Still Love My Tigers, Y’all: Lessons from Week 8

The world watched as Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles crushed Clemson into a miserable solid orange pulp. The Seminole defense would not stand for any magnificent Tajh Boyd to Sammy Watkins or Martavius Bryant connections. There would certainly be no running game either. The Tigers were relegated to punt after punt after punt which turned into a lesson in why you never want Winston, or the Florida State offense in general, to have possession.

Winston zinged, lobbed and floated passes to Kelvin Benjamin, Rashad Greene, and Nick O’Leary that forced one of the loudest atmospheres into hushed tones. There were plenty of shots provided by ESPN cameras of Tiger fans whose disbelief was on display for all of America. After all, this wasn’t supposed to happen to Clemson. This team was returning more play makers than Florida State had lost to the NFL. If anything, this game was supposed to be a shoot out; not a day of reckoning for The Wonderful Monster.

In the end, the score was 51-14 and the best summation of this beat down is the universal Clemson fan base coping mechanism: “I still love my Tigers, y’all”.

The ACC “game of the century” with the grand introduction of the Tigers and the subtle insert of Jaboo’s pre-game pep talk gave the nation goosebumps. I felt the electricity from my seat on the virtual bus ride over from the home locker room in Death Valley to Howard’s Rock. All those warm, fuzzy feelings of competitive football washed away after the 1st half. At this point, LSU-Ole Miss was waaaay more intriguing than a game where Lamarcus Joyner was single handily shutting down both Martavius Bryant and Sammy Watkins.

That’s not to say that Florida State’s demolishing act was like watching Alabama. Quite the opposite, actually.

Alabama, in their 52-0 victory over Arkansas, is moving through the SEC West as if the path to a national championship is paved in gold. The Tide is like Prairie Home Companion: successful, inoffensive (on-the-field, of course), and mired in the mundane. That’s why it’s the least interesting team that stands atop the first BCS rankings of the season while the teams below are a gaggle of personalities and chutzpah.

Florida State may have been methodical in their approach but Winston certainly offers a panache that other quarterbacks certainly lack to keep things interesting.

Aside from learning that Clemson has become one of the most GIF-able environs in college football, what other nuggets of information did we learn?

We learned that the SEC is full of psychopathic cannibals.

The SEC West was rocked by losses from top tier division teams such as LSU and Texas A&M to Ole Miss and Auburn. Chaos has ensued and Alabama is quietly residing in a safe house that is tucked away on a hill overlooking a valley of warring rival factions. Their safe house is armed with state of the art weaponry to protect themselves from the measly likes of a resurgent Auburn team who can make the Iron Bowl more interesting than people expect.

Auburn was able to beat Texas A&M on the ground with D.A.I.S.Y Age Tre Mason rushing for 178 yards and a touchdown while Nick Marshall was able to get in on the action with 100 rushing yards as well as two touchdowns.

Marshall was also able to air the ball out and racking up a considerable amount of yardage while not making mental errors. Meanwhile, Johnny Football had quite the day for himself,  complete with 454 yards of offense and four touchdowns. But this wasn’t without consequence though. Manziel threw for two picks that the Tigers took advantage of in order to overcome the Aggies. It was certainly a bittersweet day for Manziel but not nearly as bad as the one Zach Mettenberger was having in Oxford.

Zach’s Terrible No Good Day was highlighted by a regression into his 2012 self. Mettenberger accounted for three of the Tigers’ four turnovers, one of which led to a touchdown for the Rebels. The play of Mettenberger was so inconsistent that the Tigers reverted to a ground game that seemed, at times, like it had stalled. None of LSU’s stable of running backs broke over the 70 yards of rushing yards with many of the touchdowns as punch ins for huge Mettenberger drives.

The Terrible No Good Day was capped by an Andrew Ritter field goal which solidified that, yes, Ole Miss had finally won the game. A game against sixth ranked LSU who, beforehand, seemed to be capable give Alabama a run for their money. Instead, LSU looked like a crippled shell of the same team that had an incredible, high stakes shoot out with Georgia earlier in October. With Auburn’s upset of Texas A&M already recorded, Ole Miss’ win exploded any real potential for a team below Alabama to humble them and keep them out of a trip to Atlanta.

While the West may have gotten way less interesting with Alabama at the top, Missouri is currently leading in the East with many in the SEC media contingent scratching their heads as to how in the hell this all happened.

Missouri is coming off back-to-back wins against Georgia and Florida. Granted, the teams that the Tigers played were battered, but the depth on these teams was supposedly good enough to not allow Mizzou to win by margins of 15 and 19, respectively. For a team whose nickname in 2012 was “Misery Tigers”, it is pretty impressive to see them in the driver’s seat of an East division that is full of a gaggle of teams who seem to be infected by whatever Tennessee has contracted.

Neyland Stadium is responsible for the rash of injuries that has caused Georgia to fall from one-loss SEC BCS contender to potential back-to-back Outback Bowl champions. Their latest affront to the division was handing a loss to South Carolina and injuring Connor Shaw with five minutes left in the game. The Gamecocks, much like their rival in Athens, have now been relegated out of any contention to compete in a BCS bowl because of a last second field goal by Tennessee’s Michael Palardy which was the result of Marquez North doing this.

Are there lessons in the East? I guess, but survival tips only get you so far when the variables are constantly changing. At this point, Tennessee looks dangerous to any team not named Alabama and Georgia seems somewhat anemic with their loss to Vanderbilt. It seems that all of the names associated with recent division titles have been struck with some sort of bubonic plague that is the result of the bugs that reside in Knoxville. If you’re a college football fan outside the hegemon of the SEC, this is probably the best year for you since 2007.

Unless you’re a Big Ten fan, of course.

Ohio State, the crown jewel of the conference, looked rather weak on the defensive side of the ball against an Iowa team that went three-and-out nine times in their previous game against Michigan State, had 23 yards of rushing offense in the same game, and a passing offense that was ninth overall in the Big Ten. With the kind of play makers that Ohio State has on the defensive line and even with All-American Bradley Roby out (more on that later), Iowa was still able to score 24 points with Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde having to do all of the heavy lifting in order to edge out the Hawkeyes.

The Buckeyes are the only undefeated team in the Big Ten with their eyes on the national championship. But when you combine the lackluster performance against Iowa with the fact that Northwestern, one of their only signature opponents on the conference schedule, is in free fall, they are going to need to win-out as well as watch some dominoes tumble at the top. If not, Ohio State might be left out and the outrage in the midwest will come in droves.

We also learned that the new targeting rule kinda sucks.

People were up in arms about the targeting rule before it was even executed on the field and rightfully so. It is a rule that can change the impact a defensive player has on the entire game. That’s not to say that I disagree with the objective of what the NCAA is trying to do. The NFL, along with USA Football, are trying to change how players tackle in order to increase player safety and decrease the number of concussions. This has been also regarded as a priority by the NCAA so they can continue to make money off of unpaid labor and rest their heads in peace at night. However, even with the ability to review plays deemed that have been deemed as targeting fouls, referees still have too much power to eject these players.

This past Saturday, the following names were ejected from play: Bradley Roby (Ohio State), Kadetrix Marcus (South Carolina), Ray Drew (Georgia) and Cody Riggs (Florida). These are all key defensive players with Drew’s call being the most egregious and bone headed with no video evidence of targeting even after a review by the booth.

I think the idea is best implemented when done incrementally as suggested by an idea circulated by Pat Fitzgerald at the outset of the season through a yellow card – red card system. I think the solution would help limit helmet to helmet contact as well as help college players change their style of play. On a side note, it would be better if the NCAA just paid the players that way they could fine them with an option to appeal – just sayin’.

IN OTHER NEWS: Louisville gave up a 21 point lead to UCF in the third quarter of a game that ended with no epic Teddy Bridgewater finishes but a steep tumble for the Cardinals in the AP poll. Oregon slammed Washington State and Mike Aliotti wished the Cougars would just have taken their beating. Baylor continues to rip their way through opponents like, once again, a BUZZ SAW. Stanford puts UCLA in a submission hold and makes them tap out of their ninth-ranked position. Oklahoma sleepwalks its way through a game against Kansas that reportedly had no energy (it was Lawrence in the fall tho). Fresno State continues their run as “fly in the ointment whatever whatever” with a victory over UNLV. Kliff Kingsbury outhandsomes his mentor, Dana Holgorsen, in Morgantown. Arizona State crushes Washington and I really want to see the Washington win a game again. Wisconsin power runs their way through the Fighting Illini. Oklahoma State puts up 24 points on one of the best defensive teams in the Big 12.

WHILE YOU WERE BEING A SPORTS SHUT-IN: The Yeezus tour apparently features set pieces like a Jesus look-alike, a mountain, and some questionable merchandise. I guess this is a Friday Night Lights reunion. This interview with Nick Offerman is pretty amazing. Mamming for October. The Grand Budapest Hotel looks swell. Arcade Fire is taking over everything this Fall so just be prepared. Regis Philbin says, “Protect ya neck, Gelman!”

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