Thursday, November 03, 2005

November Rain

When it rains, it pours. While April is usually designated as the month that brings us showers, for college football fans, it seems that November is the time of year that it most feels like the sky is falling in regardless of whether your team is winning or losing. For those teams that are performing less successfully than anticipated, it is during this home stretch of the schedule that they appear to catch fewer and fewer breaks as their respective programs eventually collapse into a complete state of disarray. This disintegration is usually followed (or sometimes preceded) by the proverbial hot seat that opportunistically settles in behind the desks in coaches' offices all across the country in College Town, USA. And as the seat warms up, more times than not, the quality of play cools down. On the other hand, teams that are winning (specifically undefeated ones) have to confront some storms as well. However, unlike the storms that have already touched down in the backyards of their futile counterparts, these gales have not quite made landfall but instead are still in the warning stages. What type of storms are these? They are the ones of the possible postseason snub. Just like clockwork, as the calendar turns to the last few weeks of the football season, the nation realizes yet again that the method with which a champion is chosen in IA college football is both archaic and arbitrary. The "system"--if it may even be called that--is no more complex than the manner in which teams are chosen on the playground in grammar school. We all remember the guy who was the 1st pick. No matter whether he was truly deserving of his top pick status or not, he was always given the benefit of the doubt simply because he was chosen before anyone else. Similarly, the teams that are ranked high before the season ever starts are allowed their position of supremacy over others throughout the year merely because they were put there first. That definitely sounds like a logical reason to me. Does it not to you? Furthermore, when the creators and supporters of this absurd scheme argue that "it will all work out in the end," and "you just have to be patient," they sound more like the addicted gambler who can't leave the Blackjack table: despite continuing to lose, he knows his "system" is going to work if he just waits a little longer for the right cards. But we all know that Las Vegas wasn't built by people with the best interest of others at heart. Likewise, we also are aware that college football's best interest is not being served by the architects behind the current postseason format. However, in spite of these annual dilemmas brought on by our autumn passion, we continue to feed our craving for college football in hopes that one day the rain that comes at the end of each and every season will eventually become showers of blessing.

Now, to the picks...

Alabama 24, Mississippi State 3. All across the Magnolia State this week, writers and dreamers alike have been reminding football fans of that fateful day in early November of 1980 when a highly overmatched Bulldog team took down an undefeated and top ranked team from Alabama in possibly the biggest upset in the "storied" history of Mississippi State football. In an effort to recreate the magic of that Saturday 25 years ago, Slyvester Croom has employed more than his share of motivational tactics to prepare his team for the arrival of the SEC's best this weekend. Encouraging all fans to wear the same color, designating every player from Alabama on the State roster as a game captain, and starting a new quarterback in an effort to revive a breathless offense are just some of the ploys utilized by the 2nd year head coach in preparation for Saturday's contest. But, even if David Copperfield himself dressed out in a maroon jersey this weekend, the Bulldogs still wouldn't be able to garner enough magic to pull off this upset. However, his presence would explain the inevitable disappearance of an opposing team to the Tide as it may look like, at times, that Mike Shula's team is on the field all by itself this weekend. While the game may be closer than expected (Alabama has had to come from behind in both games this year against MS teams), there's no way an offense that put up 7 points against a wretched Kentucky team will suddenly be able to score on the nation's 3rd ranked defense, even if they do now have a 175 pound Freshman QB. So, when it's all said and done at Scott Field on Saturday, the Tide will be 9-0 and ready for its 2 final exams against its real SEC West opponents to close out the year.

Notre Dame 17, Tennessee 14 (OT). One coach got a 10 year extension, and the other gave his 10 week notice (maybe less if the Vols don't make a bowl). This pretty much sums up the state of the 2 programs that will be on display in South Bend this weekend. The combination of amazing success at Notre Dame, unanticipated failure at Tennessee, and the Irish having 2 weeks to prepare for the Vols have caused many experts to write this game off as another win over a top football school for Charlie Weis in his inaugural season. But, in the words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast!" The Golden Domers may have one of the most productive offenses in the nation, but that is a result of playing poor defenses. When the Irish face a real defense this weekend (as they did when they played in Ann Arbor), don't expect the points to come as easily as viewers from across the nation finally begin to understand why the point production has been so low in the SEC this season. However, the Vols, who have been "suffering from a severe case of offensive constipation," (as eloquently articulated by ESPN Sr. Writer Ivan Maisel) probably won't be able to reach the end zone enough to pull out the victory as losing their offensive coordinator during game week preparations will prove to not be the most effective laxative. Expect this game, like 2 previous ones played at Notre Dame Stadium this year, to come down to the last play. But this time, the Irish will be on the winning end for a change.

Virginia Tech 20, Miami 17. For the 2nd week in a row, the eyes of the nation are focused on Blacksburg, VA, as the Hokies face another former Big East comrade in a game whose ramifications will not only be felt throughout the ACC but also the rest of the nation. With a victory over the Hurricanes this weekend, Frank Beamer's team will pretty much be guaranteed an undefeated regular season as Virginia (4-3) and North Carolina (3-4) are all that await the Hokies before the inaugural ACC championship game. And a Miami win gives the Canes the tiebreaker needed if both teams finish with just one loss. Even though Marcus Vick steals most of the Hokie spotlight and Miami is more accustomed to producing Bernie Kosar's, Gino Torreta's, and Ken Dorsey's than Warren Sapp's, the defenses will be the dominant forces in this matchup featuring 2 quarterbacks with only 15 career starts between them. And if we've learned anything this year, it's that voters would rather see a good offense than a great defense any day--regardless of what ridiculous uniforms Nike makes for these teams this week. Therefore, despite a late-season win over a top 5 opponent, Virginia Tech will still be on the outside looking in at a chance to play for the national championship.

Penn St. 35, Wisconsin 21. In the Big 11 this year, 2 coaches nearing the end of the road are out to prove that you can teach an old dog new tricks. By opening up the playbook more and finally using a quarterback who's not purely a pocket passer, Joe Paterno has led the Nittany Lions back near the top of the national polls. On the other sideline, Barry Alvarez has forsaken his predilection of the stocky, powerful backs of Ron Dayne and Anthony Davis and has turned to the finesse of Brian Calhoun, a Colorado transfer who was placed at wide receiver in Boulder. So, when these 2 football stalwarts face off this weekend in Beaver Stadium, it may seem more like a game played out West than in the North as the scoreboard will be lit up all day long. But the boys from University Park, PA, should burn more of the bulbs as the Badger defense ranks near the bottom in the nation in points allowed while Penn St. has All-American LB Paul Posluszny to keep Calhoun in check.

South Carolina 27, Arkansas 13. One week after Steve Spurrier officially marked his return to the SEC by throwing some more blows at his old punching bag in Knoxville, he takes his South Carolina team on the road again in search of win number 6, which would make the Gamecocks bowl-eligible. In Spurrier's 3 previous encounters with the Razorbacks, he's dominated the Hogs by an average score of 44-6, so a trip to the Nutt-House at D.W. Reynolds stadium shouldn't cause too much concern for a team that just conquered Neyland Stadium. All season long Houston Nutt's ball club has been looking for that elusive 1st conference win. In an effort to increase his chances this week, Nutt's wasting a year of eligibility for Freshman QB Casey Dick by naming him the starter for Saturday's matchup by pulling off his red shirt. But this won't solve the problem either. Instead, it'll only increase the Gamecock's chance of accomplishing the ol' ball coach's goal of playing in the postseason in his 1st year back in the SEC.

Well, that'll do it for another week. I hope you liked the picks, but if you didn't, I apologize. I've been suffering from a severe case of prediction constipation...Have a good weekend and come back next week to see who will make it to the SEC championship in Atlanta.


Anonymous Russell said...

Harsh words for Fulmer dont you think? I mean D3? Who even thinks they are athletic cause they excelled at D3 sports? 13.73... Kyle can you guess what that number is?

Thursday, November 03, 2005 4:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why no Vandy v. Florida?

Thursday, November 03, 2005 7:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Nick said...

What up with the wisconsin/penn state pick...and nice analogy and prose for the intro...very "pat conroyesque"...and the UT/ND pick is crazy. No way that game goes to OT...UT gets blown out...they are through this year

Thursday, November 03, 2005 9:11:00 PM  
Blogger Josh Manley said...

i am just surprised you even gave MSU 3 points. if bama even plays somewhat of a close game with a team that lost to Houston, they should hang their head in shame. there is no excuse for this not being a blowout. UT loses a few close games and randy sanders gets canned...what a fan base.

Friday, November 04, 2005 6:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Sandy said...

Great opening comments
bama does not beat State by 21 - it will prove their critics right that they are not deserving of a #4 ranking in anyone's poll. I don't think Va.Tech, Texas, or SC would struggle in Starkville- ( or for that matter Penn State, Miaimi, Florida State etc. ( or even Houston or Maine)- You get the message.
Look for Tennessee to make the SEC proud in South Bend. Finally, Go Canes!!!!

Friday, November 04, 2005 6:57:00 AM  
Blogger AnnaDuggan said...


Friday, November 04, 2005 7:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Pudge said...

Even though its past Halloween, get ready for the ghosts of the 1991 team to haunt ND Stadium this weekend. If you have no clue what happened in 1991, then Google "Miracle at South Bend." Down by 28, Tennessee led by Andy Kelly, Aaron Hayden, Daryl Hardy, Chuck Smith and Veron Peebles pulls of the biggest upset in Tennessee history. That is until Nov. 5, 2005.

Friday, November 04, 2005 2:25:00 PM  
Blogger Josh Manley said...

Bama looked very unimpresive, and I am a fan. I do believe their defense is incredible, but their offense makes me nervous every play. I do not expect them to win out...

Sunday, November 06, 2005 12:20:00 PM  
Anonymous James said...

The Crimson Tide is up for yet another Pontiac Game Changing Performance. This week it is Matt Miller's return of a Miss. State fumble for a touchdown on the opening kickoff of the 2nd half.
Go vote for Matt Miller for Pontiac Game Changing Performer.

Pontiac Game Changing Performance

Sunday, November 06, 2005 2:02:00 PM  
Anonymous James said...

The "non-football act" is in the rulebook. When it was called, Matt Miller was essentially simulating the snap by barking out signals.
Let's not forget the last offensive play for Alabama in the first half when Brodie Croyle fumbled and Ken Darby advances it to the 5 yard line only for the occassion when only the quarterback can advance his own fumble on 4th down. Plus, "the spot of the fumble" was not the 11 yard line but the 10 yard line.
The SEC officials had actually shown some improvement this year but they quickly reverted to reliable wimp status this past Saturday.

Monday, November 07, 2005 6:55:00 AM  
Anonymous david said...

Excellent picks last week. who are you going to feature this week
Bama- LSU
Georgia Auburn
Ark- Ole Miss
SC Florida
It could be an all sec weekend

Monday, November 07, 2005 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous david said...

What happen to Tony being pimp of the week- Best tailgate in the south!!!

Monday, November 07, 2005 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous James said...

College football news has a great piece on how the media love affair with a USC-Texas matchup maybe a little premature.
Also Gameday will be in Tuscaloosa this weekend. In addition, Skip Bayless, Woody Paige and Jay Crawford of ESPN2's Cold Pizza will be live from the Gameday set in Tuscaloosa doing their show from 7-9 Friday morning.

Fiu's Cavalcade of Whimsy

Tuesday, November 08, 2005 4:15:00 PM  
Anonymous James said...

The college football season is coming down the home stretch and only 3 teams remain undefeated. One of them of course is Bama.
LSU comes in with possibly the most talent of any team Alabama has faced all year. LSU has explosive playmakers in wr/pr Skyler Green, wide out Dwayne Bowe and running back Joseph Addai. JaMarcus Russell has completed 64 percent of his pass attempts for 1759 yards with 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Expect a lot of deep balls to receivers like Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis and Early Doucet with Skyler Green getting slip screens and short hooks to take advantage of his ability to side step defenders.
For Alabama, the offense has been able to move the ball between the 20s but has had trouble scoring in the red zone as evidenced by 222 yards in the first half but only 3 points on offense. The key to an Alabama victory will be the play of the offensive line and the kick coverage units. If the o-line can give Brodie Croyle some time, then he can make a pourous LSU secondary pay with some big plays in the passing game. For the special teams field position will be important. If the coverage units can keep Skyler Green in check, then the defense should be able to do what it has been doing all year long, and that is dominate.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 3:33:00 PM  

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