Laser Focus: Top Ten Shuffle

In this edition of the erratically published Laser Focus, we will touch on the odd happenings in the BCS Top Ten and give you some impressions of the Indiana vs Penn State game, along with some interesting new revelations in the evolving UNC scandal.

First, a look at the new Top Ten, with the love ’em or hate ’em Fighting Irish assuming the top position. (Penn State paranoiacs would suggest that this is an NCAA/BCS plot to put Notre Dame (11-0) in the Still Somewhat Mythical National Championship (SSMNC) Game with Alabama. Why? Because a week after being beaten by Texas A&M, Alabama (10-1) has somehow suddenly regained the #2 slot and because everybody knows that Notre Dame sucks.

How? What? Where?


After this topsy-turvy week, the remainder of the AP Top Ten are: Georgia (10-1), Ohio State (11-0), Oregon (10-1), Florida (10-1), Kansas State (10-1), LSU (9-2), Texas A&M (9-2), and Florida State (10-1). Obviously, the AP voters give the most respect to the SEC. The BCS standings for this week are not yet available as of the time I’m writing this, but they’re expected to be just about the same, with the exception of the omission of undefeated Ohio State, for reasons well-known to the secular readers of the Turkey’s drivel.

It is worth mentioning that the SEC seems to garner the most respect of sportswriters, as if you didn’t already know that. There are four SEC teams in the top ten. That Georgia is really a better team than Oregon remains in doubt in this turkey’s mind, but they don’t let me vote. They really do play some good football down here in the southeast, but come on! I know most of you hack sports writers are rednecks at heart, but how about voting with your brains for a change, so I don’t have to accuse you of unethically promoting the Notre Dame — Alabama SSMNC in much the same manner as your politwriter brethren promoted a certain incumbent president.

PSU/Big Ten paranoia exists, and we’ll certainly be hearing that Ohio State has as much of a claim on the AP #1 ranking as Notre Dame, but that doesn’t matter outside of sports-oriented cocktail lounges and beer halls. It’s all academic. Tattoogate made it so.

OK, I have to confess here that I HATE the fucking Irish, but I don’t know why. I can eliminate a lot of reasons for liking them, such as I’m not Catholic, I’m not Irish, and I’m no fan of any team that wears blue and gold, but how do we get from mere aversion to hatred? It seems to be a truism that “splitting” behavior exists in all football fans when it comes to affinity or repulsion with respect to Notre Dame. Is it that their fans are so obnoxiously loyal? Is it that their fan base consists of mostly non-alumni, whose claims to glory hinge on the success or failure of the team of largely non-Irish players who call themselves the Irish? Do they think that ugly-looking post-adolescent character playing a leprechaun is adorable, or what? Anyhow, I don’t have any answers, just blind hatred.

I saw that our local PSU Alumni Association Presidette posted in Facebook that for the next week, she must swallow her pride to become a fan of similarly hated USC, who stole our wonderful Silas Redd (who had only three carries in their last game, a 38-28 loss to UCLA), because unranked USC (7-4) is we Irish-haters’ only hope at this point to avert a perfect season for the Irish.

So, how did we get to this point? Well, Upset Weekend included the following:

  • #1 Kansas State (10-1) lost to Baylor (5-5)
  • #2 Oregon (10-1) lost to #13 Stanford (9-2)
  • #3 Notre Dame (11-0) clobbered ACC whipping boy Wake (5-6)
  • #4 Alabama (10-1) put the big hurt on Southern Conference lackeys Western Carolina (1-10)  (the Catamounts’ only win was their opener against the Mars Hill Lions, from yonder over th’ next mountain)
  • #5 Georgia (10-1) beat perennial FCS Southern Conference power Georgia Southern (8-3)
  • #6 Ohio State (11-0) beat the Badgers (7-4) in overtime

So, that win over a bunch of hillbillies was enough to vault Alabama back up there to #2 after losing to the Aggies, which had dropped them to #4, while #2 Oregon suffers a loss to a legitimate Stanford team and drops to #5? The old SEC bias rears its ugly head. When you’re in love, the whole world is Tuscaloosa.

What do you really think about the BCS rankings this week?


Now, on to the Penn State — Indiana game. We knew we would win and we knew that the over/under was an overlay, so I hope you made lots of money on the game, those of you who gamble, anyway. I considered this one a “best bet”, for both beating the spread and beating the o/u. Congratulations to those who took my advice. :)

Penn State (7-4, 5-2 Big Ten) defeated the Hoosiers (4-7, 2-5) 45-22 before a relatively anemic announced home crowd of 90,358 at high noon on a beautiful day for football in Central Pennsylvania. Attendance of 90,000+ is damn well considered anemic when there’s nothing holding back people from filling the 108,000+ seats at Beaver Stadium, especially for an almost certain win that was sure to be an entertaining game. Shame on you who eschewed going because of Jerry Sandusky! That’s getting to be a lame-ass excuse!

It was entertaining, alright, with over 1000 total yards gained by the two opponents. (The third opponent, the NCAA, did not participate in this game.) There was a lot of suckage on both sides, though, with each team having two turnovers, and Indiana unable to establish the run. (I guess that translates to excellence on the other side of the ball — duly noted.) Nevertheless, the Hoosiers’ quarterback Cameron Coffman was able to attack the Lions’ much-maligned defensive secondary for a decent 33-59 day, totaling 454 yards. Alas, for Coffman, he threw two interceptions, something for which he is not noted.

Penn State’s somewhat balanced offense, which was obviously aware that Indiana’s run defense sucked, ran the ball 44 times for 151 yards. Matt McGloin had a decent day passing, too, 22-32 for 395 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception. In this game he broke Daryll Clark’s record for passing yards by a Penn State quarterback in a season. He also set marks for career passing touchdowns (45) and single-season completions.

Sophomore wideout Allen Robinson also set a record, eclipsing Bobby Engram’s single-season reception total with 73. Robinson had a monster day against the hapless Hoosiers, catching ten passes for 197 yards.

One could consider it a Pyrrhic victory, though, because of the loss of Mike Mauti to a knee injury that could wind up affecting his NFL chances, a bloody shame given that he is the emotional leader of the defense, and if healthy, would be  a damn good NFL linebacker. The repeated knee injuries, however, portend well for him getting into the insurance business after Penn State. There will be those who claim that the block on Mauti was an illegal chop block, but it was in this turkey’s opinion an accident of the type that often happen in the heat of gridiron combat. It’s just a damn crying shame that it had to happen to our best.

In the buildup to this game, the PSU Paranoia crowd over at BSD were predicting that the Big Ten would order its officials to shade calls toward Indiana, because unless Indiana would have been able to win six games by season’s end, the Hoosiers would not be bowl eligible. Accordingly, the Big Ten would not be able to fulfill its eight-slot bowl commitments (with two teams being in the league doghouse). Well, it didn’t happen. The one marginal call seemed to go against Indiana on video review, as this time it was the Nittany Lions who got the benefit of the possible fumble across the goal line call. It looked to me as if the ball was not under control by Zwinach as it crossed the line, but the call on the field was “touchdown.” This looked like a one-game displaced NBA make-up call to this turkey.

Here at the Cave, we were one shy of our usual commitment of drunks and gearheads. However, we filled in that gap by including our missing member, Jackstand, via Google+ Hangout from 35,000 feet over Middle America, which he was traversing on Virgin America’s flight 300. To make life interesting, his flight attendant advised him that he couldn’t talk, but the video would be ok. Well, she didn’t know about the video. It’s all Wi-Fi, anyway, so why should she care? It’s just a matter of training, I guess, but I digress. We’re all geeks here, so this thing worked out, albeit pissing me off at times.

And so, the Nittany Lions have defied lots of pundits’, pseudo-pundits’, and proto-pseudo-pundits’ pessimistic prognostications with their accomplishments this season — including indelibly etching a winning record into the annals of college football history. The doubters included this here turkey, who is mightily impressed. Congratulations to Bill O’Brien and his staff, team leaders McGloin, Mauti, and Zordich, and the loyal Penn State fans for having faith in this spunky bunch of overachievers.

Can they beat a “real” team now to close the season? They failed with Ohio State and Nebraska, although PSU Paranoiacs would say the officials lost those for the Nittany Lions. With a Wisconsin win, there exists the potential for a serious statement to the world of college football, the NCAA, and the Big Ten. We STILL are Penn State!


I had almost forgotten about the UNC scandal and how lightly it was glossed over by the NCAA until reader Joe reminded me of it by sending me a link to a distressing article in the News & Observer about UNC’s tolerance for cheating by athletes. Well, it was distressing to this turkey, anyhow. To others of you, it will inspire pissed-offedness about unequal treatment by the NCAA. Anyhow, the article leads off with this tidbit:

As a reading specialist at UNC-Chapel Hill, Mary Willingham met athletes who told her they had never read a book and didn’t know what a paragraph was. She said she saw diagnostic tests that showed they were unable to do college-level work.

But many of those athletes stayed eligible to play sports, she said, because the academic support system provided improper help and tolerated plagiarism. When she raised questions or made an objection to what she saw as cheating, she said, she saw no one take her concerns seriously.

Willingham is still there at UNC, but she’s no longer in contact with athletes. She had complained to the administration long before the scandal erupted, but her comments went nowhere.

Interestingly, her master’s thesis written during that time, was on the subject of the corrupting influence of big-money sports on university academics. I’m going to love to read that research report, entitled “Athletics vs. Academics, a Clash of Cultures.”

However, Willingham decided to tell all to the News & Observer. Some of her key findings are revealed in the article, entitled “UNC tolerated cheating, says insider Mary Willingham.”

This is a dirty little subject that deserves more public scrutiny, and this turkey believes in public service. So, read it, already. Student athletes are neither students nor athletes. Tawk amongst yaselves. Discuss!

Thanks again to the ever vigilant Joe for sending me the link.




  1. Joe says

    Some random thoughts on your random musings!

    I’m Catholic, grew up in Northeast PA (a hotbed of ND “fans”) and must admit that I’m one of those people who consistently root for whomever ND is playing in a given week! I cheered for Charlie Weiss to fail each week (and still do) and have an abject distaste for the school’s and their fan’s attitude that “we’re bigger than the game itself!” That being said, anyone in their right mind that didn’t think they would be ranked No. 1 if the stars aligned, which they did this weekend and playing for the NC is living on another planet. An Alabama (yes I still think they are the best team even with one loss) vs. ND will be a ratings bonanza. So deep down inside, I’ll be rooting for Mr. Redd to run wild on the ND defense this weekend so that they lose and screw up the NC dream matchup!

    Speaking of Redd, not sure why he didn’t get many carries against the Bruins, but I just wonder if there isn’t some buyer’s remorse on his end. To the stats!

    Zwinak: 167 attempts, 828 yards, 4.9 yards per attempt and 5 TD’s
    Redd: 138 attempts, 740 yards, 5.4 yards per attempt and 9 TD’s

    Not sure what that means other than I don’t think his move to USC lived up to his expectations, but I think if he would have stayed, he would be up on that pedestal with the other members of this Sr class in the eyes of the PS fanbase, instead of playing for another inconsequential Lane Kiffin team. But it is SoCal and there are the Song Girls-sigh!

    I won’t speculate whether the hit on Mauti was deliberate or not, but it definitely should have been flagged as an illegal chop block as he was already engaged with a lineman. Originally I thought he stumbled in to him, but on watching replay this weekend, he did go low on his own. I felt sick watching the kid get helped on to the cart, so even though it did look very serious, I’m hoping that maybe, just maybe it’s a bad sprain as evidenced that he was walking around (albeit with crutches) after the game.

    If it is ACL #3, do you think he rehabs in the hope of maybe landing with an NFL team as an undrafted free agent or appeals for a sixth year of eligibility, since he’s probably missed the better part of 2+ seasons in his career. I keep thinking an NFL team would be willing to take a shot on him even if he has to sit a season like Willis McGahee did with the Bills.

    Actually I was surprised at the attendance, as I expected it to be much lower (visions of a half-filled Beav in a season ending game against Michigan State several years ago were dancing through my head.) I’m hoping the crowd will be better against Wisky as it is Senior Day and I would think most students will have had enough of being around their parents by then and would prefer to spend a long, drunken weekend back on campus before classes resume.

    What really set my hair on fire this weekend was David Jones question to O’Brien at the post game press conference about whether he would be back next season. If you haven’t listened to the dumb-ass question and the ignorant persistence of his follow-up, here’s the link:

    His question is at the 8:45 mark. Jones was, is and always will be a hack reporter and continues to play this up as O’Brien’s lack of a long term public commitment to PS. It also bothers me to a certain extent as to how this plays in a recruit’s mind. Maybe he’s just trying to break the next big Sara Ganim story so he can get picked up by ESPN like she did by CNN. Tim Tolley at VBR had what I believe is an accurate take on the whole “much ado about nothing” reporting of Jones.

    According to reports, looks like we may shortly become the B14! I don’t know what Maryland and Rutgers adds, other than eyeballs in front of flat screens, but it seems like Mr. Delaney has shown his true colors (it’s all about the TV revenue stupid!). Not sure how divisions would be reconfigured, but I would think it would become more geographical with Under Armour U and the State University of NJ replacing either Wisconsin or Illinois. I for one do not like losing Wisky from our division. Good or bad idea in your humble opinion if true?

    I agree we do need to beat Wisky this weekend. The B1G network did point out (if you were paying attention) in one of their bottom of the screen banners after the Indiana game that this was our 6th win against an unranked team! To me that was more of a testament to the quality of the B1G this year, but I guess they felt like it had to be said.

    My fear is the team may come out so emotionally amped, that again the second half may see a titanic performance letdown.

    Do you think McGloin gets selected as 1st team all B1G QB?

    Hard to believe how fast this season has gone by.

    • BigAl says

      To maintain “competitive balance”, the easiest solution would be to put Illinois in the Legends division. Maryland is almost as lousy as Illinois and that would give the Legends two crummy teams (Illinois and Minnesota) to balance out the two crummy teams (Indiana and Maryland) in the Leaders. I’m looking forward to the new teams.

      First, the B1G fraternity will have 2 new pledges, so maybe the zebras will stop screwing over the two current pledges (Moo U and PSU) and screw the new guys. (Although Nebraska has somehow managed to avoid their hazing – perhaps pictures of Delany with a barnyard animal??)

      Second, it will be great to renew the Maryland “rivalry” and watch the Turtles invent new and exciting ways to lose.

    • says

      I agree with Al’s Leaders Division lineup. I always enjoyed the so-called rivalries with the Terps and Rutgers. I think that more than anything else other than TV revenues, those institutions were chosen by the Conference because of their academic fit. There’s no doubt about one thing, though. Delany must order Maryland to ditch those fucking uniforms. Aside from everything else, it would save the environment because the athletic program wouldn’t have to order as many batteries.

      As for the Jones presser question, it’s been the hot topic for a week, and OSU homey was just chasing it. I don’t think that it was Jones who originally broke it (or whatever you call it if someone made it up). I don’t think Jones is going to get a Pulitzer for the story in any case, so the Ganim analogy doesn’t wash. Both of the reporters I knew from local papers who ESPN picked up had much better qualifications than Jones, who would need a prettier face and bigger boobs to even start to compete with Jemele Hill and Heather Dinich. I thought Dinich was the best PSU football beat writer of all of ’em, and I hereby bestow upon her an honorary set of male gonads. If you’re reading this, Heather, (of course you are!), you rock!

      Notwithstanding hotshot (hot shit) reporters, we get back to moral obligation (as perceived by PSU homeys) versus BoB conducting his life as a non-servant of public opinion. There is some justification in anxiety over O’Brien leaving. The future is pretty bleak, with no post-seasons for the next several years and with withering recruiting prospects. O’Brien did extremely well the team this year. I would hate to see him go. However, it is his decision, and I wouldn’t blame him for bolting, especially if he gets a head coaching offer from the NFL. He’d be nuts not to.

      The team and the recruits need to know in due course.

      Whether Jones is a schmuck or not is unimportant. We all know that he is. It’s not up to him to pin O’Brien down. O’Brien is non-committal at this point, which means to me that he’ll take a good offer if it comes along.

      I don’t think McGloin will be the all-B1G first-team QB. I think Martinez will get that, although it will be very close. BigAl knows why. Because they HATE PSU!

      Yeah, we need to see a good showing out there on Senior Day. I hope the favorable weather holds so this beleaguered bunch of bowing-out ballers is amply rewarded by a good, supportive crowd. Wisconsin is beatable, I believe — if the Nittany Lions play a complete game. I know, I know — as one of my Twitter disparagers tells me, it’s easy to sit here and write about it, but I’m not down there in the trenches. No shit, Sherlock?! Hey, it’s a free country (sort of, albeit less so than ever before, but I digress), so I’ll say what I want, and what I want to say is that with Montee Ball and that beefy offensive line pounding on the defense all day, they probably won’t hold up for four quarters. The depth isn’t there, and without Mauti to clean up for them, they lose that much more—a lot! So, they’re beatable, but I have to think it will be almost impossible without a few acts of God and maybe a couple of friendly snipers on the roof of the press box.

      Ahh, but it will be an enjoyable game. It has to be. It’s gotta last until next April, anyway.


    • says

      Oh, yeah, you mentioned Redd. He had an undisclosed injury that kept him out of the Arizona State game completely. He had only three carries for eight yards in the UCLA game. He knew when he was stolen by Kiffen that he would be splitting the feature back chores with Curtis McNeal, and he has done so quite well. He’s had three 100+ yard games this year. So has McNeal, but two of those were ASU and UCLA, in which Silas played little or not at all. Redd has nine touchdowns as opposed to three for McNeal. So, I think Redd is getting what he wanted out of USC — except for the won/loss record, which is exactly the same as PSU’s.


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