- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

The Washington Times’ college football writer takes a look back at the week that was:

Call it the state of affliction.

Forget the flu. Is somebody working on a vaccine to deal with the devastating virus that has savagely attacked Florida’s football teams?

Suffering from what looks to be the same virulent strain of chokeitis that hobbled Florida last week at Mississippi State, then-No.4 Miami and then-No.5 Florida State dropped a pair of shockers to sub-.500 ACC also-rans over the weekend. The Back Judge originally thought the pestilence had infected only Florida’s Ron Zook and was contained in Gainesville. But, obviously, this particular season-eating variety of the pathogen is far more contagious than first expected.

“It’s mind-boggling,” said Miami coach Larry Coker after his Hurricanes became the first top-five scalp (31-28) in the history of North Carolina football.

Don’t say the Back Judge didn’t warn you of the ‘Canes impending demise; he saw symptoms as far back as Miami’s season-opening victory over Florida State in which both teams played an X-rated brand of football that seemed predicated on the three-and-out possession.

Louisville then confirmed the Back Judge’s initial diagnosis a month later and would have buried the ‘Canes if either Cards quarterback Stefan LeFors hadn’t been injured or the game had been played anywhere but the Orange Bowl. The Back Judge thought Miami would pass away last week in Raleigh, but they held on until Chapel Hill, where they allowed a tailback running on one hip to rush for a career-high 175 yards and the Tar Heels to pile up a shocking 545 yards of total offense.

How scandalously overrated was Miami? The team ranked No.3 (ahead of Auburn?), according to the coaches’ poll, was physically manhandled by a team that didn’t threaten competitive viability against Louisville (34-0) or Utah (46-16).

As for Florida State, at least the Seminoles (6-2, 4-2 ACC) were playing against a Maryland team with a superb defense that has kept the Terps in every game. That said, it’s hard to explain away Joel Statham’s 333 passing yards. Against the Terps’ trans-intramural opponents this season (West Virginia, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Clemson), stopgap Statham had averaged 68.3 passing yards while throwing five interceptions and only one touchdown.

There’s no denying this was a great victory for Ralph Friedgen and the Maryland program. But Statham’s success is the Seminoles’ shame. As sophomore slingers go, he’s no Chris Leak.

Speaking of the Gators, Florida’s bid to win one for the Zooker came up seven points short, as Georgia ended its six-year skein against the Gators (31-24) in Jacksonville. Bulldogs coach Mark Richt had the temerity to make physical contact with Zook both before and after the game, prompting the CDC to dispatch an emergency containment team to nearby Athens.

Game balls and gassers — Both of the pigskin prizes were no-brainers this week, as Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson and Michigan’s Braylon Edwards each had season-defining performances Saturday.

Peterson continues in his quest to reduce Billy Sims to institutional irrelevance. The once-in-a-generation Oklahoma freshman tagged Oklahoma State for 249 rushing yards on 33 carries in the Sooners’ 38-35 escape from Stillwater, adding another couple of gold stars to his Heisman resume. Peterson, now clearly the favorite to win the stiff-arming statue, is the first player in Division I-A history to begin his career with eight 100-yard games and also now boasts the highest freshman rushing average (159.0) in NCAA history.

Peterson needs 491 yards in Oklahoma’s final three regular-season games (at Texas A&M;, Nebraska, at Baylor) to break Sims’ OU rushing record (1,762) from 1978, the year Sims won the Heisman as a junior.

Edwards was equally brilliant at the Big House, helping Michigan survive a triple-overtime donnybrook vs. Michigan State (45-37). Edwards, now an absolute mortal lock to win the Biletnikoff Award and a likely Heisman invitee, caught 11 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns as the Wolverines erased a 27-10 deficit with just 8:10 remaining. Edwards is going to be a solid pro, but his game ball does come with a codicil — if Michigan State’s Drew Stanton doesn’t sustain a separated shoulder late in the first half, people are talking about Stanton and the Spartans, not Braylon’s big day. Stanton is going to be an absolute monster.

The gassers go to coaches Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel, who subjected more than 100,000 fans at the ‘Shoe to one of the most dismal offensive displays in the game’s history — no hyperbole. Consider this box score (the Back Judge doesn’t suggest looking unless you intend to induce vomiting): neither of the quarterbacks passed for 100 yards, no running back rushed for 100 yards and the leading receiver in the game was Ohio State’s Ted Ginn, who caught two balls for 23 yards. That’s not football, it’s offensive genocide. The box score says Ohio State won the game 21-10, but the Back Judge thinks the only way college football would win is if Paterno and Tressel were packed in a time capsule and sent back to 1930.

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