Thursday, September 29, 2005
THURSDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK
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Wherein SMQ forecasts the couch-denting Saturday ahead…
SMQ WILL BE WATCHING…
Michigan’s drowning man grasps, Michigan State’s tendency to float into trouble while drifting happily along…Virginia Tech’s effort to keep the foot on the accelerator, West Virginia’s sudden chance to emerge as Big East favorite…USC’s offense, at last, and a welcome second look at Arizona State’s and Sam Keller… the beginning of an inevitable slide for Penn State or Minnesota…Purdue and Notre Dame fighting to keep high expectations on track.
IT'S TOO...TOO...TOO...TO PUT A FINGER ON...
Put Up or Shut Up
Alright, Texas Tech, you don’t like the lack of respect born of your mushy, Gateway Conference-worthy schedule? Then let’s see you put up 60 on a Big XII opponent…even if it is Kansas.
WE GOT NOTHING TO LOSE...
Most To Gain
It’s almost impossible to imagine SOUTH FLORIDA catching the Hurricanes off guard enough for another upset following that drubbing of Louisville, but if the Bulls legitimately come within ten without getting a late score or two against backups, they’ll earn a Top 25 slot from SMQ and not a few others while also finding themselves right in the thick of Big East title talk. And if they win, watch out for USFest during nine out of ten Dodge Halftime Reports for the rest of the season.
Most To Lose
LLOYD CARR will be assassinated if Michigan opens the Big Ten season 0-2, especially if the “we really do suck” clincher goes down in East Lansing. For his school, his state, his own health and safety, for a beleaguered and confused nation in devastation and at war that has always been able to rely - when energy prices soar, when the winds of oppression beat at its balmy shores, when the pillars of society wobble and fail – upon at least eight Michigan wins, the Wolverines had better find some answers.
Most Inevitable Blowout of the Week
FLORIDA ATLANTIC probably thought it could at least catch Louisville coasting, looking ahead, napping a bit. Uh, sorry guys. Howard Schnellenberger will take to his former school's P.A. system to beg for mercy. The line, at 34 now, couldn’t be high enough for this one.
I CAN HEAR THE CONCESSION STAND POPCORN POPPING FROM MY SEAT…
Lame Game of the Week
Idaho may have five points in the Harris Poll, but Utah State’s actually won a game.
Weird Line of the Week
SMU beat the team that beat Oklahoma and Utah. Marshall lost to the team that went 0-11 last year. The Herd is an 11 ½-point favorite. What?
WE CAN REBUILD. WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY…
Bouncing Back This Week
Louisville - Nothing like a little Division I-A “provisional team” when you’re feeling blue.
Michigan - Just repeat: they can’t be that bad, they can’t be that bad, they can’t be…
LSU - Woe unto Mississippi State, which hasn’t been competitive recently against LSU teams that didn’t have a lot to prove.
Oklahoma - Gee, weren’t OU and Kansas State just, like, in the Big XII Championship Game? Now they’re playing just to solidify a spot in the middle of the pack. Sooners cling to the ladder before they try to climb back up.
INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL…
The Picks (rankings are SMQ's)
GAME OF THE WEEK
#4 FLORIDA at #10 ALABAMA
What's At Stake: The early title of SEC favorite. Beating Tennessee has kept the Gators in the national title hunt despite their failure to rack up Spurrier-like scores on the likes of Wyoming and Louisiana Tech; beating the Gators would put Alabama in the national race. For now, looks like a very probable SEC Champioship preview.
Florida Wants: To score, score, score. There hasn't been anything wrong with the UF defense, so there's no reason to think 'Bama will put up more than say, 21 or 24. which makes Leak and Co.'s job against the crazy Tide defense the key. Three touchdowns and a field goal or two ought to be enough to win it.
'Bama Wants: To control the clock and play D. Scoring three touchdowns and a field goal on this bunch is a tall order without turnover help from the 'Bama offense. The Perplexed-Looking Mike Shula would be best advised to establish Ken Darby and the capable ground game early and start looking for big plays off play-action late; that can't happen if The Urban Meyer Show stages its coming-out party from the git-go.
The Pick: 'Bama's defense is too good for a break out-type day from Leak, but the Gator offense will make some hay and the Tide will give up some turnovers that can lead to points. Close for a while, but the game will end with Brodie being just pounded by the Gator pass rush while trying to lead a hopeless comeback. Fourth quarter=Croyle Injury Watch.
FLORIDA 26, 'BAMA 17
#1 SOUTHERN CAL at #16 ARIZONA STATE
SMQ respects Arizona State, he really does. He thought Sam Keller and the offense did great things against LSU. Anybody else coming into Tempe, SMQ gives the Devils at least a fighting chance. But not USC. All that "the Trojans aren't really unebatable" stuff...no. They're unbeatable.
The Pick: USC spotted Oregon 13 before rubbing the sleep out their eyes and batting the Ducks aside like mosquitoes; they don't make the same mistake this week. The Devils will score some points, maybe once make viewers say, "Uh oh, look at this," but never really be in the game.
SOUTHERN CAL 48, ARIZONA STATE 28
MICHIGAN at #11 MICHIGAN STATE
See, see, the thing is, see, Michigan is supposed to be the undefeated, Top 15 team at the top of the league standings. The Wolverines are supposed to beat Notre Dame and blow out their first league opponent. Michigan State is the schizo team that blows three late chances to beat the Irish at home and drops its conference opener. See, their seasons so far are flipped from the usual circumstances. They're reversed, see? And what that means is, see, that Saturday is the point of no return. If the current tracks continue, Michigan is undeniably a mediocre team fighting for any bowl game it can get and Michigan State is a legit BCS contender. If the Wolverines are going to turn it around, it really has to be here. If MSU's going to reveal itself as the fraud we all suspect it may be, it's going to be here.
The Pick: How do Wolverines react when they're cornered? SMQ thinks the desperate talent on the side of the Big Blue is worth the nod against a team that, final score notwithstanding, didn't completely bury its tendency towards inconsistency and stumbling following success with a single win over, ahem, Illinois. The sky is not falling...SMQ takes the barking dog on the road!
MICHIGAN 30, MICHIGAN STATE 24
#13 NOTRE DAME at #20 PURDUE
SMQ is not sure yet what to make of the Boilermakers, who got all that preseason hype because of who they don't play rather than how good they actually are, which, it turns out, may not be all that good. The defense was not as advertised against fairly one-dimensional Minnesota, and blew a two-score fourth quarter lead. Meanwhile, the Irish are more of a known quantity: Charlie Weis is going to run the ball effectively in between picking you apart with a pro style, precision short passing game.
The Pick: SMQ is high on Notre Dame, still operating, it seems, under New Coach Syndrome and its winning side effects. Darius Walker is no Laurence Maroney, but the balance in the Irish attack will be enough to keep the Boilers off-balance, and won't give them the easy turnovers Minnesota did to keep Purdue in the game. Repeat of the Michigan win.
NOTRE DAME 31, PURDUE 20
#18 MINNESOTA at #22PENN STATE
Two teams with a lot to prove after big, flawed come-from-behind wins to open league play last week. Penn State is still searching for an identity, which is not a problem for the Gophers, whose social security number is 22.
The Pick: The Nittany Lions have less margin for error, which doesn't bode well in a game that may feature many, many turnovers. PSU has been stout against the run, but Maroney isn't Tyrell Sutton. The Gophers are more of a known quantity, and closer to a breakthrough.
MINNESOTA 24, PENN STATE 18
INDIANA at #12 WISCONSIN
Hey, Terry Hoeppner is hot! The Hoosiers are 3-0! Indiana's...uh, about to get the crap kicked out of them. Well, maybe not - maybe there's something special brewing in Bloomington. Maybe. SMQ said way back that Hoeppner could start 4-1 (Illinois up next) before the big boys started whaling on IU, and so it is coming to pass, but this is that one.
WISCONSIN 45, INDIANA 17
#21 IOWA STATE at NEBRASKA
Iowa State's 91st in total offense; Nebraska's 107th. The Huskers had to block a kick to win 7-6 thriller over a reeling team; the Cyclones needed a lucky facemask penalty on fourth down to get past Army. Winner becomes the favorite in the Big XII North. Ugh.
IOWA STATE 20, NEBRASKA 14
VIRGINIA at MARYLAND
So far, so good for Virginia, though that Syracuse game was a little close for comfort. The Cavs' defense is too stout here for the 72nd-ranked Maryland attack, which isn't on track to return to its 2001-03 form.
VIRGINIA 23, MARYLAND 10
SOUTH FLORIDA at #14 MIAMI
Suddenly, all eyes are on the Bulls. USF doesn't have to win here - if they do - only show that last week wasn't a fluke. Don't bet on it.
MIAMI 37, SOUTH FLORIDA 17
#2 VIRGINIA TECH at WEST VIRGINIA
The Hokies can't be as good as last week again, right? They won't be as tough on the road, huh? West Virginia is undefeated. Convinced? Neither is SMQ.
VIRGINIA TECH 24, WEST VIRGINIA 13
#3 TEXAS28, MISSOURI 16
TCU, 20NEW MEXICO 16
#19 AUBURN 21, SOUTH CAROLINA 13
<COLORADO 26, OKLAHOMA STATE 18
<UTEP 31, MEMPHIS 21
SMQ HOMERISM: WEEKLY SOUTHERN MISS PICK
It’s East Carolina week, which typically means a huge blowout – like last year - or at least a comfortable win for the Golden Eagles, but USM has been rushed all over the South for the past month, stopping only to briefly scare Alabama before being pounded in the second half and then to hammer a hapless I-AA team in between preparations for two games that never happened. So a month into the season, the Eagles have already been to the extremes of the schedule, and there’s no way yet to tell what to expect in between.
It's always nice to line up against the Pirates.
Under the circumstances, ECU is scary enough after beating Duke and losing to Wake Forest and West Virginia by a combined 15 points to keep SMQ from disregarding the Pirates as an automatic lamb to the slaughter, but not enough to keep him from disregarding that they are still East Carolina (80th in total offense, 108th in rushing defense). For USM’s part, SMQ will be watching (or listening; no network is touching a game in Greenville) for continued good play from the young, untested and ailing linebackers and vastly improved secondary play out of an experienced group that’s nonetheless been ripped so far. The more points scored, the better for East Carolina.
The Pick: The secondary may give up some plays to a passing attack that's been halfway decent through three games, but USM's running game will establish itself by the second half and pave the way to a harder-than-necessary win over a much less talented team.
SOUTHERN MISS 27, EAST CAROLINA 16
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