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Army Navy the Old Man and Me, and the 118th renewal of the Army/Navy football classic

“Age wrinkles the body.  Quitting wrinkles the soul.” Douglas MacArthur.

“Untutored courage is useless in the face of educated bullets.” George Patton.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.” Dwight Eisenhower.

 

Army-Navy, the Old Man and Me

 

The “old man” Ed Kenney and me his son Paul

We begin this week in the spirit of the season with our annual sojourn of taking my “old man” to the last remaining pure amateur sporting event in America; The Army/Nave Football Game, and in this instance it was the 1998 spectacle.

It is our version of; “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

On December 7, 1963 at the age of eleven, and some two weeks after the assassination of President Kennedy, I watched my first college football game.

It was Army versus Navy, and featured the Midshipmen’s Heisman Trophy winner; Roger Staubach.

I watched the game with my dad sharing the ends of the couch in the living room on the top floor of our Dorchester “Wattendorf-owned” three-decker located on Romsey Street.

We watched on a black and white Philco television accompanied with the mandatory rabbit ears, and even though the “old man” was WWII Army, I was rooting for Navy.

The game ended on a controversial time expiring, no call, with the Cadets perched on the Navy one-yard line, as the “Sons of Joe Bellino” (1960 Heisman winner from Winchester) escaped with a; 21-15 victory.

It was a classic game that ushered a lifelong affair with the game of college football, one in which I remain intimately involved writing a seasonal on-line column for the Patriot Ledger, as well as serving as a participating voter in the annual selection of Heisman Trophy winner.

But now a shade over a half-century later, the game for me, has much deeper roots.

My dad Ed, passed sixteen-years ago, and four years before his demise, in the spring of 1998, he experienced what was diagnosed as a “mini-stroke.”

Luckily, he came through without any complications, but it reinforced to me that this 75-year old former soldier wouldn’t be around forever, and that epiphany inspired me to put a plan into action.

I would surprise the “old man” by taking him to witness the game first hand, a “full-circle” father-son football and life journey.

And it would be a one day whirlwind excursion.

The airline reservations were a snap, remember this was pre-9/11, but now I needed some game tickets, and not just any seats, but something decent, especially for a guy who was in his mid-seventies.

I called my pal Bill Brett, the retired prize winning photographer of the Boston Globe, who still remains very active successfully snapping away.

I asked Billy, if he would ask the since deceased Globe columnist Will McDonough to ask his son Sean, who at the time was employed by CBS Sports and calling the game, for assistance in securing a pair of good seats.

They all came through.

I picked up the tickets at the stadium’s “Will Call” window which were inside a large manila enveloped marked: CBS Sports.

The young kid working the window glanced at the CBS logo and duly impressed looked up and proclaimed; “You must be important!”

Little did he know!

We ventured to our seats; lower level at Philadelphia’s Old Vet Stadium, eight rows up from the rail at the 45-yard line.  Absolutely perfect!

Now here we are, silently sitting around various Naval Brass, and after a few minutes the “old man” a former Army Corporal, who walked in and out of France and Germany, looks at me an asks; “Are you sure we are in the right seats?”

Translation: “How could a nitwit like you, pull of seats like these?!”

Even though it was the fifth of December, the weather was a balmy 60-degrees, and we were treated to a great game, watching at the time (since surpassed) the highest scoring contest in the series; a 34-30 Army victory.

Sitting on the plane just before takeoff, the “old man” leaned in and said, “In case I forget, I want to thank you.”

For a WWII father that simple statement was like; “War and Peace.”

My dad died three years later, but to paraphrase Bogie speaking to Bergman at the airport in the movie classic “Casablanca;” We’ll always have Army-Navy.

So yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Now to the game.

Army versus Navy – Philadelphia (Ch.4, 3 p.m.) This is the 118th renewal of the playing of this American jewel with the Midshipmen holding a 60-57-7 edge.

In addition to a year’s worth of bragging rights, this year’s victorious team will also capture the Commander-in-Chief Trophy, a fancy bauble that hasn’t darkened the door of West Point since the pre-Monica days of 1996, as well as a future invite to the White House for a photo op with the “Leader” of the free world.

 

Army Coach Jeff Monken – Coach of Year finalist                  AP photo

Last year the “Long Grey Line” ended its 14-year victory drought, and this year’s feisty edition of Coach Jeff Monken’s Cadets might be Army’s best squad (8-3), since that nine-win team of ’96.

Indubitably, as Curly often said, this game will have more running than the bulls at Pamplona, as the Corp of Cadets, and the Midshipmen, rank first and second in rushing, but rest a rusty bottom second and third worst in passing.

We’ll begin with the “Sons of Glenn Davis,” AKA the West Point keepers of “The Plain.”

Army QB Ahmad Bradshaw                AP photo

Army’s triple-option trigger man is its senior sleight of hand impresario QB Ahmad Bradshaw (1472-yards – 7.8 ypc. – 11 TDs), who along with a platoon of tailbacks; Darnell Woolfolk (666-yds. – 11 TDs), Kell Walker (553 yds.-6 TDs), and Andy Davidson (517 yds. – 4 TDs) have sliced through defenses with the same panache as Japanese sushi-master Jiro Ono. (No relation to Yoko.)

On D these “Sons of Doc Blanchard,” featuring the backing trio; James Nachtigal (7.5 tfls-5 sacks), Alex Aukerman (14.5 tfls-6 sacks), and Cole Christiansen have shown pacifist tendencies in all phases, and will be severely tested by the Navy attack.

In Annapolis, the naval operation is a mirror image of its brothers-in-arm, but as its Blue and Gold faithful are well aware, Navy has been in a Matt Lauer-Al Franken-esque tailspin, losing five of its last six games.

 

Navy QB Zach Abey                                        AP photo

The Brigade’s igniter is its helmsman, QB Zach Abey (1322 yds.- 14 TDs) who is assisted by a crew of talented swabbies; Malcolm Perry (818 yds.-8 TDs, who has also played QB), Anthony Gargiulo (383 yds-3 TDs) and Chris High (492 yds.-2 TDs) all of whom have been able to navigate around most of the defensive obstacles in its path.

And when these “Sons of Roger Staubach” take to the skies, despite the fact that the principle targets Tyler Carmona, and Malcom Perry (out of the backfield), have a combine for a seasonal total of 26-catches, (roughly the number of completions OU’s Baker Mayfield has by the third quarter), they are averaging over 25-yards a grab, and must be accounted for at all times.

Navy’s seventy-third ranked D, featuring backers Micah Thomas, D.J. Palamore, and safety Sean Williams is hardly Admiral worthy, surrendering an alarming SOS – all-hands on deck: 29-points a game.

In Philly, we think the lyrics from the Army fight song; “Army Goes Rolling Along,” Hi! Hi! Hi! The Army is on its way…” captures the day, as the Cadets march on with its own streak, take celebratory possession of the CIC Trophy, and earn a future date to meet “Two Scoops” AKA the President of the United States.

Last week: 4-0

Season record: 49-20

That’s it from cyber-space.  We’ll be back with our analysis of the playoff semi-finals during Christmas (if I’m allowed to write that word) week.

Until then, Peace, and Merry Christmas!  And as always, listen to the music.   pk

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Playoff matchups: Clemson meets Alabama in Sugar Bowl, Georgia takes on Oklahoma in Rose Bowl, and BC plays Iowa in Pinstripe Bowl

 

Wizard of OZ

Like the wizard behind the curtain in OZ, the committee has spoken and the answer is; Alabama!
After yesterday’s quarterfinal results, three teams; Clemson, Oklahoma, and Georgia played its way into a playoff invite, but when Ohio State knocked off undefeated Wisconsin, the fourth spot opened and the choice fell between either the Buckeyes or the Crimson Tide.
The committee mission statement is charged with coming up with the four-best teams, and in its eyes it felt that a one loss Alabama was more deserving versus a two-loss Ohio State team, who despite the fact that the Bucks are a conference champ and owned on paper a more impressive resume were not a better team than the “Sons of Bear.”

 

Clemson versus Alabama Sugar Bowl semifinal

Based on that selection here are the New Year’s Day semi-final matchups: defending champion Clemson with face Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, a place where the Tigers Coach Dabo Swinney played 25-years ago as a member of Alabama’s national championship team.
It will also be the third consecutive time (“Part III”) these national powers have met in the college playoff, although it will be their first in the semi-finals.
This game will simply come down to the ability of “Groucho’s Boys” AKA Alabama to neutralize the Clemson rush which comprises the best front seven in America.

 

Georgia logo Rose Bowl against Oklahoma

 

Oklahoma logo Rose Bowl against Georgia

The other matchup will take place in the Rose Bowl between the explosive offensive juggernaut of the Sooners of Oklahoma, directed by the likely Heisman winner QB Baker Mayfield who put up pinball numbers against the Dawgs of Georgia, who feature a trio of game-breaking tailbacks, combined with an anvil-pounding, take no prisoners, swarming defense.
It has potential to be a classic Spassky-Fisher-esque chess match.
It will also be the first meeting between these two legendary elevens, and Georgia is attempting to capture its first national title since the second year of Ronald Reagan’ first term, also known as the Herschel Walker year of; 1982.
So there you have it, after three-fun filled months, which went by faster than Halley’s Comet, the final four stand before you.
To paraphrase Julius Caesar; “Et ludos incpere” – let the games begin – and we can’t wait to see these intriguing matchups.
One other note: the Fighting Addazio’s, AKA the Eagles of Boston College, received its marching orders and will be heading to New York City and Yankee Stadium on December 27 at 5:15 p.m. to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Pinstripe Bowl in what should be a close hard hitting affair. Congrats to them.
That’s it from cyber-space. We’ll officially close out the regular season with our annual “Army/Navy the Old Man and Me” and the analysis of that classic game Wednesday night. Until then, Peace, and listen to the music. pk

Georgia and Auburn, TCU and Oklahoma tussle in rematches, Clemson takes on Miami, Ohio State meets undefeated Wisconsin

 

Pitt State gorilla mascot                                           AP photo

We begin this quarterfinal weekend, the results of which will determine the final four, with an eccentric coach, a small university in Kansas, and a usually named mascot.
Washington State Coach Mike Leach spouted out this reply to a question about mascots during one of his news conference; “There is a place in Kansas called Pitt State, and I used to see it on film. We didn’t play them. Called Pitt State, and they’re called the Gorillas. And there should be a lot more gorillas for mascots, because think about it, a gorilla could whip a lot of stuff, you know.”
Whatever you say coach.
On this big weekend let’s see which teams send it’s faithful to the “Pit of Misery” from a painful loss, and which walks off pounding its chest gorilla-like over its scintillating conference championship victory.
No. 4 Auburn vs No. 6 Georgia – SEC Championship (Ch.4, 4 p.m.) Rematch.
It’s a word that sends almost as many shudders down a coach’s spine as the sight of Al Franken posing for a photo with your sister at a State Fair.
And when two bitter rivals are added in an unexpected post-Thanksgiving second helping of the oldest rivalry in the Deep South (Georgia holds a 57-56-8 advantage) anything is possible, especially when a playoff spot and just maybe a new place of employment for the Tigers coach riding on the outcome.
Auburn which has jumped out on its first half opponents by the combined eye-popping aggregate; 228-91 is hamstrung by a pair of ponderable questions.
If it loses, will its Coach Gus Malzahn be hitting the highway to become the next head man at Arkansas?

 

Auburn tone setters QB Jarrett Stidham and Kerryon Johnson            AP photo

And more importantly, for its faithful, what is the status of its bruising All-America caliber tailback Kerryon Johnson (1276 yards – 17 TDs), who left last week’s game against Bama with a shoulder injury?
If its tone setting tailback is unable to go, the entire Auburn offense transforms from a smooth purring Tesla into a rusted sputtering YUGO.
The commander of that offense is its peppermint-cool target shooting QB Jarrett Stidham (16 TDs-4 Ints-68%) whose arrival from Baylor gave War Eagle its first legitimate signal caller since Cam Newton.
And the steely leader has the luxury of lasering onto a trio of chain movers; Ryan Davis (69-catches, 5 TDs), Darius Slayton (5 TDs), and Nate Craig-Myers, and if Johnson makes only a token appearance, his running mate Kam Martin will be called upon to carry the load.
The seething D of these “Sons of Karlos Dansby,” the nation’s ninth (16) stingiest, and eleventh overall, featuring backers Jeff Holland (12 tfls-9 sacks), Deshaun Davis, and tackle Derick Brown attacks with the indignation of the French revolutionaries storming the Bastille, while hitting with the power of a Thomas Hearns right hand.
In Athens, the Bulldogs faithful are drooling almost as much as its mascot UGA X over the prospect of redemption against the team that shredded them less than a month ago. And if its claws out a victory Georgia will not only capture its first SEC title since the start of W’s second term – 2005, but also cement its position into a playoff slot.

 

Georgia tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel                  AP photo

Hard charging tailbacks Nick Chub, and Sony Michel (2001 combined yards – 26 TDs) the best Southern pairing since Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara, are the sparkplugs propelling this “Vince Dooley” bus.
But, if the Tigers D can once again stifle the Dawgs running attack, there will be no playoff invite arriving in Athens mail.
The director of the Bulldogs operation is its unflappable t-freshman QB Jake Fromm (19 TDs-5 Ints-62%) who in addition to leaning heavily on “Rhett and Scarlett” is assisted by a trio of field-stretching targets; Javon Wims (6 TDs), Terry Godwin (20-yds a grab, 5 TDs), and Mecole Hardman.
On D, these “Sons of Jake Scott,” the nation’s fifth (13) stingiest, and fourth overall, is led by the backers threesome; Roquan Smith, J.R. Reed, and Lorenzo Carter, who are equally disruptive in stoning runners and deflating passes, and are harder to penetrate than the real estate records of Trump’s son-in-law Jared “Middle East Peace,” Kushner.
As we stated, rematch is a spooky word for a head ball coach, and with Johnson not at full strength, we think Georgia reaps its revenge, and moves into the playoff realm, while Gus Malzahn, who coached high school football Arkansas in scurries off to Fayetteville to take over the Razorbacks of Arkansas. (Maybe.)
No. 1 Clemson vs No. 7 Miami –ACC Championship (Ch. 5, 8 p.m.) Dabo just captured his 100th victory as the head ball coach of Clemson, and if wins the “Dalmatian 101st” on Saturday, Clemson will have clinched its third consecutive ACC title, and be heading to its third consecutive playoff dance.

 

Clemson QB Kelly Bryant                                 AP photo

These “Sons of Dwight Clark,” (who is afflicted with ALS), are under the direction of QB Kelly Bryant (10 TDs -4 Ints-66%, 10 rushing), who’s been as smooth and cool as Andy Williams on stage at the Sands belting out his signature song; “Moon River.”
The dual-threat signal caller is assisted by a cast of All-State (good hands) receivers; Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow, and Ray-Ray McCloud, and topped by a pair of turbo-charged road runners; Travis Entienne (7 yds a pop, 11 TDs), and his equally dangerous partner Tavien Feaster.
The Tigers anvil-hardened D, the nation’s fourth (13) stingiest, featuring backers Dorien O’Daniel (9.5 tfls-5 sacks) Kendall Joseph, and ends Austin Bryant (14.5 tfls-7.5 sacks), and Clelin Ferrell (14 tfls-7.5 sacks), is more disruptive than a Nancy Pelosi bumper sticker spotted on a car parked in the lot of Trump International Golf Club.
Miami is playing with house money.
Mark Richt’s surprising eleven weren’t expected to be in this position, and while the task in front of them is Himalayan high, as the poet wrote; “Do not go gentle into that good night” and the Canes will battle till the end.

 

Miami QB Malik Rosier                                       AP photo

But if Miami is going to knock off the nation’s top dog, its QB Malik Rosier (25 TDs-9 Ints-55%), who has struggled in his last two games, must quickly find the solution to revive his game.
The talented rocket-launcher relies on his defense softening bell-cow tailback Travis Homer (7 TDs), whose shifty speed helps to free his game-changing principle target; wideout Braxton Berrios. [Note: tight end Christopher Herndon, Miami’s second leading receiver, is out torn MCL, and that is a huge loss.]
Miami’s turnover-chain loving D, led by ends Trent Harris (10.5 tfls-8.5 sacks), Joe Jackson (10.5 tfls-5.5 sacks), and backers Michael Pinckney (9.5 tfls), and Shaquille Quarterman won’t conjure any memories of Hurricanes glories of a bygone era, but it does have the uncanny ability to stiffen in the red-zone surrendering a highly-respectable; 18-points a game.
That said, we think Dabo and his Tigers grab victory 101 and punch its ticket to the big dance.
No. 8 Ohio State vs No. 3 Wisconsin (FOX, 8 p.m.) With apologies to John Houseman, if Urban’s Boys are going to be invited to the playoff, they are going to have to “eaaarrrrnnn it.” First by defeating the undefeated third ranked team in America, then captured what is expected to be a beauty contest between them and the Tide of Alabama.

 

Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett                                            AP photo

These “Sons of Archie Griffin,” the nation’s fifth highest (43) scoring eleven, is directed by “Mr. Buckeye,” its dual-threat record breaking QB J.T. Barrett (33 TDs-7 Ints-66%-9 rushing touchdowns) who, if all systems are locked on go, has the ability to deliver with Mozart perfection. (Just ask Penn State.)
But the question in Columbus lingering just beneath the Horseshoe turf for the Scarlet and Grey nation is; which J.T. will it see in Indy, the one with the beautifully written classical score who conducts with fluidity of and charisma of Leonard Bernstein, or the one who stumbles in the wilderness appearing as if he never even glimpsed of the playbook?
If he is off, the Bucks leader can rely on a pair of rocket infused tailbacks; J.K. Dobbins (1190 yds.-7.3 a pop-7 TDs) and his partner Mike Weber (602 yds.-10 TDs) who have the ability to crack any defense, while wideouts; K.J. Hill, Parris Campbell, and Terry McLaurin are more inviting targets than Judge Roy Moore on CNN.
On D, these “Sons of Randy Gradishar” anchored by end Sam Hubbard (10 tfls-4.5 sacks), tackle Nick Bosa (12.5 tfl-6 sacks), and safety Jordan Fuller, swarm to the ball, charging with the same glaring scorn that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders exudes at her WH press briefings.
In Madison, the “Rodney Dangerfield” of college football, AKA the undefeated Badgers of Wisconsin, need to bake Julia Child perfect “baker’s dozen” if it is going to land a playoff invite.
Trust me, not even Nostradamus could have predicted this unblemished journey.

 

Wisconsin Heisman contending tailback Jonathan Taylor             AP photo

The catalyst for these “Sons of Alan Ameche” is its Heisman contending freshman tailback Jonathan Taylor (1806-yards – 7 yds. a carry – 13 TDs- third in the nation) who runs with the same wild abandonment as the horses in Montana, and slices through the line (averaging 150-yards a game) better than the Executive Chef at Abe and Louis hand carving a dry-aged piece of prime.
The commander of the Badgers operation is QB Alex Hornibrook (21TDs-13 Ints – 63%) who as the faithful are well aware, has a tendency to be a one man turnover machine, but fortunately his tenacious D has consistently bailed him out by snuffing out the danger.
On those occasions when he’s locked on, tight end Tony Fuagelli, and receivers A.J. Taylor, and Kendric Pryor are consistent chain movers
But it’s been the D of these “Sons of Tim Krumrie” that have propelled the Badgers to these Prudential-sized eights.
This group ranked tops overall, and the nation’s second (12) stingiest, featuring backers T.J. Edwards, Ryan Connelly, and safety D’Cota Dixon. This group has better numbers than Joey Heatherton, or a Victoria Secret runway show, and has been harder to penetrate than the Clinton Foundation’s financial accounts.
We think the “Cheese Heads” Cinderella story melts into a sticky fondue, as Ohio State lays out an Alan Dershowitz airtight case for a playoff invite.
[Note: if the Bucks do prevail it will be a talent show between them and one-loss non-champion Alabama. The feeling is in that scenario, the Boys from Columbus own the more alluring resume. We’ll see.]
No. 10 TCU vs No. 2 Oklahoma (Fox, 12:30 p.m.) The Horned Frogs situation is nearly as hopeless as waiting for the lights to return on Puerto Rico, or the POTUS to go an entire day without sending out an insulting tweet.
Even if the Frogs knock off Oklahoma, it doesn’t have enough cache to move into a playoff slot, but it would spoil the party for the entire Big-12 conference eliminating it from any consideration.

TCU QB Kenny Hill                                        AP photo

The pedestrian offense of these “Sons of Sammy Baugh” is under the direction of its leather-tough, dual-threat QB Kenny Hill (19 TDs-5 Ints-66%-4 rushing), who plays with the élan of a free flowing Baryshnikov.
The QB focuses on the receiving trio; Desmon White, KaVontae Turpin, and John Diarse and hits his targets with more accuracy than the bongs of Big Ben, which is currently in the process of undergoing a 4-year rehab project for much needed repairs.
And when the Purple Frogs take to the ground, tailback Darius Anderson (8 TDS) is the principle mail carrier.
On D, the nation’s eighth (15) stingiest, anchored by end Mat Boesen (13 tfls-11.5 sacks-4th in nation), and backers Ben Bangos (14 tfls-7.5 sacks), and Travin Howard, stone runners, allowing a nation’s second best less than 90-yards a game, but shows some serious fissures (73rd) defending the pass, which is the wrong post-holiday recipe against Oklahoma.
With apologies to Rogers and Hammerstein; “Oklaahooooma, where the ‘wins’ comes sweepin’ down the plain…” are a single victory from being crowned Big-12 conference champs for the third consecutive year, and earning a spot in the final four.
But to paraphrase George Harrison, “You know it don’t come easy,” in a rematch, there’s that word again, especially against a feisty proud bunch of Frogs from Fort Worth.

Oklahoma QB and Heisman front-runner Baker Mayfield                    AP photo

These “Sons of Billy Sims” who score more often than Taylor Swift (45ppg), while averaging a nation’s best 593-yards of offense, are under the command of its cocky Heisman front-runner, QB Baker Mayfield (37 TDs-5 Ints – 71%), who leads the nation in pass efficiency, while averaging a mind-blowing 341-yards through the air.
The All-America, who launches more rockets over the skies of Norman, than North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un fires from Pyongyang, selects from a buffet of receivers; Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, Ceedee Lamb, and Jeff Badet, all of whom have the ability to break a game wide open.
And when “Mr. Heisman” gives his arm a rest, OU’s hard-charging tailback Rodney Anderson (11 TDs – 5 receiving), plows the earth better than a John Deere in a Kansas wheat field.
The Sooners D, never its strong calling card (62nd) led by the backing trio: Ogbonnia Okeronkwo (17.5 tfls-8 sacks), Emmanuel Beal, and Kenneth Murray, has managed to solidify in the last month, but still has serious as Jesse Jackson is wont to say “issues” defending (90) against the pass.
In a game that has potential to be a classic, we’ll stay with the Sooners, and the spirit of Bob Stoops, whose surprising late retirement this year, left its faithful with a championship caliber football team, and we think that will be on display on Saturday.
Last week; 2-3
Season record; 45-20
That’s it from cyber-space. We’ll be up and running with our analysis of the committee’s decision on the final four, and what we think will happen in our recap Sunday afternoon.
Until then, Peace, and listen to the music. pk

Auburn knocks off Alabama, Ohio State handles Michigan, BC moves to 7-5 with win over Syracuse, ND loses again

With apologies to Howard Cosell; “Down goes Alabama! Down goes Miami!

 

Jubilant Auburn fans storm the field in celebration win over Alabama    AP

We’ll start in the Plains of Auburn where the Tigers, for the second time in three weeks knocked off the No. 1 team in the land, in another dominating performance this time slaying the Goliath of college football the Crimson Tide of Alabama: 26-14.
In addition to some foggy heads, the other thing hurting in Auburn on Sunday morning are the beautiful hedges that surround the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium which were ripped apart by the students deliriously storming the field in celebration of their “Gridiron David’s” who if it all falls into place, just might become the next national champion.
The not so surprising victory ended Alabama’s 24-game winning streak against SEC opponents and the loss, Saban’s second biggest in the regular season since taking over in Tuscaloosa, puts the playoff chances of Groucho’s Boys in a coma induced state. (And as an added note; Saban is 0-7 against Auburn when the Tigers have at least 9 wins and that includes his time at LSU.)
No longer in control of its own destiny, Alabama needs Georgia to knock off Auburn, which is a rematch from three week ago in the SEC Championship Game, and have Ohio State take out undefeated Wisconsin to have any hope of earning an invite.
In that scenario it would come down to a beauty contest between the Buckeyes and the “Sons of Bear” as to whose resume is worthy of playoff inclusion.
Ohio State with conference championship would get an extra check, but the Committee’s somewhat nebulous criteria of the four best teams leaves this question; is Alabama better than a two-loss Ohio State? Stay tuned, there is a lot of football left to be played in conference championship weekend, and many of those questions will be answered.

Teammates celebrate TD run by freshman QB Kenny Pickett      AP photo

On Friday, the Canes of Miami, riding the nation’s longest winning streak at 15, marched into Three Rivers Stadium, home of the Pitt Panthers and had its “turnover chain” melted down for scrap by the scrappy unranked (5-7) “Sons of Dan Marino;” 24-14. It was the second consecutive year an unranked Pittsburg team knocked off a top two team.
But all is not lost for Miami, whose road map to a playoff invite is clearer than Rand-McNally. Win the ACC Championship game against Clemson, a seemingly Himalayan task for Mark Richt’s Canes, and it punches its ticket into the playoff.

 

BC’s starry freshman tailback A.J. Dillon                   Herald photo

On the local scene up on the Heights the “Fighting Addazio’s” AKA Boston College went out and smoked an overmatched bunch of Orangemen of Syracuse, behind the running of its budding freshman star tailback A.J. Dillon who pounded out 193 rushing yards in the Eagles dominating; 42-14 victory.
These “Sons of Mike Holovak” have won 5 of its last 6 to finish with a truly remarkable 7-5 record.

BC headman Steve Addazio                       AP photo

It’s a long way from Coach A’s “Captain Queeg-esque” soliloquy given some seven weeks ago when his Eagles sat a dismal bottom-feeding 2-4, and the coach declared, “I don’t have a time table but it’s coming and it will be beautiful…” For fans of the Eagles beautiful it has become with a bowl game invite, possibly in New York, soon to be arriving in the mail.
In Ann Arbor, here’s the question for the Maize and Blue faithful must answer; when does a rivalry stop being a rivalry?
Ohio State rallied from a 14-0 deficit and for the sixth consecutive year defeated Michigan; 31-20. It is the Scarlet and Grey second longest winning streak, and the 13th victory in its last 14 tries against its arch-rival. Yikes!
Big Blue’s savior Coach Jim Harbaugh is now 0-3 against the “Sons of Woody” and 1-2 versus the “Sons of Duffy Daugherty” its other rival, which is not what the Ann Arbor faithful envisioned when “Saint Jim” came onboard. To be fair next year has been circled as the year Michigan makes its mark as a national contender, but unless Brandon Peters in the answer to its QB issues, the jury remains deep in deliberation on the outcome.
Hail the Smart Kids!

 

Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald AP photo

Northwestern “The Little Engine that Could,” took care of a woeful bunch of Illini, who have lost 10-in a row, racking up 42-unanswered points in its 42-7 pounding of its rival.
Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats are now riding a 7-game winning streak, finished its season 9-3, and are playing like one of the best teams in the nation.
Good for them and Coach Fitz, who if the Notre Dame job ever opens, would be a better fit than Bogie and Bacall.

 

Stanford’s Heisman contender tailback Bryce Love           AP photo

Speaking of the Irish, it’s now official, Notre Dame is the most overrated team in America as it once again laid an egg, and once again in a prime-time game, losing to a decent, but not great Stanford eleven; 38-20.
The next time a member of the “Touchdown Jesus” eleven covers a receiver, let me know. But trust me, I’m not holding my breath. UGLY!
By the way, the Cardinal of Stanford thanks to Washington’s win in the Apple Cup, will be playing USC for the SEC Championship. How about them Apples! (In honor of the 20th anniversary of the movie classic; “Good Will Hunting.”)
Stanford has won six in-a-row, and an eye-popping 8 of its last 9 against top-10 teams at home. WOW!
As mentioned the Stanford Pac-12 invite comes courtesy of another “stinkaroo” laid by the Cougars of Washington State who were eviscerated by the Huskies of Washington: 41-14.
Trust me the score isn’t indicative of how lopsided a win it was for Chris Petersen’s Boys who have now won five consecutive Apple Cups, and for the second year in-a-row kept its arch-rival out of the Pac-12 title game. OUCH!
On the coaching front; the moving vans are heading to the following destinations; Nebraska – more than likely Scott Frost although A&M might be intriguing to his wife, Arizona State, Texas A@M, Tennessee – just filled by Greg Schiano, Arkansas, Florida – just filled by Miss. State Coach Dan Mullen, Mississippi, and now Mississippi State, with the added wackiness of Gus Malzahn leaving Auburn for Arkansas, and Jimbo Fisher leaving Florida State to take over at Texas A@M. As Joe Tessitore accurately said, “It’s the silly season.”
Keep watching or to quote Bette Davis in “Sunset Boulevard;” “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

 

Former KU Coach Charlie Weis AP photo

Finally, as always, we close with our bloviating gas-bag pal Charlie Weis and the woeful Jayhawks of Kansas (1-11), the last team Charlie “fixed,” who were once again trounced, this time by the Cowboys of Oklahoma State; 58-17 and in the process extended its FCS NCAA record for the longest road losing streak to 46, just two behind the all-time record owned by 1AA Idaho State with 48. Where’s Mark Mangino when you need him?!
As Mr. Rogers might ask on “Sesame Street;” “Can you say; woe-ful?”
That’s it from cyber space. We’ll be back Wednesday night with our analysis of the four conference championship games that will determine the invitees to the playoff.
Until then, Peace, and listen to the music. pk

Alabama-Auburn clash in Iron Bowl, Ohio State visits Big House to face Michigan, Washington-Washington State meet in the Apple Cup, Notre Dame visits Stanford

 

ExtendaSuites motel                                         AP photo

We begin this week with an intense rivalry, fanatical fans, a gun and shots fired.
Less than two weeks ago, two men got into an argument over the upcoming Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn and things, shall we say got out of hand, escalating to the point where the Alabama fan standing outside the Extenda Suites Motel pulled out a gun and shot the Auburn fan in the thigh.
The police report read: “The male subject got mad, pulled out a firearm, and struck the victim in the thigh and fled.”
The alleged perpetrator a 28-year old male was arrested three days later and charged with first-degree assault. Only in the South!
On this rivalry weekend, let’s see which teams win it’s bragging rights game in a shoot-out, and which simply run out of bullets, leaving its alums heading to the bar for a shot to take the pain of losing away.  Sounds like a country song to me.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 6 Auburn (Ch.4, 3:30 p.m.) This is the 82nd edition of the Iron Bowl an intra-state rivalry that is more divisive than the Alabama Senate campaign of Roy Moore.
The first game was played during the Administration of President Grover Cleveland – 1893, a game won by Auburn, but the Tide holds a 45-35-1 edge overall, and has won 7 of the last 9.
It will also be the second time that the SEC West Title is riding on the outcome, and the eighth time that both team come into the contest ranked in the top-10. And for the football crazed state of the “Heart of Dixie” stakes are higher than the results of the 2016 Presidential election.
We’ll begin with the Tide.
Groucho’s favorite team has won the last three of these intra-state “Tong Wars” and a big reason for this season’s blemish-free record is its ability to jump like Killer Kowalski quickly on its opponents, outscoring them by an eye-popping first-half aggregate of: 455-112.
The igniter of these “Sons of Bart Starr,” the nation’s second highest scoring (41) eleven, is its dual-threat sophomore QB Jalen Hurts (14 TDs – 1 Int – 61% – 686 rushing yards – 8 TDs) who is as smooth and nimble as Fred Astaire, but as tough and steely as Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

 

Alabama stars; receiver Calvin Ridley and QB Jalen Hurts         AP photo

The Tuscaloosan target hunter is assisted by his All-America Linus-blanket wideout Calvin Ridley, who is one of Bama’s all-timers, and a pair of steam-rolling tailbacks; Damien Harris (8.2 yds. a carry – 11 TDs) and his equally destructive partner Bo Scarbrough who has scored 7 TDs.
The identity of St. Nick’s “Title Towners” is its D, the nation’s stingiest (10 ppg.) anchored by its All-America safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, his partner Ronnie Harrison, backer Rashaan Evans (9.5 tfls – 5 sacks), and tackle Raekwon (7 tfls-6.5 sacks) Davis.
This ferocious bunch stones runners (2nd – 87 yds.) and deflate passes (3rd), like Attila the Hun plundering the Byzantine Empire, and are harder to penetrate than Harvard Law School’s records on its decision to hire Elizabeth Warren as a “esteemed” tenured faculty member.
With apologies to Shakespeare: “Will he or won’t he?”
The he, is Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn, and the question swirling around the Auburn faithful; “Will the coach be staying on the Plains, or heading off to Fayetteville, where he coached high school football, and become the next headman of Razorbacks of Arkansas?”
It has become a “Hog-sized” distraction and the timing of it is almost as bad as it was for Hillary Clinton when former FBI Director James Comey reopened the e-mail investigation, especially when the stakes riding on the outcome, are like the 2016 Presidential election, Himalayan high.
The offense of the “Sons of Shug Jordan,” (Captain Jordan landed, and was wounded on Omaha Beach on D-Day June 6, 1944) got a major jolt of stability and a welcomed spark when Baylor transfer QB Jarrett Stidham (16 TDs – 4 Ints – 67%) signed on to take the controls on the Plains.

 

QB Jarrett Stidham and Kerryon Johnson                    AP photo

The starry signal caller is assisted by one of the SEC’s best, tailback Kerryon Johnson (1172-yards – 16TDs) who runs like Shalane Flanagan sniffing the NYC Marathon finish line, as well as a quartet of receivers led by his All-State (good hands) chain mover, Ryan Davis, who is two catches (58) away from setting the Tigers record.
The nation’s eighth stingiest (16) D, and tenth overall, is anchored by backers Jeff Holland (12 tfls – 9 sacks) Dehsaun Davis, and tackle Derrick Brown (8 tfls) and swarms like a flies on a fresh-killed deer, while hitting with the ferocity of a Sonny Liston right before he met a kid named Cassius Clay.
In what may be a classic, we can make a case for both sides, but Groucho’s Boys have a distinct advantage in its coaching box. Hence, we’re siding with the “Sons of Bear” to move onto Atlanta with a great shot to capture another SEC Championship.
No. 8 Ohio State at Michigan (FOX, Noon) For me personally; Harvard/Yale, and Army/Navy, still holds sway, but I can’t argue with the many who feel that the most compelling rivalry in all of college football today is taking place on Saturday at noon in Ann Arbor, when the Scarlet and Grey and the Maize and Blue clash for the 111th time with the “Sons of Bo” holding a: 58-48-6 edge.
The first meeting of this “Border War” took place during the McKinley Administration in 1897, but the Buckeyes who have won the last five of these grudge matches, and have only lost twice (’03, ’11) to Blue since the Space Odyssey year of; 2001.
Urban’s Boys may be on a respirator as for its chances of earning another playoff invite, but alive they are. This is the scenario that must play out if the Bucks are to earn that coveted spot; Alabama wins the SEC, Oklahoma takes Big 12, Miami grabs the ACC, then Ohio State takes care of business against Wisconsin in a dominant fashion.
Doable I suppose, but the jury remains out on that one. The other is if Clemson beats Miami, and the Bucks win their game, then it comes down to strength of schedule between the two (Miami and Ohio State) with the edge to the Buckeyes. But first things first.

 

QB J.T. Barrett hands off to tailback J.K. Dobbins           AP photo

These “Sons of Woody” have recently returned to its roots focusing on a ground attack led by its 1000-yard turbo-charged slasher J. K. Dobbins (7.3 yds. a pop – 6 TDs), and his talented partner Mike Webber (6.8 yds. a carry – 9 TDs), who are better table setters than the waiters at Boston’s best restaurant; Grill 23.
The maestro directing the nation’s third highest (44) scoring eleven, which has outscored its opponents in the first-half by the combined aggregate; 295-100; is QB J.T. Barrett (32 TDs – 7 Ints – 66%) who is 4-0 in his career against the Wolverines, while displaying better leadership abilities than all the residents of Capitol Hill. He also has a pair of wideouts in K.J. Hill, and Parris Campbell, who have the ability to strike at any time like cobras.
The Bucks D, ranked eighth overall, and led by backers Chris Worley, Tuf Borland, Jerome Baker, and safety Damon Webb attacks with the same intensity as Donald Trump tweeting at LaVar Ball.

 

Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh                           AP photo

In Ann Arbor the sheen has worn off the Harbaugh mystique. [Although there is a rumor that Michigan is working on a lifetime contract for the coach.]
Since his heralded arrival three years ago as the savior of Blue football, “Mighty Michigan” is a woeful 1-6 versus top-10 teams, 1-4 against its two rivals, but more importantly, 0-2 against the Buckeyes, with 0-3 staring right back in the “Big House.’
But the question looming for the “Sons of Tom Harmon” is this; who is going to be under center? Will it be Brandon Peters (concussion protocol), John O’Korn, or the Wilton Speight who is rehabbing from an injury? Stay tuned.
Whoever gets the call, he’ll rely heavily on the Wolverines signature rushing attack led by tailbacks Karan Higdon, and Chris Evans, who have combined for; 1468-yards and 16 TDs.
If any of its QB’s can get them the ball, tight ends Zach Gentry, and Sean McKeon, are bigger targets than a Roy Moore for Senate house sign in Harvard Square.
The nation’s third rated D, under the direction of “Dr. Blitz,” coordinator Don Brown, the former headman of Northeastern and UMass has stitched together another stellar and feisty squad led by a trio of backers; Devin Bush (9.5 tfls-5 sacks), Chase Winovich (15.5 tfls – 7 sacks), and Mike McCray (10 tfls – 5 sacks) who operate as the country’s eleventh (17) stingiest eleven, and attack as relentlessly as Jerry Jones fires barbs toward Roger Goodell.
In a fight that will be nastier than Senator Elizabeth Warren’s reelection campaign, we think the Buckeyes, respirator and all, move on to Indy and a showdown with the Badgers of Wisconsin, while Harbaugh falls to 1-7 against the top-10.
No. 14 Washington State at No. 15 Washington (Fox, 8 p.m.) Wazzu Coach Mike Leach, the father of the “Air-raid” offense, has done a better job than Marty Walsh’s reelection campaign manager.
And if the Cougars, who can also play defense, capture the 110th edition of the Apple Cup, it clinches the Pac-12 North title earning an invite to meet USC for conference supremacy.

 

Washington State QB Luke Falk                   AP photo

The igniter on the Palouse is its gunslinger QB Luke Falk (29 TDs – 10 Ints – 66%) the director of the nation’s third most dynamic passing attack. The Cougs dart-thrower who hits his target better than a US Airforce fighter pilot, is assisted by a passel of receivers beginning with his two tailbacks; Jamal Morrow, and James Williams who have slipped out of the backfield combining for; 105-grabs and 8 TDs.
He also lasers on a quartet of receivers; Tavares Martin, Isaiah Johnson-Mack, Kyle Sweet, and Renard Bell, who have combined for an astounding; 201-catches and 19 TDs.
But the biggest eye-opener for Leach’s troops has been its 11th ranked D led by its All-America end Hercules Mata’afa (21.5 tfls -3rd in nation, 9.5 sacks), and assisted by backers Frank Luvu (10.5 tfls – 6.5 sacks), Jahad Woods (10.5 tfls), and safety Jalen Thompson, who swarm to the ball with the same intensity as the plethora of “suckers,” I mean cities, attempting to lure Amazon’s to come and build its second headquarters.
In Seattle, Chris Petersen’s Huskies would love nothing better than to play the role of spoiler and force the Cougars faithful to cancel its championship game travel plans to Santa Clara.

 

Washington QB Jake Browning         AP photo

The Huskies, who aren’t nearly as dynamic as last season, are led by its starry junior rifleman, QB Jake Browning (18 TDs – 5 Ints – 69%), who fires with more accuracy than Wyatt Earp.
The program’s all-time positional scoring leader is assisted by his nuclear-fused speedster tailback, Myles Gaskins (1090-yards – 15 TDs), and the nation’s most dynamic punt-returner (20-yds. a return) and receiver, Dante Pettis (60-catches – 7 TDs), forming an offensive threesome as bold as the Three Musketeers, while creating a nightmare for defensive coordinators.
On D, these “Sons of Lawyer Milloy” are as dynamic as Sinatra and Martin trading riffs on stage at the Sands.
The nation’s anvil-hardened and fourth stingiest (14) eleven, and fourth overall, led by safety Taylor Rapp, and a pair of smashing backers Ben Burr-Kirven, and Tevis Bartlett (11 tfls), are harder to penetrate than the secret pizza recipe at Regina’s of the North End.
In what will be a classic Apple Cup, we think it will be Leach’s Cougs who take the biggest bite of the apple, and move on with its date with USC.
No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 20 Stanford (Ch.5, 8 p.m.) Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly, who last week became the fifth coach (Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, and Lou Holtz) in Irish history to roam its storied sideline for at least 100-games, is attempting to win 10-games for the second time in three years. It is a task made all the taller by the fact that ND hasn’t won in Palo Alto since the third-year of Barak Obama’s first term; 2007.

 

ND stars; tailback Josh Adams and QB Brandon Wimbush           AP photo

These “Sons of Paul Hornung” have evolved into roadrunners extraordinaire, churning as the nation’s sixth (290 ypg.) best rushing attack behind its Heisman contending tailback Josh Adams (1137-yds – 7.8 a carry-9 TDs) and its dual-threat QB Brandon Wimbush (14 TDs – 4 Ints -51% – 704-rushing – 14 TDs) who plow the earth better than a fleet of John Deere’s at corn harvest time in Iowa.
[Note: Notre Dame is tied with Arizona for the most runs of 60-yards or more with nine.]
But as its faithful are well aware, the Domers offense (108th in passing) is as unbalanced as a three-legged stool or the current occupant of the Oval Office with receivers Equanimeous St. Brown (concussion may play), Chase Claypool, and tight end Durham Smythe filing the lonely “Maytag” role.
On D, these “Sons of Nick Buoniconti” led by the backing trio; Te’von Coney (11 tfls – 3 sacks), Nyles Morgan, and Drue Tranquill, is solid, if unspectacular, but has an uncanny ability to stiffen in the red-zone keeping this season which has even widened the eyes of “Touchdown Jesus” on track for bigger things.
In a similar mode, last week on The Farm, Stanford Coach David Shaw became the school’s all-time winningest (72-victories) coach surpassing the iconic legend Pop Warner.

 

Stanford All-America, and Heisman contender Bryce Love             AP photo

And like the visitors, and with apologies to the “Beatles,” the heart of the Cardinal offense is its Heisman contending tailback Bryce “All you need is…” Love, the nation’s second leading (1723-yards-8.8 a pop – 16TDs) and offensive tone setter. And when he needs a blow (balky ankle) Cameron Scarlett is a quality replacement.
These “Sons of Jim Plunkett” have settled on QB K.J. Costello (5 TDs -2 Ints -60%) to direct the offense with assists coming from a trio of receivers; J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Trenton Irwin, and tight end Kaden Smith.
The Cardinal’s pedestrian D, featuring tackle Harrison Phillips (13 tfls – 5 sacks), safety Justin Reid (team leading 42 tackles), and backer Bobby Okereke, has issues slowing the run which is not the best holiday recipe against the Irish.
This is a tough game to get a handle, a case can be made on either side, and Mr. Love scares us, so we’ve decided to make our decision based on the following symmetry; the Irish haven’t won a major bowl since Bill Clinton’s first year – 1993, and that was in the Cotton Bowl when Notre Dame led by Lou Holtz stung R.C. Slocum’s undefeated Aggies of Texas A@M, the then No. 4 team in the country; 28-3.
So my Fighting Irish sycophants here’s the scoop; if the Golden Domers knock off Stanford on Saturday night, they’ll have secured a spot it that very same Cotton Bowl! Hence, we think we’re in “high cotton” with our pick of Notre Dame.
No. 4 Clemson at South Carolina (ESPN, 7:30 p.m.) In his tenth year in Death Valley Coach Dabo Swinney owns a national championship, has played in the last two national title games, and compiled a jaw-dropping; 62-16 .820 record in ACC play.

 

Clemson QB Kelly Bryant                                AP photo

On offense, these Tigers led by its dual-threat QB Kelly Bryant (10 TDs-5 Ints -66% – 10 TDs rushing), and assisted by a pair of electric tailbacks; Travis Etienne (11 TDs), his partner Tavien Feaster (5 TDs), and a trio of glue-fingered receivers; Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow, and Ray-Ray McCloud (who have combined for 129-catches) isn’t as dynamic as the previous two squads, but is just as resilient.
On D, the nation’s third (13 pts.) stingiest, and seventh ranked overall, is anchored by backer Dorian O’Daniel (9.5 tfls-5 sacks), and book-ends Clelin Ferrell (14 tfls -7.5 sacks), and Austin Bryant (14.5 tfls-7.5 sacks), who have shut down opposing offenses more often than Charlie Rose exposed himself.
In Columbia, these “Sons of Dan Reeves” despite the fact that they find the end zone (88th in scoring) about as often as a Sears Store shows a profit, have miraculously managed to scratch out eight victories.

 

Gamecocks Coach Will Muschamp salutes his team                   AP photo

Coach Will Muschamp’s Cocks are directed by its talented sophomore QB Jake Bentley (15 TDs-9 Ints -63%) who gets some assistance from a pair of pedestrian tailbacks; A.J. Turner, and Ty’Son Williams, but when he takes to the Palmetto State skies, Bryan Edwards (53 –catches), his partner OrTre Smith, and tight end Hayden Hurst are solid chain movers.
The Gamecocks punishing D, led by backer Skai Moore, end D.J. Wonnum (13 tfls-6 sacks), and corner Chris Lammons has some issues defending the pass, but one thing is certain, at games end, there will be some calling card bruises left on its opponent.
In a game that is always dangerous, SEC versus ACC, we think that it might be close for three-quarters but with a playoff invite on the line for Dabo’s Boys, we think the Tigers eventually get the job done and start preparing for its Gibraltar-sized ACC Title game matchup with Miami, and a chance to defend its national title.
Last week: 5-0
Season record: 43-17.
That’s it from cyber-space. We’ll be up and running with our recap of week 13 Sunday afternoon. Until then, Peace, Happy Thanksgiving, and as always, listen to the music. pk

BC becomes bowl eligible, Yale defeats Harvard in “The Game,” Heisman front-runner Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield caught in embarrassing sideline display

The results of Saturday’s “Cupcake Weekend” in college football were exactly like the first-round tennis matches of the US Open; a plethora of three set, love game, yawning blowouts.
A perfect forehand example came from the big three of; Clemson, Alabama, and Auburn, each of whom are striving for a coveted playoff spot, who put on its helmets and toyed with its “opponent” shellacking them by the combined aggregate score of: 159-17! Really??!!
Totally uninteresting, and in our view totally unacceptable, especially when two of the three; Clemson, and Alabama cashed out against non-FBS teams by the combined score of: 117-3! What a joke!!
That said there was some good news in many other places, especially on the home front, as the Eagles of Boston College, left for dead six weeks ago (6-5) when Coach Addazio delivered what many felt was a “Captain Queegesque” “Caine Mutiny” soliloquy, then went out in a 180 degree turnaround, and won for the four of its next five games.
The seamless steaming makes the Eagles bowl eligible something few envisioned back then, as it pounded out a 39-16 rain-soaked victory at Fenway Park against a woeful (3-8) bunch of UConn Huskies.

 

BC’s bruising tailback A.J. Dillon                      (associated press)

 

Once again its true-freshman tailback A.J. Dillon, who runs and punishes like Earl Campbell provided the offensive spark, garnering 200-yards on 24 carries, as the “Sons of Mike Holovak” carved up the Fenway turf for 330-rushing yards.
And with next week’s game at Syracuse against a slumping bunch of Orangemen (4-7), losers of four in-a-row the Eagles have a great opportunity of finishing an eye-popping 7-5. Not even a tarot-card reading gypsy could have foreseen that turnaround.

 

BC Coach Steve Addazio (associated press)

If BC captures that W, Coach A, certainly not one of our favorites is deserving of some serious ACC Coach of the Year votes. Good for the Eagles.
As for the Silver Lake Regional High teammates, Saturday mixed as a day of mixed emotions, as Dartmouth’s Buddy Teevens saw his Big Green score 34-points in the fourth quarter to pull out a wild 54-44 victory against its rival Princeton finishing 8-2 overall, and 6-2 in the Ivy League.
The 98-combined points were the most scored in a Dartmouth game in over a century, 133-years to be precise.
The record occurred during the administration of Chester A. Arthur 1884, when the Eilis of Yale crushed the Big Green; 113-0. WOW!!
But there is an explanation: it was only the sixth football game ever played by the Hanover Green, yet despite that beating, they managed to keep on trucking.
In “The Game” in New Haven it was another desultory offensive performance by the “Boys of Veritas” as Harvard (5-5) fell to Yale for the second consecutive season, this time; 24-3.

 

Harvard Coach Tim Murphy        (associated press)

It was the first five loss season for Timmy Murphy, since Bill Clinton was leaving the White House with the silver ware in 2000, and its first losing league record (3-4) since 1999.
It was also the first time that the Crimson failed to score a TD in consecutive games since Ronald Reagan was reminiscing about playing George Gipp – 1986, and ended Murphy’s 16-year streak of winning at least 7-games.
Meanwhile the Elis finished 9-1, 6-1 and in doing so captured its first outright Ivy League title since the final days of Jimmy Carter – 1980. Good for the Bulldogs!

 

UMass Coach Mark Whipple

Staying on the local scene, break up the “Belles of Amherst” as the “Fighting Whipple’s” who for the first time since it joined the big-boys AKA the FBS have won four games (4-7), knocking off the Cougars of BYU 16-10. Good for the Minutemen and our friend Coach Mark Whipple.
Our other coaching pal, the future HOF-er Al Bagnoli, in only his third year at the helm of the Lions of Columbia, knocked off the Bears of Brown; 24-6 to finish its season with a truly remarkable (8-2, 5-2) Ivy record.
It was only the third time since WWII (1945) that Columbia, who once went 44-games without a victory, has finished a season with 8 wins. WOW!
Good for class guy Coach Bags, and more importantly great for Columbia football and its football future.
Hail the “Smart Kids” as Northwestern, in the wind and rain in Evanston, won its sixth game in a row, a 39-0 destruction over the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

 

Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald (associated press)

The Purple Cats in the midst of its longest winning streak since Billy C was visiting with Monica – 1996, are now 8-3, and staring at a very winnable game next week against its rival Illinois.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald, one of our favorites, and one of the best and most underrated coaches in the nation, described the win, and his play of his squad team simply; “Blue collar Chicago football.”
And as for the way his team embraced Saturday’s weather, which was better suited for the British Open he succinctly summarized; “The guys were embracing the suck.”
Well said Coach, who, when the next opening occurs in South Bend, should be the first call Notre Dame makes.
In addition to BC, we’d like to acknowledge a couple of other teams that reached bowl eligibility on Saturday, the Longhorns of Texas with its surprising 28-14 victory over West Virginia, will be going bowling for the first time in three years.
Yes Virginia, we said three-years. That is how far the fortunes of Texas football has fallen.

 

KState coach Bill Snyder (associated press)

 

And in “The Little Apple” AKA Manhattan, Kansas, KState Coach Bill Snyder, the 78-year old patriarch of the Wildcats upset the “Boys from Boone Pickens U” AKA Oklahoma State; 45-40 becoming bowl eligible for the eighth consecutive season, and 19th time during the coaching tenure of “Mr. Turnaround” Snyder.
And if in fact this is his swansong season, he is battling throat cancer, it’s a great way to celebrate and embrace his HOF career.
In Madison, our pal Tucker from Dorchester was in the stands to watch Wisconsin handle the visiting Wolverines of Michigan 24-10, dropping Blue’s “Golden Boy” coach Jim Harbaugh, into the Brady Hoke and John Cooper levels, as the Wolverines are now an unsatisfactory and native restless 1-6 against top-10 teams, and more importantly 0-2 against its despised rival: Ohio State. OUCH!!

 

Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst (associated press)

Staying on the Mad-Town side of town; Wiscy, the “Rodney Dangerfield of College Football” is a perfect 11-0 for the first time in program history, while another of our favorites Coach Paul Chryst, another underrated headman, has his team is two victories away from winning a spot in the four-team playoff.
The Badgers have outscored its opponents by 195-55 in the second half, and have yet to trail in the fourth quarter, as its Heisman contending freshman tailback Jonathan Taylor continues to impress.
Speaking of the Heisman, it was a disgraceful sideline performance by the current frontrunner, Oklahoma’s QB Baker Mayfield, who was caught on camera grabbing his crotch (not a smart move at any time, but certainly not in today’s highly charged climate) while screaming out f-bombs toward the Kansas sideline.

 

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield and Heisman front-runner sideline tirade

 

As Mr. Rogers might ask on Sesame Street; “Can you say; “MORON.”
Or as we like to say; “What a DOPE!” And as far as we are concerned, he isn’t worthy of being on the top spot of anyone’s Heisman ballot.
In Coral Gables, Coach Mark Richt’s Hurricanes overcame a pair of 14-point deficits, before taking charge and knocking off a game visiting bunch of Cavaliers from Virginia: 44-28.
It was the Hurricanes nation’s best 15-victory in a row, as it continues on its Armageddon path toward the ACC Championship title game and a date with the Tigers of Clemson to determine which team will earn its playoff invite.

 

KU former coach Charlie Weis (associated press)

Finally, as always, we close with our bloviating gas-bag pal Charlie Weis and the woeful (I know, that’s redundant) Jayhawks of Kansas (1-10), who were easily handled by the aforementioned Sooners of Oklahoma 41-3. OUCH!! Sorry Charlie.
That’s it from cyber-space. We’ll be up and running with our analysis of week 13 Wednesday night. Until then, Peace, and listen to the music. pk

Michigan travels to Madison take on undefeated Wisconsin, Harvard plays Yale in “The Game,” BC versus UConn at Fenway

 

Dale Earnhardt’s pit crew                       (associated press photo)

We begin the weekend before our national Thanksgiving celebration with a bunch of former college football players, a pit crew, and a NASCAR retiring superstar.

It turns out that Hendrick Motorsports employs some fourteen former college football players to work as members of the pit crews for its various drivers including Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt.

One of those guys is Earnhardt’s pit crew “quarterback” or rear tire changer, Rowdy Harrrell who won three national championships as a walk-on linebacker with Nick Saban 2009, ’11, and ’12 at Alabama.

Another is “jack man” Nick Covey, an oft-injured backer at Nebraska, who said, “Now we’ve all been given something all athletes dream of, right?  A second chance to compete for championships.”

This weekend, let’s see which teams drive its alums batty with another flat-tire performance, and which zoom over and around its opponent, leaving them in the distant rear view mirror.

No. 19 Michigan at No. 5 Wisconsin (FOX, Noon) If one can envision the Michigan football team as a tube of toothpaste, then Coach Jim Harbaugh has successfully squeezed about as much out of his young Wolverines as is humanely possible.

 

Jim and brother John Harbaugh                   (associated press photo)

But that doesn’t make the task of journeying to Camp Randall for the first time since 2009, and facing the undefeated and defensive dominate Badgers of Wisconsin, any less Herculean.  Especially when one factors in the fact that Michigan hasn’t defeated a ranked team away from the Big House since midway through W’s second term-2006, or beaten a team with a winning record this season.

As the Ann Arbor faithful are well aware, its beloved Blue has been hamstrung by a “Jurassic-like” offense (ranked 94th) which only recently has displayed some third-rail like sparks with the insertion of sophomore QB Brandon Peters (4 TDs – 0 picks – 60%) under center.

The newbie relies heavily on the pounding of its tailback tandem; Karan Higdon (ankle), and his partner Chris Evans, who have combined for 1423-yards and 16 TDs.  And when he takes to the skies over the Big House, a pair of goliath-sized tight ends; Sean McKeon (6-foot-5, 248 pounds), and his partner Zach Gentry (6-foot-7, 250), have morphed into comforting chain-moving targets.

But if its offense more closely resembles an inedible $10 steak, its D is a 5-star 100-day dry aged cut of prime.

The nation’s ninth stingiest (16 pts.) eleven, and third ranked overall, directed by its defensive maestro coordinator Don Brown, the former headman at Northeastern and UMass, features tackle Maurice Hurst (12.5 tfls – 4.5 sacks), end Chase Winovich (14 tfls – 7 sacks), and backer Devin Bush, and is harder to penetrate than the off-shore accounts of Robert Kraft or Apple Inc.

In Madison, Wisconsin sits an Elle McPherson perfect “10” (10-0), for the first time in the history of the program.

 

Wisconsin Heisman contender tailback Jonathan Taylor      (associated press)

The Camp Randall offensive igniter and tone setter, is its freshman All-America caliber, and Heisman contending tailback Jonathan Taylor (1525-yards – 7 yds. a pop – 12 TDs) who slithers through a line better than Mick Jagger sliding past a velvet rope of a VIP room, while rumbling as the country’s third most effective earth mover.

The commander of the entire operation is QB Alex Hornibrook (17 TDs – 12 Ints – 64%) who as the faithful are well aware has become a one man turnover machine, but thanks to Wiscy’s steel curtain D, that turnover barrage hasn’t been as damaging as it would likely be for most teams.

And because of a rash of injuries, his principles in the receiving corps are tight end Troy Fumagalli, and wideout Danny Davis.

And that elite defensive eleven, directed by its former star All-Big Ten safety Jim Leonhard, displays numbers that would make a “Tiger Mom’s” drool.

These “Sons of J.J. Watt,” the nation’s third stingiest (13), and anchored by the linebacking trio; Garrett Dooley (9.5 tfls-6.5 sacks), T.J. Edwards, and Leon Jacobs, rank No. 1 overall, are tops in stoning runners (81 yds. a game), seventh deflating passes, in a dominating fashion not seen since the 1967 Arab-Israeli Six-Day War.

In Mad-Town, we think the Wolverines road-warrior woes continue, as the Badgers, with our pal “Tucker” from Dorchester looking on from the stands, continues on in its tour of perfection.

Harvard at Yale – “The Game” (CNBC, 12:30 p.m.) This is the 134th renewal of “The Game” between these POTUS producing universities, and one time football powers, making it the third longest continuously played rivalry in America.

 

Harvard Coach Tim Murphy                  (associated press photo)

This has been an uncharacteristically unbalanced  season (5-4) for the “Veritas Boys” of the Cambridge gridiron, especially on the offensive side, and it will end Coach Tim Murphy’s remarkable 16-year streak (which includes 3-undefeated teams) of notching at least seven victories a season.

One of the primary factors has been the Crimson’s inconsistent performance by its QB’s, which under Coach Murph, is usually as solid and steady as Belichick and Brady, or Marty Walsh and Charlie Baker.

Neither freshman QB Jake Smith, who has thrown 4 more interceptions than touchdowns (5TDs -9 Ints – 56%), nor senior Joe Viviano (3 TDs -1 Int -55%), has been consistent enough to firmly grab-ahold onto the job.

On the ground, the Crimson churn the turf behind its relentless fireplug (5-foot-9, 200 pounds) tailback Charlie Booker (733 –rushing yards – 6 TDs), and when either signal caller is able to make a connection; wideout Justice Shelton-Mosley, and Henry Taylor have developed into quality chain movers.

On D, the “Sons of Endicott Peabody” anchored by backer Luke Hutton, safety Tanner Lee, and corner Raishaun McGhee has some issues defending against the pass, which isn’t the best recipe versus the Blue from New Haven.

The Elis (8-1) already possess a share of the Ivy League Title ending the longest title drought (11-years) in school history.

And if the Yalies, who have won five in a row, are able to defeat its “River Charles” rival, it will own the title outright, as well as a two-game winning streak against “The Johns.”

 

Yale QB Kurt Rawlings (associated press photo)

 

The Bulldogs high flying (6th overall) offense, is under the command of QB Kurt Rawlings (18 TDs – 5 Ints –     67%), who hits his target almost as as well as David Swensen, Yale’s highly regarded chief endowment money manager brings home the cash.

The New Haven dart thrower is assisted by his bell-cow 1000-yard tailback Zane Dudek (14 TDs), and lasers onto a pair of field-stretching receivers; Jaeden Graham, and Christopher Williams Lopez.

On D, these “Sons of Gary Fencik,” the nation’s ninth stingiest (17), anchored by its captain corner Spencer Rymiszewski, safety Hayden Carlson, and backer Matthew Oplinger (12.5 tfls-9.5 sacks) inhale runners, but have some fissures (88th) defending the pass, which shouldn’t hurt that much against Harvard.

With the outright Ivy title resting on the outcome, and with “The Game” being showcased in the iconic Yale Bowl, we think it’s “Boola, Boola” time for the home team, as the Bulldogs march off with the trophy to the strains of; Bulldog, bulldog, bow-wow-wow, Eli Yale!

UCLA at No. 12 USC (Ch.5, 8 p.m.) In the 87th meeting between these cross-town rivals, the pitchforks are out, as the UCLA Westwood natives are restless.

Last week a plane was hired to fly over the Rose Bowl dragging a banner which read: “No Mora” in reference to Jim Mora’s recent record as the headman of the Bruins, who at 5-5 need to scratch out one more victory for bowl eligibility.

The formula of success for the “Sons of Gary Beban,” (averaging 8-penalties and 2-turnovers a game), is simpler than the square root of 9; so goes its future Sunday showman, QB Josh Rosen (21 TDs -9 Ints – 62%), so go the Bruins of UCLA.

 

UCLA QB Josh Rosen                     (associated press photo)

The leather-tough gunslinger has the luxury of choosing from a committee of targets led by Darren Andrews (10-TDs), and Jordan Lasley, but has been hampered by a ground assault (105th), that only marginally flashes to life behind tailbacks Bolu Olorunfunmi, and Soso Jamabo.

The Bruins muck-raking (123rd) D, has been the albatross, or as former Mayor Tom Menino used to say the “Alcatraz,” that has kept UCLA locked in the basement of the Bates Motel.  Its overall performance has been so debasing it almost makes Steve Bannon seem like a warm and fuzzy Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  ALMOST!

These “tackling matadors” featuring backer Kenny Young, corner Krys Barnes, and safety Adarin Pickett surrender a jaw-dropping average of 38-points a game, and display more gaping holes than the recently liberated city of Al-Qaim, the last ISIS stronghold in Iraq.

USC has already captured Pac 12 South earning a spot in the conference championship game, but these Men of Troy have another mission in mind, it wants to have its first 10-win regular season since the Lane Kiffin year of 2011.

 

USC QB Sam Darnold (associated press photo)

The Trojans tone setter is its gunslinging blond bomber, QB Sam Darnold (24 TDs- 11 Ints – 63%), and despite his numerous turnovers has for the most part managed to keep USC on track.

He also gets a huge assist from his All-America caliber, and turbo-charged tailback Ronald Jones (1224-yards – 6.7 yds. a carry – 14 TDs) who deserves some Heisman love, and when he goes aerial chooses from a quartet of targets; led by Deontay Burnett (9 TDs), and Michael Pittman.

The D featuring backer Cameron Smith (8 tfls), end Rasheen Green (10.5 tfls – 8 sacks), and tackle Christian Rector (11.5 tfls-7.5 sacks) isn’t as weak as the candidacy of Alabama’s Roy Moore, but has enough holes (71st overall – 80 defending the pass) to keep USC’s offense on constant high alert mode.

I know it’s a cliché, but in a rivalry of this intensity, records should be shredded like Russia WikiLeaks correspondence during the Trump campaign.

Bottom line, USC has the better fight-song, the better cheerleaders, and ultimately the better team as its faithful are serenaded with the strains of: “Fight On, for ol’ SC!”  as the Men of Troy capture that precious regular season ten-spot of victories.

Navy at No. 9 Notre Dame (NBC, 3:30 p.m.) In the 91st renewal of the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in America, these triple-option mavens, AKA the Midshipmen of Navy, have won 32 of its last 43, and will be bowling for its sixth consecutive season, and fourteenth time in its last fifteen campaigns.

 

Navy Coach ken Niumataldo (associated press photo)

Coach Ken Niumataldo has done an “admiral-worthy” job, but as the Middies, who lead the nation in rushing (averaging 369 – yards a game), get ready to set sail for South Bend they find themselves faced with a quarterback dilemma.

After last week’s near record performance by QB Malcolm Perry, who was inserted from his slot-back position to replace injured starter Zach Abey (1202-rushing yards, 13 TDs), it seemed Navy was in a good spot until the word came down that Perry is out with a severe ankle sprain.

The Navy headman must now decide between the talented Abey, who is nursing a sore shoulder, or the less dynamic, but healthy backup Garret Lewis.  The Navy coach intimated that a decision may not be made until the Middies take the field on Saturday afternoon.

On D, the Blue and Gold behind backers D.J. Palmore (10.5 tfls -2.5 sacks), Micah Thomas, and safety Sean Williams (out first half-targeting penalty) is leakier (78th – allowing 30-points a game) than the rust-bucket USS Caine, the fabled Pacific minesweeper from the movie classic; “The Caine Mutiny.”

In “Domer-land” Touchdown Jesus and its faithful are hoping that last week’s impersonating performance of the “Frightful Irish” – (courtesy S. Price) was something as rare as the sighting of a Melania Trump smile.

And for its sake, it had better be, or the entire Irish season will be for “knot.” (Navy theme.)

 

Brandon Wimbush and Josh Adams (associated press)

These “Sons of Terry Hanratty” roll as the nation’s sixth best earth movers (303-yds a game) directed by its QB Brandon Wimbush (12 TDs-4 Ints – 51% – 663 rushing – 13 TDs), and assisted by his All-America caliber tailback Josh Adams (1231-yards, 8 yds. a pop – 9 TDs) who form one of the best duos since Sonny and Cher.

When ND’s signal caller is able to hone in; wideouts Chase Claypool, Equanimeous St. Brown, and tight end Dunbar Smythe are quality field-stretchers.

On D, these “Sons of Alan Page” anchored by backers Te’Von Coney (11 tfls – 3 sacks), Nyles Morgan, and Drue Tranquill are in the pedestrian category, and won’t cause any sleepless nights for the opposition’s offensive coordinators.

It’s never easy facing a team that specializes in the triple-option, but eventually ND pulls away, ultimately buries the “Frightful Irish” moniker, and raises its sails cruising out of South Bend with its ninth victory of the season in tow.

Boston College vs UConn (Fenway Park, 7 p.m.) This week’s college football schedule hits its annual pre-rivalry breather as the heavyweights (Alabama is playing Mercer, Auburn vs La. Monroe, and Clemson vs Citadel) are simply taking the week off.

 

BC Coach Steve Addazio (associated press)

So in that spirit, we thought we’d shine a spotlight on the “Fighting Addazio’s” of Chestnut Hill AKA the Eagles of Boston College, who are a skinny victory away from earning that much sought after status of “bowl eligibility” with the added “eggnog” attraction of suiting up in Fenway Park a treat for the kids on both teams.

After losing its starting QB Anthony Brown (knee) for the remainder of the season, these “Sons of Mike Holovak” who are 103rd in scoring (23-points), will roll the bones behind its junior lefty Darius Wade, who at times has thrown the ball like Michelangelo’s masterpiece; Venus de Milo.

Luckily, he can lean on one of the ACC’s best, in t-freshman tailback A.J Dillion (1039-yards – 8 TDs) whose running style more closely resembles one of the bulls storming through the streets of Pamplona.

If Wade’s GPS is in working order, an occurrence that doesn’t happen all that often, wideouts Kobay White, Tommy Sweeney, and Jeff Smith, are solid, if not dynamic targets.

On D, these “Sons of Jimmy Cotter” anchored by backer Ty Schawb (7 tfls-4 sacks), end Zach Allen (10 tfls-4 sacks), and corner Will Harris (All-America end Harold Landry ankle remains questionable), has issues slowing he run (112th), but has  managed to stiffen in the red zone keeping the gritty Eagles in almost every game.

 

UConn Coach Randy Edsall (associated press)

The poet was wrong; “You can go home again,” as Huskies coach Randy Edsall has proven by his return to the sidelines in Storrs, although with the Huskies resting at 3-7, you might want to ask the question; Why?

UConn also has injury issues at the quarterback, and David Pindell has been given the job for the remainder of the season, piloting an offense that sits 93rd in scoring averaging a miniscule 24 points a game.

Tailbacks Kevin Mensah, and Nate Hopkins are the principles of a muck filled (93rd) ground attack, while wideouts Quayvon Skanes, Traiq Beals, and Aaron Mclean are quality and dangerous targets.

On D of these “Sons of Booth Lusteg” featuring backers Junior Joseph, Vontae Diggs, and corner Tyler Coyle are a Harvey Weinstein embarrassing 128 overall, allowing an eye-popping average of 39-points a game.  Yikes!

As Mr. Rodgers might ask on “Sesame Street,” Can you say pathetic?”

But as the Eagle faithful are well aware, in games that BC is expected to win comfortably, it has a disturbing tendency to almost always end up in a dog-fight.

We don’t think that happens this time, as the Eagles notch that sixth win, and punches its ticket for a holiday afternoon of bowling.

Last week: 3-2

Season record: 38-17.

That’s it from cyber-space.  We’ll be up and running with our recap Sunday afternoon.  Until then, Peace, and listen to the music.  pk