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Kicking Off Week 9 With Close Calls and More Wisdom from Lane Kiffin // 10.26.09

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Kickingoff_medium

GATOR HYPE-O-METER
On a scale of 1 to 100

Hypeometerweek7_medium
Steady after a subpar outing Saturday night is offset by Alabama's subpar outing Saturday afternoon and a return to No. 1 in the AP polls.

UPS AND DOWNS
A look at who's going which way in college football 

Takeup_medium DEFENSE
All but one of the SEC's ranked teams going into the weekend won by keeping the other team off the scoreboard or by getting points from the guys whose primary mission is not to score. What wins championships?

Takeup_medium MT. CODY
Mabye he should be in the running for the Trophy after rebounding from 19 weight jokes by Verne Lundquist to block two FGs. Now can he play on obvious passing downs?

Takedown_medium STEVE ADDAZIO
Gator offensive coordinator is coming under increasing fire for his playcalling. If only he could figure out a way to run the veer out of a five-wide set ...

Takedown_medium SEC
Awful weekend for the league's marquee teams, Heism@n candidates and just about everyone else. At least this week's blown calls were only mildly controversial.

Takedown_medium BOB GRIESE
If you're going to make an inappropriate remark, at least make sure your target is of the correct nationality.

Takedown_medium MIAMI
Swinney swipes swagger? Loss to befuddling Clempson makes Da U look like just another team in the always confusing ACC.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
A few things to think about

Standings and polls
Please accept my apologies for not getting up a post on the BCS standings this Sunday; I'll try to do that every week and meant to do it this week until life intervened.

As for the standings that matter most -- the BCS [PDF] -- Iowa, Southern Cal and TCU all moved ahead of Boise State and Cincinnati, with two of those teams justified and the other continuing to live off the endless fascination coaches and the media have with anything led by Pete Carroll. (If he managed a A-level minor-league baseball team, there would efforts to get the team into the World Series.)

The computers actually have the Hawkeyes No. 1, which sounds a bit high, and Southern Cal at No. 9 despite Craig James' bizarre on-air requests to computers not to devalue the Trojans' wins against Ohio State and Notre Dame. (Someone should really tell Craig that the computers can't really hear you talk.) Of course, the computers didn't listen to the broadcaster's whining because they realize that Ohio State and Notre Dame aren't bad teams but also aren't great teams -- they are Nos. 20 and 23, respectively, in the eyes of the chips, and at least one set of computer rankings omits each team from the Top 25.

Overall, Florida continues to lead the standings by winning the human votes and coming in second according to the computers. Alabama, Texas, Iowa, Southern Cal, TCU, Boise State, Cincinnati, LSU and Oregon round out the Top 10. Other SEC teams: No. 22 South Carolina and No. 25 Ole Miss. The only team to get in on the strength of computer votes is No. 24 Cal, which the humans place in the high 20s but the computers rank a combined 18th on the strength of -- well, I'm not really sure. I have the Golden Bears at No. 22 more from a sense of "no one else is better" than anything that would move them into the Top 20.

In the coaches' poll, Florida lost three of last week's 49 first-place votes, apparently to Texas, which now has four; Alabama maintains nine No. 1 ballots, a stasis that makes sense but allows the Tide to get six points closer to the Gators (+60). The Longhorns, though, are now just nine points behind Alabama.

The Tennessee near-miss was enough for AP voters, though, to abandon Alabama in droves. The Elephants shed 16 votes among the writers some of whom fled to Florida (up to 30 first-place ballots from 20 the previous week) and Texas (which has seven after getting no first-place votes last time around). What caused the stampede is still somewhat a mystery to me, since the Gators' 10-point win against Mississippi State didn't seem like the kind of thing that should cause that dramatic a shift, but then I'm not a beat writer with the wisdom of 10,000 fans.

The writers kept LSU at No. 9 while the coaches moved the Bayou Bengals there from No. 10 last week. South Carolina is No. 21 in both surveys after being a consensus No. 23 last week; Ole Miss re-enters the AP poll at No. 24 and advances to No. 22 in the coaches' rankings after taking the last place in the poll last week. No other SEC team gets a vote from the writers, while the coaches bestowed five points upon Georgia and gave two to Auburn for reasons passing understanding.

The close one
What they say about undefeated national champions -- and even those that lose a game along the way -- is true: They usually have to win a close game here or there before they win it all. Consider the national title winners and undefeated BCS teams (regular season) over the last five years:

Florida, 2008 (13-1, national champions)
Aside from the 31-30 home loss to Ole Miss, the Gators never had a game where they won by only a few points. But the 26-3 game against Miami was closer than it looked until the last few minutes of the game, though Florida clearly outgained the Canes on the ground. The loss to the Rebels was the last time any team came within four TDs of the Gators until the SEC Championship Game, when Tebow engineered a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat Alabama, 31-20.

LSU, 2007 (12-2, national champions)
This remains the only two-loss national champion of the BCS era. The Bayou Bengals used Les Miles' magical fourth downs to defeat Florida 28-24 and his gutsy call to win 30-24 against Auburn. Alabama fell just a TD short, the same margin that defeated Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game. Kentucky and Arkansas, you'll recall, both won against LSU in overtime. This was perhaps the least probable team to go through that kind of stretch; the Tigers defeated Mississippi State, Virginia Tech and Middle Tennessee State by a combined 137-7 margin to begin the year.

Florida, 2006 (13-1, national champions)
This team won a close one practically every week. The 2006 Gators defeated Tennessee by 1, Georgia by 7, Vanderbilt by 6, South Carolina by 1 (a game that included blocking the would-be winning FG) and Florida State by 7. Florida also lost to Auburn by 10 that year. Outside of a 42-0 waxing of Central Florida, the 41-14 win against Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game was the team's largest win against an FBS team that year.

Ohio State, 2006 (12-1, undefeated regular season)
The Buckeyes went undefeated until they met Florida in Arizona. There were some games closer than the score indicated, but only two featured a narrow margin of victory: You might remember the 42-39 defeat of Michigan but have likely forgotten the previous week's game at Illinois, a team that went 2-10 that year but only lost 17-10 to Ohio State. A better group of Illini would defeat the Buckeyes 28-21 the next season but couldn't still derail Ohio State's 2007 trip to the BCS National Title Game.

Texas, 2005 (13-0, national champions)
The Longhorns obliterated almost everyone they played that year except the Buckeyes, who lost by just 3 at home in Texas' second game of the season. No one else came closer than Texas A&M's 11-point loss. Of course, the Longhorns would win that year's classic Rose Bowl against Southern Cal by just 3 points to take the national championship.

Southern Cal, 2005 (12-1, undefeated regular season)
You might remember this team's knack for winning games in the second half, but the scoreboard usually didn't do that storyline justice: A 3-point victory at Notre Dame and an 8-point home win against Fresno State were the closest calls points-wise for the Trojans. At least the win against the Irish added a new term to the lexicon: the Bush Push.

Southern Cal, 2004 (13-0, national champions)
Back when Pete Carroll didn't lose unexpected games, he tended to win some of them narrowly. Southern Cal won by just 3 at Stanford, 6 against Cal, 8 at Oregon State and 5 at UCLA. Only one of those teams, then-No. 7 Cal, was ranked when the Trojans played them.

Oklahoma, 2004 (12-1, undefeated regular season)
Only one game screamed out that the Sooners might be vastly overmatched when they played Southern Cal in the Orange Bowl: A 38-35 victory in the rivalry game at Oklahoma State. Oklahoma also defeated Texas A&M by a touchdown on the road and Texas by 12-0 in the Red River Shootout, but no one else really ever came close.

Auburn, 2004 (13-0)
Remains the only BCS-league team to go undefeated in the regular season and not get invited to the championship game. They might have avoided that fate had it not taken a penalty and rekick on an extra point to defeat LSU 10-9 or had the Tigers defeated rival Alabama by more than eight. Auburn ruined its argument for a split title when it defeated Virginia Tech by 3 in the Sugar Bowl.

SEC NEWS

If Slive started issuing fines, he could feed an entire continent
Dan Mullen on officials' pretty obviously missed call on Dustin Doe's "touchdown" for Florida.

I don't know why we even have replay right now in the Southeastern Conference if they are not going to utilize it. That's twice that they've blown calls on the replay with our games resulting in big plays and I think that's unexcusable for that official. I mean, I hope he is severely punished, if (he) ever works another SEC game again, because I think it is completely unacceptable.

And Mullen wasn't the only one carping about officiating this weekend.

You knew this was coming
Boy Wonder has set his sights on the officials after Mt. Cody ran helmet-less down the field following the blocked last-second FG that would have won the game for Tennessee.

"I'm sure we'll get one of those letters that mean nothing, that Bobby (Petrino) got last week, but Florida and Alabama live on." ...

Kiffin said officiating was a factor in his decision not to try to squeeze in one more pass play before attempting the field goal.

"You run another play and throw an interception," he said, "or, they throw another flag on us. I wasn't going to let the refs lose the game for us there. You know, a magical flag appear.

"At that point, it's nine penalties to one. We're the second-least-penalized team in the country going into the game. They're 60th in the country. And you go down there and it's very disappointing to have nine flags thrown against you and one against them."

Expect Slive to bring the hammer down heavily on Kiffin's talkative head. He's doesn't seem to like Boy Wonder very much to begin with, and this is as close as any coach has come to insinuating that there is a conspiracy in the bad officiating. Unless, of course, he really thinks the flags are "magical," which would explain so much.

I have to believe this is not what Slive wanted when he suspended the Arkansas-Florida referees and perhaps a reason for his hesitance. It's now open season on the zebras.

He saw those black helicopters!
Following his near-win at Alabama, Kiffin also did his best Joe Namath impersonation:

"This is one we should have won," Kiffin said. "We'll see them again next year, and we'll be excited about the matchup. ... It's a game that we should have won, and it's a game we'll win next year."

Then he did his best Glenn Beck:

"Our kickoff team goes out, everything's working in pregame and about 10 seconds before the opening kick our headsets just happen to go off -- in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. ... Then all of a sudden they worked, after our defense wasn't able to get the personnel from upstairs for the whole first series. They happened to come back. It would be just great timing so Coach Saban and their defense would be able to have their headsets."

The man has no idea how to quit when he's ahead.

He was against moral victories before he was for them
And he obviously believes that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

After doubting the existence of moral victories, he essentially described one in great detail.

"They can't all of a sudden just become better players and start winning some matchups," Kiffin said. "But you can never discount effort ... and our guys played extremely hard. They played extremely physical, and they kept coming against the No. 1 team in the country."

Lincoln is more mature about the matter
He gives credit to Mt. Cody for a great play. Fancy that.

Now, let's see if they carve it into a plaque on the wall
Mark Ingram apologized for his fumble in the Tennessee game, which is noteworthy because it was the first time Ingram ever had to apologize for such a thing.

It came out somehow, and it was unfortunate. I apologize to my teammates, my coaches and all the fans for making that a little more tougher than it was supposed to be. It was probably the worst feeling I've ever had ever.

No word on if he promised to be the hardest-working player you've ever seen from now on.

Well played, sir
Even the Head Ball Coach probably appreciated this gem from Leigh Tiffin after the kicker was Alabama's scoring offense in the 12-10 win against Tennessee.

I guess I need to thank Coach (Steve) Spurrier for getting my focus and concentration level raised a little bit.

If it helped defeat Tennessee, I'm sure Spurrier was only glad to lend a hand.

Spurrier ties Dooley, sets South Carolina win record

USC (6-2, 3-2 in SEC) won its seventh consecutive home game and set a school record with its fifth consecutive conference victory at home. The Gamecocks are bowl-eligible for the fifth time in as many seasons under Spurrier.

The win was Spurrier's 105th in SEC play, tying him with Vince Dooley for No. 3 all-time on the conference list. But the Head Ball Coach said he was more satisfied with the record-setting streak at home.

"I like that one better," he said. "Hopefully that other part will keep adding up as we go."

There has been some commentary in some corners of the Internet expressing that this was somehow a sad statement of some sort. I fail to understand how a coach setting any record at a school and being proud of that is sad, but I'm sure it's because I'm a hopeless homer and not because the other parties involved hate Spurrier. If it has to do with the lack of tradition at South Carolina, congratulations on being the 500th person to make that point.

Some things remain the same
Chris Todd is still the starting quarterback at Auburn. I'm sure no Auburn coach has never felt the need to say that before.

Just how good is Georgia's A.J. Green?
You actually might be surprised.

Injury Report

DE Kentrell Lockett (Ole Miss)
Knee, questionable

MLB Micah Johnson (Kentucky)
Strained MCL, unclear

RB Jeff Demps (Florida)
Sprained neck, probable

TE Colin Peek (Alabama)
Knee, unclear

ELSEWHERE

Sam Bradford headed for surgery, the NFL
It's a sad day for college football, but Bradford almost unquestionably made the right call, as our SBN colleagues at Crimson and Cream Machine point out.

This was the right decision for Sam Bradford. He was raised a Sooner and not only had the opportunity to fulfill his childhood dream of being an OU quarterback, he became the greatest of all time and became the university's latest Heisman winner. ...

It's also the right decision for this football team. While there is still the outside chance that OU can remain in the hunt for the conference championship the departure of Bradford will give the Sooners something that Texas and Oklahoma State won't have next season, an experienced quarterback.

Hopefully, Bradford can avoid some dreadful fate like being drafted by the Raiders.

Stay classy, Morgantown
I say that without sarcasm after the Mountaineer faithful went out of their way to be understanding and welcoming of UConn after the murder of Jasper Howard.

Not a surprise
Given who the Mountaineers have chosen to lead their football team.

Our long, national indigestion is over
Bob Griese has apologized again for this remark:

For the record, Montoya is Colombian. Which means Griese's remark was both stupid and off by more than a thousand miles. (YouTube HT: Wiz of Odds)

I'm confused
The story of UCLA WR Randall Carroll sending a tweet about Norm Chow with a "racial epithet" seems like a run-of-the-mill story of ignorance about the bounds of decency in the Internet. And then it gets weird.

The Twitter post in question -- which made the rounds on message boards Friday and reportedly said "man oregon, stanford and cal should have been easy wins, but (expletive) thys (racial slur) norm chow dnt be trustin us,, so it is what it is." -- has been deleted from Twitter, along with Carroll's username, "OCiAM."

The racial slur was not directed at Chow's Chinese-American ethnicity.

Then what exactly was it directed at? Interwebs reports indicated it began with an "N." Maybe this guy needs to team up with Bob Griese.

The Zooker has found his home for life
He will be head coach at Illinois least through the 2010 season because Athletics Director Ron Guenther thinks "it's really unfair to start jumping at the end of the fifth year on a guy." With Zook at 19-36 with one winning season, Illini fans can be forgiven for asking: At what point does it become fair?

Because it's worked so well in football
Excessive celebration will now be a "point of emphasis" in basketball. That should turn out well.