Handicapping week 11

We begin this week with an unusual strain of flu.

This particular type, which is unique to the Athens, Georgia area, is also known as: Red and Black flu. Oddly, the outbreak only occurs, on the first Saturday in November, and coincides around the annual Florida/Georgia football classic.  It also seems to have a debilitating effect, on the Clark County School District.  Last year 137 teachers were affected and called in sick, so this year, anticipating another outbreak, the district decided to cancel school on Friday.  No wonder the American kids have fallen so far behind the rest of the world.  This weekend, let’s see which teams have the antidote for another victory, and which, play so poorly, it leaves its faithful with the feeling of flu-like symptoms.

No. 3 Penn State at Iowa (Ch.5, 3:30 p.m.)  Now that JoPa’s boys have been jumped by Texas Tech, the 81 year old coach will focus on adding style points.  He’ll also want his ‘Nits to fear these Boys of the Corn, as if they were out of a Stephen King novel.  Luckily, Penn State has the weapons to do both.  The nation’s eighth highest scoring team operates under the direction of its surgically precise senior quarterback Darryl Clark (11 interceptions- 2 interceptions) with assists from tailback Evan Royster (10 touchdowns) and a threesome of field-stretching wideouts in Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood, and Derrick Williams.  This group is also ninth in the nation in third down efficiency.  The nation’s fourth stingiest D, featuring All-America end Aaron Maybin and backers Tyrell Sales and Navorro Bowman, attacks like a lion on an unsuspecting wildebeest.

This is Iowa’s super bowl.  The Boys from Iowa City, who motor on the legs of the nation’s third leading rusher in Shonn Greene (11 touchdowns), would love to derail the Happy Valley express.  Unfortunately, the rest of the Hawkeye offense puts the fear of a dust bowl into its farming faithful.  Like its Western Pennsylvania counterparts, the D sets the tone for Iowa.  Linebackers Pat Angerer and Jeremiha Hunter lead a group that is third in the nation in interceptions (16), stones runners and is the seventh toughest team to score on.  We don’t think, the Iowa City movie is scary enough, and the Nittany Lions come home; 10-0.

No. 8 Oklahoma State at No. 2 Texas Tech (Ch.5, 8 p.m.) T-Boone Pickens University, also known as, the Ok State Cowboys, may have the most dynamic offensive trio this side of Sammy, Dean, and Frank.  This three-pack of All-America’s; featuring quarterback Zac Robinson (20 touchdowns – 5 interceptions), wideout Dez Bryant (15 td’s), and the nation’s third leading rusher in Kendall Hunter (11 td’s), have had perfect pitch, in leading America’s fifth highest scoring offense.  The D led by backer Orie Lemon, and safety Andre Sexton, has lassoed eleven interceptions, but taken as a whole, won’t send any shivers into an opposing offense.

The last time Texas Tech marched to a 9-0 mark (1938), the Germans had just marched into Austria.  Armed with its lofty ranking, TT has gone from the hunter to the hunted.  These Sons of Buddy Holly, are directed by the newest Heisman Trophy leader in quarterback Graham Harrell (30 touchdowns – 5 interceptions), who also ranks first in total offense.  The QB is assisted by a high-powered arsenal that includes a pair of quality backs, in Baron Batch and Shannon Woods, plus a trio of glue-fingered wideouts led by the incomparable Michael Crabtree, who has fifteen touchdown receptions.  The D, led by sack master (10) defensive end Brandon Williams, is fourth in the nation in interceptions, but remains one of the bottom feeders in defending against the pass.  On Saturday night, on the Plains of West Texas, in Lubbock, the Red Raiders meteoric climb, comes to a crashing fall. 

No.1 Alabama at No. 15 LSU (Ch.4, 3:30 p.m.)  Alabama is playing a football game, ranked as the nation’s number one team, for the first time since 1980.   That has the Tuscaloosa believers so inspired, that they have begun to hang photos of coach Nick “St. Nick” Saban, next to the Yellowhammer’s State’s other secular saint, Paul “Bear” Bryant.  The Tide’s efficient offense, is directed by its steady senior quarterback John Parker Wilson (8 touchdowns- 4 interceptions), with big assists from its hard pounding tailback, Glenn Coffee, and freshman wideout, Julio Jones.  The D, led by backers Rolando McClain and Don’ta Hightower, has produced better numbers than an Obama Illinois result.  This group ranks second in stoning runners, fourth in total defense, and is the sixth stingiest to score upon, which are all the hallmarks of a Saban coached team.

LSU is searching for an identity.  The Baton Rouge brigade is wounded and splintered, particularly on the defensive side.  Led by backer Perry Riley, this one time Fort Knoxian group, has been shredded for 103 points in its two losses.  It remains to be seen, if coach Les Miles has sufficiently plugged the dike in time, for the prodigal son’s return.  The offensive tone, is set by the running of starry tailback Charles Scott, (11 td’s) with help from a learning curve quarterback Jarrett Lee (12 touchdowns – 10 interceptions) and a pair of erratic receivers in Brandon “drops” LaFell and Demetrious Byrd.  In what will be a very difficult test, Saban’s triumphant return to Death Valley, adds more photos of St. Nick to the walls of the Tuscaloosa faithful. 

No.21 California at No.7 USC (Ch. 5, 8 p.m. – regional) It will take the collective brain power of the entire Cal math department, to try and concoct the winning formula against mighty USC.  The strength of the Boys from Berkeley lies in its ground assault, which features the running tandem of Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen, who have combined for nearly 1200 rushing yards.  The QB situation is now under the direction of seasoned senior Nate Longshore (starter Kevin Riley concussion), while the rest of Cal’s passing attack is about as dynamic as, a John Kerry speech, on anything.  The Golden Bears D, which features starry backer Zack Follett and teammate Michael Mohamed, is solid on all fronts, and leads the nation in interceptions with 17.

The Trojan’s D, is more stifling, than the conversation at a dental hygienist convention.  Try these numbers at your local lottery.  USC is Numero Uno in pass defense, total D, and is also the nation’s stingiest bunch; surrendering just a shade over seven points a game.  In other words, it’s harder to move the ball against the Trojan defense, than it is to find a politician who refuses a free lunch.  In fact, the L.A. golden boys have put up Hollywood Walk of Fame numbers, outscoring opponents by the combined score 322-57.  This group, featuring backers Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga, and Kaluka Maiua, are future Sunday studs, and attack with a force more destructive than an El Nino.  The country’s tenth highest scoring offense, is led by quarterback Mark Sanchez (22 touchdowns – 7 interceptions), who directs the attack with the quick strike precision of a cat-burglar.  This Trojan eleven can also accumulate points faster, than Barack Obama, accumulated campaign cash.  Unfortunately for Cal, in the 96th meeting of these ancient rivals, there is no Mr. Einstein in its math department, as USC continues, to roll up, pre-recession hedge-fund numbers.

Cincinnati at No.20 West Virginia   If the athletic administrators from the Queen City play the right hand, they’ll lay down some aces-($$$), and lock up coach Brian Kelly (17-7)  to a long term deal.  The Bearcats, claw away with its aerial show, commanded by junior quarterback Tony Pike (9 touchdowns – 3 interceptions).  The QB has the luxury of choosing from a pair of game changing wideouts, in Marshwan Gilyard and Dominick Goodman.  The D, behind end Connor Barwin and All-America corner Mike Mickens, disrupts and attacks from all angles.

Coach Rich Rod-$ who?  After a pair of early season stumbles, home grown coach Bill Stewart’s Mountaineers have settled into a comfort zone; winning five in a row.  The headliner of this country road show remains its scintillating All-America quarterback Pat White (13 touchdowns – 3 interceptions 613 rushing yards), who along with his turbo-charged teammate Noel Devine, delivers the nation’s tenth best rushing attack.  The D, behind backers Monty Ivy and Quinton Andrews, is malleable, but remains the tenth toughest team to score upon.  The spirit of John Denver is cranked to full volume, as West Virginia takes control of the Big East.

Last week’s record: 1-4.                        Season record: 31-19.

[Editor’s note:  Although we never want to disappoint our “loyal” readers with a dismal 1-4 week, the way those games went against us; a one second loss, a 4 overtime loss, a interception return of 48 yards loss, and a fumble in the end zone loss; for that excitement, in the best of all the sports, we’ll take 1-4 every time.]



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