Handicapping week 8

We begin this week in need of another sign.

Several weeks ago, Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage reversed his earlier decision banning signs, banners, and flags at Cavalier football games, that were critical of coach Al Groh and the football team.  The reversal came after students threatened to wear blue to the Maryland game.  The change seemed to be a magic elixir as Virginia went out and shocked the Terrapins 31-0, and have now won two in a row.  What would university founder Thomas Jefferson, the man of Enlightenment, have thought about the freedom of speech issue on his own campus? 

This weekend let’s see which teams display another sign of success, and which perform so poorly, instead of signs, maybe the entire team should be banned. 

No.11 Missouri at No. 1 Texas (Ch.5, 8 p.m.)  The Boys from the “Show Me State,” have to regroup, and show the nation that they do indeed belong with the elite – this time, in Austin, Texas.  If Missouri, can knock off the newly crowned Horns, its long shot road to the national championship game, will get a little smoother.  The undisputed leader of the nation’s third highest scoring team, is its Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback (16 touchdowns – 4 interceptions) Chase Daniel.  This craftsman with the surgical precision touch completes seventy-five percent of his passes, thanks in large part, to his All-America targets Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman.  Missou can also throw in a wrinkle with is starry tailback Derrick (11 touchdowns) Washington.  The D, behind its All-America backer Sean Weatherspoon, handles the run, but folds like Lehman Brothers (6th from the bottom) in defending against the pass. 

The Horns have “shot” to the top on the deadly marksmanship (79 percent completions) of its Heisman Trophy front running candidate, quarterback Colt (17 touchdowns- 3 interceptions) McCoy.  The director of the nation’s fifth highest scoring offense is greatly assisted by a pair of glue-fingered, big play receivers in Quan Cosby and Jordan, “touchdown (8) maker,” Shipley.  The QB remains the team’s leading rusher, but senior tailback Chris Ogbonnaya has begun to emerge.  The D behind backer Sergio Kindle and end Brian Orakpo is second in the land in sacks, but a Chrysler-like tenth from the bottom in defending the pass.  In another huge test, BEVO and the Longhorns, hook another victory, as the Sons of Daryl Royal solidify its reputation, as the best beef, in the land.

No. 16 Kansas at No. 4 Oklahoma (Ch. 5, 3:30 p.m. regional)  The fighting Mangino’s, who have won 20 of its last 23, have munched through its schedule on the arm of quarterback Todd (15 touchdowns – 3 interceptions) Reesing, the nation’s twelfth ranked passing efficiency leader. The KU dart thrower focuses on a pair of circled targets in former quarterback Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, who have combined for 84 receptions and nine touchdowns.  Unfortunately, the running attack featuring tailback Jake Sharp, is about as effective as Tom Brokaw, in moderating a national debate.  The D led by end Jake Laptad, backer James Holt and corner Chris Harris attacks from all angles. 

The Sooners are wounded and angry, which for Kansas is an incendiary combination.  OU is directed by the nation’s second most efficient passer in quarterback Sam Bradford (23 touchdowns – 5 interceptions), with assists from a trio of receivers, who have combined for 18 touchdowns in All-America tight end Jermaine Gresham, and wideouts Juaquin Inglesias and Manuel Johnson.  The ground attack carried on the legs of DeMarco Murray, and Chris Brown, can also be defensive disruptors.  The soul of the D, senior backer Ryan Reynolds is out for the season, but the remaining aggressive group, led by backer Travis Lewis and tackle Gerald McCoy, will stay on the attack.  On Saturday in Norman, KU will realize, it’s not in Kansas anymore.

No. 12 Ohio St. at No. 20 Michigan State (Ch.5, 3:30 p.m. regional) Diogenes might find his honest man before the Bucks find any offense.  The Columbus eleven have hung up numbers so offensive, they would even bring a cringe to a Wall Street broker.  Despite the quality performance from freshman sensation quarterback Terrelle Pryor and his All-America tailback Chris Wells, OU sits eleventh from the bottom in passing, seventieth in scoring, and ninety-fourth in total offense.  It’s the nation’s thirteenth stingiest defense, led by its All-America backer James Laurinaitis and his partner Marcus Freeman, who have carried the hopes of the somewhat disgruntled and spoiled Buckeye faithful.

The Spartan season has a nice ring to it.  Sparty has “rung” out opponents behind its All-America, and Heisman Trophy candidate Javon Ringer (14 touchdowns), the nation’s second leading rusher.  In addition to its plow horse tailback, quarterback Brian Hoyer and wideouts Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham have the ability to spring the big play.  The D, behind backer Greg Jones and safety Dan Fortener has difficulty against the pass, but remains an opportunistic aggressive bunch.  It’s never easy to go against the Bucks, especially with the BIG TEN title, and a Rose Bowl birth still in play, but we think Mark Dantonio’s Spartans finally break through, and grab a hard fought victory in East Lansing.

No.13 LSU at South Carolina (ESPN, 8p.m.)  The Tigers are another wounded, embarrassed, and hungry football team.  The quarterback rotation in Baton Rouge, between Jarrett Lee (8 touchdowns – 5 interceptions) and runner Andrew Hatch (1 touchdown -1 interception) remains as muddled as a Zimbabwe election.  One thing on the LSU offense that is clear is the ground attack, led by Charles Scott, the nation’s fourteenth best rusher, and someone who has the ability to carry a team on his legs.  The D, featuring backer Perry Riley, and safety Harry Coleman, flies and punishes, but so far, isn’t of vintage Tiger mayhem.

Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks have won four in a row, but like John Kerry’s attraction to a microphone, the search for quarterback perfection in Columbia remains a never ending quest.  The head ball coach alternates between Chris Smelley (10 touchdowns – 9 interceptions) and red-shirt freshman Steve Garcia as often as a NASCAR pit crew changes tires.  The rest of South Carolina offense is just as muddled.  The SC ground attack behind tailback Mike Davis, sits fifteenth from the bottom, and overall, the offense ranks an anti-Spurrier-like, seventy-ninth.  On defense the Cocks do indeed have the walk.  The nation’s sixteenth stingiest D, featuring backer Marvin Sapp and safety Emmanuel Cook, are impossible to pass on, play the run with equal vigor, and are the third ranked total defense in the country.  In a must win for LSU, we think that the talent level will carry the Boys from the Bayou in a close, defensive struggle in Columbia.

No. 22 Vanderbilt at No. 10 Georgia The Boys from Nashville with the stellar SAT’s, have, so far, passed their exams on turnovers.  Vandy is third in the nation with eleven interceptions, and sits seventh in quarterback sacks.  Coach Bobby Johnson has decided to sit senior quarterback Chris Nickson and start junior sparkplug Mackenzi Adams.  Despite its bottom feeding offensive numbers; third worst in both passing and total offense, the Dores have been able to scratch out enough offense to earn a top-25 ranking.  While, the aforementioned opportunistic D, led by backers Patrick Benoist, Chris Marve, and safety Ryan Hamilton, has been goal line defending demons.

After all the preseason hype, then its humiliating destruction by Alabama, the Bulldogs have been running as silently as Red October.  The offensive attack remains on high alert under the command of quarterback Matthew Stafford (8 touchdowns – 3 interceptions) with assists from its All-America tailback Knowshon Moreno, and sensational true freshman wideout A.J. Green.  The D, featuring backer Rennie Curran and tackle Corvey Irvin stones runners, but shows some vulnerability in defending the pass.  In the Athens Homecoming, the Dawgs blow the Commodores off course, and out of the national rankings.

Last week’s record: 3-2.                             Season record: 23-12.

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