We begin this week with the winningest program in college football history, the “Big House,” and a Division II team with a name, as the Eagles sang in “James Dean,” that is; “just too cool for school.”
We refer to the Michigan Wolverines and Slippery Rock, whose nickname is what else; “The Rock.”
It’s connection to the Maize and Blue traces back to the last year of the Eisenhower Administration -1959, when then public address announcer Steve Filipiak (1959-71) began reporting the Slippery Rock scores alongside the results of other Big Ten games.
Their score always came across the (pre-internet) wire, and the PA announcer simply thought the name was interesting. It quickly became a UM tradition, and the home crowd cheers wildly whenever the Rock’s winning score is announced.
The name originated around the time of the French and Indian War when the colonial soldiers wearing heavy boots were able to cross a creek, and the Seneca Indians in their moccasins could not. The creek was named Wechachochaponka, which translates slippery rock, and that is where the name originated.
The relationship between the two schools took on a more formal role in 1979, when former athletic director Don Canham arranged for The Rock to play its rival Shippensburg at the “Big House” which attracted a Division II record crowd of 61,143 fans which still stands.
This weekend, let’s see which teams, with apologies to Ashford and Simpson are; “Solid as a Rock,” and which, slip and slide to another loss, leaving its alums with the feeling of being up a creek without a paddle.
No.4 Iowa vs. No.5 Michigan State – (FOX, 8:00 p.m.) Big Ten Championship
We don’t want to refer to Kirk Ferentz as simply a magician, but David Copperfield could learn a few tricks from the coach of the Hawkeyes.
The “Boys of the Corn” have popped a perfect regular season, and the winner of this game earns a spot in the New Year’s Eve playoff.
The Sons of Alex Karras are directed by QB C.J. Beathard (14 TDs-3 INTs-60%), who is steadier than Sheriff Will Kane (Gary Cooper) in “High Noon,” and gets a big assist from a pair of anvil smashing tailbacks; Jordan Canzeri, and LeShun Daniels, who have combined for: 1556 yards and 20 TDs.
When the Iowa City Sheriff takes to the air, wideout Matt VandeBerg, and tight end Henry Krieger-Coble are solid glue-fingered chain movers.
On D, the descendants of Ed Podolak, led by backer Josey Jewell, end Nate Meier (10.5 TFLs-6.5 sacks), and backer Cole Fisher, have allowed a miniscule 18 points a game, but show some vulnerability defending the pass, which is not a good recipe against the Boys from East Lansing.
Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio is more underrated than Eric Burden of the “Animals.”
His Sons of Duffy Daugherty have quietly won a jaw-dropping eleven games in five of its last six seasons.
The director of the Spartans is senior QB, Connor Cook (24 TDs-4 INTs-57 %) who has better leadership skills than the entire presidential field of candidates.
The quiet assassin is assisted by a trio of tailbacks; L.J. Scott, Madre London, and Gerald Holmes, who have combined for; 21 TDs-and 1568 yards and a threesome of quality targets; Aaron Burbridge, R.J. Shelton, and Macgarrett Kings, who have combined for; 147 receptions and 16 TDs.
On D, the descendants of Herb Adderley anchored by backer Riley Bullough, end Shalique Calhoun (11.5 TFls-8.5 sacks), and tackle Malik McDowell (11.5 TFLs-4.5 sacks), have finally found a stride that is more disruptive than the; “Kars for Kids” radio advertisement.
In a Big Ten championship for the ages, we think the “Boys of the Corn” have its stalks stripped clean as the mean green of Spartan land earns its way into the playoff. [Note: without that botched miracle punt against Michigan, the Spartans are on the outside looking in – amazing.]
No.2 Alabama vs. No.18 Florida (Ch.4, 4 p.m.) – SEC Championship Once again the Tide, a.k.a. Groucho’s favorite team, is sitting comfortably on its perch of football royalty, and is on the cusp of another national championship.
The diesel propelling these Sons of John Hannah, is its Heisman frontrunner, tailback Derrick Henry, who leads the country in both rushing (1797) and touchdowns (22), while running better than the “Fugitive” averaging the nation’s third best; 149-yards a game.
The manager of this “Title Town” machine is QB Jake Coker (15 TDs-8 INTs-65%), who is as error free as Mark Belanger, while receivers; Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart, and tight end O.J. Howard provide Linus blanket comfort combining for: 147 catches and 12 TDs.
The D of the descendants of Lee Roy Jordan, the nation’s third stingiest (14), swarms behind backers Reggie Ragland, Rueben Foster, and safety Geno Matias-Smith, and is harder to penetrate than the security around an Iranian nuclear power plant.
The only person to do more, with less, than Florida coach Jim McElwain is; “actor” George Hamilton.
Overall the Gator’s offense is weaker (104th) than the stressed condition of the Sunshine State’s citrus crop, whose production output is the lowest in more than a half-century.
QB Treon Harris (8 TDs-4 INTs-53%) directs the sputtering “Boys from the Swamp” with assists from tailback Kelvin Taylor, and wideouts Demarcus Robinson, and tight end Jake McGee, who are averaging Lusitania-like bottom feeding 25 points-a-game.
But if the offense of the descendants of Emmitt Smith is weaker than the poll numbers of George Pataki, the D, the nation’s fifth stingiest (15) and anchored by backers Antonio Morrison, Jarrad Davis, and end Jonathan Bullard (15.5 TFLs -5.5 sacks) soars like the rhetoric of Bernie Sanders at a campus rally.
It would be an upset for the ages if somehow the Gators kept the Sons of Kenny Stabler from punching its ticket into the playoff tourney. Even though it’s the Christmas (hope I can write that word) season, the miracle won’t occur, as St. Nick continues stalking championship number five.
No.8 North Carolina vs. No. 1 Clemson (Ch. 5, 8 p.m.) ACC Championship Yes Virginia, they play another sport on the Chapel Hill campus.
The last time the Sons of Lawrence Taylor won the ACC Championship, Jimmy Carter was in the last days of his Administration (1980), and the number one song in America was; “Lady” by Kenny Rogers.
But these “hip-hop” Tar Heels have “kicked up” its eleven game winning streak on the strength of a prolific offense (41), which features its dual-threat torpedo, QB Marquise Williams (18 TDs-8 INTs-64% -10 rushing), who is as dangerous as “Pretty Boy” Floyd on the run.
The Carolina “big man” is assisted by an earth-moving tailback Elijah Wood (1280 yards-16 TDs), and a pair of quality receivers; Ryan Switzer, and Quinshad Davis.
Coach Larry Fedora’s best offseason signing was the hiring of D-coordinator Gene Chizic, who changed the culture of the UNC eleven from a bunch of cape waving matadors, into, with apologies to John Candy in “Stripes;” “a lean mean fighting machine.” (Which is something the Iraqi will never be!)
The descendants of Julius Peppers, behind safety Donnie Mills, and backers Shakell Rashad, and Jeff Schoettmer, surrender a very respectable, and hard challenged 20-points a game, but remain leakier than the Tip O’Neil Tunnel stopping the run (105th) which is the wrong recipe against the Orange and Purple.
These are not your father’s Tigers.
In previous editions, the “C” words; Clemson and consistency, mixed as well as; Dennis Rodman and Madonna.
But “Dabo’s Boys” are now the proud owners of the nation’s longest winning streak (15), and victorious in 20 of its last 21, making that “C” coupling as perfect as; Bogie and Bacall.
These Sons of “Refrigerator” Perry are under the leadership of its dual-threat, Heisman contending QB Deshaun Watson (27 TDs-10-INTs-70%-9 rushing), who dances with the same fluidity as Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain.”
The indispensable driver of the playoff bound bus, is assisted by a bulldozing tailback Wayne Galman (over 1100 yards -9 TDS), as well as a quartet of receivers: Artavis Scott, Charone Peake, Deon Cain, and tight end Jordan Leggett, who have combined for; 176 catches and 20 TDs.
The marquee worthy Death Valley D, anchored by backers B.J. Goodson (14.5 TFLs-5.5 sacks), Ben Bouleware, and end Kevin Dodd (13.5 TFLs-7 sacks) swarms with the stealthy precision of a Navy Seal team.
This is a very dangerous test for the top rated Tigers of Clemson, which has lost the turnover margin in six games this season, but ultimately, we believe the firepower of Clemson carries the day, as the Tigers earn the right for a chance to play for the national championship.
No. 7 Stanford vs No. 24 USC (ESPN, 7:45 p.m.) – Pac-12 Championship
A win, and the Cardinal, who need several miracles to make it into the playoff, will realistically be flying to Pasadena for its third Rose Bowl Game in the last four years.
These Sons of Jim Plunkett are under the Rommel-like command of QB Kevin Hogan (23 TDs-7 INTs-68%), a dart-thrower who conjures up images of old number 16.
The Palo Alto sharpshooter, the nation’s fifth most efficient passer, who plays with a combination of James Dean cool, mixed with a dash of James Bond sophistication gets a gigundous assist from his “Swiss Knife” Heisman candidate; tailback/kick returner/receiver Christian McCaffrey, the nation’s sixth best rusher (1640 yards – 7TDs), who leads the team in receptions, while topping the country averaging a jaw-dropping 252 all-purpose yards per game.
When Cardinal QB takes to the skies, he chooses from a plethora play-making receivers; McCaffrey, Michael Rector, David Cajuste, and tight end Austin Hooper, who have combined for; 121 grabs and 17 TDs.
On D, the descendants of William Rehnquist featuring backers Blake Martinez, Peter Kalambayi, and Kodi Whitfield, struggle mightily defending the pass (74th), which could tip the scales towards Southern Cal.
With apologies to the “WHO” from its classic; “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” it’s “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” as A.D. Pat Haden has ripped the interim tag off coach Clay Helton (5-2) anointing him the man to bring stability to the USS Trojan which has been adrift in rough seas for the past several years.
At his opening presser the newly minted Man of Troy said, “I apologize for not being glitzy, but I believe that blue-collar toughness is what wins championships.”
Time will tell, and the clock starts running this weekend.
A USC victory, and the Sons of Anthony Davis are slotted into the Rose Bowl for the first time since the second year of Barak Obama’s first term– 2009.
Starry QB Cody Kessler (27 TDs-6 INTs-68%), the tone setter for the surfers from L.A., has the luxury of lasering onto one of the country’s best in wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster (74 catches-1302 yds-17 yds a pop-10 TDs) whose hands are sticker than a box of filling pulling “Jujubes.”
The 2015 version of Tailback U doesn’t roll with a single bell cow, but a trio of road-runners; Ronald Jones, Justin Davis, and Tre Madden, who have combined for an impressive; 2139 yards and 17 TDs.
The Trojans D, led by its All-America caliber backer Su’a Cravens (13.5 TFLs-5.5 sacks), his partner Cameron Smith, and tackle Delvin Simmons (8.5 TFLs-4 sacks), defends against the pass (104th) about as well as Deval Patrick balanced the state budget which is a losing hand against the Cardinal.
In a game of great intrigue, with a spot in the Rose Bowl on the line, we’ll take the spirit of Plunkett, in a very close game, to carry the day.
No.20 Temple at No.17 Houston (Ch.5, Noon) American Athletic Conference Championship During its long history of wandering in the “desert of ineptitude” the jokes about Temple football went like this: How do you keep Temple Owls out of your yard? Answer: put up goal posts.
Well, these are not your father’s Owls.
The Sons of Joe Klecko finds itself ranked for the first time since Jimmy Carter was dealing with the Iranian hostage crisis – 1979 – and its coach Matt Rhule, is now a highly sought after commodity.
The offense of the Boys from Philly commanded of QB P.J. Walker (18 TDs-6 INTs-56%), and his bulldozing tailback Jahad Thomas (17TDs), isn’t a July 4th spectacular (95th overall), but has the ability to slowly grind out victories.
But if the offense is a greasy Philly cheese steak, the D is a five-star, six-hour, roasted pork shoulder.
The nation’s sixteenth stingiest (18) eleven, attacks behind its dynamic backer Tyler Matakevich (118 tackles -71 solo-14 TFLs), with assists from Jarred Alwan, and tackle Haason Reddick.
With apologies to Apollo 13 captain Jack Swigert; “Houston we have no problem here.”
The rocket soaring Cougars, the country’s eighth highest (42) scoring squad, are under the command of its dynamic dual-threat QB Greg Ward (16 TDs-5 INTs-69% – 893 yards rushing -17 TDs) who has better moves than Tina Turner.
The sleight of hand maestro is assisted by tailback Kenneth Farrow (12 TDs), and a pair of field-stretching receivers; Demarcus Ayers, and Chance Allen.
On D, the descendants of Robert Newhouse led by backers Elandon Roberts (127 tackles -84 solo-17 TFLs), Steven Taylor (15 TFLs-8 sacks), and safety Trevon Stewart (9.5 TFLs-6.5 sacks), stone runners but is a muck raking (and we don’t mean Lincoln Steffens) 107th defending the pass, which might be a “problem” against Temple.
With the looming shadow of the Johnson Space Center, we think Houston has a soft landing, and deserves to go bowling on New Year’s Day.
Last week; 3-2 Season record; 40-25
This is the last full week of the year. It flew by for me, and I can’t imagine how quickly it must have gone for all my “faithful” readers.
We’ll be back next week with our annual; “Army-Navy; the old man and me” piece, and the last pure amateur event left in America; The Army-Navy game.
Be sure to read our recap which will be up and running by noon Sunday. Until then, Peace, and listen to the music. PK