Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Cynic's Guide to College Football: Week One

First off, I’d like to apologize to my faithful readers for getting our Week One wrap-up posted late. Wish I had a good excuse that involved Jack Bauer, a case of Jack Daniels, some Cuban expats and buffalo wings (hey, it’s my dream, get your own), but I don’t. So to my loyal followers (hi, mom) and first time readers( might I add, you seem particularly good looking and intelligent today), I give you a belated welcome to college football 2009.

A quick primer on what I do: As the title implies, I’m HHR’s resident cynic. I’m the pessimist of our group, the one who knows that every silver lining has a dark cloud. If you’re looking for another fluff piece on Tim Tebow or just want your SportsCenter-friendly six-second soundbites on the Top 25, you’ve got the wrong place. But if you’re interested in going deeper, seeing the seamy underbelly of the college football world, then follow me down the rabbit hole.

Self portrait of The Cynic. Well, at least I’ve got the hair right.

A PAINFUL START

Last Thursday’s South Carolina/North Carolina State game may have been the worst game I’ve ever seen. Look, I love defense and a 7-3 slugfest between two dominant defenses would thrill me. But a 7-3 game that’s the result of two completely inept offenses is a very different story. The two teams combined for just 389 yards, 12 punts and 5 turnovers on downs. Out of 22 drives, only 3 went for more than 50 yards and 13 went for 5 or less plays. But on the bright side, my ophthalmologist says the ice pick didn’t do any permanent damage to my eyes.

Oh, Fun ‘n Gun, why have you forsaken me?!

WORST. DEBUT. EVER.

When Sports Illustrated decided to do four different covers for its college football preview edition, you just knew that one of them was going to get smacked down in Week One. Unfortunately for Oregon, SI decided to dole out a quadruple dose of cover jinx hurt on the Ducks. There were plenty of people, myself included, who thought Oregon had a real shot to dethrone USC in the PAC 10 this year. And then the season kicked off. Lost in the over-coverage of RB LeGarrette Blount’s postgame punch was the fact that Oregon coach Chip Kelly had one of the worst first games in recent memory. The game wasn’t as close as the 19-8 score would indicate. Boise State completely controlled the game (outgaining Oregon 361 to 152) against a Duck team that clearly was not ready for primetime. Kelly now faces the unenviable task of getting his team refocused after embarrassing themselves on national TV and losing their best offensive player in the process. You know things have officially gone south when you end up on Texts From Last Night:

(541): Its like we are women, and boise state is a gangster rap song. This game is degrading

Wonder how much Phil Knight would pay to never be on the cover again?

NCAA FLAG FOOTBALL

To paraphrase Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Tis better to have played and lost than never to have played at all. This is a lesson that Division II St. Paul’s College (VA) learned the hard way this week when they had to forfeit their season opener against West Virginia Wesleyan. The reason? No helmets or pads. St. Paul’s claimed that they’ve just been practicing in shorts and t-shirts and had ordered new equipment, but it wouldn’t be ready before the game. To add insult to injury, St. Paul’s is now on the hook for a cancellation penalty in their contract, and West Virginia Wesleyan say they will go after St. Paul’s to reimburse them for 40 hotel rooms for which they had to pay.

100 years of helmets. You’d think that’d be something on the “to do before the season starts” list.

BLOCK ME ONCE, SHAME ON YOU. BLOCK ME TWICE . . .

Has there ever been a crazier seven-second roller coaster ride than the one to which I-AA Northern Iowa was subjected last week? The Panthers were one field goal kick away from knocking off #22 Iowa (high). Then Iowa blocked the field goal (low). But Northern Iowa recovered the ball with one second left, giving them another shot (super high). But Iowa blocks the kick . . . again (boot to the groin low). All within seven seconds. Let’s hope UNI coach Mark Farley spent a little more time than that working on special teams this week.

For all my new readers, one final disclaimer: I always try to close my posts on a brighter note. A little under-the-radar story that brings hope to the college football world. So here goes. . .

A RAY OF ORANGE SUNSHINE

While Boise State and BYU both did their best to prove my preseason “no undefeated non-BCS teams” prediction wrong, nobody had a bigger week than the Oklahoma State Cowboys. How big was the Oklahoma State/Georgia game? A week ago Sunday (as in six days before the game), I drove through Stillwater, OK (with the obligatory stop at Eskimo Joe’s) and saw a guy on the corner by the stadium holding up an “I Need Tickets” sign. When the scalpers are already out working a week ahead of time, you know it’s a big deal. For the last year, Big 12 fans have heard how the Big 12 couldn’t compete with a real SEC defense. So it had to do Cowboy fans good to see their team, which struggled on defense (to say the least) last year, step up and out-defense Georgia. Georgia took the opening drive 80 yards for TD, and people started thinking “here we go again.” But that and a third quarter field goal represented the only two times UGA crossed midfield. On a day when OSU’s potent offense was clearly not clicking on all cylinders, the Cowboy defense held Georgia to just 257 total yards, all in the cozy confines of T. Boone Pickens’ new $300 million stadium. Granted, Georgia clearly missed Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno. But OSU proved to be more than able to handle this year’s Dawgs. If their defense can continue to play at this level, you now have to include Oklahoma State as a legitimate title contender.

Not sure it was a $300 million win, but it was a very good one.


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