Handicapping week 7

We begin this week with another example of; the power of reading.

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley, 42, was comfortably ensconced in a successful law practice, when he came across a passage from a book written by General Colin Powell.

Powell said he had met presidents, diplomats, and government officials, but that the time he cherished most, was with the troops in the field.

Dooley put the book down and realized what was missing. 

“I’d been out of football for five years, but I realized that something was wrong.  I missed the preparation for games, the playing of games, the winning, the losing, the celebrating and the hurting.”

Maybe he should have read Patton because it’s been a lot of losing and hurting in Knoxville this season.  This weekend let’s see which teams display the best generalship, and which look like they desperately need a remedial course on reading the play book.

No. 1 Ohio State at No. 18 Wisconsin (ESPN, 7 p.m.) The Buckeyes are sitting comfortably at the head of the banquet table.  These Sons of Hopalong Cassady might also be the best team from Ohio, and that includes the Bengals and the Browns. 

Dual-threat QB extraordinaire, and Heisman Trophy contender, Terrelle Pryor (15 touchdown passes – 3 interceptions) is sixth in the nation in passing efficiency, while directing the sixth highest scoring eleven (43 points a game) in the land.

 The driver of this Columbus Caravan is assisted by quality tailbacks; Dan Herron and true freshman Carlos Hyde, and a pair of field stretching wideouts; Dan Sanzenbacher (7 TDs) and DeVier Ploey.

The country’s sixth stingiest D (less than 14 points), who hit harder than alum, and Columbus native Jack Nicklaus smashed a golf ball, swarms behind All-America end

Cameron Heyward, and backers Ross Homan and Brian Rolle.  The Buckeyes are also riding a string of 29 consecutive games without allowing a 100 yard runner, which will be severely tested Saturday night.

It will be a madhouse in Mad-Town.  The Madison eleven have won 25 of its last 28 at night, and are an eye-popping 40-4 at Camp Randall Stadium since 2004.

These Badgers burrow behind its dual-sledgehammer ground assault; All-America John Clay and his partner James White, who have combined for a jaw-dropping 1177 yards and 17 touchdowns.

The offensive CEO is its unflappable senior quarterback Scott Tolzien (7 touchdown passes – 2 interceptions), the nation’s 16th most efficient thrower.  When the QB takes to the air, he has a pair of glue fingered receivers; tight end Lance Kendericks and wideout Jared Abbrederis.

The D, behind end J.J. Watt, and backers Culmer St. Jean and Blake Sorensen, stones runners, but shows some fissures defending the pass.

It what will be a close and concrete smashing contest, we think that ultimately the Buckeyes, who are 19-1 in its last 20 Big Ten road games, maintains its place of honor at the table.

No. 12 Arkansas at No. 7 Auburn (Ch. 4, 3:30 p.m.)  The Hogs would love to slice some bacon from the Tigers hide.

The igniter of Coach Bobby Petrino’s offense, whose playbook is larger than a Manhattan phone book, is its Prudential-sized All-America quarterback (13 touchdown passes – 6 interceptions – 69% completions) Ryan Mallett.  The director of the nation’s third best passing offense (354 yards a game) is assisted by a three-pack of receivers; All-America tight end D.J. Williams, Greg Childs and Joe Adams. 

As the faithful are well aware, when Razorbacks do run (96th overall) tailbacks Knile Davis and Broderick Green haven’t kept pace.

The much improved D, behind backers Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson, has been a key in the Fayetteville renaissance.

In Vegas, Wayne is the headliner, but on the Plains of Auburn, Cam Newton is the show.

The Gibraltar sized (6-foot -6, 250 pounds) dual threat QB, is second in pass efficiency (12 touchdown passes – 5 interceptions) and ranks seventeenth overall in rushing.

“In my shoes, I feel comfortable going to battle,” he said.  The Tiger faithful are also comfortable, as the big man is assisted by tailback Michael Dyer, and wideouts Darvin Adams and Terell Zachery.                         .

The D, behind sack master tackle Nick Fairley, end Antoine Carter, and backer Josh Bynes, swallows runners but is a sieve-like 91st defending against the pass.

Get your tickets early, Cam Newton at Jordan-Hare Stadium always sells out, and the Tigers remain one of the best stories of the season.

 Texas at No. 5 Nebraska (Ch. 5, 3:30 p.m.)  Shockingly the Bevo Boys find themselves outside the rankings for the first time since (2000), when another Texan; “W” occupied the Oval Office.

The Horns are also attempting to avoid its first three game losing streak since the Austin arrival of Coach Mack Brown in 1998.  These Sons of Darrell Royal, 71st overall offense and 80th in scoring, remain on its seemingly endless quest for some offensive identity.

 The Burnt Orange eleven is directed by its underachieving QB Garrett Gilbert, who has tossed one more interception than touchdown pass.  That sputtering performance is partly the result of a committee of also-ran tailbacks, and a cast of wideouts who get open as often as the wallet of Senator John Kerry. 

The Texas D which attacks behind a pair of All-Americas; end Sam Acho and corner Curtis Brown, ranks sixth overall and has kept the UT season off life support.

The Lincoln faithful have been eyeballing this payback game almost as intently as Mayor Menino eyes developer Donald Chiofaro, or Rahm Emanuel eyes the mayor’s chair in Chicago.

The Big Red offensive revival, (the Huskers rank ninth in scoring), is driven by its Porsche-quick freshman QB, Taylor “T-Magic,” Martinez.  This Memorial Stadium Mesmerizer is fourth in rushing; averaging an eye-popping 10 yards a carry, and has more speed than a neighborhood Meth-factory.   

The offensive Houdini directs a group that ranks second in rushing (337 yards a game),     with assists from a Park Avenue cast; tailbacks Roy Helu, Rex Burkhead,  and a pair of dependable wideouts; Brandon Kinnie and Niles Paul.                                              

The Black Shirt D, the nation’s fourth stingiest (12.8 points), is harder to penetrate than the head of a well poured Guinness.  It pounds and disrupts with a pair of All-Americas; tackle Jared Crick, corner Prince Amukamara, plus backer Lavonte David, and tackle Baker Steinkuler, who hit like David against Goliath.

Fully aware that Mack Brown is 7-1 against the Huskers and 12-0 after the Oklahoma game, we think Big Red gets its payback, as Nebraska puts another L in the Texas ledger.

No. 15 Iowa at Michigan (Ch. 5, 3:30 p.m. regional) These Sons of Nile Kinnick have softened teams better than A-1 tenderizes a $10 steak.

The country’s stingiest D, (10.2 points a game) has yet to surrender a point in the third quarter or a rushing touchdown in 21 straight quarters.  It attacks on all fronts featuring; All-America end Adrian Clayborn, and a pair of anvil-hard tackles Karl Klug and Mike Daniels.

On the other side of the ball, Iowa’s high caliber offense is commanded by senior QB Ricky Stanzi (10 touchdown passes – 2 interceptions) the nation’s third most efficient passer.  He is assisted by tailback Adam Robinson and a trio of chain moving targets; tight end Allen Reisner and wideouts Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.

In Ann Arbor, it’s been a tale of two Robinson’s.

“Shoelace,” aka QB Denard Robinson is second in the nation in rushing (165 yards a game) while operating (8 touchdown passes – 4 interceptions) as the twelfth most efficient passer.  The Heisman Trophy contender is assisted by tailbacks Vincent Smith, Michael Shaw and primary target Roy Roundtree.

It’s the other Robinson, defensive coordinator Greg, who causes the Maize and Blue faithful to reach for the Pepto.  These matadors, led by backers Jonas Mouton, Obi Ezeh and end Mike Martin, sit one from the bottom in defending the pass, and eighth worst in total defense, surrendering an average of 26 points a game. 

The pressure once again begins to build on Coach $Rich Rod, as Michigan loses two in a row.

Illinois at No. 13 Michigan State (BTN, noon)  The Illini faithful aren’t about to start popping Champaign corks in Champaign, but the fighting Zookers have been displaying some signs of life.

Illinois motors on the legs of its option QB Nathan Scheelhaase, with a big assist from his primary tailback, the nation’s 11th ranked runner, Mikel Leshoure. When he takes to the air, Mr. Option (4 touchdown passes – 4 interceptions) has a pair of primary targets; wideouts A.J. Jenkins and Jarred Fayson.

The attacking D, under first year coordinator Vic Koenning, fires behind backers Martez Wilson and Ian Thomas, and has held opponents to a winnable seventeen points a game.  It may be what ultimately keeps Coach Zook employed.

Sparty is rolling.  Michigan State has scored at least 30 points in each of its first six games, for the first time in its 100-plus year history.

QB Kirk Cousins (10 touchdown passes – 4 interceptions, 72 % completions) directs a group that has more balance than Philippe Petit of: “Man on Wire” fame.  The East Lansing eleven plows (225 yards a game) behind its bulldozing tailbacks; Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell, and flies through the air utilizing a trio of targets; Keshawn Martin, B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell.

The swarming D, led by All-America backer Greg Jones, and his partner Eric Gordon, show some vulnerability defending the pass, but are surrendering only 18 points a game.  (Note: starting corner Chris Rucker is suspended DWI, and may be facing jail time.)

The Champaign stays on ice, as Sparty’s high-wire act continues climbing the polls.


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

Last week’s record:  2-3                                              Season record:  19-11.

Make sure you read our weekend recap, which will be up and running by noon Sunday.


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