Thursday, October 20, 2005
THURSDAYFRIDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK
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A weekly primer, as SMQ curses computer demon forces which forced its delay...
SMQ Will Be Watching...
C-USA East elimination game in Birmingham, rather than supporting a local high school...Start of inevitable late-season surge by Iowa...The defloweration of Texas Tech's cuddly BCS hopes...A bunch of punts in Tuscaloosa...Big-blitzing LSU putting Brandon Cox on his back, giving up big plays.
Finally, We'll Learn About...
AUBURN's been very quiet against a bunch of softies since Georgia Tech took its iffy running game and scattershot passing to task, and comes out of hiding Saturday at LSU. We shall see what the Tigers have learned the past month and a half.
PUT UP OR SHUT UP
On the Spot This Week
A week after blowing a two-score lead in a big, big game in the most inept possible fashion, MICHIGAN STATE has to bounce back against Northwestern or risk the wheels falling off a season that was on a good track.
Most to Gain
In terms of real-world gains, i.e. computers and the official polls that love them, TEXAS TECH doesn't have much to prove Saturday; the Red Raiders are top five in two computer bowls used in the BCS, No. 7 overall by the computers and the final poll. For actual people with eyes and brains, the Raiders are worth little more than a last-second victory over similarly creampuffed-up Nebraska. Upset Texas, and more congruence there will be between man and machine.
Most to Lose
If it wants to stay in the division race with Alabama, LSU has to finish off Auburn, who comes in undefeated in the league itself. A loss would send LSU careening off into Playing for the Cotton Bowl Land much earlier than expected.
Weird Line of the Week
TCU is 6-1 with wins over Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico. Air Force is 3-4 with losses to Navy, Utah, Wymoing and Colorado State. The line: pick 'em. Huh?
COVER YOUR EYES
Most Inevitable Blowout
Winless Buffalo has managed to score in double digits once over its first six games, in a loss to Central Michigan. Toledo has scored at least 30 in each of its five wins, usually more, and hasn't had a margin of victory smaller than three touchdowns. When the Bulls visit the immortal Glass Bowl Saturday, the ghost of Jim Kelso won't be the difference.
I CAN HEAR THE CONCESSION STAND POPCORN POPPING FROM
Lame Game of the Week
It takes a lot to be worse than 2-4 Hawaii at 1-5 San Jose State, but Florida International at Troy (combined record: 3-8, including a certain three-touchdown home loss to I-AA South Dakota) is so bad TWWL’s weekly schedule doesn’t even know what day the game is scheduled to be played upon. (It was Thursday night, in case you missed it, though this was written before the game and SMQ hasn’t bothered to check the score, you can be sure).
WE CAN REBUILD. WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY...
Bouncing Back This Week
Notre Dame: The grief SMQ has taken for keeping the Irish in his top five necessitates a home whippin' of the Cougars.
California: Exposed twice in two weeks; back home against deflated Washington State after the Cougars blew a great chance to knock off UCLA.
Penn State: Nothing like seeing Ron Zook across the way to cure what ails you.
Louisville: Cardinals take retribution for blown onside kick call against hapless young Cincinnati kids barely oriented to campus yet.
Arizona State: 4-2 Stanford can prove a point, but the Sun Devils seem too good to fall under .500 here.
THE PICKS (ranking are SMQ's)
Game of the Century of the Week
#12 TENNESSEE at #6 ALABAMA
What's at Stake: For 'Bama, the undefeated, dream repeat of 1992. For Tennessee any shred of a sliver of a crumb of hope of winning the SEC East.
Tennessee Wants: To play defense, control the clock with the running game, and not force gimpy Rick Clausen to have to do too much to win it.
Alabama Wants: To play defense, control the clock, and not force a passing game missing its top two weapons to have to do too much to win it.
The Pick: Alabama's looked better so far, but then, that was before a couple key injuries, and there's the "equilibrium" factor that says, when it's all over in a balanced league, every will beat everybody else. So far, it's been Florida over Tennessee, Tennessee over LSU, Alabama over Florida...so Tennessee's due, right? The problems with Georgia's offense were largely attributable to an outstanding running quarterback able to ad lib his way out of tough spots, which 'Bama does not remotely possess, right? The Tide are one-dimensional without Prothro and a banged up D.J. Hall, and Tennessee's strong front seven can force the issue with the passing game, right? All possibilities. But there's also the possibility that Alabama's defense is on the verge of having one of those truly special seasons, and that the Tide are just, you know, better.
ALABAMA 16, TENNESSEE 10
Upset of the Week
OREGON STATE at #13 UCLA
What's at Stake: For Oregon State, national recognition for a second straight win over a top 25 Golden State rival. The Bruins are looking to keep hope of getting all the way through to USC undefeated for the Game of the Century, Hollywood-style.
Oregon State Wants: To keep the interceptions down. The passing game's been nice, with four receivers over 21 catches (one, Mike Hass, with 51), but former UCLA QB Matt Moore has thrown 10 picks already. Give the ball to Yvenson - Yvenson Bernard, from way down in Florida, averaging over 100 a game.
UCLA Wants: To fall behind, then score 45 points in the fourth quarter.
The Pick: Is UCLA better than Oregon State at every position? Are the Bruins also at home and on a roll? Yes and yes. Is UCLA good enough to keep scraping by with crazy fourth quarter comebacks? No.
OREGON STATE 38, UCLA 34
#18 AUBURN at #7 LSU
Auburn? Auburn who? Ohhhhh...AUBURN. Now SMQ remembers. Welcome back to the world of competitive opposition. The last time we saw you and your young quarterback here, he was a deer in the headlights; the results were not good. LSU's blitz-happy defense is where unsure young passers go to die (see: Ainge, Erik). If Brandon Cox isn't significantly better at reading and reacting under inevitably big pressure this time out, in his first big road test - SMQ has debunked the "Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium" mush, but Cox, presumably, does not read SMQ - there will be at least one "grass in the facemask" shot on the night. Auburn needs badly for Kenny Irons and Brad Lester to get in behind big Marcus McNeil and hang on to the ball, because as long as their defense is likely to keep them in it, Brandon Cox's arm is not.
LSU 20, AUBURN 16
#17 TEXAS TECH at #3 TEXAS
Mike Leach has beaten Mack Brown before, and the Raiders also wiped out a very good Cal team last year, so it's not like there is no precedent for a Tech stunner. And yet, and yet...no. Vince Young could be walking into his real big-numbers, Heisman showcase game, and Cody Hodges could be walking into the record books for most bubble screens thrown for loss in one game. Techsters exposed as fraudsters, expelled from the BCS talk and we don't have to hear any more from them.
TEXAS 44, TEXAS TECH 23
#25 NORTHWESTERN at #19 MICHIGAN STATE
This game will look more like one out of the PAC Ten than Big Ten, considering the passing games (Drew Stanton's completing 72 percent of his throws, with 15 touchdowns; Brett Basanez has ten TDs to one pick), and both can run it, too. But these are teams coming from very different directions, and Northwestern's momentum after stunning Wisconsin keeps rolling over what already looked like a seriously mentally disturbed team the last two years before the catastrophic field goal folly against the Buckeyes.
NORTHWESTERN 33, MICHIGAN STATE 28
MICHIGAN at IOWA
Two teams about which everyone, thus far, has been wrong, wrong, wrong - neither of these ubiquitous top 10 and 15 preseason picks is even ranked! SMQ has kept the faith with Michigan, who continues to seem to him very solid all the way around despite some, shall we say, inconsistency. But Iowa's following last season's come-from-nowhere script to T, only with a better running game, and might rise up and roll like a train through the Big Ten/Eleven the rest of the season. The beast is awakened, and tied for the league lead...
IOWA 27, MICHIGAN 21
PURDUE at #14 WISCONSIN
If Purdue has any hope of salvaging the S.S. Nice Schedule, this is the point of no return - a fifth straight loss, with two more ranked teams the next two weeks, ends all postseason ambition. Problem is, the Boilers have allowed 159 points in those four defeats; the Badgers have scored 38 or more five times, and 50 three times. Not only might Purdue lose all shreds of hope, it might be really ugly.
WISCONSIN 41, PURDUE 24
NEBRASKA at MISSOURI
This mediocre midwestern melee is actually for a share of the lead in the Big XII North, alongside Colorado, who was beaten by the best of the Big XII South by 25 points. Better, actually than the Tigers, who fell to Texas by 31. Anybody looking for some Big XII Championship tickets?
NEBRASKA 27, MISSOURI 24
SOUTHERN MISS at UAB
What's at Stake: Continued discussion in the sloth race for the C-USA East title, where four teams (Southern Miss included) stand at 2-1 in the league, and UAB is dead last at 1-2. Both of these preseason favorites have been disappointments and need a "big" win; this would qualify in a league led overall at the moment by - GULP! - Tulsa (4-3, 3-1).
USM Wants: To win the turnover battle, which is the best indicator of Eagle success. Against Tulsa, USM turned it over four times and got waxed; against Central Florida, Southern Miss picked up six early turnovers and set a school record for points in a single half. Good as Darrell Hackney is, USM has had tremendous success getting pressure on him each of the past two seasons. To look good on national TV.
UAB Wants: If it loses, to not do so by one point, as it has the past two weeks against SMU and Marshall.
The Pick: Hackney alone scares SMQ because of his Culpepper-esque passing and tackler-pulverizing, and a decent team coming off back to back one-point losses is one to fear. But those losses were to SMU and Marshall, after all, and the Blazers have still never beaten Southern Miss; the past four years, they've scored 0,17,12 and 14 points against USM. Sketchy as the Eagles - especially the God awful running game - if that streak is going to end, this doesn't look like the year.
SOUTHERN MISS 20, UAB 16
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