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.