When the Subtraction of Awful Play Is Enough

Beauty Contest Standings (Week 2, 2011)

One of the great things about the Beauty Contest is that you get to run into a lot of celebrity judges. For example, this weekend I ran into Brett Farve, who couldn’t stop talking about the big Penn State/Alabama game. “The problem,” he said, “is that this Joe Paterno guy just doesn’t know when to quit. I mean, a man has got to know when the game has passed him by. He’s got to know when it’s time to retire.”

Alabama 27, Penn State 11. Brett may have a point, but I think this one had a lot more to do with the bigger, faster, stronger guys on the field wearing Crimson than Joe Pa coaching from the press box.

Ah, the luck of the Irish! It brings to mind the Vikings, the Tudors, the Potato Famine, South Florida, Michigan, and Brian Kelly. In their first two games, the Domers have averaged 510 yards of total offense and turned the ball over 10 times, usually in the most bizarre circumstances imaginable. Lou Holtz says he was misquoted. “What I actually said was, ‘I’m not sure that God roots for Notre Dame, but His mom always liked Michigan better.’”

Under the lights in the Big House, for the first time ever, Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31. If I told you what happened in the last minute and a half, you wouldn’t believe me. Let’s just put it this way: Houston Texans fans were telling Notre Dame jokes Sunday morning.

Almost a decade ago, Texas fans anxious to replace Mack Brown, who would certainly never produce winning teams at a level meeting our expectations, were quizzed to determine who we should hire to replace him. Mark Richt was a popular choice at the time. Saturday, Mark Richt desperately needed a win over SEC East foe South Carolina to avoid an 0-2 start following a 6-7 season.

Between the hedges in Athens, South Klina 45, Dawgs 42. The fact that the Dogs started the season playing two teams that deserve to be in the Top 10, instead of the riff-raff most FBS teams schedule, will mollify few Dawg backers.

After the first five Texas possessions failed to obtain a single first down against BYU, my phone rang. It was Stevie Wonder, calling to inquire why Texas coaches failed to notice that their starting quarterback had completed as many passes (2) to BYU DB’s as to his own receivers, averaging 1 yard on 8 throws. Texas trailed 13-0. Shortly thereafter, someone on the Texas staff made the appropriate substitution.

A casual glance at Alabama’s last 4 seasons would have convinced most viewers that it is not necessary to have great play at the quarterback position to win a lot of games. The subtraction of awful play is often enough. Longhorns 17, Mormons 16.

The Top 10?

1. Alabama. Yes, they were clunky on O, and their quarterback(s) will not be mentioned in the next early Heisman conversation. But they can run the ball on anybody, and they don’t beat themselves. What a concept.

2. Oklahoma. Next Saturday could get interesting. Or not.

3. LSU. Beat an FCS team named Northwestern State 49-3. How good is NW State? NW St. lost to UTSA last week 31-3. UTSA lost Saturday to McMurry 24-21. McMurry lost its previous game to Stephan F. Austin 82-6. [I am advised that the Louisiana Legislature requires LSU to schedule NW St.] That’s how good NW St. is. Jarrett Lee hit 90% of his passes.

4. Stanford. The Cardinal played an actual FBS team, albeit Duke, and beat them 44-14.

5. Wisconsin beat Oregon State 35-0. Oregon State was last seen losing to Sacramento State, so it’s hard to gather much from this information.

6. Oklahoma State beat Arizona 35-14. Arizona romped over Northern Arizona last week, so maybe they’re not awful. But as I said above…

7. Florida State beat Charleston Southern 62-10. Hard to tell much from that, but we’ll know about the Seminoles before next Saturday is over.

8. Boise State had a bye. It reminded me of most of the rest of their schedule.

9. South Carolina. That was a tough win. Not because the Bulldogs are very good, but because their backs were to the wall. SC won anyway, because the ‘Cocks are that much better at the skill positions.

10. Oregon killed Nevada, 69-20. Bad Ducks.


Well, the Aggies appear to be losing a close decision to Ken Starr and Baylor. I wonder if, this time around, the smoking gun isn’t a stained blue dress but instead the mere threat of a discovery process. Can Starr be bought off this time? Yes. But who is going to pay?

Speaking of Baylor, Robert Griffen III is leading the NCAA with a 250.6 passer rating.

Nebraska beat Fresno State 42-29. Fresno State was last seen losing to Cal 36-29. That would be the same Cal that needed overtime to beat Colorado.

Speaking of overtime, how about some props to Iowa State? The Cyclones beat Iowa 44-41 in 3 OT’s. Nothing like some good old-fashioned in-state rivalry to produce an upset.

Arkansas beat New Mexico 52-3, but so does everybody.

Ohio State survived Toledo 27-22, holding Toledo on downs in the red zone at the end of the game. This is the Ohio State team I expected to see.

Closer to home?

Houston beat North Texas 48-23 in the Mean Green’s new stadium. Case Keenum continues his assault on the record book and should have all-time records in all meaningful career stats if he stays healthy.

Rice won a game over a BCS school for the first time since The Coach Whose Name Shall Not Be Mentioned was coaching Texas. The Owls beat Purdue 24-22 with a blocked field goal to end the game.

SMU beat woeful UTEP 28-17.

The Conferences?

So far, the Power Conferences (Big 10 and 12, PAC-122 and SEC) are a combined 6-2 against the other BCS conferences and independents. The BCS conferences are 44-12 against all non-BCS FBS teams. FBS teams are 67-4 against lower division teams.

About what you’d expect. Rank the conferences based on actual performance against other leagues? Sure.

1. SEC, 4-1 vs. BCS and indies, 6-2 against other FBS, 6-0 against the FCS or lower.

2. Big 12, 3-1, 7-0, 4-0

3. Big 10, 3-4, 6-4, 6-0

4. PAC-12, 2-2, 6-1, 6-1

5. ACC, 2-2, 2-0, 8-1

6. Big East, 2-3, 2-0, 7-0

7. CUSA, 3-6, 2-0, 3-0

8. MW, 2-4, 0-0, 5-0

9. WAC, 1-6, 0-4, 3-1

10. MAC, 0-10, 4-2, 8-0

11. Sunbelt, 1-3, 2-1, 2-0

Of course, these are the conferences today. A couple of weeks ago, a smart guy said it was time to stop pretending that colleges were anything other than what they’ve become. Let them argue about the cost of their service and what sort of cut the pimp gets.

Am I the only guy who feels like it was a lot more fun back when we could expect to always see Texas play Oklahoma at the State Fair and count on beating the Aggies two out of every three years on Thanksgiving?

We can hope that a change is positive. It doesn’t always work out that way.


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