Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saturday live blog, Vol. 6

It's not that the live blog is on the hot seat, or that it has to win today. It's just that Bill Callahan and Dennis Franchione are suddenly the live blog's next-door neighbors, and someone just put a "for sale" sign in its front yard. Just to be safe, the live blog will update continually throughout the day.

1:05 a.m. With Hawaii up by 20 at halftime, it appears all five unbeaten teams will escape October unscathed. But November surely will be a different story, and I look forward to sharing at least a couple of those crazy days with you here.

For now, though, it's closing time for the sixth installment of the live blog. As always, thanks for reading, and Roll Tide.

12:57 a.m. Like South Carolina earlier tonight, Arizona State has rolled off 24 unanswered points. Unlike South Carolina earlier tonight, the Sun Devils haven't choke away their lead. ASU wins, 31-20, to move to 8-0 before the showdown at Oregon next week. Erickson's squad already has a good argument for No. 2, and if it can win in Autzen Stadium, it may even deserve the top spot. At least until the BCS standings melt down all over again.

12:36 a.m. Yeah, that Trinity lateral festival has locked up the game-changing performance this week. And probably the Espy on top of that. Now the SportsCenter guys have put a lateral clock at the bottom of the screen. It's impossible to see this play too often.

12:21 a.m. Out in Tempe, the Sun Devils have learned a valuable lesson: You're only allowed to throw one forward pass per play. Nonetheless, ASU has stretched its lead to 24-20.

12:07 a.m. Houston has rallied to end UTEP's hopes and dreams of finishing the season without at least four losses. Meanwhile, Arizona State is on the march against Cal, as the commentators prematurely discuss the Sun Devils' Rose Bowl prospects.

11:46 p.m. The Arizona State University seizes the lead from Cal five minutes into the second half. Dennis Erickson, the Larry Brown of college football, has to be pleased.

11:35 p.m. College Football Final leads off with the same festival of laterals. Remember when DuBose teams made highlight reels for more than just fluke plays? Then Shaun Alexander graduated.

11:30 p.m. SportsCenter has provided video evidence that Mike DuBose, who's gone from an SEC title to coaching Millsaps in less than a decade, lost today on a last-second touchdown that came after 15 laterals. It's not quite as embarrassing as losing to Central Florida on homecoming, but it still has to hurt. Bar none, it's the craziest play of the craziest year of football that I can remember.

11:13 p.m. Erickson avoids having a stroke over the replay, and ASU goes to the locker room down six. I check in on the World Series, and what do I see within 10 seconds? The Red Sox scoring two more runs, of course. Boston appears to be the exclusive rights-holder for the sports world's "nice things" package this year.

11 p.m. After an endless replay, the Sun Devils won't get the ball back after all. To put it charitably, Dennis Erickson is not pleased. To put it otherwise, he looks like he's about to pop a blood vessel.

10:57 p.m. Around the desert: UTEP leads Houston by four in the fourth quarter in a battle for the C-USA West. Arizona State has trimmed the Cal lead to six just before halftime and, depending on how the replay turns out, may be about to get the ball back in the red zone. And... that's it. No other games remain anywhere in the country. But hey, in a few minutes, Hawaii will try to stave off an air raid from New Mexico State, so there's always that.

10:34 p.m. And the Gamecocks' field goal sails as wide right as it possibly can. Tennessee wins, 27-24, to take the lead in the SEC East. Phil Fulmer gets to flash a huge smile to America. Something that most certainly didn't happen last week.

10:30 p.m. The Vols get the ball first but are held to a field goal. UT, 27-24. South Carolina inauspiciously opens its possession by narrowly avoiding catastrophe. I've read this script before.

10:23 p.m. Overtime in Knoxville. Mike Patrick jokes about his Britney Spears non sequitur from last month's Alabama-Georgia game, thereby demonstrating a degree of self-deprecation that offers him slight redemption for that moment. But just slight.

10:19 p.m. Wow. Just... wow. Daniel Lincoln badly hooks his first attempt at a Tennessee field goal but gets bailed out by a false start penalty that gives him another chance. This time, he knocks it through from 48 yards to tie the game. Another wild finish.

10:15 p.m. South Carolina strips the ball from the Tennessee rusher but can't fall on the fumble to win. The Vols get it back and gain eight or nine yards in the process. That's a game-changer.

10:11 p.m. A huge kickoff return puts the Vols near midfield to start the comeback effort. They're a couple of first downs from plausible field goal range. Another thrilling finish in the SEC.

10:09 p.m. Never mind. They were close enough. Ryan Succop blasts the field goal dead-center perfect from 49 yards away to put the original USC up by three with 1:24 remaining.

10:06 p.m. On the plus side, South Carolina is near field goal range with 90 seconds left. On the negative side, it's fourth down, and the Gamecocks may not be close enough.

10 p.m. UCLA has lost three games to teams with a combined record of 9-15. UCLA beat Cal just last week. So of course Cal is up by 13 points on the road at undefeated No. 4 Arizona State. Your mistake, again, is expecting any of this to make sense.

9:51 p.m. Blake Mitchell lofts a floater that's picked on third-and-
forever to hand it right back to the Vols. Someone has to win this game eventually, even if it ends up being by accident.

9:46 p.m. The Gamecocks' Captain Munnerlyn makes it a moot point with an outstanding adjustment to pick off Erik Ainge. It's a tie game with five and a half minutes to go.

9:44 p.m. That Tennessee fumble recovery that instant replay "confirmed" sure did look like a simultaneous recovery. Still, Spurrier is down to one timeout after the officials' ruling.

9:36 p.m. Wow, Aggies, it's too bad that last-minute comeback attempt fell just short. It must hurt even more to know that you came this close but still didn't win. Especially when the odds are good that you'll get some more chances to get acquainted with that feeling against three top-20 teams in the next month.

9:27 p.m. Touchdown, Gamecocks! Spurrier's ball club just rolled off 21 unanswered points to tie it up in Knoxville. The Ol' Ball Coach is trying his level best to prove that you can't spell PetroSun Independence Bowl without "UT," either.

9:25 p.m. I'm ready to buy Ohio State as the No. 1 team. The Buckeyes lead 24-7 in the third at Penn State, a quality team that presents a very hostile road environment. In a year when average is pretty good, good is as close to great as we may get to see.

9:14 p.m. I almost forgot to congratulate Texas A&M on that field goal earlier. That means it won't get shut out tonight. At home. By Kansas. On national television. In football. Keep holding the rope!

9:10 p.m. South Carolina is a different team in the second half. It's been all Gamecocks thus far in the third quarter, as they've chopped the Tennessee lead to seven. Remember, that's still Steve Spurrier standing on that visitors' sideline.

8:54 p.m. So, Aggies, 19-0, is it? And the secretary of defense and a former president are in town to see it? Say, that's too bad. It seems that shiny new coach hasn't worked out quite as well as you hoped. So yeah, good luck with that. Maybe you can track down another name or two in that Rolodex of yours.

8:50 p.m. Florida State only leads Duke 9-0 at halftime. I'd try to reconcile this fact with the Seminoles' defeat of Alabama last month, but I fear the effort would cause my skull to invert, thus opening a second space-time hole that would cancel out the effects of the one that's made this season so much fun. So I won't.

8:46 p.m. All that effort for nothing. South Carolina's fourth-down pass into the end zone falls incomplete and halts a long Gamecocks drive after the officials don't call what looks an awful lot like pass interference by Tennessee. Vols, 21-0.

8:40 p.m. Your highly anticipated Sun Belt update: Arkansas smote Florida International with a fiery hot vengeance today. Florida Atlantic dropped its first conference game in triple OT. Middle Tennessee and North Texas are in a high-scoring duel. And Troy still looks like the class of the league, cruising with a 17-0 third-quarter lead at Arkansas State in preparation for what may be a very interesting trip to Georgia next week.

8:21 p.m. Penn State snags an interception to keep the game from getting out of hand. Elsewhere, Kansas has jumped to a 10-0 lead, and UCLA is well on its way to the latest in its recurring series of wholly inexplicable, ill-timed losses to less talented teams.

8:12 p.m. Around Cardinal Nation: The plural Cardinals of Ball State got Zooked after a valiant effort. The plural Cardinals of Louisville managed not to lose to a team coached by Dave Wannstedt. And the singular Cardinal of Stanford is four minutes away from falling to 3-5 on the season. On the plus side, though, one of the three is still over the USC Trojans, with which the national championship discussion finally has broken off its long-term relationship once and for all. You're free now, BCS title game. Free to mix and mingle and enjoy the single life. Just don't let Hawaii pick you up on the rebound.

8:01 p.m. The happy is starting to drain out of Happy Valley, where Penn State now trails 17-7. In other news, Auburn has scored a game-clinching touchdown against Ole Miss, and undefeated Kansas has only three points in the third quarter -- which is good enough for the lead. Meanwhile, Tennessee is up by three touchdowns just before halftime, meaning Phil Fulmer still can punch his own ticket to Atlanta, even after the Crimson Tide simply obliterated... well, I think you get the idea by now.

7:41 p.m. Maybe madness requires my neutrality to take hold. The Buckeyes are up 10-7. Meanwhile, Tennessee leads 14-0 in Neyland Stadium. Impressive, considering it seems like just last week that 92,000 Alabama fans were inundating the Vols with the Rammer Jammer. Probably because it was just last week.

7:30 p.m. It's not that I have anything against Ohio State, or that I care that much for Penn State. It's just that I love the madness that is 2007 and will embrace it by pulling for the Nittany Lions. PSU has an early 7-3 lead amid a sea of crazed fans wearing white.

7:28 p.m. The most bizarre thing I've ever seen scrolling across the ESPN ticker? Glad you asked: "George Washington euthanized after dislocating ankle in Breeders' Cup Classic."

7:22 p.m. With two minutes left in the scoreless first half of the Kansas-Texas A&M game, we're rewarded with the Zen of Bob Davie: "It's nothing-nothing, but there's been some offense."

7:13 p.m. And Virginia rebounds from a humiliating season-
opening loss to Wyoming to insert itself into the ACC race, only to lose to the worst non-Duke team that the conference has to offer.

6:40 p.m. Auburn is only up 7-3 against Ole Miss at halftime, despite dominating yardage and time of possession. I probably should listen to the radio broadcast. I also probably won't.

6:37 p.m. Texas has beaten Nebraska with a late touchdown run. In a normal year, it would be a huge win. This year, it's a narrow aversion of a sizable upset. Speaking of sizable upsets, UCLA might want to consider not falling victim to a third one at the hands of Washington State, which leads 10-7 in the second quarter. One of the season's biggest mysteries is how UCLA is still undefeated in a good Pac-10, even though it lost by 38 to an average Utah team and by 14 to the worst Notre Dame team ever.

6:22 p.m. After this week, a team that you last saw dropping a home game to Vanderbilt by double digits may control its destiny in the SEC East. Or perhaps it'll be that orange-clad team that has three losses by a combined total of 145-68 and that you last saw getting serenaded like this last week. It seems safe to say the West is the better half of the conference this year. Until everything goes topsy-turvy again next week. And you know it will.

6:19 p.m. Are SEC offenses overwhelmingly good this year, or are SEC defenses not quite as good as advertised? The combined point totals from the last three CBS telecasts have been 80, 82, and 72. In fairness, though, two of those three games involved Kentucky, which is both bowl-eligible and tied for last place in the East.

6:08 p.m. Boston College is ranked No. 2 in the country. UConn is the undisputed Big East leader. The Red Sox are tremendous favorites to win their second World Series in four years. The Patriots, which already have claimed three Super Bowls since 2001, have a better-than-decent shot at going 19-0 this year. Why must New England get all the nice things?

5:57 p.m. The Tebow does not have arms that are 6 feet long and therefore cannot catch your badly errant snap. The Georgia defender can recover it, however, to put the win on lockdown.

5:52 p.m. Hunkering down is in progress in Jacksonville, where "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah" with modified lyrics will fill the air tonight. Georgia 42, Florida 30 with four minutes remaining.

5:47 p.m. Dear Lou Holtz's son: Please stop scoring on UAB. The Blazers have done precisely nothing to deserve this. If you keep this up, I'll have to ask your father to give your team a pep talk. Complete with magic tricks and the works. Don't test me.

5:45 p.m. ESPN on ABC (in HD on TV in the USA) finally saves its Alabama viewers from the Clemson broadcast and sends us to a meaningful, competitive game. Involving Connecticut. In football. Insert the "what a season" remark of your choice here.

5:37 p.m. The Tebow scrambles? For a touchdown? That never happens. But no, Florida, you can't have a two-point conversion. Not yours. With under 10 minutes left, UGA leads, 35-30.

5:33 p.m. Verne Lundquist drops an unexpected "boom goes the dynamite" as Florida mounts a drive deep into Georgia territory. Perhaps I should mention that Verne Lundquist is my new favorite play-by-play commentator since Keith Jackson retired.

5:27 p.m. Mikey Henderson, last seen in Tuscaloosa breaking my heart in overtime, makes a ridiculous catch over the Florida defender for a 53-yard touchdown reception. UGA's lead is back to 11. I will choose not to think about how this team could have needed a last-second field goal to beat Vanderbilt two weeks ago, because mankind has yet to discover headache medicine potent enough to handle the mental pain that would result.

5:13 p.m. USC's reign of terror in the Pac-10 is over. Ducks 24, Trojans 17. Oregon fans storm the field, apparently unaware that Iowa fans deprived the act of all possible meaning earlier today.

5:10 p.m. OK, I get it, CBS. You can darken the entire screen to highlight a single player with a circle of light. Now stop.

5:05 p.m. N.C. State, which has beaten precisely one team that offers as many scholarships as it does, is up 10 on ACC co-leader Virginia just before half. And you thought the SEC was a mess.

4:59 p.m. Did Tom Osborne suddenly take over the athletics directing and coaching duties at Nebraska? Because the Huskers are up 17-3 at Texas, and it's just that I really wouldn't expect that kind of thing from a Bill Callahan team, you know? Wait, you say Vince Young is in the NFL now? Oh, well, that explains things.

4:53 p.m. The Tebow hasn't the time for your bruised shoulder. He's too busy bulldozing through the Georgia line on run after run. The latest one puts him in the end zone and cuts the Dawgs' lead to 28-24. It's another classic in the making in the SEC.

4:50 p.m. In any other season, a team like Boston College -- consistently good, but rarely great, and winning a game in which it was completely outplayed for all but three minutes -- would be about No. 20 in the country. In this year, BC is No. 2 and a JoePa victory away from the top spot. And the sad thing is that I really can't object. No one is very good this year. Or maybe everyone is very good this year. The end result is about the same.

4:39 p.m. Those 30 yards of penalties in the first quarter look like coaching genius right about now. Georgia leads, 28-17, and The Tebow is pretty clearly favoring a bruised right shoulder. You might be wondering how the Bulldogs possibly managed to get curb-stomped at Tennessee earlier this month. But the mistake there would be trying to make sense of anything in this wacky, deranged season. Just sit back, relax, and watch the flames of gridiron chaos and disorder light up another cool, crisp fall night.

4:34 p.m. Mississippi State and Vanderbilt are both a win away from bowl eligibility. It's a big surprise when Nebraska has a halftime lead over Texas. And USC trails by two touchdowns in a Pac-10 game. A new day has dawned in college football.

4:16 p.m. You thought Maryland would win today. It's all right. Go ahead, admit it. There's no shame in it. After all, it's a Clemson game, and you're guaranteed to be wrong about the outcome. Nothing helps. Not even double or triple reverse psychology. The most erratic team in America leads 20-3 at halftime in College Park, where ESPN on ABC (in HD on TV in the USA) sent a camera crew, because it has a contract to show an ACC game every week, and honestly, what else are you gonna do?

4:08 p.m. Richt, in an interview with the CBS sideline reporter, discussing the pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the first quarter: "I told 'em if they didn't get a penalty for celebrating after the first touchdown, I was gonna be mad at 'em." OK then.

4 p.m. USC ties Oregon at 10-10. Seconds later, Georgia takes a 21-17 lead when Knowshon Moreno plunges into the end zone. And at some point in there, Michigan finally took the lead over Minnesota, which did, in fact, lose last week to a team that just entered Division I-AA. And you can catch it live on ESPN Classic. Look, it's either the Little Brown Jug or bowling from 20 years ago.

3:57 p.m. Florida just annihilated Stafford about three full seconds after he hit a knee. Yep, that'll be 15 yards.

3:43 p.m. Connecticut is waling on South Florida in the second quarter. It's 16-0 in another big upset in the making. An upset of a team that didn't even exist a dozen years ago. Welcome to 2007.

3:27 p.m. Matthew Stafford gets himself a taste of pick-six. Florida ties the Cocktail Party, 14-14.

3:24 p.m. The Blue Hens lead Navy by 10 with a minute left. Awareness Del is making people aware. Aware ... of Delaware.

3:17 p.m. Florida tries to start a play with the ball in the hands of someone other than The Tebow. The inevitable wild snap and near-miss fumble recovery follow. A punt is soon to follow.

3:09 p.m. Matthew Stafford gets himself a taste of stardom, lofting an 84-yard touchdown strike to Mohamed Massaquoi. UGA, 14-7. Stop trying to figure out the SEC.

3:03 p.m. The Tebow hasn't the time for your massive end zone celebrations. He's too busy tossing TD passes to tie the game.

2:55 p.m. Now the Gators are hopping up and down on the sideline. After the penalties, Georgia will be backed up halfway to Savannah for the kickoff. Don't doubt that this game still matters.

2:53 p.m. Touchdown, Georgia. Everyone who has ever played football for the Bulldogs is celebrating in the end zone. Mark Richt has a huge knowing smile on his face. Gary Danielson sounds like he's all jacked up on Mountain Dew. All I need is Larry Munson ceaselessly screaming "Lindsay Scott!" to make it perfect.

2:45 p.m. Mississippi State has finished restoring Kentucky to its familiar place at the bottom of the SEC East standings. Elsewhere: West Virginia has made the State University of New Jersey look like the Rutgers of old. Colorado has held on to knock off Mike Leach's merry band of pirates for another year. And Oregon has a 7-0 second-quarter lead on USC with the Trojans driving.

2:34 p.m. Around the Big Ten: Purdue is 7-2 before you even realized it after an 18-point win over the Evanston crew. Illinois successfully has staved off David Letterman University's latest attempt to beat a BCS school. In a manner befitting the ruthless, merciless mammals that inspired their nickname, the Wisconsin Badgers have shredded Indiana by 30. And Iowa fans just stormed the field after a double-overtime win over a 5-4 team that lost to Northwestern. Storming the field officially has lost all meaning.

2:18 p.m. Sly Croom's guys seal the deal with a 34-yard scamper to the end zone. It's 31-14 with eight minutes to go. DAVE is the loudest thing in a deathly quiet stadium right now. I should note two things: 1) Kentucky hasn't won since its emotionally draining upset of LSU and 2) the Tigers throttled MSU 45-0 in the season opener. Don't try to make sense of any of this. You can't and won't.

2:13 p.m. Why would Pete Carroll go for it on fourth down under a minute into the game when he was well within field goal range? The Ducks make him wish he hadn't by smothering the Trojans' end-around. At least on television, Autzen Stadium is living up to its billing as one of the most deafening places in the country.

2:10 p.m. Overtime in Iowa City. Wait, why am I watching this? Oregon-USC is on. Time to make the appropriate corrections.

2:05 p.m. Down three with under a minute left in regulation, Michigan State hits a 40-yard completion down the sideline on third-and-forever to keep the hopes of Kirk Ferentz humor alive.

2 p.m. Buffalo -- Bulls, not Bills -- is 20 minutes away from claiming its fourth conference victory this year. Turner Gill has orchestrated such an amazing turnaround there that he's in the mix as an option to fill the inevitable Nebraska coaching vacancy.

1:41 p.m. Andre Woodson connects on a 37-yard touchdown pass to Steve Johnson on fourth down to keep Kentucky's SEC East hopes alive, at least temporarily. MSU still leads, 24-14, but momentum seems to be about to swing to the guys wearing all blue. On another fashion note, all-blue uniforms are much easier on the eyes than all-black uniforms, and infinitely superior to that all-purple fiasco that Clemson breaks out from time to time.

1:33 p.m. Mississippi State wants a bowl game. Sylvester Croom needs a bowl game. The Bulldogs are cruising, 24-7, in Lexington. Two weeks after knocking off the nation's No. 1 team, Kentucky is in real danger of falling victim to a remarkable home upset. In football. What a weird, wild, wonderful season.

1:21 p.m. Why doesn't anyone give Heisman attention to the players who rack up 10,000 yards of offense per game for Mike the Pirate? Probably because his Red Raiders do things like getting stomped at home by a Colorado team with a .500 record. It's 24-6 midway through the third quarter. Additional fun fact: The Buffaloes also vanquished Texas Tech 30-6 last year to claim their very first victory in a miserable 2-10 season. Yarr, matey!

1:10 p.m. Iowa has come from 14 points down to tie Michigan State late in the third quarter. If Sparty doesn't pick it up, I may have to cut my Kirk Ferentz joke budget by 30 percent or more.

12:57 p.m. I legitimately love the Lincoln Financial commercials with people conversing with future versions of themselves. My only complaint is that none of them feature DAVE.

12:54 p.m. Of course there's a basketball buzzer to signal halftime in Commonwealth Stadium. Why wouldn't there be? MSU, 14-7.

12:50 p.m. Some television offerings of the moment: Rutgers and West Virginia on ESPN on ABC (in HD on TV in the USA), Kentucky and Mississippi State on DAVE Central, Iowa and Michigan State on ESPN2, Delaware and Navy on CSTV, and Howard and Norfolk State on ESPNU. This is the kind of thing that can lead a man, in a moment of weakness, to demand the Big Ten Network.

12:34 p.m. Little of interest is occurring in the early games at the moment, so now seems as good a time as any for a reminder that Tennessee did, in fact, lose to Alabama last week. In a decisive, season-crippling, utterly embarrassing kind of way. Don't believe me? Perhaps 92,000 people chanting in unison can convince you. So, um, I guess what I'm saying is I hope you enjoyed your time in Tuscaloosa, guys. Especially you, Fulmer. Especially you.

12:21 p.m. The ball just fell off the tee before the kickoff in Lexington, bringing the Daves almost as much delight as a Daughtry promo. From this point forward, just as the official name of Chris Daughtry's band is his surname in all-caps, the official term for the Daves as a collective entity shall be DAVE.

12:19 p.m. The Daves of Lincoln Financial (née JP) have a good one on their hands. Mississippi State has gone up again, 14-7, in a classic letdown trap for Kentucky, which suddenly is good enough to be subject to letdowns. What a season.

12:06 p.m. Note to ESPN on ABC (in HD on TV in the USA): Stop telling me about the post times for the Breeders' Cup. There is nothing in the world I care less about than the Breeders' Cup. Literally, nothing. I'd rather watch a tape-delayed third-grade Bulgarian spelling bee. Also, West Virginia has gone up 14-0.

11:50 a.m. Mississippi State is trying to pick up Kentucky on the rebound up in Lexington, where the Wildcats somehow get to play again, even after visits from LSU and Florida. The Bulldogs lead, 7-0, as they look to win an SEC game that won't result in the opposing team's coach being fired at year's end.

11:30 a.m. Football arrived 30 minutes ago, when ESPN on ABC (in HD on TV in the USA) kicked off its tripleheader of games today. Rutgers and West Virginia are sloshing through a downpour in New Jersey, where the Scarlet Knights have forgotten the word scarlet and opted for all-black uniforms instead. I'm not much of a fan, but they still look better than Louisville's black-tie affair, and they're a tremendous step up from that aesthetic abomination that Florida State foisted on the viewing public last year. Oh, and the Mountaineers have an early 7-0 lead.

A tale of two disasters

It hasn't been hard to notice how much more quickly the federal government responded to the California wildfires this week than to Hurricane Katrina two years ago. It's also not hard to see why.

It's not necessarily any sort of significant difference in the state and local leadership, despite what Bush administration talking heads have suggested. It's not necessarily that FEMA and other federal officials have made any sort of marked improvement in disaster response planning since Katrina hit. And it's not necessarily that rescue officials cared more about the mostly white California wildfire victims than the mostly black New Orleans hurricane victims.

Quite simply, the answer seems to be a matter of scale. The wildfires, horrible as they are, have wrought nowhere near the amount of destruction that Katrina did. And unlike the hurricane that flooded everything and cut off much of the outside world's access to large swaths of Louisiana and Mississippi, the wildfires have struck a few selected areas but largely have left local response infrastructure intact. A former spokeswoman for New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin put it thusly: "[Y]ou're comparing a paper cut to an amputation."

The questions remain: What, if anything, can be done to reduce the number and scale of such disasters, and what, if anything, can we do to improve our response to them? The answer to the first question isn't very promising. For all the talk of global warming, Hurricane Katrina and the California wildfires almost surely would have happened regardless.

The scientific evidence strongly suggests, though, that climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of nature's wrath. A portion of the warming trend could be attributable to natural cycles, of course, but only the most deluded critic of global warming would argue that human activity hasn't had a meaningful negative impact on the phenomenon. Without swift and strong action to reduce that contribution, we soon could find that freakish disasters are becoming common occurrences.

Our answer to the second question is only as good as our answer to another question: What matters to us? The government has a finite number of tax dollars to use to achieve common goals, and every dollar that goes toward one purpose is one that doesn't go toward another. Every dollar devoted to the never-ending Iraq war or tax cuts targeted to the top 5 percent of earners is a dollar that can't be spent on researching alternative energy research or securing infrastructure or working to respond to sudden chaos, be it manmade or natural.

It's outside our power to stop Mother Nature. But it's within our power to stop her from overwhelming us on a regular basis.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Not an ideal campaign message

When the following words are written about you in your state's biggest newspaper, you really have to re-evaluate your options in the political arena: "His arrest in Wilson County resulted in a widely circulated video showing him ranting, swearing, and suggesting the arresting officers shoot him."

The subject of the previous sentence? Rob Briley, a Democratic state legislator from Tennessee who should not be confused with the Alabama governor of a similar-sounding but different name.

The burning returneth

It's one thing to get zinged. But to get zinged and fall prey, in that same week, to a "bless his heart" put in print by the guy who inspired Early Cuyler's "Sonny Lied" hat from Squidbillies? It's been quite a week for Gov. Bob Riley, and that's not even counting the evolving feud with U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, over the probe into former Gov. Don Siegelman's prosecution.

Left yourself wide open for that one

OK, the week hasn't quite allowed for many meaningful posts, but perhaps the weekend will. Until then, enjoy this Associated Press account of a U.S. district judge's burning of Gov. Bob Riley on Wednesday during a hearing on whether the state's voter registration system complies with the Help America Vote Act:

"[An attorney] said Riley should retain control at least through the next statewide election ... to make sure everything is working properly and to work out some issues that have nothing to do with complying with federal requirements.

"'Can I object?' Riley asked the judge.

"'When you get your law degree,' the judge replied."

Monday, October 22, 2007

In a galaxy far, far away...

I've never questioned whether Alabama's new commission on illegal immigration is a patriotic venture. After all, the word is right in the name. But I have asked myself exactly what I should make of a state advisory group designed to formulate answers on an issue governed primarily at the federal level.

Then I read that the panel will hold a public hearing on Halloween in the Star Wars Room. And now I think I have my answer.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It's housekeeping time again

The bad news for the half-dozen or so of you who love the sports posts: I'll be otherwise occupied for much of this weekend, so there will be no Saturday live blog this go-round. This is probably just as well, given the strong odds that anything I'd write during the Third Saturday in October would be 1) incoherent, 2) not safe for work, or 3) both.

The good news for the other half-dozen or so of you who love the political posts: Real, substantive discussion of things that actually matter will resume next week. Not that the football posts will stop, of course, but the tag line promises both politics and sports with a Southern accent, and that's exactly what you're gonna get.

Monday, October 15, 2007

This won't help interstate relations

Alabama linebacker Darren Mustin on his feelings near the end of the Crimson Tide's nail-biting 27-24 win at Ole Miss on Saturday: "That last drive, my heart was pounding. I was, 'God, please, I don't want to lose. I don't like Mississippi, and I'm ready to go home.'"

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Saturday live blog, Vol. 5

This college football live blog won't complain about your driving at all today. But it will update continually throughout the day.

12:50 a.m. Arizona State has closed out Washington to end yet another day of a season where the wacky has become the blasé. I'll take that as my cue to close out yet another edition of the live blog. As always, thanks for reading, and Roll Tide.

12:40 a.m. Argument for the transitive property of college football: Troy beat Oklahoma State last month, and the Cowboys beat Nebraska today. This suggests Troy would beat Nebraska by a huge margin, which seems not so implausible given the way the Cornhuskers played today. Argument against the transitive property of college football: LSU beat South Carolina, which beat Kentucky, which beat LSU. This suggests a sports world at the precipice of an infinite vortex, or perhaps an event horizon, both of which seem truer to life, or at least truthier.

12:18 a.m. It looks like Arizona State will dodge the Undefeated Club's eviction notice for another week. The Sun Devils lead by 14 with under 10 minutes to go. Welcome to the top 10, unbeaten team that's anywhere from best to fourth best in the Pac-10.

12:01 a.m. Somewhere in the desert night, Lou Holtz's son's merry band of Pirates has bested Mike Price's Miners. And the cosmos are moved by the ultimate rightness -- and wrongness -- of it all.

11:55 p.m. Once again, the game-changing performance of the week should come from the LSU game. This time, the Bayou Bengals will find themselves on the wrong side of it.

11:43 p.m. Lou Holtz's son and Mike Price will continue their duel for C-USA supremacy in overtime. Why isn't this on TV?

11:34 p.m. The Power Towels are having their desired effect in the other Manhattan. K-State has rebounded nicely from a loss to its in-state rival to double-up Colorado in the fourth quarter.

11:16 p.m. Ohio State will move to No. 1 for no particular reason Sunday. South Florida arguably has the best résumé of the remaining unbeaten teams, but it'll probably be no higher than third behind the Buckeyes and Boston College, because it didn't even exist a dozen years ago, and it would weird everyone out to see that kind of team in line for a national title shot at this point in the season. Meanwhile, Steve Spurrier may head back to the top five and could have the best team in the entire SEC this year. When Spurrier gets anywhere near the top of the polls, watch out.

11:05 p.m. College Football Final is on? With two nationally televised games still ongoing? Well, all right then. Let's do it.

10:43 p.m. Washington's not-so-secret weapon, quarterback Jake Locker, barrels into the end zone to give the Huskies a 17-10 edge with four minutes to go before the half. Twenty seconds ago, they trailed 10-7. None of this is allowed to surprise you anymore.

10:33 p.m. Mid-major round-up: For what's surely the first time ever, Buffalo and Temple both won on the same day for the second straight week. Wyoming, the only team to conquer Virginia thus far, coughed up the Mountain West lead with a 17-point home loss to New Mexico. And Air Force continued quietly putting together a nice season, moving to 5-2 after a blowout win in Fort Collins.

10:21 p.m. Lou Holtz's son's team is beating Mike Price's team near the Mexican border. Wait, why is everyone snickering? Care to tell the rest of the class what's so funny?

10:13 p.m. And the Undefeated Club may not be done trimming its rolls. The Sun Devils trail Washington in the second quarter out in the desert. And with the year we've had, why wouldn't they? It's official: I no longer should be surprised by any college football result short of Duke beating the New England Patriots.

10:02 p.m. Louisville may have gotten embarrassed by Utah and humiliated by Syracuse, but it sure hasn't forgotten how to beat the Bearcats. Cincinnati is the latest to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten, 28-24. The Undefeated Club, which began the day with 11 members, is down to six: Arizona State, Boston College, Hawaii, Kansas, Ohio State, and South Florida. File the paperwork to found your own psychic agency if you called that one in August.

9:57 p.m. Auburn picks it off to close out the victory. Sometimes you don't need touchdowns to win, especially when you can hold your opponent's high-octane running game to 67 yards. It's a three-way tie atop the SEC West, and for some reason, I'm feeling a lot better about Alabama's tight win over Ole Miss earlier today. Mainly because it wasn't a loss.

9:54 p.m. Byrum knocks it home from extra point range. Auburn, 9-7. Only 21 seconds separate Arkansas from another emotionally draining loss. The crowd is absolutely dead silent.

9:53 p.m. Fourth-and-inches. Unless Tuberville just has an overwhelming desire to do something crazy, it's chip-shot time.

9:49 p.m. Brandon Cox becomes a field general at just the right time for the Tigers. Auburn is inside the Arkansas 10 with under a minute left. This would be a crippling loss for the Hogs.

9:44 p.m. Good news: UAB has sealed the deal at Legion Field. That's the most heartening win over a one-win team that I've seen all day. And yes, Boston College, that includes you.

9:40 p.m. Touchdown, Arkansas! Touchdowns are still legal in this game! And so are extra points! Hogs, 7-6, with 1:36 left.

9:38 p.m. The Cal quarterback inexplicably decides to scramble with no timeouts on the board. Game over. Ohio State is your new football overlord. At least for a week, anyway.

9:36 p.m. DeSean Jackson draws a pass interference flag on third down. Cal is deep inside the red zone with 14 seconds remaining.

9:35 p.m. Huge completion to the OSU 27. Versus is getting its money's worth from this Pac-10 package.

9:34 p.m. And miraculously, Cal converts. Hope is alive.

9:32 p.m. Cal gives up a devastating sack, has to waste another down clocking it, then overthrows everyone. Fourth-and-forever.

9:29 p.m. The Beavers pin the Golden Bears inside the 5. Out of a football context, that sentence would be very confusing indeed.

9:27 p.m. Cal is down only 31-28 now and about to get the ball back with about 90 seconds to go. Not sure if it'll help, but that stadium is getting really, really loud. Here comes the punt.

9:22 p.m. And as soon as I brag on them a little, the Blazers let Tulane cut it to five. Under a minute left. Hang on, UAB.

9:20 p.m. Auburn 6, Arkansas 0. In the fourth quarter. Yes, that's a real score. In the branch of reality that I occupy, anyway.

9:15 p.m. With two minutes remaining, UAB leads Tulane, 26-14. The Blazers have had a tendency in recent years to lose when they shouldn't, so it's good to see them taking care of business in a very winnable Conference USA game tonight.

9:10 p.m. It's Oregon State by 10 with six minutes left by the Frisco Bay. And Louisville by seven with 10 and change left in the Queen City. And Oklahoma by 10 with no time whatsoever left in Norman. Would anyone like to stay undefeated today?

9:07 p.m. Auburn's Wes Byrum pushes a field goal attempt wide right to end a brutal third quarter in Fayetteville. This game realistically could end without a single touchdown.

9:03 p.m. So, um, Oregon State just went up again midway through the fourth in Berkeley. And then capped it off with a two-point conversion. And then recovered a Cal fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The other OSU thanks you kindly, Beavers.

8:56 p.m. Auburn thus far has absolutely shut down Arkansas' all-world tailback, Darren McFadden. But the bad news for the Tigers is that they haven't been able to get much of anything going against a defense that surrendered 41 points to Alabama's offense, which isn't quite a well-oiled machine. It's still 3-0.

8:51 p.m. After a minute or two of Todd Blackledge and Mike Patrick's light-hearted banter about fried pies, we return to see injured Auburn lineman Ryan Pugh about to be carted off the field. The word awkward was invented for moments like these.

8:41 p.m. And just like that, Oklahoma rolls off 12 unanswered points. With LSU's loss and Cal down against Oregon State as the third quarter ends, the Sooners are absolutely back in the mix for the national title, and they're playing like they know it.

8:20 p.m. Missouri leads at Oklahoma as they head into the fourth quarter. Why don't I check Fox Sports Net more often?

8:15 p.m. Around the South: Georgia decides it'd be a really bad idea to lose to Vanderbilt, so it doesn't. Auburn goes to the locker room up 3-0 on Arkansas in a game where both teams thus far have a combined total of 217 yards of offense. And UAB leads Tulane, 20-14, on homecoming night at Legion Field.

8:02 p.m. Cal clings to a one-point home lead over the Beavers at the half. At this rate, the Buckeyes are going to return to the mountaintop Sunday. Maybe the Bearcats, who demolished Oregon State last month, should join them there. Assuming they don't go down tonight, too. What a season.

7:58 p.m. FYI: Bearcats are real. From Wikipedia, the repository of human knowledge, we get an explanation: "The Binturong (Arctictis binturong), also known as the Asian Bearcat, the Palawan Bearcat, or simply the Bearcat, is a species of the family Viverridae, which includes the civets and genets. It is neither a bear nor a cat, and the real meaning of the original name is lost, as the local language that gave it is extinct." So there you go.

7:52 p.m. Tommy Tuberville, up only 3-0, goes for it on fourth down at his own 31 and gets it. I wouldn't have done that. I'm also not paid as much as Tommy Tuberville. Perhaps there's a reason.

7:41 p.m. Cardinal program-related activities update: The singular Cardinal of Stanford has lost a heartbreaker to the Horned Frogs. The plural Cardinals of Ball State have beaten Western Kentucky handily. And the plural Cardinals of Louisville have decided not to risk trailing the Bearcats at halftime, especially since no one is quite sure what a bearcat is. It's 14-14 in Cincinnati.

7:24 p.m. The TV football smorgsabord overflows. California is taking advantage of its shot at No. 1 by trailing at home to Oregon State. Vandy still leads Georgia in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati is contributing to the downward spiral for Louisville. And Auburn is up by three in a grueling battle at Arkansas.

7:02 p.m. No. 1 has gone down -- again. The Wildcats straight-up beat LSU and make a name for themselves. The SEC is suddenly up for grabs. California and Ohio State will slug it out for the top spot. Alabama is tied for first place in the SEC West after barely edging Ole Miss. And Vanderbilt controls its destiny for the SEC title. Hi, space-time hole. Good to see you back again.

7 p.m. Fourth-and-2 for LSU. The season is on the line -- again.

6:58 p.m. The two-point pass falls incomplete. LSU's turn.

6:56 p.m. Woodson connects with a wide-open Steve Johnson to put Kentucky ahead, 43-37, with the mandatory two-point conversion attempt pending. Great execution. Unreal game.

6:45 p.m. Three incompletions and a field goal later, it's time for overtime No. 3. This game may last all night. I'm fine with that.

6:42 p.m. LSU has to settle for a field goal. Tigers, 37-34. And now Kentucky gets a chance to win it at home.

6:39 p.m. A quick look around the country: Georgia, still trying to recover from the brutal beating that Tennessee administered last week, is down 10 at Vanderbilt at halftime. Oklahoma leads Missouri, 10-7, in what would have been the game of the day if not for LSU-Kentucky. And Stanford hasn't forgotten to keep playing after that Upset of the Century last week; the singular Cardinal are up 31-24 on TCU late in the third quarter.

6:33 p.m. The Tigers stroll into the end zone to force overtime No. 2. It's 34-34. This is a strong game of the year candidate.

6:28 p.m. Forget the past. Touchdown, Kentucky. The Wildcats have their first lead since mere seconds into the second quarter.

6:23 p.m. LSU wins the toss. CBS says Kentucky is 1-2 all-time in overtime, meaning its first and only OT victory was against football genius Mike DuBose. Gotta love trivia. Even when it hurts.

6:18 p.m. LSU's kicker misses a field goal from 57 yards, which is what most humans, even those who spend years training to kick field goals, would do. Overtime in Lexington.

6:16 p.m. Win or lose, Kentucky may have played its way into another CBS broadcast next week when it takes on Florida. That would leave the Third Saturday in October to the Daves and their Daughtry promos. I'm not sure if that gives me a rooting interest in this game, but perhaps it should. Two seconds left.

6:09 p.m. Jacob Hester is a bayou bulldozer with legs. That is all.

6:06 p.m. Late in the fourth quarter in the Battle of Space City, it's Houston 49, Rice 48. Video game football is real after all.

6:04 p.m. Losing to Vanderbilt? Really, Georgia? Where was that when you came to Bryant-Denny Stadium, huh? Answer me that.

6 p.m. LSU stuffs Kentucky on third-and-1 inside the Tigers' 10. The Wildcats settle for the tie. It's 27-27 in another classic battle.

5:56 p.m. USC squeaks by Arizona, 20-13, to avoid a second straight home loss to a Pac-10 cellar dweller. Arizona State, California, and Oregon have to be licking their chops right now.

5:52 p.m. Spurrier answers a question about the second half in the post-game interview: "What happened? They kicked our butts; I don't know what else to say." His team survives, though, 21-15.

5:50 p.m. How did North Carolina get back in it? The Gamecocks have added nothing whatsoever to the scoreboard since halftime. UNC trails by six and almost came down with a jump ball in the end zone. One play left in Chapel Hill, where the Butch Davis Effect is already in plain sight.

5:48 p.m. Did you know Connecticut is no longer undefeated? Well, Virginia does. We're down to 10 unbeaten teams.

5:45 p.m. LSU's defense stiffens and holds Kentucky to a field goal. The Bayou Bengals' lead now mirrors the Alabama score, 27-24. Unfortunately for LSU, the Wildcats are quite a bit better than Ole Miss. Eight minutes remain in a very tight one.

5:40 p.m. Sometimes Rich Brooks likes to gamble on fourth down, too, you know. Not all the hot action happens down on the bayou, thank you very much. It works, and Kentucky is 15 yards from the lead. That Kansas-South Florida national title game is getting closer to reality every single day.

5:30 p.m. Avast, ye landlubber, we have exclusive insider VIP information: Mike the Pirate is making Texas A&M walk the plank. It's 35-7 in the fourth quarter as Coach Fran's career record against the Red Raiders is about to drop to 1-6. Yarr, matey!

5:20 p.m. Did you realize Connecticut is undefeated and leading at Virginia midway through the fourth quarter? Me neither. Do you care? Well, if this keeps up, maybe we should start.

5:16 p.m. I was wrong. Kentucky is still very much in this one. Woodson connects with Jacob Tamme to cut LSU's lead to 27-21. It's the second straight game of the week for the Bayou Bengals.

5:03 p.m. Is it too late to talk about a Wednesday game? Yes, but I'll do it anyway. Navy pulled off a huge win over Pittsburgh in a very entertaining contest that ended too soon when Dave Wannstedt (1) inexplicably went for a touchdown in the second overtime at home instead of kicking a sure field goal to tie and then (2) inexplicably called a fade route instead of a power run with the ball at the Navy 2. Considering the Panthers went to the Fiesta Bowl just three years ago, their fans can't be too happy with silliness like that. For Navy, meanwhile, the win locked up a fifth straight bowl berth, a true testament to Paul Johnson's work.

4:57 p.m. Woodson lofts his second interception of the day. Good first half for Kentucky, but the game has turned around, and it's probably not going back the Wildcats' way.

4:53 p.m. LSU decides it likes a double-digit lead better than a single-digit one and behaves accordingly. Tigers, 24-14. It's not quite time for the words "sense of inevitability," but it's close.

4:48 p.m. Around the old Southwest Conference: Baylor is losing to Kansas, 44-10, in a game that started about six hours ago and may never end. Rice has racked up more points on Houston in the first half than Alabama scored in the entire game last week. And TCU now trails the singular Cardinal, 7-0. Why, oh why, did we have to get rid of the Southwest Conference?

4:45 p.m. Don't even bother making LSU go through the motions of going for it on fourth down. Just put the ball at the first-down marker and save everyone some time and effort.

4:39 p.m. Third quarter update from the L.A. Coliseum: Arizona 13, USC 10. I'm not saying; I'm just saying. Elsewhere in the Pac-10, the Ducks are clinging to a 40-0 lead over Washington State, and the singular Cardinal is scoreless at home against TCU in the first letdown alert that Stanford has had in a long time.

4:31 p.m. It wasn't enough for Dennis Franchione to lose his website and get publicly admonished for that exclusive VIP insider newsletter. Now he's down 21-7 to Mike the Pirate in the third quarter. Yep, enjoy your shiny new coach, Aggies.

4:23 p.m. Chris Smelley has three first-half touchdown passes. Steve Spurrier has an all-star quarterback again. Watch out. His team leads the battle of the Carolinas at halftime, 21-3.

4:17 p.m. Tennessee leads 27-21 in the fourth quarter in another quintessential trap game. The Vols have only suffered one turnover, so it's not so much that they're playing poorly as it is that Mississippi State has improved a lot this year.

4:11 p.m. No quit in the Wildcats. Andre Woodson scrambles untouched into the end zone to cap off a swift drive. LSU, 17-14. This could be another wild day of football after all.

4:04 p.m. LSU capitalizes on a Kentucky turnover to break the game open a little before halftime. It's 17-7 on the bluegrass.

4:02 p.m. Did you realize Connecticut is still undefeated? Me neither. Is that still going to be the case after today? I don't care. Are the Huskies trailing Virginia at halftime? Yes. Should Virginia be 5-1 right now? Probably not, especially after losing badly to Wyoming, but the facts (and the ACC) are what they are.

3:55 p.m. LSU is playing in a textbook example of a trap game, which, considering the opponent is ranked in the top 20, really says something about the strength of the SEC. Like the Trojans, the Tigers lead 10-7 before half. Unlike the Trojans, they're playing on the road, and against a team that's remotely as good as them.

3:49 p.m. USC is struggling again. It's only up 10-7 late in the second quarter against Arizona. Remember that one time when Kirk Herbstreit said the Trojans should stay at No. 1 because they hadn't played anyone yet? Yeah, that sounds even sillier now.

3:26 p.m. Ah, welcome back, normal heart rate. Time to scope out some mid-afternoon action. LSU scored moments ago to tie Kentucky at 7-7 early in the second quarter. Penn State is jumping around on Wisconsin early, 17-7. Tennessee is in a dogfight in Starkville, leading Mississippi State by only three in the second half. And Boston College has a 6-0 second-quarter edge on Notre Dame, which doesn't quite have 40 yards of total offense yet.

3:10 p.m. At last, the officials do the right thing. Wilson hits a knee as cups and bottles rain down from the stands into the end zone. Alabama wins, 27-24. I'll need a few minutes to recover.

3:04 p.m. The Rebels' receiver steals an interception away from Lionel Mitchell inside the Alabama 10 on a fourth-down prayer, but he was clearly out of bounds before he made the catch. Here's the most important instant replay of the game. Overturn it!

3:01 p.m. These short-yardage passes are killing Alabama. The Rebels are in field goal range now. Not. Good. At. All.

2:59 p.m. Ole Miss keeps it alive. A minute and a half left.

2:57 p.m. Two and a half minutes left. Fourth down for the Rebels deep inside their own territory. Please, defense, end it now.

2:53 p.m. The fake field goal does not, in fact, work. Ole Miss gets the ball back, still down only three. This isn't good for my heart.

2:52 p.m. The good news: Alabama is inside the Rebels' 10. The bad news: It's fourth down, and more than three minutes remain.

2:48 p.m. The defense does its job, and Ole Miss' wide-open receiver drops a third-down pass that would have kept it alive. With four minutes and change left, all the Tide has to do is hold on to the ball and milk the clock. Time to see if Alabama can finish.

2:44 p.m. But of course, it isn't. The Rebels make themselves at home in the Tide backfield and limit the damage to a field goal. Alabama, 27-24. Really wish that had been a touchdown.

2:41 p.m. YES, YES, YES! Ezekial Knight picks it off and returns it to the Ole Miss 5. Addendum to the 2:24 p.m. update: Now the Tide gets the ball there. This needs to be a touchdown.

2:36 p.m. Touchdown, Alabama! The Tide goes back to the ground with Grant and makes good things happen. Tiffin hits the PAT to tie the game, 24-24. It's going down to the wire -- again.

2:34 p.m. Terry Grant to the 3. Punch it in, guys. Do it.

2:33 p.m. JAVY! Arenas slices and dices his way to the Ole Miss 21 on the punt return. There's the spark that Alabama has needed.

2:24 p.m. Wilson is annihilated after a coverage breakdown. The good news is that Ole Miss will have to start from its own 5. The bad news is that Alabama doesn't have the ball there instead.

2:21 p.m. After several minutes of instant replay, the officials finally recognize a touchback for what it is. Alabama gets the ball at the 20, and Upchurch promptly darts ahead for a first down.

2:16 p.m. Elsewhere in the college football world: Illinois, already weary of the top 25, has left the party with a loss at Iowa. Georgia Tech has upheld its reputation as the world's most erratic team with a victory at Miami. South Florida, nearing its destruction of Central Florida, will not fall prey to the curse of the No. 5 ranking. And maybe if Michigan obliterates Purdue hard enough, you'll forget about that little Appalachian State problem. Will 48-7 wipe that smirk off your face? Huh? Cease your laughter at once!

2:11 p.m. The third quarter is over, and not a second too soon. Ole Miss dominated. I'm not sure what it'll take to get Alabama to play a complete game, but whatever it is, it's missing again today.

2:09 p.m. More pressure in Wilson's face leads to yet another underthrown pass by Wilson. And then it leads to a monster sack. Everything's coming up Orgeron right now.

2:04 p.m. And it doesn't matter at all. Michael Hicks snares a jump ball over Simeon Castille to put Ole Miss ahead, 24-17. It's disappointing after the last couple of plays, but that's what happens when you allow a punt block deep in your own territory. Time to do something to regain the momentum.

2:03 p.m. Ole Miss falls prey to a silly penalty and a near-fumble. It's third-and-goal for the Rebels from the 17.

1:56 p.m. Well, um, on the upside, there still hasn't been a punt today. On the downside, Ole Miss just blocked Alabama's attempt at one. It's first-and-goal after a game-changing kind of play.

1:48 p.m. Rashad Johnson gives Adams a piece of that INT pie. Alabama ball when the Daves return from commercial.

1:45 p.m. Look, an interception! And Wilson throws it! Oh, well.

1:44 p.m. Look, a wide-open receiver! And Wilson sees him! D.J. Hall breaks one for 36 yards to set Alabama up in Rebel territory.

1:41 p.m. The defense bends but doesn't break, holding Ole Miss to a field goal try that sails wide left. I still haven't seen any punters. Both teams may have sent them home.

1:36 p.m. And then they burn the heart of the Tide secondary for 42 yards. No, sir, I don't like it. I don't like it at all.

1:35 p.m. Alabama's first big mistake of the day comes at a really inconvenient time. The Rebels strip the ball from Glen Coffee as he's heading to the end zone to preserve the tie.

1:33 p.m. There's Terry Grant! The best freshman running back around gains 22. Then D.J. Hall snags one inside the 10.

1:31 p.m. Javier Arenas returns it to midfield. That'll work.

1:27 p.m. Dammit. Ole Miss destroys the Tide defense, sending BenJarvus Green-Ellis up the middle for 57 yards. Adams scrambles for the tying score on the next play. It's 17-17. The Orgeron got his guys ready for this half. Now, Alabama's turn.

1:23 p.m. The second half approaches in Oxford. Alabama has played solid football for 30 minutes. Let's see if that can continue for the rest of the game for a change.

1:15 p.m. OK, seriously, Mike Gundy is a man. It's 38-0 at halftime in Lincoln. This year probably won't end well for Bill Callahan.

1:10 p.m. The $2.8 Million Man can rebuild the Hawkeyes. He has the technology. Just before the third quarter ends, Iowa scores the first touchdown of the game to go up 10-6 on Illinois. It's unfamiliar territory, so the Illini may be a bit confused over what exactly this "being ranked" thing entails. To clarify, losing to Iowa State's only victim this season is not among the duties.

1:02 p.m. The timeouts worked. Tiffin hooks it wide right from 35 yards away. But Alabama still leads at halftime, 17-10.

1 p.m. Tiffin lines up for the field goal attempt. The Orgeron does the trendy thing and calls timeout just before the kick to give the Daves a chance to update us on Daughtry's whereabouts.

12:58 p.m. Alabama catches a break on a fumble that isn't called. The Daves have spent the last three minutes telling us about it.

12:52 p.m. Don't worry, Ole Miss, you won't need to use your punter, either. Simeon Castille will drop by to pick up that package himself. Alabama gets it at midfield with a minute and change.

12:45 p.m. Wilson sneaks it in on third-and-goal. Alabama goes back up, 17-10. I haven't seen a punter once today.

12:42 p.m. Wilson ignores intense pressure to loft a great corner pass to Keith Brown. On the whole, Alabama's quarterback play has been noticeably better today than in the last few weeks.

12:40 p.m. Two Upchurch runs and a completion to the tight end later, Alabama is at the Rebels' 30. Good execution by the Tide.

12:38 p.m. Javier Arenas' huge kickoff return comes back due to an unnecessary penalty. Alabama still gets it at its own 30, though. Looks like it's time for some Roy Upchurch now.

12:35 p.m. With under seven minutes left in the half, we've only seen four drives combined. Fortunately, Ole Miss stalls out around the 5 and has to settle for the field goal. It's tied at 10 in Oxford.

12:28 p.m. Mike Gundy is a man! He's up 17-0! And he won't choke away that huge lead like last week! So get your facts straight!

12:25 p.m. Ole Miss converts on a fourth down when it really shouldn't. Seth Adams is not your garden-variety walk-on QB.

12:16 p.m. I'll take that Coffee with some touchdown. Alabama retakes the lead, 10-7. Great drive to give the defense a long rest.

12:14 p.m. Back in the red zone again for Alabama. John Parker Wilson bounces a pass at the feet of Will Oakley, who is incredibly wide open. Maybe this pass interference call will make it better.

12:05 p.m. Alabama mounts a slow, steady drive in response. This is shaping up as an old-fashioned, smash-mouth kind of game.

11:56 a.m. The Orgeron insists on giving me what he wants to see, not what I want. Touchdown, Rebels. Ole Miss takes an early 7-3 lead. Time for some defensive adjustments.

11:54 a.m. I really could do without watching Ole Miss march right down the field this morning. Honestly, I could.

11:45 a.m. Ah, bogging down in the red zone. I haven't missed that. Still, points are points, and Leigh Tiffin just scored three of them for the good guys. Alabama, 3-0.

11:40 a.m. Ah, a long drive to open the game. I've missed that.

11:30 a.m. Other games have begun, but they matter not to me, for Alabama is about to kick off at Ole Miss. Once again, I'm cautiously optimistic. Alabama is better than Ole Miss. Alabama should beat Ole Miss. But the last time Alabama had a morning kickoff against a Mississippi school that it should have beaten, we had to add a new verb to the English language. As long as the Crimson Tide can avoid letting The Orgeron beat it comatose with its own arm, I'll be satisfied.

Stephen Colbert was right all along

Give a bear an inch and it'll take your Nobel Peace Prize.

Nominally, of course, the award went Friday to former Vice President Al Gore and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for their "work to raise awareness about global warming." But as we long ago established, global warming is nothing more than an excuse for lazy polar bears that want to deprive us of our dream of oceanfront property in Arizona because they refuse to learn to swim for days on end.

Just imagine how powerful they'd be now if we had let them play the Super Bowl in dry conditions.

One day you'll understand, kids

U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, sounded the alarm last month.

Trying to justify his vote against expanding government-funded health insurance to a few million more poor children, Bonner called the plan to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program a "first major step toward socialized medicine." And you know what that means: We could find ourselves with a health care system where the federal government makes lots of decisions that the private sector otherwise would.

Yes, the federal government already directs the dollars for SCHIP. And OK, it calls the shots in Medicare, a health insurance program that covers people over age 65 regardless of financial need and accounts for 12 percent of all federal spending. And of course, Medicaid pays for health care for millions of low-income and disabled Americans. And sure, the government operates an entire nationwide chain of VA hospitals to provide medical care for our veterans. And yeah, Bonner and hundreds of other congressmen voted with great fanfare just four years ago to add an enormous prescription drug subsidy to Medicare.

But an expansion of a pre-existing health insurance program for children? Now that would lead to socialized medicine.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Saturday live blog, Vol. 4

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2 a.m. Rece and the crew have called it a night. I think I will, too. After a day that proved that no lead is safe and that 41-point favorites aren't always sure things, space-time is torn irreparably for college football -- and I wouldn't have it any other way.

As always, thanks for reading, and Roll Tide.

1:57 a.m. Brennan is back in the shotgun for Hawaii. BCS dreams live. The Warriors lead, 52-27, with 15 minutes to go.

1:54 a.m. Go ahead and hand over this week's game-changing performance award to Stanford. Sign whatever executive orders are necessary. To date, that's the most important play of the year.

1:42 a.m. The Alabama highlights just rolled. If you ever doubt that football is a game of inches, watch Houston's final shot at the end zone a few more times. If that pass drifts just a little more, it's a repeat of the 1999 Louisiana Tech heartbreaker. But the good news is that it wasn't. Play your victories as they lie.

1:31 a.m. Jim Harbaugh is loving every second of this. He's earned it. He has the singular Cardinal believing it can win again.

1:17 a.m. All right, ESPN, you can stop with the "gut check" mantra. It didn't end up being the theme of the weekend, so you don't have to try to shoehorn everything into it.

1:11 a.m. LSU has to follow tonight's emotionally draining escape against Florida with back-to-back games at one-loss Kentucky and at home against Gator-beating Auburn. That gold medal in the Conference Olympics still has the SEC's name all over it.

1:05 a.m. Sorry, Mark May, but this loss will knock USC out of the national title race. If, for example, it came down to Florida, with two losses to Auburn and LSU, or USC, with a loss to Stanford, I wouldn't hesitate to pick the Gators. I doubt I'm alone in that.

1 a.m. Time for College Football Final, which I'll actually watch this week now that Rece Davis is back in charge as he should be. We open with this week's installment of the Upset of the Century out in L.A. It's still just as riveting as it was live.

12:37 a.m. Hawaii's all-world quarterback, Colt Brennan, has left the game after a shot to his knee. If it's a long-term injury, millions of BCS dollars may cancel their flight across the Pacific Ocean.

12:29 a.m. Hawaii declines to lose to the third-best football team from the land of the Mormons. It's 24-13 for the Warriors as their quest for the big bowl bucks continues.

12:12 a.m. Teams that are ranked in the AP poll but shouldn't be next week: Clemson, Kansas State, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, and Texas. Teams that should replace those teams next week: Auburn, Colorado, Florida State, Illinois, Kansas, and Tennessee. I'd also accept Connecticut, because of that whole undefeated thing.

11:59 p.m. Well, OK, maybe not Hawaii. The Warriors are behind Utah State, 13-10, in the second quarter. Looks like the Saturday craziness will continue well into Sunday morning.

11:54 p.m. Now that the polls have exploded for the second straight week, can we finally start elevating teams that have managed to stay unbeaten? Put Missouri in the top 10. Cincinnati and Arizona State, too. Maybe even Hawaii. Why not?

11:36 p.m. The ESPN guys are trying to stay conscious during Missouri's prolonged knee-capping of Nebraska by chatting up a guy who played for the Cornhuskers back when they actually mattered nationally. Ron Franklin deserves better than this. Someone please get him back to SEC games where he belongs.

11:26 p.m. Updates on stray pieces of unfinished business from today: Northwestern did, in fact, knock off Michigan State. Notre Dame did, in fact, finally win a game. And Clemson did, in fact, continue its annual inexplicable mid-year slump.

11:18 p.m. Missouri just owned Nebraska with a fake field goal. The Tigers were already up by four touchdowns. Now it's 41-6. Perhaps you engage in these frail human actions known as mercy. And perhaps that's why you aren't beating Nebraska bloody.

11:14 p.m. Yeah, about that Rutgers comeback I mentioned earlier? Didn't happen. Cincinnati is heading inexorably to its destiny: a showdown with South Florida for a spot in a BCS bowl and maybe even a shot at the national title. Take your time while reading those words. Soak them in for a moment between deep, calming breaths. You're not crazy. It's all really happening. The rest of us see the magical flying leprechaun, too.

10:59 p.m. Tebow's final heave drops harmlessly to the turf in the end zone. LSU wins a thriller, 28-24. Maybe now everyone can stop pretending the Tigers aren't the nation's No. 1 team.

10:58 p.m. The Tigers close in on Tebow and force an intentional grounding call. Five seconds, one play, the season on the line.

10:56 p.m. Good scramble out of bounds by Tebow. Twelve seconds. Gary Danielson observes that there'd be a lot more time had Florida called timeout sooner on that last LSU drive.

10:54 p.m. A pass interference call keeps Florida's hopes alive. Tebow throws a pair of incompletions. Down to 20 seconds.

10:52 p.m. With 37 seconds remaining, Florida has gained seven yards on two plays. That's considerably less than the Gators need.

10:49 p.m. LSU is up by four with 1:09 left. Time to see what The Tebow can do in the most hostile of hostile environments.

10:46 p.m. Jacob Hester plows into the end zone so hard that it looked for a minute like he was injured. Death Valley may have seen the second coming of the Earthquake Game. LSU leads for the first time, 27-24, with an instant replay and extra point pending. However this turns out, it's easily the game of the year thus far.

10:45 p.m. Rutgers is trying for a comeback with under two minutes left, but the Scarlet Knights picked the wrong time if they hope for me to watch. Back to Baton Rouge.

10:41 p.m. Les Miles may end up looking like a hero after LSU got the first down on that fourth down inside the 10, but I still see very little reason to go for it there, especially this late in the game when you're at home and a field goal would tie it. Then again, he's paid seven figures to coach football and I'm not. There's probably a good reason for that state of affairs.

10:32 p.m. The shadow story of this season has been the rise of the Sun Belt Conference. Troy and Florida Atlantic are legitimately good football teams; the former destroyed Oklahoma State and hung in there with Arkansas and Florida, while the latter beat Minnesota and put a tremendous scare in top-five South Florida.

But other teams have done their part, too. Middle Tennessee State lost narrowly to Louisville and Virginia, and Arkansas State mounted an amazing comeback to beat Memphis just weeks after almost forcing Texas to overtime. To say the Sun Belt is not quite ready for prime time is an understatement, but it's also no longer a league that can be forever consigned to the basement.

10:24 p.m. Over in the Big East, unbeaten Cincinnati is springing a mild upset at Rutgers to make its case for moving up to the top 10. For added fun, invent a time machine, go back to this day two years ago, convince me of the truth of the previous sentence, and enjoy the spontaneous head explosion.

10:17 p.m. LSU gets its second clutch fourth-down TD of the night. The Tigers are down only 24-21 with plenty of time left.

10:14 p.m. The Tebow has no fear of your puny defense. He's too busy throwing... an interception. Yeah, this could change things.

10:12 p.m. Mike Gundy is a man! He's 40! His team has turned a 17-point halftime lead into a loss to Texas A&M! Elsewhere in the Big 12, Colorado smacked around Baylor, Mike the Pirate has improved to 5-1, and Missouri is rolling over Nebraska at halftime.

9:57 p.m. The devastation of football in southern California is nearing completion. UCLA trails Notre Dame 20-6, which ordinarily wouldn't be a problem, except that the Fighting Irish have been soul-crushingly horrible this year.

9:46 p.m. The Tebow has no time for your rallies to save No. 1 rankings. He's too busy finding receivers who couldn't be more wide open if they were playing on an empty field. Gators, 24-14.

9:40 p.m. Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musberger are giddy over Ohio State's prospects to move to No. 1. But as Mr. Corso would say, not so fast, my friend: LSU has cut Florida's lead to three.

9:35 p.m. Interception! That's four tonight for Booty, and that'll do it. You can forget all about Appalachian State now. Stanford, coming off a 1-11 season with a first-time starter under center in USC's house, has sealed the biggest, least likely upset of the season. The college football universe has slipped through a wormhole.

9:34 p.m. The Stanford defense comes through in a big way. Booty is sacked and has to clock it on second down. After an incompletion on third down, it's fourth-and-17 for USC.

9:32 p.m. The extra point is good. USC has no timeouts but gets the ball back at its own 41 after a 15-yard facemasking penalty.

9:29 p.m. Touchdown, Stanford! Touchdown, Stanford! The Cardinal is an extra point and 49 seconds away from a win that could establish Harbaugh's squad as a real force to reckon with in the Pac-10 in the years to come.

9:28 p.m. Twelve men on the field for Stanford. Huge mistake.

9:25 p.m. One play to decide the game. Harbaugh calls timeout.

9:24 p.m. The referees uphold the fourth-down conversion on replay. Stanford gets to the 5 on first down and overthrows a touchdown pass out the back of the end zone. Third down.

9:18 p.m. Stanford's first-time starter tosses a perfect strike to convert on fourth-and-20. The Cardinal is nine yards from glory.

9:15 p.m. The Cardinal get to the USC red zone but go backward due to a holding penalty. Jim Harbaugh is, um, displeased.

9:08 p.m. Stanford snares its third INT of the night to set itself up on the USC side of the field with 2:50 left. This is the game now.

9:05 p.m. The Boilermakers are getting their annual reminder that their team is not as good as the first few games suggested. Ohio State is this year's supplier, with a 17-0 edge in the third quarter. The Buckeyes have more than twice as many yards as Purdue and have completely shut down the run.

9 p.m. The widely accepted worst team in the Pac-10 will not go away against the widely accepted top program of the decade. Stanford nails a field goal to cut it to 23-17. On any other night, this would lead to a plunge in the polls. But like the rest of the season, this week has been a constant reminder that a win is a win.

8:57 p.m. LSU heads to the locker room with all the momentum that a missed field goal can provide. Which is, um, not much.

8:50 p.m. OK, maybe an extra Cardinal or two wouldn't hurt. USC is up 23-14. That may be good enough for No. 1 at this rate.

8:46 p.m. The Tebow needs not your assistance in the backfield, for he shall handle this pressing touchdown matter personally. The Gators stretch the lead to 17-7 on another wild Saturday.

8:43 p.m. USC's margin over Stanford remains at two. Just imagine what would be happening to the Trojans if they sent more than one Cardinal down from Palo Alto.

8:35 p.m. The Terrapins may have done the crime, but Rutgers is trying to ensure that the Bearcats (whatever those are) do the time. Greg Schiano's squad is up by 10 before half in New Jersey.

8:30 p.m. After 16 plays and more than seven and a half minutes, LSU backup QB Ryan Perrilloux scrambles for the score on fourth-
and-goal. It was an epic drive, but the Gators still lead, 10-7.

8:20 p.m. You wanna come after a team, Coach Fran? Come after Mike Gundy's team! He's a man! He's up 17-0 at the half!

8:11 p.m. Make that zero yards away. For the second straight year, The Tebow schools the Tigers with a short, see-it-to-believe-
it touchdown pass. That's why he gets a The in front of his name.

8:10 p.m. That'll teach me to change the channel. Florida is two yards away from making it 10-0.

8:08 p.m. The singular Cardinal got it back after a John David Booty interception, but it couldn't get a drive going. Still a two-point game at the Coliseum.

8:05 p.m. Stanford has opened the second half with a touchdown. The singular Cardinal is within two. I may make this my primary game for a minute now that the first quarter is over at LSU.

8:02 p.m. Florida-LSU, Ohio State-Purdue, Cincinnati-Rutgers, Clemson-Virginia Tech, Stanford-USC... It just doesn't end. It's a football orgy. Someone should warn the state of Alabama that it may need to add remote controls to the ban.

7:49 p.m. LSU survives the turnover, which is what No. 1 teams should do. Meanwhile, Ohio State promises not to hurt you next time, baby, if you just give it one more chance. The Buckeyes are looking good early, leading Purdue 14-0 on the road.

7:43 p.m. Bayou Bengals quarterback Matt Flynn tosses a pass behind his receiver, and Florida claims it on the rebound. The SEC is trying its level best to mutilate itself beyond recognition.

7:38 p.m. The Gators march to an early 3-0 lead on LSU. Across the country, USC is only up 9-0 at halftime on Stanford, which is 1-3 and led by a sophomore quarterback making his first start.

7:33 p.m. Florida has a running game? When did this happen?

7:30 p.m. The game of the day, and maybe the year, has kicked off down in Baton Rouge. It's even louder than you remember it. Elsewhere in the SEC, Arkansas is in an unexpected struggle with Chattanooga, leading by only eight at halftime. But as a fan of a team that needed a last-play INT to hold off a C-USA squad today, I won't make snide remarks. Not yet, anyway.

7:01 p.m. Kirk Ferentz continued to demonstrate why he's the $2.8 million man at Iowa, losing to Penn State today by only 20. Meanwhile, Arizona State escaped the Palouse with a win, FSU pulled away to finish off N.C. State, and Fresno State downed Nevada for the right to become the primary in-conference threat to Hawaii's perfect season that isn't named Boise State.

6:56 p.m. The role of Georgia in tonight's ESPN game will be played by Clemson. Virginia Tech has been cast as Tennessee. Say hello to 31-8 at halftime, and say goodbye to your ACC title hopes.

6:25 p.m. Virginia Tech fires a 100-yard return missile into the Clemson end zone to enable ESPN to load up the stock Beamerball graphic. The Hokies have scored as many points on offense as Clemson has, but they lead 24-3 in Death Valley, which isn't nearly as happy of a place as the other Death Valley expects to be later.

6:21 p.m. Wazzu has tied it up with undefeated Arizona State with under four minutes left. The Pac-10 has guaranteed itself at least the silver medal in this year's Conference Olympics.

6:19 p.m. Mike Gottfried has been shipped off to call the likes of Army-Tulane on ESPNU. I'm still working out how I feel about it.

6:15 p.m. South Florida puts up a last-minute touchdown to fend off a spirited effort from FAU. I'm always glad to see BCS schools willing to travel to Sun Belt stadiums, but I don't know how much longer that's going to continue with outcomes like these.

6:06 p.m. The most interesting game going on right now, and probably the one with the most national importance, is between two teams that didn't exist a decade ago. And you actually need to ask why I love college football?

6:01 p.m. "Boomer Sooner" will play in an endless loop tonight in Dallas, after the last four seconds tick down without Texas trying to snap the ball for a final play. Maybe there's a rule I don't know.

5:56 p.m. Upset alert, updated: Arizona State leads Wazzu 20-17 heading into the fourth. FSU is still only up by seven on N.C. State. And Florida Atlantic, the comparative newcomer of the two, will not go away against South Florida, which is convenient, given that the game is being played in the Owls' own stadium.

5:53 p.m. Now that my pulse is back within normal range, it's time to survey the football landscape. Oklahoma is up seven late in a Red River Shootout that's actually close for a change. Tennessee has finished off Georgia and made me very uneasy about the Third Saturday in October in the process. And Clemson's annual collapse is going full speed ahead, with Virginia Tech pounding the Tigers 17-0 in the first quarter in their own house.

5:38 p.m. YES! Simeon Castille picks off the pass in the end zone. Alabama wins by the skin of its teeth, 30-24. It's ugly and unimpressive and nearly gave me a heart attack, but I'll take it.

5:36 p.m. Five seconds left. Houston has called its final timeout. One play to decide the game. Please, defense. Please.

5:34 p.m. Under a minute left. Houston is near the red zone. Alabama defenders are being injured right and left.

5:30 p.m. Houston is in Alabama territory with two and a half minutes left. This game was 23-0 in the first quarter. Unreal.

5:28 p.m. Wilson tosses what the Crimson Tide radio team calls an "ill-advised" shovel pass. It gets picked off. Alabama just can't make anything easy this year.

5:25 p.m. Rashad Johnson! Yes, sir! A clutch interception stops the Cougars' drive in its tracks. The clock is under five minutes.

5:22 p.m. Another punt. Houston has all the momentum. And now it gets 15 more yards on a late personal foul penalty.

5:18 p.m. Here's the kickoff. The Crimson Tide needs a nice, long, sustained drive to melt the clock and get points.

5:15 p.m. Damn, damn, damn. Touchdown, Houston. The Alabama lead is down to 30-24. Don't let this happen, guys.

5:10 p.m. Houston keeps marching down the field. The Cougars are in Alabama territory. This one is too close for comfort.

5:05 p.m. We haven't heard Terry Grant's name very often today. Wonder why? Also, backup QB Greg McElroy is warming up on the sidelines. Could that be a not-so-subtle sign of things to come?

4:58 p.m. Houston keeps its hopes alive with a fourth-down TD. Alabama, 30-17. No one should have expected this one to be easy.

4:52 p.m. Upset watch: At 35-7, Tennessee is beating Georgia so thoroughly that this outcome is retroactively no longer an upset. FSU has reclaimed its dignity by taking the lead over N.C. State. Up in Pullman, Washington State leads Dennis Erickson's Sun Devils at halftime. And in other former Miami coach news, Howard Schnellenberger and Florida Atlantic are giving South Florida all it can handle in a tie game. Fear the Owl, ladies and gentlemen.

4:45 p.m. One quarter remains for the Crimson Tide. Barring something completely unforeseen, this game is in hand.

4:40 p.m. Eli Gold on Tennessee's ongoing massacre of Georgia: "Everybody seems to get better when Alabama gets closer to them on the schedule." All those bye weeks can't hurt, either.

4:38 p.m. Glen Coffee plows in for the score. Alabama, 30-10.

4:37 p.m. After a couple of catches that were called back earlier, D.J. Hall finally claims the school record for career receptions. It's first-and-goal for the Crimson Tide.

4:34 p.m. Alabama punts but gets it right back in great field position after Houston makes an egregious fielding error. Maybe this can reignite that offensive fire that's been simmering down.

4:29 p.m. The Tide defense holds tight, limiting Houston to a field goal. Alabama, 23-10. This one is far from over.

4:27 p.m. Houston is threatening in the red zone. This is why the Alabama offense can't kick back and relax. Pass-happy out-of-
conference opponents with nothing to lose are too dangerous.

4:21 p.m. Mississippi State gets an insurance touchdown to lock up a gritty win. It's another painful chapter of the same old story for UAB football: close but no cigar.

4:16 p.m. The Alabama defense holds, but a promising Tide drive bogs down just outside field goal range. Houston gets another go.

4:12 p.m. Central Michigan has done that which Nebraska could not: Beat the hell out of Ball State, and at their place, no less. The word you're looking for is parity.

4:05 p.m. Around the country: Oklahoma and Texas are tied up with a minute left in the first half. South Florida is struggling to deal with prosperity, as Florida Atlantic just knotted it up late in the second quarter. Wyoming clings to a three-point edge over TCU. And UAB is only down by a field goal with seven minutes left in Starkville. Bring it home to Southside, guys.

4 p.m. The second half has begun in Tuscaloosa. Houston gets a chance to renew the momentum it had just before halftime.

3:51 p.m. Dadgummit, Florida State, don't you lose to N.C. State. Not after what you made me watch last week. Wolfpack, 10-7.

3:45 p.m. Tennessee already has crushed Georgia's hopes for winning the SEC East. Now the Vols have broken out the tar and feathers and are stripping the Dawgs of all remaining traces of pride. It's 28-0 in the ugliest beatdown imaginable.

3:40 p.m. Alabama goes to halftime up 23-7. Unlike last week, the first half didn't make me want to swear off football forever. Solid play all around this time, and I feel sure that will continue.

3:36 p.m. Temple wins! Temple wins! Philly parties it up tonight!

3:31 p.m. Well, they weren't going to stay out of the end zone forever. Houston blazes the secondary for a 68-yard touchdown pass. But the Tide still leads comfortably, 23-7.

3:29 p.m. Tennessee is obliterating Georgia now. The Vols are up 21-0 and laughing at the Bulldogs' futile attempts to mount a drive.

3:27 p.m. Alabama does the following: (1) forces Houston to go for it on fourth down in the first half and (2) shuts down the Cougars. The Tide is in cruise control and trying to milk the clock on the ground as halftime nears.

3:10 p.m. Oklahoma plays a little pitch-and-catch to grab an early 7-0 edge in the Red River Shootout, which Wikipedia and I will continue to call it no matter what the corporate world demands.

3:02 p.m. Alabama punts for the first time today. But nothing is as frustrating when it's accompanied by a 23-0 lead.

2:57 p.m. Tennessee is up 7-0 on Georgia at Rocky Top in what is at best the third most interesting SEC game of the week. I can't really get worked up over it either way.

2:50 p.m. Touchdown, Alabama! Things are looking up in Tuscaloosa, as the Tide ends the first quarter with a 23-0 lead. Yes, it's just a C-USA team, but it's a pretty good C-USA team. With the fragile state of space-time, you can't take that for granted.

2:48 p.m. UAB leads Mississippi State at halftime in Starkville. It also led Florida State well into the third quarter and only lost at Tulsa by eight last week. Methinks the Blazers are underrated.

2:44 p.m. Elsewhere, UNC hangs on to hand Butch Davis a badly needed victory and crush Miami's conference hopes and dreams. Maryland hangs on to dispatch the Yellow Jackets to their second watery grave of the season. Auburn, in its benevolent mercy, allows Vanderbilt to score before the clock hits triple zeros. And Northwestern is ahead in overtime in East Lansing.

2:41 p.m. Alabama's defense shuts down Houston again. Time to stretch the lead while the Cougars are rocking back on their heels.

2:34 p.m. Touchdown, Alabama! Nikita Stover takes it 23 yards to the house for a 16-0 Crimson Tide lead late in the first quarter. Looks like it's going to be a good homecoming in T-town.

2:32 p.m. Mark Mangino's team is for real. Kansas seals the deal in the other Manhattan to remain among the nation's undefeated. In football. Seriously, someone check on that space-time hole.

2:30 p.m. On, Wisconsin. On out of the top five with you. Illinois recovers the onside kick and gets the first down to leave the Badgers jumping around with a ranking down in the early teens.

2:25 p.m. And now the Alabama defense scores. It's 9-0. You couldn't ask for a much better start.

2:23 p.m. Wisconsin has trailed Illinois for the entire game but refuses to let Ron Zook have his redemption in peace. Illini, 31-26, with a minute and a half and an onside kick attempt remaining.

2:20 p.m. A wide-open Kansas receiver drops a game-clinching touchdown pass. The Jayhawks have to settle for a field goal. It's 30-24 with two and a half minutes left.

2:18 p.m. John Parker Wilson caps off a 13-play drive with a QB sneak for the score. Alabama leads, 7-0. Great start for my Tide.

2:15 p.m. K-State tosses a terribly timed interception to give it back to the Jayhawks in wonderful field position with five minutes left. OK, who forgot their Power Towel today?

2:11 p.m. Alabama is slowly but surely stringing together first downs on the opening drive. Small ball gets it done just fine.

2:09 p.m. Kansas responds in similar fashion, but either botches the PAT attempt or misses the fake. Jayhawks, 27-24.

2:05 p.m. Alabama wins the coin toss and opts to receive. The Crimson Tide needs a strong start to keep its confidence.

2:02 p.m. K-State snags the lead back from Kansas midway through the fourth. The Wildcats lead, 24-21, in the game of the day so far. You heard me right, Big Ten: game of the day so far.

1:56 p.m. Instead, I'll listen to football. With football on television in the background. Time to crank up Eli and Snake.

1:53 p.m. Around the country: Michigan State and Northwestern are in their annual shootout. Georgia Tech has cut Maryland's margin to eight early in the fourth. Wyoming has an early lead over TCU in a crucial Mountain West showdown. And yes, I just used the words "crucial Mountain West showdown." I probably should stop watching so much football.

1:45 p.m. About 15 minutes away from kickoff at Tuscaloosa, I'm cautiously optimistic that Alabama's offense will manage to get going early enough that a young defense won't have to try to win the game again. Houston is a much better team than people might think, but it's no Georgia or Florida State. However frustrating the FSU game was last week (and the answer is very), it certainly wasn't inexcusable to lose to a team that stands a good chance of winning a wide-open ACC. Dropping one to the Cougars on homecoming, though, would be another matter. I suspect Nick Saban has conveyed that idea well enough at practice this week.

1:37 p.m. Miami has roared back with 20 points in the third to cut UNC's lead to 27-20. Jekyll and Hyde have moved to Chapel Hill.

1:35 p.m. It's 35-0 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Tommy Tuberville may want to make the throwback uniforms a permanent feature.

1:24 p.m. Auburn doesn't need the ball back to start the second half, but the Tigers get it anyway. Meanwhile, Illinois and Wisconsin have swapped touchdowns, Miami has clawed back to within 13, and Kansas is winning the battle for Sunflower State supremacy. Oh, and West Virginia is very angry. Both Syracuse and numerous couches are sure to pay for South Florida's sins.

1:04 p.m. Most erratic team in the country? That's a tough one, but Georgia Tech would have to be in the top two or three in those rankings. The Yellow Jackets laid an egg two weeks ago against Virginia, then rose up to oust Clemson from the ranks of the unbeaten last week. Today, they're getting drilled by Maryland at halftime. If you know for sure who's going to win the ACC this year, I'd like to meet you. Because that would mean you're a time traveler, and I'd appreciate some answers to certain questions.

12:46 p.m. Auburn has flipped an "unstoppable killing machine" switch. Vandy is getting humiliated, 28-0. The Daves don't know what to make of this. Maybe another Daughtry promo will help.

12:40 p.m. Big Ten halftime updates: Michigan leads its directional cousin Eastern Michigan by only eight. Alleged top-five squad Wisconsin is getting drilled by a team that, though much improved, still went 2-10 last year. And Northwestern, which so politely broke Duke's epic losing streak last month, has held on to its edge over Michigan State. Call your cable company today and demand the Big Ten Network!

12:35 p.m. Remember when Miami signaled to the college football world that it was back by throttling Texas A&M? The Hurricanes don't. North Carolina leads 27-0 and is looking for more before half. Aren't there laws against this sort of thing?

12:23 p.m. Auburn is beating down the Commodores like they were the Vanderbilt of old. It's 21-0 and not getting any better for the guys in black and gold. Maybe the morning-game curse only applies when Auburn wears blue jerseys.

12:21 p.m. Maybe you forgot your Power Towel today, but you better believe K-State didn't. The Wildcats go up, 14-7.

12:17 p.m. Perhaps the best game going on right now is in the other Manhattan, where Kansas and Kansas State, with a combined record of 7-1, are knotted up at 7-7 with seven minutes left before halftime. Fear the Power Towel, boys and girls. Fear it.

12:12 p.m. It's redemption time for Ron Zook. The Illini are dominating Wisconsin in every way. It's 17-0, and the Badgers have shown few signs of being able to turn that around.

12:09 p.m. Auburn pads the lead to 14-0 with a short touchdown pass to Rod Smith. The Tigers got their groove back.

12:05 p.m. Ben Tate shreds the Vandy defense for 44 yards. Looks like no letdown for Auburn after that Florida upset.

12:01 p.m. The Tar Heels, 1-4 with three close losses coming into today, are absolutely annihilating Miami. It's 20-0 now. Butch Davis didn't necessarily make it, but he is breaking it.

11:54 a.m. Auburn plows into the end zone to take a 7-0 lead on Vandy. The morning-game curse may be broken.

11:51 a.m. Northwestern leads Michigan State as the first quarter draws to a close. Is it time for the Spartans' annual collapse yet?

11:40 a.m. Auburn is awake and playing before the watchful eyes of the Daves of Lincoln Financial Sports, something that hasn't gone very well the last few times the Plainsmen have tried it. Auburn's defense is holding up fairly well on Vanderbilt's opening drive, but the Tigers seem to have forgotten to attach their logos to their helmets and to wear home colors at home.

11:25 a.m. Intergalactic construction crews have worked around the clock for days to repair that hole that opened up in the space-
time continuum
last week. Progress has been limited, though. Kentucky and South Carolina squared off for the SEC East lead Thursday night, Illinois is favored to beat a top-five team at home and thus far is leading, and Butch Davis has led the remnants of what used to be the North Carolina football program to a 10-0 lead over his old team, Miami. Get those crews some backup, ASAP.