Sun Oct 04 12:55pm EDT
Snap judgments on Saturday's best.
Teachers' Pet: Alabama.
In a season of mad uncertainty, in a week where the only other two teams we can kinda sorta depend on to play good football (Florida and Texas) sat idle, the Tide again did exactly as they were told by marching in a calm and orderly fashion past Kentucky -- a team that, had the Wildcats ever been able to get out of their own way, might have been a pesky if overmatched opponent. Seventeen points off Wildcat turnovers put paid to that, however, and Bama sits at 5-0 with perfect posture, hands neatly folded in preparation for Ole Miss next week. (Actually, it wouldn't surprise us if they've already beaten the Rebels before Saturday rolls around. You know how these head-of-the-class types rush to finish their homework.)
Most Unlikely Couple: Maintaining a relationship with a conference rival can be tricky in the best of times, but just look at the give-and-take on display between Syracuse and South Florida. Seven Orange turnovers and three for the Bulls? It's the college football equivalent of "No, you hang up first." Just listen to 'Cuse QB Greg Paulus reflect on the intoxicating newness of it all: "I don’t think I’ve had five interceptions before." Ah, young love.
Most Creative: The officiating crew behind the alternating Georgia-LSU celebration penalties, for its unparalleled imagination and ability to conjure elaborate visions out of nothing at all:
Mr. Personality: Without drawing too much attention to itself, Stanford is quietly 4-1, and 3-0 in the Pac-10 after another no-nonsense whipping of UCLA. The Cardinal took care of the Bruins' undefeated season and their own five-game losing streak to L.A. in one neat stroke, and have the rest of the month to build their cred against Oregon State, Arizona and Arizona State before the November gauntlet of Oregon, USC, Cal and Notre Dame determines their ultimate fate.
Grape Job! Tennessee's depleted but still eighth-ranked defense, which became the first unit to hold suddenly resurgent Auburn below 30 points, and whose members could play the game of their lives every Saturday for the rest of the season without making a bit of damn difference thanks to their offensive counterparts' marked ineptitude in all matters throwing, catching and kicking the ball. (Honorable mention: Vol elder statesman Montario Hardesty, who's leading the SEC in rushing despite having to run through 11 guys who all know he's getting the ball, all the time, and doing it on a bum knee.)
Most School Spirit: How would you respond as a lowly C-USA drone coming off a 64-7 loss and trudging to meet your third ranked opponent in four weeks? If you're UTEP junior running back Donald Buckram, you carry the ball 32 times for 262 yards and four touchdowns and ruin Houston's BCS-bustin' ball. (Judging from your surname, you presumably also have the legs of a deer and the curved horns of some mythical mountain monster.)
Our favorite stat of the week: UTEP scored more points this week than it had total yards against Texas. Second favorite stat: Houston earned 42 first downs, and lost by three scores.
Most Popular: Cincinnati, which knows the secret to universal adoration is to remember the little people. The Bearcats benevolently spotted hapless in-state rival Miami 13 points and allowed the Redhawks twice their own time of possession while holding the humiliation to a minimum in a 37-13 victory.
Drama Queen: Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio. Just look at that face! A star is born, right?
All right, it's actually plucky Washington, which lost a heartbreaker in South Bend. But color us compelled and attentive viewers for the Huskies' immediate future. The pieces are there, Willingham.
Class Clown: Talk about knowing how to play to an audience. Maryland gave an adoring if bewildered public exactly what we asked for, outlasting a more talented Clemson team 24-21 in the Terps' ACC opener. For its next trick, UMD will inevitably lose to Virginia and Duke en route to an inexplicable seven-win season and a bowl berth. Joy buzzers will play an integral role. We are serious about all of this.
Biggest Flirt: California, batting its eyes every August and into September, making you think the Bears are for real this time, that the Bears have changed, baby, but always eventually reverting to its old ways.
Most Likely To Succeed: Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, undaunted even when he should be quite daunted. Behind him, the baby 'Canes are getting scary strong on the blood of quality opponents and should be absolutely lethal before too long.
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Holly welcomes your adulation and veiled threats at nastinchka-at-yahoo, etc.