even a 50-point blowout can take away from the Red Wolves.

    Alabama has done nothing interesting this year. That ends this week with a trip to Ole Miss, a team with the only consistent winning strategy against Alabama. No one can beat the Tide in football? No problem. Ole Miss has decided to turn everything into basketball.

    SIU STILL HAS HOPES OF MAKING THE NIT

    Brilliant strategy, since Alabama is a much more beatable franchise in this sport. As long as Jordan Ta’amu hits 40 percent from 3, the Rebels should be in this one.

    10. Oklahoma. 49-21 over a rehabbing UCLA isn’t overly impressive, but what everyone is scouting is the offense’s ability to replace Baker Mayfield. This week against a stingy Iowa State is a way better test.

    I mean stingy in every way. Iowa State only allowed 13 points to Iowa this past week, but only scored 3 in return, with 19 yards rushing. If a normal person can throw a frisbee as far as your team rushed on the day, I feel confident in saying that’s not good.

    11. Ohio State. Let Rutgers score on them, 52-3, for the first time since 2015. Really lucky they’re ranked at all after that, but I’m charitable for downtrodden programs like Ohio State’s.

    Consider this: The Buckeyes started 2017 with Urban Meyer on the sideline. In their first two games, they went 1-1 and only scored 65 points. In 2018, the Buckeyes have 129 points and are 2-0 without Meyer.

    I know it’s not popular, but I’m going to say it anyway: could Urban be the thing holding this program back? I’m not afraid to ask the hard questions, Buckeye Nation. The mirror sees what it sees. And I’m a just a mirror, one that refuses to hear excuses about “omg you idiot we played Rutgers and Oregon State, not Oklahoma and Indiana.”

    Just sayin’, Ohio State. I’d go with the hot hand. Please email me at ryan.nanni@sbnation.com with all of your thoughts on this definitely serious suggestion, Buckeyes.

    Lurking undefeated and played lesser competition this week: Wisconsin, Auburn, LSU, TCU, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, UCF, Kentucky.

    Had a weird game against Ball State, of all teams? Notre Dame, who won 24-16 against Ball State? Let’s just ignore this one and assume everyone was gassy from the pregame meal.

    Boise State? 818 yards against UConn in a 62-7 win isn’t a resume line. It is a felony.


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    Look at the margins in the box score, if you can stomach it.

    Coming off a 3-9 season in 2017, the UConn Huskies have a long list of problems, including a few that only time and playing actual football can fix. For example: there is only one upperclassman on their starting defense, and not much experience or depth anywhere else.

    A road game at Boise State is a lot to ask of anyone. In 31 years on the blue turf, Boise State has only lost at home 37 times. It was a lot to ask of UConn, especially.

    This was never going to be a good game for UConn, but what it turned out to be was so much worse.

    It was enough to make me think, “This is the most lopsided game I have ever seen in my entire life watching college football.” That was just a feeling, though, right?

    No. It turns out that feelings, for once, are actual facts.

    This past weekend, Boise State might have actually destroyed UConn in the most lopsided FBS vs. FBS game I have ever seen, but it goes beyond the scoring margin.

    On the rewatch it looks ... worse than the box score?

    And that’s just talking about the UConn offense. On the Huskies’ first eight full possessions, they punt seven times and throw an interception. UConn’s offense doesn’t cross the 50 until the middle of the third quarter and only does that once. The Huskies’ lone touchdown drive is it. The rest is handing the ball back to Boise, then watching that ball head back towards their end zone with horrifying efficiency.

    The defense has a worse night.

    Boise’s offense does not need help to blow someone out, but gets it anyway. After about seven and a half minutes, the Broncos score five TDs on just 15 plays.

    • TD drive one: Two. Plays.
    • TD drive two: Four plays, 43 yards, practically demure by Boise’s standards, thanks to great field position.
    • TD drive three: Six plays. Brett Rypien is just pitching and catching at this point, even the runs are all huge gaps, this is clearly an atrocity, and we are all accomplices.
    • TD drive four: 55-yard end-around TD run. This is heinous.
    • TD drive five: Six plays, and it already feels like Boise is trying to burn clock IN THE FIRST HALF OF AN ACTUAL GAME VERSUS AN FBS OPPONENT. They still score.

    It’s over in about 10 minutes of game time.

     ESPN’s live win projection during the game

    In a situation this bad, even the circumstantial things add up badly for UConn. For instance, after all that, did the Broncos get the ball to start the second half? Oh you bet they did. Did they score in one play, a simple screen pass designed to nibble away at the clock? Seventy-four yards later, yeah, they did.

    For once, the way I felt about a game was accurate statistically.

    This was a biblical-type plague for UConn, but not an unfair one. UConn only committed one turnover. Both teams had seven penalties, with Boise getting more yardage taken by infractions.

    The Broncos putting up 818 yards of offense — 418 through the air, and an even 400 on the ground — is remarkable all by itself, sure.

    Only 15 teams since 2000 have done that.

    But most were in shootouts or blowouts in which the losing team did some scoring. There’s a 72-43 Missouri State-Mizzou in 2017, a 63-17 Nevada win over Idaho in 2010, a random 70-21 Toledo blasting of NIU in 2007. One of those games featured two teams who did it in the same game: 2016’s 66-59 Oklahoma victory over Texas Tech.

    Those are things that make sense.

    This game, though? There is no sense in here.

    Boise gained 818 yards of total offense, while UConn finished with just 193.

    Search all records since the year 2000, when College Football Sports Reference picks up full stats. This is the complete list of games in which one FBS team gains more than 800 yards and the other gains fewer than 200:

    • UConn vs. Boise State, 2018

    That’s it.

    If this felt like a historical-type asskicking, well, it was.

    The yardage gap between the two teams was unprecedented in 21st century FBS football.

    The biggest yardage gaps in total offense in a single game since the year 2000 are:

    1. Boise State vs. UConn 2018 (+625)
    2. Boise State vs. NIU 2015 (+621)
    3. Oregon vs. New Mexico 2010 (+613)
    4. Alabama vs. Vanderbilt 2017 (+599)

    These are statistics confirming a few things.

    First, that Boise State has dealt out not one, but two of the most lopsided annihilations in college football history.

    Two, that if you felt like UConn-Boise State 2018 was, in your gut, as lopsided a game as you’ve ever seen, then your gut is pretty good at math.

    Three, you don’t want Bama, but on the wrong night, you definitely don’t want the Broncos either, unless you want to be a footnote.


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    The Top Whatever is your weekly ranking of only the teams that must be ranked at this exact moment.

    1. LSU. 22-21 over Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium. A warning, first: Take very little away from this, a random outcome between two teams so closely matched in talent that S&P+ had them within a half-point of each other coming in. It will almost always be this, almost always decided by a field goal or some tragic mistake.

    Spare us the idea that anyone has anything figured out that they didn’t have figured out coming in. LSU looked the same against Auburn as against Miami, their other test so far. Quarterback Joe Burrow completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, but somehow made the ones he completed count at crucial times. The defense gave up yardage, but forced stall-outs and field goals in the red zone. LSU special teams will generally make their kicks and keep the hidden yardage to a minimum.

    I’d call LSU a good marginal team. They know they need small margins, and play accordingly and without panic. The 2018 version of LSU won’t blow many people out — even the initial landslide of Miami leveled into something that, by the box score, didn’t look like a mismatch — but that’s fine. A team that plays close games in tight conditions needs a few things to go their way. So far, they have.

    Don’t let this sound like damning with faint praise. LSU is dangerous as hell. They are clearly this year’s best grappler, the one totally fine going to the mat and fighting on its back.

    There are more dazzling teams, sure. LSU’s score cards are ugly, but wins by submission don’t need numbers. LSU might be capable of putting anyone in the country in a triangle choke and watching that dazzle drain away.

    P.S. LSU please don’t make all of this sound very silly by losing by 30 to Mississippi State like you did last season. Thanks.

    P.P.S. Hey, you say, this sounds a lot like Notre Dame’s M.O. and resume so far. We’re so glad you noticed that, but it’s getting late and I really have to get to the [mumbles incoherently], gotta go—

    2. North Texas. The Mean Green: Undefeated so far in 2018, but now legendary, too.

    There’s a whole story behind how they did that, of course. But so far, the Mean Green have staged a free wrasslin’ match featuring Hacksaw Jim Duggan after a football game, beaten the daylights out of everyone they’ve played, and done that. The person who doesn’t list them in their top 10 has no understanding of greatness.

    3. Ohio State. Finished off a stubborn TCU 40-28 in the JerryDome. Fine, fine. FINE. It’s early for sincerity, but Week 3 means ranking the team that actually went on the road, actually played a tenacious opponent, and actually had to play four quarters.

    Ohio State couldn’t get anything better than in-store credit for beating Oregon State and Rutgers. In-store credit sucks, and is the scourge of every broke American’s dreams of trading in terrible Christmas gifts. However, Ohio State should consider itself lucky to even get that for the Rutgers win. Rutgers lost to Kansas by 41 points and is approaching Truly Legendary TrashStatus. (If a relative gives you Rutgers for Christmas, this relative hates you and is trying to send you a message!)

    But the Horned Frogs consistently pull recruiting classes a full 20 spots or so lower than Ohio State does. When they face top-five competition, they generally play at a marginal size disadvantage. They do not pull five-star quarterbacks. They will field a 155-pound football player like KaVontae Turpin in the 21st century, mostly because they have to, in order to put as much speed on the field as they can, height and weight be damned. They somehow manage to play excellent defense in a conference where teams all but spot each other 20 points to start the game.

    TCU does a lot of confusing, well-executed things on offense and defense, punches above its weight in every way possible, and is a potentially disastrous pull early on in the schedule.

    They were almost a disaster for Ohio State — until a 20 point third quarter marked by TCU mistakes changed the dynamic completely. Dwayne Haskins didn’t get rattled at QB, the Buckeye defense finally managed to pin down TCU’s wiry, lightning-bug skill players, and the Ohio State offensive line really started moving some ass in the wrong direction for TCU.

    Side note: Watching Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell get the ball in the right situation just once in a game and still seeing him break a defense’s back? Cruel majesty. When he was even with the defender, it was still obvious how badly that defender was about to get scorched. Ohio State doesn’t always seem to know exactly what to do with him, but when Campbell is in the right spot at the right time? The rest is howling obscenities and burning cleat marks.

    A team that can deliver knockout third quarters is my favorite kind of team, while a team that can lean hard on another with the run game in the fourth is the most bankable. This is a great combination for Ohio State, and they did it against one of football’s most consistent overachievers.

    Some worries: Ohio State’s defense giving up some baffling yardage on blown assignments up front, and the injury to Nick Bosa.

    4. Oklahoma State. 44-21 over Boise State in Stillwater. The most shocking result of the weekend, not because of the score — either team could have gotten on a roll and pulled away laughing — but because of the way it happened.

    The Cowboys usually torch people, sure. What made this so surprising was how the defense beat up Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien so badly, tagging him for seven sacks. DE Jordan Brailford had three all by himself. By the third quarter, Rypien was clearly flailing and had no run support whatsoever. Oklahoma kept Boise to just 34 yards on the ground, just a week after the Broncos put up a whopping 400 against UConn.

    All we do is underestimate Mike Gundy’s people, is what we’re saying, and all they do is keep putting up wins a team in Stillwater, Oklahoma has no obvious right to claim.

    But let him drink his smoothie while you keep doubting the Pokes.

    5. Georgia. 49-7 over woefully mismatched Middle Tennessee State. I’m mentioning Georgia for two reasons.

    1. They run the ball and play defense. If no one stops them, they will do this until they are playing in another national title game they will probably lose to Alabama. Georgia is less a football team than a reliable system of physical behaviors and outcomes.
    2. Though he only passed for 138 yards in a 42-point loss in blazing Athens heat, Blue Raiders QB Brent Stockstill is still a winner this season. Stockstill is taking water aerobics and “Teaching Water Safety” to stay eligible in his fifth year on campus.

    If anyone in Murfreesboro wants to talk to him about this, head on down to the campus pool around 10 a.m. He’ll be the only dude bouncing his ass off to “Please Don’t Stop the Music” before heading back to his apartment to play the new Spider-Man game for a few hours before practice.

    6. Oklahoma. Beat Iowa State 37-27, which is better than OU did against the Cyclones last year. Also gave up 447 yards, which seems bad because Iowa State’s offense is not very good.

    The solution is clear: Make Baker Mayfield the defensive coordinator.

    100 percent fire tweets > Mike Stoops’ defense. If you can disprove this statement, please do not email me. I will not answer it, as I am not accepting diverse viewpoints on this topic at this time.

    7. Alabama.“Beat” Ole Miss 62-7. Listen: Alabama might have assembled the greatest football team of all time, and great football teams are supposed to beat mediocre ones like Ole Miss this badly. We are not even a month into the season yet, so let’s continue to treat Alabama like death. It’s coming, but that’s no reason not to enjoy everything else while we can. Sometimes, on rare occasions later sold as movie scripts, you manage to avoid it for a while.

    They’re incredible, but let’s also not act like Alabama’s had a proper test yet. They have played three teams.

    • The first, Louisville, barely beat Western Kentucky 20-17 this past weekend.
    • The second, Arkansas State, just earned a not-overwhelming 29-20 win over Tulsa.
    • The third, Ole Miss, recently surrendered 629 yards and 41 points to Southern Illinois University. It’s one thing to give up Big 12 yardage to a Big 12 team. It’s another to hand it over to an FCS school whose mascot is an aloof, purebred sight hound.

    The good news for Alabama: If they only play half as well against the rest of their competition, they’ll still slaughter them by scores something like 30-3.

    Let’s not even talk about them until they play LSU on November 3 if we don’t have to, and keep the discussion to GIFs of Tua Tagovailoa making pretty throws against iffy-to-okay coverage.

    8. Clemson. 38-7 over Georgia Southern, which is fine. It’s not super impressive, though limiting Georgia Southern’s annoying triple option to 83 yards on the ground is commendable. QB Kelly Bryant suffered something called “a chest bruise” and did not play much in the second half. Reader: Imagine how bad a “chest bruise” feels, and now wonder why anyone sane plays football at all.

    9. BYU. A 24-21 upset of Wisconsin in Camp Randall is the most powerful anti-alcohol PSA our nation has ever known.

    This Cougars team lost 40-6 in Provo last year to the Badgers, and finished out the home slate by losing to UMass. Their first loss this season came with a 21-18 defeat by Cal, who might actually be pretty competent-approaching-good*. BYU might truly be good again, and at the end of the year, Wisconsin might feel no shame about this. Kalani Sitake has cleared the wreckage beautifully so far.

    *No, I’m not ready to consider whether Cal is good, because the minute we consider it a real possibility, the Bears will lose by 40 to someone. That’s just how a team that plays its games standing astride an actual fault line rolls.

    10. Notre Dame. Defeated Vandy 22-17. This might mean something if Vanderbilt is actually good, or might just be another red herring on the way toward an inflated ranking and slotting Notre Dame into a Playoff spot it will inevitably waste?

    It can mean either, depending on your needs, really. Fulfill those first, and the rest will work itself out. (Probably with a baffling, slow loss to Stanford in a few weeks.)

    Etc.? Syracuse? Boston College? The former beat Florida State 30-7, a score that doesn’t really represent how badly the Orangemen beat up on the Noles. The latter is leading the ACC in total yardage and points, winning shootouts with ease like it’s not Boston College.

    Translation: The ACC is on something powerful right now. Don’t take it. The hallucinations are too much to take for the amateur-amateur pharmacology enthusiast.

    Other good teams not ranked for reasons of underwhelming opposition: Penn State, Mississippi State, defending national champions UCF, Duke (see: more ACC hallucinations), and Cal/Colorado/Wazzu in one big lump of Pac-12 undefeated ambiguity.

    Is Texas back? NO STOP USC IS JUST BAD THIS IS A JOKE TO ASK BUT IT IS SERIOUS, STOP SAYING THEY ARE BACK, TEXAS WILL BE BACK WHEN THEY WIN A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP AND NOT A SECOND BEFORE THE CLOCK EXPIRES BECAUSE I WANT TO BE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN ABOUT IT.

    An undefeated Indiana? LEAVE.

    How bout 3-0 Kentuck— LEAVE NOW.


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    This is The Top Whatever, the weekly ranking of only the college football teams that must be ranked.

    1. UCF. Champs stay champs with a 56-36 win over Florida Atlantic. McKenzie Milton might have telekinesis, or he might just be a great quarterback. That we can confuse the two is probably the highest compliment a quarterback can get, and only really applies to one other quarterback in college football right now.

    That’s right: LSU’s Joe Burrow.

    * It is not Joe Burrow, but instead Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama.

    2. Stanford. 38-31 over Oregon. Don’t look at the box score, don’t watch the tape, and don’t try to figure out why Oregon, with the ball and needing only to run out almost all of the clock by taking a knee, decided to instead call an actual run play. Oregon running back CJ Verdell fumbled, Stanford kicked a tying field goal, and Oregon looked shellshocked. Overtime was probably over before it even started.

    Do know this: Stanford got hammered around the field at Autzen Stadium for a half, nearly went down 30-7 at one point ...

    ... and kept plugging away numbers in their spreadsheet football machine until something worked. The Cardinal vultured easy scores off turnovers, and after a frustrating start used Bryce Love on play-fakes while turning the game over to K.J. Costello at quarterback.

    It worked because Stanford receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside matched up against most DBs looks like a dad playing backyard ball against his son. It worked because the Cardinal on the road in a brutal environment followed their game plan like they were running through practice.

    It worked because Stanford got lucky, sure. But luck has to be handled well, and it is hard to handle luck better than turning what seemed like an imminent Oregon TD into a fumble run back for a TD of your own. It is hard to do much better than getting the gift of a fumble with the clock winding down and trailing by three, yes, but lesser teams have panicked in the situation, too.

    Oregon outgained Stanford by huge margins in every major category (including, well, turnovers). That didn’t matter in the end, because Stanford plays the right kind of cold, opportunistic football that doesn’t sweat — especially when they get the gift of three turnovers.

    It’s Stanford, the coldest rich school in college football. Giving them freebies is just an insult.

    3. Kentucky. Won 28-7 over Mississippi State.

    Kentucky is 4-0. The last time the Wildcats were 4-0, the year was 2008, and the American banking industry nearly collapsed. Am I saying that Kentucky football being actually good will trigger a new financial crisis?

    No, what I am saying is that Kentucky fans don’t really care what happens because a.) a lot of them don’t trust banks anyway and would be fine living by barter in a post-apocalyptic society, and b.) no one, not even Kentucky fans, is sure of what to do with this information either.

    Mississippi State came in averaging 311 yards a game on the ground. They left Lexington with 56 rushing yards and the justified opinion that Kentucky — in football — might be good.

    Again, this is confusing for everyone, so the deeply underrated Benny Snell posting pictures of himself carrying a bulldog like a loaf of bread seems like a great coping strategy for all concerned.

    P.S. That 2008 Kentucky team finished 7-6. LIFE IS UNPREDICTABLE. TAKE A LOFTY RANKING WHILE YOU CAN AND RUN WITH IT, WILDCATS.

    4. Alabama. 45-23 over Texas A&M. The Aggies didn’t look too overmatched, actually. They stifled the run game, holding the Tide to a measly 109 rushing yards. In fact, they outgained Alabama on the ground, though most of the Aggies’ 130 came on one 54-yard sprint by QB Kellen Mond.

    What I am saying is that Tagovailoa — four TDs and 387 yards passing, no big deal, all done with the shining aura of a natural born demigod, the touch of a young Aaron Rodgers, and adorable cartoon birds singing on his shoulders — is perfect. There is nothing to be done about that.

    The run game, however, is not perfect. The defense lost some battles one-on-one with Texas A&M’s skill players. All of this is building to an epic and well-rehearsed Nick Saban detonation in the middle of a press conference this week about how Y’ALL THINK WE CAN JUST ROLL ‘EM OUT HERE AND WIN, DON’T YOU? Book it, despite Alabama having no real obvious peer right now.

    5. Clemson. 49-21 over Georgia Tech. A game that didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know about either team, save this: freshman Trevor Lawrence is Clemson’s quarterback now, and incumbent starter Kelly Bryant is on the way toward spot play at best.

    Everyone pretty much knew this already, so yeah: nothing new.

    The Yellow Jackets look like they’re going to focus on their coursework this season and instead let football be the pleasant weekend diversion that it should be.

    6. Georgia. 43-29 over Mizzou, a result that depends on the editing, when it comes to saying whether it was good or worrying for Georgia.

    For example:

    • This was the Bulldogs’ closest win of the season! (They won by 14 on the road in a game that never really felt out of control.)
    • The defense allowed 172 yards and four scores on the ground, far too many for any team, much less one that prides itself on run defense! (The defense held Mizzou QB Drew Lock, who averages like 900 yards a game against anyone else, to 221 yards and no passing TDs.)
    • The offense struggled early! (They did, and it still didn’t matter, and this is all Kirby Smart struggling to find something wrong with a team where very little is going wrong.)

    7. Penn State. That 63-24 win over Illinois followed the same pattern of every Nittany Lion game. There is a sluggish start. Then, the gassing-up of the opponent in response to that team looking competent.

    See the moment this week when, for a few precious seconds, those watching Illinois take a lead over Penn State for in the third quarter thought “Maybe Illinois is good this year!”

    Then, Penn State unloads all of the points in about 15 minutes of play and destroys everything in sight. Remember this if they get down by any margin to Ohio State: it’s fine, because Penn State has 35 points tucked away somewhere. Once they find it, oh buddy, that’s when you are in trouble.

    8. Buffalo. A 42-13 win over Rutgers doesn’t count for much. We’re talking about Rutgers, one of the few completely verified terrible teams of 2018.

    Still, credit to the MAC’s big blue monster for being 4-0, and also for not being content to eke out a win over a Power 5 team. Nope, Buffalo dropped the entire house on Rutgers, then had that house demolished, and then dropped another house on top of that house.

    See, Buffalo? There is at least one actual sports franchise in your city.

    9. Notre Dame. A 56-27 win over Wake Forest does mean a little something. The 56-point outburst came about mostly as a result of Brian Kelly starting backup QB Ian Book over Brandon Wimbush.

    Book threw for 325 yards and two TDs, the offense blew the hell up after struggling for much of the season, and Notre Dame played a great defensive game against an offense that had been shredding opposing defenses. (No, really, this is a thing in 2018. They’re good.)

    Also, Wake Forest tried to come out in a field goal formation without a kicker.

    10. Ohio State. A 49-21 win over Tulane doesn’t say much, though it does help answer the question “Which school where even the smart students have puked on themselves in a social setting has the superior football team?”


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    Which kind of sadness is right for you?

    Sports can make people emotional. Emotions are tricky things, especially sadness.

    Happiness can come in only so many shades. Sadness, though? Sadness has a thousand variations, some so subtle they’re hard to tell from the other.

    That can make deciding exactly how you feel a truly difficult thing. Fortunately, there is help. The words for exactly how you feel may escape you, but these photos of sad sports fans should help distinguish one kind of sad from another.

    Point to the one that shows how you feel.

    Now let’s discuss each.

    Dread

    The instant when sadness is realized. Sadness is not here yet, but you’re in the middle of the road, and it’s coming down the road without brakes.

    Discontentment

     Michael Shamburger

    This is going to be bad, you say to yourself, all the while not fully feeling the bad thing’s full impact. Like going ankle-deep into into the pool of bad feelings, but understanding that things won’t get real-real until you have to get your shoulders under the water.

    Disgust

     Michael Shamburger

    The moment when, emotionally speaking, you get your shoulders under the waters of sorrow. The physical reality of the emotional disaster, as unavoidable as an onrushing defensive tackle seconds from sacking your quarterback. (Again.)

    Shame

    NCAA Football: Tennessee at AlabamaMarvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

    The sadness that makes you want to flee far from everything, even though you cannot. The precursor to alienation, shame is the bridge to divorcing yourself from the world. Shame says “I’d rather not be here, but there is still an I to think and feel these things, even if that I is wearing a paper bag over their head to hide.”

    Alienation

    Tennessee v South CarolinaPhoto by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Putting an entirely new face between yourself and the world. Shame is wearing a paper bag, because the paper bag says yes, this is a paper bag over my real face. Alienation is a step further, i.e. making a whole new self and walking around with it in the face of unimaginable sadness.

    Embittered

    Georgia v TennesseePhoto by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The look on the right.

    The colloquial way of putting this emotion: the exact instant someone realizes that someone else “ain’t shit” and will never redeem even a percentage of the hopeful checks you’ve written against their personal credit.

    Disappointed forgives that. Embittered, though? Embittered spent a hundred bucks in gas and took off work early and paid for a suite at the Comfort Inn to get to the game for the noon kickoff. And dammit, it wants all that money back if you’re gonna do this against some knockoff West Virginia like Appalachian State. All of it, y’all.

    Disbelief

    Less a state of sadness than a defense against it, the panic room of the emotional home. However, spend too much time there, and it just becomes your new living room.

    Please note that this feeling can be so extreme that you must place your hand on your head to a.) keep it from flying off from sadness and b.) verify that this sadness has not in fact destroyed you on the spot.

    If you need another reference to check if this represents how you are feeling: are you a Nebraska fan? This has been you for the better part of 20 years now.

    Anguish

    Is someone reading this aloud to you because you cannot take your hands off your eyes for fear of seeing the world still in front of you? You’re here at the apex of sorrow and pain.

    You are inconsolable and want nothing more than to block out all inputs from the world. Just like your offensive line, blocking is something you cannot do. Is powerful emotion really the best pass rush? Yes, yes it is.

    Self-loathing

    You can’t twist your head off, but losing to Florida by 26 points at home will make it feel like the only option.

    Sadness

    Here we go. It’s here. There is no more before or after, only sadness, on all sides like a rising tide. That word choice might be intentional, and I’m not sorry about it.

    Embarrassment

    When sadness leaves you feeling naked. The nude version of misery, basically.

    Displeasure

    Sep 15, 2012; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers fans react to their teams loosing to the Florida Gators during the second half at Neyland Stadium. Florida defeated Tennessee 37-20. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE
    Sep 15, 2012; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers fans react to their teams loosing to the Florida Gators during the second half at Neyland Stadium. Florida defeated Tennessee 37-20. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

    Accompanied by a crossing of the arms to defend yourself from how the situation is making you feel. Displeasure, while unpleasant, is again still invested in the situation. It’s not happy about it, but it’s still part of a relationship. Differs from discontentment in that discontentment is ongoing and can be fended off, while everyone is defenseless from the instantaneous onset of displeasure.

    Dejection

    Barely with the living. The urge to hide is almost animal. The need to respond to anything exterior, minimal at best.

    Apprehension

    The wave of anxiety flying over you like the beating wing of a huge hawk, hunting for something to use as an anchor point for its claws. This local man portrays the emotion perfectly: something might be wrong, and the possibility of the possibility is enough to upset his equilibrium.

    Misery

    When it’s too much and not going anywhere. If you’re suffering but using the industrial strength version of suffering — i.e. the intense, long-lasting version, bought in bulk from the sadness store — that’s misery.

    Wary

    Are you not sad, but on the lookout for things that could be sad? Overly worried by it, even, to the point of that worry ruining perfectly normal and good things? That is wary, as in “I am wary that this 17-point deficit to Alabama, which is bad, could get worse by double before the game ends.”

    Shocked

    When the sadness is so powerful you simply cannot advance past the beginning and get the urge to pull your face off from the top of your skull.

    Elendfreude

    A novel emotion, but a real one I think needs to be added to the lexicon. Elendfreude is a completely made-up German word meaning “misery-joy,” and it is the best way to come close to the feeling of seeing something awful happen to yourself, yet feeling a perverse joy in it.

    Example one: Your team leads with a 1:26 left and has the other team at fourth-and-14 around midfield. The other team somehow throws for a game-tying TD on that fourth-and-14 and wins.

    Example two: Any time on the internet when someone says “lol” accompanying an announcement of devastating personal news, like “Got cancer, this absolutely owns lol.”

    Inconsolable

    vols

    When the normal mechanisms of humans comforting other humans cannot break the wave of sorrow, you have reached inconsolable. (The man here probably does not help by smelling like fear-sweat and Dickel, but the illustration stands.)

    Gloom

    Just a long walk beneath a blanket of emotional permacloud, usually with regret and disappointment as outriders.

    Dismay

    NCAA Football: Florida at TennesseeRandy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

    If you’re disappointed, but also a little surprised, like when your team finds a novel and shocking way to lose in year 11 of an anticipated three-year rebuild. It’s not the sadness that stings the most. It’s how it got here in the first place.

    Woe

    The kind of sadness you clock into like it’s an hourly job, or a fandom worn proudly but with pain for years on end. Woes transcend troubles in that they are their own historical period and multiply with time.

    Woes are the mortgage. They go nowhere, require payment and attention, and only disappear with the passage of decades.

    Horror

    When the badness hits before the sadness. Horror has to pass first, because horror is the body realizing it has seen something deeply wrong or against nature.

    Spent

    All this sadness just makes you tired.

    Acceptance

    Let the wisest elders show you the face of survival, the vision of the only way out of all these strains of anger and sadness.

    The Buddha believed that life was pain, that accepting pain was the only way toward a truly whole life.

    This fan embodies that. If life has given him four turnovers, he will take a fifth if it comes.


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    The Top Whatever is a weekly ranking of only the college football teams/things that must be ranked at this time.

    1. UCF. 45-14 over Pitt. The champs stay champs until further notice. How long will I keep doing this? Years, if necessary.

    2. Ohio State. Defeated Penn State 27-26. There are two keys to victory in any football game:

    1. Be a big, sturdy team with great depth, superb talent, and the ability to endure stretches of bad play and bad luck. Ohio State gave up huge plays to Penn State. The Buckeyes struggled on offense at times. They looked both shaky and shook on the road for whole chunks, yet managed to win.
    2. Make sure your opponent sets themselves on fire at worst possible moment.

    It’s the scream that really makes this. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. It sounds like he just watched a loved one plummet off a cliff and watched them all the way down, which he sort of just did.

    If anyone wants an explanation for Penn State’s play call on fourth-and-5 with the game on the line — a muddled-looking handoff to the running back for a loss and, um, the loss — there are only a few possible explanations. Penn State checked back twice on the play, never really looked set, and ran face-first into a buzzsaw anyway because they never had their communication straight.

    That happened after taking two timeouts. This would be incompetent, and that is a very mean thing to assume about someone.

    The other possibility is that James Franklin and his staff called that play because they all have rabies. Rabies is the kinder assumption here. Everyone involved with this play call has untreated rabies. They need to seek medical attention immediately, or they will die.

    3. The Fox graphics team.

    MY GOODNESS THAT IS A LOT IN ONE CAPTION

    Colorado WR Laviska Shenault is having an incredible season, even if the teams the Buffs have played are a combined 1-16 so far. And that’s good, but damn, y’all, it is just a third of the way into a long, long season. Stretch a little before pulling that graphic out or risk serious injury.

    4. Clemson. Won, 27-23. This looks a lot better if we take the labels off. Two undefeated ACC teams met in a closely fought contest! One lost their quarterback to injury, yet mounted a determined comeback anchored by the run game. The other held in gamely against the more talented opposition but gave up a game-winning TD drive on the road. These are all reasonable things good teams do under the pressure of a live football game.

    This sounds a lot worse when I say this was Clemson and Syracuse. It sounds even worse if I say that the injured QB was Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, and if I remind you he started over established starter Kelly Bryant, who’s said he’s transferring elsewhere after losing the job. Ha, ha, look, Dabo Swinney gambled and now he has to use a mere three-star quarterback — Chase Brice, who was middling in relief — as starter.

    That intentionally misses a few things in order to laugh at Dabo.

    • Clemson was going to make this switch anyway. They knew this situation was possible, unless they believed Lawrence was the first player in the history of football to be 100 percent immune from injury. They probably did not believe this!
    • Syracuse beat Clemson 27-24 last year, and for some reason or another gives Clemson fits on offense and defense.
    • Clemson pulled the game out anyway by running with Travis Etienne and daring Syracuse to stop it. Etienne finished with 203 yards on 27 carries and scored three times, including the two-yard TD run to cap a 13-play, 94-yard drive for the win.
    • Most people think the longest straight road in the United States is a 31-mile stretch on Highway 46 in South Dakota, but it’s actually a 35-mile I-80 along the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

    TL;DR: Clemson lost this game last year without Bryant, and they won this game this year without Bryant, and sometimes everyone drastically overthinks things based on one game. IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL, YOU SAY? Never.

    5. Notre Dame. Outpaced Stanford 38-17. Heyyyyyy, look: another team that replaced a QB and kept winning. Notre Dame replaced QB Brandon Wimbush with Ian Book, picked up an entirely new passing game, and stopped Stanford from winning four in a row for the first time in the history of the rivalry.

    This brings up the very good question of how Stanford lost this game. I have an answer.

    It should be apparent, but in case it’s not? Stanford refused to do the obvious and powerful thing. The Cardinal ran plays that were not indefensible fade routes to JJ Arcega-Whiteside. I’m not saying Stanford should do this every other play. I’m not saying they should do this even one out of every three plays.

    No, I’m saying that, especially if Bryce Love is not in the game, this should be Stanford’s entire offense. If starting QB K.J. Costello misses a throw to Arcega-Whiteside, immediately replace him with the backup. (I learned this strategy by watching college football in 2018. Quarterbacks can be switched out like bad spark plugs in an engine, but Arcega-Whiteside is a nine-foot-tall literal tree with the hands of a classical pianist.)

    Oh, and this was the first time Notre Dame won at home over a top-10 team since 1993. They might be really, really good. They also might lose to Pitt or miss the playoff because they do not play a conference championship game. This is why Notre Dame should just plan on showing up to the ACC Championship Game like indignant wrestlers and demand to face both teams at once.

    YOU LISTEN TO ME, BROTHER

    Tell me that man can’t hit the camera with spittle during a righteous promo.

    6. Georgia. A 38-12 function over Tennessee. QB Jake Fromm went 16 of 22 for 185 yards and was fine, but just assume he’ll be benched next week for freshman Justin Fields because ... well, just because Georgia feels left out of all the luxury quarterback shuffling going on this year.

    7. The Michigan Athletics Twitter account. Dunking on someone statistically? WE COULD NOT BE MORE BIG TEN RIGHT NOW, MICHIGAN.

    Northwestern blew a 17-0 lead in a 20-17 loss, probably because Michigan is a better school that makes harder-working people with better connections and a deeper appreciation of the musical Hamilton. Just one man’s opinion, but please email me about what a really good school Northwestern is at celebrityhottub at gmail dot com. Be sure to drop the name of at least three semi-famous people you sort of know just so I can confirm you’re really a Northwestern grad.

    P.S. I am not worried about you actually emailing me because an email address is a lead, and Northwestern loses those.

    8. Oklahoma. 66-33 over Baylor. It’s always good when you can come out on the high side of a football game in which the score could also be an international basketball game’s score.

    9. Kentucky. 24-10 over South Carolina, a team that has now tasted the wrath of Big Blue five years in a row. Looking down the schedule, it is entirely possible that with their next three games — Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, and Missouri — Kentucky could be 8-0 going into a matchup against Georgia. The SEC East game of the year will probably be Kentucky versus Georgia, and with factual statements like that, drugs aren’t even necessary.

    10. LSU. 38-16 over Ole Miss. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow threw for three TDs, which against any other team, would be great. Against Ole Miss in 2018, that might be underachievement, but this game took place in the rain, and also hit some kind of wormhole where it had to take five hours? Don’t act surprised that Baton Rouge would be the site of a rip in the fabric of space time. Don’t even try.

    11. Alabama. 56-14 over UL Lafayette. Alabama allowed 200 rushing yards in this game. Is this a weakness someone else can exploit to beat the Tide??????*

    *no

    5,219. All quarterbacks. Replaceable now, evidently.


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    The Top Whatever is Spencer Hall’s weekly ranking of only the college football teams that really must be ranked at this time.

    1. Georgia Tech. 66-31 over Louisville. The entire idea of the Top Whatever is that I can throw off the shackles of polling, actually move teams around based on their accomplishments that week, and salute teams that actually lived this week, man.

    And because living well is the best revenge, I’d be derelict in my duties if I didn’t put Georgia Tech No. 1 this week, their 3-3 record be damned. For Paul Johnson, revenge is best put into a barrel for 12 years and aged to perfection.

    In short: Louisville defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and Paul Johnson have a long beef about Johnson’s triple option and whether it works in the 21st century or not. Read the whole saga here, but it revolves around Johnson, then coach at Navy, trying to schedule Georgia Southern because “I want to beat the hell out of Brian VanGorder.”

    Something like 4,380 days passed. Johnson left Navy, and VanGorder has had seven different jobs since then. Since 2006, there have been three different presidents, babies have become middle schoolers, and people stopped using MySpace. (In retrospect, we should all probably still be on MySpace.)

    Most people probably would have let that slide, or even forgotten about it. Twelve years after getting pissed at VanGorder for saying some pretty standard stuff about the triple option, Johnson reminded everyone that he is not most people.

     ESPN

    The funniest part of this: when most teams get a lead, they slow the game down by running the ball and letting the clock run. This would have been fine here for Louisville, except for one thing: ALL GEORGIA TECH DOES IS RUN THE BALL ANYWAY. Even if they were trying to end the game, they still scored 21 points in the fourth quarter.

    Georgia Tech is the best team in the nation this week, and Johnson will be waiting in the parking lot with a tire iron for you. When? Sometime in the next 12 years. You’ll never know exactly when, though. Good luck!

    2. UCF. 48-20 over SMU. Our defending national champs stay champs, and I’m ashamed my national colleagues continue to ignore them.

    3. This play.

    That is an Aussie rules move, punching the ball ahead so a teammate can catch it and continue forward. Cal punched it to the wrong team, but that will happen when you’re learning a new game. It would explain so much about the history of Cal football if it turns out they’ve been trying to field an Aussie rules team on a college football field for the past hundred or so years.

    4. Notre Dame. 45-23 over Virginia Tech. The Irish are very good, but getting lucky is a large part of having any successful season, and my goodness Notre Dame is catching every ace in the deck so far.

    • Caught Michigan in a one-score win before the Wolverines figured out a few things about their offense
    • Switched QBs midstream and got ... better?
    • Stacked simple wins against Vandy, Wake Forest, and Ball State
    • Got Stanford in South Bend with a gimpy Bryce Love

    They eventually blew Virginia Tech off the field in Blacksburg, but again caught VT in about as good a spot as imaginable: depleted defensively, and playing backup Ryan Willis at QB for only his second start of the year.

    The rest of the schedule reeks of fantastic timing, too. Pitt, Syracuse, the worst FSU team in recent memory, an inconsistent USC with a freshman starting QB, a seemingly down Navy ... in collegiate terms, Notre Dame is acing a senior year slate of ballroom dancing, water aerobics, and Growing Fruit for Fun and Profit. <— actual class at Florida when I was there.

    This is all to say two things:

    1. I know Notre Dame is really good and really lucky, and that’s a great combination for a team looking to make a College Football Playoff.
    2. I also know that because of their unique scheduling arrangement as an independent, it is entirely possible that Notre Dame could get a playoff slot and then get absolutely smoked by a grizzled team that’s dragged its way through the gutter to get there.

    That sound familiar? It should. It’s basically the script for the 2012 Notre Dame season, or how Notre Dame gets to live as an independent completely at the mercy of its schedule. The Irish don’t get assumed value off conference strength alone and have to hope rivals like Stanford, Michigan, and USC all come through with strong resumes.

    When they don’t, a superior team like the 2018 Notre Dame Irish get to coast for a while through an easy semester. Then they get invited to grad school and run face-first into exams they might not be able to pass.

    P.S. Irish RB Dexter Williams is absolutely ridiculous.

    5. Texas. Won the Red River Shootout 48-45. Texas was averaging about 28 points a game on offense coming into the Oklahoma game. The Longhorns then came out and put up 501 yards of offense while facing a superb Oklahoma offense, more than doubling the Horns’ average 2018 output and winning a huge rivalry game.

    This is the correct way of saying this: against a superb Oklahoma offense.

    Because if we’re being honest, all teams compete directly with the Oklahoma offense and bypass the defense completely. The Oklahoma defense is no longer necessary as a competitive factor in games. It is a speed bump. Mike Stoops molds each speed bump into a fresh lump every offseason and presents it proudly at the end of fall camp. I present my next lump. Please clap.

    6. Florida. Beat LSU 27-19. I’m just as confused as you are, but evidently the Gators got first downs when they needed them, and then did not collapse down the stretch? And they’re 5-1 somehow, and just handed LSU their first loss of the year? I’m asking this like I didn’t watch the whole thing. I watched the whole thing and only have one answer: magnets. Ancient, powerful, and mysterious magnets are behind Florida being okay at football again.

    7. Alabama. 65-31 over Arkansas. Tua Tagovailoa went 10 of 13 for 334 yards and four TDs. He did not play after the first drive of the second half. Tagovailoa has not passed in a fourth quarter all season. This opens the possibility of Tagovailoa doing two of the flossiest college football things ever: being a modern Heisman favorite while a.) never playing a full game and b.) not getting 3,000 yards passing in the regular season.

    Alabama’s defense giving up 31 points and over 400 yards to Arkansas is a thing, but let’s be clear about what kind of thing it is. Chad Morris picked on Alabama with wheel routes, misdirection, and all kinds of evil little calls that every defense struggles with in the open field.

    Inexperienced units especially struggle with those. Believe it or not, Alabama’s secondary is still one of those, and was Nick Saban’s biggest concern coming into the season. It would probably be more of a concern if Alabama wasn’t scoring 60 points in games, and that’s surely something Saban understa—

    —and it turns out that no, no, Saban does not understand this, and never will.

    8. Georgia. 41-13 over Vanderbilt in another installment of “Let’s Beat Up On A School With Better Test Scores.”

    9. Ohio State. 49-26 over Indiana. See all that stuff up there about Alabama? That’s sort of all true for Ohio State, who continues to paper over lapses in the defense with a QB who can put up six TDs without breaking a sweat. The big difference: Ohio State gives up huge plays when they have those lapses. Indiana got four plays over 30 yards against the Buckeyes, continuing Ohio State’s streak of being one of the worst defenses for big plays in the nation.

    10. Clemson. Demolished Wake Forest 63-3. The Tigers had three players rush for a hundred yards each and ran up 471 yards on the ground alone. Clemson also played Wake Forest, a team that is not capable of hanging onto Clemson’s back bumper for longer than one quarter. Balance your enthusiasm over this accordingly, but this is still something most teams even don’t do against their fluffiest FCS competition.

    TEAMS I AM NOT RANKING BECAUSE THAT WOULD INSTANTLY CAUSE THEM TO LOSE A GAME NEXT WEEK

    • NC State, who is 5-0 after beating Boston College, but usually ends up 8-4 anyway, so let’s not count that as meaning much.
    • Cincinnati, who defeated Tulane to go 6-0 but really hasn’t played anyone, but hey bowl eligible is bowl eligible.

    TEAMS I AM NOT RANKING BECAUSE THEY PLAYED (AND WON) AGAINST KANSAS

    • West Virginia. Will Grier is brilliant because if you’re going to have a four-turnover game, be sure to have it against Kansas.

    TEAMS THAT ARE PROBABLY THE BEST ONE-LOSS TEAMS BUT WERE ON A BYE AND STILL WONDERING WHAT THE HELL THEY DID AGAINST OHIO STATE ON THAT LAST PLAY

    • Penn State.


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    The Top Whatever is a weekly ranking of only the teams that must be ranked right this second.

    1. UCF. Champs stay champs, even if it happened to be in a one-point, come-from-behind win over a 4-3 Memphis. UCF should be in the College Football Playoff, but will instead have to blow out Auburn in a bowl game again.

    You know this is a joke because I said Auburn is going to make a bowl game.

    2. Qaadir Sheppard, Ole Miss.

    One:

    Two:

    3. LSU. Cracked Georgia 36-16 in the most shocking result of the day. Playing a close game against Georgia and pulling it out would have made sense. LSU plays nothing but close games, and the idea of the Tigers getting deep into the fourth quarter and catching a break? That could have reasonably happened.

    But this didn’t make sense, based on literally anything anyone has seen from either team. For example:

    FEAR THE BURROWBACK

    Georgia was so broken by the time the fourth quarter rolled around that they allowed LSU QB Joe Burrow to pull the ball on a zone read, ramble into the open field, and then sprint untouched. Joe Burrow is a fine, sort of mobile quarterback. He is not someone who should ever run 59 yards through the Georgia defense without a police escort.

    LSU ran for 275 yards on the day, controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and forced Georgia to rely on Jake Fromm to pass them out of trouble. Spoiler: Fromm, at this point in his career, is not capable of just passing Georgia out of trouble with ease.

    LSU made Georgia into something they had not been for the better part of two years: helpless, controlled by the other team, and playing on terms they could not change. When that happens, the Tigers can win any game they want. When they win any game they want, they can play any song they want.

    And when they play any song they want, they play “Neck.”

    P.S. When Alabama was asked to stop cussing during the return of “Dixieland Delight,” most of them seemed to obey. Meanwhile, the LSU administration had been asking students to stop yelling profanities for a decade during “Neck.” When the Great Hunger comes, l will choose the real ones at LSU because unlike some self-styled freedom-lovers, they actually don’t obey anyone.

    P.P.S. It’s also possible that LSU and everyone in Louisiana in general don’t even understand the entire concept of authority, much less that they would obey it in the first place. Which is also fine. Geaux Tigahs.

    4. Michigan. Flattened Wisconsin 38-13. Reduced Alex Hornibrook to a turnover-spitting shell of himself. Ran for 320 yards, which is not only the thing Wisconsin is supposed to do, but is also the most ground yardage given up by a Wisconsin defense since 2011’s Rose Bowl against Oregon. Didn’t pass the ball really well, but that’s like having a subject in your sentences. Not really necessary when you’re flexing like Michigan is right now. Kinda superfluous to be honest.

    5. Iowa State. Whooped up on West Virginia, 30-14.

    LIFE FINDS A WAY

    Something that happens every single year: one week when teams that have been through real hardship run into teams that have experienced none. This was that week.

    Take the case of Iowa State, a team that’s been through things. They’ve already played an entire football game with Iowa, as unpleasant an experience as anyone can have. They’ve slogged out games with TCU and gotten strafed by Oklahoma. They’ve experienced bad things.

    Meanwhile, West Virginia’s been living high on the hog, scoring 3,000 points a game and breezing through defenses with ease.

    So when the two of them met, the possibility for vengeful ugly was real already. How real did it get? So real that the Mountaineers weren’t even given a chance to try on offense, much less turn the game into a shootout. Iowa State had 498 yards of offense and 25 first downs, mobbing possession and keeping the Mountaineer defense on the field.

    Iowa State held the ball so long, the West Virginia offense didn’t even get a chance to exist. In a regulation American football game, West Virginia only ran 42 plays on offense and only got seven first downs on the day. West Virginia barely got to throw a punch before Iowa State hammered them into a corner for an hour.

    And now, bad things have happened to you, Mountaineers. The Iowa State band members in T-Rex suits? They were a warning, not a joke.

    6. Arson. Huge week for arson, the celebration of choice for the discriminating state college fan.

    Michigan State is still the Undertaker because a.) their matches are sometimes unwatchable, and b.) they will always find a way to come back from the dead in a season after being written off completely.

    Do the Spartans need a Turnover Coffin? YES THEY ABSOLUTELY NEED A TURNOVER COFFIN. Make this happen, Michigan State people. It would be weird for any other team besides the perennial Dead Man of college football.

    HLAFTIME FOR THE TOP WHATEVER.

    Okay, we cnotinue.

    7. Oregon. 30-27 in OT over Washington.

    COUNT IT

    Washington and Oregon were both overdue for this. Washington’s credit rating plunged over the last month with lackluster performances against UCLA and Arizona State, and the heavy devaluation of their Quality Loss™ to Auburn to open the season. Oregon’s sole loss to Stanford, meanwhile, was way, way flukier than it looked and hinged on a single bad/weird bit of time management by the Ducks.

    Which is to say that the predictions of Washington going on a decade-long win streak against Oregon were greatly exaggerated, and Oregon became the first team in the Pac-12 to actually call the Huskies out for being incapable of pulling away from comparably talented teams.

    Also, Washington gave up that unearthly catch by Jaylon Redd off an equally unreal throw by Justin Herbert at the end of the first half, and if you give up TDs with time expiring in the first half, it’s almost 100 percent a sign that your team is doomed. It’s like giving up a safety: it’s not a guarantee that your team has suffered an irreparable core breach, but it’s definitely not a good sign.

    8. Alabama. 39-10 over Missouri. The story of Alabama’s 2018: after an injury scare to their otherworldly dual-threat QB, the Crimson Tide were forced to put in their national championship-winning, 2016 SEC Offensive Player of the Year quarterback who can squat over 500 pounds, bench 405, and run a 4.5 40-yard dash.

    What passes for drama for Alabama is for anyone else the definition of disgusting luxury.

    9. Ohio State. A bad, 30-14 win over Minnesota? The Golden Gophers have one of the least productive offenses in the country and spent the better part of three quarters putting real digits up against the Buckeye defense. Like, their best yards per play of the year (7.07 per play) in a season when the Gophers opened with New Mexico State.

    QB Dwayne Haskins can throw for a quarter of a mile per game, and it won’t matter when the Buckeyes continue to play like a Big 12 team that’s taken up guest residence in the Shoe. If only there were a team capable of playing defense on their schedule BY GAWD THAT’S MICHIGAN STATE’S MUSIC.


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    Learn to identify one in the wild

    Q: Is that a strength coach?

    A:

    Yeah, that’s not main LSU strength coach Tommy Moffitt, but that is still a strength coach, because:

    1. no neck
    2. beard
    3. on sideline manhandling and yelling at people bigger than he is without fear
    4. shaved head
    5. HEADBUTTING PEOPLE WITH HELMETS WHILE HE HIMSELF IS NEITHER A PLAYER NOR SOMEONE WITH A HELMET
    6. seems like he lifts weights a lot
    7. works for the football team? <—— kind of an assumption here, and not at all proven!

    In summary: Strength coaches have a built-in helmet, and it’s called their skull. It was good enough for David when he faced Goliath, and it’s good enough for strength coaches.


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    The Top Whatever is a weekly ranking of only the college football teams that must be ranked at this time.

    1. UCF. 37-10 over ECU. Champs stay champs until further notice.

    2. Purdue. 49-20 over Ohio State. The Purdue Boilermakers lost to Eastern Michigan earlier this year. And Missouri. And Northwestern. The Purdue Boilermakers have lost to some very bad teams, is the point, and have three losses on the season and generally should not beat Ohio State in a football game.

    So last night? Last night Purdue ran Ohio State, the No. 2 team in the country, into a brick wall with the accelerator flat to the floor. This was a complete domination. Purdue passed when they wanted to, ran for three TDs, and generally confused the Ohio State defense to the point of comedy.

    For instance, Ohio State’s defense has evidently never defended a simple trap run play, which Purdue ran a couple of times late in the game for the big runs that turned this from “shocking upset” to “appalling blowout.” Greg Schiano makes $1.5 million a year. The market is perfect and never makes mistakes.

    This generally happens over the course of a season. Teams can start off looking awful, then tweak a few things and suddenly look way, way better. Purdue, for instance, settled on a starter at QB and started scoring 40 points a game. David Blough threw for 378 yards and three TDs last night against the Buckeyes.

    He also earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for running out onto the field after the Boilermaker defense finished the game with a pick six off Dwayne Haskins. An incredible teammate is always there to help you talk shit, and Blough is obviously an incredible teammate.

    Ohio State is unraveling, saddled with a defense unable to defend even mediocre offenses and an offense losing the ability to run the ball at all. It’s kind of hard to talk about how any of this without mentioning that, or how Ohio State in 2018 is slowly turning into Missouri With Five-Star Talent.

    There is one difference between Missouri and Ohio State, though. Missouri actually managed to beat Purdue in 2018.

    3. Wazzu. 34-20 over Oregon. Wazzu, not Washington State. Washington State is a fine state university in Eastern Washington. Wazzu is the football team, the erratic, sometimes disastrous, and occasionally brilliant squad that will do all of the following in its best of games:

    • Race out to a 27-0 lead, making Oregon look hopeless and hapless
    • Roll out for the second half flat as old roadkill
    • Immediately let Oregon back into the game, 27-20
    • Convince everyone watching they will collapse
    • Somehow turn around and score a game-clincher on an angelic TD by Gardner Minshew to Dezmon Patmon
    • More improbably: hold defensively and finish out the win over the Ducks

    The usual runaway mine cart hell-ride for the Cougars fan, in other words. This is why they drink and why they’re better at drinking than you. This team is going places — terrifying, possibly haunting, possibly thrilling places. Possibly places where they rocket off a cliffside highway without hitting the brakes, for instance.

    The really funny part: they are, right now, the Pac-12’s last shot at a Playoff slot. This is hell, Pac-12 people, and Mike Leach is sunning himself in a lawn chair, asking why everyone’s complaining about the heat.

    P.S. Serious Uncle Rico vibes from QB Gardner Minshew here. He’s got a headband AND armbands, and thus may not ever lose a game again.

    NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington StateJames Snook-USA TODAY Sports

    4. Michigan. 21-7 over Michigan State in a bitter, ugly rivalry game with ugly, bitter football to match. One quibble: the postgame accusation that Mark Dantonio enjoyed the pregame theatrics between the two teams, though.

    This accusation is clearly untrue. It suggests that Mark Dantonio has ever smiled during Michigan-Michigan State week.

    5. That Brief Moment When Rutgers Was Winning a Conference Game

    6. Clemson, 41-7 over NC State, with 308 yards passing for QB Trevor Lawrence proving Clemson really is using the entire schedule as practices with different focuses. One week they decide to see how well they run. The next is a passing drill, where they try out a bunch of new stuff with Lawrence.

    They’ll probably spend the second half against Florida State working on long field goals and punting. Clemson will already have a 24-point lead.

    That they can casually do this against NC State — a good football team — is slightly terrifying, but Clemson can beat other teams so badly we have to remind everyone that their hopeless opponents are, in every other world, good teams with good players.

    For example, Ryan Finley is the best quarterback NC State has had since Russell Wilson, and on Saturday he looked exactly like Russell Wilson ... the one that threw five interceptions against Green Bay in 2016. If you’re an NC State fan, try not to remember why Wilson left for Wisconsin in the first place. It will make you mad, and you have enough things to be mad about right now.

    7. Nebraska. 53-28 over Minnesota. The Huskers got their first win of the Scott Frost era, and on Scott Frost Day, no less! We’ve just made every day Nebraska plays a Scott Frost Day in hope that eventually Scott Frost Day and a Huskers win would meet on the calendar. Lo: This week is that week, and Happy Scott Frost Day to you all.

    P.S. If we told you it would take five years to turn Minnesota into a decent program, you would believe us, wouldn’t you?

    8. Alabama. 58-21 over Tennessee in a game that produced one of the most mindbending moments in recent college football history.

    That’s the coach who helped put the Tennessee program into foreclosure, Butch Jones, getting a Gatorade bath on the Alabama sidelines. Jones received $200,000 this month from the University of Tennessee, effectively paying him to coach against the Vols because Alabama isn’t paying him much to be one of the 5,680 analysts who hang around the offices in Tuscaloosa. This is insane and also perfectly normal in 2018’s college football ecosystem.

    P.S. Alabama is still crazily good and will win the playoff easily. Everyone else has to scratch some meaning and fun out of the season without paying too much attention to them. This has been true for years now. The sooner you learn it, the happier you will be.

    9. LSU. Only mentioning an unwatchable, 19-3 victory over Mississippi State for two reasons.

    1. Good lord, Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald is passing the ball right now like he has a foot for a hand.
    2. LSU had 239 yards of total offense and still managed to win 19-3. GARBAGE GAME KINGS, STAND UP.