Michigan visits Ohio State in Game of Year, Alabama hopes to finish regular season unbeaten, Washington visits Washington State in Apple Cup

55-year old Joe Thomas carried off the field by his South Carolina State teammates

55-year old Joe Thomas carried off the field by his South Carolina State teammates

We begin this week with the old speed limit – 55, a three-yard gain, and a senior, in more ways than one, who finally got to play in a game on Senior Day.

Last week, South Carolina State’s Joe Thomas Sr. became the oldest player at age 55, to ever play in a Division 1 college football game, when he carried for a three yard game in the only game he ever played in his four years with the team.

Thomas, who was a high-school star, never had a chance to go to college, but when he son was recruited Joe Sr. also enrolled, thinking it would be cool to play on the same team as his son, who is now a member of the Green Bay Packers, playing linebacker.

Joe Sr. played on the scout team for four years, and finally got his chance to take the field on Senior Day when plunged his way for a three-yard gain.

After the game the “old man” who is 13-years older than his number of 42, was carried off the field by his teammates.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, let’s give thanks to our health, and perseverance as a nation, and celebrate with family and friends watching the great game of college football.

No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State (Ch. 5, Noon) Welcome to the “latest annual” Game of the Century, this time the location is: Columbus, Ohio.

Michigan and Ohio State have met 112-times, the first in 1897 when William McKinley was occupying the Oval Office, but seldom, if ever, have the stakes been taller.

Ohio State's Urban Meyer - Michigan's Jim Harbaugh Ohio State’s Urban Meyer – Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh

This is college football’s version of; Ali-Frazier, Vidal-Buckley, MacArthur-Truman, Sunnis-Shia, Trump-Clinton, and now Meyer-Harbaugh baked into a high-noon, delectable, 60-minute casserole of chaotic animosity.

If the Maize and Blue, who have outscored its opponents in the first half by the jaw-dropping aggregate 277-53, (but have lost 11 of the last 12 to the Bucks, including Harbaugh’s debut last year), knock off the Buckeyes, its punches its ticket to the Big Ten Championship game.

But the question looming over the “Big House” visitors, is whether starting QB Wilton Speight (15 TDs – 4 Ints – 62%) can go.  He has an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, and if he’s out John O’Korn, a transfer from Houston, who has only attempted 34 passes, will be the next man up.

Whoever is the director of the nation’s eleventh highest (42) scoring eleven, he’ll rely heavily on Michigan’s top-20 rushing attack, which is anchored by its plow horse; De’Veon (5.2 yds. – 10 TDs) Smith.

And when the “Sons of Bo” take to the “Big Blue” skies, All-America tight end Jake Butt, and wideouts Amara Darboh, and Jehu Chesson, are quality chain moving targets.

But it’s Meeeechigaan’s D, (coordinated by Massachusetts native Don Brown, a Frank Broyles Award finalist, and former head man at Northeastern and UMass), that has carried the Wolverines to its Himalayan heights earning it a bold print headliner at the top of the marquee.

These Tony nominees, led by its trio of backers; Jabril “Mr. Everything” Peppers (6 rushing TDs), Ben Gedeon (13.5 tfls-3.5 sacks), and Mike McCray (11.5 tfls-3.5 sacks), rank first overall, are the nation’s stingiest (10), and tougher to penetrate than the inner workings of the Clinton Foundation.

As for the Boys from Columbus, the last time the “Sons of Woody” lost to Michigan in the Horseshoe, New York’s Twin Towers were still standing – 2000.

The Bucks, who have also scorched its first half opponents, outclassing them by a 265-89 aggregate are under the command of it battle-hardened QB, J.T. Barrett (24 TDs – 4 Ints – 63% – 722 yds. rushing – 8 TDs), who, when the pressure is on, is as calm and reliable as VP-elect Mike Pence.

When the All-America marksman, of the nation’s fifth (43) highest scoring squad, takes to the Ohioan skies, his “Road Runner” target, wideout Curtis Samuel (61-catches – 7 TDs) has the ability to zoom past any defender, while tailback Mike Webber (1046 yds. – 8 TDs) plows the earth with the same intensity as a John Deere tilling a field of soybeans.

And like its opponent the “School from the North” the Buckeye’s D, the nation’s third (13) tightest, anchored by bakers; Raekwon McMillan, Jerome Baker, and safety Malik Hooker, ranks fourth overall, and like John D. Rockefeller Jr. is worthy of a Park Avenue penthouse residency.

Urban Meyer said it best; “It officially rivalry week.  Our eyes are forward, and let’s go.”

Come noon Saturday, the eyes of the college football world will be lasered on Columbus, Ohio and we think the Buckeye faithful, (two of whom will be Ohio State grads; Keith Mills, and his son Cosmo.  Keith is the proprietor of Milton’s wine emporium: “Esprit du Vin.”) will be serenading its Ann Arbor visitors, with a throaty and blustery version of “Goodbye Columbus,” in what should be a Big Ten Classic, in a game almost as important as the choice of the next Secretary of State.

No. 6 Washington at No. 23 Washington State (FOX, 3:30 p.m.) – Friday  The winner of the 110th edition of the Apple Cup, which has both combatants ranked for the first time since Stanley Kubrick’s “Space Odyssey” year – 2001, punches its ticket into the Pac-12 Championship game.

The Huskies, the nation’s fourth highest scoring (44) squad, are directed by its Heisman contending QB Jake Browning (37 TDs-7 Ints – 64%), who hits a target better than a ballistic missile fired by North Korean’s stability and reality challenged dictator; Kim Jong-un.

Washington's Jake Browning

Washington’s QB Jake Browning

The Seattle rifleman, whose offense is as balanced as the Wallenda family, is assisted by a pair of dynamic game changing receivers: John Ross (64 catches -15 TDs), who has more speed than an Appalachian meth-lab, and his equally dangerous sidecar partner Dante Pettis, who has 12 TDs on 46 catches.

These “Sons of Hugh McElhenny” are capable of running with the bulls, led by tailbacks Myles Gaskins, and Lavon Coleman, who have combined for 1783-yards – 13 TDs.

The country’s tenth (17) stoutest D, featuring All-America safety Budda Baker (7-tfls), who hits like a Smitty pounding a shoe, along with backer Keishawn Bierria, have been more disruptive than the cast of Hamilton preaching at the Vice-President elect.

In Pullman, it’s been a tale of two seasons for the “Sons of Drew Bledsoe,” the former New England Patriot QB, who owns a highly rated Washington State vineyard “Doubleback,” located in Walla Walla.

After stumbling and bumbling to an 0-2 start, which included a loss to sub-division Eastern Washington, Wazzu Coach Mike Leach called out his Cougars, who responded by capturing 8 in-a-row before losing last weekend to Colorado.

Wazzu coach Mike Leach

Wazzu coach Mike Leach

The Cougs, the nation’s tenth highest (42) scoring bunch, mobilizes behind the nation’s second most prolific passing attack, but is a near-bottom feeding (114th ) running the ball which makes Wazzu more unbalanced than Jeffrey Dahmer

QB Luke Falk (36 TDs – 7 Ints -71%) is the chief bombardier of Leach’s “Air Raid” creation, with a big assist from a pair of touchdown makers; All-America caliber Gabe Marks -74 catches – 12 TDs, and his partner Tavares Martin, 57-grabs and 7 touchdowns.

But the WSU D, led by backer Peyton Pelluer, corner Darrien Molton, and end Hercules Mata’afa (12 tfls- 4 sacks), struggles mightily defending the pass which is the wrong recipe against the Huskies.

In an Apple Cup for the ages, we think the visitors from UDub drink heartily from a victorious Cup of Apple, as it moves on to the Pac-12 title game.

No. 21 Utah at No. 9 Colorado (FOX, 7:30 p.m.) Utah can spoil an awful lot of holiday plans.

If the “Sons of Marv Fleming” knock off the Buffs, it will send the Trojans of USC into the Pac-12 title game for the second consecutive year.  If it loses, USC stays home, and Colorado will be the one traveling to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Utah tailback Joe Williams

Utah tailback Joe Williams

The engine that drives Coach Kyle Whittingham’s Utes is its bulldozing tailback Joe Williams, (he returned to the team after a temporary retirement), who in just seven games, has accumulated yards, (nearly 1100 yards and 9 TDs), almost as fast as Donald Trump has acquired a bunch of “new best friends.”

The director of this Salt Lake City operation is QB Troy Williams (14 Tds-5 Ints-55%), with assists from a pair of steady receivers; Tim Patrick, and Rawlon Singleton, but overall this group is as dynamic as a Keith Lockhart Pops concert.

Utah, which has some serious fissures defending the pass, is anchored by a pair of ends; Hunter Dimick (19 Tfls-14 sacks), and Pita Taumoepenu (9 Tfls-7 sacks), who are more disruptive than a mal-functioning Takata airbag.

In Colorado, Coach Mike MacIntyre’s Buffaloes have been more surprising than the olive branch tossed by the President-elect Trump toward his harshest critic; Willard Mitt Romney, who may ultimately be named the next Secretary of State.

And just like the man who now dominates Trump Tower, Colorado has shown the ability to close the deal, having surrendered a miniscule seasonal total of 40 fourth-quarter points.

Buffs QB Sefo Liufau

Buffs QB Sefo Liuau

The director of this stunning Boulder revival is QB Sefo Liufau (10 TDs-3 Ints-67%-6 rushing), who plays with the grit of Rooster Cogburn, and the leadership of John Wayne.

The leather-tough senior is assisted by tailback Phillip Lindsay (1081-yards – 15 TDs), and a trio of field-stretchers: Shay Fields (17 yds. a grab – 8 TDs), his partner Devin Ross (5 TDs), and if he can go (foot) Bryce Bobo.

But it’s been the CU D, the nation’s thirteenth (18) stingiest, which has roamed all over its opponents.

This marauding band anchored by backer Kenneth Olugbode, safety Tedric Thompson, and corner Afolabi Laguda, attacks from all angles, and hits with the force of a Ken Norton right hand.

In Boulder we think the Buffs magical season continues to smoke, as the “Sons of Cliff Branch” punches its ticket in the Pac-12 Championship game, and Mike MacIntyre is as sure of a lock as Rocky Marciano;

for the Coach of the Year.

No. 16 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama – Iron Bowl (Ch.4, 3:30 p.m.) After starting its season with a pair of losses in its first three games, the direction of Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn was decidedly pointing toward the door.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn

But a funny thing happened on the way to the unemployment line; a six-game winning streak that produced more smiles, and glad-handing on the Auburn Plains than Donald J. Trump’s election night.

The turnaround was spearheaded by the combination of the Tigers D, and its top-five rushing attack which comes at you with more Waves than the WW II Navy.

It remains uncertain if battered QB Sean White (9 TDs – 3 Ints – 65%) will be able to go, if not, Jeremy Johnson is expected to get the nod, over John Franklin III, although both are equal on the depth chart.

Regardless, the Tigers tone setters are a ground assault (Auburn runs 70% of the time) led by the return (leg) of Kam Pettway (over 1100 yards, 7 TDs in seven games), along with Kerryon Johnson (11 TDs), and Kam Martin, which rolls with more speed and conviction than the “Desert Storm” operation of Gulf War I.

Auburn, the nation’s seventh (14) stingiest D, anchored by end Carl Lawson (12.5 tfls – 9 sacks), tackle Montavius Adams (8.5 tfls – 4.5 sacks), and backer Tre ‘Williams, attacks with the same intensity as the Morton County Sheriff’s Department toward the protesting Standing Rock Sioux Indians of North Dakota.

Alabama coach Nick Saban

Alabama coach Nick Saban

In “Title Town,” aka Tuscaloosa, Groucho’s favorite team is surfing a wave of 23 in-a-row, and if St. Nick secures the victory number twenty-four, he will notch Alabama’s first undefeated regular season since Barak Obama was still getting adjusted this his Oval Office chair – 2009.

We’ll begin with the Tide’s D, which has better numbers than Ann-Margaret and Elle Macpherson combined, and may in fact be Saban’s best ever.

These men of steel, who rank second overall, and first in pulverizing runners (less 70-yards a game), are anchored by its All-America end Jonathan Allen (9.5 tfls – 7 sacks), backers Reuben Foster, Tim Williams (14 tfls – 8 sacks), its heat-seeking safety Ronnie Harrison, and are more ornery than Elizabeth Warren toward any republican, and tougher to break through than bridge cable.

On offense, these “Sons of George Wallace ’42,” (who flew B-29 missions over Japan in 1945, serving under the command of General Curtis LeMay) are also of high-cotton caliber.

Bama’s wunderkind t-freshman QB Jalen Hurts (18 TDs -7 Ints -64% – 803 rushing yards – 11 TDs), who in addition to receiving some Heisman love, seems to have seanced the spirit of Joe Willie, as he operates as smoothly as Paul Newman in the: “The Sting.”

The talented kid is surrounded by a trio of game-breaking tailbacks; Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs, and Bo Scarbrough, while wideouts Calvin Ridley (7 TDs), ArDarius Stewart (6 TDs), and All-America tight end O.J. Howard, are more comforting than the blanket of Linus.

In a rivalry game of this magnitude, danger lurks everywhere.  In fact St. Nick has referred to this year’s game as: “The legacy of the season.”

We don’t think Groucho’s Boys will let him down, as he struts ever closer to his Ahab-like quest of tying (6), and ultimately surpassing the national championship record of Tuscaloosa’s other secular saint: “The Bear of Bryant.”

Minnesota at No. 5 Wisconsin (BTN, 3:30 p.m.) The Paul Bunyan Axe, which is the trophy awarded to the winner of the 126th edition of the most played rivalry in the FBS, is close to earning Badger State citizenship, having resided in Madison for the past dozen years.

But in Minneapolis, the “Sons of Bud Grant ‘49” are intent on an Axe relocation program that includes a homecoming, as the Golden Gophers, under the guidance of Coach Tracy Claeys, have been one of year’s bigger surprises.

 

UM is led by i

Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner

Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner

ts gritty senior junk-yard dog, QB Mitch Leidner, (who has thrown 2 more interceptions (8), than touchdowns, while rushing for nine.  The diamond-hard leader, who epitomizes the resiliency of these Gophers, whose mantra is: whatever it takes, is assisted by his bell-cow tailback; Rodney Smith (1039 yards – 15 TDs), and a solid wideout in Drew Wolitarsky, whose surname somehow perfectly captures the Gophers lunch-pail philosophy.

Its agitated D, which has lassoed thirty-three opposing QB’s is anchored by tackle Steven Richardson (11 tfls-7 sacks), backer Jonathan Celestin, and safety Damarius Travis, and can cause more disruption than a Nor’easter icing the Red Line’s third rail.

In “Cheese-land,” if Coach Paul Chryst’s disciplined (second fewest penalties 3.27 a game) Badgers once again capture the Axe, it not only punches its ticket into the conference championship game, but has a solid chance to earn a spot in the four-team playoff.

The Mad-Town D, the nation’s fifth (13) stingiest, has been the foundation, cornerstone, and main beam for these “Sons of Alan ‘The Horse’ Ameche.”

Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt

Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt

This wrecking crew, led by backers T.J. Watt (11.5 tfls-8 sacks), T.J. Edwards, and safety Leo Musso, stones runners, and deflates passes with the same zeal as Alec Baldwin spoofing Donald Trump, and are harder to penetrate than the inner circle of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

After sputtering for most of the year, the offense (70th in scoring) is beginning to find its stride courtesy of the rejuvenated legs of its starry tailback Corey Clement (over 100 yards – 11 TDs), while its feisty QB Alex Hornibrook (8 TDs – 7 Ints -58%) and a trio of receivers; Jazz Peavy, Troy Fumagali and Robert Wheelwright have done just enough to keep its magical season flowing.

We think Mr. Bunyan celebrates another Thanksgiving in his adopted home of Madison, as Wiscy moves on to the Big Ten Championship game, and a shot at a playoff invite.

Last week; 2-3                               Season record; 36-24

That’s it from cyber-space.  We’ll be up and running with our recap by 2 p.m. on Sunday.  Until then, Happy Thanksgiving, Peace, and listen to the music.  PK

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