I keep hearing the song Memoriesin my head, and I hate that dadgum song. But, I can’t help it given the fact that this Thursday’s matchup is the last game between these two for a while. That has me (and others) sad so here are a few good memories to digest.
a. The Bonfire Game in 1999
b. Ricky breaking the record in 1998
c. Cyrus’ big night in 2010
d. The 49-39 shootout in 2009
Okay, now I’m in the right mental frame of mind to think about this game. It’s a matchup with one team that has no quarterback on offense and the other with no true quarterback on defense. The Longhorns have two quarterbacks, Case McCoy and David Ash, but neither one can wrest the job away from the other. The good news for the Aggies is that, other than Fozzy Whittaker, the Horns running backs are relatively healthy.
On the other side of the field, the Aggies are still lacking a true identity on the defensive side of the ball, and most importantly, it has lacked a leader all year long. However, the Ags played a complete game against Kansas (yes, I know, I know, but sometimes a game like that can kick start a team) and that was exactly what Mike Sherman needed.
The key to this one is whether the Longhorns can mix up their run looks to keep the Ags 15th ranked run defense on its heels. A&M’s defense is excellent against the run, but the pass defense stinks so if Texas can…nah, not this year, not with these two quarterbacks. Maybe next…well, maybe not. Enjoy this last one, folks.
All week long we’ve talked about what happens to the BCS if Arkansas pulls the upset over LSU, but what sort of chaos unfolds if Auburn upsets Alabama on the Plains? Combine an upset of that magnitude with another Oklahoma State loss and another Stanford loss and there’s no telling what team ends up in the national championship game. However, that’s a discussion for a later date and perhaps moot, as this could be a rough afternoon for the Tigers, even at home.
Auburn’s offense has gone south in games against good teams. Against Georgia, seven points. Against LSU, 10 points. Against Arkansas, 14 points. In games against SEC opponents (minus the Egg Bowl schools), the Tigers are averaging 12.3 points per game. And, someone remind me, Alabama has the best defense in the country or the best defense to ever wear the Crimson and White, which is it or is it both?
Either way, the Tigers are up against it with the Tide’s defense looking for a bit of revenge for last year’s collapse in Tuscaloosa. Don’t expect Alabama to let off the gas pedal either. Alabama RB Trent Richardson can lock up a trip to New York with a strong performance against the 98th ranked rush defense in the country. Uh oh. I’m worried that many of you will be turning this one off by halftime.
Trying to put into words what Mike London has done at Virginia is pretty difficult. The Virginia program had fallen into the “cellar dweller” status in the ACC with no discernable light at the end of the, well, cellar with Al Groh at the helm. But, after a year of implementing his plan, London found the right formula with some highly recruited freshmen, a steady quarterback (after weeks of playing around with a two QB system) and a rock solid defense, all of which has the Cavs one win away from playing in the ACC championship game in Charlotte.
Since losing to NC State at home four weeks ago, the Cavs took the show on the road beating Miami, Maryland and Florida State on the road, giving up only an average of 15.6 points per game in those wins. Offensively, UVa doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, but Perry Jones and Kevin Parks have proven they can handle the load on the ground (the two have combined for 143 yards per game). In stark contrast to Virginia, Virginia Tech has been here before, plenty of times. With a win, the Hokies will be playing in the ACC championship game for the fourth time in five years (the only non-title year was 2009).
The key to this win is going to be the continued strong play of VT QB Logan Thomas. Since the Clemson game, Thomas has registered 20 touchdowns (8 rushing, 12 passing) with only two interceptions. Everyone knows that RB David Wilson is the best running back in the ACC, but Thomas’ performance has changed the complexion of Virginia Tech’s offense since that Clemson game. This is the best offense that Virginia has faced and the Hokies offense will prove its might during the second half. This win sends Virginia Tech to Charlotte…again.
What in the name of Perry Tuttle happened in Raleigh last weekend against NC State? It struck me as the type of game that Clemson just needed to burn the film and move on, but that’s easier said than done, honestly. The biggest concern was how dreadful the Tigers’ defense was tackling in space. It’s not as if they couldn’t do it, they just didn’t want to do it, seemingly. NC State shredded the secondary, a group that, in my opinion, has been dreadful at times this season; however, no team had been able to slow the Tigers offense enough to make Clemson pay.
But, NC State’s defense shut down the Clemson run game and that essentially ended it for the Tigers. Making matters worse for the Tigers, the Gamecocks have one of the best defensive units in the country. So, the scarred Tigers offense takes on a hot South Carolina defense and it’s supposed to go well for Clemson? It can go well for Clemson if the run game can get going early, giving QB Tajh Boyd the ability to use the play action passing game effectively.
If South Carolina’s defense has an Achilles heel at all, it’s the ability to shut down the run, but it’s going to take a Herculean effort to run for the 175+ yards that Clemson is going to need to win this game. South Carolina’s offense will do enough to win its tenth game this season. A loss for Clemson will put it in danger of losing to VT/UVa in Charlotte next week and finishing 1-4 down the stretch. That’s a real possibility. A scary one.
With all that has transpired at Penn State over the past three weeks, getting on the field, much less winning games, is an accomplishment for these players. So, going to Ohio State, knocking off the reigning Big 10 champions and setting up a de facto Big 10 Leaders Championship game is nearly incredible. But, that was facing an offensively impotent Ohio State squad; Wisconsin, on the other hand, possesses one of the best offenses in the nation, with a top ten running game. Different ball game entirely.
The Penn State defense has carried the Nittany Lions all season long. Other than Northwestern’s 24 and Alabama’s 27, no team has scored more than 18 points against the Devon Still-led defense. However, no team on that schedule has an offense that you’d even classify as competent (other than Northwestern/Alabama, the next best offense is Nebraska’s 58th ranked offense). The point is that on the road, for the second straight week, is difficult enough, but this trip is made that much more difficult by having to stop RB Montee Ball, the REAL star of the Wisconsin offense. Ball shredded Illinois last week, piling up 224 yards on 38 bruising carries and even with Wisconsin’s offensive line a bit banged up, he’ll be the focus of the Wisconsin game plan, yet again. He’s scored 30 touchdowns this season and hasn’t had one game with fewer than two touchdowns. Yes, he’s scored at least two touchdowns in EVERY game this year.
Penn State must sell out with S Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay sending them to the line of scrimmage to slow down Ball. Yes, QB Russell Wilson can have a field day against an over-aggressive defense, but slowing Ball is a bigger key for the PSU defense. If Still and the rest of the front seven do their job, then there’s a chance of keeping Wisconsin in check, as Illinois did for a while in last week’s game. But, Illinois eventually succumbed to Wisconsin’s explosiveness and Penn State will, too.
Plenty of Irish fans thought that just maybe the Irish would have a chance to battle for a BCS bowl game. But, if it’s some consolation, the Irish can still have an impact on which teams will make the BCS. A win over Stanford at Stanford will give voters and BCS bowl directors pause as to whether they want to bring the Cardinal to their BCS bowl game. Think about it: If Stanford loses, it will have only one quality win (USC) and two losses in their biggest games. AT HOME, no less. Andrew Luck will be a draw for BCS bowls no matter what happens this weekend, but that’s a discussion for a different time.
I think this one is closer than most experts think. Notre Dame’s offense, when not turning the ball over, is much more potent than Cal’s unit and the Golden Bears put up 28 on the Cardinal defense. The Cardinal defense has been exposed over the last few weeks, without some key players in the lineup. As such, it’s just a matter of whether Notre Dame can drive a stake into the Cardinal ‘D’ and finish them for good.
Even with Jonas Gray out, the Irish’s offensive balance will give Stanford fits for a full sixty minutes, but in the end, the Cardinal will return the favor to Notre Dame’s defense. Luck will have his best game of the year, throwing for 325+ yards and three touchdowns, as his offensive line will give him plenty of time to throw. In the end, Notre Dame will keep it too close for comfort, but Stanford will pull it out at home for win #11 on the season.