Handicapping week 8

We begin this week with a fickle finger of fate.

Two weeks ago, in the first half of the game against Central Michigan, VaTech left guard Greg Nosal caught his left pinkie between a pair of helmets severing the tip completely off.

After a brief search, the coaches found the severed piece inside his glove, and the 6-6, 293 pound junior was given an option.  It could be reattached immediately, but his day would be over, or, it could be put on ice and sewn back later.  The tough guy opted for the latter.

Finally, in the fourth quarter, with the Hokies winning 45-21 and the pain medication wearing thin, Nosal came out and had the tip stitched back on.  “I guess it’s a big deal if your pinky got ripped off,” said the guard.  Ya, think!

This weekend, let’s see which teams are flashed a different finger by its disgruntled faithful, and which hand it to its coaches, for stitching together, another victorious game plan.

No. 6 LSU at No. 5 Auburn (Ch. 4, 3:30 p.m.)  Living on the edge, best summarizes the Bayou Bengals season, as the “Mad Hatter,” Coach Les Miles, brings his magic show to the Plains of Auburn.

The Tigers third ranked D, led by its All-America duo; backer Kelvin Sheppard, corner Patrick Peterson, and sack master Drake Nevis, is the nation’s 11th stingiest, and hits harder than a Joe Frazier left hook.

It’s the offense that causes the faithful a large case of agita.

This sputtering bunch behind its QB rotation; Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, (7th last in passing) a hard charging of tailback, Stevan Ridley, and a trio of receivers which features Terrance Toliver, is 70th in scoring, and crosses the goal line as often as that curmudgeon Barney Frank cracks a smile.

Auburn’s Newton has been gravity defying.

The Tigers Redwood quarterback Cam Newton (13 touchdown passes – 5 interceptions) and Heisman Trophy leader, sits second in passing efficiency, and eleventh in rushing, averaging an eye popping 122 yards per game.

The commander of the sixth highest scoring (40 points) eleven is assisted by tailbacks Michael Dyer, Onterio McCalebb and a pair of field stretching targets Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery.

The D, stones runners behind tackle Nick Fairley, end Antoine Carter and backer Josh Bynes, but is weaker than Tim Cahill’s gubernatorial chances – 8th from the bottom – in defending the pass.

We think, in a very close game, there’s still some potion in the “Mad Hatter’s” hat, as LSU continues brewing its magical run.

No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 18 Missouri (Ch. 5, 8 p.m.)  These are not your father’s dazzling explosive Sooners.

This version of the Sons of Bud Wilkerson attacks behind an offensive hydra: QB Landry Jones, the nation’s third ranked passer (14 touchdown passes – 3 interceptions 67% completions), his All-America, “Store 24” – (always open) – receiver, Ryan Broyles, who leads the country in receptions (10 per game), and his Mr. Everything tailback, DeMarco Murray, the Sooners all-time touchdown maker (58) and the engine oil of the Oklahoma offense.

America’s 17th highest scoring team won’t dazzle, but methodically grinds down a defense the way the grinder does for A&P’s Eight O’Clock Coffee.

The D which ranks a un-Stoop like 71st, swarms behind a pair of All-Americas; end Jeremy Beal, backer Travis Lewis, and their partner Frank Alexander, and has had season long trouble closing out games.

The Boys from the “Show-Me-State,” have done just that.

Coach Gary Pinkel’s Columbia caravan is directed by the nation’s eighth best passer, QB Blaine Gabbert – 10 touchdown passes – 3 interceptions – 66% completions.  The Missou triggerman is assisted by tailback Henry Josey and a pair of chain moving targets: T.J. Moe, and Michael Egney, who have combined for 99 catches and 6 TDs.

The Memorial Stadium faithful are well aware, that the nation’s second stingiest sack happy D (10.8 points), led by backers Zaviar Gooden, Andrew Gachkar and tackle Brad Madison, is the backbone to Missouri’s surprising season.

In another very close game, we think Stoops Boys have a bit more athleticism, and leave Columbia with its national title hopes still intact. [Note: Stoops is 7-0 against the Tigers, with an average winning margin of 24.7 points.] Ouch.

No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 13 Iowa (Ch. 5, 3:30 p.m.)  Wiscy is hoping there is no hangover.

The Badgers attack on the pile driving legs of its relentless tailbacks; All-America John Clay and his partner James White.  These Eveready punishers have combined for a jaw-dropping 1356 yards and 20 TDs.

The maestro of these Madison marauders, the nation’s sixth highest scoring eleven, is its steady senior quarterback, Scott Tolzien (7 touchdown passes – 3 interceptions – 70% completions) with assists from tight end Lance Kendricks and wideout Nick Toon.

The ferocious, angle attacking D is solid in all phases, and features end J.J. Watt, and backers Culmer St. Jean and Blake Sorensen.

The Hawkeyes continue to soar.

These Boys of the Corn are nurtured by the nation’s third most efficient passer, senior Ricky Stanzi (13 touchdown passes – 2 interceptions – 68 % completions) with a big assist from tailback Adam Robinson (20th in rushing) and a trio of game breaking receivers: tight end Allen Reisner, and wideouts Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson.

The country’s sixth stingiest D (less than 14 points a game), has yet to surrender a point in the third quarter.  It fires behind All America end Adrian Clayborn, tackle Karl Klug and backer Jeremiah Hunter, and is harder to penetrate than a barren corn field in January.

We think, Kirk Ferentz’s Boys continue onward, toward next week’s Big Ten showdown with Michigan State.

No. 14 Nebraska at No. 17 Oklahoma State (Ch. 5, 3:30 p.m. regional) Bo Pelini’s troops are angry, and the Cornhuskers are looking to pop someone.

Taylor “T-Magic,” Martinez, Nebraska’s mercury- winged freshman quarterback, (10th in rushing, 12 TDs) is the igniter, at least for now, of the nation’s fourth (302 yards per game) best rushing attack.

The kid with the Maserati wheels is nicely assisted by a gear shifting tailback duo: Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead.  But as the Big Red faithful are painfully aware, the QB’s primary targets; Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie have more drops than the Smith Brothers.

The country’s ninth stingiest D, attacks with a pair of All-Americas; tackle Jared Crick, corner Prince Amukamara and tackling linebacker machine Lavonte David (11 a game).  It also swats passes (No. 1) better than King Kong swatted planes, but is less than pedestrian in stopping the run, which might prove to be a combustible mixture against OK State.

After frosting a lot of cupcakes, this is a deep well test for Boone Pickens University, otherwise known as; Oklahoma State. 

The Stillwater eleven, the nation’s second highest scoring team (49 points) roars on its three piston engine: QB Brandon Weeden (19 touchdown passes – 8 interceptions – 68% completions), wideout Justin Blackman, the country’s second leading receiver, then downshifts with the nation’s tenth ranked rusher, Kendall Hunter, who averages 138 yards a game.

It’s the D, which is weaker than the Feds case against Chuck Turner that causes the Cowboy faithful to come up parched.  Backer Orie Lemon is the leader of a bunch of lemons, who are sixth from the bottom defending the pass, 73rd in points allowed (27 per game), and rank a near bottom-feeding 92nd overall.

We think Chuck walks, and once again, it’s another dry well, in another big game, in Stillwater.

No. 8 Michigan State at Northwestern (ESPN, Noon.)  The last time Sparty stood this tall (7-0), LBJ (1966) occupied the Oval Office, and a lovable coach by the name of; Duffy Daugherty was roaming the East Lansing sideline.

Michigan State’s offense, which has better balance than Nadia Comaneci,  is commanded by its steady leader, QB Kirk Cousins (11 touchdown passes – 4 interceptions – 66% completions), the nation’s eleventh most efficient passer. 

The steady dart thrower is assisted by an explosive tailback tandem: Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell. These B and B boys average over 6 yards a carry, and has combined for; 1268 yards, and 14 TDs. 

When Captain Kirk goes to the air, he has a trio of game changing targets; tight end B.J. Cunningham, and wideouts; Keshawn Martin and Mark Dell.

The opportunistic D, which is third in the nation with 12 interceptions, is equally charismatic, surrendering less than 17 points a game, and features All-America backer Greg Jones, his partner Eric Gordon and safety Marcus Hyde. [Note: starting corner Chris Rucker is suspended indefinitely – DWI.]

In Evanston, the kids with the big SAT numbers have continued to put up winning numbers on Saturday afternoons.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern Wildcats are directed by its dual-threat, dart throwing QB Dan Persa (10 touchdown passes – 2 interceptions), who is completing an eye-popping 78 percent of its passes.  The country’s fourth most efficient passer is assisted by tailbacks Jacob Schmidt and Mike Trumpy and a pair of dependable targets: Jeremy Ebert and Drake Dunsmore.

The pedestrian bending D featuring end Vince Browne, and backer Nate Williams, struggles defending the pass, but somehow surrenders less than 19 points a game.

Once again, in another close battle, (that Persa kid is scary), we think the spirit of Duffy continues to carry this magical Sparty season.

 

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

 

Last week’s record: 3-2                                                Season record: 22-13. 

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

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