We begin this week with a bon-voyage.
To show their displeasure with the anemic record of football coach Greg Robinson, three enterprising seniors at Syracuse University, have found a way to capitalize on, the ineptitude of the Orange program. They are selling tee-shirts entitled: The Greg Robinson Farewell Tour. Made by the Holy Shirt Company, the back side of the shirt is modeled after a rock concert tour, listing the locations, and the opponents, of the Syracuse football schedule. They have been big sellers for the students and tailgaters. This weekend, let’s see which teams send its fans home with a winning message, and which bid adieu to another sorry performance.
No. 8 Penn St. at Purdue (ESPN, Noon) If in fact, this the curtain call for the Happy Valley Lion in Winter, then Joe Paterno, is leaving to rave reviews. The nation’s fourth highest scoring team is commanded by the country’s eleventh most efficient (9 touchdowns – 1 interception) passer, in dual threat quarterback Daryl Clark. The QB is assisted by the Nits top ten rushing attack, featuring tailbacks Evan Royster and Stephfon Green, and the Big-Ten’s best trio of receivers in Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood (hamstring). The Lions fire power also ignites quickly, as Penn State has outscored opponents 163-34, in the first half. The nation’s eleventh stingiest defense, behind backer Navorro Bowman, and ends Josh Gaines and Aaron Maybin, plays equally well in defending both the run and the pass.
Joe Tiller’s Boilers hope to engineer the upset. Purdue leaders are starry quarterback Curtis Painter (0 touchdowns in last 104 attempts) and tailback Kory Sheets, who is having a breakout season, and a pair of quality receivers in Greg Orton and Tardy Desmond. The problem for the Boys from West Lafayette is its bottom feeding defense, which stops an offense about as often as John Kerry ignores a camera. Despite the fact that Penn State is only 12-20 on the road in conference games since 2000, The Lion roars again, as JoePa continues, on his victory tour.
No. 2 Alabama at Kentucky (Ch.4, 3:30 p.m.) In his six years in Lexington, Kentucky, coach Rich Brooks has seen his fortunes rollercoaster like a 2008 Wall Street banker. The difference is: Brooks revived the sagging fortunes of the KU football program, without the help of a government bailout. This season, the Cats have scratched opponents behind the nation’s stingiest defense. This group led by backers Braxton Kelley, Micah Johnson, and end Jeremy Jarmon, snaps tighter than a Lenora Helmsley purse, surrendering an eye-popping 5.5 points per game. The one dimensional offense, led by tailback Derrick Locke, is as dynamic and ferocious as the personality of senate majority leader Harry Reid.
There hasn’t been this much giddiness and bravado in Tuscaloosa since the gentleman with the plaid checkered hat was prowling the Alabama sideline. Under the tutelage of coach Nick Saban, these Sons of Bear Bryant, are solidly positioned to challenge for the national title. The top twenty offense is directed by senior quarterback John Parker Wilson, with assists from the tailback threesome of Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch, who have combined for 969 yards and eleven touchdowns. Wilson also has a game breaking glue-fingered target, in true freshman receiver Julio Jones. The D, which features backers Rolando McClain, Brandon Fanney and nose Terrence Cody is vintage Saban, hits all game long, and has yet to allow a point in the first quarter. It’s a tip of the plaid and checkered cap, as Alabama continues to channel the spirit of the Bear.
No. 24 Connecticut at North Carolina (ESPN2, 7 p.m.) The best team in New England, Randy Edsall’s UConn Huskies, is 5-0 for the second consecutive year. No wonder BC refuses to play them. The catalyst for the Sons from Storrs is the nation’s leading rusher, Donald Brown (11 touchdowns – 181 yards a game). The Huskies will go as far as Brown can carry them, because Connecticut is an abysmal thirteenth from the bottom is passing, and will be without starting quarterback Tyler Lorenzen for eight weeks, out with a broken foot. The D, featuring backers Scott Lutrus, Greg Lloyd and end Cody Brown is solid in all phases.
Butch Davis has mixed a nice blend of tobacco curing in Chapel Hill. The offense is spearheaded by senior dynamo tailback-receiver Brandon Tate, who is a touchdown threat every time he touches the ball. Backup QB Cameron Sexton has stepped in admirably for injured starter T.J. Yates, and when the Tar Heels do run, they feature tailback Greg Little. The D is pedestrian, led by backers Quan Sturdivant, Mark Paschal and end Robert Quinn. It’s tough to go against Edsall, but we’ll take the Boys from tobacco country to butt-out the Huskies.
No. 4 Missouri at Nebraska (ESPN, 9 p.m.) Just like its counterparts in Tuscaloosa, the Missouri faithful haven’t been this excited since the iconic Dan Devine roamed the Tigers sidelines some two generations ago. The nation’s second highest scoring eleven is commanded by its All-America and Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Chase Daniel. This dart thrower (12 touchdowns – 1 interception) completes seventy-five percent of his passes, and is nicely assisted by All-America tight end Chase Coffman, and fellow speedster receiver Jeremy Maclin. Missou’s running game, featuring tailback Derrick Washington, provides a dangerous change of pace. The D, led by All-America backer Sean Weatherspoon, remains a question in Columbia, and is one of the country’s worst in defending against the pass.
The faithful in Lincoln is still waiting for the glory days return of its beloved Big Red. Senior quarterback Joe Ganz is the leader of the top twenty offense with assists from the running tandem of Marlon Lucky and Roy Hello, and the big-play ability of wideout Nate Swift. On the defensive front, coach Bo Pelini has moth-balled the vaunted black-shirts, symbolic in Husker lore for defensive excellence, until its bottom feeding pass defense, plays like it is deserving of its scholarships. On Saturday night, in a place where Missou last won in 1978, the only real red will be found around the rims of the eyes of the Nebraska faithful, as the Huskers lose for the second consecutive time in Lincoln.
No. 13 Auburn at No. 19 Vanderbilt (ESPN, 6 p.m.) The Auburn faithful are demanding a refund from the Tony Franklin experiment. Coach Tommy Tuberville brought in his offensive coordinator to open up the predictable Tigers offense, but so far its performance has simply been offensive. The results tell the story: 97th in scoring, 97th in passing, and they climb all the way to 90th in total offense. The running attack remains the foundation behind Brad Lester and Ben Tate, but the quarterback play behind Chris Todd and Kodi Burns has been a work in progress. The nation’s fifth stingiest D, led by end Antonio Coleman, safety Zac Etheridge, and backer Josh Bynes has held opponents to a total of nine first half points, while leading the nation in preventing third down conversions.
This is Vandy’s super bowl as the Commodores are trying to go 5-0 for the first time since the last “good” war, WWII, in 1943. It is also the first time since 1984, that football in Nashville has cracked the national rankings. It will also be the first campus appearance by the crew from Game Day. Bobby Johnson’s attack is Patton-like, led by running quarterback Chris Nickson (shoulder) and tailback Jared Hawkins, doing all its damage on the ground. The D, which leads the nation in takeaways, and features by (pos) Patrick Benoit, Ryan Hamilton and Chris Marve, puts great pressure on the quarterback, but operates a secondary that is abysmal in defending the pass. Nothing truly points to Vandy. Auburn has won thirteen in a row in the series. They have better, faster, and bigger athletes, but the feeling is, somehow the Commodores sail off with the victory.
Last week’s record: 1-4 Season record: 15-10