In the first two weeks of the season, college football remained on the sideline and warmed up. It stretched, did some light jogging, and wrote its hometown area code on its wristband. This past Saturday, it finally took the field. The result was a 12-hour pigskin palooza which left me feeling like Principal Anderson in Billy Madison: a little confused, kind of sweaty, a little hungry…but all in all OK.
“Turn up the lights in here, baby, extra bright, I want ya’ll to see this”
Forty seconds. That is the combined time remaining on the clock when Michigan scored to beat Notre Dame the last three seasons. Here’s a recap that Irish fans will want to skip over:
- 2009: Michigan wins 38-34 in Ann Arbor on Tate Forcier’s touchdown pass with 11 seconds left.
- 2010: Denard Robinson runs for a score with 27 seconds left to give Michigan the win, 28-24.
- 2011: The wildest of all, as Michigan wins 35-31 on Robinson’s touchdown pass with just two ticks remaining in the Big House’s first night game.
Three games. Three Michigan wins. Thousands of Irish broken hearts. Saturday’s night game in South Bend has some extra juice because of Notre Dame’s win over Michigan State last week. The oddsmakers have made the Irish a 6.5-point favorite, which is just fine with Michigan fans: the underdog has won four straight in this matchup. Personally, I think the spread should be offered in seconds, not points—as in, will the final score come with more or less than 44.5 seconds left?
I noted this after last year’s game, but the mutual respect between Robinson and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o really impresses me.* They will likely get reacquainted early and often on Saturday night, but expect Te’o to give Robinson a hand after the play and for Robinson to reciprocate with a gentle helmet tap. Sportsmanship: Pass It On!
*Te’o lost both his girlfriend and his grandmother last week before the Michigan State game. “It was hard,” Te’o told the Associated Press after the game. “But I had my family around me. At the end of the day, families are forever.” There is a movement at Notre Dame for fans to wear leis to Saturday’s game to support the Hawaiian native. It is a creative, thoughtful gesture that hopefully comes to fruition.
By the way, I attended all of the aforementioned UM-ND games. In fact, I’ve been to eight straight in this rivalry, starting with my freshman year of college. Saturday’s game will be the first Michigan-Notre Dame game I haven’t attended since 2003. Notre Dame’s move to the ACC could mean the series is not renewed after it expires in 2020 (though they are not scheduled to play in ’18 or ’19, so last game for a while could be 2017). I’m sure Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon is working on more important things—like how to replace those silly winged helmets—but hopefully he keeps the series going.
Snubbed and then drubbed
ESPN’s College GameDay was supposed to travel to Fayetteville for the Arkansas-Alabama game last Saturday, but ESPN told the Razorbacks it wasn’t coming to their cit-ay after they were upset by Louisiana-Monroe the week before. After being shunned by the Worldwide Leader, Arkansas was embarrassed by Alabama, losing 52-0. The program has clearly not recovered from the motorcycle crash that led to Bobby Petrino’s dismissal; their 1-2 start is yet another example of the silliness of preseason polls. How so many “experts” thought a team that plays in the best division in college football, the SEC West, could compete without the X’s and O’s guru who turned them into a threat is absurd. Absurd!
In lieu of my conventional top 10 poll, I will come up with something new to rank each week. This week, in honor of the all-Tiger matchup between LSU and Auburn, I will rank the scariest Tiger mascots among the Division I-A football programs:
1. Mike, LSU. Perhaps LSU made its mascot look so terrifying (notice the teeth) because it has an actual tiger on campus (see photo on right). Mike VI, who goes by the name Roscoe, lives right across from the football stadium. He is named after the LSU athletic trainer at the time of the purchase of the original Mike in 1936.
2. Aubie, Auburn. The terror level drops significantly, as Aubie looks more like a feline Santa Claus. He’s high-maintenance, too: he has three student “directors” and three senior “advisors,” one of whom calls Aubie a “major ambassador for Auburn University.”
3. Truman, Missouri. Mizzou’s mascot is named after Harry Truman, who was from the Show Me State. The linked photo shows Truman (the mascot, not the president) with last season’s Independence Bowl, which he dropped and broke.
4. The Tiger, Clemson. And now we venture into Tony the Tiger look-a-like territory. For $70, plus 45 cents per mile for gas reimbursement, Clemson’s mascot will make an appearance at your event for 1.5 hours.
5. Tom, Memphis. Like LSU, Memphis has an actual tiger to accompany its cartoonish mascot. Tom III lives in a habitat just south of Memphis.
Fun Factoid: Florida State has outscored their three opponents this season 176-3. The first two games came against lame I-AA opponents, but Saturday’s 52-0 thrashing came against ACC foe Wake Forest, which managed just seven first downs and 43 rushing yards.
Fun Factoid No. 2: Kudos to Northwestern for scheduling three BCS conference opponents to start the season. I’m not sure if Northwestern is the only team to do so this year, but they are the only school who has done so and is 3-0. Even the brave Wildcats couldn’t go a full season without playing an FCS school: they host North Dakota on Saturday.
Block of the Week: Kyshoen Jarrett gets the glory for his 95-yard punt return touchdown against Pittsburgh, but No. 37 Ronny Vandyke deserves much of the credit. He acts as a human bowling ball, coming out of nowhere (at the :12 mark of the video) to take out two would-be tacklers.
Crazy Ending of the Week: Utah-BYU. For the intellectuals who read this blog for the words, not the videos, here’s what happened: With Utah leading 24-21 at home, fans rushed the field after what should have been the final play of the game—a BYU incomplete pass on third down. The play was reviewed and ruled to be dead with one second left. BYU used the extra play to attempt a 51-yard field goal, which was blocked. As a BYU player picked up the ball and attempted to advance it, Utah students again rushed the field. Although they didn’t really interfere with the play, rules are rules and Utah was assessed a 15-yard penalty. The second kick, from 36 yards out, hit the left upright and Utah fans could finally celebrate an official victory.
Crazy Ending of the Week (Runner Up): Western Kentucky-Kentucky. I noted Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggart in last week’s column. After showing poor judgment off the field, Taggart made a gutsy call in the first overtime against the Wildcats. The decision paid off, as the Hilltoppers made a successful two-point conversation off a tricky double-pass to pull off the upset.
The Inaugural John L. Smith Halftime Interview of the Week: John L. Smith. I told you halftime interviews were going to be more exciting this season! I’m not sure which answer I find funnier: when Smith says his team will “keep doing what it’s been doing” even though Arkansas was down 24-0 or when he says he is going to slap his players.
Upset Pick: Michigan over Notre Dame (season record: 1-2)
ESPN’s College Football Final “Final Verdict” Winner: Lou Holtz, M.D. (season record: 1-2)
Pet Fan of the Week: You may have seen Smokey standing calmly on the GameDay desk (see photo below, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics) on Saturday morning while Lee Corso picked Tennessee over Florida, but the Volunteers’ mascot was more aggressive the previous week. In Tennessee’s September 8th game against Georgia State, Smokey “nipped” a Volunteer player as he came out for the second half. It doesn’t sound like it was nearly as vicious as when Georgia’s mascot, Uga, bit an Auburn player in 1996 or, more recently, when a police dog latched on to an Auburn player (Question: Why do dogs hate Auburn players so much?). Assuming it was a playful nip, Smokey IX gets a pass and is our Pet Fan of the Week.