Ill-Advised Day After Bowl Game Predictions

The sack of weasels isn't even close to being as crazy as the man on the left at times.

The sack of weasels isn't even close to being as crazy as the man on the left at times.

Cotton Bowl – The reason a Texas Tech/Ole Miss match-up fascinates so many is not only because they are invited in a location somewhat available to both fan bases, but the personality and tendencies of both coaches. Mike Leach is the Pirate of the Skies, his luster diminshed just slightly after leaving his BCS title hopes in Norman; Houston Nutt is the boredline insane hick who will throw every manner of trick at you — he calls it as if he has nothing to lose, but is uneven enough to win a big game he’s not exepcted to and blow the next one on a bizarre coaching decision. On pure assembled talent alone, Tech should win this, but any time you think a Nutt team isn’t talented enough to pull it off, you get made to look like a fool. Tech by no more than a touchdown.  The line of -4 is just about right.

Sugar Bowl – Everyone’s hoping for a Boise State, but many are resigned to a Hawai’i. Utah is likely somewhere in the middle. This time they’re not lining up against a Big East patsy like Pitt a few years back; they get the SEC’s power-hitting pro-set team.  What the Utes need to do — MUST do if they want a realistic shot at the upset — is to make John Parker Wilson look like the incosntent thing he can be. I’m not sure Glenn Coffee and Mark Ingram will play poorly enough to force him to have to be that.  Meanwhile, the Utes will score some — but Terrance Cody and the rest of the Bama front seven are a rather revved-up TCU, hungry for redemption after falling before the Florida attack in the SEC championship game. Tide by two scores, in the range of 10-14 points.

Liberty Bowl – Fairly simple. Kentucky is atrocious on offense. If East Carolina can at be mediocre in its attack, this should be handled rather easily.

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Rushing The Field: Poll Anarchy

Well, seven weeks in and we’ve got the same damned problem we had last year with college football (or non-problem, for without these issues, the sport isn’t as half as fun to discuss or opine on.)  The field has leveled out so greatly that you have three of the top five getting knocked off on a Saturday.

Oklahoma and Texas were essentially trading blows for about three quarters, with Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy upping the ante on who would be favored in the Heisman race. Texas turned it in the 4th quarter: prodding Bradford into picks and getting big play from McCoy (who was 28-35 passing, good accuracy) along with a huge 60-yard run from Chris Ogbonnaya, and the Horns took the win 45-35. However, any analysis of this game without a lament about the sorry Big 12 officials in charge is incomplete. I understand the reasons for stringent rules about roughing the passer or personal foul calls; you want to keep people from getting hurt. McCoy flopped twice on ruhses out of bounds that got called for 15-yard flags, he and Bradford both were given the gift of flags on roughing penalties that shouldn’t have been called, an OU interception that should have been in the first half wasn’t, and the OU punter put on an acting job that Cristiano Ronaldo would have been ashamed of.

The Swamp is an entirely different beast of a stadium, particularly for a new starting QB like Jarrett Lee in his first road game as LSU “supplied the butt” for Florida to whip, in Mike Patrick’s parlance.  Florida got out to a 20-0 lead at one point; LSU closed it to 6 points, but the Gators’ defense finally stepped up, turning the multitude of running backs of LSU into an ineffective rotation, and forcing them to try to win on Lee’s arm — never a good prospect for a redshirt freshman.  Urban Meyer’s squad wound up putting half a hundred on ’em in the first complete game where Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin were not the sole playmakers in the Gator spread.

T. Boone Pickens’ money is apparently going to good use; it’s enough to buy a defense when there apparently was none.  A 28-23 upset of Missouri at Columbia gives Oklahoma State some of the respect they’ve been seeking, as no other team made Chase Daniel look out of sync as often as the Cowboys did (Mizzou fans may be tempted to blame the fact that Daniel was wearing #25 in honor of a fallen teammate rather than his usual #10 jersey), forcing him into crucial picks late.  Zac Robinson was a revelation for those of us who haven’t taken the time to watch him, pulling touchdown passes out of his ass. One in particular impressed me in the second half: he rolled out left and had NOTHING at the time downfield, he’d just avoided a sack, and to avoid another one, he hurled it to a spot in the end zone where he had two receivers against one cornerback — leap, catch, touchdown.

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Rushing The Field: Another SEC Barnburner

Seriously, if we’re gonna go through this every week with SEC teams in the night game on ESPN, it’s gonna be a real long, nail-biting season.  LSU pulled out the victory in the Tiger Bowl against Auburn thanks to a late touchdown pass from Jarrett Lee, who was subbing after Andrew Hatch got concussed, to Brandon LaFell to end a game largely characterized by the hard hits on both sides along with fits and starts on offense that have to infuriate Auburn fans. I mean, just watching the passing on Tony Franklin’s offense look spectacular one minute and awful the next has to drive the Auburn faithful nuts rights now.  So much more of the game was about the heavy hitters on defense, and the eight guys LSU rotated in and out on the D-line came through and pounded Chris Todd in the end to secure the win.  Les Miles would also like to remind you about the size of his play-calling balls.

When UGA’s Rennie Curran took Rudy Carpenter’s helmet with him on a sack in the first half of Georgia’s visit to Tempe to face Arizona State, I knew this game was going to be in favor of the Dawgs, and ugly in the second half. Matthew Stafford now has a new target in A.J. Green, who caught for more than 150 yards last night and a score on top of two more touchodwns from the reliable Knowshon Moreno.  Carpenter now has a fifth off-brand orifice thanks to an offensive line that can’t protect him; at least two of them were provided by USC’s Rey Maualuga.

The Tennessee Volunteers just flat out gave up when Florida came to town. The final score does say that the Vols got on the scoreboard, but really, when you’re down 27-0 in the third quarter, do any points after that count?  It wasn’t exactly a spectacular game for Tim Tebow, and that offense still looks a little too dependent upon him and Percy Harvin, but the Vols defense had very few counters and the Vols on offense — well, this is a team with two studs at RB in Arian Foster and Monterio Hardesty whom they can’t open holes for and get the ball to. Jonathan Crompton is still being asked to do way too much.  In joining Steve Spurrier as the second Florida coach to beat Tennessee and Phil Fulmer four times in a row, Urban Meyer would be perfectly within his rights to snark, “You can’t spell Outback without UT.”

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Rushing The Field, Week 1: Atlantic Coast Collapse

It wasn’t a good opening weekend if you happen to be a general ACC backer, unless your team happened to be chomping on some early dessert in I-AA or low I-A cupcake form (Miami, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Boston College.)

Clemson was more than happy to let Alabama drive a heart right through any attempt to do anything more than maybe win an ACC championship, and they still look ready to underachieve for the rest of their schedule. I know we are dealing with SEC vs. ACC, but not being able to protect Cullen Harper for shit and being so poor that James Davis and C.J. Spiller only got 20 yards from scrimmage combined is much, much more of a problem that any prognosticator had anticipated. (Most had flagged the Tigers’ O-line as a problem long ago.)  As for Nick Saban and his charges, I don’t know what to make of them yet since ABC decided Michigan State-Cal was what I wanted to see (not so much) and thus did not see the telecast — and there’s not much to go on until the Tide hits its SEC schedule.

It seems fitting that Frank Beamer is hoisted by his own petard, so to speak — on a late blocked punt by Skip Holtz’s East Carolina squad and what looks like an even poorer decision to redshirt Tyrod Taylor in favor of Sean Glennon, who may well be remembered as the white Reggie Ball. If you have a Virginia Tech squad with absolutely no returning skill players outside of the quarterbacks, why redshirt the QB with the potential to use his feet to make plays if the pocket breaks down? Then again, considering the state of the ACC, this was less of an upset than every analyst was claiming.

As for the rest of it? Maryland and UNC barely beat I-AA teams, Boston College won the weakest shutout known, N.C. State was picked apart by the Ol’ Ball Coach’s Cocks, and the aforementioned Wake and Duke were the only teams to eat their cupcakes in record time.

Virginia got absolutely destroyed by USC. Mark Sanchez is, for now, everything Pete Carroll and Steve Sarkisian were waxing on about and if the Tailback Factory can rotate effectively and take advantage of the skills of Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable, and Joe McKnight like that, be very afraid. I do question the cornerbacks: it’s USC’s style to play aggressive with the other team’s wideouts, but they were doing things that were bound to get flag-happy refs to toss the yellow.

Michigan looks bad — very bad. Utah nearly gave that game away at the Big House, but the Wolverines don’t have the playmakers or enough familiarity with Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense to be able to take enough advantage of the late errors by the Utes. Eventually, Brian Johnson and the Utes offense will click enough to make a run at crashing the BCS party (if it ain’t them, it’s their hated rivals at BYU) — but it’s all about who will step up in what will be Michigan’s obvious absence from the top ranks of the Big Televen for the next year.

It could be Illinois, but the Illini are off to rough start after losing to Missouri (by much less than I’d expected.)  Gary Pinkel was losing defensive players of his (supposedly) much improved squad during the game, but that seems irrelevant as Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, and Chase Coffman appear to be enough in and of themselves to outscore teams in shootouts.  That said, watching Juice Williams improve on the field (26-42, 451 passing yards, five TDs) and lead second half rallies, I’m thinking he’s in the process of turning himself into a very, very good quarterback.

Dave Wannstedt keeps renewing his status as the symbol of profound mediocrity since the early 1990s.  Pre-season assessments had Pitt RB LeSean McCoy as the star to fthe offense, but when he struggled, the Wannstache decided it would be best to throw 51 times and not even pretend to have a running game. Eventually’s Pitt’s athletic department will tire of this — how long it will take, we don’t know, but being upset by Bowling Green as a result of that hard-headedness will add some fuel to the fire.

The Shakedown: Six Days ‘Til Kickoff

Come next Saturday, I’ll be planted in front of the TV for every Saturday afterwards as giant dudes bash heads for school pride (or something like that.) Better take a look at who’s competing for the chip this year, and who’s got the best shot. (Note: this is how I’ve arranged the top 10, I know Georgia’s #1 going in, folks.)

(Rey Maualuga is coming for you, puny quarterbacks.)

1. USC – This isn’t pure SoCal homerism. I think the Trojans get the better of the Buckeyes and the Pac-10 isn’t a whole lot outside of Arizona State this year. If Mark Sanchez (or Mitch Mustain) can be anything resembling good and there is a wide receiver that stands out, they have the easiest path to get to the MNC game. The defense will be nasty, but the offense needs a star to pop out — whether that’s Joe McKnight, Vidal Hazelton, Damian Williams, somebody needs to be a go-to-guy. Of course, you can win big-time with team effort, and the fact that the Pac-10 looks to be in a bad swoon (Arizona State is the only other program that has any upside to look at this year) means a nice, laid-out path to the BCS game. Of course, we wrote all this last year before Stanford.

2. Ohio State – If there is any sort of karmic justice in the sport, OSU will find a way to nab a 2nd loss after losing to USC, thus promptly knocking them out of title contention. However, it took a miracle from Illinois to do it and they still have the best talent in the Big 10, by a long shot.  Their odds of making it back to the BCS title game really do depend on how much the defense can make up for losing Vernon Gholston to Sundays and whether Todd Boeckman will be consistent enough in throwing to the two Brians at wide receiver. If not, the Sweater Vest may bring in Terrelle Pryor earlier than he’d like to.

3. Georgia – The Dawgs’ in-conference schedule will eat them up. Probably won’t have more than one loss, but I don’t think they make it unscathed. They could live up to this pre-season #1 ranking they have if Matthew Stafford can up his completion percentage and Knowshon Moreno continues the form that had everyone drooling last year. Probably second best defense in conference to LSU.

4. Oklahoma – Bob Stoops has a real good chance to go undefeated in the Big 12 — but that defense allows way too much on the ground. The Sooners have laid eggs in their last few bowl games, but bring Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray back for what was a good, solid offensive attack last season. That said, there are few coaches I loathe more than Stoops — he’s whiny and petulant, an SEC coach without a bit of the inherent humor that comes with coaching in that conference.  He should be fortunate that OSU has lost two straight BCS championship games — otherwise, someone would notice he’s 0 for his last 4 BCS bowl games in the past four years.

5. Mizzou – If the Tigers’ vaunted defensive haul is true, then Chase Daniel and Co. stand a real good shot at taking out Oklahoma come Big 12 Championship Game time — and even though teams will probably double team Jeremy Maclin all season, it will only make Daniel and the spread attack in Columbia that much more dangerous. The thought that Gary Pinkel has a bunch of defensive starters returning and is confident that this team will keep others out of the end zone could make them a dark horse favorite if the tops falter.

6. LSU – Fear the Hat, but Les Miles has a quarterback deficiency. If Ryan Perrilloux hadn’t been such a dunce cap, this team likely would have been #2 pre-season with their loaded status at all the skill positions on offense and a robust defense returning, even with Glenn Dorsey moving on to play on Sundays. As is, they’re a favorite for the SEC West crown and a chance to knock off UGA.

7. Florida – The Gators are here until the team proves it has a secondary, essentially. I don’t care how much Tim Tebow you throw at opponents — there are teams they won’t be able to keep out of the end zone and there are defenses (the U, LSU, Georgia) that will pound Tebow, Percy Harvin, and Emmanuel Moody around.

8. Texas Tech – Mike Leach’s Pirate Academy could put a very real scare into OU, Texas and any of the Big 12 South’s regular powers. I don’t expect them to make a championship game yet — but the defense will be a load better and Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree are back. If nothing else, Leach’s teams are nothing short of fun to watch — and hopefully Fox Sports will do a lot of regional games with them.

9. Clemson – In a very, very weak ACC (Virgina Tech is offensively depleted; Boston College is trying to replace Matt Ryan), Tommy Bowden is running out of excuses. He has Cullen Harper, a backfield tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller (plus a freshman back by the name of Jamie Harper hoping to get PT), and he’s fallen short the past few years. An ACC title has to be his or he may not be back.

10. West Virginia – The Mountaineers go as far as Pat White’s legs and arm will take them, and as long as Bill Stewart will stay out of the way as head coach. (This was still an epic hiring error.) They certainly won’t be in a position to make the BCS game — not that the conference is great, but when USF has your number, no division is yours.

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That There Is The Result Of Some SEC Wind Speed

Orson Swindle was at the Georgia Dome when Mother Nature decided that having a Crimson Tide in Atlanta was not enough and thus decided to create another form of disaster of her own during the SEC tournament. It is all chronicled in a series of posts over at the Sporting Blog — and Orson left us a video at EDSBS of one particular instance at the Georgia World Congress Center.

I’m so totally surfing the indoor waterfall.

Death, Taxes, and College Football.

As the season urges even closer and closer to fruition in 2007, yours truly longs for the season to get underway, and hopes to see USC run up against an SEC team in a bowl game in order to make LSU’s Les Miles eat some well-done crow.* However, those of us in the midst of unabashed Pac-10 boosterdom must show respect to the truly dedicated (verging on sick) SEC die-hards, particularly those in states without professional sports teams. Brian Grummell at the FanHouse found the YouTube clip below, which is part of an upcoming documentary from Southpaw Studios (they’re the folks who did that animated SportsCenter parody that made the rounds and got plenty of yuks a few months back) either called “A Fall in Dreamland” or “Football: The Movie” (and count my vote in for the first title).

First, we go to that tale of a wedding delayed by a Bama-LSU game on November 11, 1978:

And, some further YouTubing reveals the Auburn fan with his own personal hex to help the Tigers:

I don’t know why anyone even bothers to schedule a wedding during football season any more. If you are marrying a die-hard sports fan, you should know better when setting a date. As for our Auburn fan, I must admit I’ve done similar things at CU and USC games — however, the mileage always varies, and I swear the hexes in favor of CU no longer work due to a hex no longer being able to compensate for the bad karma brought in by the evil mage Gary Barnett.

*If you have not read EDSBS’ take on the Miles attack and the subsequent reporting of said parody as real by a D.C. sports talk radio station, shame on you.