Monday, November 26, 2007

FBO: 'Loser of the Week Dies'

One of the FBO's key prodigal sons - - is dying out, falling to the bulk of sports-related sites out there. The last Loser of the Week column may or may not appear there, so we're publishing it here for your enjoyment.


Seeing a #1 Tigers fall and another Tigers vault to #1 got me to thinking. Why do 'rebel states' have such a fondness for sharing mascots? The SEC is the only conference with matching team names, happening not twice, but four times: Georgia and Miss State Bulldogs, Auburn and LSU Tigers. Tigers, meanwhile, are also found playing in Johnny Reb locales of Memphis and Missouri. Funny, considering no where else in this division-one nation went with 'tiger' when mascot-browsing. And then little Lousiana Tech, hoping to dig out a cult fan base in an already football-flooded south, up and decided 'Bulldogs' was a winner. Sacre bleu!

Considering everyone's furious at the BCS, and that 'Bama coach Nick Saban is likening the gridiron woes to terrorist attacks and WWII bombing disasters, maybe next year college football should just go ahead and re-stage the football-equivalent of the Civil War? We could draw up teams into three massive conferences:

* Union Forces Conference (UFC)
* Confederate States of America Conference (CSAC)
* Other Teams Conference (OTC)

UFC teams would be from states that fought to preserve the union, CSAC former Confederate states, and the rest grouped in their own also-ran mega-conference. Hence: West Virginia, Penn State, UConn, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Rutgers are UFC teams; LSU, Missouri, Clemson, Texas and Middle Tennessee State are CSAC teams; USC, Oklahoma, Boise State, UNLV and BYU are OTC teams.

Teams would play their exisiting schedules — in terms of existing conferences — but seasons would end with a four-team playoff within each conference, as determined by a BCS-stolen computer/human ratings system. The respective Union and Confederate champions would play alternately in Richmond or DC for the ugly Sears crystal national championship. The OTC would have no shot at a 'national championship.'

It's an idea anyway.

Meanwhile, alas, more bad coaching has sent the Loser of the Week (LoW) offices into another rage. The result is the print-out cheat sheet above: the LoW How-to-Run-Out-the-Clock Guidebook.

The culprit this time is the now-resigned Texas A&M coach* Dennis Franchione. Sure he went out a 'winner' -- topping Mack 'Mr Football' Brown's Texas Longhorns for the second-year-in-a-row. But lost in the knee-deep hoopla, and the near fourth-quarter rally by Texas, was some damn dumb coaching. Up by eight points at midfield with 2:00 remaining, Texas A&M had a 1st and 10, and Texas had no timeouts. Instead of running out the clock (safely), Fran picked up-the-middle running plays with unnecessary hand-offs to the Javorskie 'Water Boy Hater' Lane and QB-keepers charging head-first up the helmet-clanging middle. The game was already over, Fran just didn't know it. The call gave Texas defensive lineman several swats of the ball to get the ball and play for OT. Didn't happen, but don't think it can't: Texas got ahead of mighty UCF earlier in the season with a late-game fumble, not to mention that wild 'Bama fumble that gave LSU the final lead a couple weeks ago.

The overdue 'guidebook' above tells how much time you can kill just by kneeling, assuming time outs remaining by the opponent -- and that the quarterback doesn't kneel the ball out of bounds. I've estimated (very conservatively) that each down is worth 0:33 minimum (with 0:25 on the play clock about eight seconds for the play and for refs to set the ball). Again, minimum. (Hesitating in the backfield, or getting up slowly to delay the refs from setting the ball can easily milk 0:45 per play.)

Now on to actual losing.

Remember that part of Citizen Kane, after accepting his parties bid for governor, Charles Foster Kane left the theater with wife in arm and posed smiling for photographers? That photo marked the peak of his life. In the car afterwards, his wife leaves him, and a sex scandal leaked to the press hours later ends his campaign (snarkily using that glory-moment photo). All the promise, hope and glory, in the end, led to failure. That's a bit how the crazy 2007 season is for a host of overachievers, I fear. Teams that we should feel good about, even if they came up short: Connecticut, South Florida, Kansas, Rutgers, Virginia, Boston College, Hawaii (they'll lose next week, I bet), Kentucky...

Kansas were outmatched by an impressive Missouri, who -- by the way -- is historically the greatest underachiever state school in football (as determined by a ratio of lack of championship/contender performance, plus proximous metropolitan cities to recruit -- St Louis and Kansas City — and no fellow in-state rival to worry about). But Kansas didn't quit -- that is, other than the final kick-off (see Penalty Box). QB Reesing seemed 'starstruck' to borrow Brent Musberger's words for much of the game, yet still the team managed to keep Missouri's potent O out of the end zone their last two possessions, and racked up their 28 points in the final 20 minutes to come close to a shocking come-back. Instead of celebrating a 11-1 Kansas regular season, many fans yelled 'exposed!' to the Mangino Upstarts who staged, by far, the most successful Kansas football team history we'll ever see.

Often overlooked in the group of 2007 Overachievers, Virginia got lost under the radar all year after losing their first game to flip-offing Wyoming. Imagine that they hadn't lost that one till the last of the season? They would have been a top five team falling a couple weeks ago to lowly North Carolina State. Still in the BCS hunt on Saturday, Virginia fell to Virginia Tech.

These teams have made college football even more interesting. And they play with the spirit that is everything we at the Loser of the Week side of the stands cherish.

Kansas coaches. A noble season, yet Kansas' coaching staff get a week in the penalty box for not kicking an onside kick with 0:12 remaining and down by eight, right after Missouri tackled Reesing in the endzone for a safety. Mucus-o-phile Chase Daniel raised a lone finger from his nose to the crowd, but it was not over. The only difference, per the rules, of a 'free kick' after a safety and a regular 'free kick' at the start of a half or after a score is position on the field. Kansas had a chance for a last possession, and a 75-yard heave-ho, lateral-aganza. Why didn't they do it? (Nothing in the rules forbids an onsides kick after a safety; I checked.) Mangino, we love you, but welcome to the box.

Notre Dame/Stanford refs.
When are we going to protect college players from helmet-to-helmet collisions, like the one that knocked the Stanford QB out of the game? As called for here a week ago, stricter penalties (eg ejections) would cut back on these sorts of plays.

* and resigned newsletter publisher (D Franchione)

FBO Admin
Mobile/Semi-Permanent HQ -- Brooklyn, NY

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