Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Cynic’s Guide to College Football, Week 6

You know it’s a strange year in college football when College Gameday is broadcasting from Vanderbilt. Fortunately, we’ve (finally!) got some good games coming up, with Oklahoma/Texas, LSU/Florida and Oklahoma State/Missouri leading the way. Still, there’s a lot of bad football being played, and here is your weekly commentary on some of it.

1. Bart Simpson for Yell Leader

Is there a team in America who has underachieved more than Texas A&M? I don’t mean just this year, I mean ever. Sure, this year is no bed of roses (2-3 record, a loss to Arkansas State, a near loss to Army and giving up three defensive and special teams TDs last week). But what has TAMU done historically? A&M hasn’t won a national title since 1939. They’ve had just two major award winners (John David Crow, 1957 Heisman, and Dat Nguyen, 1998 Lombardi and Bednarik). They have not won a bowl game since the creation of the Big 12 (their last bowl win was a 22-20 victory over Michigan in the 1995 Alamo Bowl). Since the days of Bear Bryant and Gene Stallings, the Aggies have won just eight conference championships since 1967, including three for Jackie Sherrill (1985-87) and four for R.C. Slocum (1991-93, 1998).

On paper, TAMU should be one of the nation’s dominant programs. Huge alumni and donor base. Massive recruiting hotbed. Respectable facilities. Rabid fan support. But while Aggie fans like to think of Texas and A&M as entries 1 and 1a in the state football hierarchy, nothing could be further from the truth. Even in good years. TAMU has slipped well behind Texas Tech as the second-best team in the state. And this year, I think that most would agree TCU has moved into the #3 spot with A&M battling the likes of Rice, Houston and Baylor for, at best, fourth place. Their only consolation is that North Texas is absolutely terrible and is occupying the cellar.

While we now know that there is no basement in the Alamo, if there was, the North Texas Mean Green would be there.

I’m not saying this to bash TAMU. I actually like the Aggies, in spite of some of their weird cultish, Kool-Aid drinking traditions. I say this because I think the 12th Man deserves better. While I can’t claim to know the recipe for the magic potion that would make A&M a national power, I do know that all the ingredients should be there.

2. Anyone Want Some Cheese?

Is it just me, or was there an inordinate of whining going on after games this week? Chase Daniel’s anonymous phantom spit allegations (put up or shut up, big boy). Rival Pac-10 coaches complaining about Pete Carroll violating NCAA rules about attending high school games (USC bend the rules? I’m shocked! Shocked, I say!) Jim Harbaugh complaining about the officiating in Stanford’s loss to Notre Dame (Although the game was at ND, it was a Pac-10 crew. And Lord knows they never make mistakes.) I guess, just like the Christmas shopping season, whining and excuses come earlier and earlier every year.

3. My Name is Earl, Football Style.

In some cases, however, criticizing the officials might be justified. (Credit for this find goes to The Wiz of Odds.) Fresno State was down 17 points to Hawaii, but was able to come back thanks in no small part to the help of 10 penalties for 82 yards on the Warriors, compared to zero penalties on the Bulldogs. But the clincher came in the first overtime, when Fresno State lined up for a field goal. You be the judge.

Look, we all know that kickers and punters taking a dive is nothing new. But getting a flag for something this bogus in such a key situation shouldn’t happen. Fortunately, the ball wide right.

4. When Television Contracts Go Horribly, Horribly Wrong

I may be getting a little ahead of myself here, but I found this very interesting and disturbing. Apparently, Fox Sports Net is contractually obligated to carry the November 22 Apple Cup game between Washington and Washington State. While there’s a lot of football to be played between now and then, there is a very good chance that game could pit a 1-9 team against an 0-10 team. That’s some gooooood watchin’.

5. Defensive Coordinators Need Not Apply.

If you’re like me and enjoy a good hard-hitting defensive slugfest, then for the love of God, avoid Columbia, Missouri this weekend. Missouri and Oklahoma State rank #2 and #3 respectively in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 106 points per game between them. OSU is second in the nation in rushing offense; Mizzou is third in passing offense. MU’s Chase Daniel is the Heisman frontrunner and OSU’s Zac Robinson, while overshadowed by Daniel and Sam Bradford, has been as good of a QB as there is in the nation. While both teams’ defenses are not as bad as they are sometimes perceived, let’s be honest—their only job this weekend is to act as a speed bump. I have no idea what the Vegas line on this game is, but take the over.

6. What’s in the Water in Oklahoma?

And while we’re on the subject of Oklahoma State, does someone out there smarter than me have the answer to this question: prior to this year, has any state ever had three D-1A teams be undefeated this late in the season? As of right now, #1 Oklahoma, #17 Oklahoma State and inexplicably unrated Tulsa are all sitting at 5-0. While Oklahoma may not be so great at such things as household income, education or health care, the Sooner State has got this football thing down cold.

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