Sunday, November 2, 2008

Welcome to November!

I’ve begun to subscribe to the theory that I hate big comebacks. (**Unless they involve Illinois or Georgetown making it to the Final Four.**) The reality is that bad teams don’t get to make big comebacks. Only great teams get to make big comebacks.

And there was Texas once again on Saturday staking claim to the fact that they are a great team, coming back from down 19 late in the first half. We’ve seen it before with Texas and Oklahoma St. We’ve seen it before with Texas and Texas Tech. Texas is the better team and they get to have the dramatic comeback from down 3 TDs. But not tonight.

Texas Tech, a team built to pass and come-from-behind, saved a little bit of magic for the final minutes. While watching Colt McCoy drive for the go-ahead score I was thinking to myself, “Texas Tech can’t win this game with a big defensive play. They have to win by scoring on the final drive.” An lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened.

Seriously, if you were playing NCAA Football 09, what was the greatest score on that game?

Speaking of video games, what about that final drive? How could Texas Tech never spike the ball? They just kept snapping it and passing and snapping and passing. The only time I’ve ever seen anything like that is on the Playstation.

But time kept ticking off the clock. Sure Texas Tech might be in range for a 50 yard field goal, but what were the odds of that? And then the interception! It had to be an interception right? Brent Musberger wasn’t the only person who thought it was a pick. “@#$%@$%& I knew Texas was going to win. Whhhaaa? The pick was dropped?”

And then the play. So much could have gone wrong. The pass could have been incomplete. Time could have expired. But no, Michael Crabtree made the play of the year-to-date, spinning out of a tackle and running the ball into the endzone. And Texas Tech upset Texas. That’s why we watch sports.

Gopher Loss

Elsewhere this weekend, Minnesota lost when WR Eric Decker, leading the Big Ten in receiving, had a ball ricochet off his hands and get returned for a TD. To understand the ramifications of this loss, we have to break out a scale:

Levels of Excitement:

1) Wow, we’re not even competitive. I can’t root against our team in principle, but I sure hope we get a new head coach. My favorite part of the game is garbage time. Sometimes we score.

2) At least we’re competitive, but we have no idea how to win a ball game. It used to hurt, but I’m used to it now.

3) Eh, we’ve beaten some teams, but you can tell we’re still not very good. If we played a top 10 team, we’d get blown out.

4) Holy cow, we might actually have a good team this year. I think we have a chance against a top 10 team.

5) Wow, I know I shouldn’t do it, but I’m calculating the odds of a championship.

6) We should win. On paper, we’re the best team.

Level 6 is fun, but not as fun as some of the others. At level 6 you find yourself saying things like: “We should have beat them by more than 14.” “I didn’t think we played well at the start of the game. We actually fell behind. I guess you forget the game starts at 0-0. I’m so used to us being ahead.” That’s not to say level 6 isn’t fun, it just isn’t as fun as some of the other levels. Level 4 and 5 are probably the best.

I’m currently at level 3 with the Gophers. The nice thing about level 3 is that it doesn’t really hurt to lose, even in heart-breaking fashion. That’s because you know your team isn’t very good.

So even though I’ve never seen an interception return to break a tie and win a game at the end of regulation, it doesn’t even rank in the top 10 worst losses for Minnesota in the last decade. (See rushing for 300 against Michigan and Wisconsin and blowing 4th quarter leads for better examples. I was actually at level 4 in those seasons.)

The great thing about the excitement scale is that I can always tell when it changes within a season. You always know the game.

For example, the greatest Minnesota jump of all time happened when Randy Moss went to Lambeau field as a rookie. The Vikings jumped from a level 3 to a level 5 in a few quarters. It doesn’t get any better than that.

When Illinois and DeRon Williams hosted Wake Forest and Chris Paul during the Final Four season, that win was clearly a jump from level 4 to 5.

This year, the Vikings actually fell from a 4 to a 3 during a win. It occurred during the New Orleans game when Minnesota won, but everything good was a total fluke. The only reasonable conclusion to draw was that the Vikings were not a legitimate contender.

There are more examples, but I’ll leave it at that. And while the Gophers defeat came in memorable fashion, remember they’ve lost to Northwestern on a hail mary in the last decade, so again, I'm barely fazed by this.

People who are more crushed this weekend: Louisville fans, Notre Dame fans, Florida St. fans, and the list rolls on.