Not all wins and losses are the same

It can be argued that a win is a win and a loss is a loss, and from the point of view of calculating standings it doesn’t matter how you win or lose.  But the aesthetics are not the same, and the loss at the Alamo or at Thermopylae are remembered very differently than the losses at Little Big Horn or Salamis.  Saturday’s College Football had a mix of good and bad wins and losses. The teams I root for went 1-2 this week, with Stanford beating Army early, the Aggies falling to Alabama, and Wisconsin getting burnt in the desert by Arizona State.

Army was a 30-pt underdog to the Cardinal, but their option gave Stanford some trouble in the first half. Stanford pulled away in the second half. This was a neutral win: expected and solid.

The game of the day was #1 Alabama coming here to College Station to face #6 Texas A&M.  I had no idea what would happen going into today; I could imagine blowouts in either direction or a close game. There were too many unknowns about whether Alabama’s defensive experts had solved Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel’s version of the Air Raid, and whether the Tide’s offense and Ags defense were as bad as they seemed in the first games.  The good news for the Ags: the A&M offense is better than last year’s. This was expected, despite losing several key players from last year and replacing offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who left to become the head coach at Texas Tech. The Ags were deep last year, and despite his overhyped off-field issues, Johnny Manziel was expected to have a better grasp of reading defenses and mastering the options in the Sumlin offense. Johnny Football and the offense scored 42 points on the Crimson Tide on 628 total yards.  It could have been more, but two interceptions and a questionable offensive pass interference call on Mike Evans stopped three drives.  Manziel had 464 yards from 28/39 passing  with 5 tds and 2 ints and 98 yards rushing.  Mike Evans had 7 catches for 279 yards, including a late 95 yard catch and run that set a record for Kyle field.  All of this would have been impressive against anyone, but against Alabama it’s truly remarkable.

Unfortunately, the bad news was that the A&M D has not found its stride. The past couple of years we’ve had an outstanding pass rusher, first in Von Miller and last year in DaMontre Moore. As noted last week, there were many other important seniors on Mark Snyder’s defensive squad. Their replacements haven’t stepped up yet, and despite getting back several suspended starters, the A&M defense had trouble stopping Alabama after their third possession.

That said, this was a good loss in the sense that it was close, entertaining and was a valiant effort by A&M that left the impression that the teams on balance were near equals. If Manziel and/or Evans are up for postseason awards, this game provided plenty for the highlight reels.

By contrast, Wisconsin’s loss to the Sun Devils was one of the many varieties of bad losses.  The two teams traded errors and scores until the middle of the third quarter, when Wisconsin’s defense started to wilt in the heat and ASU’s receivers stopped dropping catchable balls. Arizona State took the lead for good with 11:40 left in the game and made it an 8 point lead at 8:50 to go. Nevertheless, a fake punt led to a Wisconsin TD that cut the lead to 2 after a failed 2-pt conversion, and a 51 yard pass play set up the Badgers for what should have been the winning FG.  But after getting down to the ASU 13, Wisconsin inexplicably tried to position the ball for the FG try with only 18 seconds left and no timeouts.  The clock ran out without the Wisconsin FG unit even seeing the field.  Wow.

Texas and Nebraska exemplified a different kind of bad loss.  Both were blown out at home after leading at halftime, 23-17 and 21-10 respectively. Ole Miss beat Texas 44-23, while UCLA beat Nebraska 41-21.  These were the kinds of losses that put coaches on the hot seat.

For an example of a bad win, see Michigan holding on against 37-pt underdog Akron.  Akron took the lead several times in this game, the last time being at 4:20 to go. Michigan scored with 2:49 left, but as one Michigan fan posted at MgoBlog

Saddest question ever, “did they leave too much time for Akron?”

In fact, Akron drove down the field but could not convert on 4th and 3 from the Michigan 4.