Friday, October 15, 2010

Can't wait for the electric slide part of the evening

It's kind of a mediocre week in college football, but there's always stuff worth keeping an eye on. We'll see whether Jeff Demps is back to something close to full strength and if that's enough to put some big play pop in the Florida offense against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are more aggressive on defense under their new coordinators, and there will be opportunities to take advantage of that if UF's offensive staff can recognize when the blitzes are coming. I don't think the MSU secondary's a great matchup for the Gator WRs, but it's anyone's guess whether John Brantley is physically ready to exploit that or will be given the opportunity to do so. In the end, it's hard to imagine Florida losing a third straight and doing it on their home field. I doubt they will. Other stuff I'll be interested in:

1. Nebraska is dying to kick the crap out of Texas. The Longhorns have had two weeks to figure out what's wrong with them this year, but I'm not sure they've got the ability to fix things like a mediocre offensive line that appears to be in poor shape. I've got the Cornhuskers in the national title game right now. A road game at Oklahoma State's as tough as it gets for them after this until the Big 12 title game.

2. Arkansas and Auburn may team up to put 80 plus on the board given what's expected out of their two defenses. If the Razorbacks win the SEC West officially becomes a giant jumble, while if they lose then they're pretty much eliminated. If Arkansas doesn't hit at least 35, I don't think they win.

3. I know everyone expects Alabama to thump Ole Miss, but history says beware. Houston Nutt's been a double digit underdog seven times and covered all seven of them, winning three games outright. He's 4-0 against the spread as a double digit underdog since getting to Ole Miss. I don't think the Rebels can beat Alabama, but they may give them more of a scare than you'd think.

4. I'm far from sold on the idea Ohio State's the best team in the country, but I don't think this weekend tells us they aren't. Wisconsin is what they usually are, a slightly above average Big Ten team who played garbage non conference games and won them all. Austin Peay, UNLV and San Jose State couldn't beat the Badgers if they formed a combo team. Minnesota's awful too. The Buckeyes should win comfortably. Failure to do so will be further evidence they're overhyped at the moment.

I'm a believer in the concept of instant replay as a way to make sports better. It can't solve every problem created by the inevitable human errors of officiating, but if it fixes some of the obvious ones it's still worth having. Having said that, college football does as bad a job of executing it as it possibly can. I'll never forget listening to Al Ford, the SEC replay official who did a dreadful job on the Chris Leak "fumble"/incomplete pass during the Florida-Auburn game in 2006, explain while sitting at the same table as me in the press box in Columbia a week later that he "knew it was a fumble" because of Leak's reaction on the play. Apparently anyone who tries to gather a loose ball must have fumbled it. That's incompetence personified, and it's what we see far too often from replay officials. Rather than being specially trained guys who know how to use video equipment and have no loyalty to the guys on the field, they're former officials who may not have even been good at that. Even by the low standards I have for these guys though, what the Pac-10 allowed to happen at Arizona last week blows my mind. If an SEC team's fans found out the replay ref who sided with one school over theirs on four different reviews was an alum of that school who's also an athletics program booster, they'd be ready to riot. The Pac-10 officiating chief doesn't grasp why this is a problem, which is why the Pac-10 apparently needs a new officiating chief.

Ole Miss finally has a mascot. The Admiral Ackbar idea was vastly more amusing than what they came up with, which turned out to be the "Rebel Black Bear". What makes the bear a rebel is that he wears a Houston Nutt style hat and a necktie, not conforming to the clothing free lifestyle of your typical bear. The fact the issue of what Ole Miss's mascot should be has captivated Mississippi for nearly a decade is pretty remarkable - hopefully this will be the end of the story.

There are fourteen college football Saturdays each year. I'll get to spend tomorrow's at a wedding in Charlotte wearing a suit - lucky me. Note to the single guys reading this: make sure your future wife doesn't choose any bridesmaids who went to places like Ithaca College. Otherwise, you will be forced to go to their fall wedding which will start at 5 pm to make sure you don't get to see any of the important games of the day live. Whenever I do have a chance to make observations via Twitter, I'll do so - the handle's heathradio should you feel like following. Have a better Saturday than me (maybe we'll get to do the Chicken Dance!) and I'll see you back here Monday.

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