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.

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