Monthly Archives: December 2008

addition to BCS games

Oklahoma was dealt a bad hand, when it was announced that one of its 1000 yard backs All-America DeMarco Murray, will need hamstring surgery, and will NOT play in the championship game.  OU has tons of weapons, and has the talent to overcome this, but this is a significant loss.

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Handicapping the BCS games

We begin this week with some tough love.

Or to put it another way; I’ll do anything to keep my job.  Virginia coach Al Groh is returning for his ninth season in Charlottesville, without the services of his son.  Mike Groh, the offensive coordinator for the past three years, was let go by his father, in a coaching shakeup. “There are no scapegoats here,” said dear-old-Dad.  “The head coach is responsible for the team.”  I wonder how Mrs. Groh feels about that.  In this expanded father and son championship reunion week, let’s see which teams show the fat-cat alums some love, by winning its bowl game, and which, break apart, like a dysfunctional family. 

No. 6 Penn State vs. No. 5 USC – Rose Bowl   Jan. 1 (Ch. 5, 4:30 p.m.) The 82-year old Lion in Winter, “granddaddy” Joe Paterno, the Division 1 all-time winningiest (383-126-3) coach, is taking his Lions to Pasadena for his second invitation to the “Granddaddy of Them All,” – the Rose Bowl.  Penn State’s first trip occurred in 1923, a 14-3 loss to Southern Cal, which, amazingly, was a little more than three years before JoePa was born. 

Despite its heavy underdog status, the Nits are talented on both sides of the ball.  The nation’s eleventh highest scoring team motors behind its senior quarterback Darryl Clark, (17 touchdowns – 4 interceptions), with assists from starry tailback Evan Royster, and a trio of slippery, glue-fingered receivers, led by Deon Butler.  The country’s fourth stingiest eleven, who blitz all day from all angles, is led by All-America sack master end Aaron Maybin and backers Navarro Bowman and Tyrel Sales. 

USC has the best defensive team seen in L.A., since the “dream team” in the first; O.J. Simpson trial.  These Men of Troy, are really Men of Steel, and have displayed better numbers than the MIT Math Department.  Pete Carroll’s Boys, who have won an astounding 81 of its last 89, whip-saw an offense behind a pair of All-Americas in backer Rey Maualuga and safety Taylor Mays, with assists from backer Brian Cushing and end Kyle Moore, all of whom will eventually be playing on Sunday afternoon.  This wrecking crew, surrenders less than 8 points a game, has outscored opponents by the combined score of 450-93 (surrendered a seasonal total of 7 points in the third quarter!) and is ranked: number one in pass, scoring, and total defense.  USC’s fourteenth highest scoring offense directed by quarterback Mark Sanchez (30 touchdowns – 10 interceptions), surfs-up with the help of wideouts Damien Williams and Patrick Turner, and a committee of fast and shifty tailbacks.  Overall, these guys aren’t flashy, but comforted by its kryptonite defense, they don’t have to be, and simply, slowly grind down, an opponent.  JoePa has been quoted as saying: “It’s the name on the front of the jersey, that’s more important, not the name on the back.”  Well, in the 95th playing of this classic, the name on the front reads; USC. 

No. 12 Cincinnati vs. No. 21 Virginia Tech – Orange Bowl Jan. 1 (Fox, 8:30 p.m.)  If Charlie Weis stumbles again next year, Notre Dame should laser-lock onto coach Brian Kelly, the head man at the University of Cincinnati.  Like Mayor Tom Menino, nobody has done more, with less.  Despite using five different quarterbacks this season, Kelly, 22-5 in his two years running the show, has his Big East Champion Bearcats growling into its first-ever, major bowl appearance.  Cincy is led by its nail-tough quarterback Tony Pike, (18 touchdowns – 7 interceptions), (senior season starter Dustin Grutza leg injury will also play) who has the luxury of focusing on a pair of game-changing receivers in Mardy Gilyard and Dominick Goodman, who have combined for 152 receptions and 17 touchdowns.  Unfortunately, U of C’s ground attack is about as effective, as a FEMA agent, after a hurricane.  The attacking D, featuring end Connor Barwin, backer Ryan Manalac and All-America corner Mike Mickens, isn’t scintillating, but is very proficient in defending its end zone.

Despite its inexperience, Beamer’s Boys have buoyed the VaTech faithful, with its signature: Blacksburg Blitz.  Under the direction of its Svengali, long time assistant Bud Foster, America’s thirteenth stingiest group, led by end Jason Worilds, and backers Purnell Sturdivant and Brett Warren, have suffocated tailbacks and quarterbacks better than Albert DeSalvo.  Unfortunately, on the offensive side, it’s easier to find an honest Illinois politician, than it is to witness a Hokie touchdown drive.  This anemic group led by its running quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and tailback Darren Evans, ranks 107th in total offense, 89th in scoring, and is about as empty, as the accounts of the clients, invested with Bernie Madoff.  We think it will be an Orange-Blossom special for the Boys from the Queen City, as Cincinnati is crowned; kings of the Orange Bowl. 

No. 10 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Texas – Fiesta Bowl Jan. 5 (Fox, 8 p.m.)  Defense is to Columbus; as native-son Jack Nicklaus is; to a “major” golf trophy.  The 2008 version of the Scarlet and Grey, led by its All-America backer James Laurinaitis, certainly accentuates that well-earned, mid-west, rust-belt reputation.  These Buckeyes, who attack behind the nation’s seventh stingiest defense, swarm and punish with the intensity of bulldog U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.  The offense, featuring the running of All-America tailback Chris Wells, and its free-flowing freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor (12 touchdowns – 4 interceptions) isn’t nearly as dynamic.  In fact, OSU has had thirsty periods in which offensive touchdowns at Ohio Stadium are as rare, as the sighting of a fan of Michigan.

The Horns don’t belong here.  These Sons of Austin belong in New Orleans, for the BCS championship game.  UT’s motivation is to prove to the country, that the wrong Big 12 team is in the big-game.  The Burnt Orange, paint the town with the country’s fifth highest scoring offense, featuring its “Mr. Everything,” quarterback, and Heisman Trophy finalist, Colt McCoy (32 touchdowns – 7 interceptions), who also ran for 10 touchdowns in leading Texas in rushing.  The QB, who is the third rated pass efficiency leader, has the Linus-blanket comfort of choosing between a pair of “All-State” receivers in Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley.  The attacking D, featuring All-America end, sack-master Brian Orakpo, and fellow backers Sergio Kindle and Rodderick Muckelroy, swallow runners, but like most teams in the pass-mad Big 12 Conference, struggles (109th) in defending the pass. This is a credibility game for the Buckeyes, and a show-em game for the Horns, we think Texas, is the one, who puts on a show.

No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 7 Utah – Sugar Bowl Jan. 2 (Fox, 8 p.m.)  Alabama is one quarter of football – and a great opponent; Tim Tebow – away from playing in the National Championship game.  In this game, motivation is the Tide’s biggest obstacle.  Luckily, coach Nick Saban is the best in the business, at getting a team ready to perform at its maximum level.  The backbone of these Tuscaloosa titans is the nation’s sixth stingiest, and third overall D, which features backers Rolando McClain, Don’ta Hightower, and nose Terrence “Mount” Cody.  The offense is powered by a Gibraltar-esque offensive line, which allows plow-horses Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram to move the chains and control the clock.  The entire operation in under the watchful eye of steady senior quarterback, John Parker Wilson, who has a pair of money receivers in tight end Nick Walker and freshman jewel, wideout Julio Jones. 

The Utes, are celebrating its second undefeated team in the last five seasons, and are the first non-BCS conference squad, to make a repeat appearance, in a BCS game.  Kyle Whittingham’s Salt Lake City conquerors, are the fifteenth highest scoring team in the land, and feature unheralded quarterback Brian Johnson (24 touchdowns – 9 interceptions), tailback Matt Asiata and two sure-handed receivers in Freddy Brown and Brent Casteel.  The country’s twelfth stingiest D, led by backers Mike Wright and Stevenson Sylvester, stones runners and is a pest in all phases.  This is the Utes Super Bowl, and they will not be intimidated, but Alabama is bigger, faster, and better, as Saban keeps his team riding a high Tide. 

No.2 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 Florida BCS Championship (Fox, 8 p.m.)  This game has more impressive numbers than the federal government bail-out.  Oklahoma is the highest scoring team in the history of the sport.  The Sooners are also the first team in 89 years to average at least a point-a-minute, for five consecutive games.  This scoring Tsunami, flows on the arm of Heisman Trophy winner, and the nation’s pass efficiency leader; quarterback Sam Bradford (48 touchdowns – 6 interceptions), who is cocooned by an offensive line that has only allowed a paltry total of four sacks for the season.  This field-general can laser-lock onto a pair of All-America receivers in wideout Juaquin Iglesias, and tight end Jermaine Gresham, then shift gears with the running of his two 1000 yard backs in Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray, who have combined for 34 touchdowns.  (The word came out of Norman on Turesday, December 16, that Murray will need hamstring surgery, and will NOT play in the championship game.  He will be replaced by talented sophomore Mosis Madu.)  The D, featuring backers Jeremy Beal and Travis Lewis, isn’t of traditional Norman vintage, and is very vulnerable in defending both the pass and its own goal line. 

Coach Urban Meyer is attempting to accomplish, what his predecessor, Steve Spurrier was never able to do, win a second national title in Gainesville.  The Gators have won nine straight, chomping the opposition by an average game point differential of a shade less than 37.  The catalyst behind the nation’s third highest scoring team, is Heisman Trophy finalist, Tim Tebow (28 touchdowns – 2 interceptions – 12 rushing td’s), the country’s fifth leading passer, who has demonstrated better leadership qualities than the Commander-In-Chief.   The rest of the Florida offense has more turbo-chargers, than the Big Three automakers combined, and isn’t in need of a bail-out.  The tailback tandem of Chris Rainey and Jeffrey Demps belongs in Daytona, while wideouts Louis Murphy and All-America Percy Harvin, could run at Churchill Downs.  In this game, the Gators have a huge advantage, utilizing the nation’s fifth stingiest defense.  All-America backer Brandon Spikes leads a group that is second in both interceptions, and turnover margin, and is as menacing as a pirate attack off the coast of Somalia.  This is a game in which OU coach, “BGB” (“Big Game Bob”) Stoops, who has lost his last four BCS appearances, hopes to reclaim his nickname, and erase OU’s latest moniker: “Choklahoma.”  In the first ever meeting between the two schools, we think Florida has more sunshine, and just enough defense, to slow the Sooners, and capture its second national title under Meyer. 

Season record: 48-26.

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Recap week 15

Well we now a perfect BCS storm.

Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, USC, Pen State, and Texas Tech, all have a single loss, and that’s not including undefeated Utah, and Boise State, although the latter isn’t worthy of being in the conversation.  Trying to decide who is most worthy, is like going to a fashion show, and trying to decide which of the runway models, who are all “10’s,” is the best looking – it’s simply in the eye of the beholder. 

Let’s start in Atlanta.  The SEC championship game lived up to its “classic” billing, as this pair of heavyweights; Florida and Georgia, traded punches for sixty brutal minutes of smash-mouth football, before the Gators, and possible Heisman redux, quarterback Tim Tebow took control of the Tide, out-gaining them in the fourth quarter 130-1 in total yards, in Florida’s 30-21 come from behind victory.  What a game, what a performance by Tebow!!

Last Thursday evening, Rutgers officially buried its SUNJ label – State University of New Jersey- and will now be referred by its more respectable name of: Rutgers University.  After a horrendous 1-5 start, coach Greg Schiano’s boys rallied to win six straight, as QB Mike Teel, who earlier in the season was booed off the field, fired a school record 7 touchdown passes, as the Scarlet Knights embarrassed Louisville 63-14, and led 49-0 at the half.

Congrats to coach Turner Gill and the Buffalo Bulls, who knocked off previously undefeated Ball State 42-24, to win the MAC Championship.  The Bulls, who before the arrival of Gill, were one of the worst programs in the nation, will be going bowling for the first time in its 102 years history.  Syracuse may be his next stop.

Another Cuse possibility is East Carolina coach Sip Holtz – son of Lou – who upset high flying Tulsa, 27-22, and captured its first league title in 32 years. 

Pitt is back.  The Panthers after its 34-10 dismantling of UConn are 9-3, for the first time since a guy named Dan Marino was strapping one a Pitt helmet.  Congrats to coach Dave Wannstedt.

Army unveiled its new look camouflage uniforms yesterday, with its black jersey that read: Duty. Honor. Country.  Unfortunately, the only thing that was camouflaged for the West Pointers was its offense, as Army who has now lost seven straight in this series, was shut out 34-0, the biggest point differential since 1973, when they lost 51-0.

California 48 – Washington 7, this game is significant for two reasons: it keeps Washington the only winless school in Division 1, the other: Golden Bear tailback Jahvid Best, ran for a school record 311 yards, on only 18 carries, which averages to one less yard per carry, than his number of carries.  Amazing!!

In the likely championship match up of Florida vs. Oklahoma, try these for numbers:

Since its loss to Mississippi, Florida has reeled off nine straight, by the average score of 50-13, while Oklahoma, since its loss to Texas has won seven in a row, by the average score of 60-29, and in doing so, became the first team in 89 years to run off five consecutive 60 plus point games.  We’ll take Florida. 

Arizona in its 31-10 defeat of in-state rival Arizona State finishes 7-5, for its first winning season since 1998, thus firmly securing the job for coach Mike Stoops. 

After a good deal of struggle:  My Heisman ballot reads:  1. Tebow 2. McCoy 3. Bradford.

That’s it from cyber space.  Thanks to Ledger guys, Ken Johnson and Mark Torpey, stay well, and we’ll see you next year.   Peace out. PK

Hndicapping week 15

We begin this week with a scholarship.

In this era when the term; student – athlete, is acknowledged with a wink and a smile, Florida State safety Myron Rolle did something that hasn’t been done since the Nixon Administration.  Two weeks ago, the starry safety was awarded a Rhodes scholarship; considered to be the world’s most prestigious, postgraduate, academic award.  In winning, he became the first Division 1 athlete since USC’s Pat Haden, in 1974, to attain such a distinguished honor.  The safety, who plans to study medicine, and open a clinic for the needy in the Bahamas, will forgo the NFL draft, and enroll in Oxford in the fall.  This weekend let’s see which teams play more like “students,” and which, display the scholarship of carrying out a wining mission.

Army vs. Navy – Philadelphia (Ch. 4, Noon) Are there games of more importance as to the clarity of the national rankings?  To quote Sarah Palin: “You betcha.”  Is there another game that better represents amateur sportsmanship, or our collective national psyche?  I think not.  In one of the grand traditions of the sport, just the words; Army/Navy conjures not only a patriotic image, but it also brings a smile. 

In one of its best moves – ever – the NCAA in its collective wisdom, has decided to permanently move the playing date of this academy classic to the second Saturday in December, rightly accentuating it as; the official close to the college football season.

Army, who has lost six straight to its rival, intends to alter that trend, by marching behind the nation’s ninth ranked rushing attack.  That field strategy features the tandem of; Collin Mooney (11th in rushing) and his galloping quarterback Chip Brown, who has combined for over 1800 yards.  Unfortunately, the Black Knights of the Hudson operate a scoring offense – (sixth from the bottom) – that purrs like a broken down Hudson.  The D’s Long Grey Line, behind backers Frank Scappaticci and Stephen Anderson, won’t overwhelm, but holds its line in all phases.

Taking over for the wildly successful Paul Johnson, newly minted head man Ken Niumatalolo had one mantra: “Don’t screw it up.”  To paraphrase our Commander-In-Chief, “Mission Accomplished.”  A victory gives the Mids, who are already bowl bound, (the inaugural Congressional Bowl) its eighth win.  The Naval Academy maneuvers behind the nation’s best rushing attack, featuring the tailback committee of: Shun White, Eric Kettani, and quarterback Ricky Dobbs.  The trio has sailed for over 2100 yards and 18 touchdowns.  The opportunistic D, featuring backer Ross Pospisil, and defensive back Wyatt Middleton, is fifth in turnover margin, and like its academy rival is solid and tough.  In the 109th renewal, with the records reading: Navy – 52, Army – 49,  ties 7, the Navy, in a close game, once again sinks the Army, and marches off with the streak rising to seven.

P.S.   As an aside, yours truly will be in the stands.  It is the tenth anniversary of taking my “old man” to the game – the guy who introduced me to the great game of college football.  He passed away seven years ago, so this is a tip-of-the-hat return, to say thanks.  Alex will also be joining me, officially making this edition, a generational hand-off. 

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Florida – Atlanta (Ch.4, 4 p.m.)  Crimson clad St. Nick (coach Saban) has one more gift to deliver to a grateful Tuscaloosa nation – an SEC Championship – and with that victory; the Tide punches its ticket into the national title game. 

In order to fulfill that tall wish list, Bama, who has outscored its first half opponents: 234-47, must plow the earth behind its Gibraltar-esque offensive line, and then aerate it on the legs of its talented tailback tandem of; Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram, who have seeded the fields for just under 2000 yards.  The unblemished operation, is overseen by the steady hand of senior quarterback John Parker Wilson (9 touchdowns – 5 interceptions), with assists from a pair of play-makers in wideout Julio Jones, and tight end Nick Walker.  The nation’s third stingiest D, featuring starry backer Rolando McClain, and nose Terrence Cody, attacks in a crimson storm.  This punishing group will hit longer and more often, than a Grammar school nun disciplining an unruly eighth grader, and has brought visions of a championship dancing in the heads of the Tide faithful.

Florida can light-up a scoreboard, faster and brighter than Paris lights its city.  In its last eight games, since losing to Mississippi, the Gators have outscored the opposition; 414 – 97.  The chief Gainesville electrician, is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Tim Tebow, whose numbers: 25 touchdowns – 2 interceptions – 507 yards rushing – 12 touchdowns, are better than the ones scantily displayed on the runway show for Victoria Secret.  In addition, Tebow, who directs the nation’s third highest scoring offense, is closing hard, toward a second consecutive piece of shiny hardware. 

The Nagurski-esque QB, is assisted by a pair of backfield thoroughbreds in Chris Rainey and Jeffrey Demps, (All-America runner/receiver Percy Harvin, questionable ankle), as well as two glue-fingered receivers, in tight end Aaron Hernandez, and wideout Louis Murphy.  The Daytona challenging defense, led by All-America backer Brandon Spikes, is the country’s fourth toughest to score upon, is second in interceptions, and tops in turnover margin.  In a game of classic contrasts – speed versus strength – we think the Gators have the brighter illumination.

No. 4 Oklahoma at No. 19 Missouri – Kansas City (Ch. 5, 8 p.m.)   The Boomer Schooner ponies are exhausted.  In each of its last four games, OU, who leads the nation in scoring (53 points a game), has posted a 60-plus number on the scoreboard.  Oklahoma has been like a young, primal, Mike Tyson, slugging early and outscoring its first half opponents by: 418-143.  The chief gunslinger of these shootouts, is Heisman Trophy front runner, quarterback Sam Bradford (46 touchdowns – 6 interceptions), the nation’s second ranked pass efficiency leader.  The rest of the QB’s posse is just as potent, and features the running of tailbacks DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown (combined over 1900 yards, 31 touchdowns) and a trio of touchdown grabbing receivers, that includes Juaquin Iglesias and All-America tight end Jermaine Gresham.  The D, featuring end Jeremy Beal, corner Dominque Franks and backer Travis Lewis, defends the pass about as well as; Bill Weld handles his amber colored liquor, and remains a stomach turner for the Norman faithful.

The “Show Me State,” didn’t show as well as it had hoped, but Missouri remains dangerous, and would like nothing better than to derail the title hopes of the Sooners.

Former Heisman Trophy front-runner, quarterback Chase Daniel, (34 touchdowns – 13 interceptions), is the commander of the nation’s fourth highest scoring eleven.  The QB is nicely assisted by a pair of All-America’s; in wideout Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman.  Mizzou can also throw a change-up and grind on the ground, with tailback Derrick Washington.  All-America backer Sean Weatherspoon is a rock, but the rest of the Missouri defense, 91st overall, is as solid as the political career of Chuck Turner.  These are the games where “Big Game” Bob earns his nickname, and Oklahoma, and its pair of ponies, earns its way into the national championship. 

No. 18 Boston College vs. Virginia Tech – Tampa (Ch. 5, 1 p.m.)  The Eagle has landed.  Picked for fifth in its division, the Boston College Eagles have picked over the carcasses of its foes, and are now playing for the opportunity to appear in a major bowl, for the first time since the 1985 Cotton Bowl.  This Jesuit rising begins with the country’s fourteenth stingiest eleven, who are harder to run on than Madonna’s mascara in the rain.  Defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani ferocious bunch, tops the nation in interceptions, and is led by four future Sunday playing studs; in tackle B.J. Raji and a threesome of backers in Mark Herzlich, Mike McLaughlin and Robert Francois.  Unfortunately, for the Eagle faithful, the 94th overall ranked offense is the mirror opposite.  Directed by its redshirt freshman quarterback Dominique Davis, and supported by a pair of future stars in freshmen tailbacks Montel Harris and Josh Haden, this group is about as offensive, as the French Army during WWII.  

As always in Hokie-land, the defense sets the tone for the Blacksburg eleven.  This stifling bunch, led by end Orion Martin, and a pair of pursuing backers in Purnell Sturdivant and Bret Warren is sixth overall, and the sixteenth toughest in defending its goal.  Unfortunately for the Blacksburg faithful, it is now easier to get a car loan, than it is to see a VaTech offensive touchdown.  Tech’s offensive threats are its talented dual-threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back Darren Evans, but overall this group which sits 92nd in scoring is a barren as a corn field in winter.  If the Eagles don’t turn the ball over, in a game in which points will be at a premium, we think BC conjures up the spirit of Doug Flutie, and flies home with an invitation to the Orange Bowl.

Last week:  4-1                                       Season record:  45-25. 

God willing, we’ll see you next season.

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