Friday, October 28, 2005
THURSDAYFRIDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK
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A weekly primer, as SMQ curses computer demon forces which forced its delay and the drumbeat to marginalize Virginia Tech, Alabama, Georgia and UCLA...
SMQ Will Be Watching...
Assuming he's not overcome with autumnal melancholy and social unease manifested in odd disguising and heavy Halloween-related drinking...The end of any Heisman hope still harbored by Laurence Maroney...Another SEC barnburner featuring a fifth-year senior backup and a rapidly failing chalkboard experiment...the high-quality emoting of wretched disillusion for ESPN cameras following Northwestern's disastrous biggest home game in decades...
Finally, We'll Learn About...
Some were slower to come around, but we all agre now that we think NORTHWESTERN is pretty good, but we don't know. We know they made one more tackle than Wisconsin and caught Purdue and Michigan State in the midst of transitioning to the off-season. That seems good. We also know the Wildcats give up more yards than any other defense anywhere. Not so good. Michigan is a good measuring stick for how far they've come, or still have left to go.
PUT UP OR SHUT UP
On the Spot This Week
Florida's last real chance to do something good in the SEC. If they can't get it done against this schlub Tereshinski, the Gators will be reduced to moral victories, such as carrying its embattled coach off the field after an improbable upset to punctuate a disappointing season. And nobody wants to see that again less than UF fans.
Most to Gain
A win over Navy would make RUTGERS 6-2 and make an actual bowl game a virtual lock. One of the participants in the first ever college football game has been to one measly bowl, the 1977 Garden State Bowl, manufactured for itself, in its crummy history.
Most to Lose
GEORGIA is in prime position to carry its great start on through to the SEC Championship Game and beyond, but the Bulldogs haven't been able to avoid a slip-up the last three years. First step is securing the SEC East Saturday.
COVER YOUR EYES
Most Inevitable Blowout
Two rare late October treats for SEC heavies: disappointing North Texas does the SATURDAY NIGHT IN TIGER STADIUM thing, in which, unlike many other schools, the Green will be beaten severely, and Alabama gets late, great Utah State.
I CAN HEAR THE CONCESSION STAND POPCORN POPPING FROM
Lame Game of the Week
The ACLU is after New Mexico State Hal Mumme for "insensitivity" after releasing a Muslim player from his scholarship. College football fans should sue for insensitivity to the great game if they're forced to watch the winless Aggies play 1-6 Idaho Saturday.
WE CAN REBUILD. WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY...
Bouncing Back This Week
Auburn: The Tigers should feel better about themselves after that tough loss than they did before it; time to put Kenny Irons to the consistency test against Ole Miss. Still very much in the SEC West race.
Tennessee: A brief reprieve against USC (that's South Carolina) before Notre Dame comes in next week for the Vols' fifth monster game (Florida, LSU, Georgia, Alabama) in seven weeks.
Oregon State: SMQ badly missed the upset pick against UCLA last week, but comes back to the Beaver camp against Arizona.
Michigan State: Even a mentally disturbed team gouging its eyes out can find a way to beat Indiana.
Arizona State: Here for the second straight week, but they're going to get it right this time against Washington...right?
THE PICKS (ranking are SMQ's)
Game of the Century of the Week
#6 GEORGIA vs. #16 FLORIDA
What's at Stake: Georgia can wrap up the SEC East title and keep those sweet little national title fantasies alive (for only USC and Texas belong in the Rose Bowl...it is inevitable...it is inevtiable...it is...), and do so over a quality opponent without its starting quarterback. Florida can keep some mathematical division hopes alive with a win, but Urban's bunch is playing for pride, i.e. "He's better than Zook, really he is."
Georgia Wants: Were D.J. Shockley suiting up, the Dogs would want to shoot this thing out with a Gator attack that has gone nowhere fast against decent defenses. But with Joe Tereshinksi III getting his one shining moment, the ball should rest mostly in the very capable hands of Thomas Brown and Danny Ware. If Tereshinski can't make opportunistic throws at all, there will problems, potentially on the order that the generally reliable defense that was nonetheless ripped against Arkansas last week can't fix by itself. Much lies with the success of the ground game.
Florida Wants: A breakout game for the spread option, however unlikely. Realistically, the Gators are likely hoping to hang onto the ball and bog this down into a turnover/field position mudder, a la the Tennessee game. The defense is good enough to handle that if it's not put in bad situations.
The Pick: This will not be exactly riveting. Expect the game, rather than the normal offensive show the Cocktail Party usually exhibits, to look like both of these teams' earlier slugfests with Tennessee: low-scoring, dependent on turnoevers or a random big play. Meyer may be due for another big win, but SMQ thinks he's backed himself into a corner with this offense, and re-evaluation after the season is inevitable (or Gator fans should hope). No such problems for Mark Richt, who's won with immobile smart guys behind center before.
GEORGIA 20, FLORIDA 13
5-3 ATS, 60 PERCENT WHEN COMING OFF A LOSS AS DD HOME FAVE, IT'S SMQ's FIVE-STAR GOLDEN GUARANTEE BARKING DOG LOCK OF THE WEEK!
TEXAS TECH at BAYLOR
Is this bandwagon, pack thinking? Is it a reactionary, flawed thought process based on unfulfilled expectations that assesses two teams who are still quite far apart as equals? Perhaps. But SMQ says, go with your gut!
Tech still hasn't beaten anybody worthwhile, and was walloped when it tried. Baylor, too, has been unsuccessful against worthy opponents, but hung tough with Nebraska and took Texas A&M (again) and Oklahoma to overtime. The Bears are on the verge and need a breakthrough win to catapult bowl fever; Guy Morriss deserves a legitimate Gatorade bath.
BAYLOR 30, TEXAS TECH 26
#13 OHIO STATE at #17 MINNESOTA
A week without a noon game featuring pulling centers and gaping holes for dreadlocked rushers in the Metrodome is a sad one indeed; SMQ welcomes back regulars Laurence Maroney and the Gophers to his weekend viewing schedule, and foresees for them only gloom. No. 22 has never suited up against the Buckeyes, but we can infer from his performance against the only other top flight defense Minnesota's faced - 48 yards on 16 carries against Penn State - the convertible may be running into a semi, a semi with an awful, quasi-mullet flailing out the back of its buckeyed-up helmet: against Texas, OSU allowed 2.3 yards per rush; against Iowa, 3.3; against Penn State, 3.9; against Michigan State, 2.3. In the battle of - and get ready, ESPN fans, because Mark Jones and Chris Spielman are going to repeat this a lot - the nation's TOP RUSHING OFFENSE! (299 ypg) and its TOP RUSHING DEFENSE! (63 ypg), it will not be a push.
OHIO STATE 34, MINNESOTA 16
#19 MICHIGAN at #18 NORTHWESTERN
Electricity in Evanston! And aren't they a bit, well, dramatic up there? In the words of one notable Theatre School Alumna:
first one on the bandwagon, first one off...always the trendsetter is SMQ).
MICHIGAN 38, NORTHWESTERN 27
#11 UCLA at STANFORD
Stanford, huh? The same team that lost to UC-Davis and employs Buddy Teevens rose up and whacked Arizona State last week, and SMQ supposes there will be some upset bidders keeping a close eye on Northern California. When it comes to doubting the high flying Drews - Maurice and Olson - however, SMQ has learned his lesson. The Bruins are clear until they putter across town on Dec. 3.
UCLA 45, STANFORD 24
SOUTHERN MISS at NC STATE
What's at Stake: Not a whole lot. USM can notch a win over a fading BCS-conference school with somewhat of a reputation. NC State can win its Homecoming.
USM Wants: It'll be tough against NC State's front seven, but the Eagles want to establish the run and grind away (the Pack are only 50th nationally against the run). The multiple injuries at receiver haven't meant much; Dustin Almond has thrown the ball well the last two weeks, but for all the games he's started and played in, the guy's still sporadic as a fifth-year senior. No idea what to expect. The best hope is to have a little rushing success, hang onto the ball and be close enough late to give Almond a little room to work. The defense just wants to hold court and pick up a loose ball or two; UAB's offense was significantly scarier than the Pack's.
NC State Wants: To blow up Southern's line immediately and wreak a bunch of turnover-causing havoc. The offense might have a bit more success than it has over the past month, but not much more unless it's put in good positions. To make plays on the nation's top-ranked kickoff return unit.
The Pick: There's a chance the Eagles get shut out of this one without help from the defense or special teams. Last week's missed assignment fest in the depleted secondary during the second half was not encouraging, though Marcus Stone or Jay Davis behind center is. Ultimately too much athleticism on NC State's defense.
NC STATE 21, SOUTHERN MISS 13
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