Cleaning Up the Mess: Week 2
Cleaning Up the Mess is here to make sense of what just happened at your weekend-long television party. Who put Goldfish in the blender? And why is the thermostat on 42?
This week: The Pac 12 brought a party bus full of people and started covering the house in neon and HBK Gang records. The SEC brought some appetizers then left, but not without “blessing our hearts”. Then, the Big Ten decided it would be a good idea to put a lamp shade over it’s head – again. Maybe we should give think before we give the Big Ten a call next time.
There’s a natural East Coast reluctance towards anything on the other side of the Mississippi that is praised by the national media. There’s an ingrained disregard for a place without the brutal cold, forests that look greener than Ohio State quarterback JT Barrett and a that can sustain palm trees without intense humidity. It doesn’t feel right; it doesn’t seem possible that a place like this exists. This only lends itself further to the football we watch. Thus, the groaning you will hear from your co-workers (should you be on the right side of the Big River) about Oregon’s rocket powered ascendance towards the orbiting object known as the College Football Playoff Trophy.
Michigan State-Oregon was one of the most highly touted out-of-conference match-ups between two elite programs from their respective conferences. It also represented a clash of schematic philosophy. Oregon has made history out of trying to be the fastest to the end zone while Mark Dantonio and Pat Narduzzi have spent years trying to perfect an unbreakable wall. It’s highest achievement was stopping a battering ram known as Stanford in the Rose Bowl. It’s next assignment was the stave off a hurried, rapid fire offensive. In the end, the wall collapsed and Oregon broke through. The Ducks rode the remarkable speed of Marcus Mariota fueled offense who completed 17 of 28 passes for 318 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Yet, the real tale was in the Oregon defense who intercepted two passes from Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. The Ducks capitalized on the first with a touchdown and a blood letting two point conversion. The second interception by Ifo Ekpre-Olomo staved off a Spartan comeback that was reminiscent of the days of SPARTY NO. Oregon looks elite both on offense and defense which is why they should and will be included in the national conversation until they shouldn’t be. Their biggest challenge on the schedule being Pac 12 North rival Stanford, who looks mortal after a majestically sloppy game against the USC Trojans.
The game in Palo Alto featured plenty of uncontrollable emotion from the Trojan sideline and an appearance from objective playoff selection committee member, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden. Meanwhile, the repressed feelings of one David Shaw remained on lock down as the Cardinal offense failed to hold on to the ball which resulted in two turnovers. It was a staring competition where the Trojans seemed to throw caution to the wind in order to overcome Stanford. The game was heavy on defense and light on points despite the fact that the Cardinal were in the red zone a total of five times. The Trojans have plenty to celebrate with a September slate that ends with a trip to Boston College and a home game against Oregon State. Their next marquee match will be in the first week of October against divisional rivals, Arizona State.
If watching the Pac 12 climb to the top of the national conversation wasn’t enough, those in America’s heartland had another reason to sob when the Big Ten took one of the biggest gut punches not usually witnessed bowl season. The conference went 8-5 over a weekend that bared witness to a last second attempt by Nebraska to overcome McNeese State, Ball State grabbing defeat from the jaws of Iowa’s victory and the MAC continue their reign of terror over their power conference neighbors. The marquee match-ups of Ohio State – Virginia Tech, Notre Dame – Michigan and, of course, Michigan State – Oregon, played host to more Big Ten schadenfreude as each team failed to walk with anything other than the fact that they are all still in contention for the Big Ten title.
The night’s biggest loss was in the form of Ohio State – Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes failed to find any offensive footing against a swarming Hokies defense which laid intense pressure on JT Barrett who was 9 for 29 on the day for 219 passing yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. The more cringe worthy performance was on the other side of the ball where an Ohio State defense allowed a Scot Loeffler offense (!!!) to place 35 points on the board. There is no hope for the Buckeyes – only pizza and cosmic smallness in the presence of teams from below the Mason-Dixon line. The only solace any Big Ten fan can have in this whole broken conference are the additions of Rutgers and Maryland:
If you watched close enough, you could see a bullet car speed through Darrell K Royal Stadium in Austin, Texas. The name of the bullet car was the BYU offense which racked up a total of 429 yards. The yardage was spread between Taysom Hill, the Cougars’ receiving and rushing corps rather than a repeat performance from Hill who rushed for 550 yards last year. While the coaching staff has undergone a dramatic renovation, the same problems on defense still plague the Longhorns. The defense is still in shambles and the offense is sputtering. The Longhorns are no longer in a position as a program where they can have the pick of the best players in the recruiting-rich state of Texas. They now have to compete with the likes of Texas A&M and Baylor – a possibility that seemed unfathomable only until the uprising and uprooting of the Big 12 after the establishment of the Longhorn Network. Texas now has to take the wrecked Rolls-Royce that Mack Brown left in his wake and make it functional again. Yet, from the looks of it, the work may require patience, time and care. I don’t think that’s really in the wheelhouse of the Longhorn boosters.
OTHER LEFTOVER PARTY FAVORS
- The Oklahoma Sooners very much looked like the fourth best team as they leveled Tulsa and embarrassed them with a final result of 52-7. There was also a bit of magic involving a FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN.
- Terry Bowden, former Auburn and Clemson coach, now has orange hair as the head coach of Akron. Another reason you should start watching MAC football.
- South Carolina bested the East Carolina Pirates 33-23. Steve Spurrier is now the third coach in SEC history to win 200 games. This puts him in the pantheon with national championship winning head coaches Vince Dooley (201) and Paul “Bear” Bryant (292). Of course, he could best Dooley by beating Georgia next week but let’s take it one day at a time here.
- The early Thursday night offering proved to be truly delight as the Arizona Wildcats beat the UTSA Roadrunners 26-23 in a game full of more blunders than my grandmother’s old sports bloopers VHS tape.
- Memphis put on a show against UCLA that ultimately ended in a 42-35 defeat. UCLA looks less of a threat to the Pac 12 and more annoyance than anything else. This means they will probably beat Oregon.
- The late, late game provided some great calm from the state of Hawaii with the chillest Oregon State squad kinda sleep walking against the Rainbow Warriors.
- Yeah, sure – vuvuzelas. Why not?