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Here's an oddity about college football you won't see in the pros.
Pretend for a moment you don't know the identity of either team involved in the following situation. Both teams enter the game ranked, with the #1 team playing on the road against #19. The visiting squad attempts a comeback in the second half after trailing by 12 points at halftime.
After an interception, the visitors take over in great field position early in the fourth quarter down by only a touchdown. The offense sputters, however, and the visitors face fourth- and-long on the home 25-yard line. The kicker for the visitors is a freshman yet he has booted through two of three field goal attempts of 40 yards or more on the season. As the visiting coach, what would you do?
Kick the field goal, right? There's nearly 12 minutes left to go in the game! Kick the field goal, pray your kicker can earn his scholarship and narrow the gap to 28-24. Kick the ball back, get a stop on defense and force your opponent to punt.
Don't we see this situation every Sunday in the NFL? In this scenario, you want to extend the game. Did I mention that the visitors are the top-ranked team in the country?
Presumably, some of their players are good. Maybe they haven't played too well all afternoon, but what's the alternative? Bet the game on the guy who holds the ball on field goals - the backup QB - to run a fake and convert a first down on 4th-and-11? Why not take your chances on a 42-yard field goal?
So what happened?
Nick Saban hit the panic button and called the fake. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for his defense. No surprise, then, that after the failed fake, the Bama D promptly surrendered a 10-play, 74-yard drive for a touchdown.
The decision would make more sense (i.e. "our defense just can't stop these guys, we gotta score a touchdown here!") had the Tide not just forced a turnover. Carolina's previous possession? Incomplete pass. Complete pass for 7 yards. INT. (For a breakdown of the fourth quarter, go here.)
We can't help but feel that Saban threw a temper tantrum. He seemed to forget that winning sometimes requires patience. You can't expect to blow everyone out by 20 points. (Looking at you, Penn State - you too, Florida.) Odd, considering that two weeks ago Bama went into the half at Arkansas down by two scores and trailed by as many as 13 late in the third quarter and yet still pulled out a W.
Saban is like the spoiled kid (okay, this happens to people of all ages) who gets pissed at the computer and hits the restart button on his video game rather than lose. Or maybe he just couldn't stomach the thought of losing to South Carolina and Steve Spurrier.
One final detail that escaped notice by many in the moment: The targeted receiver on the fake was linebacker/defensive end Ed Stinson.
Now, Stinson is a fine athlete. But how about finding somebody who has some past experience in, say, catching the ball? Like a backup tight end? Hell, maybe your starting tight end!
Saban, asked to defend his decision, replied: "Probably didn't make a very good call on the fake."
* * *
Not only did South Carolina (+7) topple the #1 ranked team in the country last Saturday, but the game also marked the school's first win over a #1 team ever. The Gamecocks scored 35 points on the Tide, the most since LSU in 2007, and ended Alabama's 19-game win streak (18 in the SEC). Big kudos not only to much-maligned SC QB Stephen Garcia but also to the Carolina defense - Bama QB Greg McElroy suffered four sacks in the second half and defending Heisman winner Mark Ingram and super-backup Trent Richardson were held to 64 yards.
Les Miles rolled the dice on a fake FG last Saturday as well, only with far better results.
Miles led the #12 LSU Tigers into The Swamp to face the #14 Florida Gators (-6.5) in a high-stakes bid to remain unbeaten. Down by three, LSU lined up for a 52-yard field goal to tie with only 35 seconds left in the game. Holder Derek Helton took the snap, but rather than placing the ball he flipped a no-look bounce pass over his shoulder to kicker Josh Jasper who scooped up the ball and sprinted for a first down. The play took the Gators, officials, fan in the stands and TV audience by complete surprise. Words don't do the play justice - let's got to the tape.
1. At the 0:43 mark.
2. And again.
Other teams have run the same play in the Big 12, where officials have ruled against it for reasons we don't understand. Maybe trickeration of this magnitude just doesn't seem sporting in the Corn Belt.
We love it, although even Miles would be the first to admit that a little bit goes a long way in this department. Witness a not-so-spectacular outcome of the same play from South Carolina @ LSU in 2007.
* * *
Finally, Texas Texas Tech put the "special" in special teams last Saturday with one of the worst onside kicks of all time. Well, the kick itself was fine. But somebody forgot to tell the Red Raiders that it's still a live ball.
We imagine the game this Saturday will come as a welcome relief from what has surely been a long week of up-downs, wind sprints and verbal harangues in Lubbock.
What do you call it when you stalk your ex-girlfriend via text?
Neither sound adequately sinister given the nature of the messages.
Someone needs to figure this out, because University of Florida running back Chris Rainey has lowered the bar.
Rainey allegedly sent threatening texts to his ex earlier this fall, including one that read "Time to Die B-tch". Nice work avoiding the profanity, Chris. I'm sure the police took a second look and said "Oh, there's a dash in there instead . . . well, that's fine."
The 27th player to run afoul of the law in 30 separate incidents during Urban Meyer's tenure at Florida, Rainey has been reinstated after pleading to a misdemeanor and agreeing to a counseling program. No word yet on if a spelling lesson is included.
Meyer has - rightly - taken heat in the press for the move, and the timing couldn't be more transparent. With a 4-2 record and a slumbering offense, Meyer seems willing to forgo his superficial commitment to "core values" in favor of guys who can score touchdowns.
In lighter news, two Washington State Cougars have been arrested after police discovered a few dozen marijuana plants in a residence shared with two other people. Coach Wulff won't "necessarily kick them off the football team" however . . . attaboy, Coach! Your Cougars may be 1-5, but at least the bake sale this fall will be awesome.
Meanwhile, coach Mark Richt at the University of Georgia not only can't win but also can't seem to keep his players out of trouble . . . with the DMV. Richt announced the suspension of Caleb King, the Bulldogs' second-string running back, earlier this week. This isn't the first offense for King - two years ago, he was flagged for scootering on a suspended license. The first-string back, Washaun Ealey, also missed a game this season after an accident in a school parking structure - while driving his roommates' car. On a suspended license.
Assuming he steers clear of any vehicular mishaps, freshman back Ken Malcome may get a shot to contribute against Vandy this Saturday. Asked to comment on Malcome's motor, center Ben Jones said: "He's not scared to run anybody over."
Flea & Tick Desk Update
To follow up on two stories we mentioned here last week, our diligent reporter on the veterinary beat filed the two updates below.
* It's official, the Ole Miss Rebels now have a Rebel Black Bear as their mascot.
(We still can't figure out what the hell the Rebel Hotty Toddy was supposed to be, but no matter.)
Speculation has now turned to the staying power of the new mascot, with even the New York Times weighing in.
We think all of this will be resolved when fans realize they can now wear enormous Ole Miss foam bear claws. And who doesn't love foam bear claws?
* Big Bad Bruce, the common name of Uga VIII, will take the field this Saturday on the Georgia sidelines. No word as to what will happen to deposed interim mascot Russ, but Bruce certainly looks the part.Given the Bulldogs' transportation issues, maybe Bruce should walk - not drive - to the game.
File Under . . . "It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time"
With our thanks to Adam Jacobi of CBS Sportsline and the Slow States blog, we present to you . . . the worst (well, one of them) idea of the 2010 college football season: "Ghosting Out" the Penn State-Michigan game.
Refer to the More Info section for . . . more info, and for those of you who stayed out too late last night, a clue as to why this is not such a hot idea.
The Seal And I
We promise to fill you in the salacious details later, but for now take comfort in knowing that the Beachwood Sports Seal has returned in all his blubbery glory. Here are his picks:
Cincinnati (-3) at Louisville, 7:00PM Friday
Bonus: game will decide who takes home The Keg of Nails Trophy!)
Arkansas State at Indiana (-10), 11:00AM Saturday
Louisiana-Lafayette at Troy (Over 59.5), 6:00PM Saturday
And finally . . . our picks for Week Seven. We haven't had much luck in this department under the new Beachwood Bankroll plan, but we're only halfway home, right? We can still rally! Let's win this one for Russ!
#1 Ohio State (-4) at Wisconsin, 6:00PM
Comment: We hate to pick against Wiscy in this one, given our level of distaste for all things Buckeye, but we just don't see how the Badgers will hang in this one. And UW star RB John Clay admitting his surgically repaired ankles were probably at "95 percent" earlier this week doesn't help.
Texas at #5 Nebraska (-10), 2:30PM
Comment: Nebraska has been waiting all year for this one.
#12 Arkansas (+3.5) at #7 Auburn, 2:30PM
Comment: Kentucky was a healthy John Locke away from locking up the upset in the fourth quarter last weekend. We'll roll the dice with Ryan Mallet and his crew.
Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report every week. He welcome your comments.