Friday, September 28, 2007

This Weekend in College Football: Week 5

As usual, all times Eastern and almost all predictions wrong.

  • Notre Dame at Purdue (ESPN): Notre Dame reaches for a season of epic proportions! Epically terrible proportions, that is. Sitting pretty at 4-0 is Purdue, which has failed to score less than 45 points a game this year, though to be fair 3 of those teams were MAC schools. Nonetheless, unless the Irish offense has a serious jolt to the heart this weekend, look for the Boilermakers to prevail.
  • Louisiana State at Tulane (ESPN2): While I am not generally a fan of the transitive property of college football, I would like to note that both of these teams have played Mississippi State. LSU shut them out. Tulane allowed them to score 38 points. I'll predict something similar to occur, and that there will be at least 4 times more LSU fans in the Superdome than Tulane fans.
  • North Carolina at Virginia Tech (Raycom/Gameplan): While UNC has the better quarterback here, VPI has the better everything else.
12:30: Mississippi State at South Carolina (LF/Gameplan): Since Miss State has their SEC win for the year (pending playing Ole Miss), I'm going to go out in a limb here and say they're probably going to lose this game.

1:30: Oklahoma at Colorado (FSN): You know, this started off so strongly. Well, at least I thought it did. But I'm running out of witty things to say. I even took out the really low-tier games (other than the ACC and SEC Lincoln Financial Sports Games of the Week) to try to thin it out. Now this becoming all self-referential like the Castle Anthrax scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Therefore, let's "GET ON WITH IT!". Oh, and OU wins.

  • California at Oregon (ABC/Gameplan): Now it's time for the ABC SCHEDULING BLOCK OF DOOM! That's right kids, ABC picked up five games this weekend for reasons unknown. I guess they had a really hard deciding and just said, "ah screw it, let's just take them all!" If you're scratching your head trying to figure out what's going to be on in your area, here's a map. (Warning! PDF!) Now, to the game! This is actually a pretty important game that will go a long way towards determining who will challenge for the Pac-10 title (though since they play a round-robing schedule, USC will have to play both anyway). These are both pretty good teams, though in terms of OOC scheduling Tennessee is, of course, significantly better than Michigan. I'm not really sure who I like here. I would normally say Cal, but it's in Eugene so I really think this could go either way. Just for the sake of saying someone will win (and I don't really keep track of these anyway) let's go with Cal.
  • Kansas State at Texas (ABC/Gameplan): Since their opening game loss to Auburn, Kansas State has beaten San Jose State and DI-AA Missouri State. Texas got themselves back up on their feet after they nearly lost to UCF by beating Rice like it's the SWC all over again. Add in the "at Texas" part and the Longhorns will make everyone in Kansas wish the damn ABC stations will switch to one of the four other games available.
  • Maryland at Rutgers (ABC/Gameplan): People in ACC circles keep saying Maryland is still in the race for the Atlantic division crown. I say "what are you talking about, their only two victories this year are over Florida International and DI-AA Villanova and they lost to Wake Forest last weekend." (Strangely, you could make the same argument about Georgia Tech. Or perhaps not so strangely.) Rutgers is 3-0, but they may as well be 0-0 thanks to a less than convincing schedule (Buffalo, Navy, and D-IAA Norfolk State). It's tough to say who's better this year so far. Luckily, they'll play a game tomorrow and figure that part out for us. I'm going to pick Rutgers.
  • Clemson at Georgia Tech (ABC/ESPN/Gameplan): The first thing I did when I got to this line was let out an audible sigh. I'll rehash the usual stat here: 9 of the last 11 of these games have been decided by 5 points or less. Unfortunately, those other two occurred during my freshman and senior years at Tech: the debacle after beating Auburn in 2003 (39-3) and last year's 31-7 buzzkill (no pun intended) coming off the high of winning in Blacksburg. Those other two were two of my favorite games as a student, though. 2004 was the damn luckiest series of events I think I've ever seen in a football game. The video starts on the 4th down play for Clemson. I have a full copy of the game on my computer, so allow me to recap what led up to that. (It's sort of like The Play, where it's a lot more interesting if you that John Elway led a, well, Elway-esque 80-something yard drive to put Stanford back in the lead before all the shenanigans occurred.)
    Clemson scores a touchdown to go extend their lead to 24-14 and Tech returns the kick-off from the 20 to about the 50 yard line. 3:11 is on the clock. Reggie tosses up about 3 balls that probably should have resulted in interceptions, but Tech perseveres. Tech gets a first and goal off a pass interference call, one of many Calvin would draw during his career. (This game was his coming-out party.) Tech is running out of clock as Calvin makes his catch on 3rd and goal with 1:50 to go. Tech botches the on-side kick and Clemson gets it on their own 32.5. On first down, Charlie Whitehurt bursts out of the back field and slides down field for a 9.5 yard gain. They measure, stopping the clock at 1:31. Chan calls Tech's last timeout. 2nd down features Charlie failing to gain the first down on the QB sneak. 3rd down features a hand-off a deep tailback who promptly fumbles. Clemson recovers and elects to punt on 4th down and takes the delay of game penalty. The announcers start to talk about that maybe Clemson should go for the safety here, and in retrospect many Clemson fans probably wish they did. With 23 seconds left, the Clemson long snapper snaps the ball 7 yards, which is about 8 yards short of where his punter is. The punter falls the on the ball at about the 10 yard line. Tech throws the fade to Calvin, which he catches (thus cementing the play as the backbone of the Georgia Tech goalline playbook for the next 3 years). Clemson makes it exciting by retuning the kick a pretty good ways and nearly getting the hail mary, but Tech wins 28-24.
    2005. The final score was 10-9, so on the surface that may not sound all that appealing. But it was. An exceedingly intense home game. Here's what I remember most about it. The boxscore for Clemson's last serious drive (they had a hail mary intercepted at the end) reads like this for their 4th and 8 play: "Charlie Whitehurst pass complete to Curtis Baham for 3 yards to the GaTch 36." Astute readers will note that is approximately 5 yards short of what they needed. And I remember exactly what happened. In the maybe 5-6 seconds that play took, I saw the whole thing in slow motion. I imagine this is the kind of thing people who coach and play football feel a lot, but as a random student in the stands that night I saw Charlie Whitehurst look desperately across the field for a receiver. Meanwhile, I saw Kenny Scott wait a few yards behind Baham, practically daring Whitehurst to throw it to his out man. (This is probably the only time I've been comfortable with the cushions we give on pass defense.) Out of options, Whitehurst throws the pass. Baham catches. Scott immediately tackles him. Game over for Clemson.
    Last year, unfortunately, the only thing that sucked more than Clemson's all-purple get up was us. At the half, it looked to be your typical Clemson-Tech game with Clemson up 7-0. Though Tech would put up a TD early in the 4th, the defense gave in with 58 seconds left in the 3rd as C.J. Spiller busted a 50 yard TD run. The only thing more surprising by the end was that it wasn't worse. The Clemson two-headed monster ran for 333 yards rushing while Tech had 88, with only 48 of them coming from Tashard Choice. More worryingly, Reggie appeared affected by the leg injury he suffered in the previous game against Maryland and had 12 attempts for 8 yards (though I imagine this includes sacks). Though the Jackets would end up winning 4 straight after this, this is the point in the season where we started to become a little worried about this team, worries that really began to manifest themselves in the 7-0 victory at UNC.
    While Clemson has feasted off a buffet of patsies since their opening title with FSU, Tech is reeling after two straight losses, one good (BC), and one absolutely terrible (Virginia). As I see it, the only things Tech has going for them here are: a) the expectations are off, at 0-2 in the ACC; b) Choice is supposed to be close to 100% after the hamstring injury suffered against BC; c) the game is not being played in Charlottesville, Virginia. Tech has to be absolutely mistake free (i.e., no muffed punts) and has to have luck on their side (i.e., no freak interceptions) that accounts for 2 of UVA's 4 touchdowns. It goes without saying we can't give up 333 yards rushing again. Unfortunately for us, Clemson's new QB also looks better so far than our new QB. Clemson's new QB, Cullen Harper leads the conference with a 181.99 QB rating and a 69.4% completion percentage. Taylor is next to last in the conference in both these categories. Injuries are also raving Tech. Although Choice is back, I don't know how close "close to 100%" is. Tech's #1 receiver has been injured all year (and missed the 2nd half against Virginia) but is expected to play. Correy Earls, who suffered a neck injury last week, is not. We're so injured at tight end that former defensive end and Bob Jones alum David Brown will switch between #55 for his offensive tackle duties and #82 for when he lines up as (essentially) an extra tackle. (Look for on-air mentions of Madison, AL, folks! Though it'll probably never beat when Keith Jackson mentioned Max Martin's hometown during the 2004 Rose Bowl.) Anyway, I've rambled enough. We desperately need to win this game, not only for ACC standing but also for Tech's bruised pride. (Well, and also bragging rights.) Will the defense look motivated? Will they start tacking people? Will the gameplan be adjusted from last year's debacle? (Hint: having 8 people in the box is meaningless if 6 of them are on the line.) Will the new QB tear apart our clueless secondary? Will the offense figure out how to convert 3rd downs, stop dancing around the in the pocket, and generally just catch some passes? We all thought that Taylor would need to be a caretaker in this offense, but with Choice hurt we've needed him to win some games for us, and it hasn't happened. Will it? Tune in Saturday!
  • Michigan State at Wisconsin (ABC/ESPN/Gameplan): Whew. Finally done typing out that last one. Anyway, once again I lament the fact that Michigan State is no longer coached by John L. Smith as they go into Madison. Both these teams are decent, but I like Wisconsin better.
5:00: Florida State vs. Alabama (at Jacksonville, FL; CBS): Sweet, an out-of-conference neutral site game in week four! That's not sarcasm, either. Unfortunately, I don't like either of these schools and wish they'd die in a fire (as the kids say). FSU has done little to convince me they're decent, though, so I'll begrudgingly take the Tide.

6:30: California-Los Angeles at Oregon State (FSN): Probably the 3rd most important Pac-10 game of the day. The transitive property will fail once again (UCLA lost to Utah who lost to Oregon State) as UCLA should probably win.

  • Southern California at Washington (ABC): Washington, after initial early promise, has now dropped games to UCLA and Ohio State. They make it interesting here, but USC heads back from Seattle with the win.
  • Auburn at Florida (ESPN): Florida almost lost to DaCoachO and Ole Miss last week while Auburn did lose to Miss State two weeks ago. (Wacky Season '07, baby!) Florida, but Florida also should've won at Auburn last year. Either way, hopefully it'll be just as entertaining.
  • Ohio State at Minnesota (ESPN2): Ohio State, going away.
That's it, folks! Also, I should note I've updated the bowl predictions section, conveniently located on the right sidebar there. Now updated with all my results from past years! Check it out.

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