Monday, September 1, 2008

that time of year ...

Kudos to UCLA and Tennessee for closing out the extended college football weekend the way it should be: twists and turns, emotions at every turn, and ultimately a great story to milk for all it's worth until ... well, Thursday, when Vandy and South Carolina start the weekend all over again.

In a way, tonight's game between the Bruins and Vols was a microcosm of everything we enjoy about sports. In sports, opportunities for success and failure exist around every corner. Look at UT kicker Daniel Lincoln -- in one night, he went from "guy who missed three field goals" to "guy who nailed the game-tying field goal to keep us alive" to "goat who shanked an easy one that would've tied the game again." Or quarterback Kevin Craft -- whose story will be told and re-told by the good people in Bristol for the rest of of the week -- who redeemed himself by somehow bouncing back from a first half so bad that he was booed off the field by his own fans (and that's in L.A., where they usually don't care nearly enough to boo anybody). He persevered, made some big throws down the stretch and kept his mates in it long enough to win (credit Rick Neuheisel too, for keeping the boy's head on straight).

Anyway, I promised you scattered thoughts from the rest of the weekend, and I'll give as much as I can.
-- For starters, Auburn: I didn't see any of it, and missed the replay as well (The Redhead insisted we go to Logan Martin Sunday afternoon). So I'll defer to the JCCW (easily the best Auburn blog out there), who basically said what I expected: Auburn's defense is nasty, the offense was good enough and that's about that.
There's a famous story about Milton Berle -- as related in this year-old column by Bill Simmons -- which I can't repeat here for fear of being lewd. Basically, the goal, in a game like Auburn's last week -- or like Alabama's this week -- is to do just enough to win. They did, and -- with State, LSU and Tennessee looming -- they'll probably do the same this week.
-- Speaking of 'Bama this week, for those who don't know, this week's opponent, Tulane, is spending the week in Birmingham, doing all its training at Samford because of the storm. Imagine being a senior on this team: it's the second time you've done this in your college tenure. Incredible, really.
-- Flying under the radar because of Michigan, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh: Mississippi State's loss to La. Tech, which was as predictable as it was disheartening. Dr. S. has the story here in his survey of disillusioned fan bases.
-- I'll offer this on Va. Tech: I've often thought the Hokies' special-teams prowess is somewhat overrated. At this point, doesn't everyone practice special teams to death? Doesn't everyone put their best people on special teams? Much like Miami with thuggery, the Gobblers are considered the leaders in special teams mostly because of reputation, and really for no other reason. So it was gratifying to see them lose because of special-teams lapse, if only to hear the announcers going crazy about it.
-- Here's a sentence I thought I wouldn't write: among the most intriguing games this week is Ole Miss at Wake Forest. Just saying.
-- I don't know how much of a chance Hawai'i would've stood against Florida anyway, but they certainly stood no chance by turning the ball over repeatedly.
-- Both Kentucky-Louisville and Fresno St.-Rutgers were just ghastly to watch as a casual fan, and I'm one of the biggest football geeks on the planet.
-- Finally, one leftover story from Saturday night in Atlanta: my dad, who attended the game (I mentioned this earlier, I believe) rode in on the MARTA -- which, apparently, turned out to be a disaster in the postgame. In any case, on the way in, they found themselves sitting with some very polite Clemson fans, one of whom -- a female -- remarked, "Well, we don't really play anybody for a few weeks after this (and she's right -- their next tough game is at Wake Forest in October), so we're expecting to be 6-0 by then."
Couldn't help but think of her on the way home.

And that's that. As always, since it's Monday, you should read Couch Slouch, Peter King and (a new addition to the must-read) Orson's Alphabet.
Back tomorrow with links.


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