A weekly primer.
SMQ has a proposed addition to the the Gameday drinking game laid out by Mayor Kyle at his old site: take a drink every time Kirk Herbstreit describes a coach/player/locale as "one of the best [insert coach/player/locale]s in all of college football." It must be this exact phrase. And it will pay off - "in all of college football" came out at least three times Thursday during the V-Tech-Clemson game, and can top out at as high as half-a-dozen for Gameday. Count `em.
SMQ Will Be Watching
Well, not much, actually, and the meh slate this week makes it an inviting one for some laptop pickin' up and Halloween partyin'. The USM-East Carolina game is also a strong, strong possibility, though not determined yet (you SEC and Big Ten fans must be jealous that tickets to your school's games must be secured months or years in advance, rather than pretty much anytime into the second quarter, huh? What? You're not?). Most importantly, SMQ's personal laptop is allegedly healed and scheduled to be back in the lineup after two months on the IR, which will open up the offense a little bit. It's waiting to be picked up a couple hours away, where other business must also be tended for imminent plans, so it's more or less whatever is on in between these and other important holiday events. Would like to catch some UGA-Florida if possible.
If someone in this costume is as close as SMQ gets to football Saturday, well, sometimes sacrifices are necessary
Finally, We'll Learn About...
Baylor: got some teeth for a bowl run? The Bears can pull one game above .500 entering November with a win over visiting and ripe (see below) Texas A&M. This is unprecedented since the more C-USA/Mountain West-ish Bears agreed to become the stock fool of the Big XII ten years ago.
Most to Gain
This time last year, South Carolina was considered a dismal team with no hope of competing in the SEC, then rallied to beat Tennessee on the road and used it as a springboard to knocking Florida out of the league championship game. USC is in slightly better position against the Vols this year, and could make its upcoming game with Florida - especially with a Gator loss Saturday - unexpectedly interesting if it upsets UT for the second straight season.
Most to Lose
Nebraska and Missouri are setting up a tidy little showdown for the Big XII North title next week, but both have to get by the state of Oklahoma first: the Tigers host Oklahoma, Nebraska has to visit quietly high-scoring Oklahoma State. Next week could still be for the lead, but with two league losses apiece instead of just one.
Lame Game of the Week
Typically, the previous two league champions meet with some tangible hardware on the line, but 2005 MAC champ Akron and '04 champ Toledo are a combined 1-6 in conference play this season and 5-10 overall. Between them, the Rockets and Zips have been outscored by about two touchdowns per conference game.
Inevitable Blowout of the Week, in Conjunction with the Buffalo Line Watch
Since joining Division I-A football in 1999, Buffalo has been favored to win only once, against Temple to open this season. This week, the Bulls, coming off a five-touchdown loss to Ohio U., are roughly five-touchdown underdogs at Boston College.
Weird Line(s) of the Week
For entertainment purposes only, of course...
Without necessarily projecting any upsets, a couple of lines strike SMQ as excessively high: Tulsa is supposed to beat UTEP by just over two touchdowns tonight, and UConn is getting as much as 19.5 against Rutgers on Sunday night. SMQ understands the logic of both, but UTEP, coming off one of its worst games of the last couple years against Houston, has the firepower to keep up with Tulsa's very frustrating and rolling attack on the road. The Miners have a lot to lose, are presumptively faster than Tulsa, at least (that is a complete guess based on the respective styles of these teams), and will put up a better fight to stay in the West division race than two touchdowns. UConn, similarly, has typically been more competitive the past few seasons than to get borderline blown out by 19.5, especially a team SMQ thinks will win but is not getting carried away with enough yet to project a margin higher than the low double digits. And should Mississippi State be favored over Kentucky? SMQ doesn't think so.
WE CAN REBUILD. WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY...
Iowa: Garrett Wolfe is looking to break out of his slump, but even a big day for the Mighty Mite shouldn't get NIU past the somewhat reeling Hawkeyes.
Alabama: Barring Last Boy Scout behavior from Florida International, that is.
Nebraska: More tentative than one might guess against Oklahoma State. Needs to show some consistency running the ball.
Georgia Tech: Also tentative, and flatly wrong if Calvin Johnson is stubbornly ignored again against Miami.
Oregon: Nothing like a nice Portland State to get back on track an upset loss.
Florida State: Don't ask why.
Washington: Kept its cool without Stanback at Cal and will take care of business at home against Arizona State.
5-3 ATS, 4-2 AS A DD HOME DOG, IT'S SMQ'S DOUBLE BARRELL GOLDEN ROCK SOLID BARKING DOG OF THE WEEK!
If it were totally logical, it wouldn't be an upset
Texas A&M at Baylor
Oddsmakers are keeping this one closer than SMQ would expect, pegging the Aggies only as 3.5 to 5-point favorites. SMQ, though, advises Baylor straight-up: the Bears beat A&M in Waco in 2004, took them to overtime in College Station last year, and come in with one of the best passing offenses in the nation. It is true that the Bears cannot run the ball a lick (42 yards per game as a team, easily the worst in the country), but it's also true that Texas A&M struggles with teams like, say, Army on the road with some regularity and under Dennis Franchione have frequently been trashed by pretty much anyone with a pulse away from the suspicious Twelfth Man. TAMU is also known for playing atrocious pass defense, which is up the Bears' alley. And Guy Morriss is already warning: this is not a goal post-felling game anymore.
BAYLOR 34, TEXAS A&M 30
Morris: Still checks to thwart field-rushing fans
Florida vs. Georgia
Comparing stats on these two teams, SMQ would say Georgia is better than Florida in two areas: pass protection and kick returns. Florida is the equal or better at running, passing, stopping the run, stopping the pass, pressuring the quarterback and hanging on to the ball. And since the pass protection is based on sacks, and Georgia has a more run-oriented attack than the Gators, that "advantage" is probably negligible or non-existent itself; SMQ, therefore, sees Georgia's only real chances with its quarterback situation are in striking on a big play on special teams - the Dawgs had a couple returns for touchdowns against Tennessee, and Florida had the big punt team breakdown that cost it the Auburn game. But Georgia's own special teams mistakes cost it big against Tennessee, and really, a team can only have so many return touchdowns before the well runs dry, or teams at least start kicking away. But UF has not been giving up big returns in any regard. Matthew Stafford, meanwhile, threw three interceptions last week in a near-loss to Mississippi State. So good luck with Jarvis Moss, Brandon Siler and Reggie Nelson. Neither team is going to find much a run game beyond fits and starts.
The Pick: As long as the actual alcohol's not redacted here, Georgia fans should be able to drown their sorrows in Cherrishinksis, but rest assured, sorrows there will be. Much respect as he has for Mark Richt's success and program, and much as that gives him a sinking feeling he should know better than write that program off, SMQ has more respect for veteran quarterbacks and first downs and stuff, which UGA will find in even shorter supply against Florida's defense Saturday than it has the rest of this forgettable season.
FLORIDA 22, GEORGIA 10
Oklahoma at Missouri
In its loss at Texas A&M a couple weeks ago, Missouri suffered from a couple turnovers and only held the ball for a little over 18 minutes, but the Tigers were never really consistently stopped and managed to hang in a tough environment down to the last drive of the game. Oklahoma is probably better defensively than A&M and may generate a few more stops. But what we don't know is what the Sooner offense looks like without Adrian Peterson - it's not pretty, if OU's win at Colorado is any indication (backup James Allen carried 35 times for less than four yards a pop, Paul Thompson barely cracked 100 yards passing). As it applies to this game, as no there's been no apparent attempt to shift the offensive focus to Thompson's arm, the question is whether Oklahoma can establish anything on the ground that can help it approach approximating TAMU's possession advantage. SMQ would assume not.
MISSOURI 24, OKLAHOMA 16
Penn State at Purdue
The Boilermakers have some really sparkly passing stats, but Wisconsin and Iowa have each exposed the smoke and mirrors nature of bombing the weak sisters - Curtis Painter didn't approach 300 in either of those losses, despite his team trailing by multiple scores for most of both. Purdue did run the ball a bit against Wisconsin, a smidge, but SMQ's not sure if these are meaningful yards or permitted by a late Badger prevent. But Penn State, too, had a disastrous time just trying to deal with Illinois and some person named Mendenhall, and failed to get any kind of ground game going. Again, against Illinois. This is a far less impressive collision than the recent past and the records would indicate. SMQ likes Penn State's defense more, and imagines Derrick Williams and his speedy contemporaries can get behind Purdue's very, very generous secondary. If Anthony Morelli can remain in one piece and get it that far with any accuracy, that is.
PENN STATE 26, PURDUE 21
Miami at Georgia Tech
SMQ hasn't seen them play since the opener with Florida State and parts of the Louisville game, but in both of those and in a couple games last year (most notably Virginia Tech), the `Canes have lived and died with its very athletic secondary playing an aggressive bump-and-run. And if they try this Saturday against Calvin Johnson, for god's sake, throw him the ball. And even if they don't, throw him the ball. Tech coaches and Reggie Ball were definitely eviscerated this week for taking the most dynamic remaining offensive player in the country out of the game, when they so desperately needed a big play to stay in it. This will not work against Miami, either, and if Tech's run defense is no better than against Clemson (it didn't have to deal with the full brunt of Virginia Tech because the Hokies were so far behind so quickly), believe Jarvarris James will go C.J. Spiller on it. Because SMQ has no faith in Kyle Wright or Miami's current psyche in general, and Tech is back at home, he's willing to think the Jackets have learned from last week and can call it a particularly hideous mulligan. But this is only if they shore up those mostly mental/fundamental errors.
GEORGIA TECH 23, MIAMI 18
Nebraska at Oklahoma State
Danger, Bill Callahan! Nebraska masqueraded as a big play offense against Texas last week, but those plays came largely in the wake of poor angles, missed tackles, and mental/assignment breakdowns by the Texas defense rather than the establishment of anything in particular to keep the chains moving at any kind of consistent clip. Don't get SMQ wrong - Oklahoma State's defense is more than capable of out-mistaking Texas any day of the week, but it's also got some explosiveness out of its own, very balanced offense: OSU hasn't been held this year under 350 total yards or 25 points, and that includes last week's overtime loss to TAMU. The Cowboys also rank highly at the moment in two areas that hurt Nebraska last week: getting to the quarterback (OSU is 7th nationally in sacks, 3rd in tackles for loss) and both kick (OSU leads the nation per return) and punt returns (10th). Two caveats prevent the upset pick: emerging QB Bobby Reid could be out, and the Cowboys are suspect against the run if Nebraska commits to it. And one big caveat: Nebraska's just a little bit better. But probably just a little bit.
NEBRASKA 33, OKLAHOMA STATE 28
Texas at Texas Tech
The Raiders are supposedly a prime upset bidder here, but SMQ has doubts about Tech's "big play " passing game, one that's still led by Graham Harrell, who threw five interceptions in back-to-back losses against Colorado and Missouri and came back to throw six scores and zero picks at Iowa State last week. Inconsistency and 24-point losses to teams that have beaten no one else two months into the season, against Texas, will get you nowhere. The Raiders are also not very good stopping the run and abominable these days attempting to hand off their own selves - Peter is probably right about the separation pangs with perfect fit Taurean Henderson.
TEXAS 36, TEXAS TECH 20
Washington State at UCLA
Ah, Washington State, now everyone loves you, no? SMQ is taking the Cougars on the road for two reasons that have pretty much nothing to do with anything: one, he's never picked UCLA to win a game forecasted in two years of Thursday or Friday Morning Quarterback, which was coincidental but now is destined to become a desperate running gag, and two, WSU has a player named DeMaundray Woolridge and another (very good player) whose first name is Mkristo, both of which trump UCLA's best, Nikola Dragovic, in SMQ's estimation. And if that makes him sound like the loathed Schwam! picking the Bears to win an NFL game 9-4 because of an NLCS game in 1948, well then, that's...why they play the games.
WASHINGTON STATE 28, UCLA 23
Mkristo and taking some time out to be a role model: sounds like a winner to SMQ
Florida State at Maryland
FSU, obviously, has arrived at its final destination in the cellar after three losses in four ACC games, but is Maryland supposedly on its way up? The Terps have won two straight...but over Virginia and NC State. They're 5-2...against mostly the Williams and Marys and Floridas International. Leading Georgia Tech for most of the game is not much on which to hang your proverbial hat. SMQ is compelled to take the Seminoles here, though he rhetorically asks from the border of madness: why, why does he still find himself thinking Florida State has some kind of resiliency in its tank? Is he turning into Beano Cook?
FLORIDA STATE 28, MARYLAND 19
Feel the stodginess flow through your veins...
Tennessee at South Carolina
More upset vibes floated about this one on the WWL last night, but reality says Tennessee's offense is more or less cooking for the first time since...the last time David Cutcliffe was calling plays there. Huh. And anyway, South Carolina may be competitive again at home, a la the Auburn game, but it doesn't have the firepower to hang in for the long haul with the Vols.
TENNESSEE 31, SOUTH CAROLINA 21
Notre Dame at Navy
Thrown in as a nod to Navy's consistency and worth to be taken seriously against major opponents, as well as an opportunity to type (okay, paste) the name Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada. But Notre Dame wins. Again.
NOTRE DAME 41, NAVY 17
UTEP at Tulsa
SMQ knows little of UTEP, other than its passing ability via Jordan Palmer and Johnnie Lee Higgins, one of the leading receivers statistically in the country. But he was impressed with Tulsa in its beatdown of Southern Miss, when it was a disciplined team that did pretty much everything well, pushed the buttons that led to an effective offense despite no downfield passing threat, and was always in the right spots on defense, despite not being very big, fast or remotely spectacular at anything. Well-coached. At home, that has to take precedent - the Hurricane can also pretty much lock up the division with a win here, as it would require two Tulsa losses, when not even one is likely, to get UTEP or Houston back into the race.
TULSA 32, UTEP 24
BYU at Air Force
For the Mountain West lead, more or less. Not to slight a pretty decent USAFA bunch, but BYU is on a monster roll offensively, scoring at least 31 (and usually way more) in four straight, and before that hung 49 on a pretty solid Tulsa defense and way over 500 total yards on Boston College, despite only scoring 23 in an OT loss there. And Air Force, well, it can produce more big plays out of the running game - and the pass off it, with Shaun Carney - than it has any right to, but if BYU goes up two scores at any point, these Falcons are probably some dead ducks.
BYU 38, AIR FORCE 24
East Carolina at Southern Miss
Virginia Tech obliterated the reverse jinx last week, but if USM needs a jinx or any other kind of superstition to deal with ECU, which has only beaten Southern once since it joined the league and never in the last five years, the situation is far beyond being worth the effort. ECU is still a whipping boy as far as SMQ is concerned, though an obviously improved one. James Pinkney is a senior quarterback who has been awful in the past but is coming off a career high in passing at SMU and seems to have really blossomed under Skip Holtz; he's also getting his best receiver, Aundrae Allison, back. But USM gets is diminutive workhorse, too, Damion Fletcher, against a Pirate run defense that's only a little bit improved from the all-time classic horror show units of the earlier years of this decade. SMQ will be surprised and dismayed if he doesn't top 100 pretty easily, and Pinkney doesn't commit at least one costly turnover.
SOUTHERN MISS 27, EAST CAROLINA 17
The Sunday Morning Quarterback feature, frankly, is tentative. It may appear in full, it may be somewhat abbreviated. But SMQ does want to cajole readers to take a more active part than usual in the game day open thread Saturday. This is not typically a comments-driven blog, but with SMQ necessarily out of the loop most of the day, he'd like to have some non-box score guidance to take everything in. So let's rock the comments Saturday.