The Back Nine: Take these teams, please

It was his McKnight
It was his McKnight

The Back Nine after a Saturday that didn’t turn out to be so stinky after all.

1. Everyone is raving about the performance of USC freshman quarterback Matt Barkley against Ohio State, and it was impressive in that atmosphere. But, really, the guy that deserves most of the credit for that last drive that won the game is Joe McKnight. I watched the replay on the U Sunday (yes, while NFL games were going on) and, well, was a little more able to analyze. McKnight accounted for 53 yards on the drive and scored the important two-point conversion. He’s on my Heisman Trophy radar.

2. There are a lot of reasons not to gamble, but it was illustrated to me and my good friend Sam Dolson on Saturday night why it’s not a good idea. The over/under on South Carolina-Georgia was 38. Were we gamblers, we’d have bet our kids’ college funds on the under. And it ended up 41-37. This game also illustrates a point I tried to make last week. Take nothing from opening games. They are window dressing. They are like bowl games because the teams prepare for weeks, sometimes months. College football is not about week one, but weeks won.

Desperate for a fourth-quarter call
Desperate for a fourth-quarter call

3. For instance, take Florida State. Please. After looking like a team with a potent offense against Miami, the Semis struggled mightily with Jacksonville State, trailing 9-7 late in the fourth in front of a half-filled stadium. That doesn’t sound like a team that is back to me. It really could have been another embarrassing weekend for the ACC. Carolina had to rally to beat UConn, Duke trailed Army, and Stanford was up on Wake Forest. All three rallied to win. The league still reeks.

4. And what are we to make of Tennessee? For some reason, everybody got all excited when the Vols thrashed an awful Western Kentucky team. But then Jonathan Crompton remembered that he is Jonathan Crompton. He threw interceptions on three straight series and finished with 98 yards. And it’s not like UCLA is a dominating defense.

5. Don’t look now, but one of the hottest teams in college football is coached by an old friend. Larry Fedora’s Southern Miss team has now won seven straight games and has Virginia (0-2) next at home. I never doubted Fedora would do a good job there, and the real question will be how long he’ll last.

Save your breath, Al Groh
Save your breath, Al Groh

6. Hey, I know one job that will be open next season. Not only has Virginia been awful in a season where Al Groh was already feeling the heat, but the mascot fell off the horse entering Saturday’s game. That’s when you know things are going bad. If I’m ranking coaches on the hot seat right now it would be 1. Groh; 2. Dan Hawkins, Colorado; 3. Ralph Friedgen, Maryland; 4. Charlie Weis, Notre Dame; 5. George O’Leary, UCF.

7. Meanwhile in the NFL, did you see the touchdown that won it for Denver against Cincy? The ball was tipped into the air and Brandon Stokley grabbed it and ran for the 87-yard winner. But what I liked was the Stokley was so in the clear he had the smarts to run along the goal line and kill time before scoring. Really, that felt almost like a college ending. And nice effort by the teams from our state. I’m telling you, none of them will finish over .500.

No drama with a focused Tiger
No drama with a focused Tiger on the prowl

8. You gotta love Tiger Woods. It was almost like he said to the field, “Uh, fellas, this has been fun and everything, but I have decided I’m going to go ahead and win this FedEx Cup thing. So you can either withdraw or play for second.” And then he shot a 62 in the third round and blitzed the field. Only Tiger.

9. Who was the biggest horse’s rump for the weekend? Serena Williams for her profanity-laced threat to a lineswoman that knocked her out of the U.S. Open or Michael Jordan’s bully pulpit speech at the Hall of Fame induction? Hey, we always knew Jordan was all about himself but where did that bitterness come from? Still, Serena going postal was really bad.

APTOPIX US Open Tennis
"I did what?"


  1. You failed to mention that with Layne Kiffina’s imagination and great design with the goal line offense, the Gators should romp without a care. If Kid Kiffin’s goal line offensive design is worth a hoot, UT ends up beating UCLA despite Crompton’s picks. Even Al Davids in his press conference welcoming Richard Seymour top the Raiders could not help but mention how Kiffin tanked it on the goal line in the last seconds of the game.

  2. Love your column (and my old friend Sam) but I gotta stick up for my Jags. The line was 7 1/2; appropraite for a team in rebuilding, playing on the road. They had the ball with 2 minutes left, needing to gain about 30 yards to kick the game winner. Their two rookie tackles couldn’t stand up to Mathis and Freeney and the game was lost. But holding Manning to 14 points and coming so close to beating Indy on the road? That’s a success in my book. I say Jacksonville will not finish below .500