Handicapping Week 2

We begin this week with the true religion of the South – football

This past June, the University of Georgia held a solemn memorial service at Sanford Stadium for its beloved bulldog mascot UGA VI.

The English bulldog, who died from congestive heart failure, was then buried in a marble vault in a corner of the stadium with its five predecessors.  At the end of the ceremony, the chaplain closed the service with these inspiring words: “Sic ‘em UGA.  Woof!  Woof!  Amen.”

This weekend let’s see which teams have a bark and a bite, and which, look like they’ve gone to the dogs.

Miami at No.5 Florida (ESPN, 8 p.m.)  The once mighty U has been humbled.  In order to reclaim its place amongst the elite of college football – the Canes have to first reclaim the title of: best in the state of Florida.

Despite last year’s losing record, the faithful believe, that second year coach, Randy Shannon, has the program headed in the proper direction, and most importantly, has restored some much needed discipline, back into the Miami culture.  Unfortunately, the offense might be as depressed as the Miami condo market. The QB situation remains in flux, and this week freshman Robert Marve makes his collegiate debut.  So the Canes will rely on the hard running of Javaaris James and Craig Cooper, behind one of the nation’s best offensive lines, to move the ball.   As always, it will be the Miami D, led by ends Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey, as well as a quartet of backers, featuring Colin McCarthy and Glenn Cook, who will determine the success of the Miami season.

Urban Meyer’s Gators are the tastiest and ripest of the Sunshine State’s fertile bounty.  Florida is directed by its Mr. Everything, Heisman Winning junior quarterback, Tim Tebow.  He’ll have at his disposal, USC transfer tailback Emmanuel Moody, the speedster wideout Percy Harvin, who despite his heel problems, is scheduled to play, and another burner in wideout Chris Rainey.  The D is anchored by its All-America backer Brandon Spikes, and corner Joe Haden, but there remains concern about the front four’s ability to pressure the quarterback.  Miami gets mired in the Swamp as Florida’s dominance in the Sunshine State, continues to ripen.

Mississippi at No.20 Wake Forest (Ch.5, 3:30 regional) Last year the Rebels didn’t win a game in SEC Conference play.  Newly hired coach Houston Nutt, of Arkansas fame, will never, have that happen, under his tenure.  The Oxford faithful are floating on optimism, that Texas quarterback transfer, Jevan Snead, will lead Ole Miss out of the SEC west wilderness.  Snead will have a trio of quality wideout targets, with Dexter McCluster as the feature attraction while the Rebels are counting on junior tailback Enrique Davis to carry the ground game.  The D will fly to the ball and is led by tackle Peria Jerry and end Greg Hardy.

The Demon Deacons have arguably the best coach in the land. In the previous decade, before Jim Grobe arrived in Winston-Salem, Wake had won a total of 38 games.  They now find themselves favorites to win consecutive ACC titles.  The leaders of the Deacs are the nine starting D returnees, led by a pair of All-Americas in backer Aaron Curry and corner Alphonso Smith.  The offense is commanded by the steady hand of Riley Skinner, with assists from tailback Josh Adams.  If the game is close, advantage Wake, as field goal kicker Sam Swank is money in the bank.  In a game that will be a challenge for Wake Forest, the Deacons eventually convert the Rebels.

Cincinnati at No.4 Oklahoma (Ch. 5, 3:30 p.m. regional) The Bearcats finished last season ranked (17th) for the first time in its long history – and coach Brian Kelley is intent on building on that momentum.  The coach has installed quarterback Dustin Grutza, to direct the one back offensive system that alternates between tailbacks Scott Johnson and John Goebel. Grutza also is assisted by a pair of field stretching wideouts, in Dominick Goodman and Marcus Barnett.  The aggressive and opportunistic defense is impressive, highlighted by a pair of All-Americas in tackle Terrill Byrd and corner Mike Mickens.

In his nine years as the OU head man, Bob Stoops has compiled a glittering 97-22 record, which also includes a national championship.  Yet, the OU faithful seem obsessed by the fact that “Big Game” Bob has lost four of his last five BCS bowl games.  Rest assured – the Sooners will get a chance to end that swoon this season- possibly in the national championship game.  Norman, Oklahoma, possesses more weapons than the NRA.  It begins with the country’s top ranked passer in Sam Bradford, who has the luxury of operating behind one of America’s best offensive lines – anchored by a pair of All-Americas in tackle Phil Loadholt and guard Duke Robinson.  Bradford, who will direct the troops using the newly installed no-huddle scheme, has a pair of starry targets in wideout Juaquin Inglesias and All-America tight end Jermaine Gresham Jr.  While the  Sooner’s running game, purrs along, on the legs of DeMarco Murray.  The D is equally dynamic and disruptive, and features All-America end Auston English.  On Saturday, the Norman faithful will witness, there own special version of Cats.

Oregon State at No.19 Penn State (Ch.5, 3:30) The one constant behind the Beavers success is the ability of coach Mike Riley to squeeze the maximum performance from his players.  On paper Oregon State’s talent may not be intimidating, but opposing coaches are well aware, that playing against a Mike Riley coached team is always a challenge.  The Beavers are directed by quarterback Lyle Moevao, who will be protected by an experienced offensive line. The QB will utilize has a pair of seasoned targets in Darrell Catchings, and Sammie Stroughter.  The swarming D, which features end Victor Butler and Slade Norris, has the ability to disrupt the quarterback.

As the iconic 81 year old JoePa embarks on his 43rd campaign, a quiet sense of optimism has enveloped the Happy Valley campus, that this could be a special season.  The offense, at least in the beginning, will be run by committee.  The QB position will alternate between starter Darryl Clark and backup Pat Devlin, who has the luxury of throwing to the Big Ten’s best receiving trio in Jordan Norwood, Derrick Williams and Deon Butler.  The running attack will be shared by Evan Royster, Stephfon Green, and Brent Carter.  The Lions stout D stonewalls behind one of the conference’s best pass rushers, in All-America end Maurice Evans.  On Saturday, the faithful get to see Paterno add another notch, onto his legendary victory belt.

No.15 BYU at Washington (FSN, 3 p.m.)  The Cougs are looking for an invite to the BCS party.  If BYU is to achieve that mission, it will be on the arm of its starry quarterback Max Hall – the director of last year’s highest scoring conference offense.  The QB is assisted by tailback Harvey Unga as well as a pair of glue fingered receivers in tight end Dennis Pitta, and wideout Austin Collie.  The stingy D performs a close second, led by ends Jan Jorgensen and Ian Dulan.

Ty Willingham is on firing line.  No, not the classic William F. Buckley program, this is the one, where you are out of a job.  The only question seemingly remaining for the Seattle faithful, is; when?  The coach has one savior, his sophomore quarterback Jake Locker, but unfortunately, he’s a tuxedo on a team full of brown shoes.  Last year the D had more holes than a Clark Rockefeller alibi, and the 2008 version isn’t much better.  In Seattle, it will be BYU carrying out its mission.

Season record 2-3.  I know it’s a slow start, but that’s the beauty of college football – it remains a game full of passion, color, bands, youth, mascots, and unpredictability.

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