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