We begin this week with a gopher mascot and a twisting head.
It can happen at any point, and anywhere in the stands.
The mascot for the University of Minnesota is “Goldy Gopher.” He wears an oversized gopher head that sports a huge pair of front teeth in a large overbite.
Goldy will pause in the stands for a photo when someone will inevitably shout; “spin you head!”
On cue, Goldy rotates his head halfway around, then reaches back and finishes the revolution with a flourish, leading to more photos and applause.
Ross Bernstein class ’91 takes credit for the spinning tradition.
Working the Minnesota hockey games, he was looking for a way to entertain the students who, between periods would dash out for a quick beer or two at the bar up the street.
The spinning tradition occurred almost out of necessity.
“I was trying to entertain 10,000 drunk people, just trying to do something to get some laughs. Whenever I would do it the fans would go nuts,’ said Bernstein. Hence a tradition was born.
This weekend let’s see which teams perform so brilliantly it makes your head spin, and which play so poorly, it leaves its alums burying its heads like a gopher.
No.23 California at No.5 Utah (ESPN, 10 p.m.) There’s hasn’t been this much excitement on Berkeley campus since the “Summer of Love” or the campus shutdown in 1970.
These High flying “Wallendas,” aka the Cal Bears, are directed by its Heisman candidate, QB Jared Goff (15 TDs-4 INTs-70%), who hits a target better than a Russian fighter pilot in Syria.
The future Sunday performer is assisted by a pair of road ramblers; Muhammad Khalfani, who is averaging a jaw-dropping 9 yards a pop, and his partner Vic Enwere.
When the successor to Joe Kapp takes to the golden skies, he focuses on a pair of game changers; touchdown maker Kenny Lawler (8TDs), and his field-stretching partner Bryce Treggs – 16 yards a grab.
Coach Sonny Dykes’ D led by backer Hardy Nickerson, and end Kyle Kragen is typically riddled with more holes than a late model BMW parked in Roxbury, but this season it has tightened like the eyes of an aging Hollywood starlet, making the Bears a very dangerous team.
Even Mitt Romney is excited.
In Utah, the Salt Lake City eleven are enjoying its highest regular season ranking since the re-election year of W – 2004.
The Sons of Larry Wilson, one of only three-unbeaten teams remaining in the Pac 12, are directed by its Prudential-sized (6-7, 233) Heisman candidate, QB Travis Wilson (4 Tds-1 INT- 68%), who does more damage with his legs, averaging 8.7 yards a scamper.
But overall, the Utes offense (76th) is about as dynamic as Barry Manilow.
Tailback Devonte Booker, with apologies to James Taylor runs like a steamroller, “bound to roll all over you,” while wideouts Britian Covey, and Kenneth Scott, provide dependable targets.
Coach Kyle Whittingham’s D, led backers Jarred Norris, Gionni Paul, and end Jason Fanaika, has had about as much trouble defending the pass, as well Hillary defending her email accounts, and that is not a good recipe against the Golden Bears.
Despite its lack of offensive spark, we think Utah is the real deal, and even Mitt ends up with a few strands of hair askance cheering on the victorious Utes.
No.13 Northwestern at No.18 Michigan (BTN, 3:30 p.m.) This is a game in which points will be scarcer than the supporters of Boston political gadfly; Althea Garrison.
In Evanston, Illinois “The Little Engine That Could,” is trying to climb to 6-0 for the first time since JFK was taking leisurely nude swims in the White House pool – 1962. [Not always alone.]
During those “Cold War” days, Northwestern was coached by some guy named Ara Parseghian, who two years later would appear on the cover of Time Magazine (back when magazines mattered) celebrated as the man who restored football relevancy to Notre Dame.
These resurgent Sons of Brent Musburger have done it with a defense that is the envy of the Secret Service.
The Purple Cats anchored by backer Anthony Walker (20 TFLs), end Dean Lowry, and safety Traveon Henry are the nation’s stingiest, surrendering a miniscule 7-points-a-game, while not allowing an opponent to hit the 200 yard mark in either passing or rushing.
The Sons of Ann Margaret (she left after 1-year) are directed by its slashing dual-threat QB Clayton Thorson (4 TDs-3 INTs-56%) who does most of his damage with his legs, while starry tailback Justin Jackson is a first class road-grader, helping the Wildcats average nearly 250 yards a game.
The “Smart Kids” bottom feeding (118th) passing attack featuring Dante Vitale and Christian Jones makes a connection about as often as the T runs on schedule in the winter.
In Ann Arbor the echoes of “Bo” are reverberating throughout the campus.
It is as if the spirit of the iconic Maize and Blue coach has been channeled into Jim Harbaugh, the appointed “savior” of Meeeechigan Football.
The Big House faithful haven’t been this excited since Michigan played Michigan State in hockey, or Gerald Ford was named President of the United States.
And like the visitors from the Chicago area, the Sons of Tom Harmon have overwhelmed the opposition with a defense that is as proficient as the Israeli Army.
The Wolverines suffocating D, led by end Mario Ojemudia (career over torn Achilles), backers Desmond Morgan, and Joe Bolden, are the second stingiest (7.6) in the land.
But the offense, directed by Iowa grad transfer QB Jake Rudock (5 TDs-6 INTs), and a trio of tailbacks; De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, and Drake Johnson, has been as weak as the rollout of “Oreo Thins.”
When the ex-Hawkeye connects, Amara Darboa, and tight end Jake Butt (is there a better name for a tight end??!!) are primary targets.
In a game with huge conference, as well as national implications, we think the “Little Engine” finds a way to win in the House that Bo built, and Harbaugh is resurrecting.
Illinois at No.22 Iowa (ESPN, Noon) Not even the currently incarcerated former Illinois Governor, and Elvis impersonator, Rod Blagojevich could have foreseen this.
Illinois football was a mess. In worse shape than Jeb Bush.
One week prior to the beginning of the season, the Administration fired head coach Tim Beckman for “influencing medical decisions, and forcing his kids to play hurt.”
Into the breach stepped offensive coordinator Bull Cubit, but it looked as if it would be another season in Champaign without tasting any bubbly, but the results are more surprising than the rise of Bernie Sanders.
The Sons of Dick Butkus are led by its talented Oklahoma State transfer QB Wes Lunt (8 TDs-2 INTs-58%) who relies on a receiving three-pack: Geronimo Allison (wonder if Liz Warren is a fan?!), Marchie Murdock, and Desmond Cain.
On the ground, starry tailback Josh Ferguson is out (shoulder), leaving t-freshman Ke’Shawn Vaughan as the principle plow driver.
The Illini’s ball hawking D anchored by a pair of backers: T.J. Neal, his partner Mason Manheim, and safety Clayton Fejedelem is stouter than a fresh poured Guinness.
Even M*A*S*H’s Colonel Pierce would appreciate these Hawkeyes.
In Iowa City, the last time the “Boys of the Corn” were accorded a place in the AP rankings, Barak Obama was halfway through his first term (2010), and Scott Brown was the Commonwealth’s other US Senator.
The Sons of Nile Kinnick (’39 Heisman winner, killed as an aviator in a training flight in WWII) have climbed the rankings on the foundation of its punishing D.
Kirk Ferentz’s crew is allowing a shade over two-touchdowns (15 pts.), while stoning runners behind backers Cole Fisher, Josey Jewell, and end Nate Meier.
The offensive attack directed by QB C.J. Beathard (7 TDs-2 INTs-64%) who leans heavily on his anvil pounding tailback Jordan Canzeri (8 TDs) and his partner LeShun Daniels is as pedestrian as the “car-free” days on the Champs-Elysses.
When the QB goes aerial, wideouts Matt VandeBerg (31-catches), and Tevaun Smith are primary targets.
In a game that will have more hits than a Motown Revue, we think the Sons of Hayden Fry, in a very close game, M*A*S*H the visitors from Champaign.
No.2 TCU at Kansas State (Fox, 7:30 p.m.) In Fort Worth the “Air-Raid” offense is scarier than the “blackout” days of WWII.
Heisman candidate QB Trevone Boykin (19 TDs-3 INTs – 63%) is the chief bombardier of an assault that is as relentless as the “Blitzkrieg.”
The dual-threat maestro of the nation’s second highest scoring (50) eleven has an exceptional “first-violin” in game breaker wideout Josh Doctson, who averages 17-yards a touch on an eye-popping 42 grabs, while hauling in 8-TDs.
When the Sons of Sammy Baugh change it up, tailback Aaron Green, a Nebraska transfer, averaging close to 6-yards a carry (6TDs), can slice any defense.
While the Fort Worth faithful are dreaming about a New Year’s Eve playoff invite, its D is what causes the nightmares.
This group, led by backers Montrel Wilson, and Travin Howard struggles defending both the pass and the run, while allowing an average of 24 points-a-game.
In the “Little Apple” Manhattan, Kansas, these are not your father’s Wildcats.
Bill Snyder, the man responsible for the greatest resurrection since Easter, had this response to the fans leaving early in the spring game; “As poorly as we played, I wanted to leave early too,” said the Septuagenarian.
The play of the opportunistic Cats is a reflection of the personality of its curmudgeon coach.
The Sons of Steve Grogan are directed by its rocket-armed QB Joe Hubener (4 TDs- 1INT) who, like Grogan, is equally dangerous on the run.
The signal caller, who would be a welcomed member of any iron-workers union, is assisted by a trio of receivers; Deante Burton, Dominique Heath, and Kody Rock, while Justin Silmon is the main mail carrier.
The Wildcats D featuring backer Eliah Lee, and tackle Will Geary stones runners, but is a bottom feeding 115th defending the pass which is suicidal against a surgeon like Boykin.
The Horned Frogs leap out of Manhattan with another W, moving one step closer to its end of the year showdowns with Oklahoma and Baylor.
Yale at Dartmouth (Fox College Sports, 1:30 p.m.) On Saturday afternoon just down the street from the Hanover Green, a pair of unbeatens; the Elis of Yale, and the Big Green of Dartmouth, will be banging noggins on the gridiron for the 99th time.
[Note: In a week in which the matchups are as weak as the Comet Khoutek, we thought we’d dip into the Ivy League, and visit our good pal, Coach Buddy Teevens, a Silver Lake Regional High grad, who epitomizes class, and whose team is very much an Ivy contender.)
The Sons of Carm Coza are directed by senior QB Morgan Roberts (7 Tds-2 INTs – 60%) who gets a big assist from sophomore power tailback DeShawn Salter – 94 yards-a-game.
When the New Haven maven goes aerial, Ross Drwal, Michael Siragusa, and tight end Stephen Buric, are reliable targets.
The Bulldogs attacking D, led by backer Matthew Oplinger (7.7 tackles a game), corner Spencer Rymiszewski, and fellow backer Victor Egu, has more tackles (8.7) than a Herring fisherman, and overall is tougher than a grad-class in Organic Chemistry.
The Big Green’s long slumber at “Sleepy Hollow” has been replaced by a long-awaited resurgence.
The Sons of Bob Blackman are under the command of its scintillating dual-threat Texan, senior QB Dalyn Williams (6 TDs-0 INTs-75%) who is a better leader than any of the candidates currently traipsing through the hinterlands of New Hampshire.
[Note: The Dartmouth QB is second all-time in school history for total yards, a mere 178 behind the leader Jay Fielder. Why is it that every school in the country, except the one in Austin, is able to find a quality Lone Star State QB??!!]
Big D’s swaggering dart-thrower, is as accurate as Greenwich Mean Time, and lasers onto a Linus-blanket game changer; wideout Victor Williams – 28 grabs and 3 TDs, while tailback Ryder Stone has no issue with lowering his helmet.
Coach Buddy Teevens’ aggressive and disruptive D is anchored by a pair of backers Will McNamara, and Folarin Orimolade, with an added dash of corner Vernon Harris, and safety David Caldwell.
As the leaves begin to turn, we think by late Saturday afternoon, the Big Green marches one step closer toward its October 30th showdown against the “School on the Charles.”
Last week: 2-3 Season record: 12-13
That’s it from cyber-space. We’ll be up and running with our recap Sunday by Noon. Until then, Peace, and listen to the music. PK