Indiana is playing a must-win game. I feel weird even saying those words, but they absolutely have to win this weekend. For the fourth straight week, they’re one win away from bowl-eligibility. They lost their last three games against Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan State. Only the Penn State game was close. Indiana must win this game. Time is running out.
I realize they’re playing at Northwestern next weekend and that Northwestern is no good at football, but let me say this: none of Indiana’s remaining games are gimmes. Even Ball State has shown they can play with anyone. They took Nebraska down to the wire and even played Illinois close last week before losing by 11. I can’t overstate how nervous I am for this game. Watching it is going to be exactly like the scene in ‘300’ when Theron is getting it on with King Leonidas’ wife: “You will not enjoy this. It will not be over quickly.”For the sake of every IU fan’s sanity, the Hoosiers must win Saturday.
No set of college fans has an in-game psyche more fragile than Indiana University fans. We are the loudest in the conference when things are going well for the Hoosiers. But any little thing goes wrong, like a penalty, loss of yardage, a three-pointer by the other team, anything at all, and we become absolutely dead silent. IU fans don’t know how to deal with disappointment. The team’s psyche often reflects that of the fans as well.
The football team is still in the beginning stages of building confidence among the fans. If bowl-eligibility takes any longer to attain, the fans may not recover and a bad loss at Northwestern will be looming. Ball State is an in-state, MAC team. No self-respecting Big Ten team can lose this game and take consolation in going 6-6. 6-6 sucks. 8-4 sounds much, much better. I said before that none of the games left on the schedule are gimmes, but none of them are hopeless either. The Hoosiers can blow away their three-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak to end the season. It starts with this game. One step at a time. Hey boys, DEFEND THE MOTHERF***ING ROCK.
It’s morning in America (11 am EDT) and I just got up. I look terrible, like Dane Cook’s music sounds (zing!). Phillips, The Baker, Hick Flick, and I are all ready to do battle with our IU demons. Oh, and Ball State too. I/we will be updating the site with scores and commentary all day until the last game we care about is over. How do I feel right now? Well, better than those Oregon fans who went out to the Gameday broadcast at 7am Pacific time just to watch the broadcast in the fog. I believer this is week 10 of the Guy With The Washington State Flag showing up and getting on television behind the Gameday guys. That’s commitment. Also, a shout-out to our legal adviser, Booter, who is in Minny to watch Chargers/Vikings tomorrow. So check back and enjoy yet another Saturday of the gloriousness that is college football.
Homer Game of the Week:
Ball State (5-4) at Indiana (5-4) (-7)
It’s all been said. Just win, baby.
Update: Indiana 38 Ball State 20. Indiana must be a fat guy with a mustache and a wrist guard because we’re going bowling baby! I can’t say enough about the Hoosiers today. They were actually down 10-3 in the second quarter and I was starting to wonder how I was going to manage to write about so painful a disappointment. Not that it matters now because the Hoosiers are 6-4 and bowl eligible. Is it too early to look up such wondrous vacation destinations such as Detroit, Tampa Bay or San Antonio? I want the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Arizona. And yes, I will drag my girlfriend there if I have to. Big win, boys. Big win. Now let’s beat Northwestern and Purdue, that freaking cow college. VICTO-RY!
(21) Wisconsin (7-2) at (1) Ohio State (9-0) (-16)
PJ Hill is questionable, though it looks like he’ll play. He has a leg injury, which is a major problem for a running back, especially one playing against Ohio State. This series normally has some close, crazy games but Wisconsin is down this year and their defense has been suspect at best. This is exactly the kind of team Jim Tressel loves to beat into submission. The Buckeyes will take Wisconsin out of their gameplan and make Tyler Donovan throw 40 times, which will inevitably kill the Badgers’ chances of winning, unless OSU has a major breakdown in the secondary or something. This just isn’t the year for Wisconsin.
Pick: Ohio State
Update: Ohio State 38 Wisconsin 17. The Buckeyes wouldn’t have covered if it hadn’t been for Chris Wells’ late touchdown, his third of the game, with 3:16 left in the fourth quarter. For my part, I drove Phillips crazy sitting at the bar watching this game out of the corner of my eye and openly rooting for Ohio State to score again. In truth, I was just watching Charissa Thompson’s sideline reports for the Big Ten Network. She’s, um, “fun.” At one point, OSU had a field goal attempt that would have put them up 17 and given me a cover, but it was blocked and I was apoplectic. Luckily, Tyler Donovan came through for me and fumbled, leading to Wells’ aforementioned touchdown. I can’t believe I got away with this pick, but I did and I’ll take it.
(24) Wake Forest (6-2) at (23) Virginia (7-2) (Even)
Gotta love these late-season “pick ‘em” games. This one just screams low-scoring and defense, of which Jim Grobe and Al Groh happen to be fans. Plus it’s not like Wake Forest runs what you would call a “conventional” offense. It’s amazing they still get away with handing the ball to slot backs after all this time. But hey, if it works, it works. I have to go with the hotter team here, and Wake is the much hotter team, since they didn’t lose to NC State last week. I also trust Jim Grobe much more than Al Groh. I think Jets fans would agree with me.
Pick: Wake Forest
Update: Virginia 17 Wake Forest 16. Guh. I could have started 3-0, but Virginia ruined things with a late touchdown. I still like the football-playing Demon Deacons. Basketball is another thing, but I like Jim Grobe and his team. Oh well.
On a completely unrelated note, Phillips is currently going off on how perfect for the Broncos Mike Hart is. Michigan runs the zone-blocking scheme Denver uses, and Hart is a vertical runner. He’s absolutely made for that system. Whether he’d stick is another thing, since Denver has running back ADD.
Nebraska (4-5) at (8) Kansas (8-0) (-20)
This game screams “blowout.” Kansas, against all reason, is becoming an offensive juggernaut and Nebraska’s coaches are still pissed at their defense. Plus Nebraska just lost Sam Keller for the season to a shoulder injury. But twenty points is a hell of a lot, even in a college game that’s a mismatch. The smart play says take Nebraska.
Pick: Kansas. To hell with it. When was the last time I made the smart pick?
Update: Kansas 76 Nebraska 39. Now that’s how you cover a spread! Good for Nebraska’s players. It’s good to see they’re seeing their coach off with heart and tough play. Sorry, Bill Callahan, your tenure at Nebraska is going to turn out just like your time with the Oakland Raiders, minus the Super Bowl appearance. Maybe Marc Trestman was the offensive genius on that coaching staff instead of Callahan after all.
Anyway, I’m 3-1 after the early games, which is way too good a start for the evening to end well. Not that I’m cynical about my chances. I just can’t believe both big spreads got covered today. Anyway, I’m off to enjoy the rest of the Navy/Notre Dame game, which looks to be close at the moment. Though, I may have just hexed one of the teams. Hopefully Notre Dame.
Cincinnati (6-2) at (18) South Florida (6-2) (-5)
That Rutgers game seems to have destroyed USF’s confidence. They were intense and undefeated, then they lost and didn’t react well. I still like Matt Grothe, but he can’t do everything for the team and the offense turns the ball over too much. Cincy is just happy to be here, even after losing twice. They’re a tough team to beat because they do exactly what Rutgers did to USF, namely, limit turnovers and play defense. That game plan never fails to work if a team does it right. You think it kills USF that their loss to Rutgers was pretty much the only time the Scarlet Knights got their crap together for an entire game? It sure kills me.
Update: Cincinnati 38 USF 33. Absolutely crazy game. But pretty boring for a long stretch before the end. The house of cards that is South Florida football has fallen down yet again. They simply never recovered from the Rutgers loss. Then again, they may not have been that good in the first place. Suddenly, they can’t get out of bed without turning the ball over, and teams like Cincy take advantage of that every time. Rutgers did too. Grothe is a playmaker, but he makes too many mistakes for a second-year starter. USF is now in last place in the Big East. On the bright side, I’m 4-1 now.
Also, here is our reaction to Notre Dame losing to Navy in triple overtime: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHA…Notre Dame sucks.
Also, Charlie Weis is officially an idiot coach along with Les Miles and a few others. What’s wrong with attempting a 42 yard field goal to try and win the game? Instead of just running into the pile, running the clock down, and calling time out, Weis decided to throw on second down and then run parallel to the line on third down before failing to convert fourth down. I can honestly say, that was the worst job of end-of-game management I’ve seen in a long time. And I watch A LOT of football. Suddenly, his job doesn’t seem so secure after all.
(3) LSU (7-1) at (17) Alabama (6-2) (+7)
Last week, I said Steve Spurrier would have something for Tennessee. This week is no different; Nick Saban will have something for LSU. A ton of the Tigers’ best players were Saban recruits. LSU also seems to like playing close games this season. I don’t know what Les Miles’ deal is, but he’s not the greatest game coach ever. He’s been supremely lucky this season. LSU fan should definitely not feel comfortable with him at the helm of their beloved Old War Skool team.
Update: LSU 41 Alabama 34. Everyone kiss your sister, it’s the first push of the year! LSU fans should enjoy this season while it lasts, because the only reason they got away with this game is because Nick Saban hasn’t had a chance to recruit any talent at Alabama yet. And this one was STILL close. Whatever else you want to say about the Tigers: that they’re clutch, that they make big plays, that they’re tough, the fact is that they are a sloppy team that gets away with multiple mistakes. They had 14 penalties for 149 yards tonight, including an incredibly stupid personal foul on fourth down right before the punt that followed was returned for a touchdown. LSU didn’t cause the fumble that led to their go-ahead touchdown, John Parker Wilson was simply sloppy with the ball, like he was all night. LSU is lucky once again, but hey, they won and are still in the title hunt. We’ll see if it lasts the whole season.
(4) Arizona State (8-0) at (5) Oregon (7-1) (-7.5)
I can’t get over not trusting Arizona State. Sure, they’re undefeated and look pretty good from week to week, but something doesn’t sit right. They’re like a Phil Fulmer team without the Phil Fulmer. Oregon is incredibly tough to beat at home. It used to be they were tough for everyone to beat except USC, who had gone up there and won big a couple of times. But after Saturday, Oregon is slowing attaining juggernaut status. The whole running out of the spread thing worked like crazy for West Virginia, so it makes sense that it would work for the equally talented Oregon Ducks. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Jonathan Stewart is a monster and there is no excuse to not give him the ball. A lot. I’ve been saying it all season and even for part of last season and have been proven totally right since Oregon was forced to make him the primary running back after Jeremiah Johnson’s injury. Continue freeing Jonathan Stewart!
Update: Oregon 35 Arizona State 23. Tough loss for the Sun Devils, but Oregon is clearly the better team. We watched part of this game, but turned away for the Joe Calzaghe/Mikkel Kessler title fight on HBO, so we didn’t see the end. Dixon got hurt in the fourth at some point, but it’s unclear how long he’s out or if it’s actually serious or not. That’s a huge, huge loss if Dixon is out for any length of time. Jonathan Stewart got 99 yards and touchdowns both receiving and rushing. Suffice to say, he’s good at the football. I’m 5-1-1 this week until the Rutgers disintegration is over.
Rutgers (5-3) at (13) UConn (7-1) (-1.5)
UConn is another team I just don’t trust. Louisville handed that game to them more than they won it and they caught South Florida at exactly the right time to beat them in Storrs. But I have to give them credit, they’ve been winning the right way and seem to be building a real program, not just a one-year wonder. Still, Rutgers wants its MO from last season back. They’re not going to tolerate another upstart Big East team doing what they did last season. Ray Rice will be huge again and no way does Greg Schiano let Mike Teel screw them again.
Update: UConn 39 Rutgers 19. Nice win for UConn, though I’m not exactly sure how they did it. Rutgers started off ugly early on, but ended up only having one turnover. They gained 510 yards of offense to UConn’s 397 but ended with only 19 points. Rutgers did allow 257 rushing yards, which ain’t good for a program that prides itself on defense. UConn also shut Ray Rice down in the second half, keeping him to about 20 yards. I really have to hand it to UConn, they have nothing impressive to speak of, but they got the job done again.
Florida State (5-3) at (2) Boston College (8-0) (-7)
This is the trap game to end all trap games for BC. They’re undefeated and at home against a vulnerable Florida State team. FSU is no good this year, but they’re talented like always and they’re a tough beat. Maybe Matt Ryan and the Eagles come out and win easily, but games like this are what make this new, crappy incarnation of Florida State dangerous.
Pick: Florida State
Update: Florida State 27 Boston College 17. I’m ending the day 6-3-1 with the Indy/Pats game left tomorrow. Not a bad weekend on the whole so far. Anyway, as predicted, the Eagles played right into Florida State’s hands. And they’re still Florida State, after all. Matt Ryan didn’t look good tonight, throwing 3 INT’s, the last being returned for the nail-in-the-coffin touchdown. 408 yards is nice, but not nearly nice enough. Cancel the order for the Heisman polish, Matty.
Man, it sucks being number two this season. I say that Kansas should be in that spot next week instead of LSU, but we all know how it’s going to turn out. I really just want them there because it obviously means they’re going to lose. Hopefully things end up right, one way or the other.
Oregon State (5-3) at (19) Southern California (6-2) (-15)
I’ll say it like this: if USC doesn’t come out and kick Oregon State’s ass, then something is really wrong in Watts. Already, the offensive playcalling is suspect. The Trojans have abandoned the short and mid-range passes that made their offense so fiendishly efficient in the past. Their running game, thought to be a strength before the season, has become an issue as well. Chauncey Washington, once a power-back, has become a dancer before he hits the hole and the rest of the backs have become a MASH unit. The Trojan offense simply isn’t what it once was. Yes, I know, they had Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart et al. But they were good with Justin Fargas at running back and Carson Palmer at quarterback too. John David Booty has been a bigger disappointment than people realize, but losing offensive coordinator Norm Chow to the Tennessee Titans is the bigger, quieter loss that seems to be looming over the program two years later.
Oregon State has the best rush defense in the country and John David Booty is making his first start after injuring his finger in the Stanford loss. That is not a good combination for the Trojans. Stafon Johnson should return as their feature back, however, which might add life to the offense. Something needs to add some zing over there because they’ve gone from OK to dreadful in the last month. This game will only be close if the offense ceases to function again. USC’s defense has been as good as advertised all season. They even held Oregon to nearly half its usual production last week. If not for the turnovers, USC could have had that game.
Pick: Oregon State. USC wins, but so begins the “fire Steve Sarkisian” bandwagon.
Update: USC 24 Oregon State 3. Defense was the story for the Trojans tonight. Their D has been as good as advertised all season. Freshman Everson Griffin had a coming out party with four sacks as the Trojans teed off on Sean Canfield. Yvenson Bernard didn’t play for Oregon State, which severely limited the Beavers’ options offensively. Once again, the USC offense wasn’t great, but they only turned the ball over once, thus not screwing the defense. On the bright side, nine different Trojans caught passes tonight and Chauncey Washington had a nice game. They still don’t look good at all. All the action in this game was compressed into a seven and a half minute section of the second quarter and the rest of the game was totally unremarkable, except for the Trojans’ nine sacks.
New England Patriots (8-0) at Indianapolis Colts (7-0) (+5)
I just couldn’t resist picking this one. Living in Colts’ territory, it’s hard not being influenced by the local sports radio honks who are convinced Indianapolis wins this game. I’m not even close to sold. New England is coming into this game on a level that hardly any team has reached in the NFL. Yes, they’ve done it against mostly sub-par competition, but still. Every category you can compare, the Pats are better. Offense? Pats have at least an equal amount of talent, if not much better and are scoring like crazy. Defense? The Colts’ no-name D is good, but come on. The only reason people are picking the Colts is because of the belief that Peyton Manning can do anything. It’s not enough. The Patriots are too talented and too well-coached. Finally, a villain in professional sports that isn’t toothless like the Yankees. This makes football so much more interesting.
Pick: New England
Record last week: 3-6