NEW ORLEANS — College football just finished with the Saturday of the Dormant Kingdom, when dormant kingdoms across the vast and lunatic land either rose again, sustained their earlier rises or peeked out from beneath a vast blanket of doom. Suns appeared even if it might have been the same sun for everyone. Hope either materialized or mushroomed. People we’ve missed (or haven’t missed) said hello.
Hello, Oregon. There you are 5-1 heading into Washington State, and did you realize you could be 6-0 if only you had fallen on the football and run out the clock against Stanford? Oh, wait, maybe you do realize that. Did you realize that from 2015 to 2017, you went 20-18, an insufficiency causing widespread grumbling? Oh, wait, maybe you do realize that.
There you are out there in the yellow jerseys one ought to view while wearing SPF 50, and there you were admirably qualifying for the kind of scenario that paints us all as mad simply for watching all this. Washington, then No. 7, then still College Football Playoff-hopeful at 5-1, had spent the last 5:05 hogging the clock with the score 24-24, a matter far harder than the Huskies’ previous visit to Eugene in 2016, when they had spend the final minute leading 70-10. So they hogged the clock expertly from their 8-yard line to the Oregon 20. They had quarterback Jake Browning go 4 for 4. They mixed things cleverly. They prepped for victory.
They lined up for a 37-yard field goal from Peyton Henry, a freshman. He missed, but Oregon called timeout just before he missed. So they lined up for a Henry field goal. He made, but Oregon called timeout just before he made. So they lined up for a Henry field goal. He missed, but Oregon had run out of timeouts so the miss counted and the game went to overtime.
Seriously, is there something wrong with all of us?
On third and six in the overtime while down 27-24, Oregon called a run. “Man, that hole was big,” said Oregon running back CJ Verdell after he had all but hopped into the end zone. To reporters, guard Shane Lemieux said, “It’s third and six in overtime to win the game, and we run inside zone. That’s big-time. That’s a statement.”
It stated the new, rugged Oregon as opposed to the old, splashy kingdom of Oregon. Hello again, Oregon. Do be careful in Pullman.
Hello, Michigan. You just beat and beat up Wisconsin, 38-13, and you looked like some formidable construction on your way to East Lansing for the annual festival of revulsion against Michigan State (4-2), which just beat Penn State. Did you realize you could be 7-0 if you hadn’t had that baffling start at Notre Dame in the lid-lifter of Sept. 1? Maybe you do realize that. Did you realize you went 46-42 from 2008 to 2014, then 8-5 last season to hint at the 46-42?
Okay, you do realize that.
So when your guard Ben Bredeson — a Wisconsinite! — says, “We really felt like we just grinded them down throughout the game,” that sounds like an American ritual, that a Michigan guard ought to be making such a statement in the middle of October. When your running back Karan Higdon says, “There’s no question that we’ve got the best offensive line in the country,” it might be etched in some ancient Michigander stone that a Michigan running back would say that about a Michigan offensive lineman.
When Coach Jim Harbaugh says of the offensive line, “They’re all playing their best football and they’re all playing really well together,” as well as, “Our linebackers were swarming,” as well as, “We were really in good position, throughout the game, in our coverages,” as well as, “Yeah, in terms of being a physical team, I think we are that,” that certainly sounds like a kingdom freed from a brief dormancy which was followed by two years upon a long dormancy.
Hello again, Michigan. Do be careful in East Lansing.
Hello, Texas. Did you realize as you head for Oklahoma State that if you hadn’t lost at Maryland . . .
And the sailing-sideways record of 53-48 since 2010 . . .
You had a hard emotional juncture on Saturday. You just finished beating Oklahoma on Oct. 6 by re-marshaling yourself after an absurd Oklahoma rally, and now you had to play Baylor. It can be hard to convince young people to play post-scandal Baylor, even as post-scandal Baylor has a terrific coach (Matt Rhule). It then gets harder when a budding quarterback, Sam Ehlinger, exits in the first quarter with a throwing-shoulder injury.
So in the closing 92 seconds in Austin, Baylor, behind 23-17, traveled with occasional resistance from its 3-yard line all the way to the Texas 17 and commenced throwing balls into the end zone where loony stuff can happen.
They went incomplete, and as Texas went 6-1 as well, Coach Tom Herman said of backup quarterback Shane Buechele, who was the starter in 2016, “I have told you guys [media], and I want to tell the world: Shane Buechele is the most engaged, he’s the most prepared, he’s the most positive coaching backup quarterback I’ve ever been around in my life . . .”
As for the world, the combined 2.7 billion people in China and India might have been impressed, or they might say, Wait, you all cheer a sport in which grown men ice freshman kickers?
So hello again, Texas. Do be careful in Stillwater.
And anyone who bothered to look onto the Plains at Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, could have ended up mumbling to oneself these long-lost words: Hello, Tennessee.
Somehow, the ancient kingdom of Tennessee had lost 11 consecutive Southeastern Conference games before Saturday, and it had lost all its games to the SEC West all the way back to 2010, which seems inconceivable.
Everyone with an eye toward Tennessee knew the once-perennials and 1998 national champions had gone 62-63 between 2008 and 2017. Everyone knew they had gone dormant and then more dormant with three coaches who seemed like six. Some even knew that in their previous three games against Power Five opposition, they had lost by precisely 26 points each, a mathematical achievement of bewildering proportions.
Then, as a 15-point underdog at Auburn, Tennessee and first-year Coach Jeremy Pruitt won, 30-24. And the estimable Knoxville columnist John Adams wrote, “On a bright, sunny afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the darkness lifted for Tennessee.”
So hello again, Tennessee. At least you get to play at home. You get to play Ala— . . .
As the top 10 managed to go 5-4, and as an impressive Iowa State banished No. 6 West Virginia from the unbeaten crowd by 30-14, and as a fantastic LSU crushed No. 2 Georgia, and as Alabama megastar quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went off with injury but Coach Nick Saban said he’s fine, the once-great and once-dormant thrived. It provided a reminder that to so many, college football is better when Oregon is good, Michigan is good, Texas is good and Tennessee is good. The eternal problem is that everybody can’t be good all the time.
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