Running on Empty; Garbers Shine; Michigan-MSU; CFP Rankings; Fields of Dreams; Money Matters
Random thoughts and notes of note after a busy sports weekend.
Running on Empty: In an unwatchable 20-13 loss to Washington, Stanford netted 71 yards rushing. This came on the heels of 9 and 76 net rushing yards in losses to Arizona State and Washington State.
That adds up to a pathetic total of 156 yards rushing in three games. Coach David Shaw's good teams would often rush for 156—or more—per game.
Shaw’s 2021 contingent also can't stop opponents' run games. On Saturday, Washington gained 229 yards on the ground. For the season, Stanford is allowing over 200 yards rushing per game.
Bottom line: both the offensive and defensive lines have been huge disappointments for the Cardinal.
If you can't run the ball, and you can't stop opponents from running the ball, you're going to have a difficult time winning football games. Stanford is 3-5 with four tough games remaining against Utah, Oregon State (in Corvallis), Cal and Notre Dame. A 5-7 season record is looking more and more likely, and 4-8 isn’t out of the question.
Bear Revival: Cal, meanwhile, is going in the opposite direction. The Bears rushed for 245 yards in an impressive 39-25 win over an Oregon State team that has been one of the big surprises in the Pac-12.
The Bears have now won two straight, following an earlier 26-3 win over Colorado, after some tough losses early in the season. They also stand at 3-5, but it's a much more hopeful 3-5 than the Cardinal's.
Brother Act: It was quite a day for the Garbers brothers. Cal senior quarterback Chase Garbers led the Bears over Oregon State, completing 17 of 26 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns, and running for 58 yards on 10 carries and another TD. His younger brother, Ethan Garbers, made his first start for UCLA and completed 27 of 44 passes for 265 yards with two touchdowns and one interception on a tipped pass in a 44-24 loss to Utah.
Duck Watch: Oregon finally looked like a playoff team Saturday, but the Ducks were playing hapless Colorado, so their 52-29 victory must be taken with a grain of salt. To have a shot at getting into the College Football Playoff, Oregon must beat a Washington team coming off a last-minute victory over Stanford, a Washington State team that has played very well the last five weeks (beating Arizona State Saturday), South Division leader Utah in Salt Lake City, and the league's most surprising team, Oregon State, and then win the Pac-12 championship game. A tall order.
Oregon is the only Pac-12 team in the top 25, and with good reason. No other team in the league has fewer than three losses.
Instant Classic: Michigan State's 37-33 win over Michigan was one of the best college football games I've watched in a long, long time. Great play after great play after great play.
Two things decided the game. 1) MSU running back Kenneth Walker, who scored five touchdowns and rushed for almost 200 yards. He has speed, toughness, and elusiveness. I don’t have a vote for the Heisman Trophy, but if I did, Walker would get it.
2) Michigan's two quarterback system backfired at the critical moment in the fourth quarter. Junior Cade McNamara was having the game of his life, but Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh rotated freshman J.J. McCarthy in throughout the game. McCarthy made one beautiful throw for a TD, but on his previous play had fumbled, with Michigan getting a big break when the ball bounced out of bounds. For some reason, the Wolverines re-inserted McCarthy again when they took over near mid-field, leading 33-30 with about seven minutes remaining. He promptly fumbled, setting up MSU's winning touchdown.
First CFP Rankings: Tomorrow afternoon the first set of CFP rankings will be released. Two of the biggest questions: 1) where will the committee rank Cincinnati? They're No. 2 in the AP and Coaches' polls, but if the committee factors in strength of schedule, will the Bearcats fall? 2) how will the committee rank Oregon vs. Ohio State? The Ducks beat the Buckeyes on opening weekend, but both the AP and Coaches' polls have Ohio State ahead of Oregon (which lost to unranked Stanford).
This man's ranking: 1) Georgia; 2) Alabama; 3) Cincinnati; 4) Michigan State; 5) Oregon; 6) Ohio State; 7) Oklahoma.
Sark Tanks: They used to refer to Steve Sarkisian as “seven win Sark” during his days at Washington. Now sporting a $5 million salary at Texas, Sark is struggling to close out games. His Longhorns have blown second-half, two-digit leads in three straight games.
Glamour Boys: The two best analysts in college football, Joel Klatt and Kirk Herbstreit, were featured in back-to-back commercials during Saturday's Michigan-Michigan State game. Klatt was pitching Cadillacs, Herbie was pitching Rocket Mortgage. Two good guys, terrific talents. Much more enjoyable than watching Nick Saban hawking something with a squawking bird and dancing cheerleaders in the background.
Fields of Dreams: Regular readers of this blog may recall that back in April we advised the 49ers to choose Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields rather than Trey Lance or Mac Jones. Not surprisingly, they ignored the advice of a retired blogger.
But they may be questioning that decision after the way Fields (now starting for Chicago and getting better every week) played against them on Sunday. Fields completed 19 of 27 passes and rushed for 103 yards, including a highlight reel 22-yard TD.
Here's 49ers’ pass rusher Nick Bosa on Fields: “Obviously he's super athletic and strong. He's definitely going to have a good career.”
Next Question: The newest trend on cable news and sports broadcasts is for the interviewer to say to his or her guest, "talk about thus and such."
I've done thousands of interviews and, I'm sorry folks, that's not an interview. These "announcers", "hosts", "anchors" and "sideline reporters" are being paid a lot of money. Do your homework. Ask a damn question.
Manfred Madness: If you're wondering why baseball attendance is down, or why so many young people want nothing to do with the game, consider the Braves' racist tomahawk chop, and this baffling defense by commissioner Rob Manfred.
“We have 30 markets around the country. They’re not all the same…We don’t market our game on a nationwide basis, you know, ours is an everyday game. You’ve got to sell tickets every single day to the fans in that market. And there are all sorts of differences among the clubs among the regions as to how the games are marketed…The Braves had done a phenomenal job with the Native American community. The Native American community in that region is fully supportive of the Braves program, including the chop.”
Sure they are.
Jethro Tull Denied: Speaking of reasons why some people are giving up on baseball, on Friday night, in the third game of the World Series, Braves manager Brian Snitker pulled starter Ian Anderson, who had not allowed a hit, after five innings.
So Anderson was denied a chance to pitch a no-hitter on the biggest stage of all, to etch his name in the history books forever. A chance, in all likelihood, he will never get again.
All because of some asinine analytics data. Snitker pulled Anderson after just 76 pitches. Apparently the Braves' manager was worried about Anderson facing the tough Astros for the third time though the lineup.
Thanks for the vote of confidence.
Embarrassment of Riches, Part 1: The NFL announced that Commissioner Roger Goodell’s pay for the past two fiscal years totaled $128 million. Goodell has received some well-deserved criticism in recent years for his handling of thorny issues like workplace harassment at the Washington Football Team. But the owners are more concerned with how he has negotiated lucrative TV packages; thus, salary and bonuses of $63,900,050 per year.
Embarrassment of Riches, Part 2: Last year Stanford claimed that it had to cut 11 sports for budgetary reasons before some negative press, lawsuits and a huge public outcry forced it to relent.
Last week the university announced that its endowment had grown to $41.9 billion. That's billion with a "b".