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Conquered favorites and other notables picking up the pieces of shattered ambition this week:

The bottom line is the only line. Folks are no doubt disillusioned in Florida, where it must indeed suck harder to be a Gator fan than it has in, what, a year? A little less than a year. Duration between periods of suck only exacerbates said suck. Newton proved that.*

Losing hurts. Really, for Urban Meyer, it's like a kidney stone.
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Here are the grades as assigned by the Gainesville Sun, which I'd like to point out particularly for its judgment of the Gator offense:
Offense -- C-
FIRST HALF: Part of the problem was only having four possessions and only six plays (plus two penalties) in the first quarter.
SECOND HALF: Florida was much better but couldn't get that one final drive going that could have won the game.
FOR THE GAME: When you score 17 points, you're going to be in trouble no matter what the other side is doing.

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And the assessment of the St. Petersburg Times:

For a moment, forget the polls. Forget the SEC standings.

Forget that, on the eve of October, USF is looking like the best college football team in the state.

The real issue today is whether the Gators have enough talent - and time - to recover and play meaningful games in November and beyond. Because, today, that is certainly in doubt.

For instance, the Gators have essentially become a two-person offense with Tebow and Percy Harvin. Between rushing and passing, Tebow accounted for 276 of Florida's 312 offensive yards. And Harvin's leaping catch over a defender in the fourth quarter set up UF's tying touchdown.

But when the Gators were handed a chance to take a lead in the game's final minutes, Harvin and Tebow came up short. A screen to Harvin on first down was turned into a 6-yard loss and Florida went three and out from its 42.

"It's heartbreaking. It's hard to even put in words," Tebow said. "We had opportunities to win the game."
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Two games:

Yds./Play 4.6 5.7
Yds./Carry 3.6 4.0
Yds./Pass 5.8 7.4
Completion % 70.3 74.1
Yds./Possession 30.8 34.7

"Game A" was Florida's offensive performance in January's mythical championship game. "Game B" was Florida's offensive performance against Auburn Saturday night. Two big differences: UF did not turn the ball over against Ohio State, and turned it over twice against Auburn (though neither set the Tigers up near scoring position) and, more importantly, UF held the ball for more than 41 minutes against OSU, as opposed to 27 minutes Saturday, a difference of almost a full quarter. This was a direct result of the young defense failing to get a previously staggering Auburn offense off the field, as the Tigers controlled 18 minutes and limited Tebow to just 24 plays on three possessions, two of which combined to cover 21 plays, 117 yards and 10:56 of clock time before ending in a blocked field goal and a fumble.

The Sun's grade for the Gator defense? A `C.' But if Saturday was an example of a `C-' performance by the offense, the Gators are still at least as well off with Tebow at his most mediocre as they were with Chris Leak at his best. Expectations are everything, I guess.

* - Newton did not prove that. Not officially, anyway, though he was prolific beyond surviving records.

The end is near. Locusts hum on the horizon and rivers run with a tinge of crimson across two entire states, and, most horrible, the Dallas Morning News is printing facts like this:

John Mackovic (UT) and John Blake (OU) were the coaches the last time Texas and Oklahoma entered the Red River Rivalry with a conference loss.
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And lo, though their new rulers be entrenched, for one or the other, pestilence shall spread across the land, and multitudes will suffer. Or at least a couple position coaches.

Pestilence and plague is only one of the explanations floating around the Sooner State for Oklahoma's loss at Colorado: the altitude, the defense wearing down by a vast disparity in time of possession, too much toying around with formations, Ryan Reynolds playing with a numb shoulder, Malcolm Kelly failing to make a catch. Possibly a horse laxative was involved. Or, maybe - I know it's a long shot, but just maybe - the Sooners just sucked:

... the 50,031 fans on hand knew CU had kicked the third-ranked Sooners all over Folsom Field long before the game-deciding play.

"All losses stink," OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables said afterward. "They're all in one category."

This one certainly qualifies.

The Sooners lost on the defensive front, the offensive front and on special teams.

In the process, they lost their composure, their toughness, their swagger, their momentum and their national respect.

They did keep their dignity, however.

They knew they stunk and admitted it afterward.

OU players didn't discriminate Saturday. Their shortcomings were multifaceted.

They dropped receptions and interceptions. They missed blocks and missed tackles.

Receivers dropped the first pass attempt of the game (Juaquin Iglesias) and the last attempt (Joe Jon Finley) -- and there were plenty of tipped balls, muffs and bobbles in between.

Sooners coach Bob Stoops repeatedly said his team wasn't very smart against the Buffaloes.

His team wasn't very good, either.
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Ah, but were the Sooners Texas bad? Crimson and Cream Machine doesn't think so, but then, he's not imagining coach's meetings for Oklahoma's opponents, either. Not yet.

Off with their heads. Patience was already running short with Penn State before it lost to a team with three Big Ten wins in the past four-plus years, but when four second half drives beginning in enemy territory yield three points between them, especially when that enemy is Illinois, well, the emotional dam tends to break:

Where is the surprise, again?
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I've learned a valuable lesson this year. Unlike the stock market, in football past results are an indication of future performance. And based on the past performance of our quarterback, running back, and offensive line I am not optimistic about the rest of our season. When we started the year I dreamed of National Championships and Big Ten titles. Now that has changed. The only game I expect to win from here on out is Temple. Everything else is up for grabs. My goals for this team now are to just win six games, go to the Music City Bowl and let's start planning for 2008.
I said last year that Morelli was a loser. After the Outback Bowl I humbly said Mea Culpa. I defended his poor play against Notre Dame. I gave him the benefit of the doubt against Michigan saying Austin Scott, the offensive line, and the coaches were just as much to blame. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Fool me four or five times, well I'm definitely maybe not falling for that again. I'm tired of making excuses for Anthony Morelli.

With Penn State within one score of taking the lead or tying the game, the last four drives all entered Illinios territory. They ended interception, interception, fumble, and interception. All on the head of Anthony Morelli. Four times the Nittany Lions had a chance to take the lead or tie the game. Four times Anthony Morelli blew it.

Other than #14 I thought it was a great game by the rest of the team. Rodney Kinlaw fumbled, but that was more on the defender making a great play rather than him being careless. The coaches did a fantasic job opening up the offense. The defense was a little shaky in the first half but tightened up and only gave up six points in the second half. The game was there for the taking, and #14 blew it. I'm so disgusted I can't even type his name anymore. He's forever #14 to me now.
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(You know how you know that's not a newspaper column before even reading its venom? Actual paragraphs!)

Not to rub it in, Mike, but we told you so about Morelli the Quarterback Who Must Not Be Named. At least you're not running into assistant coaches pounding beers the night before the game:

In McQueary's defense, it was a night game, against Notre Dame. It shows dedication that he showed up for work at all, doesn't it?

The sky is falling. I watch movies like War of the Worlds, and I put myself in Tom Cruise's shoes, and  I wonder "How would I react? What would I say to my kids to keep them safe and help them make the right decisions with the necessary levels of urgency and resolve as our entire world collapses around us?"

To post-Saban Alabama fans, apparently, losing two games in a row in September looks like a somewhat more rural version of this...

...and is going out of its way to shepard the state's fragile state of mind from civilization's brink as the season threatens to spiral out of control:

For his part, Todd at Roll Bama Roll is keeping it mellow the best way he knows how: the High Life. Lots and lots of High Life.

Elsewhere in Disillusion...
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Losing a big game is one thing, but losing all that Oregon lost against Cal, the way Oregon lost, is tough to swallow.

The sun rose Saturday morning, and "with a better plan," writes Nick Scala, "West Virginia might still be in it." A better gameplan? No: a better plan for structuring the entire sport so that early losers like WVU still have a shot at the mythical (or, in his scenario, not-so-mythical) championship.

Steve Politi tries to keep Rutgers' devastating loss in perspective, and is without question the only local college football writer who would think to work the MLB playoffs into the equation. Though the rest of them probably wouldn't object to the idea of Mets fans throwing themselves from tall buildings...