SHADES OF WILBER MARSHALL
We have yet to see that Wilber Marshall breakout game against Southern Cal in 1982 or that Alex Brown meet Mr. Martin game in 1999, but Dante Fowler is starting to show that same kind of disruptive presence. He had two big plays to dominate the first quarter of the Tennessee game and two sacks plus plenty of pressure against Kentucky. You can make a case that Fowler overmatched Kentucky, but against Tennessee he was going against Ja’Wuan James, a 6-6, 325-pound specimen who is expected to be one of the early offensive line selections when the NFL drafts next May. After forcing two fumbles in the first quarter against UT, Fowler was doubled up the rest of the game and you could make a case that he was also held on every play although the SEC zebra crew conveniently overlooked holding. He needs to get used to the double teams because he will see them the rest of the year. They used to double up on Wilber and Alex Brown, too. They adjusted and dominated. If Fowler can make the adjustment, he’ll dominate, too.
SO MUCH FOR THE REPUTATION AS A DEFENSIVE LEAGUE
For a league that has built its reputation on playing the best defense in the country, the Southeastern Conference is taking a hit. Last year, five SEC teams finished in the top 20 in the NCAA in total defense: #1 Alabama; #5 Florida; #8 LSU, #11 South Carolina and #19 Vanderbilt. This year, Florida (#2) and Mississippi State (#20) are the only SEC teams in the top 20 and Alabama (#27) is the only other SEC team in the top 30. A lot of SEC defensive talent went to the NFL last year so that’s one explanation for what’s going on. Another explanation is the play at quarterback. Aaron Murray (Georgia), Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and Zach Mettenberger (LSU) rank #4-6 in the NCAA pass efficiency rakings and that doesn’t take into account for Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, who is only 30-2 as a starting QB or Missouri’s talented James Franklin or South Carolina’s Connor Shaw (20-4 as a starter). If he had enough starts, Florida’s Tyler Murphy would rank #22 in pass efficiency (162.4), which puts him 20 places ahead of McCarron in the rankings.
IT PROBABLY SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE MOMENT
If I had to write a book about my own life, I might entitle it, “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Moment.” In retrospect, probably most of the bad decisions I ever made seemed like a good idea at the moment that I made them. If Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace ever writes a book about his life, I’m sure he’ll think the same thing about his statement prior to last week’s Alabama game: “I think we have better receivers than (Texas) A&M. We can put up points on anybody.” The Ole Miss offense was good for a donut and 205 total yards against Alabama. It’s usually not a smart thing to rile up Alabama, particularly for a night game in Tuscaloosa.
ONLY 20 UNBEATEN TEAMS REMAIN
It’s October, time when the number of unbeaten college football teams starts to dwindle. There are only 20 remaining including two from the SEC – Alabama and Missouri, both 4-0. There are four each from the ACC (Florida State, Clemson, Maryland and Miami) and Pac-12 (Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Washington) and three each from the Big 12 (Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas Tech) and Big 10 (Ohio State Northwestern and Michigan). Only one unbeaten remains in the Mountain West (Fresno State), MAC (Northern Illinois), Conference USA (Houston) and American Athletic Conference (Louisville). At least three unbeaten will go down this weekend with these showdown games: Ohio State at Northwestern; Washington at Stanford; and Florida State at Maryland. Florida State has to play all three remaining unbeaten teams in the ACC.
RIP JAMES STREET
Street was the nation’s first great wishbone quarterback at Texas, leading the Darrell Royal-coached Longhorns to the 1969 national championship. A tremendous ball handler, Street read defenses and rarely made mistakes running the triple option. He went 20-0 as a starter at Texas, but the game that Longhorn fans will always remember him for is the 15-14 win over Arkansas in what was billed as “The Game of the Century.” Both Texas and Arkansas came into the game unbeaten and ranked 1-2 in the nation. Street led Texas from behind to win with a 52-yard touchdown run and a clutch 44-yard pass to Randy Peschel on a fourth and three. He also pitched two no-hitters and led Texas to two Southwest Conference championships. Street died Monday of unknown causes.
I thought I had seen it all when Maryland rolled out those state flag helmets about three years ago. They were the ugliest I had ever seen until Virginia Tech, which already has the ugliest color combination in all of college sports – maroon and orange – rolled out those “Virginia Tech stone” helmets last week. This week Arizona State will trump that with a helmet on fire design for Notre Dame. I think back to those double ugly Notre Dame, Baylor and Louisville uniforms that adidas rolled out for the NCAA Tournament last year or those awful one orange sleeve jerseys the Gators wore at the behest of Nike for the 2005 Georgia game. I know that it’s all about the money and if you take the shoe company money you essentially are the dog on their leash, but for once I wish some athletic director would have the guts to say, “Enough is enough. We’ll wear our traditional uniforms and helmets.”
AN UGLY DIVORCE
That’s the only way you can describe what’s going on in Tampa between the Bucs and former starting quarterback Josh Freeman. Monday, it was leaked that Freeman had failed a drug test and is involved in the NFL drug program. As if that’s not bad enough, it was leaked out Tuesday that Freeman was asked to skip a team meeting. It’s obvious that Freeman, who was benched for rookie Mike Glennon last Sunday, has become persona non grata. This is a messy divorce being carried out in public. It doesn’t help the Bucs’ sagging image nor does it help Freeman, whose contract expires at the end of the season. This kind of news can’t help his free agent status.
THE PLAYOFFS HAVE BEGUN
Pardon me if I’m not doing backflips that the postseason has begun for Major League Baseball. I can tell you who’s in the playoffs, but not much else about the teams. I read all about record attendance and how the owners have made more money than ever before, but something is amiss with the game. When I went to see the Yankees face the Rays at the Plastic Palace back in August, tickets way down the left field line were $70 apiece. One trip to the concession stand for three was a $50 setback. And a Rays game is one of the real bargains in baseball. Given the economy I don’t see how a family of four can afford to go to a game more than one or two times a year. That tells me baseball needs to reinvent its business model.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I’ve always been a big Hall and Oates fan, but I’ve developed a greater appreciation for Daryl Hall thanks to the “Live at Daryl’s House” show that you can find on Palladium TV on cable. On his show, Hall brings in old rockers and new talent, sometimes merging them together as he does with “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out.” Mayer Hawthorne, who performs old-style soul music and does hip hop under the stage name “Haircut,” teams his band up with the Daryl Hall Band and legendary organist Booker T. Jones of Booker T. and the MGs. This is Hawthorne, Booker T., Daryl Hall and the band doing a remake of the Hall and Oates classic “I Can’t Go for That.”