Handicapping week 12

We begin this week with some – not so friendly – skies.

When Idaho athletic director Rob Spear booked his fundraising flight to Boise, he never expected to encounter this visual turbulence.  It turned out that the airline he was scheduled to fly, Horizon Air, had earlier this month unveiled a plane which was painted in the colors of Idaho’s arch-rival Boise State.  In true Beach Boys, “Be True to Your School,” Spear booked another flight, driving 90 miles to fly from Spokane, Washington.  The plane changing had zero effect, as that same weekend the Vandals were throttled by the Broncos; 63-35.  This weekend let’s see which teams clearly see the horizon, and fly home coloring the victory column, and which get stuck in the turbulence of another plain, unsightly, loss. 

No.11 Oregon at Arizona (Ch.5, 8p.m.) The Ducks get that rarest of gifts, a second chance to control its Rose Bowl destiny.  The nation’s ninth highest scoring eleven (37 points a game) quacks on legs of the country’s ninth leading rusher LaMichael James (7 yds. a carry – 11 TDs) who along with dual threat QB Jeremiah Masoli (11 touchdown passes – 3 interceptions) comprise the sixth best rushing team (237 yards a game) in the land.  When Masoli takes to the air he has a pair of talented receivers in tight end Ed Dickson and wideout Jeff Maehl.  The D led by backers Kenny Rowe, Spencer Paysinger and corner Lewis Javes has Buick dependability, but purrs like a Lexus defending the pass. 

Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, Arizona has nomadically wandered the desert as the only conference team never to have experienced the pageantry of Pasadena.  The compass setting is simple: if Mike Stoops Boys win out – the Rose Bowl invite will be in the mail.  The Cats are also experiencing a Tuscon toot, winning 12 of its last 14 in Arizona Stadium.  The AU offense directed by QB Nick Foles (13 touchdown passes – 6 interceptions) with assists from tailbacks Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin and wideouts Terell Turner and David Roberts, is reflective of its coach – steady but never flashy.  The D behind end Ricky Elmore, and backers Xavier Kelley and Cam Nelson ranks eighteenth overall, and does its best work stopping the run.  Arizona is calling for a red-out on Saturday night, but we think the Green from Eugene rain on Arizona’s Rose Bowl parade.

California at No.14 Stanford (VERSUS, 7:30 p.m.)  How disappointing has the Golden Bears season been?  For the Berkeley faithful, it’s akin to having nothing but republican candidates listed on their election ballot.  Cal has also recently been hamstrung by the loss of its steam-engine, All-America tailback (concussion) Jahvid Best.  The rest of its rather pedestrian offense is directed by junior quarterback Kevin Riley (15 touchdown passes – 5 interceptions) with assists by a quality sophomore runner Shane Vereen, and wideouts Marvin Jones and Verran Tucker.  The D, led by ends Tyson Alualu, Cameron Jordan and backer Mike Mohamed stones runners, but is vulnerable defending the pass, which is not a good recipe against Stanford.

The Cardinal, under Coach Jim Harbaugh has flown to new heights.  The Boys on the Farm have also claimed consecutive victories over top ten teams.  The Stanford offensive juggernaut alternates between the nation’s third leading rusher, and rapidly rising Heisman Trophy candidate, Toby Gerhart (19 TDs) and its dual threat freshman QB Andrew Luck (son of Oliver, 13 touchdown passes – 3 interceptions), who is second on the team in rushing, while operating as the country’s eleventh most efficient passer.  It’s the D that causes the Cardinal faithful more headaches than an honors bio-class.  The group led by end Thomas Keiser, backer Clinton Snyder and safety Bo McNally is eighty-first overall, ninety-third defending the pass, and allows an average of 24 points a game.  Despite all that, in this classic rivalry, our elections returns shows the Cardinal continues to climb the polls.

No.13 Penn State at Michigan State (Ch.5, 3:30 p.m.)  The Nits schedule has been softer than the SEC’s early investigations of Bernie Madoff.  Yet, despite that fluff, PSU still failed miserably, losing its only pair of noteworthy games in Happy Valley.  Quarterback Darryl Clark (19 touchdown passes – 10 interceptions) directs this sloppy, Van Winkle offense, with assists from tailback Evan Royster and wideouts Derek Moye and Graham Zug.  The D which has compiled Fifth Ave numbers is led by a trio of backers; Josh Hull, Navorro Bowman, and Sean Lee.  This group ranks eighth best in stopping the run, seventeenth in defending the pass, and is ninth overall, while allowing a microscopic 11 points a game.  But it doesn’t take Columbo to figure out, that these gaudy numbers were artificially sweetened by the aforementioned schedule of cupcakes. 

After its inauspicious start (1-3), Michigan State has clawed its way into bowl eligibility.  Sparty would like nothing better than to sweeten its season by knocking off its more “prestigious” rival.  The Spartan’s operation is under the direction of its unheralded QB Kirk Cousins (17 touchdown passes – 5 interceptions) with help from tailback Larry Caper and wideouts Blair White and B.J. Cunningham.  The D, behind backers Greg James, Eric Gordon and tackle Jerel Worthy handles runners, but defends the pass as well as Diane Wilkerson defends her missing tax returns.  In East Lansing we think its dessert for everyone, as Sparty dines on the Nits.  

No.10 LSU at Mississippi (Ch.4, 3:30 p.m.) The LSU offense makes the US dollar look like the British pound.  These devalued and deficit riddled spenders are seventeenth from the bottom in passing, seventy-third in scoring, seventy-fifth in rushing, and overall ranked thirteenth worst.  The toothless Tigers are directed by QB Jordan Jefferson (ankle) (12 touchdown passes – 4 interceptions) with assists from tailback Keiland Williams and touchdown (9) making wideout Brandon LaFell.  The nation’s tenth stingiest D, who pound behind the backer threesome of; Perry Riley, Kelvin Sheppard, and Harry Coleman, has maintained the roar in Death Valley.

Couch Houston Nutt has never been a good front-runner, and the Rebels season has been a disappointment.  The biggest culprit has been QB Jevan Snead (17 touchdown passes – 14 interceptions – 52 percent completions) who at one time was touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate.  The Ole Miss rushing attack is on solid ground with starry tailback Dexter McCluster (7 yards a carry) and when Snead can get him the ball; Shay Hodge is a primary target.  The country’s twelfth stingiest D, led by backers Patrick Trahan and end Lockett Kentrell is “rebel yell” solid.  This is a tough game to figure, McCluster could go off, but bottom line: we don’t think Snead can handle the LSU pressure. 

UConn at Notre Dame (Ch.7, 2:30 p.m.)  How good of a coach is Randy Edsall?  Well, if the Huskies head man was prowling the sidelines for the Blue and Gold, the eyes of the Irish Nation would be smiling, instead of searching for its next head coach.  Saddled with injuries Connecticut is starting backup QB Zach Frazier (formerly of Notre Dame), who has thrown three more interceptions than touchdowns.  The QB is supported by the tailback tandem of Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon, and a pair of field stretching receivers in Brad Kanuch and Marcus Early, who is averaging a jaw-dropping 21 yards a catch.  The D behind end Lindsey Witten and backers Lawrence Wilson and Greg Lloyd has great difficulty defending the pass, which is not a good recipe against Notre Dame.

In our opinion Irish Coach Charlie Weis in on a “death watch,” but unlike the movies, there will be no clemency call from the Governor, or in this case, Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.  Not even Touchdown Jesus condones his lousy record.  The Domers’ catalyst is the nation’s fifth rated passer QB Jimmy Clausen (21 touchdown passes – 4 interceptions) who gets a huge lift from the country’s best wideout pairing; All-America Golden Tate (11 TDs) and his partner Michael Floyd.  Unfortunately, the Irish D featuring Kyle McCarthy, and backers Manti TE’O, and Darius Fleming stops the opposition as often as the Pope skips Mass.  There may be more talent on the ND sideline, but the better coach works for the Huskies – UConn KO’s Charlie. 

Last week’s record: 3-2                                             Season record:  37-18.

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