We begin this week with a photo-op.
He may be the clown-prince of ESPN’s College Football GameDay show, but in his day, Lee Corso was a solid, innovative football coach, who never missed an opportunity to have some fun. That was never more evident in 1976, when his Indiana Hoosiers took on the Ohio State Buckeyes of Woody Hayes. Early in the first quarter, Corso called an unexpected time-out. Then the coach brought the entire team onto the field, to pose for a picture underneath the scoreboard, which displayed the score of: Indiana 7 – Ohio State – 0. The reason: the Hoosiers had just scored, to take a 7-0 lead, against a team it hadn’t defeated in 25 years. It would be their last lead, as the Buckeyes went on to score 47 unanswered points. This weekend, let’s see which teams play a picture perfect game, and which, leave its faithful, looking, like a picture of despair.
No.5 Florida vs.No.8 Georgia at Gator Bowl (Ch.4 3:30 p.m.) Florida’s mercury infused offense, squeezes a defense, tighter than Tropicana squeezes an orange. The nation’s seventh highest scoring team, is directed by the reigning Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow, (12 touchdowns- 2 interceptions- 5 rushing td’s). The QB is assisted by the dynamic tailback tandem of Jeffrey Demps and Chris Rainey, and the field stretching ability of its All-America wideout Percy Harvin, and fellow receiver Louis Murphy. The opportunistic D, led by its All-America backer Brandon Spikes, and end Lawrence Marsh is the sixth stingiest eleven in America, and attacks, and disrupts the pass, and run, with equal ferocity. The Gators special teams, who have blocked five kicks, have also played a significant role in Florida’s recent dominant performances.
The Dawgs have found its offensive bite.
In Athens, the trio of quarterback Matthew Stafford (12 touchdowns – 5 interceptions), All-America tailback Knowshon Moreno, and freshman sensation receiver, A.J. Green, has finally hit its stride, and is piling up points, quicker than Diane Wilkerson stuffs her bra with cash. (Who knew Wilkerson wore a bra size; 23G? The second show begins at eleven!) The D, which features backers Rennie Curran and Darryl Gamble inhales runners, but shows some vulnerability in defending against the pass.
This is a double payback game for Florida. In last year’s 42-30 victory over Florida, Bulldog coach Mark Richt, sent his entire team onto the field to celebrate Georgia’s first touchdown, in what, in Gainesville, has become known in as; the Gator Stomp. That perceived gesture of disrespect has festered in the craw of Florida coach Urban Meyer for over a year. This week, he has instituted a gag order, on all his players regarding the incident. But, if the opportunity presents itself, rest assured, Meyer will take no prisoners. In that vein, we think the Gators put a Tropicana squeeze on the Dawgs.
No.1 Texas at No.6 Texas Tech (Ch.5, 8 p.m.) This is a game in which both teams could score more in the first quarter, than Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson score in an entire year. The Horns are hooking teams behind it’s dual-threat Heisman Trophy front running quarterback Colt McCoy (21 touchdowns – 4 interceptions- 7 rushing touchdowns), who directs the nation’s fifth highest scoring team. The Austin automatic, is also completing an eye-popping, 81 percent of his throws, and the near flawless QB also has more weapons than a skin-head’s cellar. He can laser-lock onto a pair of glue fingered, un-coverable 24/7 receivers in Jordan Shipley (10 touchdowns) and Quan Cosby, or lean on an emerging running attack, that features Vondrell McGee and Chris Ogbonnaya. The D, led by All-America end Brian Orakpo and backers Sergio Kindle and Roddrick Muckelroy, stones runners, but has as much trouble defending the pass (9th from the bottom) as Bob Gamere’s attorney will have, in defending his client.
There hasn’t been this much excitement in Lubbock, Texas, since native son Buddy Holly was cranking out 45’s. In fact, the last time Texas Tech, who is in possession of a ten game winning streak, stood 8-0; Jimmy Carter (1976) was occupying the Oval Office. The nation’s top ranked aerial show is directed by quarterback Graham Harrell (28 touchdowns – 5 interceptions), who has the luxury of being protected by an elephantine offensive line. The touchdown tosser focuses on his All-America fly-trap receiver, Michael Crabtree (14 touchdowns), and the pair have become the tastiest Southwest combination, this side of beer, and Texas barbecue. In addition, the Red Raiders have the ability to change up with a pair of quality backs, in Batch Barron and Shannon (10 touchdowns) Woods. The D, which features end Brandon Williams, and backer Brian Duncan, is usually considered a dry well in the South Plains, but this year’s group is much more resilient than previous teams. In a game in which, an MIT mathematician may be needed to keep track of the touchdowns, we think the Horns, have just enough defensive talent, to carry the day. Or to paraphrase native son Buddy Holly, “That’ll be the day,” when TT takes out Texas.
Northwestern at No. 20 Minnesota (ESPN, Noon) The Purple Cats may have had its season de-clawed by the year ending wrist injury to its star senior tailback, Tyrell Sutton. But rest assured, coach Pat Sullivan’s squad will continue to scratch with his dual-threat quarterback C.J. Bacher (10 touchdowns – 11 interceptions) (questionable with leg injury, if he can’t go, junior Mike Kafka will start) with assists from seasoned runner Omar Conteh, and a pair of senior receivers in Ross Lane and Eric Peterman. The D, led by end Covey Wooten and backer Prince Kwatens is overall pedestrian, but is a goal line defending force, and worthy of its ranking, as the twenty-sixth stingiest team in the land.
To paraphrase a bad movie introduction: Minnesota (7-1) is the feel good story of the year. Last season Coach Tim Brewster’s Golden Gophers didn’t win a conference game, and finished the year 1-11, the worst record in school history. Now, the school with the longest Rose Bowl drought (47 years), is riding a three game conference winning streak, and has an outside chance of going to Pasadena. The Gophers are directed by its exciting sophomore quarterback Adam Weber (10 touchdowns -3 interceptions), who gets help from a dominant wideout, in Eric Decker, and a steady tailback in DeLeon Eskridge. The opportunistic D, the Gophers lead the nation in turnover margin, is led by ends Willie Van Desteeg and Lee Campbell, and just like its opponent, it gumbies (bends) but doesn’t break, and ranks as the twentieth toughest eleven to score on. The feel good story has at least, one more chapter, as Minnesota gets a step closer to smelling the Roses.
No.16 Florida State at Georgia Tech (Ch.5, 3:30 p.m.) It’s been awhile since the Seminoles have sniffed such a lofty ranking entering the month of November, which coincidently, is the month that coach Bobby Bowden turns a young 79. The backbone of Bowden’s team, as always, is its swarming third ranked defense, which features sack master end, Everette Brown, backer Derek Nicholson, and safety Myron Rolle. This punishing trio leads a group that has been destructive in defending both the run, and the pass. The other ingredient in the Tallahassee resurgence, has been the play of first year starter, dual-threat red-shirt sophomore Christian Ponder (9 touchdowns – 6 interceptions). The QB, along with tailback Antone Smith (ribs) and wideouts Taiwan Easterling and Greg Carr are the catalysts of the nation’s twentieth highest scoring team.
Yellow Jackets coach, Paul Johnson, has shifted his running philosophy from Annapolis to Atlanta, and, so far, the faithful heartily approve. Running quarterback Josh Nesbitt, and tailback Jonathan Dwyer are the anchors on America’s ninth best rushing offense. The D, behind end Derrick Morgan and safety Morgan Burnett and backer Kyle Jackson, defend all angles, and are the seventh toughest to score upon. In a huge ACC match-up, the speed of the Seminoles delivers an early birthday present to its coach.
Pitt at Notre Dame (Ch.7, 2:30 p.m.) The Dave Wannstedt era at Pitt (21-21), has yet to fulfill expectations. In his four-plus seasons, the Panthers continue to exhibit an erratic tendency of defeating a highly ranked opponent one week, only to lose to a much inferior one the next. The Pitt offense is a throwback to the Tony Dorsett era, focusing on the ground attack, which is spearheaded by the nation’s eleventh rated rusher, LeSean McCoy, who has scored 14 touchdowns. QB Bob Stull (4 touchdowns- 5 interceptions) (concussion, questionable) is simply asked to manage the game. The D, led by its All-America tackling machine Scott McKillop, dominates in only one phase; it is third in the nation in sacks.
How weak is the Irish schedule? Well, Notre Dame is 5-2, and has yet to be ranked. Here’s another disturbing stat for the Irish faithful, in its last 14 games against opponents with at least a .500 record, ND is a Syracuse-like 1-13. The leader of the one dimensional offense, is its starry sophomore quarterback, Jimmy Clausen (15 touchdowns- 9 interceptions), who is helped by a pair of quality targets, in Golden Tate and freshman Michael Floyd. Unfortunately, for Charlie Weis, it is easier to find campus atheist, than a quality Irish running back, as the ND rush attack sits a bottom feeding ninety-first. The Domers D, led by backer Maurice Crum is much improved, but remains vulnerable defending the pass. We think, come late Saturday afternoon, the Irish, for the first time since 2006, officially get ranked.
Last week’s record: 3-2. Season record: 30-15.