Before The Week 6 Games, Part 2
- Final Thoughts
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2011 Fearless Predictions
Final Thoughts, Week
By Matt Zemek
BOISE STATE-FRESNO STATE: To capture the silliness of conference realignment, consider this: Boise and Fresno played a conference game last year. The Broncos and Bulldogs are not playing a conference game this season. They'll play a conference game in 2012... unless Boise State lands in the Big 12. Ugh, I have a headache coming on...
OKLAHOMA-TEXAS: One of the greatest joys in life is not just college football, or neutral-site college football played in a hallowed setting, or even traditional, rivalry-based neutral-site college football played in a hallowed setting; no, one of the greatest joys in life is traditional, rivalry-based neutral-site college football played in a hallowed setting... in the early noon Eastern time window. When a long college football day starts with a five-star event (even if OU and Texas aren't what they were in the Bradford-McCoy or Jason White-Vince Young years), the day is made. Rare is the Saturday when there won't be at least one sexy night game; if there's a knockout nooner, 12 hours of main-event football are virtually assured.
OKLAHOMA-TEXAS, PART TWO: In any year, the Texas State Fair throwdown moves the needle to a certain extent, and even though Texas isn't "Texas" at the moment, this game possesses such a rich emotional subtext because of the ways in which these two schools have become entangled. The conference realignment drama reached its crescendo last month when Texas's Longhorn Network effectively denied Oklahoma a move to what would have become the Pac-16 Conference. Texas might have wanted to go to the Pac-12 - writers for the Austin American-Statesman had the move all mapped out - but the school's insistence on an undiluted Longhorn Network made Pac-12 school presidents put the brakes on the plan... and on league commish Larry Scott. As a result, Oklahoma - unwanted by the SEC - found itself boxed in, leaving big-talking David Boren (the school president) to twist in the wind. OU and UT partisans always want this game something fierce; in the wake of Realignment Roulette, you know that DeLoss Dodds, President Boren, and all other power brokers at these schools will crave a Red River victory with a hunger whose intensity cannot be easily measured.
CONNECTICUT-WEST VIRGINIA: Obligatory Realignment Roulette statement: If Missouri has its way, this is an ACC-Big 12 game next year. However, if West Virginia fumbles seven times and loses once more to the Huskies, the Mountaineers will slide to Conference USA.
TCU-SAN DIEGO STATE: This is the Horned Frogs' last Mountain West game in San Diego before their move to the Big... oh, John Marinatto, why did your ineptitude force this sentence to end with a number and not the direction on the right side of a properly-oriented, north-pointing compass? Meanwhile, Realignment Roulette aside, this is a pretty darn important occasion for both teams as they try to make something out of their tenuous and noticeably scarred seasons.
LOUISVILLE-NORTH CAROLINA: This is a great basketball matchup... just like Louisville-Kansas in the new-look Big 12 if Missouri bolts.
ILLINOIS-INDIANA: Do recall that Illinois finished third in the Big Ten in 2007, when it somehow received a Rose Bowl bid Michigan deserved more. (Arizona State should have been slotted to the Fiesta Bowl that year; the Illini took the Sun Devils' place in the BCS, not Michigan's, but if a Big Ten team should have been in Pasadena, it was the Maize and Blue.) Why is this being mentioned? Do realize that with Ohio State stinking up the joint, the Illini can use this game to go 6-0 when OSU comes calling in week seven. Illinois could compile a 10-2 record this season. If that's the case, it's not likely that Zook University would deserve a BCS bowl - not against this weak-sister schedule, and not with the ACC on the verge of getting its first at-large selection in a BCS bowl. The Illini must go 11-1 to have a better-than-even chance at a BCS bowl this season. Yes, this is a somewhat premature conversation to have on October 7, but then again, the injustice of 2007 must not be allowed to be replicated.
IOWA-PENN STATE: Remember the 6-4 Iowa win at Happy Valley in 2004? Memories might rush back to the surface and make you cringe this Saturday. Don't watch this game unless you're paid to do so... for a LOCAL outlet. Any national writer can still avert his or her gaze from this contest.
MICHIGAN-NORTHWESTERN: Remember the 54-51 Northwestern win in 2000? Michigan's defense is getting better, but it's due for a massive comedown. Points will be produced in plentiful portions this Saturday in Evanston. However, there will be one key difference from that 105-digit donnybrook 11 years ago: Michigan will win. Unlike Don Draper, Northwestern doesn't close the sale.
OHIO STATE-NEBRASKA: Taylor Martinez will need to throw not three interceptions, but three pick-sixes, for Ohio State to have an even-money shot at winning this game. Moreover, this is precisely the kind of game - much like the Peyton Manning-less Colts at the Buccaneers last Monday night - which illustrates the need for the NBC Sunday night flex plan on a weekly basis in football, college and pro. This is not a game worthy of ABC. Heck, it's not even a game worthy of ESPN or Root Sports. This should be on BTN, hands down.
FLORIDA-LSU: Jeff Driskel, welcome to your first collegiate start... at Tiger Stadium. Have fun.
MISSOURI-KANSAS STATE: SEC aspirants have to win games such as this one.
ARIZONA STATE-UTAH: Two incomprehensible things to note about this game: 1) Arizona State could effectively lock up a division title with a win here, punching its ticket to the Pac-12 Championship Game. 2) Point number one isn't being made facetiously.
AUBURN-ARKANSAS: If THIS game ends in a 65-43 score, Auburn will NOT win it.
EAST CAROLINA-HOUSTON: Major proving ground for the no-defense Cougars at home. If UH loses this game, SMU becomes an overwhelming favorite to defend its Conference USA West Division title.
TROY-LOUISIANA LAFAYETTE: Better than even money that the winner of this game takes the Sun Belt. Lafayette, after all, defeated Florida International on the road.
GEORGIA-TENNESSEE: This game merely holds Mark Richt's coaching career and the Vols' darkhorse SEC East title chances in the balance. Other than that, this classic Southern rivalry game means nothing.
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- Get ready Gators, because the pain is coming this Saturday in the form of the Honey Badger, LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu doesn't just make an impact on the defensive side of the ball, he scores points. That's precisely why he would be right at the top of everyone's Heisman Trophy list.
- Clemson is riding the wave of its 5-0 start, but pesky Boston College (and by "pesky," I mean "bad") is looming. If Clemson loses to B.C., it would be the most Clemson thing ever.
- Auburn's defense impressed last week, shutting down South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore for the third time in 53 weeks, but the Arkansas aerial assault is a much different challenge. Expect Auburn's game plan to be very similar to the one from last week - run the ball until Michael Dyer's legs fall off, and then run it some more. Gene Chizik said after the game last weekend that running the same play over and over again isn't a bad thing if it gets four or five yards every time. If Auburn's staff is smart - as we all know it is - that strategy will be used again. This one's close, but Arkansas wins in a squeaker.
- The Red River Shootout (yes, it's still a shootout) will be determined by Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Diaz is one of the best young defensive coordinators in the country, but he will be tested in Dallas. If the Longhorns can force a turnover at the right time, don't be surprised to see a Texas-sized upset.
- Georgia is better than people give them credit for. The UGA defense is one of the best in the country, and they'll have a chance to prove it against the potent Tennessee passing game. The SEC East is wide open, and Georgia will make the first claim to the top spot with a resounding win on Rocky Top.
- Nebraska gets to work off the Wisconsin hangover with a visit from lowly Ohio State. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Buckeyes. This one gets ugly in a hurry.
By Russ Mitchell
Follow me on Twitter @russmitchellcfb
First, the AP story this week about Missouri fawning over the B1G…just a wee bit of propaganda. Remember gentle reader, at this point most everything you read about realignment is disinformation, not information. It is spin intended not so much for your ears, but the ears of the other power brokers out there. As the few available chairs keep getting snatched up, tensions will mount, and with that will come more disinformation. At this point, and as they have proven, you can’t believe a word any Athletic Director, school President or Conference Commissioner tells you; or by extension, what they tell the press. As you figure this out yourself, just remember the cardinal rule: follow the money, honey.
Raise your hand if you think Oklahoma is going to be happy long-term playing second fiddle to Texas in a conference that just replaced Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and likely Missouri with…wait for it…TCU, Tulane, BYU and whatever U. Where’s the beef? Texas, realizing that it’s dreams of independence are implausible in the coming CFB landscape (just as they are for Notre Dame, Father), is scrambling to hold together “its” conference and the LHN money. This is a comedy of errors the likes of which would make the great scribe himself blush. As for UT yesterday announcing, “Ok, ok...we won’t show high school football games on our network for six years. Sorry. Not sure what we were thinking. Anyone want a donut? They’re on us.”… Remember the tale of the frog and the scorpion? They don’t call it a Texas-sized ego by accident. Saddle up!
BOISE STATE-FRESNO STATE: Fresno State lost to Ole Miss. By 10. AT HOME. Nothing to see here…move along.
OKLAHOMA-TEXAS: The average pass efficiency defense of the four team Oklahoma has played so far? 91st out of 120. The Texas Longhorns? 15th. Hm... Still likely not enough, but it could be closer than folks think.
CONNECTICUT-WEST VIRGINIA: Connecticut has lost to Vandy, Iowa State (Iowa, which is in fact a state) and Western Michigan (which is in fact in Western Michigan), and now they travel to Morgantown. By comparison, WVU has lost only to the nation’s best team, has the #14 total offense and a total defense ranked #22. So…good luck with that.
LOUISVILLE-NORTH CAROLINA: Louisville auditioning for the ACC – after the SEC snatches two teams from the ACC, Louisville will look far more appealing. Remember that Louisville – do not jump from one sinking ship to another.
ILLINOIS-INDIANA: Illinois is 5-0 for the first time since the nuclear age... Indiana can’t find second gear. If Zook loses this one, we would be considerably disappointed, though not entirely surprised.
FLORIDA-LSU: No truth to the rumor that the mother of true freshman, and starting UF quarterback Jeff Driskel, wept opening with joy upon learning her son’s first collegiate start in Death Valley would not be a night game.
MISSOURI-KANSAS STATE: Kansas State will pull this game out late, in what will prove to be a season long pattern for the Kitties.
ARIZONA STATE-UTAH: If ASU wins in Salt Lake (love the sound of that), then the Sun Devils are most likely representing the Pac-12 South in the inaugural Championship game. See…we told you uniforms make the difference.
AUBURN-ARKANSAS: If Auburn passes for more than its 184 yard average, they’ll likely win this game. However, given the injuries to receivers Emory Blake and Trovon Reed, and the sporadic play at best of quarterback Barrett Trotter, we think that’s unlikely. Still, Auburn running back and Arkansas native (think he'll be motivated?) Michael Dyer will get his touches, and Arkansas’ run defense is atrocious (82nd), which should grind a lot of minutes off the clock...keeping this game closer than many expect.
GEORGIA-TENNESSEE: UGA’s linebacking corps gets thinner by the hour, not that it’ll matter – UT’s run offense is an absolutely woeful 98th in the land. With the only senior on offense being Vol tailback Tauren Poole, it’s unlikely Tennessee can beat its season average of 111 yards /game. If they don’t top 125, they don’t beat Georgia. Fortunately for UT, this game is in Knoxville, where we hear the home crowd is more jacked up in anticipation than it’s been for a long while. The last two games have been home team blowouts – that won’t be the case in this one. Look for UGA’s Aaron Murray to pick on an inexperienced Vol linebacking corps with TE Orson Charles being the predominant beneficiary. Georgia by 4-6, pulling away late.
Final Thoughts, Week