Handicapping Week 2

We begin this week, with maybe the best dance card of the season, by giving new meaning to the phrase; school colors

Some two months ago, less than an hour before his five-year, $550,000 a year contract extension was about to commence, the former University of Georgia Athletic Director Damon Evans was pulled over by the Georgia State Patrol on suspicion of DUI – driving under the influence.  After failing the sobriety test, Evans was placed under arrest.  His 28 year old female passenger, not his wife, was also arrested for disorderly conduct.  In the police report it stated: a pair of red ladies panties was found between Evans’ legs.  Red is one of the dominant colors of the Georgia Bulldogs, so at least the AD was; as the Beach Boys once sang; “Be true to your school,” if not to his wife.  Ultimately, the disgraced AD was forced to resign.  This weekend, let’s see which teams are red with embarrassment, playing as if it was wearing panties and which, charge out of the locker room, playing like a bull, seeing red.  

No.18 Penn State at No.1 Alabama (ESPN, 7 p.m.)  Traveling to Tuscaloosa (Groucho Marx’s favorite town – “While shooting elephants in Africa, I found the tusks very difficult to remove. But in Alabama, the Tuscaloosa.”), it will take a Homeric effort for Penn State’s octogenarian (83) coach Joe Paterno to notch his 396th victory.  When asked about the magnitude of the task, going into Bryant-Denny Stadium with such a young team, the oracle from Happy Valley said, “It’s a football game, not the Crusades.”  The chief reason for that degree of difficulty, is that the iconic head man has given the reins to a true freshman quarterback; Rob Bolden.  Fortunately, this quiet leader, with the cannon arm, can lean on a pair of explosive backs, Evan Royster and Stephon Green, while focusing on the receiving duo of Brett Brackett and Derek Moye.  The D is solid, behind backers Chris Colasanti, Nathan Stupar and end Jack Crawford, but is still searching for its identity.  One other note, the last time these powers collided, Bill Clinton was in the first term (1990) of his Administration, and JoePa (4-8 lifetime against Alabama) is still prowling the sidelines, some 27 years after the death of Bear Bryant.

The Tide continues to wash over teams, riding a crest that has reached 15 in a row.  The director of Coach Nick Saban’s juggernaut is; “Mr. Undefeated,” senior quarterback Greg McElroy, who tracing back to the eighth grade, has won a jaw-dropping, 31 in a row as a starting signal caller.  The QB has the luxury of focusing on a pair of marquee targets All-America Julio Jones and his partner Marquis Maze, and despite the fact that its All-America tailback, and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram is out (knee), the Tuscaloosans don’t miss a beat, plugging in Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy.  The D, behind a trio of All-Americas, backer Don’t’a Hightower, safety Mark Barron and end Luther Davis will be foaming at the thoughts of attacking a freshman quarterback.  We’re sticking with Groucho, as the Tide’s streak climbs to sixteen.

No.12 Miami at No.2 Ohio State (ESPN, 3:40 p.m.)  A victory by Miami and Hurricane warnings will be issued across the country.  It would signal that the “U” is indeed back.  Miami’s director is its dynamic dual-threat junior quarterback Jacory Harris, who at season’s end, could be in the Heisman Trophy discussion.  The QB’s main target is an NBA sized receiver Leonard Hankerson, while the ground attack is shared by a pair of backs; Damien Berry and Lamar Miller.  The D is a hurricane, led by a pair of All-Americas; end Allen Bailey, and corner Brandon Harris, who backbone a group that punishes from all angles.

These Sons of Woody are embarking on a quest to give, “The Senator,” Coach Jim Tressel his sixth consecutive Big Ten Title.  The unquestioned gunslinger in Columbus is its junior dual-threat quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who many believe, will be a Heisman Trophy finalist.  The QB can choose from an arsenal that is as lethal as a drone attack in the mountains of Afghanistan.  The starry leader has a pair of game breaking receivers, DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, and can utilize a threesome of plow horse tailbacks; Brandon Saine, Jaamal Berry and Dan Herron.  The D’s front seven causes havoc and motors like a Cadillac behind All-America end Cameron Heyward, his partner Nathan Williams and backer Ross Homan.  But the secondary might be blowing in the wind, not the best recipe against Mark Whipple’s Miami offense.  We still think it’ll be “Good-bye Columbus,” as the Scarlet and Grey, in a close contest, downgrade the Hurricane warnings into an Earl-like lamb.

No.17 Florida State at No.10 Oklahoma (Ch.5, 3:30 p.m.)  The sense of renewal that Jimbo Fisher has brought to Tallahassee is about to be severely tested.  Luckily, the newly minted coach has senior quarterback, and another Heisman Trophy candidate, Christian Ponder directing the show.  The dart-throwing QB, protected by an experienced offensive line, is assisted by a quality tailback, Jermaine Thomas and a pair of chain-moving wideouts, Taiwan Easterling and Brett Reed.  The D, coached by Mark Stoops, brother of Bob, and led by All-America corner Greg Reid, tackle Anthony McCloud and backer Nigel Bradhma, will ultimately determine the success of the Seminole season. 

Coach Bob Stoops and his Sooners remain an enigma.  The Stormers from Norman are led by QB Landry Jones, with assists from a dynamic game changer, tailback DeMarco Murray and All-America wideout Ryan Broyles.  But OU continues to search for some additional game changers.  The D, behind a pair of All-Americas, end Jeremy Beal and backer Travis Lewis, will blitz from all angles, but the secondary is as questionable as the presidential electability of Sarah Palin.  As much as we’d like to believe in the Seminoles, Ponder is indeed a scary proposition, we ultimately think, the home field advantage of Memorial Stadium is too much to overcome for the Hurricanes. Under Coach Stoops, these Sons of Bud Wilkerson have won 31 in a row, and are an eye-popping 67-2 at home.  Hence the pick: Oklahoma.

Michigan at Notre Dame (Ch.4, 3:30 p.m.)  Houdini must be somewhere in the family tree of Michigan’s sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson.  The shifty magician, who is also known as “Shoelace,” because he never laces his shoes or cleats, has also developed a passing touch.  The escape artist may be Coach Rich $Rod’s Maize and Blue version of his former great West Virginia QB; Pat White.  The backbone of the Big Blue D is its trio of backers; Obi Ezeh, Craig Roh and Jonas Mouton, but its secondary causes almost as much angst amongst the Michigan faithful, as International Place developer Donald Chiofaro gives to Mayor Menino.

After a summer of over 150 “meet and greets,” newly minted Irish Coach Brian Kelly is finally getting a sense of the magnitude of Notre Dame.  Former ND Coach Gerry Faust once said to me, “There are three people in the world, whose name everybody knows; the Pope, the President of the United States, and the head football coach of Notre Dame.”

Well, a win against Michigan, and the Sons of Knute Rockne transform from Charlie Weis oblivion, into a top 25 program.  If that happens, the name Brian Kelly will ring across the land.  But the task will not be easy.  The quick-tempo Irish attack is directed by its steady junior quarterback Dayne Crist, with assists by a pair of powerful runners, Armando Allen, and Cierre Woods.  The QB also has the luxury of focusing on a two-some of All-America targets; wideout Michael Floyd, and tight end Kyle Rudolph, who should feast against the Wolverine secondary.  The D, behind backer Manti Te’o, tackle Ian Williams and corner Darrin Walls, has improved, but may need the intervention of Touchdown Jesus to slow Michigan’s magician.  In a match up that should be as close and intriguing as; Spasky/Fischer, we think Big Blue checkmates, and escapes South Bend with the victory.

No.7 Oregon at Tennessee (ESPN, 7 p.m.)  The Ducks come into Knoxville flying.  Coach Chip Kelly’s Quack Attack is directed by its first year starter, dual-threat sophomore quarterback, Darron Thomas, who handled his first assignment as flawlessly as Mr. Phelps.  And even with the one game suspension of its All-America tailback LaMichael James, (he’s back this week.) Oregon didn’t skip a beat with his slashing backup, Kenjon Barner.  The QB, who is cocooned by a seasoned offensive line, can choose from a passel of glue fingered receivers, led by senior, Jeff Mael.  The D is equally dynamic, attacking behind a pair of backers Spencer Paysinger, Casey Matthews, and tackle Brandon Bair. 

After the unexpected departure of Lane “Violation” Kiffen to USC, Tennessee now finds itself with its third coach in three years.  What Derek Dooley (son of Georgia legend Vince) brings to Knoxville is class, stability, and an ability to recruit in the SEC.  The coach has given the leading role in the UT attack to a kid who also has a strong pedigree; junior quarterback Matt Simms.  The QB is assisted by a pair of power tailbacks Tauren Poole and Rajon Neal, but the receiving corps is depleted, as senior wideout Gerald Jones is out with a broken hand, and Denarious Moore is questionable with an ankle.  The D led by tackle Montori Hughes and backer Austin Johnson is talented, fast, and punishing, but thin.  Facing a brutal schedule, and hamstrung by a lack of overall depth, the “reasonable” Rocky-Top faithful should consider a 6-6 season in Knoxville a success.  That second win will not happen against the Boys from Eugene, as the Ducks fly out of Neyland Stadium and head westward in a V (victory), formation. 

Last week’s record:  4-1.                                         Season record:  4-1.

(Material from other sources was used in compiling this report.)

Make sure and read our Sunday recap, which will be up and running by noon on my blog at collegegridwordpress.com, and we’ll be back with week three on Wednesday night.  Until then peace, and stay safe. PK

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