Conquered favorites and other notables picking up the pieces of shattered ambition this week:
• Don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Just Al.com: Not everyone is rending garments over the unthinkable vanquishing of Saban, but as usual, the Alabama papers express a fair degree of unanimity in the wake of defeat:
Mobile Press-Register: Saban: Air attack struggling ("We've got too many good skill guys here not to have a good passing game.")
Huntsville Times: Passing interest at UA ("He had a couple of people open in first half and instead of setting feet and putting the ball on them, we overthrew a couple.")
Doesn't have time for this losing shit.
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The latter is the harshest -
A weakness? Four games into the season, yes.
That's the split personality of Alabama's passing game
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- which seems a little rash a week after John Parker Wilson posted career highs in yards and touchdowns and outduelled the leading contender for the Trophy Which Shall Not Be Named in a dramatic comeback, and hit key passes on consecutive 61 and 88-yard scoring drives to get the UGA game into overtime Saturday. The buzzword here for now is "missed opportunities," which (as homers in and outside of the team are wont to do) acknowledges an overthrow before it acknowledges the defensive pressure that forced it.
Cecil Hurt captures the general non-panic in the Tuscaloosa News, where this loss (maybe just this one) wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the way the damn thing ended:
The process, as Nick Saban calls it, isn't simply a magic carpet ride to success. It involves pain. It involves adversity. It's a journey that will be years, not weeks, in duration.
Then, in the last 10 minutes of regulation, it seemed like that lesson -- so simple, so grounded in the reality of life as we know it -- was going to go flying out the window. Perhaps Alabama, improbably, was going to find a way to win again, in spite of some areas where the talent isn't yet available.
Forget about pain and adversity, those last 10 minutes seemed to scream. The Crimson Tide, it appeared, was going to once again find a way to roar from behind and win.
Saban, despite all the protestations to the contrary, really did seem to have a magic wand. Wave it once, and the Tide will go on an improbable 88-yard touchdown march. Wave it again and Georgia's Brandon Coutu, one of the nation's better place-kickers, would miss a long field goal as time expired.
Then came overtime, with a stark reminder. Sometimes, reality can be suspended. Sometimes, with great effort, it can be bent to the will of a particular team, as Alabama did last week against Arkansas. But it cannot be denied forever.
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A startling concession to the universe in its battle with the powers of Saban, contrary to the stereotypical Alabaman line re: reality vs. religion. Maybe evolution should get itself one of them win-loss records. The people seem to respect that.
• : Reserve running back Michael Smith was arrested and charged with a second degree felony Sunday for running up almost $100 on a stolen credit card, reportedly given to him by a friend (also charged) to pay back a debt. It's just as likely, though, that said "friend" was influenced by Darksider forces to plant the card as retribution for, in consecutive Razorback defeats, Smith's failure to pick up an icing first down on Arkansas' final full possession against Alabama and his crucial second quarter fumble Saturday against Kentucky, returned for a touchdown that "let a lot of air out" of an otherwise dominant stretch by the Hogs - that is, by Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Smith will miss this week's game with North Texas, at least, and in all likelihood will not be missed.
As if anyone needed any incentive, Houston Nutt extolled the mob to blame Arkansas' fifth loss in six games on him, and somehow, like a true martyr, justified its scorn:
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They can, coach, and they will. And then they will FOIA your headset conversations. Why did you ask about a post to Monk when Monk is hurt, you idiot?! You had to be reminded? Fire the bastard!
• : The local Centre Daily Times runs a weekly "Good, Bad and Ugly" column. Try to guess the longest of those entires in this week's assessment, which begins thusly:
Jay Paterno: good, bad or ugly? Yes, and Penn State message boards demand more options.
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All eight -- and the 52 plays in between -- came against a Michigan defense that had allowed 34 points to Appalachian State and 39 points to Oregon.
The Nittany Lions mustered nine points in their ninth straight loss to the Wolverines on Saturday in Michigan Stadium, proof that the concerns about the offense during the season's first three games were not unfounded. Penn State's playcalling was passive and its execution shoddy during its fourth loss in its last six road games.
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Or, if you want to step back and look at the bigger picture:
That's like being told to take a whiff from a skunk instead of an elephant.
Some solid teams might play close games in the Midwest this season. Some of those teams -- perhaps Penn State or Michigan -- will attend lucrative bowl games during the holidays.
But forget scores and records for a moment.
Condense the mind, and try to recall one memorable play that didn't involve a turnover during a game 111,310 either wealthy, bored or intoxicated people paid to see.
There's a reason the Big Ten went 2-5 in bowl games last season.
There might also be a reason cable companies haven't adjusted their lineups to carry the Big Ten Network. Big Ten football has turned into a painful viewing experience.
Michigan didn't beat Penn State because it attempted -- or accomplished -- anything spectacular.
The Wolverines won because they pounced on fumbles.
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That's pretty kind, actually, when put next to the inevitable "Fire the Coach's Son!" bromides in the comments section. Or the article in the same paper that compares the Lions' offense to Buffalo and Florida International. If there's a difference.
• Redefining `cutthroat leadership': Mike Gundy is stealing Cap'n Leach's YouTube thunder for attacking a reporter after Oklahoma State's wild win over Texas Tech, but if you've never heard a coach call an offense that ran up more than 700 yards "frontrunners," well, you have now:
"And then defensively, the entire first half, we got hit in the mouth and acted like somebody took our lunch money and all we wanted to do was have pouty expressions on our faces until somebody daubed our tears off made us (expletive) feel better. Then we'd go out there and try harder after our mommies told us we were OK."
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What happens when The Dude of high stress professions starts swearing at reporters over his defense? The scurvy defensive coordinator walks the plank:
Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said head coach Mike Leach moved to make the change.
"Mike told me early this morning that he was going to talk to Lyle today about this,'' Myers said. "Mike did initiate it and felt he needed to talk to Lyle about it, and so that's what transpired. ... I think they just decided that a change needed to be made on defense.''
"The biggest thing is he's got some personal, family issues to deal with,'' Leach said. "Trying to take care of both, I think, was a tall order for anybody. So we wish him and the family the best.''
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Family issues: according to his replacement, Sentenich's wife has been hospitalized for several days. She suffered a brain bleed (similar to a stroke, according to the Avalanche-Journal) in 2005. So Oklahoma State's formation tendencies on 3rd-and-6 are obviously not much of a priority.
Elsewhere in despair...
Kragthorpe: This job looked so easy...
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• Steve Kragthorpe knew what he was getting into when he made the step up to Louisville, except for that whole impending-catastrophe-of-youth-and-depth-on-defense thing: "I've never given up this many deep balls since I was in junior high."
Louisville hasn't been very good for that long, but it still feels to UL partisans like Kragthorpe is ripping apart ten years of hard work, block by block.
• Blake Mitchell led a fine first quarter touchdown drive at LSU, which says something, but the subsequent failure of the offense under Mitchell the rest of the game is the segue to the official welcome of the Chirs Smelley era at South Carolina. Well, for now - Steve Spurrier likes Smelley's quicker release under pressure, which also serves as a backhanded blow to Mitchell's hesitancy in the pocket, but such qualms have a dubious and, unless Smelley is Dany Wuerffel in waiting, typically short-lived fate in the Ball Coach's history.