Sunday, September 17, 2006

How 'bout "Desperation Saturday"?

Billed by the ESPN hype machine (and repeated ad nauseum throughout the day & night) as "Separation Saturday" because of 2 ranked teams playing each other in 7 games, the real story became desperation for quite a few teams who saw their championship hopes go up in smoke.
There was some wild and wacky action throughout the day, which produced outcomes large (Michigan's ass-whipping of Notre Dame,47-21), small (Auburn's 7-3 squeaker over LSU), and incredible (2 last- minute wins). Let's review:

-Wolverines devour Irish in South Bend
MY PICK: ND 28-24 SCORE: Mich 47-21
This one got ugly early for Charlie Weiss' boys as Michigan jumped out to a 34-14 halftime lead, rendering the entire 2nd half garbage time. So how did the Maize & Blue win their 1st game in South Bend since 1994? By utilizing power running from Mike Hart (31 carries, 134 yds, 1TD) and fantastic receiving from Mario Manningham (4 catches, 137 yds, 3TDs; I guess you could say that he was the man.Sorry). Plus ND had 5 turnovers, 2 returned for scores. The only question now is how far with the Irish fall from their cushy #2 perch? BTW, the next time an anchor calls the Wolverines "Meeshegan" I hope he chokes on his mic cord (are you listening Reece Davis?)

- Gators, Leak pull out huge win in Knoxville
MY PICK: Florida 24-21 SCORE: Florida 21-20 (pretty close)
After the Gators scored the go-ahead TD with just over 6 minutes left on a nice play from Chris Leak to Dallas Baker and then held on for the win, the 2 Gator goats may have been tempted to go and lead the band in a rendition of the Gator Chomp. But as it is they will be happy to leave Knoxville with a deliciously sweet 1-point win against their arch (conference) rivals. Leak played well in stretches, especially when Coach Meyer decided to dust off his old Utah playbook and let him run a little to soften up the D. He also used Frosh phenom QB Tim Tebow in key 4th down situations as a runner, and he produced 7 carries for 29 yards. Meyer became the first SEC coach to beat Tubby's Vols in his first 2 meetings. Urban renewal indeed.

- Noles gag away game vs. Clemson, Baby Bowden
SCORE: Clemson 27-20
If this game doesn't prove that the preseason rankings are an absolute joke then I don't know what game does. The Noles started the year ranked #11 and moved up to #9 despite two less-than-stellar wins over Miami (who now looks way overrated as well) and Troy. Well they won't be overrated any longer as the sputtering Seminole offense just couldn't muster enough yardage (204) or points (offense scored 10 pts) to defeat Papa Bobby's son in Bowden Bowl 8. Whatever happened to that FSU offensive juggernaut? Even though they have plenty of talent, they cannot move the ball with any regularity; 200 total yards was good for one quarter in the Chris Weinke days. Makes me pine for the days of Chris Rix. At least they were exciting with him at the helm. This game won't do the offensive coordinator any good in his effort to retain his job; anyone?

-Oklahoma snatches defeat out of jaws of victory
SCORE: Oregon 34-33
The Sooners thought they had this one wrapped up; heck most teams would when they have a 13-point lead with less than 3 minutes to play. But two horrendous calls went against the Sooners and Oregon scored 2 TDs in the last 1:12 to pull off the stunning win. The loss can be blamed on the calls (ORE recovered an onside kick but appeared to be ahead of the 10yd barrier; OK was called for pass interference on a tipped ball that kept a drive alive), but certainly not on Sooner stud RB Adrian Peterson, who amassed 211 yds rushing on 34 carries, 145 yards coming in the 4th quarter alone. He's getting my Heisman vote right now (515 yds rush in 3 games). But this was the game of the day.

- War Eagles sneak by Bayou Bengals in a defensive struggle
MY PICK: LSU 21-20 SCORE: Auburn 7-3
With a puny score like that you would think this game was a snoozer. But it's the Bayou Classic, which is never boring. Sure it was not an offensive masterpiece (obviously) but it was a smash mouth, tough, hard-hitting affair. Amazingly Auburn won despite being out gained 182 yds to 309 yds where the only got past LSU's 39 on one drive. But the game came down to a thrilling conclusion as LSU marched down the field in the final minutes only to see QB JaMarcus Russell's last pass completed but about 10 yds short of the end zone as Auburn players raced around the field in jubilation and LSU players pulled a Led Zeppelin: dazed & confused.

-Miami spanked by Louisville, could end Canes ranked streak
MY PICK: L'ville 31-24 SCORE: L'ville 31-7
I knew L'ville would put up the points. I also knew Miami was offensively challenged (so why did I pick them to score 24?) But the Canes looked really bad and the offensive juggernaut that is the Cardinals look like they don't remember who Michael Bush is. The Cards only rushed for 95 yards (avg 300+ coming in) and lost QB Brian Brohm in the 3rd Q to strained thumb ligaments (out 4-6 weeks) , but plugged in Frosh QB Hunter Cantwell, who went 3-4 for 114 yds & a TD as the Cards sent the Canes, and their streak of being in the top 25 since 1999, packing at Papa John's. The Cards are a powerful team, and Brohm should be back for their big showdown vs. West Virgina on Nov 2nd. Can't wait.

- USC not sharp but good enough to beat Huskers
MY PICK: USC 52-17 SCORE: USC 28-10
Why was this the showcase game on ABC Saturday night? Well there's just something about a game in the Coliseum, with the brilliant sunshine, celebrity star power, dripping history, classic Trojan unis and high powered football. Usually high powered. The Trojans had trouble with Bill Callahan's pesky & improved Cornhuskers, even trailing 3-0 early. But John David Booty & Dwayne Jarrett (11 recs, 133 yds) got on track to put up enough points to get the win. Is it just me or does Callahan look more scholarly back on campus? When he was with the Raiders he looked like an inhabitant of the Black Hole!

But it was a terrific Saturday in the NCAA universe, no matter what you label it. I went 3-2 with my picks (no spreads), so I'm pretty happy. I guess it was a Separation day; but I still like my moniker: A Kick-Ass Weekend in College Football!

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