Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (strength coach kickbacks no longer available in Tuscaloosa):
FOOTBALL VS. ENLIGHTENMENT: WHO WINS?
It's been a banner week for the football old guard – and by old guard, The Dash means the Archie Bunker sect that wants women in the kitchen and gays in the closet and bullying big boys in charge.
Last week, Mississippi football players were required to apologize for being part of a student disruption of a campus play, "The Laramie Project." The play is based on the murder of gay man Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, and the subject matter apparently was more than many in attendance at Ole Miss could handle maturely.
On Sunday, Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola reportedly played the time-honored bully-the-band card, directing a succession of remarkably vulgar remarks at University of Wisconsin band members on the field before the Lions lost to the Green Bay Packers. (Given the garbage Raiola is reported to have said, it seems to The Dash that the NFL should administer a random drug test to Raiola today. If not yesterday. 'Roid rage, anyone?)
And for the last several days, white males have been coming out of the woodwork (Bunker? Clavern?) to lambaste the reported choice of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (1) as a member of the 2014 College Football Playoff Selection Committee. On ESPN's "College GameDay," analyst and former Georgia star David Pollack (2) said the committee was no place for a woman.
"I want people on this committee that can watch tape, that have played football, that are around football, that can tell you different teams on tape, not on paper," Pollack said.
He subsequently offered this, via Twitter: "I want people on the committee that eat, sleep & breathe college football during the season. It has nothing to do with male or female."
Pollack (who is a friend of The Dash and a nice guy) was hardly alone. Among many others chiming in was reliable old reactionary Pat Dye, who believes any offensive play more risky than a screen pass is a sign of societal decay and has a corrosive effect on American values.
"All she knows about football is what somebody told her," Dye reportedly told WJOX radio in Birmingham, Ala. "Or what she read in a book, or what she saw on television. To understand football, you've got to play with your hand in the dirt."
With that, Dye presumably dragged his knuckles through said dirt back to his cave to resume watching black-and-white film of wishbone offenses. And told the nearest dame to fetch him a beer.
If you don't think this is flamingly sexist and slightly out of touch with the times, then answer the following questions:
Has anyone yet impugned the reported inclusion of Michael Tranghese as a member of the selection committee? Check his bio: small-college golfer, basketball team manager, went into sports information before becoming commissioner of the Big East. I don't hear anyone questioning Tranghese's ability to "watch tape," despite never having played with his "hand in the dirt."
Rice has not spent her adult life in and around college football, largely because she had more important things to do – like, dealing with the Middle East and Russia. If lack of a lifetime commitment to the game is a factor, what do we do with recently retired Air Force Superintendent Michael Gould? He played college football in the 1970s, then spent six months as a graduate assistant coach in 1976. Can't imagine he's spent much time breaking down gap control or route trees over the last 37 years.
Neither, presumably, has Tom Jernstedt, an Oregon quarterback in the 1960s who went on to run the NCAA basketball tournament for decades. Or Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, whose modest career as a tight end and punter at Indiana University of Pennsylvania was followed by a career in sports administration.
If there are concerns that Rice's time teaching law at Stanford may prevent her from devoting the hours to studying the 2014 football season, what about athletic directors Radakovich, Barry Alvarez, Jeff Long, Pat Haden and Oliver Luck? They spend most of their time Monday-Friday overseeing multi-sport, multi-million-dollar departments. How on Earth will they find the time to appraise Alabama's nickel package and decide whether it is playoff-worthy?
Funny, all those potential questions to be asked about the reported committee members – but Rice is the one causing all the angst. Just a coincidence, no doubt.
Fact is, what this committee needs is probably exactly what it has. Namely, smart people who can watch football with an educated eye and then do the most important thing: study a team's body of work and make judgments based on a broad base of national observation and understanding.
The selection committee's task is to choose the four best teams over the course of an entire season, with the ability to qualitatively compare schedules a paramount aspect of the job. The task is not to select teams because a committee member liked its ability to play press coverage on third-and-long. Making football esoterica a job requirement is an attempt to confuse the issue enough to exclude people the Archie Bunkers don't want involved.
WHERE DID YOU COME FROM?
Five people or teams that weren't on The Dash's radar in August, but certainly are now.
Bryce Petty (3), Baylor quarterback. If you're the starting QB for Art Briles, chances are you're going to produce pyrotechnic passing numbers. But still, Petty was a largely unknown commodity coming into this year after backing up Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence. Suffice to say, he has lived up to the Briles QB lineage: Petty leads the nation in pass efficiency, throwing for 1,348 yards and 10 touchdowns in four games – despite spending most of the second half of those games on the bench. The fourth-year junior was a modestly recruited three-star guy coming out of high school and already has his undergraduate degree in health science studies. The Dash can't wait until November, when the schedule gets tougher and Petty presumably will get to play a full game.
Missouri (4). A year after struggling with the SEC transition, the 5-0 Tigers are one of two unbeatens in the league – the other being Alabama. The competition has been light so far, but every win has been a no-doubter. Average margin of victory: 24.2 points. And in Mizzou's two road games, at Indiana and Vanderbilt, the average margin is 20. What's changed? Quarterback James Franklin and his offensive line are both healthier; the Tigers' receivers are making big plays; the Mizzou running attack leads the SEC; and the defense has 11 interceptions (T-1st) and 15 sacks (2nd). Consecutive games against Georgia, Florida and South Carolina will prove whether the Tigers are serious players in the SEC East.
Tyler Murphy (5), Florida quarterback. He couldn't get off the bench for three years, and it took an injury and a transfer for him to get on the field as a redshirt junior. But the young man has made up for lost time. He's played solidly in three straight Gators victories, peaking with a 240-yard, three-touchdown passing performance against Arkansas on Saturday. Murphy's 209.4 passer rating in that game was the highest for a Florida quarterback in an SEC game since Rex Grossman in 2001.
Texas Tech (6). Also 5-0, and with a decent chance to make it 7-0 before heading to Norman on Oct. 26 to play Oklahoma. New coach Kliff Kingsbury has deftly worked his quarterbacks around multiple injuries, but the Red Raiders defense has been the bigger revelation to date. After three straight seasons surrendering more than 30 points per game, Tech currently is allowing just 13.8. (Admittedly, there are better offenses to come.)
Ed Orgeron (7), USC. Relegated back to the assistant ranks after a pretty disastrous three years at Mississippi, Orgeron is back in charge as the interim guy at USC. While The Dash doesn't like his chances of turning the season around for the Trojans, he will undoubtedly be more colorful than Lane Kiffin. And it gives us a chance to resurrect this classic radio ode to the gravel-voiced, gravel-mouthed, near-monosyllabic Coach O.
WHERE DID YOU GO?
Five disappearing acts:
Jadeveon Clowney (8), South Carolina. "Anytime a player says he's hurt, who are we to question it?" That was Steve Spurrier, Clowney's coach, who seemed surprised and perhaps a bit miffed after his star defensive end unexpectedly scratched himself from the lineup with bruised ribs – or was it a strained muscle? – before the Gamecocks played Kentucky on Saturday. Spurrier also publicly questioned Clowney's injury status after he missed practice during preseason camp. He returned the next day – but looked woefully out of shape in the season opener against North Carolina. Fair or unfair, there have been questions during this lackluster season about whether Clowney is more committed to the South Carolina team or to protecting his 2014 NFL draft status. In an era where players are more empowered than ever, Clowney seems to hold the cards in this deal – and it's up to Spurrier to play the hand his defensive end deals him. "If he wants to play, we'll welcome him to come play for the team if he wants to," Spurrier said. "But if he doesn't want to play, he doesn't have to play. It's as simple as that."
Colt Lyerla (9), Oregon. Is this Clowney West? The former five-star recruit and former starting tight end became a former Duck over the weekend, quitting the nation's No. 2 team in mid-season to turn pro and get ready for the draft. Lyerla and first-year head coach Mark Helfrich had a bumpy season: Lyerla missed two games, one due to suspension (Colorado) and one reportedly due to illness after missing practices (Tennessee). The 6-foot-5, 246-pound junior had seven touchdowns last year and was expected to be a breakout star this season, but he caught just two passes before calling it quits. Lyerla is a remarkable athlete, but NFL teams will likely approach him with caution after this. Oregon certainly has not missed his production yet, but the toughest games are still to come.
Kansas State (10). From 11 wins last year to a losing record this year? It could happen to the Wildcats, who are 2-3 with crazy-hot Baylor coming to the Little Apple. A drop-off was inevitable after losing nine defensive starters and Heisman Trophy finalist QB Collin Klein, but nobody expected this stat for a Bill Snyder team: K-State is a minus-nine in turnover margin, after being plus-42 over the last four seasons. One suggestion for turning it around: feed the Baby Gronk. The latest Gronkowski, Wildcats fullback Glenn, has three receptions on the year – for 119 yards and two touchdowns. He took a 67-yarder to the house against Oklahoma State, and had a 50-yard TD earlier in the year against Massachusetts. Maybe the Wildcats should let him touch the football more than once every few games?
Jerry Kill (11), Minnesota. This is a troubling, sad situation. The coach of the Gophers has had five game-day epileptic seizures in 2 ½ seasons at the school, the latest causing him to miss the team's game at Michigan on Saturday. Kill is a good man and a good coach, and Minnesota has stoutly stood by him. But at season's end there might be a decision to make regarding whether Kill's illness is keeping him from adequately performing his duties. Nobody would like to see him forced out of the game, but the Gophers program also needs a head coach who can perform all the duties the seven-figure job requires.
Tulsa (12). The Golden Hurricane returned its starting quarterback, two leading rushers and three leading receivers from an 11-3 team that won the Conference USA title game and the Liberty Bowl. But none of that has translated in 2013: Tulsa is 1-4, with losses to Bowling Green, Iowa State and Rice. Major defensive losses presented problems on that side of the ball, but the offensive struggles have been a surprise. And like Kansas State, the Hurricane has been turnover-prone – a minus-six ratio, with eight lost fumbles. Still, in a watered down C-USA, bowl eligibility is not out of the question.
CURSES AND BLESSINGS FROM THE LEAGUE OFFICE
Among all the factors that can impact a season, don’t discount the schedule. Some of that the schools can control, but most of it is left in the hands of their respective conference offices. They strive for balance and fairness, but it doesn’t always work out that way. A few who have it especially good or bad right now:
Mississippi (13). The Rebels’ next road trip? Not until the last game of the regular season on Nov. 28, and they don’t even leave the state for that one. Texas A&M’s visit Saturday starts a streak of six straight at home for Ole Miss, which means The Grove will be getting a grueling tailgating workout. Four of those are SEC games, plus non-conference contests against Idaho and Troy. Of course, the flip side to this marathon home stand is the fact that the Rebels had to play four of their first five on the road, including three league games and a trip to Texas. Coming out of that gauntlet 3-2 is pretty solid.
Rutgers (14). Jilt the American Athletic Conference for the Big Ten, and this is what you get in your farewell schedule: a voyage to SMU on Saturday (a smooth, 3,000-mile roundtrip) and then a trip to No. 8 Louisville five days later. It didn’t help that the SMU game went into triple overtime.
South Carolina (15). With or without Clowney, the Gamecocks travel to Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri the next three weeks. While the Knoxville trip is short and sweet, the other two are not: more than 1,800 miles roundtrip to Fayetteville, Ark., and more than 1,700 to Columbia, Mo.
Virginia Tech (16). Per the estimable David Teel of the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press, the Saturday game against Pittsburgh kicks off at noon ET and is the fourth straight home game starting at 1:30 ET or earlier. That means less tailgating time for the fans, and a less imposing environment for visitors at a stadium that is a much more raucous venue at night. (Those two things probably go hand-in-hand.)
Washington (17). Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian has been fairly sanguine about playing Pac-12 North heavyweights Stanford and Oregon on successive weeks because he’s used to it. This is the third year in the last four that Washington has gotten the two back-to-back. Both opponents have been ranked in the top 15 every time.
STATS OF THE WEEK
The Ohio State (18) winning streak. It’s now at 18 games, longest since the Buckeyes won 22 straight from 1967-69 in the Rex Kern-Jim Stillwagon-Woody Hayes days. What Ohio State has often lacked in domination, it has made up for in consistency.
A few pertinent numbers from inside the streak:
Times trailed: 10 out of 18 games.
Times trailed by more than one score: three of 18 (Northwestern on Saturday, Nebraska and UAB in 2012).
Times scoring 30 or more: 13 of 18, including all six this year.
Times giving up 14 or more: 15 of 18.
Times outgained: five of 18.
Average margin of victory: 18.8.
Average margin of victory in Big Ten games: 10.7.
Average Sagarin rating of opponents: 77th
Top Sagarin-rated opponent: 18th (Wisconsin 2013).
The Lache Seastrunk (19) workload. The Baylor running back has had two second-half carries this season. Yes, two. And he’s still leading the Big 12 in rushing. Seastrunk’s 11.1 yards per carry leads the nation. He’s scoring once every seven carries. He’s never had a 20-carry game in his career. Imagine what he could do if the Bears actually wore him out every once in a while.
The Penn State (20) defense. The Nittany Lions gave up 44 points to Indiana on Saturday. It was the most they have surrendered to an unranked opponent in 16 years, since Michigan State hung 49 on them in 1997. Worse: Penn State finally lost to the Hoosiers for the first time ever after 16 straight victories.
The Alabama (21) defense. Remember all the shock and concern over the Crimson Tide giving up 42 uncharacteristic points to Texas A&M? In the Tide’s other four games, they have surrendered one touchdown and 19 total points. And the next three opponents rank 97th in scoring offense (Kentucky), 87th (Arkansas) and 55th (Tennessee).
The California (22) defense. The Golden Bears began playing football in 1882. They have never surrendered 40 or more points in four successive games. That looks like it will change Saturday. After giving up 52 to Ohio State, 55 to Oregon and 44 to Washington State the last three outings, Cal visits a UCLA team averaging 48 points per game.
TEN INTRIGUING MATCHUPS
It’s not a huge week of games, but The Dash has found plenty of action worth following Saturday:
Oregon-Washington (23). The Huskies have put some ranked skins on the wall in Seattle under Steve Sarkisian: No. 3 USC in 2009; No. 18 Oregon State in 2010; No. 8 Stanford and No. 7 Oregon State in 2012. The one Pac-12 power they haven’t been able to beat is the Ducks – the losing streak is nine, none of them close. Can the best Washington team since 2000 alter the course of both the national title and Pac-12 races? Dash prediction: Oregon 44, Washington 31.
Oklahoma-Texas (24). A controversial, one-point victory at Iowa State kept this game’s storyline alive: Mack Brown in something approaching a must-win situation, against an opponent that has embarrassed his team two years running. Can Bob Stoops come close to sealing Brown’s fate, and keep the Sooners in the Big 12 title race? Dash prediction: Oklahoma 28, Texas 24.
Florida-LSU (25). The Gators defense has been very good this year, but it has played against nothing but sputtering offenses in three SEC games. (The same three Alabama will face the next three weeks.) LSU’s offense no longer sputters – it splurges. Florida is not equipped to trade points with the Tigers, who will be motivated to avenge a frustrating loss in The Swamp last season. Dash prediction: LSU 30, Florida 17.
Missouri-Georgia (26). After the carnage in Knoxville, the Bulldogs are dangerously low on impact skill players. If super back Todd Gurley is not only back from an ankle sprain but ready to tote it 30 times, Aaron Murray will have to take the burden on himself – with a badly depleted receiving corps. Mizzou has the confidence and weaponry to challenge Georgia’s young defense. Dash prediction: Missouri 35, Georgia 33.
Northwestern-Wisconsin (27). The Wildcats may be the best team in the Big Ten’s Legends Division, but they have the toughest schedule – and that may be enough to preclude them from winning it. Coming off the showdown with Ohio State that was billed as the biggest game of the Pat Fitzgerald Era, Northwestern must regroup and go to Madison to face the Badgers. And the Badgers are coming off a bye week. Dash prediction: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 24.
Stanford-Utah (28). Given the depth of the Pac-12, the cumulative effect of one tough game after another can catch up to any team. The Utes are 0-4 against ranked opponents since joining the Pac-12, but The Dash still believes there is an upset in Salt Lake City just waiting for an unsuspecting team to walk into. Upon full consideration, this probably isn’t it. Dash prediction: Stanford 42, Utah 21.
Texas A&M-Mississippi (29). Not many remember, but the Aggies nearly lost to the Rebels last year in Oxford, Miss. Down 10 in the fourth quarter, Johnny Manziel orchestrated two touchdowns in the final seven minutes to pull out the victory despite six A&M turnovers. If the Aggies hold onto the ball this time around, they should win comfortably. Dash prediction: Texas A&M 47, Mississippi 34.
Miami (Ohio)-Massachusetts (30). Two of the eight remaining winless teams face off, and one will be blessedly removed from the ranks of the miserable for at least one weekend. The UMass offense is a debacle, producing just one run and four pass plays of longer than 19 yards. The Redhawks aren’t much better on that side of the ball, which resulted in the firing of coach Don Treadwell on Sunday. At least someone has to win. Dash prediction: UMass 16, Miami 14.
Baylor (31) vs. scoreboard. So far, the fewest points the Bears have put up after three quarters is 63. Then they have shut it down in the fourth quarter to avoid humiliating the overmatched. But this is Baylor’s first road game after four at home, and The Dash suspects that will at least slow down the tremendous machine. Dash prediction: Baylor 52, Kansas State 21.
Dashette Nina Agdal (32) is a three-touchdown favorite over anyone at your tailgate.
LAST INTERCEPTION POOL
It’s time for that annual Dash staple, wherein we award the last college quarterback to throw the football to the wrong team. The Dash has upped the swag bag for this year’s winner to include a gently used 1998 Motor City Bowl game program, a vintage 1980s Rolodex and all the adulation he can handle.
Quarterbacks have to be ranked in the current NCAA pass efficiency leaders to be eligible for the LIP. We have whittled the field to five finalists, all of whom are in action this weekend.
Marcus Mariota (33), Oregon. Zero interceptions in 134 attempts. This week: Faces a Washington defense that has intercepted seven of opponents’ 169 passes (4.1 percent).
Blake Bell (34), Oklahoma. Zero interceptions in 104 attempts. This week: In a LIP showdown in the Cotton Bowl, Bell faces a Texas defense that has just three interceptions in opponents’ 157 passes (1.9 percent).
Case McCoy (35), Texas. Zero interceptions in 102 attempts. This week: The other half of the LIP showdown in Big D, McCoy takes on an Oklahoma defense that has six interceptions in opponents’ 164 passes (3.7 percent).
Connor Shaw (36), South Carolina. Zero interceptions in 96 attempts. This week: Faces an Arkansas defense that has four interceptions in opponents’ 189 passes (2.1 percent).
Caleb Herring (37), UNLV. Zero interceptions in 88 attempts. Truth be told, Herring hasn’t thrown an interception since November 19, 2011, a span of 158 passes. He spent most of last year and the beginning of this year as a backup – he spent part of spring practice playing wide receiver – but has played the best ball of his career since resuming the starting role in the third game of the season. This week: takes on a Fresno State defense that has eight interceptions in opponents’ 201 passes (4 percent).
Given the matchups, The Dash has established The Belldozer as the favorite. Texas doesn’t intercept many passes, and the Longhorns may not be equipped to even make Oklahoma throw that much to begin with. May the best man win. Check back next week for LIP updates.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Mike Leach (38), Washington State. After ripping California on Saturday and upsetting USC in September, the Cougars have won two Pac-12 games for just the second time in the last six years. This is the first time they have two road wins in the Pac-12 since 2006. A dead program is coming back to life under The Pirate.
COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK
Todd Monken (39), Southern Mississippi. Embarrassing enough that the Golden Eagles lost (at home) to truly awful Florida International. Even more embarrassing that the loss extends the program’s losing streak to 17. But most embarrassing of all was Monken’s decision to punt from the FIU 41 while trailing 24-23 with about six minutes left in the game.
As if Southern Miss had something to lose by going for it?
After complete passes on second and third down for a total gain of two yards, USM had a fourth-and-8 at the FIU 41. Monken elected to punt, and the Panthers then mounted a nine-play drive to the Golden Eagles 28-yard line. FIU then missed a 45-yard field goal (naturally) with a minute left to give USM one final chance – and in true FIU fashion, it aided the final drive with 20 yards in penalties.
A USM field goal attempt on the last play was blocked. Game over. Losing streak extended. And punting to win from plus-territory failed to pay off yet again.
When hungry and thirsty in Columbia, Mo., The Dash recommends a stop at campus landmark Shakespeare’s Pizza (40). The pizza is excellent and the beer choices are superb as well. Have a Stone Enjoy By IPA (for optimum freshness) and thank The Dash later.