No.1 - Scattershooting on the Longhorns…
… The texture of what happened on Thursday changed with the knowledge that David Ash was hurt early in the game against TCU, possibly on the dirty spear in the first series of the game from freshman sensation Devonte Fields. When you go back and re-watch the first Ash interception on the deep post to Mike Davis, you'll notice the gingerly way he stepped into the throw, and it just changes the perspective of what happened on offense quite a bit. It doesn't mean that we know any more about Ash in terms of whether he's got the chops to be an elite quarterback on a championship team, but we know the kid is a hell of a fighter.
… Am I the only one wondering how the coaches could have returned from halftime with Ash back on the field, given his physical limitations? It's amazing to think that Ash played as long as he did without the medical staff seemingly having a good understanding of what was going on with him. Ash must be one heck of a poker player.
… The biggest play of the game that wasn't was the outstanding play that Tevin Jackson made on a reverse play that created a loss of nine yards on the first play following David Ash's fumble, but the personal foul on Kendall Thompson wiped out the play and set the Horned Frogs up with a 1st and 10 on the 12-yard line, rather than 2nd and 19 from the 25-yard line. In a 7-3 football game that turned into a 14-3 game following that sequence, the mistake proved to be as critical as any the team made all night.
… Tevin Jackson doesn't need to come off the field much the rest of the season. I'm not sure I see a healthy linebacker that warrants reps over him after watching him play this weekend. His combination of size, speed and athletic ability is different than the other guys the Longhorns have been playing with. He's a guy with the kind of talent that you'll live with mistakes while he grows up on the field. I'm even more mystified by his spot in the pecking order all season after re-watching the game a couple of times.
… There are times when I just don't get Manny's schemes. There was a play on TCU's opening offensive possession when Texas was in a four-man line with Dalton Santos and Kenny Vaccaro coming off the same edge, that literally left the second-level of the defense wide open with the exception of a bailing Alex Okafor, who was asked to play clean-up behind the play with a tackle blocking down on him as he bails off the line. It created a situation where Matthew Tucker was able to run nearly 15 yards down the field before being touched by a defender. On the very next play, the Longhorns basically did the same thing, with Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson flooding the same exact side as the play before, thus producing nearly the same result. Keep in mind that the gamble of leaving the back end of the defense wide open means that you are leaning on the tackling of your safeties to be flawless and nothing about the tackling from that group suggests flawlessness. Just line up and play good, strong defensive football, already.
… While the quality of their play has improved over time this season, the scariest position on the roster to the naked eye in 2013 might be the safety spots. Kenny Vaccaro might not make a ton of impact plays, but he's a hell of a player that carries a ton of responsibility on his shoulders each week and it's hard to imagine what this group this year might have looked like without him. Duane Akina's task next year in getting Mykkele Thompson, Adrian Phillips, Josh Turner and others to reach the next step of their development won't be simple, or as Akina likes to put it, "It's not add water, instant players."
… The inability of the coaches to get more out of Daje Johnson and D.J. Monroe is baffling. It's hard to not to imagine what the players might look like in an offense that doesn't restrict them to jet sweeps and almost nothing else. Both of those guys would be hell on wheels elsewhere and I'll never be convinced otherwise.
… It's a damn shame that Jeremy Hills' college career ended on Senior Night. On the bright side, he scored on the final touch of his career.
… Jonathan Gray might have scored on the team's second drive on a second and six play from the 10 ½ yard-line if he had followed his blocking and taken the run to the outside because the lane was h-u-g-e. Yet, with a one-on-one situation with a trailing TCU linebacker between him and the end zone, Gray cut it back inside and gained two. I bring the point up because it's rare that a guy with Gray's speed doesn't go outside, first and foremost, all the time.
… The Longhorns aren't hurting at the running back position, but it's hard to watch Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor tear up the Pac-12 and not be reminded of the decision in 2009 by Mack Brown to take only Chris Whaley as the lone back in the entire recruiting class, in part because he promised Whaley they wouldn't take any other running backs in the class. A fresh-on-the-scene Major Applewhite was handcuffed in recruiting and although much of the focus for the Whaley-or-Bust discussion has been focused on the passing of A&M running back Christine Michael, it was Taylor that Applewhite coveted and would have loved to have been able to extend an offer to the young man.
… One of the underrated bright spots on the defense has been the continued development of junior defensive end Reggie Wilson and sophomore defensive end Cedric Reed. The pair played another pretty rock solid game against TCU, with Reed making a number of key stops throughout the game, including one in the red-zone that helped keep points off the scoreboard in the second quarter. Meanwhile, I thought Wilson really stepped his game up in the fourth quarter.
No. 2 - Quick impressions from this weekend's action in the Big 12 …
Baylor: Going bowling for the third year in a row for the first time in school history. I'm as tough as anyone on Art Briles, but his team closed extremely strong this year.
Iowa State: Paul Rhodes and Co. gave the Mountaineers everything they could handle … like you'd expect them to in Ames … but they just didn't have enough firepower. Specifically, they didn't have a Tavon Austin on their side of the field.
Oklahoma: They'll remember that Bedlam game for a long, long time. Man, it took stones to put Blake Bell in there on 4th and 1 with 10 seconds to go. To the victors go the spoils, so take a bow, Bob. Goodness gracious, what a ball game.
Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy coached to win for three quarters and then in the final quarter he coached not to lose … and he lost. This will be a game that haunts him throughout the off-season because that had a chance to serve as big as any of his previous wins in Stillwater. On the other hand, this guy is a magician with quarterbacks.
TCU: Gary Patterson is good … really good.
Texas Tech: Remember when Tommy Tuberville had the Red Raiders on the rise? Yeah, me neither. From 6-1 to 7-5 in the blink of an eye, with the only win in the final five games being a seven-point escape against Kansas.
West Virginia: Tavon Austin is the best player in the Big 12 this year and the closes thing to Marqise Lee you'll find in the Big 12. I love watching him play football.
Post-Week 12 Big 12 Power Poll
Note: Last week's rankings are listed in parentheses
1. Kansas State (1)
2. Oklahoma (2)
3. Oklahoma State (4)
4. TCU (5)
5. Texas (3)
6. Baylor (6)
7. Texas Tech (7)
8. West Virginia (8)
9. Iowa State (9)
10. Kansas (10)
No. 3 - College football thoughts: From A-to-Z …
A: All Hail the Irish: Say what you want about Notre Dame, but it ran the table when nobody else other than Ohio State could pull off the trick and it deserves to play for the national title. Also, you're going to hear for six weeks about how Notre Dame is going to be outclassed by Alabama or Georgia, but I'm not buying it because that Irish defense will keep them in every game they play. If Oklahoma's offense in Norman couldn't run them off the field, I'm not sure that I'm buying a lower-octane SEC offense creating a big separation.
B: Beast-mode: Think Alabama and Georgia are primed for a winner-take-all game this weekend? The two teams combined to beat Auburn/Georgia Tech by a combined score of 91-10.
C: Catch of the Year: Jarvis Landry drops the mic
D: Drinks on Mike: Sometimes the story tells itself. Mike Leach uses his Apple Cup Bonus to go out drinking
E: Eating Crow: What in the world was I thinking when I picked two ACC teams this weekend? Good grief, Geoff.
F: Flexing some muscle: On the eve of their play-in game vs. Alabama with a spot at a national title on the line, the Georgia Bulldogs absolutely looked like a team worthy of that discussion in their destruction of Georgia Tech on the road. When folks talked about the upside of this team in the pre-season, that was what was in mind. This is the most important week of Mark Richt's coaching life.
G: Good game, good effort: Nice job in going undefeated, Ohio State. Too bad it means absolutely nothing. Fear not Buckeyes, we'll be hearing from Urban Meyer's program in the future, you can bet on that.
H: Heisman Tracker After Week 3 1. Marqise Lee (WR/USC) 2. 3. Tavon Austin (WR/West Virginia) 3. Jadeveon Clowney (DE/South Carolina)
I: If I had a vote that mattered… (last week in parenthesis)
1. Notre Dame (1)
2. Alabama (2)
3. Georgia (3)
4. Florida (NR)
5. Oregon (3)
6. LSU (5)
7. Kansas State (6)
8. Texas A&M (7)
9. Oklahoma (9)
10. Stanford (NR)
J: Johnny Football: 436 total yards and five touchdowns in a win over a terrible Missouri team. I don't think he's the best player in the country, but he's pretty awesome and I think he's going to win the Heisman at this point. The nation is in love.
K: Keep an eye on these games next week: UCLA at Stanford, Alabama vs. Georgia and Oklahoma at TCU
L: Lou Holtz was right: Words I never thought I would type, but by God, he's been riding the Notre Dame bus all season and now you'll never be able to wipe the smile off his face. Again, to the victors go the spoils. Live it up, Lou.
M: My beef with Manti Te'o: When having the Heisman discussion, it's hard for me to overlook the fact that I don't believe he's a better player than Jadeveon Clowney or Jarvis Jones. Don't get me wrong, Te'o is a great college football player and is an amazing story, so I wouldn't be angry if he wins the award, but he's not the best player in the country.
N: Not quite what we expected: If you had told me back in 2009 that Garrett Gilbert and Cody Green would have a late-season showdown in 2012 of relative importance, I wouldn't have blinked an eye. Of course, these two would face off in the next series of Texas/Nebraska battles, but three years later and it wasn't the Big 12 where these two did battle. Gilbert got the best of Green on Saturday in SMU's 35-27 upset win over Tulsa (previously undefeated in CUSA Play), rushing for 100+ yards and playing interception-free football for the fifth straight game. Don't look now, but June Jones is starting to get a nice little player out of Gilbert, who was 93 of 164 (57%) for 1,062 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions in the last five games, while also rushing for 246 yards and seven touchdowns. I don't care what anyone says, it's good to see the guy having some success.
O: Oh, what might have been… The Sunshine State is Will Muschamp territory after Saturday's win in Tallahassee. The former Longhorn HCIW has the Gators very, very close to elite status and they are going to be hell to deal with next year in the SEC. While the Longhorns look for their first true signature win since 2009, the Gators were able to beat Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State this season.
P: Physical Defenses Rule: Just look at the top five and you'll understand how far away the Longhorns truly are from the top of college football at the moment. Notre Dame is undefeated because it plays defenses like the 49ers. The Gators beat four top 12 teams because they play like the Bears. Or is it Alabama that plays defense like the Bears? Or Georgia? Get the point?
Q: Quote of the weekend: Will Muschamp after beating Florida State: "Everybody wants to say we're back. Hell, we haven't won a championship. We're not back."
R: Right on for this kid: Earlier this season, Penn State sophomore kicker Sam Ficken had a day from hell, missing four of five field goals in a 17-16 loss to Virginia, which means that you could pretty much put the loss on his head. Therefore to see him kick the game-winning overtime field goal to beat Wisconsin was a deserving karma script flip for the younger kicker. Oh, and Ficken hasn't missed at all since October 20, having made 10 in a row.
S: Snap judgment Say what you want about the SEC this season, and there's no question in my mind that it's down from previous years, but the top-rated teams in the conference pretty much handled their business in major style this weekend. Alabama and Georgia were monsters. Florida pimp-slapped Florida State. South Carolina choked out Clemson. Texas A&M humiliated Missouri. Really impressive stuff.
T: Tough truth:
U: U.G.L.Y. You ain't got no alibi, you ugly, hey! Alabama: 7 touchdowns … Auburn: 7 first downs.
V: Voldemort Update: In defense of the coordinator whose name shall remain unspoken, the talent at Iowa sets football back 30 years, but this writer is not buying the rhetoric.
W: What are you waiting for, Pat? From pre-season No. 1 to a 7-5 season that ended with USC's head coach in a fetal position … ladies and gentlemen … your 2012 USC Trojans.
X: X-Factor: Stanford is one hell of a tough team and the straw that stirs the drink for them is former Texas prep star Stepfan Taylor, who once again rolled through a Pac-12 defense with 142 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in a blowout win in the Rose Bowl.
Y: You heard it here first … Notre Dame will beat Al … wait, I'm not quite ready to go there … yet.
Z: Zoolander look of the Day: The 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes were recognized on Saturday in Columbus and the former players lifted coach Jim Tressell onto their shoulders and carried him off the field to a standing ovation from the crowd . Keep in mind that the 2012 team isn't playing for a national title because of Tressell.
No. 4 - Randomness from the mind of a self-loathing Cowboys fan …
I'm going to be honest when I tell you that I enjoy the NFL 10 times more when the Cowboys are not playing on Sunday than when they do. That's the hard truth of being a Cowboys fan in 2012, as they suck all of the fun out of a weekend with the mess they offer up to their fans each week. I wish they could just play all of their games on Wednesday's, so that the rest of the week's NFL slate can remain pure for our stained silver and blue football souls.
Other Cowboys thoughts from Sunday…
1. For years, the defense of Tony Romo has centered on his statistical greatness, ranking among the top quarterbacks of all-time in terms of quarterback rating coming into the season, an amazing truth that is hard to ignore (and accept). Yet, if we look at his body of work this season, it seems pretty clear that it's time to take off the kid gloves. There's no way to get around the fact that 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions through 11 games is unacceptable. It's one thing to be terrible in the big games, but he's been average all year in ALL the games.
2. It does not make me happy at all that Cole Beasley is in a position to be a key player in the offense.
3. Of course, Bruce Carter is out for the rest of the year. He had turned into one of the only reasons to watch the team. Thanks injury gods, we didn't need him or Sean Lee.
4. DeMarcus Ware isn't the player he used to be … at least he hasn't been this season. This used to be a guy that could dominate an entire game and now it seems like he's good for about one sack per game and then he practices his magical disappearing act for the rest of the game. Not including sacks, Anthony Spencer has more tackles for loss this year than Ware.
5. The Cowboys defense has 5 interceptions all season. Tony Romo had five interceptions against Chicago.
No. 5 - Three things for the Texans …
Believe it or not, Texans fans, but I had several thoughts about your team over the course of the last few days in light of Thursdays win over the Lions that moved the record to 10-1 with five games to play.
1. If Andre Johnson can stay healthy, the Texans are going to be incredibly dangerous when we get to January. Right about the time I started wondering about some of the team's flaws, Johnson has channeled his inner-2009 and re-emerged as one of the top playmakers in the NFL, causing me to not care so much about some of these recent defensive issues. When he's that guy, the rest of the offense becomes so much more dangerous. He can be the difference between this team being a top five team and possibly the best team.
2. Just be healthy in January. That was a banged up defense that struggled the last two weeks. There's nothing wrong with this team that getting a Jonathan Joseph, Brooks Reed, Bradie James or Shaun Cody back can't largely fix. Man, the injury gods have been rough on the Texans defense in recent years.
3. Home-field advantage is a lock if the Texans go 4-1 in the final five games, which means that they can lose to New England and still play all of their post-season games at home, but they can't mess around with Andrew Luck. That's a guy they'll need to really tame in these final five games if they want to hold onto their ace up the sleeve.
No. 6 - It's the sport of kings, better than diamond rings, That's why we're here to sing, football Sunday in the snow, referee's whistle blows, We've been warriors toe-to-toe…
… In case anyone doubted that the NFC still goes through the G-Men, that thumping of the Packers on Sunday night will remind everyone of the proper pecking order within the conference. When they've been dialed in as a team, they've been dominant as a team in destructions of San Francisco and Green Bay.
… Speaking of the team from the Bay, it's hard to look better than the 49ers have in the last six days. That was a grown man's win over a desperate Saints team in New Orleans.
… That 29-yard catch and run that Ray Rice made on 4th and 29 late in the fourth quarter was one of the plays of the year. His effort to get to the first-down marker exceeded the effort of all 11 Chargers on the field and proved to be the difference between both teams winning and losing.
… The Falcons might not be best team in the NFC, but that was a gutsy win on the road against a Tampa Bay team that seemed to throw the kitchen sink at them in an effort to save their season.
… Julio Jones is getting healthy … watch the hell out NFC.
… My gosh, Doug Martin is a fantasy monster. All this guy seems to do is score 20+ points each week in my leagues.
… Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins did all NFL playoff hopefuls a huge favor with their win over Seattle. My guess is the Seahawks are going to want/need that one back in five weeks.
… Minnesota needs a quarterback because Christian Ponder isn't the answer.
… Every game that Big Ben misses makes me think that there can't be five more valuable players to their teams in the entire NFL. They were a sad-sack outfit on Sunday against the Browns. Yes, those Browns.
… It's funny how much better the Bears are when Jay Cutler is on the field.
… You think Cincinnati fans enjoyed beating the hell out of Carson Palmer on Sunday? Andy Dalton ran circles around the old-timer and reminded me that I'm pretty positive that I never thought Dalton would be this good of an NFL quarterback.
No. 7 - More sports randomness…
… Extreme condolences to Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, whose daughter died at the age of 22 on Sunday. McHale has been on a leave of absence to be with his daughter and I can only imagine the heartbreak he is feeling today.
… Two quick boxing thoughts: 1. Robert Guerrero is one t-o-u-g-h dude and his win over Andre Berto was a throwback fight to the days when guys just brawled until someone was nearly dead. I'm not sure I've seen a guy take so many power shots on the chin and never so much as blink in response. 2. Keith Thurman is worth the price of admission.
… Baseball free agency has been pretty boring thus far. It's like watching two dudes fight, with both of them shouting that they refuse to throw the first punch.
… I'm a pretty frustrated Sixers fan right now over their deteriorating big man Andrew Bynum. This situation is Jeff Ruland 2.0.
… Did you know Eduardo Najera is a head coach in NBA D-League? Well, now you do.
No. 8 - Pop goes the culture because the culture goes pop.…
… Throw it up in the air and it turns to sunshine: Nothing says Happy Thanksgiving like Halle Berry's baby's daddy getting into a fight with her current fiance . Yes, Halle Berry apparently drives every man she's with bat-you-know-what crazy.
… Must-see Movie coming soon: A standing O in the NYC is an eye-opener .
… R.I.P. Larry Hagman… the greatest TV bad guy that has ever graced the screen. I'll never forget the disdain my great-grandmother had whenever his name was mentioned. She hated JR Ewing that much.
… Hottest thing in Hollywood?: Jennifer Lawrence, oh my!.
… Sign that the apocalypse is upon us : Paris Hilton - Last Night ft. Lil Wayne (I Wanna Bang You).
… Sign that the apocalypse is upon us II : One Direction and The Wanted's Feud Heats Up: Zayn Malik and Max George Have Nasty Exchange on Twitter.
… Least shocking story of the weekend: Puck is in the state pen for stalking .
… Click if you dare: Serena in a bikini on Thanksgiving on the beach .
… 150-words of less movie review: Lincoln (A+)
By far and away, the best movie I've seen in 2012 and one of the greatest historically-based movies ever created. I consider this a Spielberg masterpiece in the realm of Schindler's Lister and Saving Private Ryan. At one point, I looked around the theater and the entire audience was silently entranced by the screen. You could hear a pin drop. Personally, I found myself powerfully affected by the entire movie. From an acting standpoint, Daniel Day-Lewis delivers an iconic performance. Good luck ripping the Oscar out of his hands. I kind of felt the same way about Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader and Sally Field from a best supporting role standpoint. This was a movie I had been anticipating all year and the fact that it exceeded my expectations is amazing. Instant masterpiece.
… If I had a vote that mattered (Oscar-style)…
(These are my up-dated Academy Award picks based on movies I have actually seen in 2012.)
3. Moonrise Kingdom
5. The Master
1. Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
2. Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)
3. Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)
4. Ben Affleck (Argo)
1. Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
2. Denzel Washington (Flight)
3. Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
4. Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe)
Best supporting actor
1. Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
2. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
3. James Spader (Lincoln)
4. John Goodman (Argo)
Best supporting actress
1. Sally Field (Lincoln)
2. Amy Adams (The Master)
3. Shirley MacLaine (Bernie)
4. Kara Hayward (Moonrise Kingdom)
No. 9 - The List: Janis
(Note: The CCR project is ongoing and will be featured in next week's column.)
If I could hop in the hot tub time machine and take a trip back in time, at some point I'd make sure and set the target for Austin in the mid- to late- 1960s with the intention of catching one of the greatest talents the Lone Star State has ever created.
Whether it was Threadgill's, a spot on campus or some unknown honky-tonk, I'm be coming back to see the woman nicknamed "Pearl." Honestly, I can't imagine many shows I'd prefer to see more than her in an unbridled trance, singing from a place that perhaps no other person has ever been able to reach.
Oh, and if I'm single in this world where I can take a whirl if the hot tub time machine, then I'm going to throw everything in my arsenal towards ol' Pearl at the chance of a hook-up because I find the old images of her on stage incredibly sexy. There was just something about her raw, untamed vibe that I absolutely dig. If I'd have to tell her stories from the future to reel her in, so be it.
Let's get on with the list ( subscribe via Spotify )…
The last five out: All I Need is Loneliness, Call on Me, Intruder, The Last Time, Move Over
Ok, here we go…
10. Trust Me
Janis is in a flirty mood and she wants you to know that it's safe to come on over.
You really get a sense for Pearl's range in this beautiful rendition of an old Broadway song, as it's stripped down to a simple arrangement and one of the most beautiful R&B numbers you'll ever hear. It reminds me of Mary J.
8. One Good Man
Oh man, it's more of Janis doing her sultry, dirty, sweaty thing with a sick blues riff behind her. I would imagine that a lot of hippy women seduced their men with this bad boy.
7. Kozmic Blues
More pure vocal greatness. It's a shame this song isn't more known because she rips and roars in this sucker, only to flash her gentleness in spots in a way that just blows your mind.
It's like she's channeling her inner Otis Redding in this grimy favorite of mine. Someone get that woman a man.
5. Cry Baby
It's one of the quintessential Janis songs for good reason, as she slays the beast in a way that has forced singers to try and emulate for more than four decades… and always coming up short.
It's an all-time classic for a million reasons. In addition to Janis singing the hell out of the song, it's just a great jam that makes you want to move.
Janis was at her best when she took a hard bluesy number and threw every ounce of dirt and nastiness she had into the song, creating a surge as powerful as the sun. There's owning a song and then there's moving around with it with your hands wrapped around the neck… this song is the latter.
Janis recorded this song days before her death and the song's writer Kris Kristofferson didn't even know it existed until after she had passed away. It turned out to be one of the greatest songs ever recorded and if you want to argue it should be No. 1 on the list, I won't fight you.
It's one of the all-time great songs that have ever been written and Janis takes it to the moon.
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No.10 - And finally…
It's almost time for me to get my Boardwalk Empire on. Still have to put the finishing touches on the War Room.
THEN it's Nucky-time.