Handicapping Week 4

We begin this week with a waiter.

The well known Doctor of Advice, “Dr. Lou” (Holtz), offered these pearls on his show last week.  In life, find the thing that you are most passionate about, and pursue that for a career.  Just the other day I was in a restaurant, and our waiter was so full of enthusiasm and professionalism, I could tell he loved his job.  Impressed, I asked, how long have you worked here?  He responded, “Ever since they threatened to fire me!” 

This weekend let’s see which teams go through the motions putting their coach on the firing line, and which deliver the goods with a bounce to its step.

Iowa at No.5 Penn State (Ch.5, 8 p.m.)  After last year’s bowl winning season the Iowa City faithful have rechristened Hawkeye coach Kirk Fernetz with the “genius” moniker, as Iowa is   riding a seven game win streak.  If these Hawkeyes, who are a Big Ten dark horse, are going to soar, it will be on the arm of rocket armed seasoned quarterback Ricky (5 touchdowns – 3 interceptions) Stanzi.  The QB is comforted by a plowing offensive line with assists from tailbacks Adam Robinson, Brandon Wegher, receiver Trey Stross, and a pair of talented tight ends in Allen Reisner and Tony Moeaki.   The 15th ranked scoring defense, which stands as tall as an Iowa corn field, is the signature of this Ferentz coached team.  This bunch terrorizes behind a trio of backers in Pat Angerer, Jeremiah Hunter, and A.J. Edds.

This is the ultimate revenge game for JoPa’s Lions.  Last season, the Iowa gave the Nits its only blemish, preventing Penn State from playing in the national championship game.  The director of this Happy Valley association is the nation’s 15th ranked passer, Darryl Clark (5 touchdowns – 3 interceptions) with huge assists from its All-America tailback Evan Royster, his partner Stephon Green, and a pair of emerging receivers in Derek Moye and Graham Zug.  The country’s second ranked scoring D, featuring All-America tackle Jared Odrick, and backers Sean Lee (sprained knee probably out, but All-America backer Navarro Bowman returns), and Josh Hull, have surrendered a total of 3 first half points, but those sugary numbers have come against a trio of: “U of Nobodies.”  Fully aware how difficult an assignment it is to win in Happy Valley, we think the Boys of the Corn, leave with the win, and emerge as a legitimate Big Ten threat.

No.9 Miami at No.11 Virginia Tech (Ch. 5, 3:30 p.m.) The Hurricane warnings have returned to the U.  The Miami resurgence is led by its sophomore triggerman Jacory Harris, the nation’s third most efficient passer.  His success is directly attributable to the play calling wizardry of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, the former championship head man of UMass football.  The QB, who spreads the ball better than the Swine Flu (H1N1), has a pair of primary targets in Travis Benjamin and Leonard Hankerson.  The ‘duende’ (with apologies to George Frazier) signal caller can also rely on a solid ground attack, courtesy of Graig Cooper and Javarris James.  The D, featuring backers Darryl Sharpton, Colin McCarthy and lineman Olivier Vernon, is bullet train fast, but has struggled in defending against the pass.

Saying there is offensive firepower in Blacksburg, is like Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke saying; the recession is over.  Dual-threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor is completing less than fifty percent of his throws, and his passing efficiency ranks 14th from the bottom.  When they do move the ball, Tech utilizes a talented tailback in Ryan Williams (over 6.5 yards a carry), and when Taylor can get the ball in their vicinity, wideouts Danny Coale (over 29 yards a catch) and Jarret Boykin are field stretching targets.  The D, behind backers Cody Grimm, Barquell Rivers and All-America corner Stephan Virgil, has been leakier and more stressed than a New Orleans levee, against a good running attack.  In fact VaTech has allowed three backs to rush for over 100 yards for the first time since 2002.  On Saturday, we think there will be Hurricane warnings in Blacksburg, as Miami returns the strut to the U.

No.6 California at Oregon (Ch. 5, 3:30 p.m.-regional) Cal hasn’t had someone run this well since the days of the; “old cowboy” Ronald Reagan.  Jahvid Best totes the ball as the nation’s third leading rusher.  The consensus All-America tailback, is averaging over 7.5 yards a carry, and has already tallied eight rushing touchdowns. 

If there is a crack in the country’s second highest scoring team, it’s the accuracy of its triggerman, Kevin Riley (5 touchdowns –0 interceptions), who can focus on a pair of solid receivers in Marvin Jones and Verran Tucker.  The D, behind backers Mike Mohamed, Mychal Kendricks, and end Tyson Alualu, stones runners, and has yet to surrender a fourth quarter point.

The once high flying Quack Attack, at least for now, has been grounded.  It currently sits 73rd in overall scoring.  The problem is at QB, where dual-threat director, Jeremiah Masoli, is completing less than fifty percent of his throws, and has yet to toss a touchdown pass.  Oregon ranks an astounding fourth from the bottom in passing.  The D, led by its tackling machine: backer Casey Matthews and All-America corner Walter Thurmond has struggled in all phases.  Reagan won, and so do the Golden Bears, as Best does his best, in running away, through, and over the Ducks. 

Texas Tech at No. 17 Houston (ESPN2, 9 p.m.)  The QB’s produced in Lubbock have broken almost as many records, as those belted out by Native Son; Buddy Holly.  The Red Raiders latest gunslinger is junior dart thrower Taylor Potts (12 touchdowns – 4 interceptions), who not only directs the nation’s number one passing offense – he leads the country in passing.  Mad Scientist Mike Leach’s latest incarnation lasers onto a pair of glue fingered receivers in Lyle Leong (5 touchdowns) and Detron Lewis, and although Tech is second from the bottom in rushing, it does function with a capable tailback in Baron Batch.  The D, behind backer Bront Bird and end Daniel Howard isn’t dynamic, but solid against both the run and the pass. 

In Houston – “We have no problem,” at least on the offensive side of the ball.  The Cougs are led by starry junior quarterback Case Keenum (7 touchdowns – 1 interception) who also sits fourth in national passing statistics.  This commander has a threesome of field stretching wideouts; Charles Sims, Patrick Edwards, and Tyron Carrier.  Like its counterpart TT, when Houston does run, Bryce Beall is very capable. Unfortunately for the Houston faithful, the D, which is led by backer Marcus McGraw and end Tyrell Graham, mimics a colander in trying to defend the run.  On Saturday, in a game where the scoreboard operator may need a NASA math degree, we think, that at games’ end, that Houston does indeed, have a problem.

Arkansas at No. 3 Alabama (Ch.4, 3:30 p.m.)  These are not your father’s Hogs.  In one year, coach Bobby Petrino has transformed the running identity of the Razorbacks into a “Wallenda” aerial show.  Michigan transfer, quarterback Ryan Mallett, who has yet to throw an interception, is the leader of this bacon brigade.  He, along with tailback Michael Smith, and wideouts Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and tight end D.J. Williams, have pork chopped Arkansas into the nation’s second rated passing attack, and eighth highest scoring eleven.  Unfortunately, for the Hog faithful, the defense continues to get butchered, as the Razorbacks sit a dismal 99th in points allowed.

I know it’s early, but using the “eye-ball” test, the team from Tuscaloosa may be the country’s best.  As always with Nick Saban coached teams, the identity is on the defensive side.  The Tide, who are third in total D, and allow opponents less than two yards a carry, punish teams behind this three-pack of All-Americas in nose Terrance (Mount) Cody, backer Rolando McClain, and corner Javier Arenas.  The eleventh highest scoring team is directed by junior quarterback Greg McElroy (4 touchdowns – 1 interception), with help from tailbacks Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson and a quartet of receivers; that features Mike McCoy and Marquis Maze.  (All-America Julio Jones – ankle – is expected to play.)   This Saturday, in Bryant-Denny Stadium, “The eyes have it,” as the Tide slices the Hog’s bacon into the fire.

Last week:  4-1                                       Season record:  10-5.

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