Sports fans like to say that "sports" is the best reality television. Perhaps I'm nitpicking at semantics, but when it's at its heart-pounding best, sports are more like a fantastic suspense drama, with storylines and characters in whom we emotionally invest.
For me, it's that way, at least.
In just the past couple of months, I've discussed this phenomenon a few times in this space as it relates to college football (mostly as a backdrop to trying to explain my man love for Johnny Manziel), and I think it's safe to say that the BCS Title chase is its own self-contained storyline each year.
As with any good drama, some weeks are better than others. Week Four of this season was a total dud, so bad that its badness was a storyline unto itself.
This past weekend was not far behind Week Four's suckitude.
The same way that the marquee characters carry a good HBO drama week to week, so too do the heavyweights in college football carry the quality of play and the compelling outcomes from the weekend in college football. Honestly, when you look at the top ten teams in the BCS rankings heading into this weekend, we kind of should have seen this coming (opponent in parentheses):
1. Alabama (IDLE) 2. Oregon (IDLE) 3. Florida State (vs 7 Miami, WON 41-14) 4. Ohio State (at Purdue, WON 56-0) 5. Stanford (IDLE) 6. Baylor (IDLE) 7. Miami, FL (at 3 Florida State, LOST 41-14) 8. Clemson (at Virginia, WON 59-10) 9. Missouri (vs Tennessee, WON 31-3) 10. Oklahoma (IDLE)
So five of the teams in the top ten were idle (six if you count Miami's effort in the second half against Florida State; more on that in a second), and the four winners won by an average score of 47-7. Yay.
Moreover, of the six BCS conference undefeated teams (sorry, Fresno and Northern Illinois), only three were in action, and in the one game where the two of them were playing each other (Florida State and Miami), it was so widely accepted that one of them (Miami) was a fraud that the spread on the game (Florida State -22) was the largest between two top 10 teams this late in the season in the history of college football.
And certainly, the game lived down to the minimal "hype embers" that ESPN and ABC could stoke leading up to kickoff, with Florida State allowing Miami to hang around for a half before systematically dismantling them in the second half, knocking out the Canes' best player (RB Duke Johnson) for the season in the process.
Looking back now, Miami was a total pretender, a three-loss team masquerading as an undefeated one, and it showed on Saturday night. To circle back to the HBO drama analogy, if the survival pool that is the BCS title chase were The Sopranos, the Miami-Florida State game hardly constituted a momentous "whacking." It was more like Gigi Cestone having a heart attack while sitting on the pishadoo, taking a shit.
If there was one seminal moment in the game, it occurred withabout seven minutes to go in the game
, with Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo trotting out to attempt a 25-yard field goal that would take the score from 35-14 to 38-14, a seemingly benign play in the grand scheme, unless you're a gambler. Remember, the spread was Florida State -22.
Oh, and Brent Musberger is a gambler. Did I mention that?
One of the unsung experiences of watching a Musberger-called game is trying to figure out which side he has his undoubtedly healthy wad tied to. Trying to decipher his "tell" takes an educated, borderline degenerate ear. In other words, it's right up my alley.
And Brent's "tell" on Saturday came as Aguayo came out onto the field, with Musberger continually touting Aguayo's unparalleled accuracy and perfection this season. "Herbie, this kid is TEN OF TEN on the season!" as if Aguayo were some sort of diminutive Hispanic version of Sebastian Janikowski. In short, Brent had "Miami +22" and was trying to jinx the kid into his first miss of the season.
In fact, after the field goal sailed through the uprights, Kirk Herbstreit even said, "You can't jinx that kid!"
This is why I love Musberger, and why I would actually pay a subscription fee to listen to two announcers with money on a game (preferably Musberger and fellow degenerate All Michaels of NBC) call the game with open acknowledgment and embracing of their wagers on the air. Hearing Musberger scream for Al Golden to use his timeouts down 27 with a minute to go would have been one of the all-time "Degenerate Network" moments, to be sure.
So the countdown to Thursday night begins, with four of those teams I listed above facing off in what amounts to a couple of elimination games -- Oklahoma at Baylor and Oregon at Stanford. It should be an amazing night. Hell, Alabama and LSU on Saturday night is actually in the backseat this coming weekend, if that's even possible.
Indeed, if this past Saturday was Gigi Cestone croaking on the shitter, this coming weekend is the "Pine Barrens" of college football weekends.
Other things that struck my fancy on Saturday:
The "Inspirational" Erik Spoelstra Did I hear that right on the Saturday night broadcast of the Tennessee-Missouri game? Did I hear that Vols head coach Butch Jones is "boys" with Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, and that he had Coach Spo come spend a day with his team this past summer? I do believe that I did.
Apparently, Spoelstra came in and talked to the Vols about how he went about building a winning culture and rebuilding the Miami Heat after they had bottomed out with a 15-win season in 2007-2008.
Now, I don't want to diminish the kindness of Spoelstra's gesture because it was really nice of him to take the time to head all the way to Knoxville (not the easiest place to get to, by the way) during his vacation to meet with a bunch of college kids. That said, I'm not sure how conveying the words "We got LeBron James" is going to help Tennessee this season. I mean, that's got to be Spo's whole speech, right?
"We got LeBron James." The end.
Please don't tell me that Spoelstra shared some flowery tale about how he had to "change their mindsets" and "ingrain in their heads how they must play for each other." Dude, you got the lottery ticket. You got LeBron. What next? A book on molding champions?
Oh, Tennessee lost to Missouri, 31-3. "Jen Bielema #karma Tweet Fallout" Update You remember back in the early morning of September 15, when Jen Bielema, the lovely wife of current Arkansas and former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, tweeted "#karma" after this abomination of an ending to the Wisconsin-Arizona State game that night?
I would embed Jen Bielema's actual tweet as a reminder, but it's long since been deleted, and while the tweet itself may be gone, just like a horrific dump in a cramped public restroom, the stench has remained behind for her husband literally ever since she hit SEND.
Since she fired off that tweet, Jen's husband's football team is 0-6 and has been outscored by a combined total of 242-91. The two reportedly met in a casino, so with the Razorbacks' bowl eligibility likely to die in Oxford this weekend against the Ole Miss Rebels, the good news is they will have plenty of time to gamble this offseason.
Weird Play of the Weekend: Sacred Heart WR Fumble-Tackle-Fumble Return for TD Located in lovely Fairfield, Connecticut, Sacred Heart University is probably best known in 2013 as the employer of former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who is currently the school's athletics director. But for at least the next 24 to 48 hours, it will be known for the craziest play of the college football weekend:
If you're wondering what that looks like in the box score, technically it reads, "00:56 Sacred Heart -- WEBB, Moses 51 yd fumble return. (ROGERS, Chris kick is good). 7 - 24." Somehow, that seems a tad understated.
Obligatory Johnny Manziel mention Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston might be the current frontrunners for the Heisman, but Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is the best player in the country. I cannot be persuaded otherwise. So for as long as I do a weekend recap, I'll find a way to work Manziel into the mix, either directly or as part of a tip of the hat to the Aggies' prolific offense, which put up 55 of its 57 points on Saturday night in about a 32-minute span against overmatched and overwhelmed UTEP.
Brent Zwerneman, who covers A&M for the Houston Chronicle, tweeted this after the game:
A&M has scored at least 50 points in nine of Kevin Sumlin's 22 games with the Aggies.
— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) November 3, 2013
That all sounds really good until you realize that eight of the nine teams they scored over 50 points on are all either FCS, non-BCS FBS or SEC teams that didn't qualify for a bowl game. (The only outlier is 2013 Vanderbilt, which is 4-4 on the season.)
To me, the more impressive offensive stat for Texas A&M is the fact that since the LSU loss last season (15 games), they've scored under 41 points only twice, and under 38 points only once, and that was the 29 points they scored in Tuscaloosa in the 2012 upset that won the Heisman Trophy for Manziel.
And let's be real, scoring 29 in Tuscaloosa is like scoring 80 almost anywhere else.
The Pelinis Change Their Last Name to "Steven," As in "Even Steven" I'm not sure two brothers as college football head coaches could have had two more opposite weeks, but if there is ever a set of siblings that defy logic, it's the Flying Pelini Brothers.
First, there's Carl Pelini, the now former head coach at Florida Atlantic University, who earlier this week was escorted off of the premises (along with an assistant coach) after resigning amid allegations of drug use ranging from "socially using" marijuana to just plain abusing cocaine (admittedly, a much tougher drug to pull off the "social" angle with -- "Yeah, we were just hanging out, snorting some lines..." doesn't really sound right).
Then, there's Bo Pelini, the crazier of the two (and frankly, the much more likely bet to be on cocaine), who may have had his career as Nebraska head coach fished out of the fire on this play to end the game against Northwestern on Saturday:
College football fans, meet quarterback Ron Kellogg III, a former walk-on who was just put on scholarship by Pelini in August and who now has etched his place in the FQHOF (Fat Quarterback Hall of Fatness). Kellogg may have also saved Bo Pelini's job, at least for now, which I'm not so sure is a good thing for Nebraska fans.
Either way, the two Pelini brothers split out the week as the Pelini family was "even Steven."
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#SadFanCam Pic Of The Week Poor TCU. Poor, poor TCU...
— T-Bone Vandelay (@Jgoss1971) November 3, 2013
As my man T-Bone Vandalay said, #SadFanCam meets #SadBroCam.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.