Friday, November 10, 2006

College Football Week 11 Preview

It's a Sunshine State Showcase this weekend as each of three major Florida schools will garner a share of the national spotlight, each for very different reasons.

But before we cover that I wanted to do a little follow-up on the huge Rutgers win Thursday night. All day long Friday the talk centered around the team from Piscataway that literally shocked the college football world. Greg Schiano made the talk show rounds, from Cold Pizza to the Dan Patrick Radio Show, and the first word out of every sportscaster & radio host's mouth was "Rutgers." Oh what a strange sports world we live in. Four years ago this team was 1-11. Now they are on the tips of people's tongues as potential national champs, Schiano is the hottest commodity this side of iTunes, and New Jersey is the fulcrum of the college football universe. But not everybody is jumping on the Rutgers bandwagon: Patrick said they weren't even a top 10 squad, and Lee Cuckoo Corso said the Big East has no business being anywhere near a BCS title game. Nice respect for a team that has done everything that has been asked of them this season & then some. But the balance of power has definitely shifted in the NCAA. All those 1-loss teams like Florida, USC, Tennessee, and Texas get another shot at the tile thanks to Louisville's misstep, and for their part Rutgers is just happy to play the spoiler. But in a perfect world they should have a shot a playing for it all. At least until they lose to West Virginia in three weeks.

-South Carolina(5-4) @ #6Florida(8-1) 3:30PM, CBS
The Old Ballcoach returns to the Swamp he made famous in this battle for bragging rights and not much else in the SEC since the Gamecocks, in Spurrier's words, have played like "losers' to this point in the season. The crusty playcaller backed off his words to a degree this week, but the message was sent: you guys need to play better if my reputation as a coach is going to withstand another horrible season from one of my teams (see Washington Redskins, 2002-03.) Starting QB Syville Newton was benched in last weeks' loss to Arkansas and Spurrier says he will stick with junior Blake Mitchell to at least start the game against the Gators. Meanwhile UF has had their share of troubles in the past week: starting defensive tackle Marcus Thomas was kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons, reserve WR Nyan Boateng was stabbed by a female student and will not suit up for the game, and standout LB Brandon Siler may not play due to a knee injury. All of this combined with a 12 1/2 point spread spells doom for the title-hungry Gators in Gainesville. I won't say the 'Cocks will score the upset, but the Visored One will find a way to keep it close in his favorite old haunt.
MY PICK: Florida 27, USC 17

-Noles(5-4) get prime time gig vs. #18Wake Forest(8-1) 8PM, ABC (regional)
This game is the season as far as the Noles are concerned; win at home vs. a ranked opponent for their 6th win and they are entertaining thoughts of playing in a semi-decent bowl game. Lose and they are staring at a .500 record, a sub-.500 conference record, and a possible slot in the Poinsettia or Tickle Me Elmo Bowl. wake has quietly been playing terrific ball all year, led by freshman quarterback Riley Skinner (1121 yards, 6TDs), the ACC leader in pass efficiency (69%.) The Noles have received a boost from newly installed QB Xavier Lee, who has guided the once dormant offense to 2 straight wins vs. conference opponents. Lee (672yds, 5TDs, 3INTs) has been just what the doctors ordered to replace ailing Drew Weatherford- namely a passer who can escape pressure with his legs and create opportunities with his arm. He hasn't been dazzling in his 2 starts, but he has provided another dimension(99yds rushing) to the struggling Seminole offense that it did not have with the Bledsoe-like Weatherford behind center. The Demon Deacons have had their fair share of troubles against the Noles, like a 14 game losing streak and no wins in Tally since 1959, but this could be the year that all those streaks come to an end- don't forget, FSU is only 2-2 at Doak Campbell this season while wake is a team that is 3-1 on the road and an 8 1/2 point underdog here.
MY PICK: Wake 23, FSU 19

- 'Canes will try to move on as they face #23Maryland 3:30 ABC
Miami will try to pick up the pieces of this shattered season when they travel to College Park to take on the improving Terps. Following the shooting death of player Bryan Pata earlier this week, the 'Canes elected to play this game in Pata's honor, but it's hard to say how they will respond when they actually take the field without their spiritual senior leader. Will they come out hungry to release the pent-up frustration & heartache over the loss, or will the culmination of a long, incident-filled season be too much for them to bear and they just collapse like a house of cards? Time will tell, but one thing's for sure" Maryland isn't about to show the grieving team any sympathy. They need this game to keep their ACC Atlantic title hopes alive, as they are currently tied with Wake Forest at 4-1 atop the division. Miami still has a shot at a decent bowl, but it's hard to believe that that is the first things on their mind right now. Just getting through this game is priority one.
MY PICK: Maryland 23, Miami 21

#13Tennessee @ #11Arkansas 7:00 ESPN2
A battle royale in the SEC as the Vols, coming off that devastating home loss to LSU take on everybody's new darling pick for a potential BCS berth, the Razorbacks. Arkansas has not lost since their season-opening 50-14 crushing by USC; since then they have ripped off 8 in a row, but their only tough opponent in that stretch was #2 Auburn. This will be a genuine test to see if the Hogs are really a BCS-caliber team, although the Vols will start freshman QB Jonathan Crompton in place of the injured Erik Ainge. Hmmm, a freshmand QB starting in the biggest gtame of the year on the road in a place that is as hostile as any place to play in the conference, Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville? I don't like that scenario. I think the Hogs grind up the kid like pig meat and leave him by the side of the stadium and Arkansas clearly vaults into the category of "best 1-loss team" after this win. A steady diet of RB Darren McFadden ((1038 yards, 10TDs) and stifling defense (15PPG) should be enough to defeated a depleted Tennessee squad.
MY PICK: Hogs 28, Vols 23

#21 Oregon @ #7USC 10:15EST (good, a late game to watch!)
Another 1-loss team with new title hopes, thanks to Rutgers, are the Trojans, who return to the Coliseum tonight after playing 2 straight on the road. They'll need to start having statement wins if they want to impress the voters and prove they are the best of the single loss schools, and they'll have a chance to do it against the Beavers. Oregon is freshly ranked coming off of and impressive 34-14 win over Washington, and their 3-headed monster of QB Dennis Dixon(1803yds, 1TDs), RB Jonathan Stewart(798yds, 7TDs) and WR Jaison Williams (858yds, 6TDs) will give the Trojan defense all they can handle. But USC has a 3-pronged attack of their own in the persons of QB John David Booty(1966yds, 19TDs), and WRs Dwayne Jarrett(453yds, 5TDs) & Steve Smith(698yds, 7TDs), and they are capable of putting up points in a hurry. Like they did in their heartbreaking last second defeat to Oregon State, coming back from down 30-7 to lose 33-31. Something teels me the Men of Troy will not lose to 2 schools from Oregon in the same season. Should be a gool old fashioned shootout, but USC needs this one more.
MY PICK: USC 38, Oregon St. 21

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