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The College Football Report

By Mike Luce

I'll keep the preamble to a minimum this week and get right to the recap of last week's action. Later this week, expect an update on a few issues that have caught our attention here at the Report. In the interim, we'd like to share with you the single best independent web site on college football: the full TV coverage schedule. I don't know anything about it, other than it seems to be manually compiled. I can't tell you how long I have been looking for a single list of every game broadcast on TV. It's the little things in life.


Game: Utah State 17 @ #20 BYU 35 (-24)

What was supposed to happen? BYU must feel like the door to a BCS bowl game is still ajar. The Cougars just need to tread water for a few more weeks. If TCU shows up on October 24 undefeated, BYU will have a shot. In the meantime, teams like Utah State keep making the trip to Fort Worth.

What actually happened? While BYU kills time, they need to pay a little more attention week to week. Struggling a bit against the Utah State Aggies isn't a good way to regain national attention. Even if BYU pulls together for a run through TCU and the remainder of the schedule, they close the year at home with the Holy War. Yes, the BYU-Utah rivalry is known as The Holy War. That game will also be known as the 2009 Lock of the Year. Bet on the Mormons - you can't lose.


Game: #3 Alabama 38 (-16.5) @ Kentucky 20

What was supposed to happen? Looking ahead to this game through my Bluegrass-tinted glasses last week, I predicted an impressive showing by the Wildcats. A year ago, Alabama struggled to beat UK at home - a memory that should have given the Wildcats some confidence. Fresh off a humiliating defeat by Florida the week before, 68-year old Rich Brooks had plenty of ammunition for one of his trademark "Grandpa Didn't Get His Metamucil" tirades last week. If that doesn't motivate you, I don't know what will.

What actually happened? After a three-year period of modest success, the Wildcats have sunk back into familiar territory: mediocrity. For Chicagoland readers, picture the Wildcats as the Cubs of the Southeastern Conference. Now strip away the bloated payroll. And the talent. Let's put it this way: the 'Cats committed four turnovers on Saturday and, in a little more than five minutes of game time, allowed twenty-four straight points. This is not a team you want to trust with your hard-earned money.


Game: #4 LSU 20 @ #18 Georgia 13 (-3.5)

What was supposed to happen?Did I say something about penalties last week? When predicting a Georgia win, I think I mentioned something about discipline. I don't know for sure, because I've been punching myself in the face since Saturday evening.

What actually happened? The Bulldogs seized control of the game with a drive late in the fourth quarter. QB Joe Cox completed passes of 13 and 46 yards before connecting with WR A.J. Green for a 16-yard touchdown. In a controversial call, Green drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty while celebrating the catch. After failing to convert the two-point conversion, Georgia led by one point.

The TV commentators picked up on the penalty issue and returned to an earlier quote by head coach Mark Richt, saying he didn't worry about penalties. Richt explained his reasoning by referencing his time at Florida State . . . where they don't worry about penalties either. Yes, FSU, that bastion of discipline under investigation for encouraging academic fraud by 61 student athletes in 10 different sports.

Penalties after touchdowns are assessed on the ensuing kickoff, meaning Georgia was forced to kick from their own 15-yard line. On the kickoff, Georgia lined up in an illegal formation with only three players to the right of kicker Blair Walsh. Despite a 68-yard boot by Walsh, LSU return man Trindon Holliday sprinted up the left (surprise!) side of the field for 44 yards. Tacking on the formation penalty gave the Tigers the ball at the Georgia 38.

If you spot your opponent 20 yards in a tight game, you deserve to lose. Georgia effectively conceded the winning field goal. When LSU RB Scott barged through would-be tacklers for a clinching TD instead, it seemed that much more fitting.


Game: UC Davis 16 @ #5 Boise State 34 (n/a)

What was supposed to happen? Well, Vegas didn't post a spread for this game, so . . .

What actually happened? As you can tell from the score, Boise didn't dominate this game. Fortunately for the Broncos, virtually no one outside of Idaho saw the game. Here's a bit of Idaho trivia for you: The state slogan used to be "Famous Potatoes." Now, it's been jazzed up to "Great Potatoes. Tasty Destinations." I'll let that one sink in.


Game: #6 Virginia Tech 34 (-17) @ Duke 26

What was supposed to happen? Yes, Duke does field a football team. Every year, in fact. Surprised? For those of you unfamiliar with the football tradition at Duke, just picture Kentucky and then toss out the recent period of moderate success.

What actually happened? Given this perspective, watching the score of this game unfold gave me a shock. God knows the last time Duke beat a ranked team. I'm going to chalk up the game as just one of those things.


Game: #7 USC 30 (-5) @ #24 California 3

What was supposed to happen? California desperately needed to post a win or at least a moral victory. After averaging nearly 50 points per game in the first three weeks, The Golden Bears posted three points on the road against Oregon in Week 4. USC showed up at a bad time.

What actually happened? Cal may have slipped off a cliff. A few weeks ago, we mentioned in the Report that the Pac-10 title (and more) might go to the winner of this game. Then USC-Washington and Cal-Oregon happened. Thanks to fortunate scheduling, USC bounced back against Washington State but Cal was still wobbly and looked it.

Up next, Cal must go on the road for a rivalry game at UCLA. The Bay Area media is letting Cal head coach Jeff Tedford have it. I can't imagine this is a happy time in Berkeley.

Sidebar: Who is the most talented player playing on an unranked team? Cal's Jahvid Best? Clemson's CJ Spiller? (Spoiler alert!) Houston's Case Keenum? Discuss.


Game: #8 Oklahoma 20 (-7.5) @ #17 Miami 21

What was supposed to happen? Everyone continues to give Oklahoma a great deal of respect. The Sooners lost the defending Heisman winner weeks ago, yet manage to command a touchdown edge on the road. You'd think this would have set off a few more bells for me than it did.

What actually happened? In retrospect, I regret focusing on the undefeated teams last weekend at the expense of other good picks. I enjoyed trying to spot the upset among the unbeaten Top 25 teams, but this took away from gathering data on games like OU-Miami. How could we consider Oklahoma a road favorite over another ranked team with The Pornstache at the helm? Seems unlikely.

When will Sam Bradford return? He has had little time to spend with OU's current starters and even should he play this weekend against Baylor, he still might not be ready for the AT&T Red River Shootout. Only we're not to call it a Shootout. It's more like a Rivalry.

At this point, the Sooners may have to be content with a spoiler role in the Big 12.


Game: #9 Ohio State 33 (-18) @ Indiana 14

What was supposed to happen? The Hoosiers looked positively frisky in Ann Arbor and while they fell short of the upset, a return home to face OSU could be a good test. I'm sure Ohio State would not approve of my reasoning, but IU could prove to be a useful measuring stick for the Big 10. Or maybe Michigan is too inconsistent for this approach to make sense. We'll see.

What actually happened? The outcome of this game came as a shock to virtually no one. If you need some help visualizing the state of affairs in IU's football program, just picture Duke. Now take away the comforting knowledge for fans that at least the basketball team should be fun to watch.


Game: #10 Cincinnati 37 (-29.5) @ Miami (OH) 13

What was supposed to happen? While researching this game, I discovered that "bearcat" is another word for the Binturong, also known as the Asian Bearcat, the Palawan Bearcat, or just plain ol' Bearcat. Holy shit. I had no idea that the Bearcat was a real thing. I thought someone had dreamt it up, kind of like Boilermakers, Buckeyes, and cute Northwestern girls. The things we are all learning from Cincinnati's sudden emergence into the national spotlight. I tell you what.

What actually happened? Cincinnati did not cover the spread. I'm told weather was involved.


Game: Southern Methodist 14 @ #11 TCU 39 (-28)

What was supposed to happen? Ah, Texas Christian University. The prodigal team returns, only to play a bunch of scrappy Methodists.

What actually happened? After the game, to smooth things over the two teams exchanged water boys as a show of respect and trust. If all goes well, the water boys will be welcomed in by marrying an assistant trainer. However, no further details could be confirmed at press time.


Game: #12 Houston 41 (-14.5) @ UTEP 58

What was supposed to happen? After answering the call against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, the Houston Cougars looked to chalk up a somewhat easier win against UTEP.

What actually happened? The strength of Houston's out-of-conference schedule (also including a trip to Starkville next weekend to face Mississippi State) won the team some respect, but all of that now goes out the window. A few weeks ago, when discussing our "lose early" theory, we pointed to Houston as a team that would struggle to regain ground in the polls if they dropped a game later in the season. Now that the Cougars are prowling around outside the Top 25 (at #27), only a long string of wins will push them back up into the poll.


Game: Arkansas State 21 @ #13 Iowa 24 (-21.5)

What was supposed to happen? First, a housekeeping note: The two highest divisions in college football are referred to as the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Football Championship Division. For some reason, people felt that this naming convention and the corresponding acronyms (FBS, FCS) represented a cleaner approach than the old Division I-A or Division I-AA classifications. You can also think about the two divisions as Big Money and Small Money. Or as "The Division with the Post-Season Decided by the HAL 9000" and "The Other One."

After a close game against Northern Iowa, a FCS school, the Hawkeyes swore they would not overlook the Arkansas State Red Wolves. (Big points for the mascot - the Red Wolves. Nice.)

[CORRECTION: I didn't realize Arkansas State was an FBS school . . . and has been for some time. I am an idiot.]

What actually happened? Iowa nearly fell into a classic trap game - just after an emotional win and right before a difficult game. But with Iowa already having been in this situation (more or less) once before this season, how is it possible that they nearly lost to a heavy underdog again? I am setting the Hawkeyes aside as unreliable until we have more data. The lesson from this game? Always go with your gut.


Game: #15 Penn State 35 (-7.5) @ Illinois 17

What was supposed to happen? After crapping out last week at home, the Nittany Lions probably appreciated the chance to get out of town. Ron Zook and the struggling Illini made a perfect host.

What actually happened? I'm sad to see Juice Williams on the bench. The guy has come too far to deserve to take the fall for this team. Granted, he has not played well, but I'm tempted to point the blame at the coaching staff. Maybe Zook can invest in some world-class position coaches and spend a little less time on his only apparent passion - recruiting.


Game: Washington State 6 @ #16 Oregon 52 (-35)

What was supposed to happen? I am going to take a pass on this game. I feel bad for Washington State. The Football Gods seem deeply unhappy with the Cougars.

What actually happened? See above. You sick bastards.


Game: #21 Mississippi 23 (-10) @ Vanderbilt 7

What was supposed to happen? A few weeks ago, Ole Miss crashed out of the Top 5. Slowly but surely, the Rebels have been regrouping. At Vandy, they have been regrouping for the past twenty years or so.

What actually happened? I found this game so uninteresting that I'm going to share this nugget of Vandy trivia instead: in 2003 the university became the only NCAA-1A (now FBS) school to eliminate the athletics department. Rather than have an Athletic Director, the varsity teams now fold into the Office of Student Life. I love this idea as it saves costs, reduces bureaucracy, and prevents retired coaches from lingering on as a glorified assistant coach/Athletics Director. That said, such a bloodless coup isn't possible at most other FBS schools.


Game: #22 Michigan 20 @ Michigan State 26 (-3.5)

What was supposed to happen? Intense rivalry game? Turnovers by the QB? Inability to stop the run?

What actually happened? Check. Check - but MSU's quarterbacks threw 3 INTs to Forcier's single (yet costly) pick. Check - but again, Michigan had the more impressive running game. Apart from time of possession (which was a significant edge), Michigan's stats in the game look respectable - at least good enough to lead you to believe that the Wolverines, and not the Spartans, had squeaked out the game. Games like this make me realize that even successful picks can come down to a coin flip.


Game: #25 Georgia Tech 42 (-6) @ Mississippi State 31

What was supposed to happen? We discovered last week that Georgia Tech belongs in the Top 25. While the Yellow Jackets were overrated at the beginning of the season, the 20ish spot in the Poll seems about right. Mississippi State can challenge almost any team in the Top 25, but is probably still a year or two away from belonging to the club.

What actually happened? Georgia Tech fared even better than some others (notably LSU) at Starkville. Houston's visit this weekend should be interesting as well. The Bulldogs seem to make most of the right plays, most of the time, but miss too often to win. The question will be, does MSU have room to improve this season or will it take a full off-season (and a recruiting class by Dan Mullen) before they make the leap.


Mike "Chief" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week. He welcomes your comments.

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