Beware of Greeks Trojans Bearing Gifts. The college football world is abuzz following Oregon State's stunning upset of #1 USC in Corvallis Thursday night. Though seemingly every other team in or near the Top 10 was mentioned by the ESPN broadcasters as beneficiaries of the Trojans' loss, the only one I didn't hear mentioned was the team which may have benefited the most--Penn State, who defeated the Beavers 45-14 just two weeks ago. (Aside: Read this great post on PSU's hot new HD Formation.)
Even so, if USC fans understandably find themselves feeling sick to their stomachs in the wake of this letdown... they may still be on a very short list of front-runners for a national title game berth. Why? Though no longer leaders of the pack of zero-loss teams, USC shifts now to leader of the pack of one-loss teams. If they win out... and the Big 10, Big 12, and SEC fail to produce two undefeated teams... the Trojans will be sitting in the clubhouse winners of nine-straight, their only loss way back in September.
Best case scenario for USC? Ohio State runs the table in the Big 10 (or at least knocks out Penn State and Wisconsin), the top four SEC teams fail to make the case for a two-team SEC national title game, and neither Oklahoma nor Missouri emerges from the Big 12 unscathed. And there are even more plausible scenarios in which USC winds up in the top two of the final BCS standings. Don't bury 'em yet.
While we're on the subject... Just a quick mention here: Football is a tough game. Things go wrong.
Sometimes all in one half, as USC had happen in Corvallis tonight. Or like in 2001, when Texas fans experienced a first-half horror show against Colorado. Other times, the whole game fails to compute, as in the Trojans' meltdown at home against Stanford a year ago. And so on.
The point? Two points, actually: (1) There are no geniuses in football--just coaches who put their teams in the position to win by recruiting well, hiring good assistants, and being willing to adapt. (2) This is why Mack Brown's biggest detractors (almost all of whom reside outside the fanbase these days, thank God) strike me as out of touch with the modern college game.
Dear Vince, Don't worry. We know better. The last two weeks have been a bit awkward for me as someone whose identity is so frequently associated with Texas athletics in general, and Vince Young in particular. No joke: I've found mysellf sitting in high-pressure, otherwise deeply intense job interviews when a partner will pause to ask, "While I've got you here: What's up with Vince Young?" Hell, even my mother, who follows sports only in the sense that she's sometimes in the same room as my father for SportsCenter, asked me about VY.
I've tried to tell people that there are two (very related) issues: (1) How Vince handled performing poorly and (2) How Vince will respond to this in the long term. On point one, Vince didn't handle himself well. He wasn't meeting his on-field standards, it absolutely killed him, and he lashed out in his own way. But while everyone's focused on point one, I and other Texas fans aren't terribly concerned, because we've seen how Vince handles setbacks. And the same thing that made him react so poorly to his struggles in the season opener is what motivates him to give all of himself to being the best he can be going forward.
We know this. And, probably better than anyone, Mack Brown knows this (read the whole thing):
Brown, who is sitting in the press box next to a giant photo of Young reaching for the end zone in the Rose Bowl, bristles at the notion that Young led a charmed life prior to 2008. And that he was coddled.
Obviously, Brown says, they don't remember 2004.
Young was a redshirt sophomore that year, and he was sacked three times in a 12-0 loss to Oklahoma. The next week, he was booed on his home field against Missouri after throwing two interceptions.
"There were very few people in this city … fans, media … who thought he'd play quarterback and be any good at it," Brown says about Young, who then beat Texas Tech 51-21 and won 19 straight games. "People do not realize he didn't have the perfect little story here.
"So he's been criticized before, he's been booed before, he's been questioned before, and he's lost and played poorly before. And he overcame all that here and handled every bit of it. So anybody who questions his sincerity or his toughness doesn't have any clue who he is."
I have a few more thoughts on this, but I'll save 'em for a full post some other time, in part because I'm headed to bed. I'll get to some Arkansas-related notes tomorrow.