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Friday, November 21, 2008

Improbable Storylines from College Football

Improbable Storylines from College Football
from www.si.com

We're living in a world where impossible is nothing, or so Adidas has told me. Dancing With The Stars is still a ratings monster despite bringing on Ted McGinley, the patron saint of jumping the shark. Guns N' Roses' long-gestating Chinese Democracy will actually be released Nov. 25. College football has also had its share of "oh, no they didn't" storylines this season and the Tenth Power is more than happy to dive into a collection of them.

1. Redemption, thy name is Joe Paterno. The Penn State coach came under fire before the season for the rash of off-the-field troubles that had plagued his program, which were infamously highlighted on Outside The Lines. Had he lost his team? The preseason No. 22 is now ranked third and has the clearest path to the BCS title game. Take that, Bob Ley.

2. Nick Saban is college football's Norm Abram. Saban inherited an Alabama program that had gone 6-6 in 2006 and had suffered its fifth straight loss to rival Auburn. Two years and two impressive recruiting classes later, Saban has remodeled the Crimson Tide faster than anyone could have expected, guiding them to No. 1. Though that losing streak to the Tigers has reached six games ...

3. The Phillip Fulmer era finally ends. As colleague Andy Staples points out, it was a little late coming (like three years), but did you ever think you'd see Fulmer actually leave? Let's face it, the man is as synonymous with Tennessee as Dolly Parton, but of late he's become as much fun as a trip to Dollywood or a 9 to 5 marathon.

4. Georgia's allergic reaction to big games. The Bulldogs ended 2007 as the hottest team in the country and it helped earn them the preseason No. 1. How did they respond? They were outscored by a combined score of 90-40 by Alabama and Florida in their toughest tests of the season. At least they can lean on the fact they look good in black.

5. The lack of a marquee running back. SI.com's preseason All-America RBs were Georgia's Knowshon Moreno and Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells. Moreno has had four sub-100-yard games and Wells missed three games with a toe injury. The top three rushers in the country are solid -- UConn's Donald Brown, Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Iowa's Shonn Greene -- but there's no transcendent star here. Is it too late to bring Darren McFadden back from football purgatory?

6. The polls are alive with the sound of mid-majors. There are currently five teams from outside the BCS conferences in the AP Poll, led by eighth ranked Utah, and a week ago, six mid-majors appeared in the Top 25. The Mountain West has three teams in the BCS' top 15, which ties the SEC. The little guys haven't been this prevalent since Gary Coleman and Emmanuel Lewis were on TV.

7. The ACC is no longer the most inept BCS conference. That distinction belongs to the Big East this season. The league's highest-profile team this year is West Virginia, which is 25th in the BCS standings. South Florida, which was ranked as high as 12th in the AP Poll, is currently 1-3 in conference play and tied for seventh ... with Syracuse. Some BCS bowl is going to be awfully lucky to land a Big East team.

8. Big 12 North's fall back to Earth. Last season, the division announced its return by landing a pair of Sports Illustrated covers featuring Kansas and Missouri, and Tigers QB Chase Daniel earned a trip to the Heisman ceremony. Right now, the North's best team is No. 13 Missouri and the division is a collective 3-13 against the South. Was last year just a hallucination? I know I shouldn't have eaten those brownies Adarius Bowman gave me.

9. Georgia Tech's blast form the past actually works. When Paul Johnson was hired to succeed Chan Gailey, the biggest question was whether his triple-option, normally reserved for the service academies and ESPN Classic, could still succeed. But with a 7-2 record and the ACC Coastal Division lead, Johnson's offense is proving as retro cool as a pair of Nike Cortez.

10. That Greg Robinson still has a job. While the likes of Fulmer, Clemson's Tommy Bowden and Washington's Tyrone Willingham are either unemployed or will be at season's end, it's stunning that Robinson and his 9-34 record at Syracuse haven't yet suffered a similar fate. What will it take to get G-Rob fired? Does he have to show up to a press conference in a game-worn Jim Brown jersey and spread jelly over it a la George Costanza?

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