College Football Overtime (cont.)
Remember, LSU's one-of-a-kind coach originally earned the nickname Mad Hatter not because of his recent time-management woes, but because of his extreme penchant for risk-taking. Unlike most of his generally conservative peers, Miles seems either immune or oblivious to the fear of failure -- perhaps because his gambles always seem to pay off.
The fake field-goal call against Florida was a stroke of genius, though you would think the Gators might have been more prepared for it. Miles has run the play before (most notably at South Carolina in 2007), and was he really going to try a 53-yard field goal?
Even then, it took another bout of good fortune (doesn't it always?) for Miles' miracle to pay off. No one could possibly look at the replay and tell for sure whether holder Derek Helton's bounce pass was or wasn't a lateral. That's why replay officials didn't overturn it. But it was a matter of inches one way or the other. Meanwhile, Miles apparently knows his rule book better than the rest of us. Disgruntled Florida fans bombed me with e-mails about rules (one real, one imagined) LSU supposedly violated. To clarify: Yes, the holder was allowed to have his knee on the ground when he made the pass. And while rule 7.2-2-2 states that on fourth down, a second player cannot advance a first player's fumble, a backwards pass -- though a live ball -- is not considered a fumble.
Of course, nowhere in the rules does it say that an angel should hover over Miles' hat at all times, either.
In her postgame interview, Holly Rowe asked Miles how he feels about his ubiquitous nickname. "I understand it's the hat I wear," he said. "But there's nothing mad underneath it." Oh, yes there is. And our Saturdays are infinitely more entertaining for it.
A lot of coaches (or their SIDs) must have been watching Nebraska's 48-13 rout of Kansas State last Thursday, because the Huskers inexplicably jumped over TCU for the No. 4 spot in the coaches' poll. (They're No. 5 in AP.) They, like the rest of us, watched quarterback Taylor "T-Magic" Martinez put on one of the most electrifying performances of the season, rushing for 242 yards and four touchdowns on just 15 attempts (including scores of 80, 41 and 35 yards).
"I think Taylor and [Eric] Crouch are similar in speed," Nebraska AD Tom Osborne said Friday. "But Taylor hits full speed faster probably than anyone I think I've ever seen. I think in three steps he's going full-speed."
As the game was going on, Twitter was abuzz with fans wondering whether Martinez may in fact be faster than touted Michigan counterpart Denard Robinson. It's a tough call. But just as Robinson got a reality check Saturday upon facing his first truly tough defense of the season, Martinez isn't likely to find the same gaping holes Saturday when the Huskers host Texas.
Much of the luster over that long-anticipated grudge-fest (due partially to Nebraska's Big 12 title loss to Texas, partially to ill feelings over the conference realignment madness) has vanished with Texas plummeting out of the national rankings. However, Will Muschamp's defense remains by far the most athletic Martinez and the Huskers have faced -- and may be the closest thing to a "marquee" game Nebraska plays the rest of the regular season. (Its highest-ranked remaining opponents as of now: No. 20 Oklahoma State and No. 21 Missouri.)
The difference between Michigan and Nebraska, of course, is that the Huskers have a dominant defense to boot, and one that figures to cause major problems for Texas' struggling offense. While Martinez stole the show against K-State, the Huskers have another breakout newcomer, juco linebacker Lavonte David. The junior already has 60 tackles, including 16 in Thursday's game. Ndamukong Suh might not be around anymore to stuff ballcarriers in the backfield, but David makes sure they don't get much farther.
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games:
Title game: Ohio State vs. Oregon
Rose: Michigan State vs. Boise State
Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. West Virginia
Orange: Florida State vs. Auburn
Sugar: Alabama vs. Nebraska
Something tells me this will be the first of several changes to the projected title-game matchup over the next several weeks, because, as mentioned earlier, it's hard to imagine the current leaders all making it through unscathed. Oregon will have a particularly tough time running the table in the Pac-10. But I'm not ready to start betting on anyone else yet, either.
One interesting note: A Big Ten-Pac-10 title matchup like the one above would change the rest of the lineup considerably. The Rose Bowl would obviously replace one of the two with a Big Ten or Pac-10 team. (I went with Sparty, but it could just as easily be Iowa or Stanford.) If an SEC team makes the title game, however, a spot could open up in the Sugar or Orange bowls for undefeated TCU or Utah.
My reaction to the latest AP and coaches' polls (or BCS standings):
Underrated: Oregon State (AP: No. 24; coaches': NR)
The Beavers went on the road and knocked off No. 9 Arizona on Saturday. Their two losses have both come to top five teams (Boise State and TCU). There are really 24 teams that have done better?
Overrated: Florida (AP and coaches': No. 22)
Much like Oregon State, the Gators' two losses have both come to top 10 teams. Unlike Oregon State, Florida's best win was against ... Kentucky? Out you go, fellas.
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