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: “Do you remember that one time we went cow tipping over at the Stewart Farm and that one cow bucked you right in face?” “Yeah, man. That hurt like hell.” “Or the time when we was out at that party and-and-and the cops came to shut it down and everybody ran out the back door and you fell into a pile of dog poo?” “Yeah, man. I had to take like three showers when I finally made it home.” “Hahaha, yeah. And, what about the time you tried hitting on that girl and she just ended up pouring a drink on you? Hahaha.” (We just had to run into Nostalgia this weekend. We’re never leaving the house again.)
For a brief moment, it seemed like the world was thrust back to 2012. Everett Golson threw a perfect pass to receiver Corey Robinson on a slant route for a touchdown with 13 seconds remaining. The score read 33-31. Notre Dame would be back in the conversation as one of the most elite teams within the crazed sport of college football. In a flash of yellow, that possibility disappeared.
A late flag near the goal line was thrown for offensive pass interference. At another point in time, that penalty may have never been called. The mythos that Knute Rockne established would have won the day and the Irish would have found themselves atop the national conversation. Yet, the catch, the touchdown and the exuberant screams of joy from the most storied, hated program in America were rendered null-in-void. The final score would be 31-27 in favor of Florida State, a team that has only recently started to draw the ire of the viewing public due to their tone deaf quarterback.
Jameis Winston’s awful off-the-field decision making along with the indignant belief by some Seminole fans that there’s an angry mob outside of the Tallahassee bubble has turned Florida State into a lightning rod for ill will. A year ago, the Seminoles would probably be lent an overwhelming amount of support among those not associated with South Bend. Evidence of a tampered sexual assualt investigation, stolen crab legs, #FSUTwitter, and cringeworthy support from Jimbo Fisher changed all of that. It seemed like America was rooting for a cancellation via horrendous thunderstorm rather than take a side.
Regardless of personal opinion, Saturday night provided a classic in the canon of Florida State-Notre Dame. A somewhat sloppy first half aside, the second half provided a glimpse at what the past used to look like for those not young enough to know.
Irish QB Everett Golson turned in 313 yards and three touchdowns after a costly interception in the first half. Winston proved to be the more efficient of the two after completing 23 of 31 passes with two touchdowns (as well as his own terrible mistake). Golson only completed 31 of his 52 due to a storming Florida State defense that started to evaporate in the second half. After a comeback by Winston that’s been needed in three conference matches this season, the game came down to a final drive that Golson looked completely capable of delivering.
With a four point gulf between the two teams, Notre Dame’s only option was to reach the end zone. With more than two minutes left, the Irish drove down the field. Then, a sack by Seminole Terrance Smith at the Notre Dame 49 pushed the Irish back six more yards -making the next down 4th and 18. All hope appeared to be lost as a raucous crowd drowned out the words “undefeated Notre Dame”.
In the next play, Golson took the snap, evaded two charging defenders and zipped a rocket to favored target Robinson for a 20 yard gain. The drive stayed alive up until the final seconds after the pass interference penalty erased a touchdown pass. There would still be one final chance for Golson. Yet, the clock struck zero for “undefeated Notre Dame” when Florida State’s Jacob Pugh recorded his second interception in the end zone. A procedural measure of a victory formation ran out the clock and kept the Seminoles’ playoff aspirations alive.
Notre Dame now has an unsightly blemish on their record with wily Pac 12 opponents USC and Arizona State left on the schedule. If they win out, it’s more than likely, among a selection committee that understands the lure and lore of the Irish, that they stand in heavy contention with a one loss Pac 12/Big 12/Big Ten team for the fourth seed. It’s a big test but should they survive the bandits of the Pac 12 South, your 2014 playoff selection committee gives Notre Dame serious consideration.
As for the Seminoles, they remain atop the ACC as well as the college football world. Their conference schedule winds down with Virginia, Boston College, Miami and a possible threat at Louisville after a bye week. The season ends against a sinking cruise ship known as Florida. Their path to a playoff spot is one of the most surest bets in a sport that saw West Virginia shut down Baylor.
Baylor was another undefeated model rendered obsolete in a game where the Bears committed a Big 12 record of 18 penalties for 215 yards. Four of the 18 were pass interference calls against anyone who was covering West Virginia receiver Kevin White. White caused fits for the Baylor secondary and took advantage of an infraction happy officiating crew to make corners like Xavien Howard look silly. He recorded eight receptions on the day for a total of 132 yards and two touchdowns. White redefined who the best receiver in America was with the most explosive receiver corps being reduced to average by the Mountaineer secondary.
Also dropping from “Heisman Hopeful” to “a dude who plays football” was Bryce Petty, whose day was defined by hapless scrambles and an efficiency rate of 45.1%. Petty, who led the comeback charge against TCU last week, did not find enough time to throw or find an open man to will the Bears back to a win. West Virginia ended up celebrating with sacrifical flaming couches as well as fielding tear gas and rubber bullets. Though tear gas and rubber bullets sounds like the kind of gauntlet that must be run through in order to win the Big 12 whose newfound leader is Kansas State.
Kicking and special teams are a constant theme among Kansas State’s biggest games so far this season. Earlier in the year, the Wildcats’ Anthony Cantele missed three field goals that could have dismantled some of the mystique surrounding the SEC West when Auburn came to town. Bill Snyder beautifully drawn up pop passes, be damned. The world will know that the Wildcats die on the success and failures of each teams special teams, says a wacky deity presiding over the Big 12.
In a back and forth game in Norman, both teams struggled to attain the lead for an extended period of time. Wildcats QB Jake Waters threw for 225 yards, completing 15 of his 23 passes for two touchdowns. A remarkable feat when you remember that Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez is the first Sooner to ever record an interception through each of Oklahoma’s first five games. This, along with the aforementioned frustrating of playcalling of Snyder, placed Kansas State with a 31-30 lead.
The resulting drive for Oklahoma was stopped at the KSU one yard line. Michael Hunnicut, who had already missed a field goal on the day, had a great shot at winning the game. Hunnicutt, who tweeted a picture of his only uploaded play in his Sooner provided iPad, missed the kick to take the lead. The Wildcats sat on the ball with 3:43 remaining to beat Oklahoma and knock them out of serious playoff contention. Before this game, Hunnicutt had only missed one kicking attempt which speaks more to Snyder’s wizardry than Hunnicutt’s nerve. Kansas State is now in the driver’s seat in the Big 12 as the only team without a conference loss with three other teams that can crash the party at any time. The Big 12 Deity only asks that Texas be sacrificed one more time.
A college football Saturday in 2014 is not complete without a storied program of repute in free fall. Florida, while on Hot Seat Watch since Day One of the season, has hit a significantly new low in the Muschamp era. Evidence is in the following ubiquitous ESPN stat that has been floating all over the Internet since the Gators’ 42-13 loss:
Including this week, teams that have held their opponent to 120 yards or less are 147-2 over the last ten seasons. Both losses are by Will Muschamp-coached Florida teams. Saturday, Florida held Missouri to 119 yards of total offense and lost. The only other team in that span to lose while holding an opponent to 120 yards or less was Florida in 2011 against Florida State (95 yards).
According to Florida AD Jeremy Foley, the 3-3 start by the Gators has not changed Will Muschamp’s status as head coach. Foley said that the “sole focus right now is supporting our coaching staff and players as they prepare for Georgia.” Thus, Coach Boom is most likely safe until Florida’s horrendous offense finds a new way to further remove itself from the historic identity of aggressive, innovative offenses that have defined the Gators for more than a decade. All is not well in Gainesville. The wheels are off and this Go-Cart is persistent that it is going somewhere, dammit. Until it doesn’t, of course.
OTHER LEFTOVER PARTY FAVORS
- Texas A&M benefited early in the season from placing a stick of dynamite in a over-hyped South Carolina team. Ruffled feathers aside, they also looked damn near invincible against a capable Arkansas team. Hindsight is now 20-20 after a beat down from Mississippi State, a further pummeling by Ole Miss and then whatever snuff film we witnessed on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The 59-0 beat down was filled to brim with extravagantly new nadirs for a program who just signed Kevin Sumlin to a $30 million contract sans BCS bowl bids. On the other sideline, a frustrated Nick Saban does not bode well for the rest of the college football world. A one-loss Alabama team in October is just as frightening as an undefeated one. The wrath of Saban knows no Christian end.
- In a twist of irony, Georgia is rolling without Todd Gurley. They became the first team from outside of the SEC West to notch a victory against the division. Sure, it was against Arkansas but it was an Arkansas that was one point away from handing Alabama their second loss of the season. Freshman Nick Chubb rushed 30 times for 202 yards and two touchdowns to become the third freshman in Georgia history to rush for more than 200 yards in a game. If Georgia stays consistent in their attack, their playoff chances could drastically improve. But, it would take a lot around them for that to happen with a loss against a mediocre South Carolina team on their books.
- Ohio State’s JT Barrett has gone from default answer to Braxton Miller to one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Since the home game against Virginia Tech, Barrett has thrown for an average of 293 yards, an average of four touchdowns and doing it all with an average completion rating of 72%. The only pick since the Hokies was a mistimed throw against Kent State. The Buckeyes’ 56-17 win over Rutgers was the first time in school history that Ohio State has had four consecutive games with over 50 points. A newly found offensive identity and a stifling defense is heading towards a November 8th meeting with Michigan State that could serve as a de facto Big Ten championship game.
- Michigan State doesn’t really have any time to play a full four quarters of football. They don’t really care to. The Spartans have the talent to win football games but their true ambition is to dance! What will make selection committee members feel some type of way is the fact that the Spartans’ only loss is to a potential Pac 12 champion (Stanford willing). With their Ohio State copy-catting 56-17 rout of Indiana, the Spartans are just yawning their way towards their date against the Buckeyes.
- Oregon withstood the early advances of Washington’s Shaq Thompson who, before this Saturday, has recorded more defensive touchdowns than SMU’s scored offensively. Marcus Mariota and the Ducks trounced the Huskies 45-20 to become the Pac 12 North leader with a looming date against Stanford on November 1st.
- Without Taylor Kelly, the Arizona State Sun Devils made mince meat out of the Pac 12’s most competent defense in a 27-10 win. Even though the Sun Devils’ defense is nothing to write back east about, Stanford’s offense looks increasingly similar to the Will Muschamp Experiment in it’s horror. The Sun Devils are now one step behind USC in a Pac 12 South race that is as discernible as the Big 12’s Death Race.