We begin this week with a fight, a Neil Diamond theme of “hands,” and a unique form of punishment.
Tulane football coach Curtis Johnson has no tolerance for childish behavior.
At a practice several weeks ago, offensive tackle Sean Donnelly, and defensive tackled Tanzel Smart ended up in a fight, which led the Coach to put into practice the same punishment he uses on his daughter.
Instead of having the two combatants run the stadium steps for a “puke inducing” hour, he made these gladiators walk around the perimeter of the stadium for twenty minutes during practice, holding hands.
“If they want to act like kindergarten kids, then I just want to treat them like kindergarten kids,” said Johnson. Good for him!!!
This weekend, let’s see which teams play with the discipline of a grammar school recess, and which, “hand” its faithful another victory, while the sounds of “Sweet Caroline,” “Hands, touchin’ hands, reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin’ you …” blares out from the marching band.
No. 1 Mississippi State at No. Alabama (Ch.4, 3:30 p.m.) The lyrics from the 1961 blues classic “Bright light, Big City, gone to my baby’s head…” best captures situation that the Bulldogs of Mississippi State, 9-0 for the first time in school history, find themselves.
Can the Starkville eleven handle being a Broadway headliner of Olivier stature, against the perennial show stoppers from Tuscaloosa?
If it can, it will be MSU’s biggest “Hail-State-ment!”
The Sons of Bailey Howell (for you youngsters, HOF, played for Celtics) are under the direction of its dual-threat Heisman candidate, QB Dak Prescott (18 TDs-7 INTs – 779 rushing -11 TDs), who operates with the smooth demeanor of Michael Caine in the “Quiet American.”
The starry director of the nation’s eleventh highest scoring squad (39), is assisted by a hard charging tailback Josh Robinson (11 TDs – 6 yds pop) who is also dangerous catching out of the backfield.
But despite its lofty status, the Cow Bell Clangers principle receivers, De’Runnya Wilson, and Gabe Myles (a combined 42 grabs and 6 TDs) are as uninspiring as Nancy Pelosi.
The D, anchored by end Preston Smith (11.5 tfls-7 sacks), along with backers Beniquez Brown, and Benardrick McKinney, stones runners, but struggles defending the pass (120th), yet, somehow manages to check in as the 16th stingiest (19) bunch in America.
This is the exact position, that the Tuscaloosa faithful expect Groucho’s favorite team to be lurking every year. Such is life in the SEC West for the Tide’s $7 million secular Saint; Coach Nick Saban.
The Sons of Bart Starr are managed by senior QB Blake Sims (17 TDs-3 INTs – 61%), the nation’s sixth most efficient passer, with big assists from tailbacks T.J. Yeldon (knee), and his Escalade- sized partner Derrick (6-foot-3, 241) Henry, who hammers a defense better than MC Hammer mashes English.
When the QB takes to the Heart of Dixie skies, All-America wideout Amari Cooper (10 TDs- over 1200 yards – 79 catches – 135 ypg), along with DeAndrew White, and Christion Jones, are as swashbuckling as the Three Musketeers.
But the real Tony winner is the Tide’s D.
The Sons of Lee Roy Jordan, the nation’s second tightest (13), and fourth overall, led by backers Reggie Ragland, and a pair of All-Americas safety Landon Collins, and Trey DePriest are harder to penetrate than the palace door of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad
In 1980 Blondie had a number one smash hit; “The Tide is high but I’m holding on, I’m going to be your number one…” and early Saturday evening, Alabama may once again be perched on that coveted spot.
No.2 Florida State at Miami (Ch.5, 8 p.m.) Outside of its Tallahassee cocoon, the Seminoles overall approval rating is lower than a mother’s toward her daughter dating Justin Bieber, or any member of Congress.
The Sons of Burt Reynolds are directed by the “Bernie Madoff” of college football, Heisman winner Jameis “Crablegs” Winston (17 TDs-11 INTs), who despite the interceptions, in the clutch, delivers better than Billy Graham.
The Noles have surfed on the nation’s longest winning streak (25) despite a scuffling ground attack (101st) that features freshman Dalvin Cook (hip), and Karlos Williams, and is as dynamic as Red Sox manager John Farrell.
When the “Seafood Man” is focused, wideout Rashad Green (5TDs) is as reliable as catching a striper at from the Castle Island pier in August, and a future Sunday participant.
The middling D featuring backers Reggie Northrup, Terrance Smith, and end Mario Edwards is as far removed from Bobby Bowden “bump and run” days of lore, as Comet67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
In Miami, there hasn’t been this much excitement since “Sonny Crockett” was preening in his pastels arresting bad guys on “Miami Vice.”
Coach Al Golden’s semi-resurgent (3 in row) Canes, are under the direction of a starry true freshman QB Brad Kaaya (20 TDs-9 INTs), who has matured quicker than a Tsetse Fly, and is beginning to conjure up memories of “Quarterback U.”
The kid leans heavily on the country’s seventh leading rusher Duke Johnson (over 1200 yards, 7.7 yds. a pop, 9TDs), who plows the earth better than a John Deere.
When the youngster takes to the Miami skies, wideout Clive Walford is a comforting target, and Phillip Dorsett (30 yards a catch) is a game breaker.
The Canes disruptive D, led by All-America backer Denzel Perryman, and his fellow backers Thurston Armbrister, and Raphael Karby can cause more havoc than a Category 5.
FSU has won the last four by the combined score of: 142-70, and Miami has won 13 of its last 14 at home. But we just don’t think Miami D is strong enough to keep the Noles from winning a close victory and notching number 26th in-a-row.
No.11 Nebraska at No. 22 Wisconsin (Ch.5, 3:30 p.m.) Nebraska is like H.G. Wells “Invisible Man,” lurking outside the spotlight.
But if the Huskers are able to sneak out of Madison with a W, the glow of success will shine brightly on the Sons of Johnny Rodgers.
All-America tailback Ameer Abdullah (1200 yds. – 17 TDs – nearly 7 yds a pop) is the engine that drives the Children of the Corn. [Note: Abdullah banged up his knee two weeks ago, but wearing a brace is expected to play – how effectively, and how long, remains unknown.]
Abdullah’s importance is analogous to the state of Ohio in a Presidential election, so goes Abdullah, so goes Nebraska.
Dual-threat QB Tommy Armstrong (13 TDs -8 INTs) is the Lincoln manager, who targets a quality pair of targets; Kenny Bell, and Jordan Westerkamp, (67 combined catches, and 18 yards a grab.).
The sledge-hammer hitting D, anchored by backer Zaire Anderson, tackle Maliek Collins, and end Randy Gregory, plays with a gut burning rage often displayed by it head Coach, Bo Pelini.
General Motors should run as well as the Badgers.
Wiscy, the country’s fourth best rushing attack, motors on the legs of its All-America, and Heisman candidate, tailback Melvin Gordon (1500 yards – 19TDs- 7.5 yds. a pop), who tops the nation in rushing.
The Badgers lead dog is assisted by his high-quality backfield mate Corey Clement (7TDs), while QB Joel Stave (5 TDs-4 INTs) has returned from his mysterious case of “Steve Blass Disease” to direct the offense.
But if the running game is the equivalent of a Ferrari, the D is Maserati worthy.
The Mad-Town Iron Curtain is anchored by backers Derek Landisch (12 tfls- 6 sacks), Vince Biegel (12 tfls – 6.5 sacks) and Joe Schobert (7 tfls), stones runners, and disrupts passes with the disdain of recently “removed” Cardinal Raymond Burke toward his boss, Pope Francis.
We think the Huskers slink back into the shadows, as Wiscy’s band belts; “On Wisconsin,” in the fifth-quarter, after the big Madison victory.
No.9 Auburn at No.16 Georgia (ESPN, 7:15 p.m.) In the SEC, there is no rest for the weary.
After being unofficially eliminated from playoff contention, the Auburn Tigers in the word of Taylor Swift have to “Shake it off,” and get ready for Georgia.
The Bo Jackson descendants are commanded by its dual-threat QB Nick Marshall (14 TDs-4 INTs- 775 rushing 11TDs), whose sleight of hand would earn nodding approval from Houdini.
The magician of the Sons of Shug Jordan is assisted by the SEC’s rushing leader Cameron Artis-Payne (1190 yds – 9 TDs), and a pair of field-stretching wideouts; D’haquille Williams (out-knee), and Sammie Coates.
[Note: HOF Coach Jordan was at one time Captain Ralph “Shug” Jordan and was one of the 156,000 troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy – D-Day, June 6, 1944.]
The Tigers D is anchored by backers Cassanova McKinzy, Kris Frost, and tackle Montravius Adams, handles the run, but struggles defending the pass (99th) which is not a good recipe against Georgia.
Georgia’s Prodigal Son returns.
After sitting out four games for the “crime” (get “Marsha” on the case) of receiving remuneration for the selling his own autograph, the Bulldogs All-America tailback, and one time Heisman candidate, Todd Gurley returns to his rightful spot in the starting lineup.
QB Mason Hutson (15 TDs -3 INTs -69%) directs the nation’s seventh highest scoring eleven (43), which received a huge assist from Gurley’s understudy, freshman Nick Chubb (935yds-7 TDs -6.7 a pop), whose virtuoso performances brought a smile to the visage of iconic alum Hershel Walker.
When the senior signal caller goes aerial, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley are capable of taking it the distance.
The Bulldogs D, featuring All-America backer Ramik Wilson, and his partners Amarlo Herrera, and Jordan Jenkins have struggled stopping the run which is the wrong formula against Auburn.
The return of Gurley is the best doctor ordered antidote for the Bulldogs who still have a chance, with some help, to win the SEC East. We’ll take the Dawgs in another Hedges shootout.
No.18 Clemson at No.24 Georgia Tech (ESPN, Noon) Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney had the best line of the year; “Let’s put flags on and take the pads off…”
He was referring to the loss for a half of one of his best defensive players, safety Robert Smith for a “targeted” hit in last week’s game against Wake Forest.
We heartily endorse. For our money, we’re bored by these 52-48 games, which truly only a matador could love. To paraphrase Casey Stengel, “Can’t anyone here play defense?!!
Give us last Saturday’s old fashioned, drama-filled, 10-10 regulation tie, decided in overtime, classic slugfest between LSU – Alabama, any day.
In Death Valley, the Clemson faithful are ecstatic about the return, from a broken finger, of its dynamic freshman QB Deshaun Watson (12 TDs-2 INTs-67%), who provides the juice to a Tigers offense that has been as powerless as Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko.
The “electrician” is assisted by a steamrolling tailback Wayne Gallman, while wideouts Artavis Scott, and Mike Williams will severely test any secondary.
In contrast, Clemson’s D, ranked second overall, generates more megawatts than the Hoover Dam, or a George Clooney smile on his wedding night.
This group, led by its All-America end Vic Beasley (12.5 tfls – 8 sacks), along with backers Stephone Anthony, and Tony Steward, stones runners and deflate passes (4th best in both) with the precision of the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
In the 80th meeting between these institutions, the Ramblin’ Wreck, aka the Sons of Jimmy Carter (attended, graduated from Naval Academy), down shift as the nation’s second most prolific (behind Navy – Jimmy Carter’s alma-mater) running eleven – averaging 335 yards while scoring 34 TDs.
QB Justin Thomas (14 TDs- 4 INts -50% – 781 rushing – TDs) cranks the ignition on Coach Paul Johnson’s option attack, with assists from tailback Synjyn Days, the return of Zach Lasky, and his big play (22yds catch) receiver DeAndre Smetter.
As is the tradition in Atlanta, the Jackets D featuring backers P.J. Davis, Quayshawn Nealy, and tackle Adam Gotsis, has more holes than a Lady Gaga dress, or the tax returns of former Big Dig chief Jim Kerasiotes.
Despite the dumb penalties Clemson is notorious for committing, it somehow finds a way to eke out a victory, which is “elementary” with Watson’s return.
Last week: 2-3 Season record: 39-16.
That’s it from cyber-space. We’ll be up and running with our recap by noon on Sunday. Until then, Peace, and listen to the music. PK