Handicapping Week 5

We begin this week with a stampede.

Last week, at the University of Colorado, the handlers of CU’s mascot, Ralphie the Buffalo, were taking the beast for a practice run on the turf of Folsom Field.  Suddenly someone’s cell phone went off, spooking poor Ralphie, who by the way is a female, sending her running off in a frightened tizzy.  One of the handlers somehow managed to hold on for dear life, as he was pulled for at least thirty turf-burning yards, before the others were able to corral the spooked Buffalo.  This weekend let’s see which teams burn and stampede the opposition, and which leave it fans with the feeling, that they’ve once again, been buffaloed, and need to call for help.

No. 8 Alabama at No. 3 Georgia (ESPN, 7:45 p.m.) The Tuscaloosa Titan, Nick Saban, should take a shot at solving the financial crisis.  The resurgent Tide has seen its stock dramatically climb on the legs of the nation’s top fifteen rushing attack, highlighted by the tailback tandem of Glen Coffee, and Mark Ingram.  The senior QB play of John Wilson Parker has been steady, and his field stretching targets, featuring freshman speedster Julio Jones and tight end Nick Walker, have helped to somewhat balance the Bama offense.  The D, behind a pair of athletic backers in Rolando McClain and Brandon Fannery, along with nose tackle Terrence (Mount-360 pounds) Cody, is vintage Saban, impossible to run on, and the eighth stingiest outfit in the nation. 

The Dawgs have displayed a deadly bite.  Directed by its starry junior quarterback Matthew Stafford (0-interceptions) with help from its All-America, Heisman Trophy candidate tailback (9 td’s) Knowshon Moreno, and assisted by big play true freshman receiver A.J. Green, Georgia can attack a defense from a number of fronts.  The D, behind backers Rennie Curran and Darryl Gamble, is the third toughest to run on, but has some vulnerability in defending the pass.  It will be a black shirt “black out” in Athens Saturday, and a black out in more ways than one, for the Crimson Tide. 

No.22 Illinois at No. 12 Penn State (Ch.5, 8 p.m. regional) The defense of the fighting Zookers has been as vulnerable as a Wall Street investment banker.  Despite a pair of All-Americas in end Will Davis and corner Vontae Davis, the porous Sons of Red Grange are ninety-fourth in allowing points to be scored, and one of the nation’s bottom feeders in stopping the run.  The Illini offense feeds of its dual threat quarterback Juice Williams (7 td’s-5 interceptions) and a pair of explosive assistants in tailback Daniel Dufrene and All-America wideout Arrelious Benn.  And despite the weakness of its defense, the offense will keep Illinois in every game. 

The Nits may be the show ponies of the Big Ten.  In his 81st year, JoePa has a group that in its first four games has scored more points than any other team in the 122 year history of Penn State.  The Happy Valley crew is led by senior quarterback Daryll Clark (7td’s-1 interception), who is the nation’s fourteenth most efficient passer.  The QB, directs the  country’s third highest scoring offense, with the help of running backs Evan Royster and Stephfon Green, who comprise the eighth best rushing group.  Clark also has a pair of starry targets in speedsters Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood.  The D led by backers Tyrell Sales, Navarro Bowman and end Josh Gaines, pounds and blitzes, as the nation’s ninth stingiest defensive squad.  In “white out” conditions in Happy Valley, the Lions who have won 23 of its last 25 at home plow through the colander, otherwise known as, the Illinois defense.

No. 9 Wisconsin at Michigan (Ch. 5, 3:30 p.m.) Wiscy will never win any USC style points, but the crew from Mad-Town, victorious in 24 of its last 29 games, simply finds a way to win.  The Badgers pound away with the country’s thirteenth best rushing attack led by its All-America tailback, and the nation’s ninth leading rusher, P.J. Hill.  He gets a breather from his quality running mates, John Clay and Zach Brown. The director of the Cheese-head attack is senior quarterback Alan Evridge, who manages the game with the help of tight end Garrett Graham and wideout David Gilreath.  America’s seventeenth stingiest D, is led by backers DeAndre Levy, and end Matt Shaughnessy, but has shown some susceptibility in defending against the passing game.

The Iraqi army has more fire power than the Wolverine’s offense.  Michigan comes in at a pathetic ninety-ninth in scoring and nineteenth from the bottom in moving the ball through the air.  The boys from Ann Arbor have a talented freshman tailback in Sam McGuffie, but the quarterback situation, which continues to alternate between Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan, remains a big concern.  The D does have quality, behind backer Obi Ezeh and safety Brandon Harrison, but strains in defending the pass.  It’s “On Wisconsin,” as Wiscy wins its first game in the Big House in 14 years and the four million dollar man, Wolverine coach “Rod” falls to 1- 3, as Michigan loses its first Big Ten home opener in 23 years.

Va Tech at Nebraska (Ch.5, 8 p.m., regional) In summarizing his young team, and its struggle to score points, coach Frank Beamer said it best, “We never claim to be pretty.”  The Hokies offense under the direction of its dual threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor, (7-0

as a starter) is as about as dynamic and animated as a George Will speech on public policy.  The aerial attack ranks fifth from the bottom, while the ground attack behind Darren Evans and Kenny Lewis is pedestrian.  The D, led by a trio of backer in Brett Warren, Purnell Sturdivant, and Cam Martin, isn’t vintage VaTech, and has a great deal of trouble stopping he run. 

After getting its fill from a trio of corn-dogs, the Huskers step it up in competition.  The Big Red from Lincoln, averaging 40 points a game, is led by senior QB Joe Ganz, the nation’s nineteenth most efficient passer.  Nebraska can also hurt an opponent with a ground attack led by Marlon Lucky and Roy Helu, who fire out behind an experienced offensive line.  The D, behind backers Phillip Dillard and Cody Glen is still striving to get back to its once feared “Black Shirt” status, but currently ranks seventeenth from the bottom in defending the pass.   We’ll take the Boys from Lincoln to make the crew from Blacksburg even uglier.

Northwestern at Iowa (ESPN Classic, Noon) Who says the kids with the big SAT numbers can’t play football?  The last time (1962) Northwestern was 4-0; JFK was sitting in the Oval Office.

The Cats have done this Houdini courtesy of the nation’s 13th stingiest defense, which features backers Malcolm Arrington, Prince Kwatang, and end Cory Wooten.  The offense motors behind its scintillating tailback Tyrell Sutton, and is directed by its double threat quarterback senior C.J. Bacher, who can choose from a trio of talented targets.

In recent years the crop yield hasn’t been up to its bountiful standards in Iowa City.  Unless things quickly improve, it could send coach Kirk Ferentz and his CEO salary on an early tractor out of town.  The Hawkeyes offense operates under the shared QB system of Jake Christensen and Ricky Stanzi, but the quarterbacks really depend on the legs of tailback Shon Green, the nation’s eighth leading rusher to set the offensive tone.  The country’s fifth rated D, attacks behind backers Jeremiah Hunter, A.J. Edds, and end Adrian Clayborn, but its numbers are slightly inflated, due to its opponent’s flimsy resume.  

This week the harvest looks a little more promising, as the Hawks open its Big Ten season with the victory.

Last week’s record:  4- 1.                            Season Record:  14-6.



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