We're All Playing for Second Place: That's really the only takeaway from Saturday night's vicious 41-14 beatdown of the Michigan Wolverines at the hands of Darth Saban and his Imperial Crimson Stormtroopers. Alabama dominated every single phase of this game in such a fashion that I just can't even envision anyone beating them this year.
Which, of course, means something totally stupid is going to happen. Maybe they'll lose 35-7 to someone.
The usual components were there; Bama had absolute control of the line of scrimmage to the point where Wolverine linemen could only shake their heads after the fact and acknowledge that they'd been manhandled. A.J. McCarron was more than competent, tossing two TD passes and coming up three feet short of a 200-yard day. It was true freshman T.J. Yeldon who planted the flag, however, popping 111 yards on 11 carries and becoming the first true freshman running back in Alabama history to crack 100 in his debut.
For Michigan's part, it was a disaster. Denard Robinson looked lost and helpless, and the entire defense looked horrid. Worse, in a situation which has gone somewhat under the radar, Brady Hoke left his abused and beaten starters out there far too late in the game. That ultimately may have (at least temporarily) cost him the services of star LT Taylor Lewan, who had to be helped off the field.
Boise's Out; Who's Got Next?: Talent-wise, Brigham Young is probably the best of the Busters, but the schedule is daunting and they may not be able to escape unscathed. However, after having handled California 31-24, Nevada's now staring at a home date with South Florida. It's a nice situation for the Wolfpack, because if they can get past the Bulls they can point to two quality non-conference wins (and a win over Boise, too) if they find themselves unbeaten. You'll want to keep an eye on Nevada... for now, anyway. As for that win over Cal, OhioBear over at California Golden Blogs provides the analysis from the losing side; alas, we have no Nevada blog here at SBNation to provide a counterpoint.
But Wait, There's More!: I don't know that they've got the schedule or the gravitas to make themselves part of any BCS discussion coming out of the MAC. But the Ohio Bobcats were a trendy pick to beat Penn State coming into the week (much to the ire of Penn State fans, who in one particular failure of humanity over at Blue White Illustrated behaved in a vile manner toward SI's Holly Anderson for having the temerity to suggest they might lose). They didn't look up to the task through halftime, but after the break our old pal Frank Solich had his boys ready to rumble. After a 24-14 win, Ohio's pretty much got nothing of substance standing between them and a perfect record heading into the MAC Championship Game (although as we all know, MACtion can throw wrenches into anything). Jeff Junstrom at Black Shoe Diaries dissects the loss from the perspective of the Nittany Lions, while The Hustle Belt's Matt Sussman discusses Ohio's part in the proceedings.
It would be, of course, remiss of me not to point out how utterly appalling I found ESPN's opportunistic coverage of this game and its lead-up. ESPN is a sports network, and thus sports are and should be its primary focus. Sometimes, things happen which force a wider lens; the Sandusky situation certainly qualifies. That said, after having spent most of the year rightly shredding the program for its failings, the "healing and redemption" narrative which the network blasted at every opportunity both before and during the game was inexcusable. It is true that the kids aren't to blame for any of this. It's even true that a significant portion of the fanbase can be said to not deserve punishment for the actions of the school's administration (although their quite frankly insane behavior over the last two months, and their unspeakably vile reactions noted above, make it awfully hard to feel any sympathy for them as a group). That said, the proper method of dealing with this football game... was to broadcast the football game. The Penn State program does not deserve the sort media attention ESPN was providing it this week. It deserves to simply BE; they are playing football games, and those football games are going to be on your television set, but nobody outside of Happy Valley cares one whit about the healing process of the Penn State football program.
We care about the healing process of Sandusky's victims, ESPN. Not a football team's. Not a bunch of fans whose own behavior has been dubious. Don't you ever, ever trivialize this in such a fashion again.
Meet the New Kids: The first meeting between the FBS Class of 2012 took place Saturday, and it was a doozy. Larry Coker's Roadrunners dropped into Mobile to take on South Alabama, and you honestly couldn't have asked for a better FBS debut for either team. It's a shame this game, pushed to Saturday from a scheduled Thursday night meeting due to Hurricane Isaac, slipped under everyone's radar. The Roadrunners jumped out to a 20-7 lead on a couple of Eric Soza TD passes and two Sean Ianno field goals, but C.J. Bennett got the Jaguars back into it with 20 seconds left in the first half when he hit Desmond Jones from two yards out. The only scoring in the third quarter was a Michel Chapuseaux FG for USA, but less than three minutes into the fourth Kendall Houston punched it in from a yard out to give South Alabama a 24-20 lead. And then it went HAM.
UTSA retook the lead on another Soza TD pass, and another Ianno field goal with six and a half to go put the 'Runners up 30-24. Four minutes later, the Jaguars reclaimed the lead after a 34-yard strike from Bennett to Jereme Jones, and it took a 51-yard kick by Ianno -- his fourth of the night -- to give UTSA the win with only sixteen seconds remaining. They may not, probably won't, be very good teams this year. But it was one hell of a way to launch their boats into the stormy waters of FBS play, and it deserves to be remembered.
Of course, even that performance was overshadowed by their other playmate. Texas State and Dennis Franchione announced their presence to the FBS world by walking out of Houston with a 30-13 win. Maybe Houston's just really missing Case Keenum and Kevin Sumlin, but I wouldn't sleep too hard on the Bobcats. Franchione's worked wonders in far, far less comfortable positions.
Alrighty Then, Back to the Drawing Board: The FCS-over-FBS upset tally reached four on Saturday with the additions of the giggle-worthy Youngstown State 31-17 win over Pittsburgh and the sad and depressing 20-17 loss by Memphis at the hands of the UT-Martin Skyhawks. It was almost worse, as William & Mary led Maryland 6-0 for seemingly forever before the Terrapins finally figured out how to get into the end zone; they still only won 7-6. #8 Wisconsin also had to survive a scare, which puts their threat of Big Ten hegemony in jeopardy; they were only able to muster a 26-21 win at home over Northern Iowa. The Panthers are a damned fine FCS team, don't get me wrong; but this is Wisconsin. They need to get it together or they're in trouble.
Moving away from FCS-enabled shenanigans, Iowa barely survived Northern Illinois 18-17, which either means that Iowa's really bad or that Northern Illinois-Ohio MAC Championship Game is going to be something special. Arizona flailed away helplessly at Toledo for sixty minutes, blowing a chance to win it on the final play of the game when John Bonano shanked a short field goal try; the Wildcats were fortunate to score first in OT and then hold off Austin Dantin and the Rockets. #23 Florida had a miserable day; they were able to dispatch Bowling Green 27-14, but there's not a Gator fan on the planet who isn't contemplating the futility of the universe right now.
And then there's Oklahoma, and you all know what happened there. Suffice it to say that Landry Jones is, in the end, still Landry Jones.
The People vs Oklahoma State: The end result of this game, and the annual argument it spawned, are the subject of a TOG post by yours truly regarding the need to continue crossing divisions. That being said... man, Gundy, have some decency. It wasn't the 84-0 score that was the problem, on its own; it was the touchdown pass a minute into the third quarter already up 49-0. And the one six minutes later already up 63-0. And the one two minutes into the fourth quarter already up 70-0. This is not how we do things, sir. You should feel shame.
We're Not Done Yet: Just a friendly reminder that there is still one more game to go before we can put this opening weekend completely to bed, as Virginia Tech meets Georgia Tech tonight.
Not Football: The NIT is apparently in such a desperate scramble for the sixteenth team for the NIT Season Tip-Off that it may end up being a D-II school. One potentially irritating consideration: that D-II school will probably end up playing in our Manhattan, as the host schools and the already-confirmed eleven other teams sort of line up that way. Whether this is some indication that the NIT specifically cannot find a sixteenth team willing to come to Bramlage is an open, and depressing, question.
Finally: Sam Durley of Eureka College set an NCAA record Saturday with 736 yards passing, which is nifty and exciting, and I don't mean to take anything away from him because throwing for 736 yards against 11 construction cones is impressive. Still... two things about this story which, naturally, nobody is mentioning because they don't know anything: number one is actually getting mentioned as a mere factoid on the way toward the story, which is that Eureka beat Knox 62-55. Since nobody else seems to be drawing attention to this, let me repeat it. 62-55. The other thing, which nobody really is mentioning, is that Knox is and has been for years, if not decades, the worst team in one of the worst conferences in all of Division III. There's a reason why Alex Tanney isn't the Chiefs' backup quarterback, and it's because although he really is an amazingly talented young man, he played for Knox's most hated rival. They don't trust his game ability because he played against bad teams. (See, knowing about D-III really does have practical application in the real world.)