Mike Tran, a.k.a. the Irish Bruin — you know, the guy who I own — called me this weekend to tell me an amusing story: he just discovered on Friday that he works across the hall from Michael Walsh, better known around these parts as Lex icon. Lex is a Trojan and Mike is a Bruin, so naturally, they were talking about the weekend’s football games… and in the course of that conversation, it came to light that they have a mutual acquaintance: me.
Heh. I’ve never met Lex icon in person, but now one of my law-school buddies has. What a world. God bless the Internet. Here’s a more detailed account of how they met (or rather, of how they realized who the other one is).
It sounds like Mark Sanchez will get the start for the Trojans against Notre Dame.
But who will start for the Irish? It might be Evan Sharpley instead of Jimmy Clausen, as Sharpley once again looked like the better QB yesterday.
Who would have thought, back in August, that this year’s USC-Notre Dame game could potentially feature Mark Sanchez against Evan Sharpley?
UPDATE: More on Notre Dame’s QB decision here.
Meanwhile, USC fan Jonathan Tu — who is currently in the midst of living the dream, doing a season-long whirlwind college-football odyssey that will see him attend 22 games in 14 weeks, including the one in South Bend next Saturday — riffs on what it feels like to be human again:
[When the final score of the Arizona game was announced,] I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think about mistakes, injuries, what-ifs, polls, ramifications, anything, really, except one thing: how good it feels to win.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been so long since USCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s had a realistic chance of losing to anyone except one of the traditional powerhouses of college football (Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan). This is what it felt like in 2002, but, more specifically, this is what it felt like pre-2002: anything can happen, anything will happen, and, yes, even a 7 point win over a hapless Arizona team is a miracle, a godsend, a blessing, a wonder, something worth celebrating in of itself. This was not the case with some of the wins over the past several years. I was spoiled; we all were.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m a fan, so naturally I have ideas about what needs to happen for USC to be in New Orleans. (Hah!). But for the first time in a long time IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m only thinking about the next game and the stated goal: to make sure Notre DameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only win is over UCLA, which is thoroughly acceptable to a USC fan. Whether that winÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s by 3 or 30, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll take it.
Speaking of teams with histories of futility having successful seasons, the Newington High School football Indians are now 5-0 after beating Bulkeley 55-21 on Friday — in a game that saw senior Nathan Pagan surpass 5,000 career rushing yards, making him the ninth player in state history to achieve that milestone.
Oh, and the Indians are ranked #10 in the state by the Hartford Courant — soon to jump to #9, probably, as #8 Fairfield Prep got crushed by unranked Cheshire 42-7 Friday and will presumably tumble out of the rankings.
Newington is also one of five remaining undefeated teams in Class L, though if the season ended today, they wouldn’t qualify for the playoffs due to their #5 ranking. They’ll put their unbeaten record to the test next Friday at Bristol Eastern, which is also 5-0 and ranked #2 in Class M (and #15 in the Courant’s state rankings).
After following up its loss to Stanford with a near-loss to Arizona, USC has dropped in the polls — quite justifiably, in my view — despite the continuing rash of upsets all around them. USC fell from #10 to #13 in the AP poll (leapfrogged by Kentucky, Virginia Tech and Arizona State), and from #7 to a tie for #9 in the coaches poll (leapfrogged by West Virginia and South Carolina). Given that they’ve looked certifiably godawful for three consecutive weeks, and given that Nebraska has now been exposed to the point that it no longer qualifies as a quality win (let alone a “signature” one), I think the Trojans should fall even further (I have them #16), but at least the new rankings more closely approximate reality than last week’s.
Ohio State is #1 in both polls. It’s far closer to a unanimous decision in the coaches poll (56 of 60 first-place votes, with just 1 for Boston College and 3 for South Florida) than in the AP poll (50 of 65, with the remaining votes breaking down thusly: USF 11, BC 1, Oklahoma 1, LSU 1, Arizona State 1). South Florida is #2 in the AP poll, #3 in the coaches; Boston College is the reverse of that, #2 in the coaches and #3 in the AP. Proving Texasyank’s point that “one-loss is the new undefeated,” Oklahoma and LSU are #4 and #5 in both polls. After that, it’s mass chaos from #6 to #13. But undefeated Arizona State is #12 in both polls, and undefeated Kansas is #15 in both. Undefeated Hawaii is #17 in the AP, #16 in the coaches. Oh, and Michigan is ranked again — #24 in the AP poll. Hot! Hot! Hot!
P.S. Prediction: South Florida will lose at Rutgers on Thursday. These Big East weeknight games on ESPN have not been kind to favorites (or to road teams) the last two years, and the Scarlet Knights (and their fans) will be pumped — they may have dropped from the polls, but they’ve still got a conference championship to win, and this game is a must-win for them to achieve that goal. And now, they can beat the nation’s #2 team in the process! As Louisville beat West Virginia, as Rutgers beat Louisville, as Cincinnati beat Rutgers, and as South Florida beat West Virginia, so will Rutgers beat South Florida. Round and round the Big East’s cycle of cannibalization goes; where it ends, nobody knows.
UPDATE: The first official BCS standings are out, and as expected, South Florida is #2 (behind #1 tOSU) because the computers love the Bulls, due to their strength of schedule and quality wins (and because the dumb BCS computers don’t understand the value of preseason polls, nor do they recognize the “vague notions of superiority based on the size, recognition and historical success of a program” that human polls value so highly). The computers love South Florida so much, in fact, that they ranked the Bulls #1 in the country. But because Ohio State is a runaway #1 in both human polls, they get the edge over USF in the BCS standings even though they’re just #5 in the computers. On the other hand, Boston College, #2 in both of the polls that matter of BCS purposes, is just #7 in the computers, and thus ends up #3 in the BCS.
The South Florida Bulls have set the college-football world on fire this season, streaking their way to a 6-0 record and a #2 national ranking. But the other Division I college football team with the nickname "Bulls" also deserves some props. Like USF, the University at Buffalo is having its best season since joining Division I-A — and although these Bulls are enjoying success on a slightly less grand scale than the other Bulls, they got their own bit of national exposure last night, in the form of a "helmet sticker" on ESPN’s College Football Final:
The Nebraska alum Rece Davis mentions is Turner Gill, the former Nebraska quarterback and 1983 Heisman finalist, who is now in his second season as Buffalo’s head coach. He has really turned things around at UB, taking a program whose fans were conditioned to simply hope that they wouldn’t go winless each year and raising expectations to the point that, last week, ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg wrote that UB "could be a sleeper team" in the MAC, and Pat Forde called them the conference’s "biggest surprise." And that was before yesterday’s 43-33 win over Toledo, which improved the Bulls’ conference record to 3-1 (3-4 overall, with road losses to Penn State and Rutgers and a close home loss to Baylor).
Needless to say, they’re excited over at ubfan.com. See, for example, this thread, noting that the Bulls have jumped from #105 to #84 in the CBS Sportsline rankings — ahead of #90 Notre Dame. "Excuse my language, but this is pretty f***ing sweet," one poster writes. "We’re finally out of the 3 digits."
(Buffalo being ahead of Notre Dame is okay, just so long as they stay safely behind USC. Last Saturday, when I was visiting with UB alum Vikki in Denver on the day that USC lost to Stanford and Buffalo crushed Ohio, we started musing about when was the last time UB won and USC lost on the same day. Vikki then got a little carried away — I blame the Jaeger bombs — and said something along the lines of, "You just wait, one of these days Buffalo will be ranked ahead of USC." To which I replied that, if that day ever comes, I will fly from whatever city I’m living in to whatever city Vikki is living in, and I’ll take her out for a celebratory pub crawl and buy her drinks all night long. So, Buffalo getting ahead of USC would be a very expensive proposition for me. Heh.)
With the Toledo win following on the heels of (in Rittenberg’s words) the "31-10 dismantling of preseason MAC East favorite Ohio" last Saturday, the Bulls now have their first two-game winning streak since 2001, with a chance to make it three — and secure their first four-win season since joining Division I-A in 1999 — when they visit Syracuse next week in a battle for Western New York supremacy.
More importantly, Buffalo is sitting in second place in the MAC East, tied in the loss column with Akron (2-1), who the Bulls host on October 27, and Bowling Green (1-1), who they host on November 17. All those teams are behind division leader Miami of Ohio (3-0), who Buffalo faces on the road on November 3. That’ll be a tough game for UB, but the bottom line is that the Bulls have morphed into a legit MAC East contender, at least for now — and they control their own destiny. Win out in conference (the other remaining game is at 1-2 Kent State on November 24), and Buffalo would play in the MAC championship game on December 1.
That’s a long way off, and pondering possible bowl qualification is even further off (though I can’t help but think that the International Bowl in nearby Toronto, which gets third pick from the MAC, would be an ideal fit for Buffalo if they were to do well enough to be considered). It would be unwise, methinks, for Bulls fans to get their hopes up too high; there’s still plenty of opportunities ahead for the Bulls to suffer some "that’s why you’re Buffalo" moments, and finish the seaon disappointingly. But regardless of what happens next, what’s clear already is that the Bulls are having a great season by UB standards, and Turner Gill is living up to the hype, steadily improving his team and building a worthwhile program. Way to go, Buffalo!
UPDATE/CORRECTION: According to a poster on ubfan.com, "because of the unbalanced division numbers only intradivisional games count, so UB is 2-0 for divisional standing purposes. The loss to Ball State doesn’t count." Nor does the win over Toledo. So that means Buffalo is actually tied for first place in the division. Either way, they control their own destiny. And all four of the Bulls’ remaining conference games will count.
UPDATE 2: Rochester Democrat & Chronicle columnist Bob Matthews is worried about the Bulls: "I’ve always thought that Syracuse, Buffalo and the University of
Rochester would rank 1-2-3 in football in that order forever. Now I’m
not so sure. Turner Gill’s Buffalo Bulls program appears to be gaining on sagging Syracuse."
Meanwhile, the Buffalo News says UB "could contend for a MAC crown":
In a parity-filled, unpredictable college football season in which
teams like South Florida, Kentucky, Boston College and Arizona State
are positioning themselves to play for the national championship,
Buffalo winning the MAC is not out of the question. Whatever happens,
UB has already qualified as the biggest surprise in the MAC and Turner
Gill as a coach-of-the-year candidate.
On the down side, the turmoil at Nebraska has raised fears that Gill’s days could be numbered as UB’s coach, if the Cornhuskers come calling.
Yes, it’s a swing and a miss for Chris :).
Here’s how eastern Connecticut’s Journal Inquirer called the play (emphases added :)
Major League Baseball has put a stop to U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd’s raffle of two tickets to see the Boston Red Sox play the Cleveland Indians for the American League Championship.
Dodd, a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination and self-professed lifelong Red Sox fan, last week offered a chance at the coveted playoff tickets to supporters of his long-shot bid for the White House.
There were a couple of critical catches.
The first was that the winner had to sit in the seats next to Dodd’s.
The other was that entrants had to either make a campaign contribution of $20.04, a number that represented the last time the Red Sox won the World Series three years ago, or recruit two dozen friends who would sign up on the Dodd campaign Web site.
The tickets were for Game 6 of the playoff series, and, if that didn’t happen because the Sox eliminated the Indians, the winner could go to Game 2 of the World Series.
Should the Sox lose the playoffs, Dodd was promising the winner free airfare to Iowa or New Hampshire to join him on the campaign trail.
But Dodd spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan said Friday that Major League Baseball had "scuttled" the plan…
"NOTE: The Chris Dodd Fenway Tickets contest is no longer active. Thank you."
Bea and Andrew pose with the Colombian delegation at the Knoxville Hispanic Heritage Festival:
More pictures of the festival to come later. (Er, along with all the other sets of photos I keep promising to post, like from our Denver trip, our visit with Adrienne, the baby shower, my second Denver trip, etc.)
The thrill of victory…
…and the agony of defeat.
What a crazy, crazy, crazy season.
P.S. After the jump, my extremely unscientific, off-the-top-of-my-head Top 20.