Before The Oct. 30 Games
- Final Thoughts
25 | Oct. 2 | Oct. 9
Follow me ... Follow me to freedom! ...
- It's been assumed that the pieces are going to keep on falling, and it might happen this weekend. Would it be a shock of Oregon lost at USC? Not really. Would it be a stunner if Missouri lost at Nebraska? Not at all. Would anyone be surprised if Michigan State lost at Iowa? Not a bit. Everything appears to be set up for at least two of those three big things to happen (and that's not even throwing in the possibility of Ole Miss rising up and beating Auburn at home), if not all three. But if you're really looking for this season to be thrown into a tailspin, and if you're really hoping for chaos to ensue, then root for all the unbeatens to keep on winning. Nothing will ever force the BCS types to change the system, but as we're seeing in this current political climate, outrage equals action. Of course, the difference here is that mad Spartan, Tiger, Bronco, Ute, and Horned Frog fans won't be able to do anything about it if their teams go unbeaten and Auburn and Oregon win out.
- This is the week that Lane Kiffin shows the world he can coach. I thought he did an underappreciated job last year getting an awful Tennessee team into a decent bowl. With two weeks off to prepare for an Oregon team that played Stanford and six other warm handfuls of goo, this is where USC blows through the sanctions and shows what the program is capable of under this regime.
- It's Oregon, people. You know it's coming at some point.
- It didn't sound quite right, but Derek Dooley's historical analogy was actually used correctly. It was misguided, confusing, and melodramatic, but correct.
- Dog Kiffin all you want for his time in Knoxville, but he never looked through the binoculars and saw the Allies coming.
- Quick, name the guy who's going to become Penn State's all-time rushing leader this weekend against Michigan.
- Don't be shocked if this is the week Denard Robinson pokes his head back in that Heisman race.
- At least Evan Royster's emergence as the most productive Nittany Lion rusher ever has forced fans under the age of 30 to learn that there was a first Curt Warner before the other Kurt Warner.
- Speaking of the Heisman, Cam Newton already has the trophy, but if you're going to award an MVP, Newton is still probably No. 1 but Baylor QB Robert Griffin is No. 1A. Baylor is 6-2 and on top of the Big 12 South, and it might have made this type of noise last year if Griffin didn't get hurt. He's third in the nation in total offense, 14th in passing efficiency, leads the Big 12 in both categories, and he's coming off a 404-yard, four touchdown day in the win over Kansas State. If he can pull off a win over Texas this week, he deserves to be at least No. 3 on the ballot and Art Briles has to start being hailed as some sort of super-genius.
- In the too-lazy-to-look-it-up department, I'm going to definitively declare that Griffin is the first player in the history of mankind to run for 100 yards one week (137 against Colorado) and throw for 400 (404 against Kansas State) the next.
- Try this for bucking a trend. Colorado is trying to beat Oklahoma in Norman this weekend, and if it pulls it off, it'll be the first time since 1999 that the Sooners have lost at home in the regular season following a loss.
- I'm sure Chris Spielman, Brian Bosworth, and Mike Singletary could probably make a run at this mark, but again, in the really-I'm-too-frickin'-lazy-to-look-this-up department, I'm just going to say that Buffalo's marvelous safety Davonte Shannon, easily the best college football player over the last four years you've never heard of, is about to come up with some sort of a record against Miami University this weekend. A four-year starter, he made 34 tackles in the first three years against the RedHawks with 14 as a freshman, six as a sophomore, and 14 as a junior as part of the 404 stops he has made so far in his career. At the very least, he has to be up there with the most tackles ever made by a defensive back against one team.
- Something to keep an eye on for you Ray Guy Award lovers out there. Georgia's Drew Butler won the award in a walk last year averaging a whopping 48 yards per kick. He'll be going against Florida's Chas Henry this week, who's averaging 49.3 yards per boot.
- Yeah, the punters might be the stars in the Cocktail Party.
- I just hope Florida vs. Georgia isn't sad.
- The Big East might be a punching bag in national perception, and it doesn't deserve to be within ten miles of an automatic BCS bid this year, but it might just be the most interesting conference from top to bottom. Syracuse doesn't have an offense, but if it wins at Cincinnati, it just might be for real, while Louisville has very, very quietly gotten pretty good, pretty fast under Charlie Strong, especially on defense, and it can make a huge statement against Pitt.
- Don't assume that Notre Dame is going to wipe up the mat with Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane has a plucky offense that can put points on the board in a hurry. You know, like Notre Dame is supposed to do.
- Ohio State vs. Minnesota is on ABC primetime Saturday night, but the BCS Championship will be on ESPN. Got it.
- Really? Ohio State vs. Minnesota? There isn't a Cop Rock reunion show in the can somewhere?
- Interesting over/under of the week. Texas Tech/Texas A&M passing yards vs. Idaho/Hawaii passing yards. The line would probably be set at WAC matchup -75.
- Yes, it is pretentious to suggest that the Conference USA showdown between East Carolina and UCF could turn out to be the best matchup of the weekend, but no, that might not be wrong.
- If you were my close, personal friend and you were going off to Vegas to legally "invest" the second mortgage on the double-wide (after you just refinanced, of course, considering the ridiculous rates being thrown out there) along with the nine dollars left in Suzie's 529, I'd suggest taking a look-see at Northwestern -3 at Indiana, Oklahoma -24 over Colorado, Oklahoma State -6 at Kansas State, Utah -7 over Air Force, and I'm thinking of hopping on a plane myself just to put a hard-earned dollar on Western Kentucky -3.5 over North Texas. Of course, there's a reason why the Vegas casinos and hotels are so massive.
- By the way, I went 5-1 ATS on these picks last week. It won't last. I was hopped up on Gummi Worms.
- Cal, it's time to show you can play on the road and beat Oregon State. The Bears are 0-3 away from Berkley getting blown out by Nevada and USC and losing Arizona. At home, no one has come close. Part of the reason is that UC Davis, Colorado, Arizona State, and UCLA all suck, but something to watch out for, Oregon comes to town in a few weeks.
- While the New Mexico – New Mexico State game was bad, San Jose State – New Mexico State could be fun bad. I take a perverse joy in watching games like this between obscure teams. They try harder and the fans really, really care.
- Yeah, you're right; I really could use a hug.
- Seriously, name better fans in all of sport than season ticket holders for San Jose State or New Mexico State.
- This week's under-the-radar Prove It Team: San Diego State. This might be the third best team in the Mountain West, and if it is, it needs to rock against a punchless Wyoming team on the road.
- If Ole Miss beats Auburn, it might be okay to officially declare the entire SEC West better than the SEC East.
- Yeah, I know, South Carolina, I see you.
- There's no excuse, RichRod. Penn State is awful, you've had two weeks to prepare, and Denard is as healthy as he's ever going to be ever again for the rest of his life. Bury the three-footer or else you really do deserve to be on the hot seat.
- How transformational has Charlie Strong been at Louisville? With an upset of Pittsburgh this weekend, the Cards will be tied for first in the Big East and a win from bowl eligibility.
- Shouldn't the nation's off-the-radar football programs have the highest graduation rates? It's not as if their rosters are littered with kids using campuses as NFL stepping stones.
- When Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers lines up opposite Boston College LT Anthony Castonzo, it'll be one of the weekend's most intriguing match ups from a pro scout's perspective.
- It won't get any attention outside Conference USA circles, but East Carolina at UCF is one of the sneaky good match ups of Week 9.
- Few are buying into Michigan State as a legit national title contender, but that instantly changes if it wins at Iowa.
- Ditto Mizzou, which will enlist a slew of new believers if it gets out of Lincoln with its perfect record intact. You get the feeling, though, that Nebraska got its one bad game out of the system already.
- The play of fill-in Arizona QB Matt Scott last week will do more for injured Nick Foles' rehab than any trainer on that Wildcat staff.
- Georgia is picking up a tailwind, but Urban Meyer almost never loses coming out of a bye. The Dawgs and the Gators are way down, but it's still the Cocktail Party and someone has to win the SEC East.
- Ole Miss QB Jeremiah Masoli will have an interesting perspective on the nation's top two teams. He faces No. 1 Auburn on Saturday night and led No. 2 Oregon a year ago.
- As it heads to Austin, Baylor is ranked higher than Texas. Isn't that one of the signs of the apocalypse?
- Washington's Jake Locker and Stanford's Andrew Luck have been in the same sentence a lot over the past few months. On Saturday, they'll be in the same building in a game of utmost interest to NFL GMs.
- Even with a leaky unit, two weeks might be too long for USC defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to devise a scheme to slow down Oregon.
- By Sunday morning, don't be shocked if USC QB Matt Barkley is climbing up a lot of people's Heisman short list.
- How does TCU coach Gary Patterson handle the second half in Vegas? He wants his Frogs healthy for next week's trip to Utah, but he'd also like to narrow the perception gap on Boise State.
By Matt Zemek
- Florida-Georgia: Steve Spurrier wants Florida to win this game and then beat the Gators himself on Nov. 13 at The Swamp. South Carolina fans hope that their coach will be disappointed. History, though, shows that Spurrier will be inwardly smiling on Saturday night. Do the words "Jasper Sanks," "Quincy Carter," "Terrence Edwards," and "Billy Bennett" mean anything to you?
- Auburn-Ole Miss: This isn't an original thought – others have beaten me to it on the internets – but sometimes, admitting someone else has a better line than you do is the best policy: "Saturday night, Jeremiah Masoli will try to lead Oregon to its first-ever No. 1 ranking in the BCS standings."
- Oregon-USC: This is a sportswriter's delight. First of all, no extra points will be kicked in this game. Second, Lane Kiffin – for all the times he gets pilloried and pounded by the college football cognoscenti – was indeed the man who came closest to toppling last year's best team, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Now Kiffin gets a chance to knock off the best team in his conference and the No. 2 team in the nation. However, Kiffin isn't playing with house money in this game. If he gets blown out, he's going to face some real-world heat, and his ability to match wits with Chip Kelly is going to be questioned. You know that the folks on Good Ole Rocky Top want to see Oregon humiliate, not just beat, their beloved Vols' former coach. There's no end to the stream of juicy, rich storylines in this tilt.
- Clemson-Boston College: If Clemson, freshly thrust back into ACC Atlantic contention by Christian Ponder's Joe Pisarcik moment Thursday night in Raleigh, slips on the banana peel in New England, Dabo Swinney should be fired on the spot. Well…… (pause)…… no, he shouldn't be, but it will prove that Clemson is not ready to stay in the big leagues after winning a cluttered and mediocre Atlantic Division last season. Tiger fans will lose their minds (what's left of them, anyway, after decades of undeserved torture) if their boys don't win this game.
- Syracuse-Cincinnati: Syracuse is playing hard. Syracuse is playing with boldness. Syracuse's competitive subculture is changing. The Orange still sport a woeful, offense, though; if Cincinnati can't ring up 24 points on the Cuse and Doug Marrone's team wins another plug-ugly road game by an NFL-ish 16-13 score, you do realize that civilization is just two Pittsburgh losses away from a Syracuse-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl, don't you? Syracuse and Oklahoma only belong together in the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight, not the Fiesta Bowl. And you thought the World Series ratings were low…….
- Tennessee-South Carolina: If you think this is money in the bank for South Carolina, you know nothing about life, history, the laws of physics, the rules of nature, anything.
- Kansas-Iowa State: Scary thought: Iowa State could win this game by 50 points, and it wouldn't come as a complete surprise. 60 points? That would be a complete surprise.
- Michigan State-Iowa: Will Sparty take last year's Marvin McNutt moment and turn it into a Kirk Cousins moment in Iowa City? Will Ricky Stanzi learn how to manage the clock in a tense endgame situation? Will Iowa not botch two placekicks? And here's the biggest question of all: If Iowa leads by four to six points with five minutes left in the game, and Michigan State has fourth-and-eight from midfield, will Iowa be dumb enough to expect an actual punt from the Spartans? Yes, we're still reeling from the realization that Northwestern players are stupid, stupid, stupid. (Sigh, American education these days………)
- Missouri-Nebraska: Ah, another game in which Nebraska, playing at home, gets to say goodbye to a team staying behind in the Big 12. That can mean only one thing: Your 2010 Big 12 North Division Champions, the Missouri Tigers!!!!!!!! Well, then again, there's no bitter grudge between these schools. Mizzou would have wanted to join Nebraska in the Big Ten. The competing tension in this game: Will Nebraska feel mentally shaky because of its Texas stink-bomb two weeks ago, or will Missouri be thrown by the haunting memory of its fourth-quarter collapse against Nebraska last year?
- California-Oregon State: Okay, this time we're serious: Unlike the knee-jerk firing of Dabo Swinney if Clemson loses at Boston College (we don't really mean that), if Cal gets blasted by 30 or more points in a lie-down-and-die surrender act at Reser Stadium, just ship Jeff Tedford out of town and be done with it, Berkeley. See what Chris Petersen thinks about the not-too-big-city culture near Strawberry Canyon and buttress all the dough you're throwing (i.e., wasting) into your athletic facilities.
- San Jose State-New Mexico State: An in-conference version of the New Mexico-New Mexico State game from a few weeks ago. In other words, this is the game for people who loved the ending of Anna Karenina.
- Stanford-Washington: The Huskies need this win for their bowl hopes. Memo to Washington football administrators and coaches: Until you reach a bowl game, how's about (yes, we sometimes use intentionally unpolished speech when we're confused and disbelieving) scheduling easier non-conference opponents so that you can actually, you know, REACH a bowl game? Then, after building up your program a little bit, THEN you can challenge your program a little more? Typical Seattle liberals… so much hubris (that's a joke for those who live here in Seattle and know what the subculture's really like in this city).
- Kentucky-Mississippi State: If Kentucky beats "Number 21" (cough, cough, hack, wheeze, choke, gag, cough, wheeze) Mississippi State, is it a good thing for the SEC? I imagine I'll hear how the East is showing resilience against that awesome West Division….. (cue eyeroll in 3……. 2……….. 1……….)
- Baylor-Texas: What in the name of Grant Teaff could happen Saturday night in Austin? Will the wiles of Briles create a Brown frown? Will "Griffin The Third" flip the Longhorns the bird? You look at these teams and wonder if Texas's resistible force – its offense – can find life against Baylor's moveable object – its defense. Logic says Baylor, but history says Texas. I'll take history over logic in this year's Big 12. You do recall that according to history, Texas owns Nebraska. Well, there you go.
- Utah-Air Force: The biggest game not found on a widely-accessible cable or broadcast network. And you wonder why the Mountain West Conference was no longer attractive to Utah or BYU. It is criminal that this game isn't easily accessible for college football fans. So much is on the line in this game, and given the closeness of the series – no game has been decided by more than eight points since Utah won by 14 in 2004 – Air Force really could pull off the upset. If the Falcons were to upend the Utes, we could witness a massive shift in the whole BCS bowl landscape this season. College Gameday would also skip Salt Lake City on Nov. 6 and plant itself in Baton Rouge for a certain game involving the defending national champions.
- Michigan-Penn State: No pressure, Rich Rodriguez. No. Pressure. At. All.