The unbeatable team has been beat. Cue the jokes about whether Texas A&M could beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. Maybe now we’ll stop crowning champions at midseason? Probably not, but don’t blame Alabama for being the recipient of all that love. In fact, Nick Saban was telling anyone who would listen that he was terribly afraid of the Aggies. The problem was, few were listening. Saban’s pre-game comments on A&M’s up-tempo offensive attack bordered on paranoia and for much of the first half it looked like the Tide had no confidence against quarterback Johnny Manziel. Alabama settled in but it wasn’t enough; A&M won 29-24.
I could point out that A&M went just 4-5 in the Big 12 last year and is 5-2 in the SEC (I guess I just did, huh?), but let’s not forget the Aggies have a new Heisman-worthy quarterback, a new overachieving coach, and blew big leads throughout last season. You can’t simply point to A&M, say the Big 12 is better than the SEC, and drop the mic and walk off stage.
But how about that quarterback they call Johnny Football? Texas A&M’s athletic department “has sent about 10 cease-and-desist orders of late, primarily to T-shirt makers aiming to capitalize on Manziel’s sudden exposure.” (Getting into the NCAA’s hypocritical stance on this would be its own column.) Mr. Football’s first touchdown pass against Alabama was just silly. He thought about passing, then thought about running, then fumbled it to himself before finding a teammate wide open in the end zone. It was sort of like a flea flicker where Manziel played the role of the quarterback and the running back. Here is how CBS play-by-play man Verne Lundquist called the play: “Snap from Patrick Lewis. Four man Alabama rush. Got him…No they didn’t! Oh my gracious! How about that?!” (Lundquist’s partner, Gary Danielson, sounded depressed for most of the game, realizing the SEC’s chance for a seventh straight BCS title took a huge hit with Alabama’s loss.) The freshman dual-threat QB is a legitimate Heisman contender.
Wild, wACCky stuff
Florida State’s win last Thursday at Virginia Tech was its first outside of the state of Florida this season. The Seminoles are 9-1; of their previous eight wins, six were at home and the other two were at South Florida and Miami. If Florida State wins at Maryland in its ACC finale and then wins the conference title game to advance to the Orange Bowl, 10 of its 14 games will have been in the Sunshine State.
While it would take a monumental upset on Saturday for the Seminoles not to win the ACC Atlantic, the Coastal Division is complete chaos. Miami, Georgia Tech, and Duke, all with three losses, remain in the hunt. The tight race has left Miami in an interesting predicament—should the Hurricanes self-impose a bowl ban for the second straight season or hope for an outside shot at an automatic BCS berth? The fact that the NCAA allows teams to play out most of their season before deciding on such matters is comical. But Urban Meyer has to be wondering why Ohio State didn’t self-impose a bowl ban last season. The Buckeyes went 6-6 and lost in the Gator Bowl. This year, they are undefeated but ineligible for the postseason. It is not at all surprising that E. Gordon Gee and Gene Smith (Ohio State’s president and athletic director, respectively) botched this.
Hasn’t it seemed like more and more coaches aren’t talking about injuries this season? Or maybe there have been more injuries involving high-profile players. Either way, coaches like Lane Kiffin at USC, Bill Snyder at Kansas State, and Chip Kelly at Oregon don’t give the media much information, if any, about injuries. Does this have anything to do with the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal? Is Snyder worried that if he says Collin Klein has an injured left hand that opposing players will target the quarterback accordingly? It’s a legitimate concern, I suppose. And what is the point of coaches discussing injuries anyway? Sure, K-State fans would like to know before pregame warm-ups if Klein is going to play, but is it really our right to get this information? The level of secrecy can be annoying at times, but I don’t think it’s a big deal.
Coach Gone Wild of the Week: Tommy Tuberville. On Saturday, the Auburn head coach smacked the hat and headset off a graduate assistant’s head. In his postgame interview, Tuberville made up some lame excuse about trying to get the assistant off the field. Earlier this week he told the local media he apologized to the assistant, Kevin Oliver, but said anyone claiming he “hit” or “slapped” Oliver was “dead wrong.” I guess that makes me the “Dead Wrong Sportswriter of the Week.”
Quote of the Week: “We’re not going to get that call here. We’re not going to get that call ever actually, against any team. It doesn’t matter who the refs are…It’s us against the world and we’re not going to get those calls in these types of games.”
—Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin after an apparent Nittany Lions touchdown was ruled a fumble and upheld by the replay review
Commentary: Matt, Matt, listen, you’re giving the Big Ten replay officials way too much credit. They don’t need a bias against your school to make horrible calls. They will make them anyway. Then again, maybe there is an NCAA bias against Penn State…
Quote of the Week (Disney World Edition): “You thought you were at Disney World. There were Mickey Mouse plays everywhere.”
—Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o on Boston College’s offense last Saturday
Clown on the Week: Pat Fitzgerald. The Northwestern head coach’s celebratory jumping after Michigan was hit with a personal foul penalty was embarrassing. Of course the person who should be embarrassed is the opposite of embarrassed. “I’m a really good knucklehead. I pride myself in that,” Fitzgerald said of his sideline behavior. Yeah, pride is a totally normal emotion when your quarterback gets crushed after the whistle. Northwestern lost the game in overtime.
Play of the Week: Texas ran its first offensive play against Iowa State on Saturday from the wishbone formation to honor Darrell Royal, the legendary Longhorns coach who passed away last week, and gained 47 yards. Notice how the announcers say Texas will probably stick to a more conservative play call given its field position. NO SIR:
“It was a fun play and maybe had a little intervention from up above on that one,” Texas head coach Mack Brown said after the game. All of Brown’s comments about what led up to that play call are worth reading.
Shoutout of the Week: It goes to the University of Massachusetts Minutemen for their first win as members of Division I-A football. After dropping its first nine games, UMass beat Akron 22-14 on Saturday. The Minutemen now have more conference wins than two of their MAC foes. I know at least a couple of readers of this site are proud.
Lame Conference of the Week: SEC. Here are some of the SEC teams’ opponents this week: Western Carolina, Wofford, Jacksonville State, Georgia Southern, Alabama A&M, Sam Houston State, and Samford. You have to be a really careless reader to think these are good match-ups.
Kahn Family Smiles: I’m undefeated with this, though next week is probably the toughest all season.
Upset of the Week: West Virginia over Oklahoma. There is no good reason for this pick, in case you were looking for one. (record: 4-7)