We begin this week with some Southern gentility.
“We don’t tailgate. We picnic,” said Tim Walsh, head of the alumni association and the unofficial keeper of the Grove, the iconic grassy ten acres in the middle of the Ole Miss campus. In 1990 after a series of heavy rains reduced this “holy-grail” to a sodden mess, it prompted the university to close it off to cars. “It’s ironic,” said Walsh. “People complained, but since then it’s blossomed. Take out the cars, and you can get a whole lot of people in,” he said. Some say, 30,000 on game day, in the city of Oxford that has 16,000 residents. Game weekend also sees the restaurants serve some 4500 meals. The owner of four of those establishments, John Currence said, “Being from New Orleans, I sort of compare it to Mardi-Gras, it is really wild.” This weekend let’s see which teams look like they’re reading Faulkner, while still sipping on chardonnay from stem glasses and which are starving to get muddy and dirty while trampling over its Gatsby opposition.
No. 10 TCU at No. 16 BYU (Versus, 7:30 p.m.) Busted! That’s the intent of the Horned Frogs from Forth Worth. Bust into the BCS party. The nation’s sixteenth highest scoring team is directed by its jet fueled dual threat QB Andy Dalton (8 touchdown passes – 3 interceptions), who is hummingly completing 65 per-cent of his passes. He is ably assisted by tailback Joseph Turner, and a trio of receivers; Jeremy Kerley, Bart Johnson and Jimmy Young. Coach Gary Patterson’s D, has more quality than the merchandise at a Tiffany’s. This Frogs squad, is the country’s fourth rated overall eleven, and attacks behind its All-America end Jerry Hughes (8 sacks) with assists from backer Tank Cander and safety Alex Ibiloye.
The mission of the Mormons is to extinguish those Forth Worth party lights. The nation’s seventh highest scoring team is led by the quarterback Max Hall (16 touchdown passes – 10 interceptions) who is operating as the country’s fourth most efficient passer. The QB gets big assists from the running of tailback Harvey Unga, All-America tight end Dennis Pitta, and wideout O’Neil Chambers. The D sings (Tabernacle Choir) behind end Jan Jorgensen and backer Coleby Clausen, but overall is anything but heavenly. In another hard fought game, the Horned Frogs continue to jump in the polls.
Tennessee at No. 1 Alabama (Ch.4, 3:30 p.m.) The Kiffins – Coach Lane and dad, Monte (defense) – have smoothly settled into the Knoxville community. The UT identity remains its top twenty defense. All-America safety Eric Berry, backer Rico McCoy, and end Chris Walker lead a group that relentlessly attacks from all angles. The offense is also beginning to awaken from its Van-Winkle slumber. QB Jonathan Crompton (13 touchdown passes – 9 interceptions) directs a group that relies almost exclusively on the legs of Montario Hardestry, the nation’s twelfth leading runner, to open up the passing attack.
The Tide is at its highest. Coach Nick Saban’s defense infiltrates an offense with the ferocity of a staph infection. These Tuscaloosa Titans, led by an All-America threesome; backer Rolando McClain, nose Terrance Cody, and safety Javier Arenas (ribs-uncertain), allow runners less than 2.5 yards a carry, swat a pass like a grizzly, and are the fourth stingiest eleven in America – allowing less than 12 points a game. The catalyst of the nation’s thirteenth highest scoring offense is its unstoppable cannon-ball tailback, Mark Ingram, the nation’s fourth leading rusher. He also continues to rise in the Heisman race. The elusive one is assisted by quarterback Greg McElroy (9 touchdown passes – 3 interceptions) wideouts Julio Jones, Colin Peek, and a pair of dynamic runners in Trent Richardson and Roy Upchurch. Despite the fact that McElroy’s been shaky of late, it’s still too much for Rocky Top to handle, as the Tide washes the Orange out of Tennessee.
No. 7 Iowa at Michigan State (BTN, 7 p.m.) It’s time for some Hawkeye love. Iowa is the helmeted version of Harold Stassen. Nobody takes them seriously – but all they do is win. Ronald Regan was munching jelly beans (1985), the last time the Boys of the Corn started 7-0. This Iowa City eleven also owns the second longest (10) winning streak in America. Unlike the perennial presidential loser – Iowa has a winning campaign manager; Coach Kirk Ferentz. The D, the nation’s sixteenth stingiest, is the Hawkeyes foundation. Senior backer Pat Angerer – who plays that way – leads a group that is second in turnovers gained, with assists from fellow backer Jeremiha Hunter and end Broderick Binns. Mistake-prong quarterback Ricky Stanzi (11 touchdown passes – 8 interceptions) leads this pedestrian gang (81st) with help from the tailback tandem of Adam Robinson, Brandon Wegher, starry tight end Tony Moeaki, and wideout Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.
MSU reflects the personality of its tough, disciplined coach; Mark Dantonio. After a sluggish start, the Spartans have fought back to win three straight and currently sit at: 4-3. Sparty attacks with a top-twenty passing attack, utilizing the quarterback tandem of Kirk Cousins (9 touchdown passes – 4 interceptions) and Kirk Nichol. This duo is assisted by tailback Larry Cooper, and wideouts Blair White and B.J. Cunningham. The D, behind backers Greg Jones, Eric Gordon and tackle Jerel Worthy stones runners, but is weak as the Tennessee Titans in defending the pass. In a tough, close game, we think the Boys of the Corn continue its bountiful harvest.
South Florida at No. 20 Pitt (ESPN, Noon – regional) We’ve seen this movie before. South Florida shots up the polls only to flop in its first real league test. The question that gnaws at the USF faithful – which direction does this Bulls team take. The top twenty scoring offense is commanded by its dual threat QB, B.J. Daniels (7 touchdown passes – 4 interceptions) who is also the team’s leading rusher. The signal caller is assisted by tailback Moise Plancher and a pair of quality wideouts in Carlton Mitchell and Dontavia Bogan. The nation’s ninth stingiest D, attacks behind bookend ends Craig Marshall and All-America George Selvie, but has been pedestrian in stopping the run.
The question in Pittsburgh carries a similar theme. Can the “Stache” – Coach Dave Wannstedt – handle the prosperity? Pitt’s top twenty scoring offense is fueled by the legs of an explosive true-freshman, tailback Dion Lewis, who is the nation’s third leading rusher. For the Pitt faithful, this kid is conjuring up flashes of its iconic hero; Tony Dorsett. The Panthers are directed by QB Bill Stull (14 touchdown passes – 3 interceptions) the nation’s seventh most efficient passer. The QB also has the luxury of focusing on a pair of field stretching targets; Jonathan Baldwin and Dorin (8 touchdowns) Dickerson. The D led by backer Adam Grimm and linemen Mick Williams and Greg Romeus, struggles defending the pass, but is third in the nation in sacking the quarterback. We think Dion and the “Stach” make beautiful music, as Pitt climbs higher in the polls.
Oregon State at No. 4 USC (Ch.5, 8 p.m.–regional) Here’s a quizz. Who is the chief dam builder for the Beavers? Answer – its All-America tailback Jacquizz Rodgers (13 touchdowns) the nation’s ninth leading rusher. The Quizz is equally dynamic catching passes out of the backfield. The rest of the offense operates under the leadership of QB Sean Canfield (8 touchdown passes – 4 interceptions) with assists from another Rodgers – wideout brother James, along with Damola Adeaji. The D behind backers Keaton Kristick and David Pa’aluhi stones runners but is as fraudulent (6th from bottom) as an Afghan election defending the pass.
The Men of Troy – truly are. Pete Carroll’s Dream Machine has won a jaw-dropping 87 of its last 97. True freshman quarterback Matt Barkley has settled in as; “the next big thing” with the help of a stable of tailbacks featuring Joe McKnight and Stanley Havil. The kid can also rely on a pair of play makers in wideout Damien Williams and tight end Anthony McCoy. The nation’s fifth stingiest D, behind All-America safety Taylor Mays, backer Chris Galippo, and ends Nick Perry and Everson Griffen, stones runners, but has been like a mediocre 3-foot swell in defending the pass. Make it 88 of 98 as the Southern Cal surfs to another win.
Last week’s record: 4-1 Season record: 23-12.
Make sure to check out our weekend recap Sunday afternoon.