Friday, November 03, 2006

College Football Week 10 Preview

In ESPN parlance this weekend could be called 'Speedbump Saturday'. That's because it's as if the schedule makers are telling everyone to slow down, catch their breath after all the exciting games of the past few weeks and taste some cupcakes & creampuffs while biding our time until November 18th. There are so many big games that day (Michigan/Ohio St, Cal/USC, Auburn/Alabama, Florida/ Western Carolina) that the powers that be decided to throw a speed bump into week 10, just to take things down a notch before the hype machine ramps up again. I mean how else can you explain a schedule of winners like 1Ohio State at Illinois(2-7), 9USC at Stanford(0-8) and Michigan vs. Ball State(Ball State)?

As a matter of fact the irony of it all is that the best game of the weekend was probably played on Thursday night, the epic West Virginia/Louisville clash. Pretty sad when the best game on the slate happens before the weekend is even officially underway. And wouldn't you know we have no Little League game tomorrow due to a Majors tournament. Ay caramba.

So with this lull in the action I decided to take the time to post my first official Heisman Trophy candidate list. I like to wait until there have been enough games to weigh the contenders by their on-field accomplishments, not their pre-season press clippings and a bunch of bad guess-timations (hey experts, guess what?-Brady Heisman lock Quinn will not be going to New York for the ceremony.) But here's my 5 who will be attending:

1.) Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State(9-0)
Stats: 145-214, 1,898 yards, 22 TDs (4th in NCAA), 2 INTs;169 yards rushing,1 TD
Smith is clearly head & shoulders above all the other candidates right now. This kid is so electrifying that he is one of those players you watch with baited breath every time he touches the ball, a-la Reggie Bush or Mike Vick. Although he does have talent around him, without his arm & legs this team would be nowhere near the top of the polls right now.
vs. #2Texas, 9/9: 269 yards & 2TDs in the first 1vs.2 reg-season matchup in 10 years, won by the Buckeyes 24-7
@ #13Iowa, 9/30: 186 yards & 4TDs, his last with 4 minutes to go put a capper on a 38-17 OSU statement win
vs. Penn St, 9/23: 12-22, 115 yards, 1TD, 2 INTs (his only 2 picks of the year) Smith had his worst game against Jo-Pa's Nittny Lion defense in a 28-6 victory
GAMES LEFT: @Illinois, @N'Western, 2Michigan

Whenever the Buckeyes either get in trouble or need to score Smith has gotten the job done. He is talented, athletic, smart and above all else, clutch. If he goes on to have a big game vs. the Wolverines in two weeks he can start clearing a space on his mantle.

2.tie) Steve Slaton, RB, 3West Virginia(7-1)
Stats: 169 carries, 1215 yards (4th in NCAA), 10 TDs; 18recs, 242 yards
Many pundits are saying that Slaton lost the race when he fumbled on 2 consecutive possessions early in the 2nd half in that Mountaineer loss to Louisville; I say that's bull. How can a guy who has had a season like he has lose an award based on 2 plays? It's ridiculous. For my money this kid has been money all season, despite the 2 drops (which may have been caused by an elbow injury.)
vs. Marshall, 9/2: 203 yards on 33 carries, 2TDs in the first game of the season
vs. Maryland, 9/14: 195 yards, 2TDs
BAD GAMES:@ E. Carolina, 9/23: 80 yards on 24 carries, no TDs (only time kept out of end zone all year)
@Louisville, 11/2: 156 yards, 1TD, 2 fumbles
GAMES LEFT: Cincy, @Pitt, So. Fla, 15Rutgers
Factoring him in for his normal per game average of 151/ YPG and I would say he still has a very good shot at finishing 2nd to Smith, fumbles or no fumbles. Plus you have to account for the fact that he would have more TDs if it weren't for the presence of bruising fullback Owen Schmitt.

2.tie) Ray Rice, RB, 15Rutgers (8-0)
Stats: 223 carries, 1203 yards (5th in NCAA), 13 TDS(5th in NCAA)
It is safe to say that without ray rice the Scarlet Knights would not be ranked in the top 15 right now. heck they would not even be ranked if it weren't for this dazzling sophomore's hard-nosed, game-changing running. The kid has had 3 games of over 200 yards rushing, and his 150/YPG has gone down due to 2 subpar efforts in the last 3 weeks.
@ N.Carolina, 9/2: 201 yards on 31 carries & 3 TDs in season opener
@USF, 9/29: 202 yards on 35 carries, 2 TDs, basically single-handedly beat the Bulls at RayJay
@Pitt, 10/29: 225 yards on a monstrous 39 carries & 1 score-this monster game not only helped knock off a good Pitt squad, but it put him on the Heisman radar.
@Navy, 10/14: 93 yards on 21 carries, no scores for the only time this year; RU still won 34-0.
vs.Conn, 10/29: 79 yards on 22 carries for a meager (for him) 3.6YPC, 1TD
GAMES LEFT: 5L'Ville Thursday night,@ Cincy, 'Cuse, @W.Virginia
His stock dropped considerably after that stinker vs. the Huskies on national TV Sunday night, but with those two huge games still left on the schedule, Rice still has a very good chance at jumping into 2nd place alone, possibly-dare I say it-actually winning it depending on how everything else shakes out.

2.tie) James Davis, RB, 19Clemson(7-2)
Stats: 151 carries, 991 yards, 17TDs(2nd in NCAA)
Davis may not have as impressive numbers as the other guys, but anyone who saw him rip off 216 yards against Georgia Tech like he was playing in high school knows how impressive this sophomore is. Plus he has been splitting time with freshman phenom C.J. Spiller, who ran for 115 in that game, so his numbers have been reduced.
vs. Ga Tech, 10/21: 216 yards on just 21 carries for a whopping 10.3 average, including a 54-yd score, plus another TD in a 31-7 blowout.@ Temple, 10/12: 138 yards on 9 carries (15.3YPC!) and 3 TDs; granted it was Temple, but hey, 15 yards per carry is awesome against anyone
@ Va Tech, 10/26: 12 carries for 30 yards, but he was coming off an injury from the GaTech game
@ FSU, 9/16: 19 carries for 87 yards in a national spotlight game that Clemson won, 27-20
GAMES LEFT: Maryland, NC St, S. Carolina
Three games left to make a move, but if he is still injured he has no chance to climb over the other 2 guys. He will need another 200+ yard game, starting with the Terps today.
And that's my list. Only 4 candidates right now are deemed worthy enough by yours truly to make the trip to Manhattan for the ceremony. But a lot could change in the next 4 weeks, so I will be updating this list on a weekly basis from here on out. Here are a few guys who deserve mention & could move up in the coming weeks:
Garrett Wolfe, RB, N.Illionois- the nation's leading rushing leader(1479 yards) loses points for playing in the MAC, but his numbers(14 TDs, 21 catches for 221 yds) for his size (5'7"!)are hard to ignore
Calvin Johnson, WR, GaTech- exciting Yellow Jacket reciever saw his stock plummet like a boulder with his zer catch performance in that loss to Clemson; still has great stats: 40 recs, 627 yds, 9TDs
Brady Quinn, QB, ND- the preseaon fave has put up decent numbers(2233yds, 21TDs) but his performance in their painful loss to Michigan(28-48, 234yds,3INTs) really hurt him
There actually are a few decent games on tap today, so let's take a look at 3 games to keep an eye on:

Pittsburgh (6-2) @ South Florida (5-3) 12:00
This is an intriguing match because it features two of the best passers in the Big East, top-rated Pitt senior Tyler Palko (1,830 yards, 18TDs) and USF freshman sensation Matt Grothe (1,435 yards, 9TDs.) As these guys go so goes their offense as neither team runs the ball very well (USF is 5th, Pitt 6th in the 8 team conference), so it should be an aerial display over the skies of Ray Jay. Pitt is coming off that home stunner to Rutgers, 20-10, when the Scarlet Knights just punched them in the mouth. The Bulls know that feeling, having been punked by Ray Rice & Co. a month ago at home. The Panthers need this game in order to get a marquee bowl; USF needs a win to become bowl eligible. Have at it boys, just don't mess up the field too badly for the Saints/Bucs game on Sunday.
MY PICK: Panthers 31, Bulls 24

13LSU(6-2, 2-2 SEC West) @ 8Tennessee(7-1, 3-1 SEC East), 3:30 CBS
The Tigers are still licking their wounds from their 23-10 loss to the Gators a month ago, and although they've gotten healthy at the expense of Fresno St. & Kentucky(combined 87-6 score) they would like nothing better than to knock off a highly ranked team to regain some of their stature. But Tennessee is a little perturbed coming into this SEC clash: although they are 8th in the AP, the BCS bozos have them ranked at #11, closing them out of a big time bowl if the season ended today. So they need a statement win as well, but that could be difficult against that Tiger defense (8/PPG allowed) if QB Erik Ainge (2213 yds, 16 TDs, who sprained his ankle last week and has hardly practiced, can't go or is hobbled. If Ainge is unable to make it, and freshman Johnathan Crompton has to get in there against those snarling Tigers, things could get ugly at the giant Purina Checkerboard .
MY PICK: LSU 17, Vols 16

16Boston College(7-1, 3-1 ACC Atl) @ 22Wake Forest (7-1, 3-1 ACC Atl), 7:00, ESPN2
Who woulda thunk at the beginning of the year that this game would be a battle for supremacy in the ACC Atlantic Division? But that's just what this prime-time tilt turned out to be as the Eagles, who were expected to contend for the crown, battle the upstart Demon Deacons, who were not. Ever. I mean this is the start of college basketball season in Winston Salem, not time for big football games. But that's exactly what they've got on their hands down in tobacco country, thanks to an overachieveing bunch of kids led by QB Riley Skinner (1101 yds, 5TDs0 and RBs Kelvin Harris (344yds,4TDs) and De'Angelo Bryant(293yds, 3TDs), and an agressive defense that allows only 15PPG. BC will have their hands full, especially if QB Matt Ryan is still hobbled by an ankle sprain. Coach O'Brien gave him the week off last week against Buffalo to get him ready for this one, so hopefully he'll be able to go the whole game. If he does, look for a competitive game that might go to OT.
MY PICK: Eagles 24, Deacons 19

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