After a week like week three--the week we dare you to die before seeing just to watch your zombified body punch its way out of the grave and stumble itself down to the nearest sports bar--week four was inevitably going to be a letdown week. We could feel it in our bones after years of Gator fan programming taking us from the Waterloo of Tennessee to the piddling stakes and performance of the Kentucky game: a merely interesting week of football had to come. Clicking the page on the schedule to see the following monkey-poop quality matchups on the docket only confirms that suspicion:
--Buffalo at Auburn
--Florida Atlantic at South Carolina
--Arkansas State at Southern Methodist
Ask him: after Waterloo, there's always a letdown.
Don't let on to other, non-football types in your life that this weekend presents any less of a footballpacalypse than any other weekend, though. They might book you for, you know, the weekend of the walking dead, and we can't have you staggering slowly through your local outlet mall or trapped at a big box retailer silently wishing for death even when it's only a slightly awesome week of gridiron mauling.
The Chan Gailey Chantagonistic Unscheduled Scrimmage Match of the Year:Thursday, Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m: UVA at Georgia Tech.
Exactly, precisely, and yea verily the game Chan Gailey Georgia Tech teams see on the schedule as "televised scrimmage." The product of mathematical truth, Georgia Tech's likely defeat in this game should surprise exactly no one since Gailey's teams have over the course of three years failed to produce two good games in a row against quality competition, producing the conditions leading to Chan Gailey Equilibrium. (This would be the eventual outcome of all competitions being a total record of 7-5, no matter if the team is playing a long list of Savannah States or USC every week.)
Picture of Matlock, put up simply because we cannot say Chan Gailey without thinking about Andy Griffith.
Little plays out well for Tech in this game. Contrary to your likely initial hunches,
Ball doesn't play terribly against UVA (he saves the special nutpunches for games like UGA, where he forgets down counts, throws game-ending picks, and makes Tech fans weep in the stands at what their offense has become under Gailey.) He will pass a lot in this game, though, since UVA's game plan resembles everyone else's for the Tech game: shut down the run and make Tech attack you with their "Bald Bull" air attack of short jabs and long, wild haymakers.
Defensively the UVA-Tech matchup holds little promise for the Jackets either. The Cavaliers waddle and nip their way along with a paleo-West Coast attack perfectly suited for a chess match like John Tenuta's blitzy schemes. With all those short curls, slants, quick hit runs and outlet receivers loitering in the flats, a mere appearance of a competent Marques Hagans should be enough to ensure a UVA victory here and continue their dominance here. For future reference, you can take the words "NC State" and plug them in place of "UVA" here, since the same applies to them versus Tech.
CORRECTION: The quaintly named Christian Olsen will be the starting quarterback this year for UVA, which really doesn't change much about what we think will happen here since Reggie Ball is still the starter on the other side, and will therefore take any gifts a new starter may toss Tech's way and give them right back to UVA.
This all makes Al Groh sound like a mad genius twirling the knobs of a diabolical machine called Cavalier football. This should say less about Al Groh's unstoppable charisma and scheming, however, and more of the complete lack of faith in Chan Gailey's ability to do anything besides place the correct personnel on the field on the right down, run a few more times than he passes, and let his offense attempt to hold onto the ball while his defense valiantly attempts to win the game singlehandedly. Which means that Gailey makes Groh look good--that's about all that really bears mention about that.
Living proof that charisma is a relative thing.
The Annual Arizona State Deflation Game, Saturday, Sept 23, TBA: Arizona State at Cal.
Cal's going to already have some hoary old souls on their roster by this point, having gone to Tennessee for an unholy bitch of an opener in Neyland and hosted run-beasts Minnesota at home before a well-deserved serving of fluffy, sugary Portland State as a break.(Portland State: the Citadel of the Pac-10!) Arizona State won't see anything like Cal's opening tests, having taken a smidge of Northern Arizona, a little Nevada on the side, and a main course of Colorado in year one of the Dan Hawkins Zenaissance.
All this amounts to an instantly battle-tested Cal team rolling into a home matchup with blood on its swords against a Sun Devils team likely riding a three game win streak floated on a surfeit of points racked up against weak secondaries. Cal has a demonstrated record of attempting to run the ball effectively and playing the second best defense in the conference. Arizona State lacks either and will be reduced to tossing up beautifully diagrammed jumpballs by the third quarter and watching Marshawn Lynch euthanize them slowly over the course of the second half. Toss in Cal's new spread tweaks and ASU's unspeakably bad pass defense, and the 27-0 dismissal Cal gave ASU two years ago in Berkeley could replay itself in more extreme degrees here.
The Second Annual Dan Hawkins Takes a Particularly Enlightened Ass-whippin' Game: Colorado at Georgia
Speaking of bleeding and dazed...Boise State's epic victory last year in Athens struck a blow for midget warriors everywhere in the NCAA, showing that offensive scheme could overcome anything, including execution, superior talent, and the complete inability of a team to prevent beating itself up with its own fist. ("Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!")
Hawkins gets an unlikely double swing at playing spoiler between the hedges in Athens, this time taking a more talented but infinitely more fragile bunch of players under a different banner into a game versus the Georgia Bulldogs. Despite losing Thomas Tony Flowers, Georgia's seamless recruiting pipeline (one of Richt's most impressive feats of organizational engineering) ensures that some future NFL draft pick will step up and defend half the field with aplomb.
At CU now, there are no guarantees--Dan Hawkins inherits a bankrupt Liberia of a program right now. Devastated, penniless, and suffering from a series of skullknuckle beatdowns, CU hit bottom in the Big 12 Championship when Texas realistically could have scored a hundred on a Buffaloes team that appeared seconds away from spontaneously combusting from shame. They played a tenacious bowl game against Clemson, a sign of...we'll call it "un-death," since "life" would be going a bit too far with the metaphor. Nevertheless, they gave observable signs of "not being dead," which should give Hawkins hope through the dark days of Colorado's 2006 first half.
Speaking of Liberia...Georgia claims not one but two roster spots hailing from the African nation, where the lights went on at night for the first time since the war last week. This didn't occur without problems, mind you, since the momentous occasion was marred by the Presidential Mansion catching fire with four African presidents visiting. Hoo-ray and congrats anyway, Monrovia. As soon as you get all the UXO cleaned up, we'll book our trip, though taking care of the 14 year old child soldiers on cocaine would be cool, too.
Drugs. Guns. Child soldiers on rollerskates. Orson, your dream vacay awaits.
Despite being run into the third world by West Virginia's spread option in the Sugar Bowl last year (cue PTSD flashbacks on DawgNet,) UGA is as far from a banana republic as a program can get at this point. They don't have a quarterback, but that's a problem of surplus and not deficits, since the choice seems to be between "fan favorite" (read: relatively talentless white guy) Joe Tereshinskii and the trebuchet-armed Matthew Stafford. They've got the standard UGA defensive set complete with wicked safety, a couple of massive linemen, and loads of future NFL draftees just loitering in the middle begging you to throw a crossing pattern.
The only real danger for UGA here: slow starts. For whatever reason Richt's teams start slow offensively on the year and speed up from there, and that could make the first half closer than one might think. Until the decisive third quarter, though, enjoy the sight of Hawkins' half-monk, half-Captain Caveman antics on the opposing sideline, which will stand in stark relief to Mark Richt's stoic rictus on UGA's winning side.
Penn State at Ohio State
Give Paterno credit for bringing new blood into the Penn State family. When his offense went into complete, undeniable flatline territory, Paterno reached outside his comfort zone to get up-and-coming offensive coordinator Galen Hall, a relative youngster at 66, into the fold and give Penn State's unflagging iron defense a modicum of support on the other side of the ball. We say this with tongue planted firmly through cheek; Hall was the OC for Oklahoma from 1966 to 1983 and was born before Pearl Harbor all before coaching Florida from 1984 to 1990. This means he's not young...unless you're Joe Paterno, and still wondering if you'll ever get that telegram from your old childhood friend Giusseppe Garibaldi you've been expecting for a while now.
Gonna write JoePa any day now.
The point is: Hall, pulled off the golf course by Paterno to give Penn State an offense, has been a godsend for Paterno, shamelessly cribbing off whatever everyone else is doing to get something resembling scoring occurring in College Station State College (remind us to drink at least eight cups of coffee before writing anything.) Last season it was the sets of the Texas and West Virginia offenses mixed in with some of Hall's antediluvian schemes, all centered around Michael Robinson's ability to run with the ball. Get retro this year with Anthony Morelli, a pocket passer and the polar opposite of the, um, "athletic" Robinson. The change had Hall and the offensive staff cribbing again, this time from the Colts, another team with a slow white qb who manages to hold a job in the NFL.
The staff seemed interested in particular in getting the shotgun to work despite Manning's inability to outrun an angry badger, much less an NFL defensive end. This means you'll be spared the atrocity of watching Morelli run the zone read, something Florida fans can tell you from hard personal experience is a blessing you must thank your respective deity for stat.
Ohio State, however, needs to be scared a-poopless of this game, and not just because they lost last year. Nine players gone from the defense is bad; scheming against an offense you'll have one good week of tape of breaks really, really nasty in the scheduling department. Penn State only has one real matchup prior to week four, Notre Dame, whereas Ohio State will be running the same modified spread that had Troy Smith rising in this year's Heisman standings before the Fiesta Bowl even ended. Defensively, even if Pozluszny doesn't recover completely from knee surgery the Nittany Lions defense will remain nasty.
Brutal, slapping Big Ten grappling here. The only certainty is low scoring and tailgate food dominated by meat in a tube, with an inversion of last year's 17-10 PSU victory making sense of the lazy pundit variety.
The Muted Revenge Game: Notre Dame at Michigan State
A Big Ten matchup with no lack of scoring here. Wait, Notre Dame isn't in the Big Ten? When the hell did that happen? Why doesn't anyone tell us this shit, dammit? Next thing you'll be telling us that Arkansas's left the Southwest Conference.
We meant...unlike the PSU/OSU matchup, points will come in rapidly summed bunches here, since Michigan State enjoyed a moment of gunblazing glory against Notre Dame before taking its traditional second half siesta and sinking to John L. Smith job-threatening levels to finish the season. Notre Dame's defense should improve, sure, but Drew Stanton will be that guy Michigan State fans get misty about after a few scotches years from now when they start talking about tales of epic ballsiness, since he does have the "middle finger factor" you want in a starting quarterback mixed with tons of gametime experience at this point. (We talked with Phil Steele this morning, and he thinks Stanton has the chance to screw up a lot of teams' seasons this year.)
Phil likes him, which can't be bad.
You might remember this game as the Flag Game last year, where MSU players planted a flag at midfield. That won't happen again, but Michigan State's offense alone won't let Notre Dame pull away with definition until late, late in the game, and even then it could be squeaky. Only then will Charlie Weis tell his team to be classy, letting down your inner wrestling fan who wanted to see Notre Dame plant its own flag, get into brawl at midfield with Spartans, and settle the whole thing with folding chairs and plywood tables.
The AHHH!!! MY EYES Game: Alabama at Arkansas The theme for this game will be red, eye-scorching, subconscious-angering, bull-baiting red as far as the eye can see. Red necks in the stands. Red uniforms. Red zones hardly touched by offensive players. Red eyes, as in slam-drunk fans loaded off brown liquor baked by years of refusing to use sunscreen just itchin' to add a line to their misdemeanor record. It should look like the Talladega infield in the parking lots here, a panorama of outsize rural fandango to rival a NASCAR event with a very nasty game to match inside the stadium. Could be one of these "classic" SEC games with a bevy of punts and linebackers raining down on every play, but both teams chould be able to score more points this year. (Why, oh why do we get the creeping feeling that John Parker Wilson is a better quarterback than Brodie Croyle ever was? It's not just the fact that he sounds like someone you'd nominate as a special envoy to the UN, right?)
Added entertainment bonus: watching Houston Nutt kvetch his way into knots on the sideline. If Arkansas' season has gone badly to this point, he may be sacrificing live chickens on the sideline during the game. We pray that Lou Holtz has a chance to comment on this.
Houston Nutt may contact him, which would be the following: Sofa King. We. Todd. Ed.
The Srinivasa Ramanujan Points Calculation Challenge Game: Hawaii at Boise State
No matter what happens in this game, it will never top the Hawaii/BSU game in 2004, the 69-3 (insert dramatic word of extreme annihilation here)-ing of the Warriors where NCAA passing leader Timmy Chang endured chants of "TIM-MAY!!!" from Boise fans. It should be quality math prodigy viewing, since large numbers will be pouring into scorer's journals on at least one end of the field. If huge numbers and wide receiver screens going for 70 yards repeatedly don't do it for you, marvel at the journey of June Jones, who somehow ended up with the single greatest job in college coaching (if you don't give a shit about prestige, winning, or cheap groceries) despite running a lunatic offense, getting shamed out of the NFL, and never shedding the Red Baron mustache.
June Jones: bears striking resemblance to this guy.