by John Walters
We missed most of Saturday’s games, so this one will be briefer…
Can U C USC?
Forget for a moment whether you can see USC as a playoff team… I’ll get to that in a bit… Could U C USC last Saturday night? If you do not have the Pac-12 Network, you could not see the Trojans game in Corvallis versus Oregon State. I actually have the Pac-12 Network (555 on Cox cable) and my screen read “One Moment Please, This Channel Should Be Available Shortly.” It was not; still isn’t, though it has worked in the past. My Pac-12 Network is a lot like USC’s offense, apparently: inconsistent.
While much has been made of the Trojans’ ballyhooed transfer haul (upgrades at QB, RB, WR and HC), there are two reasons that we should probably begin to take USC seriously this season: 1) the Trojans lead the nation in turnover margin, and not by a little. USC not only has a +14 in this category after four games but are tied for first both in most turnovers forced (14) and in least turnovers committed (0). This is what good teams do. 2) USC might have choked on the road at Reser Stadium, and yes a dominant team might not have had as much trouble on the road versus an unranked opponent (hello, Clemson?), but the point is they found a way to win. Both of USC’s touchdowns were scored in the fourth quarter and both drives featured a 4th-down conversion. The first came on 4th-and-2 from the Beaver 7, as Travis Dye took a handoff and ran right, untouched, for the score. Then, on the 11-play game-winning drive, there was a Bush Push Deja Vu 4th down play at midfield in which quarterback Caleb Williams first appeared to be stopped on 4th-and-6. Later in the drive Williams hit Jordan Addison for the game-winning TD pass. Dye. Williams. Addison. All plucked off the internet by USC in the offseason.
Welcome to 2022. The Trojans are definitely the early leaders in CFB’s Brave New World division. Let’s hope we can all see them play come Oct. 15 in Salt Lake City versus Utah, which until proven otherwise, remains the class of the Pac-12.
The Doink That Saved Jimbo
We were inches away from Jimbo and Texas A&M suffering their second loss of… September. Then the above happened. What made it even better is that ESPN’s play-by-play man was Joe Tessitore, whose son was a college kicker and who’s attended more kicking camps than probably all the other college broadcasters combined. So after the Arkansas kicker Little’s miss—and we’ve never seen one drink off the TOP of an upright—here was Tess explaining in excruciating detail how his right foot got too far under the ball which caused over-rotation, which caused the ball to sail to the right. Great stuff here. Unless you are a Hog.
This is what redemption looks like. Quarterback Adrian Martinez, late of Nebraska, has found a home in Manhattan (If he can make it there, he’ll make it—oops, wrong Manhattan) as he led Kansas State to its third win over Oklahoma of the past four years. This TD run was phenomenal, a moment he’ll never forget. By the way, a guy we know knows a guy in Lincoln who says that Martinez’s successor with the Huskers, Charles Thompson, is not at all popular with his teammates. You may recall that Thompson was formerly the quarterback at Texas. I know, it’s difficult to keep track of all the QB transients.
There’s The Beef
Notre Dame exited the playoff conversation by mid-September (you’re welcome), but last Saturday in Chapel Hill this season’s team may have found its identity. Or borrowed one from Jim Harbaugh’s and David Shaw’s vintage Stanford squads, known for imposing “intellectual brutality.” The Irish rushed for 287 yards as the offensive line at long last lived up to its preseason hype. Sophomore offensive tackles Joe Alt and Blake Fisher (54, above) each run around 6’7″, 320 and will be NFL high-round draft picks. Last Saturday the Irish ran behind them and it also helped to have a third running back, Logan Diggs, back in the fold. Audric Estime scored the most carries (and gained a career-high 134 yards) and reminds us of a junior Jerome Bettis. This year’s Irish are suddenly competitive and while the offense won’t be sexy, with an offensive line like this and a 2023 first-round NFL tight end in Michael Mayer, it’ll be an offense that pulverizes you. Very Lou Holtz-ish, actually.
The B.S. Wonders…
Another weekend with no Premier League? Did the Queen die again?… Speaking of Premier League-related issues, we’d like to suggest to our good friend Ralph Russo at the Associated Press that he employ relegation rules for his writers who vote in the weekly AP poll. How are a pair of 3-1 Pac-12 teams ahead of 4-0 Washington (if you get credit for good losses over being undefeated, then why is fellow Pac-12 school USC ahead of 3-1 Oregon and Utah while the Huskies are not)? Who actually voted for 2-2 North Carolina (never mind that the Tar Heels had just lost to 2-2 Notre Dame at home while the Irish received no votes, and justifiably so)? How does 4-0 Kansas not merit a spot in the Top 25? If you’re this incompetent at polling, you should lose your position. Plenty of folks (Oh, I dunno who) would gladly do this and better than the existent lot… When will College GameDay visit Fansville and make Hot Mom the celebrity guest picker?…. By the way, on October 15 we’ve got Penn State at Michigan (both could be undefeated) and USC at Utah (Utes with one loss) and I know where I’d vote for Rece and the Gang to visit, but let’s put it this way: there’s a very good chance the guest pickers will be The Chainsmokers… Two baseball rules I’d incorporate, if even just for one game during spring training to liven things up: 1) after each inning, a player must switch to a new position (nine players, nine innings: it’s a natural) and 2) with no runners on base, the batter has a choice whether to run toward first (CCW) or toward third (CW). Thereafter, in that inning, once a player reaches base, that team maintains same direction… Did you see the feature on Career Redemption in Tuscaloosa, where Butch Jones revealed that he earned $4 million his last season at Tennessee as HC (we knew that) and $30,000 the next year as an analyst for Nick Saban? Loved the detail about “infield” and “outfield” at the coaches’ meetings and also that Mike Locksley was a glorified summer camp counselor as part of his gig, taking kids to the swimming pool. Just a terrific piece by Woj—even if it did adhere to Norby standards of only talking about one of eight different programs in college football… Since you asked: Bama, Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame, USC and Texas… Speaking of the Longhorns, did you realize that eight of the ten Big 12 schools have a better record than Texas (2-2) and the ninth, WVU, has the same record? Yes, kudos to UT for scheduling Bama, but still… Is it just us or does Oklahoma seem to annually play an exciting prime-time game in Norman that more often than not lately ends in defeat to someone from Kansas or Iowa?.. Yes, it’s early, but did you realize that Air Force is averaging an insane 412 yards rushing per game? This is Steph Curry-like, as no other team is averaging as many as 295. Dating back to 2009, no school has finished a season averaging as many as 380 yards per game on the ground. So if you’re looking for the Ultimate Misnomer Award, Air Force has it seemingly wrapped up… What will Fox do come November when the World Cup is upon us? We know Rob Stone was a college soccer player and must be hosting the network’s World Cup coverage (from soccer-mad Qatar!) again as he did from Moscow in 2018. So who’ll take the emcee duties at Fox? Kevin Burkhardt’s otherwise engaged with the NFL… Would you not love seeing Aaron Judge’s 62nd home run being an inside-the-park job, which means that it would likely end up in the glove of the opposing team’s catcher?… Roger Federer-Serena vs. Rafael Nadal-Venus. Make it happen… With Kate McKinnon and Pete Davidson gone, who are the top remaining SNL players ahead of this weekend’s season debut? Our ranking: 1) Kenan Thompson, the show’s ultimate Iron Horse, whose mere presence makes you smile, 2) Cecily Strong and 3) Heidi Gardner, both of whom are extremely talented actresses in their own right, 4) Mikey Day, almost by process of elimination (Kyle Mooney, Chris Redd and Alex Moffat all left) and 5) Sarah Sherman, last season’s Rookie of the Year. We did not include Che/Jost in this ranking, but “Weekend Update” should remain the “I’ll-stay-up-until” standard, or at least until the musical guests stop sucking…