Saturday, November 25, 2006

College Football Week 13 Preview: Pride & Poll Positions

It's the penultimate weekend of the season and most everything has been decided now. Oh yeah, except for the little issue of who Ohio State is going to play in the BCS National Championship Game January 8th.

Two main courses today will go a long way to determining who the Buckeye's opponent will be. Both are heated rivalry games that have been very one-sided as of late. But both games could go either way because of what's at stake for all 4 schools. Let's dig in.

- 4Florida (10-1) @ Florida State (6-5) High Noon, ABC
The Hatfields & The McCoys. The Stankees & the Red Sox. Britney & K-Fed. Like those famous feuders these two schools just plain don't like each other. They may be separated by only 150 miles but they are worlds apart as far as playing style & fanbase; many of the kids were recruited by both schools and/or went to high school with someone on the other team, like childhood buddies UF LB Brandon Siler & FSU QB Xavier Lee . Despite that fact, or maybe because of it, these guys just don't get along. The rivalry was born in the 1990's, when Steve Spurrier's Fun-n-Gun Gators took on Papa Bowden's high-scoring Seminoles with a possible championship game berth up for grabs for one team or the other for 11 consecutive years (1991-2001.)

Lately the importance of the game has waned due to alternating tough times for both schools, but the hatred and the desire by the kids to win this game never fades. For Florida State they have nothing to play for but pride. This has been a long, lost, disappointing season that has seen losses to son Tommy in the Bowden Bowl, to NC St. & protege Chuck Amato, and that embarrassing 30-0 Debacle at Doak last week against Wake Forest. That game led to offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden to step down and put a depressing exclamation point on a tough rebuilding season in Tally. The only way to redeem a shred of respect this year is to knock of the Gators, who still harbor BCS Title game aspirations.

Florida has had a shaky season despite thier stellar record. Included in those 10 wins are nail biters over Georgia, Vandy & South Carolina (by a total of 4 points against teams that comprise the bottom 3 in the SEC East) and less-than-impressive victories over UCF, Southern Miss & Western Carolina. What in the hell are they doing even playing Western Carolina at the tail end of the SEC season anyway? That 62-0 shellacking actually hurt their BCS standings as USC jumped over them in the BCS poll on the strength of their win over #17 Cal. Nice scheduling, Urbie. The Gators have knocked off some quality opponents in the highly overrated SEC (talk about parity-I think everybody beat everybody at least once this year) like Tennessee & LSU, but they lost to Auburn, who turned around and got spanked by the Bulldogs. so what does that win say?

I'll tell you what it says, it says that the Gators are overrated. If Meyer could have chosen a QB, either Leak or Tebow, and stuck with him, maybe the offense would have been a little bit smoother, more in sync. It's obvious that the team runs much better with the gritty, moblile Tebow under center, but Meyer wanted to stick with his heralded senior for his final season. That choice may have cost him his shot at the championship as much as his shitty scheduling. Tebow has led the Gators to a total of 11 touchdowns in limited action and threw a staggering line up last week against the Broncos: 10-12, 200 yards, 2 TDs passing, 6 carries, 47 yards, 2 TDs rushing. Nice. Hopefully Urbie will stick with the QB carousel long enough to let Leak throw a killer INT to Tony Carter blow the game.

The Noles have a bit of a QB carousel as well. Lee took over for an injured Drew Weatherford and played well in a close loss to Maryland and a win over Virginia. But after suffering the loss in the Wake pounding Bowden went back to Weatherford against Western Michigan (Nice Scheduling II). But he played Lee as well. So who will it be against the Gators? I say Bobby gives 'em a taste of their own medicine and runs both QBs out there, confusing Meyer so much he'll think he's back in Utah. That plus a healthy dose of Florida State defense, led by Bruising Buster Davis and CB Carter, will spell the end of the Noles 2 game losing streak in the series, and put an end to the Gators' title hopes, too.
MY PICK: Noles 22, Gators 21

- 6Notre Dame @ 3USC 8P EST, ABC

It will be an awesome atmosphere at the old Coliseum tonight

Another week, another Game of the Year on the schedule. Ho-hum. This time the storied rivalry between the slick West Coast school and the Midwestern Irish Catholic boys has national title implications on the line as BCS #3 USC can help themselves lock up a date with Ohio State by knocking off the Irish. This game features some of the most exciting offensive players in college, and it should be a high-scoring, old West-style shootout in the dusk at the Coliseum. Oh if only Keith Jackson were still broadcasting. I can ALMOST hear him : "Whoa doctor we've got a doozy on our hands tonight, as the stubborn Irish led by Heisman hopeful Brady Quinn take on the flashy Trojans, led by first year phenom quarterback John David Booty. It should be an old-fashioned eardrum breaker here in L.A., and we'll tip it off as soon as they clean Traveler's dung off the carpet."

This game means so much to both teams that it could come down to the final minute, much like last year's classic in South Bend. That game is known forever as "The Push by (Reggie) Bush" because of the way the Heisman winner pushed QB Matt Leinart into the end zone on the Trojan's final play of the game to pull off the miraculous 34-31 win. You can be sure that QB Brady Quinn, WR Jeff Samardzija and Co. won't forget that loss when they take the field tonight. Quinn (3004yds, 32TDs) has shot his way back into Heisman contention after the debacle against Michigan, when he was 24-48 for 234 yards with 3TDs & 3 picks in the Irish's 47-21 beatdown. with a big game against the Trojans he should close the gap between he & Troy Smith, but he won't overtake the scintillating Buckeye QB. More importantly the Irish have an iota of a chance to play Ohio State in the Championship game if the smack USC in the mouth. Since the Trojans are the 3rd BCS team, a win by ND would probably catapult them into that spot, although most experts doubt they would pass Michigan because of that embarrassing loss to the Wolverines.
USC has rode the arm of first-year starter Booty (2417yds, 22TDs) to a terrific follow-up season to their championship game loss to Texas in January. He has had plenty of help from 2 stud receivers, Steve Smith(874yds, 8TDs) & Dwayne Jarrett (610yds, 6TDs), and two quality running backs, Chauncey Washington (703yds,8TDs) & Emmanuel Moody (459yds, 2TDs.) They have firepower from all angels and their balanced attack poses problems for most teams they face.

The Trojans are averaging 31 PPG. But the Irish average 33. All signs point to a shootout, but with a 32-game winning streak at the Coliseum and a BCS title berth on the line for USC, it should be a crazy night of partying in LA after this win.
MY PICK: Trojans 34, Irish 31

Other games:
- USF (7-4) @ 7West Virginia (9-1) Noon
The Bulls travel to Morgantown to learn a hard lesson about what it's like to play a high-powered team on the road during crunch time of the season. WVU still has an outside shot at the title game (who doesn't?), so you know the two-headed tandem of RB Steve Slaton (1578yds, 14TDs) & QB Pat White (2403 tot yds, 26 tot TDs) will be geared up for this. USF has had a surprisingly good season thanks to freshman phenom QB Matt Grothe. Grothe leads all NCAA freshman in passing (2216yds, 13TDs) and has sparked an offense that had gone stagnant under incumbent starter Pat Julmiste. But the Bulls should be overwhelmed by both the atmosphere (although they have played big venues, like Beaver Stadium, they haven't been in a playoff environment like the Couch Burning Capitol will be today.) Two Heisman candidates in the backfield will make this game too much for a frosh to handle. it could get ugly.
MY PICK: West Virginia 37, USF 17

-8 Louisville (9-1) @ Pitt (6-5)
The Cards still have plenty to play for, although a National Championship probably won't be one of them. But they can inch closer to a BCS bowl by beating the wounded Panthers. Pitt has dropped 4 straight, all bad losses, including last week's humbling 45-27 beatdown by West Virginia at Heinz Field. They can salvage some dignity and give hope to Dave Wannstedt's supporters by knocking off Louisville. The Panthers once boasted of a top-rated defense & offense with QB Tyler Palko (2564yds, 24Tds)carving up the Big East. But now the high-scoring Cards, led by QB Brian Brohm & electrifying receiver Mario Urrutia, are the big kids on the block, and Pitt stands in their way of owning the neighborhood.
MY PICK: Louisville 34, Pitt 20

-12 Boise State (11-0) @ Nevada (8-3)
Why is this game important? Because Boise is the last unbeaten team outside of Ohio State and with a win today could crash the party by securing a BCS bid for the tiny Mountain West Conference. Too bad the Wolf pack, which has won 11 straight games at home, is not going to be so accommodating. Look for the last unbeaten to go down, and the power conferences to rule the BCS again.
MY PICK: Boise loses

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