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.