So last night I looked ahead to this weekend's games, and tonight, as a way of catching up for the "missing" first eight weeks of the college football season, I'll begin to recap my version of the top 10 games of the season so far. Now I'm sure there will be very worthy games missing from my list, but I am going to restrict my list to games that I have actually watched. Given that I watch six, eight or ten games a weekend (gotta love TiVo), I've certainly got quite a few candidates to choose from.
Anyway, here we are, without further ado, the first half of my list of the top 10 college football games so far this season.
10) Cal @ UCLA - Okay, as a self-confessed Bruin fan (and a long suffering UCLA football fan at that) I do have to sneak one UCLA game onto this list. This spot could have just as easily gone to Maryland @ Wake Forest or Hawaii @ San Jose State, but that UCLA win against Cal was certainly a very big win for the program, and here a few days later, I'm still excited about that one. Just excited enough to totally expect Dorrell to lead his Bruins to a horribly uglified loss in Pullman this Saturday. Anyway, by means of recap, this game was highlighted by Pat Cowan coming back early after a rough knee injury about a month earlier in a win over Washington to cement his status as the Major Applewhite to Ben Olson's Chris Simms. If it wasn't crystal clear before this game, it certainly was after. Olson may be the prototypical NFL-type QB physically, but Cowan is without a doubt just the better QB for this program. But the real MVP for UCLA in this game was the tough defense and, more specifically, sophomore cornerback Alterraun Verner, who had a great interception in the 3rd quarter, ripping the ball out of Lavelle Hawkins' hands on a key third down, and, near the end of the 4th quarter, icing the game for UCLA by cutting in front of Desean Jackson, picking Nate Longshore's pass and returning it about 70 yards for the TD.
9) TCU @ Air Force - Air Force seemed totally overmatched in this game for the longest time, but fought and clawed and scratched and stuck around to give themselves a chance to win at the end. After being down 10-3 at halftime, Air Force saw TCU drive 70+ yards on them on their first 2nd half possession to get down to 1st and goal, until the Falcon defense stepped up, forced a field goal attempt, and then proceeded to block the field goal. On the next drive, TCU drove down deep on Air Force again, but then linebacker Drew Fowler picked off a pass at the Air Force 5 yard line to keep Air Force right there. TCU did add a TD later to go up 17-3, but Air Force kept fighting, getting a TD midway through the 4th quarter, and then a 71 yard run by Jim Ollis off of the option to tie the game up with just under six minutes remaining. Air Force drove again as time ran down in the 4th, but threw an interception into the end zone and wound up going to overtime. TCU clanked a FG off of the goalpost on their first drive, and Air Force got a few yards and then simply settled into the middle of the field to hit a 32 yard FG to seal an improbable win.
8) Navy @ Pittsburgh - Okay, so if you like defense, this game probably was not your cup of tea, but it was quite an entertaining game for the offensive fan. After Pittsburgh punted on their first drive, the next six drives, three for each team, resulted in touchdowns. Navy QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and Pitt RB Lesean McCoy certainly were the highlights for their respective offenses. The second half saw the defenses step up slightly more (very, very slightly) and actually force a few punts and even a few FGs, and at the end of regulation we were all tied up at 38. On Pitt's first drive in overtime, Navy has them stopped and attempting a FG, but a Navy defender lined up offsides, giving Pitt a first down and another chance which they turned into a TD. Navy answered on their first play with Kaipo-Noa hitting RB Reggie Campbell for a 25 yard TD on a clear-out throw into the flats. In the 2nd OT, Navy settled for a FG on their possession. With the door open, Pitt decided to go for a win after they had moved the ball all the way down to the Navy 1 on a 3rd and goal. However, on that 3rd down, they threw into the end zone incomplete, and then on 4th again they threw a fade pattern into the end zone, again incomplete. Questionable playcalling by Wannestedt at the end to be sure, but an entertaining game straight through.
7) Arkansas @ Alabama - Early on, this game seemed like it was going to be a complete blowout/snoozefest. Alabama absolutely dominated the 1st quarter, moved the ball at will and forced Arkansas into offensive mistakes, taking a 21-0 lead into the 2nd quarter. However, Alabama made a couple mistakes (every 'Bama player biting on a play action on a 3rd and 1 and giving up a 42 yard TD pass to WR Crosby Tuck, and then John Parker Wilson throwing an INT to senior CB Matterral Richardson that led to an Arkansas FG before the half. Alabama came out strong again in the 2nd half, scoring the first 10 points to increase their lead to 31-10, almost ready to put the game away until Arkansas took the ball back over and decided to get physical, leading a drive dominated by their running game and All-American-type RBs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, before ending up with a TD to TE Andrew Davie. From there, Alabama turned the ball over twice, each time leading to a pounding Arkansas drive that resulted in a TD, and the next thing you know, a 21 point lead has disappeared and we're in the middle of a tie ballgame. It seems Bama is dead. They go three and out. Their offense is doing nothing positive. Arkansas takes back over, marches right down the field and QB Casey Dick hits FB Peyton Hillis for to put Arkansas up 38-31, seemingly on their way to putting this game away. But Alabama gets back up off the mat, gets a bit of a drive going and stops the bleeding with a FG, bringing them within 4 with just over 4 minutes left. Arkansas takes over, but potential Heisman Trophy candidate Darren McFadden is on the sidelines with cramps, and the Crimson Tide defense finds just enough energy to stop the Razorbacks and get the ball back for their offense at their own 27 with 2:13 remaining. John Parker Wilson leads the Tide on a tough drive before hitting senior WR Matt Caddell for the game winning TD with eight seconds left.
6) Fresno State @ Texas A&M - A&M completely dominated the first half, running the ball at will, confusing Fresno State QB Tom Brandstater, and generally making Fresno State seem like they absolutely do not belong on the same field, taking a 19-0 lead into halftime. However, when Aggie QB Stephen McGee fumbled on the first possession of the 2nd half, the Bulldogs took over and finally mounted their first attempt at coherent offense of the day, eventually getting a TD to TE Bear Pascoe to get Fresno St on the board, and from there it looked like the teams had switched uniforms for the 2nd half with Fresno State eventually tying the game up at 22. However, A&M mounted a drive entirely on the ground in response, taking 10 plays to go 88 yards in 4:44 with McGee and RBs Javorskie Lane and Mike Goodson seemingly eating up yards on the ground at will, with Lane eventually taking the ball in from 7 yards with under 2 minutes remaining. However, Fresno State was not done, and they responded with a drive of their own, going 80 yards and getting the game tying TD on a 3 yard TD pass from Brandstater to Pascoe on a 4th down with 5 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime. After the teams traded FGs in the 1st OT, and then grinding TD drives in the 2nd, A&M got a strong TD run out of Lane to take the lead, and then followed that up with another strong run from Lane to convert the mandatory 2-point conversion. Fresno State was able to match the first half of that equation, with Brandstater finding Pascoe again for the TD, but on the 2-point conversion, Brandstater threw incomplete and the Aggies escaped with the victory, 47-45.
My top five college football games of the season still to come, hopefully tomorrow.