While the Folsom Street Fair was reddening cheeks in
the city giant airbnb pin formerly known as San Francisco Saturday, the real flogging was up in Eugene.
By now you well know my feelings on being a Duck for the better part of the last quarter century and I’m pretty sure if #wearyourflannel on Ducks game day doesn’t start trending, well, call a sitter and put me in my PJs because all my work will have been in vain.
I guess the giant bison in the room is will I stick to my guns and pick Colorado to take down the Ducks this week? In other words, will Oregon take it back to the year 1990, when Bill McCartney steered his powerhouse buffs to an 11-1-1 (yeah, they tied Tennessee the first game of the season somehow) to no. 1 on charts? Or will the ‘real’ Oregon stand up and take back the night in the middle of the Pac-12 North pack?
Kyle, I’m sure you can guess which way I lean. My preseason prediction hubris notwithstanding, it’s just terribly hard to take Oregon on the road with that defense and spot the opponent two scores…unless the destination is Fresno (more on the Ducks and Dogs below).
Till then, to kick you off I have a question for you—debated by a couple of my buddies and me during Qs 3 and 4 of Saturday’s Autzen massacre: Would you watch football, college football namely, if you had to do it sober and/or without friends? And what percent of your picking a game to attend is based on the food and drink opportunities of the host city?
Again, like Amy Schumer with her UTI jokes, you probably know where I’m going with this, but to quote all linkbait…part of my answer—may surprise you.
I would watch football if I had to do it sober and without friends. It’s an unfortunate skill I picked up while being one of the few dorm residents at a nonfootball commuter school where many people evacuated campus on the weekends AND I only had enough booze to get me through Friday night. We’ll always have Beer Lake though, won’t we, OU? YOU CHANGED THE NAME!?
Where was I? Oh yes, I would watch college football sober and alone because I generally dislike people and drinking by yourself isn’t nearly as cool as George Thorogood makes it sound.
To your second question, I would say the food/drink opportunities in any city are at least 60 percent of the reason I choose to attend any game. The other 40 percent breaks down thusly:
20% Atmosphere (i.e. any game at the Rose Bowl, a game between the hedges, any Valley (Death or Happy), any game I can sailgate at)
10% Matchup (as much as I’d like to attend a game in Baton Rouge, the odds of finding an open weekend colliding with an LSU showdown against the North Georgia Appalachian Mud Squids is too high to really consider)
10% Timing (As someone who covers college football semi-seriously, it’s almost irresponsible to actually attend a game, especially on a weekend full of good matchups like this one. I’d rather not miss Auburn returning a last-second blocked field goal against Alabama because I actually went someplace and interacted with some people while watching one game like some sort of well-balanced person. GIVE IT ALL TO ME ON THREE DIFFERENT DEVICES.)
Food and drink, though, are the flame for my moth. I’d otherwise have no call or desire to visit Oxford, Mississippi except that it provides the off-chance on getting smashed on juleps with Wright Thompson. Franklin’s or Rudy’s are the only goddamn delicious brisket-y reasons to go to Austin on a gameday anymore. I’ve long entertained this daydream of being invited onto a boat docked outside of the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium to judge a top-secret salmon smoke-off. I could give a rat’s ass if the school replaced football with cricket, honestly.
Think about it: You have expendable income (we’re firmly in hypothetical territory right off the bat, here) and you have the choice between Clemson-Florida State in Tallahassee or Kentuck-Vandy in Nashville? I’m choosing a post-game night of karaoke and beer at Winner’s every damn time. Why suffer through some meal of catfish a hillbilly just fisted in Norman when you could enjoy some the finest beer, cheese and sausage in all creation in Madison? Food and drink are a major consideration when I travel anywhere, but especially when I travel for football. If you’re going to attend something that could end up as a 9-6 field goal battle or a 70-2 blowout, you may as well ensure you’re going to have a great time and eat well while doing it.
AJ, back over to you.
Sorry for putting you through that why you watch/where would you go? exercise. It’s a little like if I could jump into the DeLorean and hand teen Kyle a Maxim circa 2002 and ask who you would want to date (<–euphemism) Amanda Peete, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Tara Reid or Eliza Dushku? In other words, it was sort of an antiquated, vague and unattainable premise in the first place.
But it wasn’t for nothing.
…I was asking because my tiny family and I have entered what I like to call the Birthday Party Era. It’s what comes between the Awkward Co-worker Drinks That Can Turn Really Awkward and the Asleep By the Second Segment of Wheel era(s).
We checked out a two-year-old’s birthday party last week when there was at least one second-tier SEC matchup to be viewed and (on a more personal note) Barry Zito and Tim Hudson were squaring off for the final time.
The party itself was pretty boring. And I’m not saying that based on the fact that all 2-year-old birthday parties are boring-slash-things you just sort of have to do, like pulling over when your oil light comes on or letting the old lady take the Kirkland chimichanga sample before you at Costco even if it means you have to wait for another batch to come out of the microwave and be cut with scissors. I’m saying this because even for a 2-year-old’s birthday party (see: grading on a steep curve of low low, low expectations) it was pretty drab.
The actual guest of honor was there, which was cool. She kind of freaked out a little or at least looked like she would have rather been anywhere else in the world including Nordstrom Rack on a Saturday afternoon during a Friends and Family sale at that very moment a crowd of people crept up on her and sang and then expected her to demolish a coconut cake the size of her head (note: I’m really not sure if the kid even likes coconut).
Beyond this, there were some pictures of her on a tree for whatever reason. The one highlight was there were some plastic shapey-things made in China that you were supposed to dip in a cookie sheet filled with water and dish soap for bubbles. But the sheet really just served as a pool for dead ant carcasses. My son was into putting his hand in that, so that was kind of a win for him.
The hosts—who also have a one-month old and basically look like every extra on that Walking Dead spin-off that nobody can figure out whether to admit they don’t like—tried hard to be non-hostile. And frankly, with two kids under two (plus in-laws), I don’t know how they kept it fully together. I ate a burnt hotdog and enjoyed a room-temperature Miller Lite, then walked home and resumed my Saturday.
So, you do your time and fantasize about Franklin’s, you know?
And I’m not saying mellow Saturdays at home, working a little in the yard, getting a nice run in during naptime and sneaking some of the ESPN scroll isn’t a blessing, but it’s all trade-offs.
But when I mentioned to the dad host of said party that maybe we could sneak down later and grab a $6 pitcher of Coors Light, the look in his eyes was pretty much the equivalent of someone phoning up Macaulay and telling him Mila Kunis dumped Ashton and there’s a Home Alone re-boot we’d like you to read. In other words, it’s funny how expectations and desires can sometimes shrink down enough to square dance on the head of a pin.
…And even then seem lofty.
Which is an all-caps PERFECT segue to the Oregon Colorado game. Several of you kind readers and bettors know my strange feelings of euphoria that (literally) rained down on me like a November Tuesday in Lane County last week. It’s been in the works longer than Chinese Democracy, but I think the carriage finally turned back into a lovely decorative gourd for the Ducks last weekend.
And I couldn’t be happier.
Preseason, Kyle, I predicted the Buffs would ‘Win the Day’ in Boulder this year. And that wasn’t totally without merit.
Colorado +9 vs. Oregon
Oregon is only a little more than a touchdown favorite against a team that has won just one conference game in the past two seasons. Unranked for the first time this decade, the wounded Ducks flap into Boulder in need of a toke and a hot grinder from Snarfs. HC Mark Helfrich quizzically dropped the quote that will come back to haunt him should the spiral of his administration continue: “When you start digging a hole, realize you’re starting to dig a hole and drop the shovel, don’t hold on to the shovel,” Helfrich said. “Grab a bulldozer, grab something else.”
Last time I checked, bulldozers dig holes a lot faster and a lot deeper than shovels.
So, if that’s the way things are going for the Ducks—call it a correction. Call it a return to normalcy. Call it a rebuilding or re-tooling, then Colorado (3-1, winners of three straight) certainly is a school that, seemingly on the uptick ever-so-slightly, can be the ones rolling up with a Bobcat to help Helfrich widen that hole and have their statement game Saturday.
Oregon’s offense is a woeful tale of two uncertain quarterbacks. Graduate transfer Vernon Adams was playing knuckles in front of the girls’ locker rooms and busted one on his throwing hand. After a spark plug first drive in the second quarter when he came in to replace Adams, maid of honor under center Jeff Lockie steered the Ducks to eight straight possessions of DMV line-style football against the Utes; not scoring and not holding the ball long enough to give his defense a rest.
Add to that the injury of last year’s leading pass-catcher, Oregon senior receiver Byron Marshall, who was removed from the Ducks’ depth chart this week, and you’ve got a Buffalo D that can stack the box and focus solely on stopping Royce Freeman.
Speaking of that D, the Buffaloes have quietly crept to the statistical top of the conference thus far with 16.5 ppg and 341.2 yards allowed putting them in the top four just behind UCLA, Stanford and Cal.
When Colorado has the ball, there’s playmaking wideout Nelson Spruce and a chorus of running backs who’ve already amassed more than 200 yards each this season. They are, senior Christian Powell (245), sophomore Phillip Lindsay (243) and junior Michael Adkins (212). Oregon’s run defense was easier to cut through than a frozen yogurt line with a bunch of girls texting Saturday, and that basically opened up the opportunity for Utah to exploit an undersized and seemingly not-yet-ready for Pac-12 speed Oregon secondary.
Colorado and the money line.
You’ve written some truly grim copy in your day, but I want to throw the father in the above story a life raft or at least think about donating some money to a Kickstarter for him to hire a babysitter. My God.
Speaking of grim, let’s turn our attention to Norman, Oklahoma, where the 3-0 Sooners will host the 3-0 West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday. It’s both defensible and natural to assume that this’ll be a 65-56 track meet in pads as most Big 12 games tend to be. It’s only been three years since Oklahoma edged the Mountaineers in Morgantown by a score of 50-49 and allowed the home team 778 yards of total offense. In one game.
But I pulled my college football odds up for this week and what did I see staring back at me but an over/under of 59.5 points. That’s about 30 points per team–an epic defensive struggle in Big 12 terms, the type of thing that’ll make your average Big 12 fan bang out a furious email to the league commissioner suggesting defensive linemen count to 4-Mississippi before they start rushing. I had to investigate.
Low and behold, Mountaineer headman Dana Holgorsen and his skullet have located some phenomenal defense to go with WVU’s always productive offense. This season the Mountaineers have:
• Allowed 23 total points
• Scored 34 points off turnovers
• Allowed 17 rushing first downs (they’ve gained 34 rushing first downs)
• Picked off 9 passes
• Allowed 154 yards per game passing, which ranks No. 1 in the nation
• Forced 660 yards of opponent punting
To contextualize the above stats, West Virginia’s defense has been essentially as charitable towards opponents as the GOP is toward people on food stamps. And that’s why…
West Virginia +6.5 vs Oklahoma
Look, I get that OU is at home and the crowd will be fired up for a big game after a quiet slate in Norman to start the season. But the game was moved from a night date to an 11 a.m. start for TV–and that’s bad news for the Sooners. Holgorsen’s bunch hail from the eastern time zone and will be more acclimated to the early start, thus ready to punch OU in the mouth before the Kegs ‘n’ Eggs set files in during the first quarter. OU will have to lean heavily on RB Samaje Perine because this is not the sort of defense you turn QB Baker Mayfield loose against to bring home the bacon. Perine showed out last year against the Mountaineers–he went for 242 yards and 4 touchdowns–and the offense has been much more balanced this year, getting 371 pass yards per game as opposed to 203 in 2014. But, as evidenced above, this is an elite-level West Virginia defense, totally unlike the defenses Mayfield faced in Akron, Tennessee and Tulsa. On top of facing a defense who can take the ball away and score it, Oklahoma’s defense has to contend with Holgorsen’s offensive attack, which scores 89 percent of the time it reaches the red zone. It also features five receivers who average double-digit yardage per catch. I think that’s big because while OU’s pass defense doesn’t break much–they give up just 213 yards per game and 5.9 yards per pass attempt–they do break. The Sooners allow 12.1 yards per reception, something quarterback Skyler Howard and receiver Shelton Gibson (27.4 yards per catch!) can capitalize on. I’d guess the Sooners are chasing WVU all day.
Ohio State -21.5 @ Indiana
AJ, did you have any clue the Hoosiers were 4-0? Neither did I until this week. The folks in Bloomington put up a spirited battle to land College Gameday, and ESPN reportedly considered hosting the show there. That’s an absurd sentence and felt bizarre to type. Getting past Joey Bosa and the Ohio State defense will be infinitely harder and would be infinitely more absurd, though. The Buckeyes haven’t allowed a rushing TD in seven quarters (that’s the only one they’ve given up all season) and give up just about 120 yards per game. IU doesn’t feast on its run game–as a matter of fact, QB Nate Sudfield’s 1143 yards outpaces the team’s rushing output of 946–but the Hoosiers need the play-action game to set up their aerial attack. Good luck doing that against a team that allows 3 yards per rush, on average. The Buckeyes only get more suffocating as the game wears on. In the fourth quarter, opponents manage to convert just a quarter of their third downs, and not one has outpaced OSU in time of possession. Chances don’t come easy against the Buckeyes, and the Hoosiers’ luck runs out this weekend in Bloomington.
Ole Miss @ Florida Under 51
The SEC is the anti-Big 12. If somebody scores more than 30 points some backwoods state senator will take time out of his busy schedule of defending your right to carry an Uzi/spork to a kindergarten picnic to launch an official investigation. 4-0 Florida gives up just 18.2 ppg while 4-0 Ole Miss gives up just 19.2. Being as Ole Miss thoroughly thumped Alabama and Florida struggled against Kentucky, I think it’s safe to say the Rebels will be 5-0 leaving this game. But, I do think Florida’s 90,000 screaming jorts enthusiasts make it difficult for Ole Miss to move the ball late in the game. Watch for the under.
Alabama +1.5 @ Georgia
Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert isn’t ready for the wood Alabama is going to bring on Saturday. You could put a screaming Athenian in every Sanford Stadium seat and have Michael Stipe belt out an angsty version of the fight song the entire time and Greyson Lambert still couldn’t muster the game necessary to beat the Tide on Saturday. The Virginia transfer simply hasn’t ever seen a defense like the Tide’s. The best pass defense he’s ever seen was probably Louisville’s last year–which allowed 6.3 yards per attempt–and he managed just 162 yards, a touchdown and an interception against them. Bama allows 5.3 yards per attempt and just 9.7 per completion. They’ll strangle that vaunted UGA rushing attack–the Tide allow just 2 yards per rush and 56.8 yards per game. That’ll put the game into Lambert’s hands, and while he’s a nice passer, the numbers tell us Mark Richt really doesn’t trust him all that much. He only gets about 17 attempts per game and they’re mostly safe routes to the sidelines or underneath. Watch Alabama put the pressure on Lambert and then watch him crumble underneath it.
AJ, close us out:
Apologies for the harrowing depiction of the birthday party. Without backpedaling too much, I think it’s more an exercise in finding joy in the mundane. I think what other generations understood better than the ones selfieing their way into meaningless data purgatory, is that life is never supposed to be back-to-back-to-back landmark/look-at-me-moments.
This time of overwhelming acceptance (and sometimes to the point where it can simply be ignored) narcissism is tell-tale. When walking back from the party this sort of wave of: the sun is out and the sky is clear and the day is nice and I don’t have really any other commitments or pressing needs besides being right here with these two people I love, right now—overtook me.
And that…well, that’s great, right? It’s not a moment I would ordinarily write about or post down people’s throats or say, ‘here, look at this—we exist’. Keeping that private, I sort of think, is the only thing that matters. Not to say that we couldn’t use a kid-free night in Vegas, or that I don’t have two days in March to Scottsdale (<– verb) quadruple-circled on my 2016 calendar, but there are so, so many things along the way that I can’t help but feel make it all worthwhile.
The fact that my son sat through an inning of baseball (dismal baseball at that: Cubs v. Reds) yesterday and didn’t fuss or kick down or reach for his little cars; the deer I saw who saw me while I was running trail this morning; there were fresh muffins in the kitchen when I got to work—all worthy of pause. Yep, I’m lucky to be able to go to (and survive) any old 2-year-old’s birthday party.
Speaking of lucky…
Notre Dame +2 @ Clemson
Ah, my FAVORITE week of the year, where Dabo’s Tigers get mauled in their cage to initiate their long slide toward the Russell Athletic Bowl. Unbeaten Clem’p’son is ranked no. 12 to unbeaten Notre Dame’s no. 6 and Dabo used his pulpit this week to take a few swipes at the domers’ independence. The evangelical HC, who has taken flack in the past from the Freedom from Religion Foundation for injecting “voluntary” prayer into the state-funded school’s football program, is maybe worried that with all the Pope stuff going on, god (or GOD if you’re Dabo) really is on the side of the shamrocks whose church is something a little more grand than the ACC.
Divine intervention (in the form of 6-12 inches of rain by game time thanks to a hurricane named after my favorite Phoenix, Joaquin) notwithstanding, Notre Dame is without starting QB Malik Zaire and RB Tarean Folston. The Tigers returned less than a half-dozen starters from last year’s ultimately middling squad and lost no. 1 receiver Mike Williams in the opener against Wofford. Notre Dame has proven to have a little deeper depth (<–– yeah, I said that) and are using a bunch of balls blessed by Pope Frank himself. Look for a two-score Irish victory.
San Diego State -9 vs Fresno State
I’m going back to the betting-against-Fresno State free pot of money One. More. Time. Thus far this season, the Bulldogs have been my casino ATM without incurring the $5.29 fee. It’s been that bad for the Bulldogs mostly because they’ve matched up against opponents who are far better (Utah and Ole Miss) or rivals who are seemingly their equal, but also much better at, you know, football (San Jose State). Either way, Fresno’s yet to cover.
Prior to the season, there were high hopes for both 1-3 programs, but neither school has beaten an FBS opponent to date. So Saturday’s is more a battle of who’s really as bad as their record. The Bulldogs feature Marteze Waller at RB and QB Zack Greenlee is set to return, but Valley Pride has yet to move the chains this year. Even with a couple touted-and-healthy skill players, Fresno’s O-line is flimsier than an Eggo that’s sat on the counter for three hours. On the defensive side, San Jose State’s RB Tyler Ervin ran like an 11-year-old from a mall cop after he stole a Furbee from KB Toys (300+ yards last week) and Fresno State hasn’t given up fewer than 45 points in its last three match-ups (granted, two were against ranked opponents).
Look for SDSU’s defense to matter in this game. The Aztecs, who did a nice job stopping Cal for a half week 2, feature DT Alex Barrett and linebackers Jake Fely and Calvin Munson. DBs Damontae Kazee (junior) and J.J. Whitaker (senior) are corners who are more shut down than Borders. That combined with the Aztecs’ underrated front five will make the Bulldogs’ the first Fresnoids to ever want to swap the foamy shores of San Diego for the Valley heat mid-weekend.
The PNP recap:
Season: 10 for 14
Colorado +9 vs. Oregon
Notre Dame +2 @ Clemson
San Diego State -9 vs Fresno State
Season: 8 for 14
West Virginia +6.5 vs Oklahoma
Ohio State -21.5 @ Indiana
Ole Miss @ Florida Under 51
Alabama +1.5 @ Georgia