Thursday, October 30, 2008

Between the Hashes: Trick or Treat?

MACK BROWN AND the Longhorns most certainly did not understand the question when they answered “trick”.

The college football gods were more than happy to oblige Bevo with a trick for the ages—beat four teams ranked No. 11 or higher over a 22-day stretch, a quartet that entered their contest against Texas with an aggregate record of 25-1.

Texas won their first five games by a combined score of 236-57, winning three times by the score of 52-10. But respect was not easily earned, not in the post-Vince Young Era in Austin. That would not come until they knocked off the then top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry in Dallas.

Colt McCoy, the Heisman Trophy frontrunner, embodies the perfection that is Texas football in 2008. The quarterback from Tuscola, Texas owns a ridiculous 81.8 completion percentage. Every deep pass seems to have just enough touch to get past the defender, whether it hits the outstretched 6’3” Malcolm Williams in the hands (versus Missouri) or lands softly in the waiting arms of a tumbling Quan Cosby (versus Oklahoma St.). Heck, even when he fumbles the snap, McCoy simply scoops it up and completes the pass, as if the fumble was part of the harmonic series.

Last week against Oklahoma St., for the first time all season, McCoy missed a note.

The junior signal caller threw his first interception of the season in Texas Memorial Stadium. It was the second time in the third quarter he found a member of the Cowboys. An interception on the previous possession was negated because of a personal foul penalty. On the ensuing drive, McCoy fumbled the football with the Longhorns in field goal range.

Was this just a blip in their run to a second national championship under Mack Brown? Will it be a character builder they can flash to when facing adversity again? Or is it a sign they are vulnerable this week when they travel to Lubbock to take on the Red Raiders of Texas Tech?

NO TEAM HAS received a sweeter treat this fall than the Penn St. Nittany Lions. Did anyone leave last week’s game in Columbus believing Penn St. was the best team in the country? They took advantage of an offensively challenged Buckeyes squad led by a true freshman quarterback, whose fourth quarter fumble was a season saver for Joe Paterno’s bunch.

This was Penn St.’s first win in Columbus since joining the Big Ten, and it was preceded by their first win over the Michigan Wolverines in nine tries dating back to 1997.

Michigan of course is going to miss a bowl for the first time since 1974. The one up and coming team in the Big Ten, 7-1 Minnesota, isn’t even on docket for the Nittany Lions.

Joe Pa need not apologize. The Hall of Fame coach has led four teams that finished undefeated and never got the opportunity to compete for a championship (1968, 1969, 1973, 1994). So, we won’t ask Paterno about fair.

GOING ON THE road in the SEC has never been a treat. That will be an understatement when it comes to Alabama’s Nick Saban making his much anticipated return to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers. How do you say “trick or treat” in Cajun?

The Crimson Tide started out the season by knocking out the No. 9 Clemson Tigers for the season and went “between the hedges” and took care of the Georgia Bulldogs. They have defeated hated rival Tennessee on the road and survived tough tests from Mississippi and Kentucky. But the deed, which in ‘Bama is always win a national championship, is far from done. Even if they survive their trip to the Bayou, the Tide will roll into the SEC Championship game with a one-loss Georgia or a one-loss Florida standing in their way.

Photo Credit: University of Texas Athletics, SEC Sports Media