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By Mike Luce
Week Nine: the Nerfing of America continues.
Nearly every year since 1933, the Florida-Georgia game has been played in Jacksonville, FL. Along with the epic tailgating along the nearby St. Johns River, the party continues during the game. Rather than drink from the usual smuggled flasks present at most games, fans can buy drinks in the stadium due to a loophole in NCAA regulations that prevent the sale of alcohol in college venues but don't prevent on-premise sales for games held in pro stadiums. All this boozing earned the game the well-earned nickname of "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."
The No-Fun Committee decided during the off-season, however, that the nickname condoned excessive drinking, irresponsible behavior, and other shenanigans. So the student government associations for Florida and Georgia got together, supported by an anonymous donor (although his initials were rumored to be N.C.A.A.), found a 1,000-year-old cypress tree on the state border, and carved it into a 12-foot trophy. As the inaugural winner, Florida will take home and proudly display the "Okefenokee Oar." That's right, one of the oldest traditions in the SEC can now be described as "The Battle for the Big Freaking Paddle." Good times.
Here's the recap of Top Ten action in Week Nine - 100% Nerf-free. For entertainment purposes only. Including gambling.
Game: Georgia 17 @ #1 Florida 41 (-16)
What was supposed to happen? A lot of drinking without having to worry about a big freaking oar.
What actually happened? Florida won the game handily. But rather than the final score, the blogoshere, the Twitterverse, and AM sports radio waves can't shut up about Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes. A 2008 First Team All-American, Spikes leads a tough defensive unit as responsible (if not more so) for the Gators' success this season as the exploits of Tim Tebow and the Florida offense. Spikes is a phenomenal player. He also seems like a real asshole. What else can you say about a guy who gouges at the eyes of an opponent?
Tensions run high on the field - and in the stands - every season during the Florida-Georgia game. Although the rivalry lacks some of the history of other SEC feuds such as Alabama-Auburn (the "Iron Bowl") or Alabama-Tennessee ("The Third Saturday in October"), little love is lost between the Gators and Bulldogs. Some players have faced one another before while at premiere high school programs in the Southeast. Some were recruited by both schools, and nearly ever starter for either team feels as though they are the best at their position. (Except the kickers, who must hope no one realizes they are getting a full ride to kick a ball. And not always accurately.) On Saturday, the rivalry quickly reached a fever pitch. Midway through the second quarter, the referees called the team captains together to issue a warning. The refs had seen too much action after the whistle, heard too much trash-talking, and tried to get the game under control.
Florida coach Urban Meyer described Spikes' action later in the game as one of many "emotional things" that happened on the field. I'd like to give Spikes the benefit of the doubt and say he was overwhelmed in the moment and lost his cool. Except this is the same player who has punched opponents on the field . . .
. . . and punted the ball into the stands after running an interception back for a touchdown.
I think it's fair to say he has a history of assholish behavior.
Meyer first heard of the eye-gouge play from his wife (!) on Sunday night, followed by a similar conversation with d-coordinator Charlie Strong on Monday. Note to coaches everywhere: if the defensive coordinator asks to talk to you about a dirty play by his star player, maybe you should look at the tape. Meyer's solution? Suspend Spikes for the first half of Florida's next game (against lowly Vanderbilt).
Let's rewind to Week One. A star player loses control and lashes out at an unsuspecting opponent. In the case of Oregon's LeGarrette Blount, however, ESPN catches his punch on national television (during prime time on the opening weekend of the season) and plays it in slow-mo high definition over . . . and over . . . whereas many missed the incident between Spikes and Georgia RB Washaun Ealey on Saturday. So what's more important - that players be held to a high standard of sportsmanship or how many people are watching?
Game: #3 Texas 41 (-9) @ #13 Oklahoma State 14
What was supposed to happen? Many suspected that, if Texas were to lose a game before the Big 12 championship, it would happen in Stillwater.
What actually happened?
Not so much. Maybe we can hold out hope for Kansas or Texas A&M to pull the upset. Can you tell that I'm not exactly rooting for the 'Horns?
Game: #4 USC 20 (-3) @ #10 Oregon 47
What was supposed to happen? Should USC defeat Oregon, a BCS bid would be a near certainty. As for the Ducks, a win against a Top Five team could vault them into a coveted spot as the best one-loss team in the country.
What actually happened?I don't think I'm alone in my shock at the outcome of this one. Oregon exposed USC's loss to Washington this season not as a fluke (as many supposed at the time, including us here at the Report, more or less) but instead as the first warning that the Men from Troy were truly overrated. I have read Oregon's win chalked up to the power of "chemistry," but I think that does the Ducks a disservice. But if Oregon is the better team, what does that say about Boise State?
Game: #5 Cincinnati 28 (-16.5.) @ Syracuse 7
What was supposed to happen? If Bearcat QB Tony Pike had to pick a stretch to miss due to injury, he could have done worse. Cincinnati could trot the waterboy out against Syracuse and still expect a win.
What actually happened? I didn't have the heart to take Cincinnati in this game. The Greg Paulus experiment may be officially over. The plucky quarterback, a former point guard with the Duke Blue Devils, showed bright promise early in the season but has come crashing back to Earth in Big East play. To make matters worse for the Orangemen, troubled WR Mike Williams quit the team on Monday morning. Williams was a semifinalist for this season's Biletnikoff Award as one of the best receivers in the country.
Game: San Jose State 7 @ #6 Boise State 45 (-36.5)
What was supposed to happen? The question wasn't so much if Boise would win, but by how much. For some of us, the margin was very important. Not quite can't-pay-the-rent important, more in the making-up-for-two-rough-days-at-the-track category.
What actually happened? You can (knock on wood) always count on Boise in a pinch. From everyone here at the Report, Broncos . . . thank you.
Game: Indiana 24 @ #7 Iowa 42 (-17.5)
What was supposed to happen? Another week, (what should have been) another ho-hum Big Ten conference win for the Hawkeyes who seem determined to shoulder into a BCS game and the inevitable beatdown.
What actually happened? Iowa again trailed entering the fourth quarter and needed 28 straight points to defeat the Hoosiers. Like Oregon, the chemistry angle has shown up in several articles discussing how Iowa has survived so many close calls this season. But I can't remember the last time the Hawkeyes showed up and dominated a game they were projected to win. And yet, the boys from The Tall Corn State boast a 6-2 record ATS and an impressive 3-0 mark as underdogs. How long can Iowa keep this up?
Game: UNLV 0 @ #8 TCU 41 (-35)
What was supposed to happen? Sure, TCU would win. But with a number that big, you're essentially saying UNLV won't score. Even a fluke touchdown for the 'dogs would have robbed TCU of the cover. Do I love Texas Christian? Yes. Do I cover-five-touchdowns love them? No.
What actually happened? The Horned Frogs don't have the toughest schedule in the country by a long shot, but we can say this - TCU wins the games it is supposed to win. By big margins.
Game: Tulane 0 @ #9 LSU 42 (-36.5)
What was supposed to happen? Another tuneup! We're going to submit a request to have Tulane reclassified as a Directional Creampuff. Hell, most people people don't know where to find Tulane on a map anyway.
What actually happened? Not for nothing, but a $100 bet against Tulane every week would have you up $490 on the season. The things we wish we would have known . . . next season I'll think to point out such trends when you can make some use of the information.
Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week, with the generous assistance of the Beachwood Sports Seal. They both welcome your comments.More from Beachwood Sports »
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