- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

Hopefully, most of you celebrated Labor Day weekend outdoors and away from TVs and stadiums. Anyone who spent college football’s opening weekend in front of the tube must have noticed half the Top 25 decided to take the weekend off.

The Back Judge can’t remember an opening weekend so devoid of quality football. From Thursday night’s South Carolina snoozer to Monday night’s Florida State vs. Miami puntathon, fans were subjected to more than 100 hours of almost universally frightful football.

The defining debacle was that FSU/Miami megadud, which the Seminoles won by default 10-7 when, fittingly, Miami’s Brian Monroe botched the hold on a chip-shot field goal with 2:16 remaining. Sure, plenty of FSU/Miami games have come down to a blown field goal, but at least the ‘Noles’ litany of wide rights got airborne. This game never got off the ground.

Watching Florida State’s comical quarterback combination of Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee complete just nine of 27 passes for 86 yards made the Back Judge positively pine for the hapless antics of Chris Rix. And though Miami’s Kyle Wright was slightly better, his offensive line should be subjected to a series of Tabasco high colonics after exposing him to nine sacks. Nine sacks isn’t defensive dominance; it’s offensive incompetence.

Frankly, this might have been the darkest day in one of college football’s greatest rivalries. Unlike days of yore, this wasn’t a Sunshine State slugfest between two titans; neither of these teams looks capable of winning an ACC crown, much less a national title. In fact, the Back Judge will be stunned if either team loses less than three games.

Miami’s Larry Coker is on the hot seat. Despite the 2001 national title, the ‘Canes have gotten slightly worse during each season of his watch. And there was something truly sad, almost pathetic, about watching 75-year-old Bobby Bowden celebrate his first victory over the ‘Canes since 1999. The old Bowden would have scowled at such a performance. That wily Bowden had Mark Richt and Chuck Amato by his side was a testament to innovation. This tired version is a testament to nepotism content to let underwhelming son Jeff trash what was once among the nation’s most feared offenses.

Don’t expect the people of Tallahassee to be as patient with their aging legend as the folks in State College, Pa.

Other Top 25 disappointments last week (in order of poorest performance) included Oklahoma, Auburn, Texas A&M;, Pittsburgh, Boise State, Tennessee and Louisville.

In fact, the Back Judge was impressed with only three teams: top-ranked Southern California, Iowa and Notre Dame. The Trojans and Hawkeyes euthanized season-opening U. of Fodders Ball State and Hawaii in the manner befitting title contenders.

And the Irish began the Charlie Weis era by crushing ranked Pitt 42-21.

This week’s game balls go to Weis and Louisville’s Elvis Dumervil, who recorded an other-worldly six sacks in the Cardinals’ ugly 31-24 victory over lowly Kentucky.

This week’s gassers go to starting quarterbacks at a pair of elite programs who were so singularly awful they single-handedly lost or almost lost games for top-10 teams:

Tennessee sophomore Erik Ainge was atrocious in the Vols’ 17-10 victory over UAB, completing only five of 14 passes for 56 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions before giving way to Rick Clausen.

And Oklahoma junior Paul Thompson gets the collar for the Sooners’ 17-10 loss to TCU after finishing 11-for-26 for 109 yards and one interception against a bunch of Horned Frogs who couldn’t stop a high school offense last season. He already has lost more games in Norman than Jason White.

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