Commentary

QBs are taking a collective beating around the nation

Originally Published: November 6, 2008
By Chris Fowler | ESPN.com

Are there any mommas out there who still want their babies to grow up to be college quarterbacks?

They have been taking a collective beating this year. More teams than at any time I can recall are now dealing with QB injuries. Here is a partial list (based on a check of an injury report): Virginia Tech, Northwestern, LSU, Maryland, South Carolina, Purdue, Pitt, Indiana, Navy, North Carolina, Memphis, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Central Michigan, Troy, UNLV, San Jose State, Wyoming, and no less than six Pac-10 schools -- Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington and Washington State.

[+] EnlargeDaryll Clark
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesDaryll Clark and Penn State should win their final three games, but even that might not be good enough.

To me, this seems like a huge list. And these are just the QB injuries. And those are just the teams currently dealing with injuries at the position, so it's not counting the longer list of teams that have been hampered at various points this season. It's almost depressing to check the complete injury list. No news flash: It's a rough sport. But the training room just seems a bit more crowded than usual.

Several of the above teams are now down to their third quarterback. And just based on observation, not science, it seems the most common injuries are ankles and concussions. I have been wondering if more teams are becoming justifiably more cautious about head injuries lately, or if there is a real increase in guys getting whacked on the helmet.

Not included in the above list are top contenders like Penn State and Florida. Tim Tebow is insisting that the ankle he tweaked versus Georgia is nothing … of no concern. But it is painful, and a guy with a lower pain threshold might be more seriously hobbled. It's just something to keep an eye on. Ankles are among the most frequently aggravated injuries. They usually don't heal without rest, and the Gators have no more byes this season. They play four straight weeks, followed by a likely trip to Atlanta for the SEC title game.

By the way, Tebow never even told Urban Meyer that his knee was bothering him last month until it had completely healed.

Penn State's Daryll Clark says his concussion symptoms have cleared up for the Lions' visit to Iowa, but head injuries are also tricky. Penn State fans will be holding their collective breath each time Clark gets rocked between now and season's end. The Nittany Lions have only three games remaining.

Another big game this weekend, Cal's visit to the Coliseum, could be affected by a QB head injury. The Bears' Kevin Riley looks likely to start, but must be watched closely, too.

Chalk Championship Game


Although the Lions and Gators are sitting at No. 3 and No. 5 in the BCS standings this week, they are actually in very good position. In fact, the "No Upset" scenario for the BCS title game would match Penn State and Florida in Miami on Jan. 8. The Gators would be a solid favorite, too. Have we seen his before? SEC versus Big Ten for the crystal ball? In the SEC team's home state?

Penn State will be favored to slug past Iowa on the road Saturday, crush Indiana at home, and survive a pressure-filled game with Michigan State, which could be playing for the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22. The Spartans win a three-way Big 10 tie with the Lions and Buckeyes, because they did not face a FCS squad this year. A unique but sensible tiebreaker, from this staid conference, no less!

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMITim Tebow is one of many signal-callers who are feeling the pain this season.

Florida is a clear favorite in its remaining SEC games and is also expected to conquer the Seminoles in Tallahassee on Nov. 29. That just leaves the SEC title game, where it would be favored against likely West winner Alabama.

Texas Tech could lose Saturday to Oklahoma State, and then after a bye, it is going to be an underdog at Oklahoma.

So barring upsets in these key games (and we are certainly not ruling out anything these days!), Penn State would sit as the only unbeaten from a BCS conference.

In that case, the Lions could feel somewhat secure that the Harris and coaches pollsters would have them at No. 1, and it might provide something of a buffer from the computer deficit they would likely face against a one-loss SEC or Big 12 champ.

They might slip behind one team with a blemish, but two? Sure, it is possible. But that would equal a very stormy day in BCS land: Both polls' No. 1 left out of the title game? An undefeated Penn State passed over by two teams with a loss? Very bad PR for the system, even if a Big 12 champ versus SEC champ would be viewed as the sexier matchup.

If however, Penn State is sitting at No. 2 in the final BCS standings -- behind 'Bama or Texas Tech -- as one of two unbeatens, its chances of getting passed over are much greater. A 12-1 Texas team is a real threat to PSU. JoePa's guys really need to take care of the style points in the home stretch and hope someone (perhaps LSU) can take down the Tide, while the Red Raiders lose their way once, too.

Here is a little exercise to illustrate the issues pollsters face: Make some hypothetical matchups between the three undefeated teams at the top of the BCS and the three teams just below them.

Whom would you pick if something you cherish depended upon it: Alabama or Oklahoma on a neutral field?

If Texas Tech and Florida matched firepower, who would you pick?

And if Penn State and Texas met on neutral turf, who'd be your pick?

Vegas would certainly favor all three one-loss teams over each of the top three. That doesn't even factor in No. 7 USC, which would be favored over most of the top six. I know oddsmakers shouldn't determine rankings, and several factors are used to set the lines. But it does point out the pollsters' old dilemma: most deserving team or "better" team on a neutral field? Those decisions could be tougher than ever this year. And the bottom line is no one really knows until the games are played.

Playoff: An Executive Order


When Barack Obama told Chris Berman at halftime of the "Monday Night Football" game that the one thing he'd like to change in sports is to scrap the BCS -- because he is "fed up" with the computers -- and implement an eight-team playoff, I just about fell off the couch! My wife and I started high-fiving and toasting him.

Barack Obama
ESPN.comBarack Obama talked playoff for the Football Bowl Subdivision on Monday Night Football.

Talk about change we can believe in!

Look, I'm not CNN's John King, with his magic map and frightening knowledge of county-by-county voting patterns. But it seems that a "pro-playoff" stance would have been popular in swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida, where the Nittany Lions and Gators are currently on the outside of the BCS championship-game picture. Did his proposal Monday night secure his margin in the Keystone State and propel him over the top in the Sunshine State?

We'll never know, but clearly the new boss gets it.

Just as clearly, the playoff initiative must be placed near the top of Obama's priority list as he assumes the presidency on Jan. 20, 2009. The economic crisis, two wars, fixing health care … these are important but very complex issues. A playoff is simple by comparison. Just issue an executive decree and assemble a task force to work out the details. About 70 percent of the American people want this reform. Let the people's will be done!

You do understand that I'm just joking, right? I can never be too sure in these irony-free times.

I am glad the election is over, by the way. For many reasons. Like some of you, I became a little obsessed with seeking out and studying presidential polling data. I have spent far too many hours considering the eventual margins on Web sites. Now I can just concentrate on the usual sports bookmarks again.

Vibe in Lubbock


A Texas Tech home game is a unique atmosphere. Unlike any place I've been in 20 years covering the sport, it's not easy to put your finger on what exactly contributes to it. The feel is part college football, part XFL. There is a vibe that is a little like a semi-pro football team, with fans dressed like pirates, faces painted black with huge white smiles and red-painted lips. I'm told that every home game is like Halloween out there.

The crowd was quite polite and almost restrained at "GameDay." (At least until Bob Knight arrived and Corso put on that giant Yosemite-Sam-looking head and shot off two really loud guns. They got a little boisterous then).

During the game, they are rowdy and engaged, but the stadium really isn't designed to keep the noise inside. Still, walking on the field, many opponents feel like they are in a strange, remote place. They might be right. Maybe the isolation of West Texas is a large part of what makes the feel so unique. The Red Raiders are West Texas' team, so the fans seem to flock from far and wide, even if they have no direct association with the school.

[+] EnlargeMichael Crabtree
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireMichael Crabtree's 28-yard touchdown catch lifted No. 7 Texas Tech past No. 1 Texas.
The scene at the end of last Saturday night's win was pretty crazy. Michael Crabtree's touchdown unfolded like a movie script. The ball seems to be in the air forever, Crabtree snaps up his hands at the last second, snags the ball and then tightropes into the end zone with one second left. I was about five feet away on the sideline, and there is a photo of me watching with my mouth open in amazement that has made the rounds on the Internet this week. I look like a crazy man in the shot! What can I say? It was a freakin' amazing moment. It's why I love this sport. I could not have cared less who won that game, but witnessing that kind of play is unforgettable.

As for the postgame scene on University Avenue in downtown Lubbock … well, I have also not seen anything quite like that! There were SUVs rolling down the street (slowly) with about six guys car-surfing on the roof and swigging beers. Horns were honking, people were running around screaming and there was general mayhem for a while. I'll say this: It was a very good night to turn back the clocks and get an extra hour's worth of sleep before piling into the type of tiny planes you have to take to get to and from Lubbock!

Is Lubbock ready for Take 2 this Saturday night? Well, beware those Pokes from Stillwater. I know they haven't won there since WWII, but they are dangerous dogs, I promise. It should be fun. Herbstreit gets to go back for an encore, too.

Bayou Classic or Bayou Beatdown?


LSU's defense has much to be embarrassed about this season. No defending champion has ever allowed 50-plus points in two games. The Tigers -- despite all the hype -- are not in the SEC's top four in any of the major defensive categories, and stand second to last in scoring defense (24 ppg).

"College GameDay"
GameDay

Set your alarm clock Saturday. Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and the rest of the "College GameDay" crew will be in Baton Rouge, La. for Alabama-LSU. Tune in to find out about the Crimson Tide and Tigers, all the Week 11 action and everything else in college football.
When: Sat., 10 a.m. ET (ESPN)
Where: Baton Rouge, La.

The defensive line has underperformed, with the exception of Rahim Alem. Where has Kirston Pittman been? He swarmed through Bama's strong O-line for a couple of key sacks last year. This would be a good time for the Nick Saban-era recruit to step up and show that he is still a force.

I am very curious to see (as are the uneasy LSU fans) how the Tigers respond when the Crimson Tide come out and smack them in the chops early, as they are prone to do. Clemson and Georgia withered quickly. The Tide linemen could see it in their opponents' eyes those two nights.

Will LSU, playing for pride and not much else, have the fight to stand in and slug with Bama?

And will the secondary, torched by both Florida and Georgia, be able to avoid the crushing long pass plays John Parker Wilson is very capable of making? Alabama is expecting LSU will sell out to stop the run, as most teams do. If Wilson gets in a flow early, he is very dangerous.

It's a huge game for the Tide QB personally, of course. It was his fumble that turned the game around last year in T-town. He must avoid being too keyed up and let things come to him.

By the way, here is a little nugget provided by my ace researcher, Chris Fallica: This is the fifth straight week that a No. 1 team faces an opponent ranked in the top 15. That has never happened before, as far as we can tell.

OU lost to Texas. The Longhorns protected the ranking against Mizzou and Oklahoma State and then lost it in Lubbock. Now Alabama is visiting Death Valley. So the No. 1s are just 2-2 lately.

One More Nugget


Ohio State visits Northwestern following a week off to recover from the late loss to Penn State. Did you know the Bucks are just 1-4 under Jim Tressel in regular-season games following byes? Those five games have been tricky matchups. All four of the losses were on the road to ranked teams. In all other regular-season games during that span, Ohio State is 75-11.

Chris Fowler is the host of ESPN's "College GameDay." Kick off each Saturday with "College GameDay" at 10 a.m. ET to get the latest news on college football.

Chris Fowler

College Football
Since 1989, Chris Fowler has been ESPN's primary college football and men's college basketball studio host. He's anchored College GameDay, the network's award-winning Saturday morning college football preview show, since 1990.