Handicapping Week 5

We begin this week with a money-back guarantee.

How many times have football fans gone to the “big” game, surging with anticipation, only to be bitterly disappointed when the home town heroes lay an egg.

Well, welcome to Eugene, home of the Oregon Ducks football team.  After OU’s dismal opening season performance against Boise State, a 19-8 loss, alum Tony Seminary, who traveled from Portland, sent coach Chip Kelly an invoice of $439 in travel expenses.  He also included the following note: “The product on the field Thursday night is not something I was at all proud of, and I feel as though I’m entitled to my money back for the trip.”  Amazingly, Kelly replied to his web site, asking for Seminary’s address, and then sent him a check for the $439.  Seminary responded, “As a sales guy, it’s really hard to shut me up.  When I received that check, I was literally speechless.”  Seminary sent the check back with a thank-you note, and a new appreciation for Coach Kelly.  This week, let see which teams cash in, and which teams perform so poorly, that its fans do indeed, deserve their money back. 

No. 22 Michigan at Michigan State (Big Ten Network) What a difference a year makes. At 4-0, Coach $Rod’s Ann Arbor eleven are nationally ranked, and sitting high-wide-and handsome, with one more win than last season’s entire total.  The triggerman for this Wolverine resurgence; is its dual threat, (7 touchdowns – 2 interceptions – shoulder) guts and glue true freshman QB; Tate Forcier.  This kid, who has the entire Wolverine Nation energized, is assisted by his water bug zipping true freshman partner, quarterback Denard Robinson, along with the quartet of  tailbacks Carlos Brown, Brandon Minor (ankle), wideout Martavious Odoms and tight end Kevin Koger.  Unfortunately for the Maize and Blue faithful, the D, behind backer Obi Ezeh and All-America end Brandon Graham, is Kleenex soft, and defends the pass about as well as Mike Dukakis fits with the Massachusetts Democrat elite.

The once promising season in East Lansing, now finds MSU clunking along in Detroit–like life support.  The quarterback sharing system of Kirk Cousins and Keith Nicol will also remain intact.  This QB pairing leans heavily on tailbacks Caulton Ray, Larry Cooper, and wideouts Blair White and B.J. Cunningham.  The D, led by backer Greg Jones and tackle Jerel Worthy, was expected to be the backbone of the Spartans, but unfortunately, has proven to be more of a Trojan horse.  In its first venture away from the friendly confines of the Big House, against an intra-state rival, it will be interesting to see how the Michigan-Kid handles the assignment.  We think he’ll do just fine, as MEEECHIGAN, who hasn’t lost two consecutive games to the Spartans since the days of LBJ, climbs to 5-0. 

No. 8 Oklahoma at No. 17 Miami (Ch.5, 8 p.m.)  Sam Who?   While OU’s reigning Heisman Trophy quarterback Sam Bradford (he might  play) recuperates from a shoulder injury – his understudy, Landry Jones (9 touchdowns – 3 interceptions) has emerged as the Susan Boyle of Sooner-land.  But after fattening on a pair of Cupcake U’s, the fifteenth most efficient passer rolls into Miami, for his South Beach debut.  In addition to Jones, the nation’s eighth highest scoring team motors behind the tailback tandem of DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, with assists from a pair of learning curve receivers, in Brandon Caleb and Ryan Broyles.  The Sooner’s D, has been as stifling as a Sunday morning sermon at a Catholic Mass.   The nation’s stingiest eleven swallows runners behind its All-America tackle Gerald McCoy, and a pair of heat seeking backers in Ryan Reynolds and Travis Lewis.

The U still needs work.  QB Jacory Harris is the jazz-cool catalyst behind offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s Miami attack.  The sophomore, who is still on the learning curve, is assisted by the tailback pairing of Graig Cooper and James Javarris along with the field stretching ability of Leonard Hawkerson and Travis Benjamin.  Unfortunately for the Canes faithful, when it comes to stopping the run the D, led by backer Colin McCarthy and lineman Olivier Vernon has been as stable as the UN performance of Muammar Gaddafi.  We think Jones, and the Sooners have a smashing debut, as OU asserts itself, back onto the national stage. 

No. 7 USC at No.24 California (Ch.5, 8 p.m.–regional) These are not you father’s Trojans.  Pete Carroll’s Men of Troy are riding an amazing wave – having won 85 of its last 95.  But this could be the season that its streak of 7 consecutive 11-win seasons, and Pac-10 titles, crashes in a wipeout. 

Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley (3 touchdowns – 1 interception) has been solid, but with the exception of tailback Joe McKnight, and to a lesser degree, All-America wideout Damian Williams, USC lacks any sense of offensive cohesiveness.  Despite significant graduation losses, the D has proudly waved the Southern Cal banner.  This bunch led by backer Chris Galippo, All-America safety Taylor Mays, and ends Nick Perry and Everson Griffen, inhales runners, intimidates throwers, and overall has been as dominant at the chest of Pamela Anderson, allowing a mere 10 points a game. 

Following last week’s embarrassment in Eugene; Cal needs a better bounce back than Dustin Hoffman after “Ishtar.”  The lynchpin of the Golden Bears attack is its All-America tailback Jahvid Best (8 touchdowns), but the Boys from Berkeley must get more consistency and leadership from junior quarterback Kevin Riley.  The D, led by backers Mike Mohamed, Mychal Kendricks, and end Tyson Alualu is pedestrian, but morphs into Barney Fife in trying to defend the pass.  We think, in the spirit of Ms. Anderson, that the Trojans bust the heart of another pretender to its throne.

No.4 LSU at No. 18 Georgia (Ch.4, 3:30 p.m.)  The Tigers lofty ranking is about as legitimate as the rankings in Boxing’s Heavyweight Division.  Yet, there isn’t a coach in America, who wouldn’t take a 4-0 start.  The leader of an “offense” which has displayed numbers (105th) that are more conducive to the address of its Tulane neighbors from New Orleans than that of Baton Rouge is dual-threat quarterback Jordan Jefferson.  The running of tailback tandem Charlie Scott and Kevin Williams has been below the usual Death Valley standards, while wideout Brandon LaFell (5 touchdowns) has been a prime-time player.  The D, once the cornerstone of the Tigers, featuring backer Harry Coleman, end Rahim Alem and tackle Drake Nevis, has floundered –goal line stand exempted – in trying to stop the run.

The Dawgs sit 3-1, yet at times, particularly on defense, have played like dogs.  The steady hand of junior quarterback Joe Cox (9 touchdowns – 5 interceptions) has been the compass for the Bulldogs, with assists from tailback Richard Samuel and his All-America target A.J. Green.  The D, which is the 95th easiest team to score upon, is commandeered by its All-America backer Rennie Curran and his partner Darryl Gamble.  Despite its ranking, we’re selling short on LSU.  Even though Georgia has lost its last three to top ten opponents, and are 5th from the bottom in turnovers, (more than 2 a game), the Bulldogs chew the Tigers down to size.

Auburn at Tennessee (ESPN, 7:45) The Plains haven’t seen this much fire power since Admiral Farragut closed the port of Mobile.  Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has transformed Auburn into an offensive juggernaut.  You heard correctly, the Tigers are an offensive juggernaut.  The nation’s third highest scoring eleven flows on the arm of the sixth most efficient passer (11 touchdowns – 1 interception) in quarterback Chris Todd.  The QB’s arsenal includes America’s fifth best rushing attack (over 260 yards a game), behind Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb, and when they take to the air, the receiving tandem of Darvin Adams and Mario Fanin fans the flames.  The D, behind end Antonio Coleman and backers Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens, isn’t nearly as dynamic and struggles mightily against the run.

Coach Lane Kiffin is slowly changing the culture in Knoxville.  The foundation of this Vols team, as it is in most years, is its punishing defense.  This eight best group is led by its All-America safety Eric Berry, end Chris Walker and backer Rico McCoy.  It has had the good fortune of being tutored by a defensive wizard with the same Kiffin name – Monte – Lane’s Dad.  Unfortunately, for the Knoxville faithful, the offense is a Volunteer army of one –tailback Montario Hardestry, who is the nation’s eighth leading rusher.  The rest of these rag-tag fighters; quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who has thrown one more interception than touchdown, and his receiving corps, still aren’t ready for front line duty. 

On Saturday in Knoxville, it will be War Eagle soaring over Neyland Stadium, as Auburn soars into the national rankings.

 

(Last week was Dickensian – as regards to our predictions.  We took Iowa to win, but we also had Cal.  So it was the best of picks, and the worst of picks.  With that said)

                  Last week:  2-3                                Season Record:   17-8.

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