John Parker Wilson

The Fifth Quarter: Week 1 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

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Shaky title defense begins
Last year, Florida State rolled over, through and around its regular season opponents by an average score of 53-10, with their “closest” call being a 48-34 win over Boston College on the road in Week 5.  They did not score less than 41 points in any game, and allowed more than 17 points just once.  Based on the opener, the Seminoles won’t be steamrolling through its 2014 slate.  At first it looked as if it would be lather, rinse and repeat as the Seminoles jumped out to a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter.  Then  reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston began misfiring — two interceptions, just over 60-percent completion percentage — and the Cowboys outscored the ‘Noles 31-20 the rest of the way.  It wasn’t enough to dig out of that big early hole, however, as FSU extended its winning streak to a nation’s best 17 straight while Winston threw for 370 yards on an “off” night.  It did, though, offer some teachable moments for a coach looking to ensure his team doesn’t suffer through a post-title malaise as the ‘Noles go from being the hunter to the hunted.

Super Mario
Marcus Mariota has already been recognized as one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in Oregon history.  Now, the record books officially backup that stance.  In the Ducks’ season-opening romp over South Dakota, Mariota passed for 267 yards and three touchdowns, running for one other score — and setting or tying two school career standards and getting closer to a third in the process.  Mariota now has 82 career touchdowns (66 passing, 15 rushing, one receiving), breaking the tie he had been in with Joey Harrington. He’s also now tied with Darron Thomas for career passing touchdowns (66) and is within 22 yards (8,140 to 8,119) of breaking Bill Musgrave‘s record for total offense.  Suffice to say, Mariota, one of the preseason Heisman favorites, will break both those latter marks at some point during the Ducks’ highly-anticipated showdown with Michigan State next Saturday.

This one’s for you, bro
Early last November, Carl Pelini “resigned” as FAU’s head coach amidst drug allegations that were later recanted.  Nine months later, Pelini’s younger brother gave birth to a little bit of payback.  Saturday in Lincoln, Bo Pelini‘s Nebraska Cornhuskers pummeled FAU by the score of 55-7.  NU totaled a Big Ten-record 779 yards of offense — the most for the ‘Huskers since 1991 — and included 493 on the ground.  Ameer Abdullah ran for 227 of those yards, a career-high performance, while Tommie Armstrong passed for a personal-best 271 yards.  It won’t get the elder Pelini his job back with the Owls, but his former team’s evisceration could provide him with a little satisfaction.

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Saban looking for ‘most consistent guy’ as his new QB

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And, in other news, you have to pay your taxes and you will die.

During his very successful time at Alabama, Nick Saban has relied on “game managers” at quarterback, whether it be John Parker Wilson or Greg McElroy or AJ McCarron.  While the latter would buck against and bristle at such a label, it is what it is: the Tide head coach views turnovers and mental mistakes and bad decisions at the most critical position on the field in roughly the same way he views the proliferation of up-tempo offenses.

With Alabama kicking off spring practice Saturday, and with McCarron not under center for the first time in three years. the Tide has officially commenced the process of replacing the player who was partly responsible for BCS titles in 2011 and 2012.  When asked what particular traits he was looking for in the player who will be expected to fill the void created by McCarron’s departure, Saban’s response was, well, predictable of someone who leans heavily on the managing of a game.

“We’re looking for the guy — success is defined by consistency in performance, alright,” Saban said according to al.com. “So who can be the most consistent guy doing his job well at that position? Alright, now that’s a critical position because that guy distributes the ball to someone on every down, whether he hands it to them, throws it to them. The choices and decisions that they have to make goes a long way in how effective and efficient your offense runs.”

As it stands now, Blake Sims is the only quarterback on the roster who has thrown a pass at the collegiate level.  Also a part of the competition, at least in the early portion of the 15 spring sessions, are sophomore Alec Morris, redshirt freshmen Cooper Bateman and Parker McLeod and true freshman David Cornwell.  Sims served as McCarron’s primary backup in 2013, while Bateman and Cornwell are four-star members of UA’s 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes, respectively.

“I think all of you know that the quarterback competition this spring is going to be something that a lot of people are going to get a lot of opportunity at,” Saban said yesterday. “Jacob is not going to be here in the spring, but he’s certainly going to get an opportunity when he gets here as well.

“That’s going to be the goal, to develop each of our quarterbacks and see which one we feel give would have the best opportunity to be successful next year.

One (significant) part of the equation who’s missing, one who some (most?) expect to be under center when the Tide takes the field for the season opener against West Virginia, is the Jacob to which Saban referred.  After graduating from Florida State in May, Jacob Coker will officially transfer to Alabama and enter the quarterback fray this summer.  Coker was reportedly neck-and-neck with 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston in the run-up to the Seminoles’ BCS title run; that “close” competition in tandem with Coker’s physical gifts equates to the quarterback competition in Tuscaloosa this spring serving as nothing more than a structured dress rehearsal for the real battle that begins in earnest in early August.

Or, as al.com put it: “Coach Nick Saban is quick to point out Florida State transfer Jacob Coker won’t be here until summer, so the spring is still an incomplete race.”

In other words, take any reports coming out of Tuscaloosa over the next month or so on the state of the quarterback race with a rather sizable grain of salt.

“You guys are going to ask me at least 1,000 times between now and the first game who’s the first-team quarterback,” Saban told the media earlier this month, “and I’m telling you right now you’re probably going to get a 1,000 ‘We’re going to wait and see.'”

Again.  Grain of salt.

The Fifth Quarter: Week 12 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

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War Damn Miracle… and the Mother of All Iron Bowls
For a short period of time, it appeared that the Alabama-Auburn game for all of the SEC West Tostitos would be nothing but a distant memory thanks to the fourth-quarter heroics of Aaron Murray and his Georgia teammates.  And then, the Dawg Gone Miracle went and happened and the Mother of All Iron Bowls was back on.  While there’s still the little matter of Alabama getting past its scrimmage against FCS-level Chattanooga next weekend — after it struggled with Mississippi State this weekend — Nov. 30 is set for an epic in-state showdown: the  7-0 (in SEC play) Tide versus the 6-1 Tigers, with the winner staking its claim to the SEC West and earning a berth in the conference title game the following weekend.  In the 21 years since the SEC went to divisional play, the Iron Bowl has never served as a winner-take-all affair for the SEC West.  Hide the women, children and Udykes, y’all; this one’s gonna be huge.

SEC East clarity
Meanwhile, on the redheaded stepchild side of the SEC, the chase for a spot in the conference championship game is nearly as simple as it is in the West.  With South Carolina’s escape against Florida, the Gamecocks finish league play at 6-2.  Missouri, which was idle this weekend, is at 5-1.  If the Tigers win their last two games on the road against Ole Miss and at home against Texas A&M, Mizzou will face the winner of the Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl the first Saturday in December in Atlanta.  If Mizzou stumbles once either week?  The Gamecocks, based on their Oct. 26 overtime win over the Tigers, will represent the East division in the league title game.  If Mizzou can get past an up-and-down Rebels squad, both the SEC East and West will be decided on the final week of the regular season.  That, I would think, would be kind of cool.

Ed OrgeronOregon for Orgeron
Nov. 7, the bottom dropped out of Oregon’s football world.  Not only did the Ducks lose its stranglehold on a potential spot in the BCS title game, they lost control of their own division with the loss to Stanford.  10 days later, their world’s looking a bit brighter.  Thanks to USC’s stunning upset of Stanford, Oregon now merely needs to take care of business against Arizona and Oregon State the next two weeks and it will claim the Pac-12 North’s spot in the conference title game.  Just who the opposition would be remains to be seen.  Arizona State, at 6-1 in the conference, needs to “simply” beat UCLA (5-2) next weekend on the road to win the South division, regardless of what happens in the regular season finale against Arizona and regardless of what USC (5-2) does in its last two games (ASU 62, USC 41 the day prior to Lane Kiffin‘s firing).  The Sun Devils, though, aren’t the only ones that control its own divisional fate; the Bruins can win the South if they wins their last two (ASU, USC).  Unbelievably, the Trojans also have a (slim) shot at a South crown.  If USC wins its last two, and if ASU loses its last two, the Trojans would be the South’s representative in the Pac-12 title game.  To boil it down: the South will have much more clarity after the ASU-UCLA game next Saturday.  Probably.

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The Fifth Quarter: Week 11 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

THUMBS UP

SPOILER ALERT!
If you don’t want to see what the Top Five BCS rankings will look like when they are released Sunday, close your eyes and scroll down for approximately three seconds starting… now.

With that out of the way, and based on intense, extensive research that involved common sense when adding dominating wins by Alabama, Florida State and Baylor to Ohio State’s bye to Oregon’s loss at Stanford, the BCS rankings for Week 11 of the 2013 season will fall as follows:

1. Alabama
2. Florida State
3. Ohio State
4. Stanford
5. Baylor

There’s very little chance the latest rankings will look any different from what’s above, which is exactly as it was a week ago.  The computers might like Baylor a little more on the strength of its win over Oklahoma, but will likely do the same for Stanford on the strength of its win over No. 2 Oregon.  The gap between those two and Ohio State is too great for either to traverse in one week; another week or two and that could very well change.

There is absolutely no chance, either, that Florida State leapfrogs Alabama.  None, zip, nada, zilch, even if there might be some validity to such a shuffling of the top-two positions on the part of the human component.

Feel-good Gophers
For the first time in 40 years, and after the 24-10 win over Penn State, Minnesota has won four consecutive Big Ten games.  At 8-2 overall, the Gophers have already recorded the most wins by the program since they went 10-3 in 2003; with one more win, they will have won more than eight games in a single season for just the second time since 1905.  At 4-2 in conference play, and with a win over 4-1 Nebraska already in their hip pockets, they still maintain an outside shot of a Legends crown with a regular-season finale against 5-0 and division leader Michigan State.  Add in the fact that their beloved head coach, Jerry Kill, continues to bravely battle epilepsy and the seizures associated with it, and the Gophers have suddenly become one of the feel-good stories of the 2013 season.  How good does that feel?  Allow Kill to demonstrate:

Jerry Kill Dance

Awesome.  Simply awesome.

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