College Football Wordplay: From A to Z (Week Five)

Eric ThomasonCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2008

College Football Week of Sept. 27, 2008


I would like to start this week off by saying thanks to all who take the time to read the article. I really appreciate the exposure and enjoy the feedback.

As October nears, so does the familiarity of teams that accompanies the start of conference play. With nine teams ranked in the Top 25 losing this week, there’s a ton to talk about, so let’s Wordplay.

Black Out

Well, the one thing for Georgia fans that should have been blacked out in Athens on Saturday night wasn’t—the ESPN telecast of the game.

I am now certain of two things my kids will never be able to see in person: Tonya Harding competing in the Olympics, and the Georgia Bulldogs playing football in all-black jerseys.

John Parker Wilson continued his brilliant start to the season, completing 13 of his 16 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown. Alabama controlled the line of scrimmage all game, putting constant pressure on Matthew Stafford and holding Knowshon Moreno to only 34 yards on the ground.

Alabama was better coached and more talented, and the play calling was superior to the Bulldogs. When Georgia blitzed, Coffee caught a screen pass. When Georgia backed into soft coverage, the Tide found Julio Jones.

Talk about two teams heading in opposite directions: Alabama started the season ranked No. 24 and has now climbed all the way to second, while Georgia has slipped in the polls every other week this season. 

Contender Evaluation: South Florida

Key Games

Oct. 25 @ Louisville

Nov. 23 Connecticut

Dec. 6 @ West Virginia


It’s official: All hell has broken loose in the ACC.

Wake Forest lost at home to Navy as Riley Skinner had an absolutely horrendous game, throwing four interceptions for a Demon Deacon team that was leading the nation in turnover margin coming into the contest.

Clemson continued to disappoint, giving Tiger fans reason to bury themselves six feet below the ground and reveal the true meaning behind the name “Death Valley.”

Miami let a big one slip away in the waning seconds against a Tar Heel team playing without its starting quarterback as Butch Davis pulled out a victory over his former team.

Duke made a mockery of Virginia, beating the Cavs 31-3 for the Blue Devils' first conference win in 26 attempts.

Extra Points

Florida entered the game against Ole Miss undefeated and having zero turnovers on the season. Three hours later the Gators had fumbled three times and exited the Swamp with a loss.

Ole Miss gambled a couple times early and had success in the Wild Rebel formation. Houston Nutt has had a knack for getting his squad to play close against top ranked opponents, but they usually occur at home and not on the road.

Florida simply self-destructed and was burned on special teams a couple of times by Mike Wallace, the same guy who almost won the game for Mississippi last year against the Gators in Oxnard.  

As for Tim Tebow—well, last year's Heisman trophy winner has yet to lead his team to a victory when trailing in the second half.

Florida has lost six times since 2006 to unranked opponents, and three have been to Ole Miss.

Urban Meyer, the Ryder Cup is over, so stop acting like the Euros and whining about the loss. There was absolutely nothing illegal about the blocked extra point.

Florida by all means is still in the hunt for the national title, especially if the Gators continue to run their offense through all-purpose star Percy Harvin, this season’s DeSean Jackson.

Forecast looks good

Surprising 4-0 teams that you might want to keep an eye on:

Tulsa (4-0) vs. Rice

Oklahoma State (4-0) vs. Texas A&M

Vanderbilt (4-0) vs. Auburn

Kentucky (4-0) vs. Alabama

Gripping the Football

The Vols just can’t seem to grasp the concept of handing the ball off, can they? Last week Tennessee fumbled near the end zone against Florida, and Ainge muffed one last year that turned the game around against the Gators.

Payton Manning was in attendance, but unfortunately he couldn’t make the handoff to Foster either.

I’m really starting to believe Tennessee is trying to get Phillip Fulmer fired, don’t you?

The Tigers still haven’t answered the quarterback situation, and fans in Auburn are starting to become uneasy with the unresolved carousel. Auburn managed only one first down in the entire fourth quarter.

Heating up

As the race in the Big East starts to heat up, we take a sentence per team outlook at the contenders in the conference.


South Florida: Grothe has played smart football thus far, and believe it or not, the Bulls are in the thick of the national title hunt.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers struggled early but are still the most talented team in the conference by far.

Connecticut: The Huskies have the best virtually unknown skill player in the nation in running back Donald Brown, but they lost starting quarterback Tyler Lorenzen on Friday night to a broken foot.

On the outside looking in

Pittsburgh: After a disappointing season-opening loss, the Panthers have bounced back with three straight wins.

Louisville: The offense has started to click for the Cardinals, who are averaging 36 points a game after managing only two points in a loss to Kentucky to start the season.

On the outside, I mean way outside

Syracuse: It’s like trying to make out a reflection in the mirror after a long hot shower—the Orange are naked and cold and looking for someone to throw in the towel.

Impact Freshmen

Freshmen making an impact this week.

1. RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State: 37 rushes, 186 yards, two TDs

2. RB Bryce Beal, Houston: 22 rushes, 132 yards, two TDs

3. WR A.J. Green, Georgia: six receptions, 88 yards, TD

4. WR Julio Jones, Alabama: five receptions, 94 yards, TD

5. QB Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State: 8-13, 80 yards, TD and eight rushes, 97 yards, two TDs

Jumping to Conclusions (Predictions for next week)

Upset Special: Vanderbilt 17, Auburn 13                   

Could be in trouble: Utah 31, Oregon St. 28                   

Closer than you think: Texas 38, Colorado 31

No way Jose: Oklahoma St. 38, Texas A&M 17

Knots in Corvallis

Southern Cal was tripped up for the third time in four trips to Oregon State. Mike Riley just might be the guy who has Pete Carroll’s number.

Yes, the Beavers beat the Trojans on Thursday night, but the way they did is what should be most concerning for USC fans.

Oregon State came out ready to play and Southern Cal simply didn’t. The Beavers were not afraid, running the ball down the Trojans' throats with a freshman running back who was eager to talk smack to an All-American-abundant USC defense.

I’ll be the first to admit I was caught up in the West Coast frenzy that is “the men of Troy.”

What I was shocked about was all the talk about Mark Sanchez for Heisman. The guy is still unproven in my book, but then again the junior will get many opportunities to shine at USC.

Lincoln Logs

It’s going to take Bo Pelini a little bit longer to get the pieces together at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers had a costly personal foul penalty late in the fourth quarter that kept a Virginia Tech drive alive.

Still searching for the “black shirts” to make an appearance? The Big Red might want to check the back of a milk carton, because that defense has been missing in Lincoln for years now.

It was a good week for the ACC in non-conference play. Florida State was the second team in the conference to put a hurting on a Big 12 squad this week, as the Seminole manhandled the Buffs 39-21 in Tallahassee.

Might not have known, but...

With five weeks gone in the college football season, there is not an undefeated team left in two of the six BCS conferences: the ACC and the Pac-10.

Also, you know what I really hate is when a team like say Michigan (below) has its fans screaming "we're number one" on national television. No, you’re not—actually you're not even in the Top 25, so stop it.   

Never say die

Michigan had 21 yards on 20 snaps and turned the ball over five times in the first half, as the Wolverines attempted to duplicate a Notre Dame “offense on training wheels” performance of a season ago.

It was an extremely disappointing loss for Wisconsin and rising head coach Bret Bielema. The Badgers need to have a short memory though if they want to avoid a 0-2 conference start, as the Buckeyes travel to Madison next week.  

For 30 minutes on Saturday afternoon, Ann Arbor was the most soothing, quiet place in the country. Twenty-seven points and one Mike Hart pep talk later, Michigan had mounted the biggest comeback ever at the Big House, and the Rich Rodriguez era had officially begun. 


Auburn, South Florida, Utah, and Texas Tech.


In a positive for the conference this week, Cal got some much-needed revenge on the Mountain West Conference, beating Colorado State 42-7.

As for Pac-10 officiating, well, that’s another story. The officials in Thursday night’s game allowed Southern Cal to gain an additional 10 seconds when the play clock failed to start on time late in the fourth quarter.

Instead of stopping the game to figure out the correct adjustment, officials decided to just “guesstimate” the difference.

When your conference officials are too lazy to walk to the sideline to confirm the right call, you know there’s an issue.

The Pac-10 needs to address the situation and reprimand whoever keeps justifying these refs’ actions. It’s silly and unprofessional, and it has to come to a stop.

Question of the Week

Could there possibly be six BCS games this year?

In theory, no, but with the caliber of opponents in the SEC and the Big 12 this year, the Cotton Bowl will most likely pair two better teams (the SEC No. 4 vs. the Big 12 No. 3) than, say, the ACC or the Big East will have to offer to the BCS.

Revenge is sweet

Two teams from Oklahoma made the best of their opportunities to dish out a little payback this week.

The Sooners rolled TCU at home 35-10. Oklahoma’s no-huddle offense continues to be in tip-top shape, and Bradford discovered another weapon this week in wideout Manuel Johnson, who set a school record with 206 yards receiving. OU did struggle in the running game and is still looking for heralded recruit DeMarco Murray to have a breakout game.

Oklahoma State avenged last year’s shocker to Troy, clobbering the Trojans 55-24. Believe it or not, the Pokes might have just as many weapons on offense as the Sooners. OSU is outscoring opponents 207 to 87 this year.

Star Performance of the Week

All Colt McCoy did was go 17 for 19, throwing for 185 yards and three touchdowns. Oh, and he added another 84 yards on the ground and two more touchdowns in a little more than three quarters of action.

Hurricane Ike delayed this game two weeks ago, but Arkansas wasn’t as fortunate to avoid the storm Colt McCoy and the Longhorns offense put on the Hogs on Saturday.  

McCoy is having a stellar season thus far for the Longhorns and is an Oklahoma win away from becoming a serious contender in the Heisman race.

Top Five                                                        

1. Oklahoma

The Sooners have come out and proven a point each week. Next, Oklahoma tries to do what was so many teams across the country struggled to do last season: maintain their number one ranking.

2. Alabama

How good is Nick Saban's team? The Tide continued to impress and haven’t trailed in a game so far this year.

3. Missouri

Tigers had the week off to prepare for their Big 12 opener against Nebraska in Lincoln.

4. Louisiana State

The other Tiger in the Top 5 won an SEC game on the road, something that isn’t an easy task in that conference.

5. Texas

The Longhorns continue to fly under the radar, outscoring opponents 198 to 43 this season.

Upcoming: Five things to watch for next week

1. Auburn vs. Vanderbilt

Don’t look now, but the Commodores sit all alone atop the SEC East.

2. Oregon State vs. Utah

Another Thursday night, and another chance for the Beavers to end a team’s championship aspirations.  

3. Oregon vs. Southern Cal

The Trojans look to rebound against an injury-plagued Ducks squad, as the two best teams in the Pac-10 battle for conference supremacy.

4. Ohio State vs. Wisconsin

A conference elimination game. The winner will challenge Penn State for the Rose Bowl, and the loser will most likely end up in Orlando for the Capitol One Bowl.

5. Texas vs. Colorado

In the always scary “game before Oklahoma,” the Longhorns open up Big 12 play on the road against the Buffs.

Video of the Week

Connecticut’s Lawrence Wilson picked off Louisville quarterback Hunter Cantwell’s pass with under three minutes to play and returned it for the game-winning touchdown.  Check it out.

While you’re at it, you might want to check the nation’s leading rusher, the Huskies' Donald Brown.

White Out

Something I am certain my kids will be able to see in person.

Penn State proved they should be taken seriously by the rest of the Big Ten. As long as the Nittany Lions continue to get solid play from quarterback Daryll Clark, who has thrown 11 touchdowns and only one interception this season, PSU should be favored in every game except for the trip to Ohio State in the last week in October.

Derrick Williams showcased his talents too, becoming the only player in the Joe Paterno era to have a touchdown return, run, and reception. 

Don’t forget, the Lions have a pretty solid running back in Evan Royster too. This team is loaded and primed for a Big Ten championship, and maybe even a national title.


Guys that probably aren’t household names but will be come December.

WR Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State)

RB Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State)

QB Kellen Moore (Boise State)

WR Robert Dunn (Auburn)

Your BCS bowl matchups right now

Rose Bowl: Penn State vs. Southern Cal

Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State

Sugar Bowl: Louisiana State vs. South Florida

Fiesta Bowl:  Missouri vs. Brigham Young

National Championship Game: Alabama vs. Oklahoma

Zzzzzzz: (Teams the country shouldn’t sleep on)

Programs on the rise: North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma State, Boise State, Maryland


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