10 Questions, Week 3

LSU and Oklahoma could be nation's two best teams

Sept. 11, 2007

By Eric Sorenson

Special to CSTV.com



Eric Sorenson is a regular contributor to CSTV.com, covering football, basketball & baseball. E-mail here!

Sure, we're done with two weeks now and I think we can say this has been college football bliss so far. Unlike the last few Septembers, this one actually has some intrigue and gripping storylines. Yeah I hear ya', there's still not enough great non-conference matchups like the good ole days, true. But as I see it so far in '07, we're getting there.


And let me say, I still liked the first weekend a lot better than this past one. Not just because of the upsets, the tributes and the long off-season finally being over with. It was much better because we got five straight days of our beloved college game on TV Thursday-through-Monday with no other football to interfere. Now, the play-for-pay boys have started their season, taking precious airtime from us.




But that's okay, we still know which game is better.


So while wondering if anyone at the MTV Music Awards warned Britney that love handles aren't a good accessory with that outfit, cue the latest 10 Questions.


Question 1: So when is that 4-letter network going to run an "Is LSU the best team in college football history?" show?


If not, after this weekend, I'm sure it's in the works because they do one of those ill-fated shows every year.


And even if Virginia Tech WAS over-rated a bit, that was a dominant performance by the Bayou Bengals. Sweet McGillacuddy! What a collection of athletes on the defensive side of the ball. Bo Pelini has them running like their feet are on fire. And as was pointed out, there's just zero time for a quarterback to react even when he sees the blitz coming. I'm not sure this defense will give up more than 10 points in any game this year. And I like QB Matt Flynn a lot. He's not trying to win the game with the big play, just steadily running the offense. As I pointed out last year, JaMarcus Russell was wildly talented, but not a particularly smart quarterback. Hence, the up-and-down play of LSU. This year, they look waaaaaay more solid behind Flynn.


Temper that previous line with the phrase "so far."


Question 2: Would you send me to the nut-house if I told you USF is the second best team in the state of Florida?


You shouldn't.


That was an impressive win at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Sure, like VaTech, Auburn may be overrated and instantly put on the "Fraud Alert" list, but a Big East team just isn't supposed to go into that stadium and pull out a win. I mentioned this in a column last year, but it bears repeating, two things I really like about USF: ultra-cool headed quarterback Matt Grothe, who went 18-for-27 for 184 yards, and head coach Jim Leavitt, who has built a program on the rise and will be on the hot list for many openings after the season. Then again, that's what I said last year too.


Oh, and you know how I mentioned in the preseason 10 Questions that I was waiting for a fourth Big East program to step up this year? Well guess what? We've got two more. The Bulls, as mentioned, and the Cincinnati Bearcats, who knocked the Pac-10 back a pace or two with a smothering win over Oregon State on Thursday night, 31-3.


Question 3: Which conference should really be given the "they don't play defense" stigma now?


The Big East.


Well, in this case I'm more referring to the Big Three of West Virginia, Rutgers, and particularly Louisville. Cincy and South Florida did a great job on D this week, leading to forehead-slapping wins that boost their legitimacy.


But this Big East race is going to be very interesting, well worth watching. The offenses are just fine. The 'Neers, Knights and Cards combined for 147 points. No prob. But when Marshall, Navy and Middle Tennessee can rip off significant chunks of real estate and keep the scoreboard operators clicking to the tune of 89 points, it's a big red flag for those teams. The good news is that all three offenses just wore down their lesser opponents in the 4th quarter. The bad news is that the rest of the conference just got big eyes thinking about what they'll do to those fluffy defenses.


And if defense wins championships...


Question 4: Why was Kirk Herbstreit wrong when he said the Big Ten was the 6th best conference?


Hell, from what I've seen the last two weeks, I'd put them at No. 7 or 8.


Unless you've been living under a Knute Rockne, you already are well aware of Michigan's foibles. But the rest of the conference is sucking lemons too. Ohio State led Akron by a mere 3-2 hockey score at halftime, Minnesota had to go into overtime to beat Miami (Ohio), Michigan State got pushed by Bowling Green, Wisconsin escaped a white-knuckler at UNLV and Northwestern and Indiana were nearly upset by Nevada and Western Michigan. Man, this is some poor football being played here.


The one saving grace may actually be Penn State. Joe Pa's Stadium Cleaners appear to be playing pretty well as they are 2-0 and unchallenged so far (Then again, they ONLY beat hapless Notre Dame by three touchdowns. Hmmmmm.)


Last year's BCS title game should've given us a hint about this conference, shouldn't it? Well don't sweat it, they had me duped too.


Question 5: Why all the long faces in the Big 12?


Because Oklahoma is back.


Okay, it's about time, too. That beatdown the Sooners put on Miami was something from the Switzer-era days of the 70s. Hang a half-hundred on 'em and spend the rest of the game signing autographs in the stands.


Not only did OU look great on offense (Is Sam Bradford REALLY just a freshman?) and defense (they swarmed like they were LSU or something) against what I thought was going to be a good Miami team, but the rest of the Big 12 looked like bovine scatology. Texas A&M needed overtime against a WAC team, Okie State layed an egg at Georgia last week, Texas Tech and Missouri still don't play defense, Nebraska should've lost at Wake and even Texas wasn't doing so crash-hot until the Longhorns finally got a fumble return for a TD in the fourth quarter and made the score worse than it appeared.


One word of warning to the celebrating Sooners: Remember how often this win over Miami will be brought up when you make the return trip to Coral Gables in 2009.


Question 6: What was the best off-field occurrence of the week?


Listening to Keith Jackson on sports talk-radio.


I heard the legendary voice of college football twice on radio this week, once on Jim Rome and once on a local L.A. sports station. Both times I was riveted, entertained and in awe. Nothing makes a nasty L.A. commute tolerable like the college football raconteur that is Keith Jackson. Among my favorite talking points was his assessment of the best places to watch a game. Here's the quick list he rattled off:


- The Rose Bowl (his favorite place of all)

- The Big House in Michigan (When they're playing better)

- The Horseshoe in Columbus (though he liked it when it had an open end of the stadium)

- The Swamp at Florida (the all-metal stands make it the loudest stadium in the country.)

- Neyland Stadium in Knoxville (his favorite post-game spot was something about a top-floor hotel patio with a great view of the valley and the sunset. Didn't catch all of it.)


He also had good points about his favorite big game he broadcasted of all time being the '67 UCLA-USC game, which featured Gary Beban against O.J. Simpson, and the biggest change in college football being when the rules committee "freed the arms of the offensive line. That gave them the ability to hold on every play."


Question 7: What has apparently replaced the wire-thin sweatbands around the elbow as the worst new fashion fad in football?


Quarterbacks wearing one long sleeve under their jerseys and one arm un-sleeved.

During the Arizona State-Colorado game, I saw that both Rudy Carpenter and Cody Hawkins had their throwing arms completely sleeved. Game time temps were 100 degrees in the Arizona desert. I also saw that Nebraska's Sam Keller had one arm covered with a sleeve in the Huskers steambath game at Wake Forest, but it was his non-throwing arm. I haven't seen something so superfluous since Mike Rozier doing the Michael Jackson-like one-glove thing back in 1983.


(Wait. Did I just use a Michael Jackson reference? Ewwwww, that's SO creepy!)


Question 8: What facet of the game needs to reexamined?


College football's overtime process.


Watching that three-OT thriller between Fresno State and Texas A&M reaffirmed my want for change. Those guys are out there in 95-degree heat, playing four hours of football and looking like they're about to drop dead on the very next snap. God help us to make sure that never happens. Just let the game end after two overtimes at the most. If it ends up a tie, it ends up a tie. It's not just those live mascots I worry about in the global warming month of September any longer.


And allow me to add, Texas A&M didn't "suspend" their collie mascot Reveille because he snapped at one of his handlers. No, he was kept out of this week's Fresno State game because those A&M corps guys finally decided not to be cruel to the poor animal and let him stay in the cool A/C instead of the triple digit heat of Kyle Field.


Question 9: What do coaches need reemphasize to their players?


When you're trying to score a touchdown, don't stretch the ball out over the goal line.


Latest examples:


Fresno State's Marlon Moore and Wake Forest's Kevin Marion.


Both nearly fumbled crucial big plays through the end zone. Moore's stretch attempt in overtime cost the Bulldogs a chance at a game-winning touchdown, because they had to settle for a field goal to extend the game to another overtime session. If not for a roughing the quarterback call on the play, his fumble would've ended the game since it was recovered by A&M in the end zone. Marion's faux pas was saved by his own feet, as he actually stepped out at the 1-yard line prior to fumbling. Luckily, Wake eventually would score a touchdown two plays later. But like Moore, his fumble was recovered by Nebraska in the end zone and it would've been a touchback if he didn't step out first.




Question 10: What upsets would I add to my list of Top Five Upsets In College Football History if that list were expanded to 10?


I got a lot of good suggestions from you people out there, but here are how numbers six through 10 would look in my book:


6- September 2, 1989

Southern Miss - 30

No. 6 Florida State - 26


This was opening day with Brett Favre at quarterback for a Southern Miss team that finished the season 5-6, going against an FSU team that finished No. 2 in the country. The game-winning play was a beautiful 4th-down naked bootleg run by Favre to off-set the incredible speed of FSU's defense. Favre would hit a wide open tight end in the end zone in the closing seconds to secure the win. The Eagles would go on to lose their next four.


7- October 11, 1963

No. 4 Navy - 28

SMU - 32


In Hayden Fry's second year on the Hilltop, Roger Staubach and Co. came calling. But the SMU defense picked him off twice and sent him to the sidelines on two occasions with a separated shoulder. This was also a Friday night game on Texas-OU weekend, so only 37,000 were in attendance. And strangely, SMU finished the season 4-6 but got an invitation to the Sun Bowl, where they lost to Oregon (See, even in those days the bowls had no legitimacy). Navy finished No. 2.


8- November 16, 1957

Notre Dame - 7

No. 2 Oklahoma - 0


It had been since September of '53 that any team had beaten Bud Wilkinson's Sooner machine, a span of 47 games. Ironically, that last loss was a season opener to the Irish. Meanwhile, OU was still steaming over getting jumped in the polls by Texas A&M, despite staying unbeaten while ND was coming off back-to-back lashings to Navy and Michigan State. Nonetheless, the Irish scored a touchdown on a 4th-down option with under three minutes left to stun the Sooners and send shockwaves across college football. Oklahoma would still finish No. 2 in the country at 10-1.


9- September 20, 1986

Miami Univ. - 21

No. 8 LSU - 12

I was actually working at the hotel that housed the scant few Redskins fans in Baton Rouge that weekend. When I asked them their chances against the Tigers, one of them scoffed, "Oh, we know we'll get killed. We're just here for the party." But on that muddy field in a steady drizzle and behind the bruising running of George Swarn and the passing of All-MAC QB Terry Morris, Miami did the unthinkable and beat the SEC champions-to-be in Death Valley.


10- 1976


The Missouri Tigers.


Folks, what we have here is the ultimate Jekyll-and-Hyde team in college football in the decade of the 70s. Great one game, losing to cream-puffs the next. But 1976, Al Onofrio's charges took it to a whole new level. These chicken-hawks never blinked in puffing out their chests at the nation's best:


Beat No. 8 Southern Cal in Los Angeles, 45-26

Beat No. 2 Ohio State in Columbus, 22-21

Beat No. 3 Nebraska in Lincoln, 34-24


But because of inconsistency - and decisive losses to also-rans like Illinois and Kansas - the Tigers only finished 6-5 on the season and stayed home when the bowls came around, despite their fourth straight winning season.


And Now, The 11th Question:


How angry do you think my friends and relatives in Baton Rouge will get when I tell them that, so far, this year's LSU team reminds me of those defensively dominant, speed-merchant USC national title teams of '03 and '04?