Rich Rodriguez can recite practically every line from his favorite film. This week, the Arizona coach offered a command performance of his most beloved scene that doubled as a spot-on commentary on his team's odds of beating Oregon in Eugene Saturday.
"What are my chances?" Rodriguez said, mimicking Jim Carrey. Then Rodriguez showed his range by also reciting Lauren Holly's lines.
"Not good," Rodriguez said.
"Not good like one out of a hundred?" he asked.
"More like one out of a million," he replied. Then Rodriguez nailed the punchline.
"So you're telling me there's a chance!"
Despite what people in Ann Arbor might say, Rodriguez is neither Dumb nor Dumber. He understands what the Wildcats will face at Autzen Stadium. Though Arizona is 3-0 with an impressive win against Oklahoma State, the Wildcats haven't seen anything like Oregon this season. "We're not as fast as them or as deep as them," Rodriguez said. "The depth is what concerns me."
Rodriguez understands better than most how Oregon chews up opponents. After all, Rodriguez pioneered many of the concepts Ducks coach Chip Kelly -- who, while at New Hampshire, visited then-Clemson offensive coordinator Rodriguez to learn the offense -- uses to power the fastest offense in America. The zone read? Rodriguez practically invented it. The two-minute drill tempo for an entire game? Rodriguez thought he had refined that at West Virginia. Then he saw the 2012 Ducks on video.
"They've got fast guys playing fast," Rodriguez said. "It kind of reminds me of when we were at West Virginia with Pat White, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine. We had fast guys at every position that touches the ball, and we were playing fast."
Kelly has elevated what Rodriguez did at West Virginia to an art form. He's got his White (quarterback Marcus Mariota), his Slaton (tailback Kenjon Barner) and his Devine (tailback De'Anthony Thomas), except this Oregon group may be even better than that West Virginia group. Rodriguez is just as impressed with coordinator Nick Aliotti's Oregon defense, which sends in waves of players like a hockey team making line changes. This is critical. When a team's offense moves as quickly as Oregon's, that team's defense must be deep enough to withstand the inevitable barrage of plays it must face because its offense scores so darn fast. Aliotti has developed that depth. "You want to be able to play 22-24 guys on defense," Rodriguez said. "I don't even think we have that many guys on scholarship on defense. We're starting three walk-ons."
That's where Arizona will run into trouble in Eugene. Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott and the offense should move the ball adequately and put up some points, but perpetually fresh Oregon defenders will stop them from time to time. Arizona's defense might get some early stops, but without the depth Rodriguez spoke of, the Wildcats will wear down, and the Ducks will start rolling.
Even if Saturday's trip to Eugene doesn't go as well as Harry's and Lloyd's trip to Aspen, Rodriguez believes he can eventually help the Wildcats reach Oregon's level. Unlike early in his tenure at Michigan, Rodriguez has received unconditional support from the administration and fans. That should make the building process easier, but it also means Rodriguez has no excuse if his record at Arizona ends up looking like his record at Michigan.
"We're still in the honeymoon because we haven't lost yet, but the fan support has been really good," Rodriguez said. "I don't know how to say it, I guess they're really rooting for us. Everybody's pulling in the same direction and really rooting for us whether it's internally or externally around town."
Every day, Rodriguez leaves the office and sees the cranes that will help build the $72 million football facility scheduled to open next August. When the Wildcats move in, Rodriguez can offer recruits every modern amenity, warm -- sometimes scorching -- weather and an exciting, fast-paced style of play. Trade warm weather for couture uniforms, and that's exactly what Oregon can offer recruits. So can Rodriguez raise Arizona to Oregon's level? "We're going to get to that eventually," he said, "but we're not there right now."
He's telling us there's a chance.
• UAB at Ohio State: There isn't anything particularly interesting about this game, but I bring it up to make a point. Other leagues have figured out that sprinkling in select conference games in the first few weeks makes things far less boring when most of the league is playing cupcakes. South Carolina played UAB last week, but SEC fans didn't complain because they could watch Alabama-Arkansas and Florida-Tennessee. The Big Ten aircraft carrier turns slowly, but it may want to consider spicing things up a bit in the early weeks. Ten of its schools play Saturday, but most of the games will be completely unwatchable. At least Michigan plays Notre Dame.
• Missouri at South Carolina: Both starting quarterbacks are banged up, but it appears both will start. South Carolina's Connor Shaw suffered a hairline fracture in his shoulder against Vanderbilt on Aug. 30 and reinjured it last week, but doctors have told Shaw he can't make the injury worse if he plays. Meanwhile, Missouri's James Franklin injured his shoulder against Georgia and missed last week's win against Arizona State after declining to take a painkiller. Franklin has been criticized for that choice, but you won't find any such criticism here. Aside from being terribly addictive, painkillers can mask pain so much that a player can do long-term or permanent damage to the injured body part without realizing it. Franklin's decision may have prevented a much longer absence. Should either quarterback aggravate his injury Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium, both teams' backups have proven themselves quite capable this season. South Carolina's Dylan Thompson might have a better arm than Shaw, and Missouri's Corbin Berkstresser looked like a veteran against the Sun Devils.
• Oregon State at UCLA: UCLA tailback Johnathan Franklin leads the nation with an average of 180.3 rushing yards a game. In its only outing so far this season, Oregon State's defense held Wisconsin's Monteé Ball to only 61 yards -- his lowest output in 21 games. Of course, the Badgers did not have a quarterback who could run and throw to take the pressure of Ball. UCLA does, and Brett Hundley's presence should continue to make life easier for Franklin.
• LSU at Auburn: I know I wrote in the Power Rankings that this game deserves an R rating or some other form of parental advisory, but I'm starting to wonder if that was a mistake. Auburn has talented players who, to this point, have not played well. This could be for schematic reasons (the offense) or for opponent-created reasons (the defense). Because talented athletes tend to play up or down to their level of competition, I'm wondering if this is the week Auburn plays up. It probably won't be enough to beat LSU, but maybe it will make things interesting for a half.
• Cal at USC: USC's Lane Kiffin made a fool of himself walking away from a post-practice press conference for an injury question he didn't like, then he made some valid points about his reasoning in an interview with Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. Here's the deal with the debate over keeping practices open to the media or closing them. If you win, close them. Your fans love you, and you can do no wrong. If you lose, close them. Your fans already hate you, and if you're going to get fired anyway, you may as well practice in peace. If you're borderline, you might want to keep them open, because having some friends in the fourth estate might help you as your AD decides your future. This doesn't apply if you coach in Tuscaloosa, Lincoln or some other isolated football stronghold. The local media has nothing else to cover, so closing practice doesn't cost you publicity. In L.A. it's a different story. The locals have a ton of other things to cover. Kiffin has to weigh that moving forward. As for this week, if Cal coach Jeff Tedford -- with the game on the line -- elects once again to not give the ball to the guy averaging 40 yards a carry, then USC should be just fine.
• Michigan at Notre Dame: We'll discuss the changing fan culture at Notre Dame in more depth later, but Michigan may also want to embrace a new, snarkier age. How could the same fan base that gave us MGoBlog -- one of the best, most irreverent college football sites on the web -- embark on an Ocean's Eleven-style caper to infiltrate Notre Dame Stadium only to hang a banner that says "Beat The Irish?" You're traditionalists? Fine. I get that. But in bygone days, college football fan bases also committed better pranks. Yes, that often involved the theft of livestock, but sometimes kidnapping is healthy for a rivalry. Stealing the Leprechaun and making him work the grill at Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger would have offered far more bang for your caper buck. As for the game, Michigan has yet to prove it can win in the trenches -- facing Alabama and two non-AQs makes it difficult to judge -- but if Denard Robinson doesn't run wild on the Fighting Irish, Notre Dame should be fine. If the Irish win, get ready for three solid weeks of "Notre Dame is back" columns before the Irish face Stanford. If this is the case, those columns might actually be correct.
• Vanderbilt at Georgia: Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, who sat out last week's win against Florida Atlantic with a groin injury, said he expects to play. Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels, who may get the nod again at quarterback for the Commodores, is about to have his I'm-Not-In-The-Mountain-West-Anymore moment.
• Kansas State at Oklahoma: Sporting News asked Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein with whom he'd like to trade places for a day. Klein's answer? William Wallace. For Klein's sake, if trade day is Saturday, he should hope he gets the day of the Battle of Stirling Bridge and not the day Wallace was drawn and quartered.
• Clemson at Florida State: If you haven't read Dan Wetzel's story on Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, take a few minutes and read it now. Now that you know where Swinney is coming from, let's talk about Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Venables, while holding the same job at Oklahoma last year, stuffed the Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium. Venables' crew allowed 19 points against Auburn on Sept. 1, and that seemed impressive at the time. Then we saw Auburn play Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe, which changes the perspective on Clemson's defense. That group will have to play its best game, because Florida State has far more playmakers than last year. Florida State's defense hasn't seen anything like Clemson's combo of quarterback Tajh Boyd, tailback Andre Ellington and receivers Sammy Watkins and Nuke Hopkins, but if Clemson's defense doesn't come to play, the Seminoles might be able to win a shootout, too.
"How cool would it be if you could download food to your iPhone?!"
-- Georgia offensive tackle Watts Dantzler on Twitter.
These are the things offensive linemen think about. Constantly. Alas, Watts will have to wait for iOS 7 for his dream to come true.
...this was unleashed upon the Internet.
After covering Alabama-Arkansas, my flight home Sunday morning connected through Memphis. I walked on the plane, found my seat and plopped down next to... former Florida and Illinois coach Ron Zook. Zook had just called the East Carolina-Southern Miss game for CBS Sports Network, and, just as he did when he coached, he was reviewing the video to see what improvements he could make. I took over the Florida beat for The Tampa Tribune in 2004 -- the year Zook got fired -- so Zook had to answer questions from me during some of the darkest times of his professional life. To his credit, he never held that against me. He knew I had a job to do, and I tried to treat him as fairly as possible. He got a good laugh when I reminded him of his new job and called him a "media guy," but something tells me he'll have a whistle back around his neck sooner rather than later.
The athletic department in South Bend has produced a video encouraging fans to stand while cheer, cheering for old Notre Dame. If you don't understand why this is necessary, you've never been to a game at Notre Dame Stadium. These people think they're at Wimbledon. The implied vulgarity may offend some of the Notre Dame alums who don't think the Irish need newfangled fads like touch-tone phones, cassette tapes or a home-field advantage, but the video also offers further proof of a new era for the Fighting Irish. The school that a few years ago brought you this atrocity has become self-aware and developed a sense of humor. Can a BCS bowl berth be far behind?
In honor of the Notre Dame video -- which is excellent -- I originally intended to make a list of the top five fan instructional videos that didn't quite take. Then, while researching the topic, I realized one such video towers so high above the others that it belongs in a section all its own.
When he wasn't having massive poison-pill buyouts inserted into his contract, Ron Prince was creating beautiful new traditions.
Those heading to the Kansas State-Oklahoma game in Norman should stop by Van's Pig Stand for brisket, ribs and carrot cake. Ranked teams haven't fared well in Norman since Bob Stoops came to town, so a good meal might be the only pleasant memory of the trip.