Welcome to the Life on Mars edition of the Cynic's Guide. For those of you not familiar with the premise of the show, the basic storyline is that the lead character is a police officer who is hit by a car and then wakes up in the year 1973. And that's what it seems like, with Texas, Alabama, Penn State and Oklahoma at the tops of the polls. But the future continues to be parity (aka mediocrity), and we're going to see more bad football. Case in point . . .
1. There's Nothing Like a Good Win. And This Was Nothing Like a Good Win.
We've all heard about moral victories, but is there such a thing as a completely meaningless victory? You make the call—which is worse:
A: That Georgia Tech, a BCS conference school, could only win by three at home over a FCS (nee I-AA) team.
B: That it wasn't even a good FCS team (a la Appalachian State vs. Michigan last year).
C: That the team they beat sounds less like a football school than a trial law firm that advertises on late-night TV.
D: That the Yellow Jackets had just 199 yards of total offense and three turnovers.
E: That they needed a last-minute tipped field goal to do it.
F: That the win is completely meaningless.
G: All of the above.
On Saturday, Georgia Tech eked out a 10-7 over Gardner-Webb, a Christian university in Boiling Springs, NC with a student population of 4,000 and which, until Saturday, 99% of the population had never heard of and 99.99% didn't know they had a football team. Best of all, this win counts for absolutely nothing. NCAA rules only allow you to count one win versus a FCS (nee I-AA) team, and GT's season-opening win against Jacksonville State fits that bill. So, although Georgia Tech is now 5-1, they are still two wins away from bowl eligibility. And with their upcoming schedule, the Yellow Jackets may struggle to get them.
GT was down to their third string QB who, at 6-4 and 234 pounds isn't exactly the poster child for coach Paul Johnson's triple option offense. I bet Army (who was supposed to be the Yellow Jackets' opponent this week, but bought out of the contract, forcing the Yellow Jackets to find a I-AA replacement) is wishing they'd shown up after all.
2. Speaking of Ugly Wins . . .
You'd think that, in the case of a 28-0 shutout, you could at least call it a good game for one team. But not really in the case of last week's USC/Arizona State game. Sure, the USC defense was dominant, holding the Sun Devils to just 229 total yards. But beyond that, this game was ugly all the way around as the Trojans' offense couldn't stay out of their own way and ASU was just bad period. The two teams combined for nine turnovers and 19 penalties. USC QB Mark Sanchez threw three picks and ASU combined for three more. When starting QB Rudy Carpenter went down with an ankle injury, Sun Devils' backup Danny Sullivan was thrown to the wolves and finished just 4-17 for 28 yards and 2 INTs. I don't know how much style points matter to the BCS computers, but this one certainly won't help USC's cause.
And the award for "Most Disappointing Team Not Named Clemson" goes to . . .
3. All Good Things Must Come to an End.
Michigan lost at home to a 1-4 Toledo. Ouch. I'll leave it to you to debate whether this was a worse loss than last year's loss to Appalachian State (this was Michigan's first ever loss to a MAC team). I think even the most maize-and-blue-blooded fan knew there would be some growing pains this year, but nothing like this. The Wolverines are 2-4 with six games to go. With road games still remaining @ #3 Penn State, @ suddenly tough 6-1 Minnesota and @#12 Ohio State plus a home date with #20 Michigan State, I really don't see four wins that would get them bowl eligible, which would end their nation's longest bowl streak at 33. (The record is Nebraska with 35 straight bowl seasons from 1968-2003.)
On a related note, Toledo now has the chance to win the Michigan state championship—they already hold wins over Michigan and Eastern Michigan and still have games remaining against Central Michigan and Western Michigan.
4. My Name is Earl, Football Style, Version 2.0
Last week we talked a bit about karma, and I think I've finally figured something out: after a preseason top-ten rating and being picked to win the ACC, Clemson's 3-3 record and coach Tommy Bowden's subsequent firing is a direct karmic response to Bowden stripping Ray Ray McElrathbey's scholarship.
5. Stay Classy, Tigers.
I found it very interesting that, a week after Chase Daniel accused a rival team of playing dirty, the Missouri defense had two personal fouls and other big hits on star Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant. An obvious spearing foul that wasn't called in the first quarter. A helmet-to-helmet call late in the second quarter (which I grant was kind of a bang-bang play and I don't know that there was any malice there). A late hit in which the ball had gone well over Bryant's head and yet the defender laid into him while Bryant was in mid-air. Another play in which Bryant was blindsided after a Zac Robinson pass was intercepted (not illegal, but certainly not necessary). Twice Bryant had to leave the field after staying down for a while, but came back in. To me as an observer, it certainly looked like the defense was gunning for Bryant, but maybe they should have spread the love a bit. Sure, they held Bryant to just 47 yards, but in so doing they let sophomore receiver Damian Davis get loose for 76 yards and 2 all-important touchdowns.
6. I'm Jumping on the Bandwagon
In the interest of full disclosure, someone pour me a tall, cold glass of JoePa Kool-Aid. Three weeks ago, I said I'd be a believer if Penn State could get through their games against Illinois, Purdue and Wisconsin undefeated. While those latter two don't look as impressive now as they did a few weeks ago, Penn State certainly kept up their end of the bargain and has done so in impressive fashion, winning those three games by a total of 106-37. While his numbers likely won't put him in the Heisman discussion, Daryll Clark has been running the offense as effectively as any QB in the nation. So unless/until someone in the Big 10 proves otherwise (not likely), Penn State is the real deal. Now they're just rooting for whoever is playing Texas and Alabama.