ALDLAND Podcast

As promised, ALDLAND is back at it again with another college football preview blowout. Every BCS conference is discussed, and don’t worry, we didn’t forget about the Domers. Join Marcus and I, along with a special surprise guest as we unveil our picks and discuss the major players in the 2013 season as we see it. College football! So exciting!

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College football bowl schedule released

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The full bowl schedule, including times and broadcast networks, is here. Some highlights, in chronological order:   Continue reading

Topsy Monday

As noted, last Saturday’s college football games featured a number of games between top-ranked teams. As discussed in this space before, every game generally is going to end with one team on the winning side and one team on the losing side, games being athletic events between two teams. This means that a bunch of ranked teams lost this week, and boy did they.

Keep reading…

Slaughterhouse Monday

While I was in Chicago, I got into a discussion with a reader about whether high school was too early to read Vonnegut. While the results of that conversation were inconclusive, this post is unequivocally too late. So it goes.

Week three of college football and week two of the NFL definitely stand as prime territory for some on-field slaughters, and this past weekend did not disappoint in that regard. First, Vandy took the Presbyterian Blue Hose to the woodshed in Nashville, where the Commodores claimed their first win of the season by a 58-0 mark behind new starter Austyn Carta-Samuels. It was the Vanderbilt running game, nonexistent last week against Northwestern, that shone this Saturday, when Zac Stacy took the first Vanderbilt play from scrimmage 86 yards to the house and never slowed down.

There was no shortage of lopsided scores around the country Saturday, including Clemson’s 41-7 takedown of in-state team Furman, the expected Arkansas defeat at the hands of Alabama, 52-0, and other top five blowouts, including LSU’s (63-14 over Idaho), Oregon’s (same score, over Tennessee Tech), and Florida State’s (52-0 over Wake Forest). Not all of said slaughters were so favorable for teams this space likes to track, particularly including Notre Dame’s 20-3 takedown of Michigan State in East Lansing, for which there is no excuse. I’m glad I couldn’t watch it.

The NFL wasn’t especially compelling this weekend, even though a number of games on Sunday afternoon came down to the wire, technically speaking. The main NFL topic this week is likely to be the Monday night game, which has already seen its share of storylines, including multiple Peyton Manning interceptions early and an apparent lack of control by the scab referees.

To round out the slaughter theme, of course, we go to the Motor City, where the Tigers continue to lose, first on a blown save by Jose Valverde against the mighty Cleveland Indians, and then in a make-up game this afternoon against the inexplicably division-leading White Sox.

New season Monday

Football is underway at all levels, which means that this weekly roundup/preview post is back.

College football’s second week portended less excitement than its opening week, and yet there seemed to be more surprising results this week than last. In particular, two teams with a lot of preseason promise took big hits on Saturday. The Wisconsin Badgers fell out of the Top 25 and fired their offensive line coach after a loss to Oregon State in which the traditional running power generated only thirty-five yards on the ground. Arkansas’ drop from the rankings was even more precipitous, as the Razorbacks lost to Louisiana-Monroe. Michigan, fresh off a no-show against Alabama, nearly lost their home-opener to Air Force, while Clemson nearly doubled up Ball State to stay undefeated, a status they’re likely to carry into their meeting with #5 Florida State in two weeks after facing in-state lightweight Furman this weekend. Michigan State also stayed undefeated with an easy win over Central Michigan, while Vanderbilt fell to 0-2 at Northwestern in a game I attended and more about which I will writehave written.

Robert Griffin III was the star of the NFL’s first Sunday of 2012, while Andrew Luck found himself grouped with more pedestrian rookie QB starters Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill. The always-overhyped Jets turned in the surprise team performance of the day, a 48-28 win over Buffalo. The Lions, who have an official drum line, came from behind to beat the Rams in the last ten seconds of the game, and Peyton Manning returned to form in an ultimately convincing win over Pittsburgh.

Outside of the football world, Serena Williams gutted out a win at the U.S. Open, her fifteenth Grand Slam title, and Jeff Gordon announced that his “absurdly comical mustache” for the NASCAR Chase (i.e., playoffs), which begins this weekend in Chicago.

13/17 Tuesday

To much fanfare, South Carolina and Vanderbilt opened the college football season last Thursday, and the Gamecocks survived on the road, leaving Nashville with a 17-13 victory. Beside the blatant non-call on a critical pass late in the game, Vanderbilt had little excuse for losing this game. They missed a field goal that would have given them the lead in the first half, and based on the overall level of play, they really should have taken a lead into halftime. The Commodore defense showed its strength, and knocking SC starting quarterback Connor Shaw out of the game proved to be one of their best decisions, as his backups were worse than useless. Shaw didn’t stay out long enough, though, and he proved to be enough of a threat, even with a bum shoulder, to lead his team to narrow victory. For more analysis, read this. Also, did anyone else notice Spurrier wearing a normal ball cap to start the game?

Speaking of 17-13 games, Friday night’s featured game, between Boise State and Michigan State, ended with the same score, although it was the home team, rather than the visitors, that claimed the W. Both teams were featuring brand new quarterbacks, and while Andrew Maxwell struggled for the Spartans, the MSU defense made the offensive production largely irrelevant by thoroughly shutting down a Kellen Moore-less BSU offensive attack. Or, as Boise’s official twitter feed put it:

That pretty much sums it up. Not a lot of glamour for either team in this one, but Michigan State’s defense is going to keep it in some games this year in which it otherwise does not belong.

The showcase game of the weekend was the Cowboys Classic: Alabama and Michigan. Aside from Michigan’s defensive stand on the first series, this was a complete non-game. Alabama nearly shut out the Wolverines in the first half, and they scored 31 of their own points in that time, on their way to a 41-14 rout. As Tommy Tomlinson put it, “Michigan even lost the Kiss Cam.” While Alabama surely is a better team than Michigan will face the rest of the season, I’m not convinced that the Tide exactly overpowered the Maize & Blue. What I saw was the execution of a defensive gameplan to allow Denard Robinson to beat himself by throwing it as much as he wanted. To this casual observer, it felt like he was connecting with guys in crimson as much as he was with the guys in white.

I was a casual observer in part because the Clemson/Auburn game happening at the same time was far more compelling. On their opening drive, I thought Clemson was the best offense I’d seen all weekend. They soon remembered who they were, but they did earn a victory in the fourth quarter, all without their best player, WR Sammy Watkins. I haven’t looked at their schedule, but I imagine this year will go much like last year for those Tigers, in that they’ll start out very strong, maybe opening 5-0, before imploding in heart-breakingly spectacular fashion. Should be fun to watch, especially with Robbie Caldwell now on Dabo Swinney’s staff.

The Clemson/Aubrun game highlighted one of the officiating trends that is sure to drive me nuts all season. Even worse than the excessive celebration penalties (you decide what the adjective “excessive” is modifying) is this helmet rule, pursuant to which players whose helmets come off during a play due to any cause other than an opposing player tearing it off must sit out the subsequent play. Obviously I wasn’t the only one who noticed a larger-than-average number of helmets coming off during play last season. The reason for it is obvious: guys want to wear those lids loose, like Michael Vick. People called the NBA’s dress code racist, and now we have a league full of seven-foot hipster nerds. I can’t wait to see what sort of absurd headgear these kids roll out over the coming weeks and seasons, should this rule with no obvious basis in anything other than some old dude wants to demand that those punk kids strap their helmets on tight persist.

Tajh Boyd went with the leather helmet after losing his usual one several times on Saturday night against Auburn.

What the Orange Bowl tells us about conferences’ automatic BCS bids

We’ve followed the Clemson Tigers this season, from their 8-0 start, through their late-season slippage, their return to their winning ways in the ACC championship, and now their embarrassing defeat last night in the Orange Bowl at the hands of West Virginia. The Tigers’ victories have come almost exclusively on the back of their high-flying offense. Like Grinnell “system” basketball, Clemson doesn’t much care how many points you score because they’re just going to score more. It’s a great approach as long as it lasts, and it definitely is thrilling to watch, but when it unravels, things can get ugly in a hurry. Keep reading…

It’s Monday in ALDLAND

We’re about a month into the college and professional football seasons, so there aren’t too many unknowns anymore. The media-fueled big matchup for Saturday, LSU goes to Morgantown, wasn’t close, and the outcome wasn’t surprising. LSU has been operating a professional-grade defense for years, and Jordan Jefferson (allegedly) curb-stomping a U.S. Marine may have been the best thing that could happen to their offense outside of alum Shaq O’Neil going in at fullback.

After Michigan State’s failure to board the bus and make any appearance whatsoever last week in South Bend, I put them on a one-week suspension and channeled my attention to Clemson, the MSU of the South. Those Tigers did not disappoint on what was a big day for the South Carolina schools. (Side note: I thought Vandy had a chance to at least play SC close given a 3-0 start and the schools’ dead even history over the last four games, but having more penalty yards than total offensive yards is going to make that difficult.) I imagine I’ll be keeping my eyes on the Clemson squad until they remember who they are (the Michigan State of the South) and totally blow it due to sheer lack of discipline.

Speaking of Michigan State Keep reading…