Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (New Digs Edition):
In keeping with the times, The Dash Board of Directors (membership total: one) gave itself permission in mid-October to explore other options in terms of Internet affiliation. The Dash received interest from Yahoo! Sports. After careful consideration, The Dash applied for membership and was accepted by the worldwide leader in sports journalism.
Effective date: Nov. 1, 2011.
Exit fees from previous affiliation: zero.
There was no political involvement in the negotiations, and no threat of lawsuits. Orangebloods.com did not break the story. And travel to competitions will not be any different than it previously had been – The Dash, as most of you know, travels by Bus.
So that’s the scoop, for the much-appreciated readers who were wondering what happened the past couple weeks. The Dash is very happily back typing – same silly stuff, different web address. Let’s get back to it.
Since last we talked …
… The following absurdities have occurred in Gridworld:
Missouri mascot Truman the Tiger sprays fans in Columbia, Mo.
Missouri (1) left the Big 12 for the SEC – or at least the SEC’s website said it did, in an embarrassingly premature document dump last Thursday that coincided with no actual news. Given commissioner Mike Slive’s zeal for circumspect actions during sensitive negotiations, The Dash is guessing that someone in the league office was fired and perhaps beheaded over that gaffe. Of course, the entire eastern half of the state of Missouri missed the news/non-news completely because it was immersed in St. Louis winning the World Series. When they sober up and realize that the Tigers will be in a much tougher conference and at risk of losing its Texas recruiting base, they might miss what they had in the Big 12.
West Virginia (2) outflanked Louisville and left the Big East for the Big 12. This was the sporting equivalent of battling to be on the last chopper out of Saigon in 1975, as the Big East dies a little more on John Marinatto’s ineffective watch. By the end, this one had become a Senatorial slap flight: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky went to bat for the Cardinals, which outraged his colleagues from West Virginia. The particular outrage of Sen. Joe Manchin was humorous, since he was an avid meddler as governor during Rich Rodriguez’s contract wrangling with WVU in 2007. But the West Virginians got what they badly wanted – Big 12 membership, and the easy commute from Morgantown to Lubbock that comes with it.
[Related: WVU taking Big East to divorce court]
Wisconsin (3) was evicted from the ranks of the unbeaten by a Michigan State Hail Mary. Oklahoma (4) was evicted from the ranks of the unbeaten by a Fail Prairie – simply not coming to play against underdog Texas Tech at home in Norman. (The Sooners have become a higher-end Florida State: an annual August sucker bet. They’re sure to be overrated and sure to find a game they can lose that ruins national title hopes.)
Then Clemson (5) got a reality check from Georgia Tech. And Wisconsin was shocked again by a late long pass – this time a 40-yarder in the final 30 seconds from Ohio State’s Braxton Miller. Until that play, the Buckeyes’ passing offense was so inept that even Woody Hayes thought it was primitive. To lose to that team on that play, a week after the tipped-ball dagger against the Spartans, will send a fan base to therapy.
Chicks may dig the long ball – including, but not limited to, Dashette Mariska Hargitay (6) – but the Badgers clearly don’t. They don’t dig it or defend it.
Alabama lost on the road against LSU 24-21 in 2010.
And now, the event we’ve all been waiting for: Tigers at Tide (7), Saturday night. This game was circled on the calendar when the schedules came out, and the fervor has only intensified as both teams have taken care of business and others have fallen by the wayside.
For The Dash’s money, this is the biggest regular-season game in college football since Michigan-Ohio State (8) in 2006 – and quite frankly, this one is more legit than that. Michigan wasn’t as good as its record that year, a fact that was revealed when the Wolverines were handily beaten in the Rose Bowl by a two-loss USC team.
This time around, neither team has left any doubt how good it is. They’ve both won every game by double digits, both handled ranked opponents with ease, both won as impressively on the road as at home.
And they have both beaten the daylights out of opposing teams with superior defense, ferocious hitting and dazzling speed. To borrow a Les Miles (9) catch phrase, there will be plenty of “sincere contact” Saturday night. This will be an old-school, no-frills, low-scoring slobberknocker.
To get you ready, The Dash has comprised 25 ways to compare and contrast the combatants:
All-Time Series Record
Consecutive Weeks in the AP Top 25
41 and counting.
59 and counting.
Weird enough to eat grass.
Wired enough to eat glass.
Coach’s Bête Noire
Record vs. Nick Saban (10)
Best Win In Series History
Beating ‘Bama and Saban 41-34 in 2007, on way to national title
Beating LSU 3-0 in 1979 in Charley McClendon’s last year, on way to national title.
NCAA Probationary Status
On it until July 2012
On it until June 2012
Score Against Florida
Score Against Tennessee
Best Defensive Stat
Hasn’t allowed more than one touchdown in an SEC game.
Hasn’t allowed a second-half point since September.
Tyrann Mathieu (11) (when eligible)
Courtney Upshaw (12) (when motivated)
Receiver Rueben Randle (13), with 14 catches for 319 yards and four touchdowns in the last three games.
Running back Trent Richardson (14), the nation’s No. 2 scorer, No. 7 rusher and No. 1 most painful player to tackle.
Bad 2010 Memory
Natural Disaster Endured
The Halloween punt return by Billy Cannon (15), 1959.
Stuffing Penn State on fourth-and-goal, 1979.
Don’t Mention II
Harvey Updyke (16)
CDC National Obesity Ranking
Guv Only They Could Love
Dash Prediction For Saturday
Games of the month
Although LSU-Alabama easily qualifies as the Game of the Year and, thus, the Game of the Month, it isn’t the only showdown that will shape the race for the national championship and BCS bowl bids. The Dash identifies eight other must-see matchups between now and Dec. 1:
Oklahoma State vs. Complacency (17), Nov. 5, 12 and 19. The Cowboys are in prime position to play the SEC champion for the national title, and the final hurdle looms largest: the annual Bedlam game against hated rival Oklahoma in Stillwater on Dec. 3. But we’re dealing with November first, and there are three opponents Oklahoma State must treat with respect before getting to the biggest game in school history. First up is Kansas State on Saturday in Stillwater, and even with the Wildcats at 7-1 that could be the easiest of the three – they have the look of an overachiever whose bubble burst in the second half against Oklahoma. Then there are consecutive road trips to Texas Tech and Iowa State. Ask Bob Stoops about taking on Tommy Tuberville with a high ranking, and then ask Nebraska, Texas and Iowa about the risk of overlooking Paul Rhoads’ Cyclones. Oklahoma State should be 11-0 and ranked no worse than No. 2 heading into December – but funny things happen this time of year.
Oregon at Stanford (18), Nov. 12. Say this much for the Pac-12 – the top third of the conference is very good. Both Arizona State and USC are solid in the South, and the Ducks and Cardinal are excellent in the North. The world could do a whole lot worse than seeing the best pro-prospect quarterback in 15 years (Andrew Luck) against an SEC defense in the BCS Championship Game – but Stanford has to beat Oregon to have a shot at making that a reality. Or, if the title game is out of reach, to have a shot at going to its first Rose Bowl since Jan. 1, 2000. The Ducks are beaten up at the skill positions but are still beating up defenses, having scored more than 40 points in every game since the opening loss to LSU.
[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Forde-Yard Dash with Pat Forde]
Nebraska at Penn State (19), Nov. 12. The fact that the Nittany Lions are the last unbeaten in Big Ten play is both a testament to coordinator Tom Bradley’s defense and an indictment of the league as a whole. (Lots of exciting games, not many high-level teams.) For The Dash’s money, this might be the least-explosive 8-1 team in major-conference history. Penn State has won games scoring 14 points (against Temple), 16 (against Indiana), 13 (against Iowa) and 10 (against Illinois). The Nittanies led for all of 2 minutes, 42 seconds against Temple, 27:18 against truly awful Indiana and 7:00 against Illinois. They are 109th nationally in pass efficiency, 101st in scoring and 88th in total offense. And yet they have a 2 ½-game lead in the – wait, gotta look it up – Leaders Division. If the Big Ten gets two teams in the BCS it will be a travesty.
TCU at Boise State (20), Nov. 12. The Broncos will have another moderate test the following week at San Diego State, but for all intents and purposes the 6-2 Horned Frogs should be the last impediment to an undefeated season. Boise won without playing last weekend when Georgia beat nemesis Florida to improve to 6-2. Every Georgia victory is a victory for the Broncos, whose strength of schedule is now 31st in the Sagarin Ratings. (Higher than both Alabama and Stanford to date.) Problem is, this is as high as it figures to be. Upcoming games against two truly dreadful opponents (UNLV is No. 148 in the Sagarin Ratings, New Mexico is No. 196) will be strength-of-schedule anchors. But if Oregon beats Stanford and Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State … Bus to the bayou to play for it all?
Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez has rushed for 578 yards and 9 TDs.
Nebraska at Michigan (21), Nov. 19. In an eight-day, welcome-to-the-Big-Ten stretch, the Cornhuskers will play in front of more than 216,000 fans – first in Beaver Stadium, then in Michigan Stadium. This battle of mobile quarterbacks figures to have major title implications in the – wait, gotta look it up – Legends Division.
Arkansas at LSU (22), Nov. 25. The Razorbacks received two unearned fourth-quarter gifts from Vanderbilt Saturday – a fumbled handoff that turned a Commodores touchdown into a 94-yard return for score the other way, and a missed 26-yard field goal to tie. That says more about the historic misery of Vandy than the prowess of the Hogs, but the bottom line is that their inglorious escape in Nashville keeps major goals alive. This has been a sizzling series in recent years, with the last six meetings decided by eight points or less.
Alabama at Auburn (23), Nov. 26. In the long and overheated history of the Iron Bowl, last year’s come-from-ahead loss by the Crimson Tide has to rank as the most painful. Yes, probably even worse than the Punt Bama Punt fiasco of 1972 – because letting Auburn off the hook last year meant the Tide then had to watch the Tigers win the national championship. The red elephants didn’t handle it too well last year. Neither did their obsessive coach. And if we’ve learned anything about Nick Saban, it’s that he takes his revenge games rather seriously. (See: Alabama’s crushing of Florida in the 2009 SEC title game, after losing in the same game the year before.) So The Dash expects a bloodletting on the Plains that day – but how much would Auburn love to derail a national title with an upset? As usual, this off-the-rails rivalry will be must-see TV.
Notre Dame at Stanford (24), Nov. 26. Under Brian Kelly, it really is this simple for the Fighting Irish: do not hand over the game on a silver platter to the opposition, and you will probably win. Their turnover margin in 13 victories under Kelly: plus-10. Their turnover margin in eight defeats under Kelly: minus-18. In games which the Irish are a minus-one or better in the turnover department, they’re 12-1. In games where they’re minus-two or worse, they’re 1-7. Of course, the one game they lost while winning the turnover battle was last year to Stanford. The Irish defensive line will have to toughen up significantly to stop the Cardinal running attack. This will be Andrew Luck’s last home game and possibly a Heisman Trophy coronation opportunity.
Home champs, road chumps
Which teams are tough in a comfortable environment, but don’t pack the same attitude in their carry-on luggage? The Dash names names:
Iowa (25). The Hawkeyes are 5-0 at home, 0-3 on the road. Those road losses include upsets at rivals Iowa State and Minnesota, the latter a jaw-dropper last Saturday that kept Floyd of Rosedale nobly ensconced in Minneapolis for another year. The Gophers hadn’t just been bad this year; they’d been horrible, losing to New Mexico State and North Dakota State. But they scored the last 12 points of the game to give Iowa its fifth straight road defeat dating to 2010.
Vanderbilt (26). The Commodores are 4-2 at home, 0-2 on the road – and they had a chance to be a stunning 6-0 in Nashville. The giveaway against Arkansas is chronicled above, and they lost 33-28 last month to Georgia when a final possession deep in Bulldogs territory came up empty. Away from home, Vandy has scored a total of three points.
Michigan (27). The Wolverines are 6-0 at home, 1-1 on the road. Points allowed per game in the Big House: 12.5. Points allowed per game elsewhere: 26. Given Michigan’s susceptibility away from home and Iowa’s unbeaten record at Kinnick Stadium, put the Wolverines on upset alert heading to Iowa City on Saturday.
Hawaii (28). The school with the toughest travel in America is always a contender for this list. The Warriors are 3-0 at home and 2-3 on the road, averaging 17 points per game more on the island than the mainland. The most glaring road pratfall was a 20-point loss to a terrible UNLV team.
Baylor (29). The Bears are undefeated at home (4-0) and winless on the road (0-3). They’re averaging nearly twice as many points in Waco (50.8) as they are in away games (29).
California (30). Jeff Tedford’s team has won two of its last eight road games, and both were close contests against bad teams (36-33 over Colorado in overtime this year, 20-13 over Washington State last year). Last week they were smacked around by UCLA 31-14. At home the Golden Bears are 3-1 this season.
September champs, October chumps
Illinois (31). The Illini were 4-0 in September, then 2-3 in October – losing the last three in a row. This was never a high-octane offense but it has hit the skids of late, scoring a total of 28 points the last three games. This looks more like a Zooker-led operation now than it did during the first half of the season.
Russell Wilson (32). At a previous address, The Dash mentioned that Wilson’s production had a tendency to slide a bit in the second half of the season when he was at North Carolina State. That’s been the case this season at Wisconsin as well. Granted, much of that is due to a dramatic spike in competition in October, but his passer rating has declined in each of the last four games. Nevertheless, if the Badgers secondary had come up with two end-of-game plays on deep balls, they’d still be undefeated and Wilson would still be a prominent Heisman Trophy candidate.
Bowling Green’s offense (33). In four September games, the Falcons scored 154 points. In five October games, they scored 80. That’s how you go from 3-1 to 4-4.
September chumps, October champs
Western Kentucky (34). Also at a previous address, The Dash bashed the Hilltoppers for their overly ambitious jump a few years ago from FCS to FBS. At the time, Western Kentucky was 0-4 and had been hammered by FCS Indiana State. Now Western Kentucky is 4-4 and angling for its first-ever bowl bid. Nice bounce-back, Toppers.
Louisiana Tech (35). On Oct. 2, the Bulldogs were 1-4, with the lone victory in overtime over FCS Central Arkansas. (On the other hand, three of the losses were by a total of nine points against Southern Mississippi, Houston and Mississippi State). Western Athletic Conference play might be nonsensical geographically, but it has been good for Tech in recent weeks. Three straight victories have it at 4-4, 3-1 in the league.
Coach who earned his comp car this week
Mark Richt (36), Georgia. The world wanted his resignation on Sept. 10, when the Bulldogs were 0-2. He was a dead coach walking, everyone said. Hire Dan Mullen or Kirby Smart or Gus Malzahn, they opined online and on-air. Well, now Georgia has won six in a row, beating Florida on Saturday in the Cocktail Party game for just the fourth time since the 1980s. There still is work to do to feel truly secure, but the chances of forcing a guy with Richt’s stature now are much more remote. As they should be.
Coach who should take the bus to work
Randy Edsall (37), Maryland. Boy, it sure is a good thing the Terrapins brass squeezed out Ralph Friedgen after last year’s 9-4 season. If they hadn’t, they wouldn’t be privy to this year’s 2-6 pratfall in year one under Edsall. Maryland has lost four in a row, most recently a listless 28-17 defeat at home to Boston College. That’s the most points the punchless Eagles have scored in an ACC game since the middle of the 2009 season.
Putting out an APB for ...
Temple's Paul Palmer, center, and Oklahoma's Brian Bosworth (R) applaud as Miami's Vinny Testaverde (L) wins the 1986 Heisman Trophy.
… Former LSU running back Charles Alexander (38). The ninth-place finisher in the 1977 Heisman Trophy balloting is still the third-leading rusher in LSU history. (In a surprising side plot to the LSU-Alabama game, the two powerhouse programs have combined to produce a total of just two Heisman winners: Billy Cannon in 1959 and Mark Ingram in 2009.) Anyone with information in Alexander The Great, please apprise The Dash.
Meanwhile, The Dash is pleased to report (albeit tardily) that the most recent APB subject, former Temple running back Paul Palmer (39), is alive and well and living in New Jersey, where he is an assistant coach at Haddon Heights High School. Palmer’s son, Robert, is a junior defensive back at Fordham. Thanks to all Dash spies for tips on Palmer’s whereabouts.
The Dash has been home for the second half of October, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a spot to recommend when thirsty in Louisville – especially this week. Drop in at Prime Lounge (40) downtown and keep an eye out for Breeders’ Cup visitors. The short ones might be jockeys.
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