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Friday Hub Wants a Mulligan on Air Force

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An Interesting Thing Happened On the Way to Noel Devine's Coming Out Party: While the diminutive freshman was averaging 27 yards per carry in eerily Sanders-like fashion at Maryland, Air Force was making its case as the anti-Michigan in obscurity against TCU.

The FieldTurf is no solace to Chris Manfredi after missing a field goal in overtime.
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Part of what's interesting about the Falcons' overtime win is that it was very un-academy-like in a couple of ways: first, after sticking with its usual, overwhelmingly ground-based attack to slice through Utah last week, USAFA backed up its preseason rhetoric by passing 28 times against the Frogs' hellish run defense, more than it's thrown in all but four games - all wild, multi-score losses - since the start of the decade. It also broke it's "just move-the-chains" reputation in the fourth quarter, which it entered trailing 17-3 and exited all even thanks to a 50-yard completion that set up one touchdown and then a 71-yard scoring run on consecutive possessions, the latter a truly season-changing kind of play by Jim Ollis on a desperate fouth-and-one option pitch from Air Force's 29 with more time left (a shade under six minutes) than would usually be required to risk the game so deep in the offense's own territory. Troy Calhoun dared greatly - because it worked, as opposed to petulantly blowing his team's chances if it didn't, moments after his defense had made a crucial fourth-and-one stop of its own - and so reaps the rewards of a 3-0 start.

Of any still-eligible team, it's the most surprising 3-0 start in the country, because, after the opener against South Carolina State, the Falcons' schedule put them against Mountain West frontrunners Utah, TCU and BYU in consecutive weeks, then at Navy, which they haven't beaten since 2002. For those who don't pay intense attention to the Mountain West, this was the mainstream consensus on the league this summer:

1. TCU
2. BYU
3. Utah
4. New Mexico
5. Wyoming
6. Colorado State
7. Air Force
8. San Diego State

Note that this is not only a consensus opinion, but also a virtually unanimous one: TCU was an inviolable pick to win the conference, TCU-BYU-Utah represented the top three across the board, and no magazine picked Air Force to finish within two spots of any of those teams; Phil Steele and Blue Ribbon (and, uh, yours truly) picked the Falcons dead last in the MWC.

Two games into the key stretch of its season, though, the academy's beaten two of the conference's three presumed postseason locks - at least one of which was just too fast for Air Force two years ago - and gets the third next week on the road with a chance to flip the expectations of the summer completely before the end of September.

Being Late to Recognize When Something's Jumped the Shark - Like, Say, the Phrase "Jumped the Shark" - Has Jumped the Shark: Here's a question from the San Francisco Chronicle's "Betting Fool": Has College Gameday jumped the shark?

Since the Fool is a San Franciscan, and therefore has so many other interesting, probably wine or hybrid or, like, bed-related things to do when the show comes on at 7 a.m. there, maybe he hasn't seen that much of it. Maybe he should ask L.D. about that. Or hell, ask the fans at the actual show...

Coming and Going...

These pre-game bets between politician are all good fun, but if Washington upsets Ohio State Saturday, Columbus Congressman Zack Space - named as a child by his four-year-old, Sputnik-watching brother, apparently - certainly has the better end of the deal.

The South Bend Tribune's Jason Kelly on ND-Michigan: "Like a taste test to see which milk is most curdled."

Florida backup quarterback Cam Newton is "progressing similar to the way Josh Portis did two years ago." Is that supposed to be a good thing?

Mike Bobo is already taking his share of heat for failing to guide Georgia into the end zone against South Carolina, especially for an all-or-nothing, hide-the-ball playaction call on fourth-and-two from the Carolina 33 in the third quarter that resulted in a sack. Generic "coach deals with criticism" filler, but with a nice quote from Matt Stafford on that particular call:

"Loved it," Stafford said. "Loved it. I wanted it. They called me over to the sideline to tell me the play and I already knew it. I loved it. ... It should have worked. How does a down lineman, a three technique with his head down, how is he the only person on the field that sees it? A freakin' defensive lineman!"
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That defensive lineman: Eric Norwood. Get detailed credit for a heads-up play in the press by the opposing quarterback? That's a Buckeye!, as they say, or, you know, the Gamecock equivalent.

Young quarterback wants to go long on fourth-and-two? Mike Bobo'll allow it!
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Speaking of the Cocks, they probably couldn't care less about their first-ever meeting with South Carolina State Saturday with LSU on deck. But for historically black SCSU, playing South Carolina means everything.

Matt Flynn may not go for long Saturday with his sprained ankle, and LSU's number thre quarterback against Middle Tennessee will be a transfer...from Harvard? WTF?

Football salaries take up ten percent of Alabama's entire $70 million athletic budget. How does this compare to the rates of other schools in the SEC? Ask those schools' beat reporters, I guess, cuz the Mobile Register is only worried `bout `Bama.

Meanwhile, Nick Saban can't win in the press for losing - repeatedly and publicly endorse Houston Nutt's coaching prowess, and the messasge is clear enough: Arkansas' players suck.

LaMarcus Coker is still too far in the doghouse for many carries, but he will return kicks Saturday at Florida.

Hey, you know what Ole Miss needs? Speed. Yeah, Ed Orgeron is gonna get him some of that.

Whatever John Canzano says, Michigan's 0-2 start is not shaking 2008 commitments. Not yet, anyway.

And safety Brandent Engelmon: from nearly off the team in the spring to the Wolverines' lone defensive standout in the first two games, according to Lloyd Carr.

Rice is truly dreadful, and now has to deal with certain defeat as a four-touchdown underdog to Texas Tech's pinball passing game. So what constitutes progress Saturday?

Air Force is undefeated, sure, but only because Darryl Poston didn't cut to the right

The Rap Sheet
Crimes, misdemeanors and eligibility-crippling issues legal, academic, institutional and otherwise.
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Suspended, indefinitely, Texas safety Tyrell Gatewood, who was arrested Wednesday along with freshman teammate Ben Wells, who were feelin' goooooood...

...or something along those lines, though they were caught by a Travis County sheriff's deputy for failing to signal a turn (weak -ed.) before they wound up careening into a sandbox. In the car, according to arrest reports: "less than one-hundredth of an ounce" of marijuana, "broekn bar-shaped pills later determined to be Xanax" and "a purple liquid" that began pouring out of a baby bottle, which turned out to be the popular fan-making mixture of promethazine with codeine.

Gatewood, who escaped a marijuana charge over the summer by passing a drug test, didn't have a prescription and thus was hit with two counts of possession of a dangerous drug, in addition to a - gasp! - old reckless driving charge in Dallas.

Wells, though, despite becoming the sixth UT player charged in three months with a drug/alcohol charge by virtue of his misdemeanor marijuana possession, apparently faces no disciplinary action according to the very specific language of the American-Statesman. As a freshman destined to redshirt, he can't really be suspended, so maybe he's running or something. But you know, pile on there, Sooners and Aggies.