Week 9 Post-Amble: Is Alabama-LSU The De Facto Championship?


Clemson’s falling from the ranks of unbeaten. Wisconsin’s BCS title hopes are dust in the wind, and by virtue, so is the entire Big Ten’s. Boise State may need every BCS conference contender to lose twice just to get a shot. Oklahoma State and Stanford won in impressive fashion Saturday night, though each for much different reasons. The Cowboys and Cardinal have something to say about the Week 10 Alabama-LSU heavyweight collision, but general consensus seems to be the Tide and Tigers are well above their competition.

The SEC showdown has been hyped for weeks — why, the Post-Amble dedicated its introduction to the game in Week 4, comparing it to the Marvel/DC Comics crossover Superman vs. Incredible Hulk. Nos. 1 & 2 have a lofty benchmark to meet though, courtesy of Stanford and USC going triple overtime in the Coliseum. This very blog said it last night, but it bears reiterating that the Cardinal took everything the Trojans could throw at them, and took it in stride. Surviving close conference tests is facet of a champion: remember Alabama – Tennessee in ’09 or last year’s Iron Bowl?

SU may not be able to match the celebrated SEC speed, but Andrew Luck does an outstanding job getting the most of the skills those around him do possess. The defeat of USC is the perfect example. No one receiver got more than four catches, but six had at least three. The Cardinal corps of big targets like 6-foot-8 Levine Toilolo, 6-foot-2 Ty Montgomery, and 6-foot-4 Ryan Hewitt are football’s answer to a frontcourt like North Carolina’s trees of Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson.

And in Luck, the Cardinal have the game’s best proverbial point guard. The triple OT was his opportunity to prove he can handle late game pressure, and Luck passed with flying colors.

As Stanford did at USC, Oklahoma State’s faced a similar conference test in handing Texas A&M its first of three second half meltdown losses. Baylor posed the Cowboys no such challenge. OSU rolled easily, 59-24. While high scoring routs are nothing new for the Pokes, how OSU did it is what makes this team an intriguing championship prospect.

Questions lingered about OSU’s defensive mettle. Those questions were answered as one of the premiere Big 12 offenses was completely shutout of the end zone for over three quarters. And while Justin Blackmon continued to demonstrate why he could very well be a Heisman Trophy finalist, Joseph Randle continued on one of the most underappreciated seasons any skill position player from a BCS conference has going. Randle scored four touchdowns on 154 yards, and Hershel Sims tacked on another triple digit performance.

OSU just might be a legitimate contender to either of those ballyhooed SEC defenses because of how many ways the Pokes can attack. The same was said of Oregon prior to last year’s title game, and Auburn managed to stifle the Duck defense en route to forcing a low scoring affair better suited to the Tigers’ strengths. However, offensive coordinator-turned-head coach Mike Gundy and current OC Todd Monken are running a system perhaps more difficult to game plan for.

Blackmon is the star of the receiving corps, yes, but is hardly the sole weapon. Brandon Weeden four targets with well over 200 yards. Randle is the running game’s version of Blackmon, the No. 1 option and stat producer. But Jeremy Smith and the emergence of Hershel Sims have made OSU’s ground game just as dangerous as its passing attack. This offense is a Swiss Army knife.

The Very Definition of Letdown Games

Regular readers of SaturdayBlitz.com know of the Letdown Game theory. It dictates that the winner of an emotionally-charged contest one week must have a particularly strong week of practices and retain that level of focus, or suffer a letdown loss. They’re as much an inevitability in a college football season as fans bickering over bowls vs. playoffs.

Following Michigan State’s upset of Wisconsin was a daunting trip to Lincoln. A loss to Nebraska isn’t necessarily a letdown; in the Huskers you have a top 15 team playing in one of the most intimidating venues in the nation. No, the loss itself wasn’t Sparty’s letdown, but rather the completely anti-climatic matter it happened.

Texas Tech’s loss is less understandable. There’s Letdown Games, then there’s what occurred in Lubbock. While MSU followed its emotional upset with a road game against another highly ranked foe, Tech came home to face a team that had lost its last four by scores of 37-14, 49-26, 52-17 and 33-17. Iowa State rolled in and redecorated Jones AT&T Stadium (read the recap on Clones Confidential). Jared Barnett outshone Seth Doege in the battle of quarterbacks, scoring touchdowns in the air and on the ground and coming just eight rushing yards shy of the always-impressive 100-100.

All the Cyclones did was hold high scoring Tech to its season low, seven points, and snap the Red Raiders’ streak of 69 consecutive games with a passing touchdown. Suddenly the ‘Clones are just two wins from bowl eligibility.

The four-game skid ISU ended in Lubbock is now matched by…Florida? Rarely are the Gators involved in a comparison with the Cyclones, but alas, UF dropped its fourth in a row. All have been SEC contests, and in none did UF score more than 20 points.

The World’s Largest Cocktail Outdoor Cocktail raised the ceiling, but UF was on a pace for so much more. John Brantley returned to the lineup and gave the Gators a desperately needed injection of energy as they built a two-touchdown lead early. After that, it became the recent status quo for Florida.

Georgia past by UF on the opposite escalator, waving bye-bye on the way up with Win No. 6 in a row.

Brantley was an obvious upgrade at quarterback from true freshmen Jeff Driskell and Jacoby Brissett, throwing a touchdown and 245 yards. However, a 2/13 third down conversion rate and -19 yards rushing sends up more red flags about the Gator offense. That’s not a typo: Florida finished in the red rushing.

The criticism of Charlie Weis at Notre Dame was that he could manage an offense. After dismissing Mike Hayward as the Irish’s OC, ND became a high scoring squad that’s lack of success was more the result of defense. Weis has been hailed as an offensive genius. His NFL career supports the praise. His college career, however?

Yes, the 2009 Irish average 30 PPG. They were also No. 84 in rushing yards, though. Run game offense has never been Weis’s forte. Head coach Orlando Sentinel. That’s what a worthwhile head coach does rather than throw his assistants or players under the bus.

But something has to change for the Gators on the line, and offensively as a whole before things get worse. While the defenses ahead aren’t ‘Bama, LSU or Georgia, South Carolina and Vandy haven’t been slouches on that side of the ball. The Florida State rivalry game could be especially ugly with the Seminoles ranking No. 12 in points yielded.

FSU has ratcheted up its play since dropping three straight to Oklahoma, Clemson and Wake Forest. The ‘Noles are back to 5-3 with lowly Boston College ahead in a Thursday night tilt. FSU could still conceivably reach the ACC Championship game and thus a BCS bowl, and its case got a boost on Saturday when both Clemson and Wake Forest lost.

Aforementioned South Carolina deserves kudos. Since losing their senior quarterback to dismissal and a Heisman-caliber running back to injury, the Gamecocks have persevered with defense. Tennessee was using freshman Justin Worley at quarterback, which SCar exploited via two interceptions, and Matt Simms wasn’t any better. The Volunteers were unable to establish an semblance of a ground game, and that certainly did the quarterbacks no favors. Given all the misfortune that’s befell the Gamecocks, that this team enters November in control of its SEC East destiny is a testament to the Ol’ Ball Coach.



• Case Keenum, Houston

Well here comes a No Duh selection. Case Keenum’s nine touchdowns passes Thursday night set a bar no one is going to meet this season.


• Jarvis Jones, Georgia

The USC transfer got to Florida’s John Brantely four times in the Dawgs’ big win. Jones is now the SEC’s sack leader for the season, and tied a Georgia record for getting to a QB in a single game. Think Monte Kiffin could have used him against Stanford?


Arizona lost a high scoring heartbreaker — what else is new? — but the Wildcats ended Week 9 with the most notable play of the week. Robert Golden took an interception back 82 yards for a score, but in total ran roughly two miles. Watch Golden at the end of the scoring rush have to catch his breath.


Vanderbilt had No. 10 Arkansas on the ropes for over three quarters, but gave up the lead late and shanked a would-be tying field goal in the waning moments. But the missed field goal attempt wasn’t the ugliest play of the day. Marquel Wade devastated VU punt returner Jonathan Krause with a hit so vicious and cheap, it deserves a multiple-game suspension.

Vandy fell to 4-4, but the Commodores’ postseason hops remain in tact. With Kentucky, Wake Forest, Tennessee and Florida still on the schedule, the Commodores should be able to win twice more — typing UF in that list is almost impossible, but alas.

James Franklin has done a masterful job leading this program. The ‘Dores no longer play like doormats, and that’s noteworthy for the entire SEC, old or new.

SEC WEST MATCH-UP (circa 2012)

As mentioned in the intro, its loss to Oklahoma State was the first of three second half meltdowns A&M suffered this season. Saturday against future SEC West partner Missouri was No. 3, and perhaps the most confounding. The Aggies dominated MU through the initial 30 minutes, as they had OSU and Arkansas previously.

What makes this one more troubling for head coach Mike Sherman is the Cowboys and Razorbacks boast high powered offenses. Missouri hasn’t exactly been an offensive juggernaut this season. In fact, the Tigers’ 38 points was their season high against an FBS opponent and just second time scoring 30 or more against such a foe. The Tigers rolled off 14 fourth quarter points, while A&M managed all of three points in the second half.

The Aggies’ second half offensive woes are perplexing. A&M isn’t turning it over. Ryan Tannehill completed 35 passes for 317 yards, and Christine Michael went for 104 rushing yards. However, Tannehill did throw 53 times on the day. The criticism of A&M’s previous second half blown leads was that Sherman remained intent on passing. And while logic is a coach should not alter game plan and enter a “play not to lose” mode,


Luke Fickell deserves commending. He entered a near-impossible situation at Ohio State. A defensive mind, he was left an offense with no direction, and it showed. A few short weeks ago, his interim status felt even more temporary than most. Yet on Saturday, the Buckeyes showed signs of offensive life and the defense continued to establish itself as one of the nation’s best.

The 29 points OSU held Wisconsin to were the Badgers’ lowest this season. Conversely, freshman Braxton Miller helped guide the offense to its third highest output, and most against a team that will end the season with more than two wins. Miller threw just 12 times and completed seven for 89 yards, but he didn’t make mistakes. That’s all a Buckeye quarterback can do, especially when a back like “Boom” Herron is going off for nearly 150 yards.

There are obvious issues with the Badger defense, which has surrendered 70 points in the last two weeks. Nebraska started to crack the facade of a unit that was depleted from a year ago, yet as UW rolled over weaker opponents in previous weeks, its inexperience became an afterthought.

Not so much anymore.

UW is now looking up at the Big Ten Championship game, tied with Ohio State by record for second place in the Leaders division but losing the tiebreaker. Penn State holds a two-game advantage almost certain to slip as the Nittany Lions still must face Nebraska and both UW and OSU. Should Fickell salvage a difficult start and win the division, perhaps even lead the Bucks to the Rose Bowl, would he earn the head gig full-time? Stay tuned.


Before it took the field against Syracuse, Louisville football players’ teammate Anthony Conner spoke to the Cardinals. The Louisville Courier-Journal reports he wore a neck brace after breaking his neck Oct. 21 vs. Rutgers.

The popularity of baseball’s Moneyball, Sabermetrics, and various other emphases on statistics overshadow the human element of sports, but the fire with which UL took the field against the Orange says that yes, there’s still some mystique behind the mathematics.

The Cardinals looked done at 2-4 just a few weeks ago, but have won a pair of Big East games to move within striking distance of the conference championship. The progression of Teddy Bridgewater from a month ago is nothing short of astounding, and Saturday he had his best performance yet.

Meanwhile, UL asserted its defense against an Orange offense that just a week prior rolled up 42 points on West Virginia. Charlie Strong was hired as UL’s head coach for his defensive chops, sharpened as Florida’s DC. The Cardinals won the Beef-O-Brady’s Bowl last December because of their defense, and this year that unit has held up the offense while it discovers itself. Victor Anderson is beginning to stand out as one of the league’s top running backs alongside Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead and injured Pitt star Ray Graham. UL finishes with 3-of-4 on the road, including next Saturday at West Virginia. It’s a difficult road, but should this turnaround continue it will be one of the better stories in the season’s second half.


Tonight is “The Simpsons” Treehouse of Horror XXII. Considering I remember watching Treehouse of Horror I, I feel ancient, but have not watched a “Simpson” in years. This is the penultimate installment of the show’s Halloween special, as next season the show mercifully comes to an end. Seasons 2-11 of “The Simpsons” remain my favorite stretch of any comedic program ever: more so than “Seinfeld” or “M*A*S*H*.”

“The Simpsons” of old is like past Notre Dame or Miami teams. I see highlights of 1980s ‘Canes and Irish teams, or mid-1990s “Simpsons” episodes, and remain impressed just how good all were. Recapturing that past glory seems like a futile endeavor at this juncture, and it’s unfortunate.

Other programs have long since supplanted “The Simpsons” on my new television rotation, and thus far the best Halloween special of 2011 was ABC’s “Happy Endings.” For those not watching, it comes highly recommended. Aside from featuring the lovely Elisha Cuthbert, it’s humorous in an edgy way not typical of the four networks.