We dared you to die before this week arrived, since as everyone on the planet has figured at this point, Footballpacalypse hath arrived clad in the bloody pelts of weaker football dockets that trembled before its might. (That noise you hear is not thunder, but the noise of its might arriving at your front door. Hide the silver.)
Don't shield your eyes...it's only Footballpocalypse.
Our first preview: Miami Hurricanes at Louisville Cardinals.
Signs of the Footballpocalypse One in this game:
As in whatever the hell has happened to the Miami offenses of yore. Over the past, say, 25 years, Miami's vacillated between offensive innovation--pro-sets under Jimmy Johnson, proto-spread under Dennis Erickson--and relatively standard run-first sets with wicked play action unleashing speedy receivers into terrified secondaries. And despite the carryover of offensive coordinator Dan Werner into the Coker era, the offensive continuity meant little but slow death for Hurricane scoring. Your mind leaps to a dim-looking man throwing bad passes off his back foot...yes, there was the unfortunate Brock Berlin period, where the quarterback's ability to track and recognize defenses waned to the point where Miami coaches put him at shotgun in order to give him a better shot at reading defenses.
The real death knell for the 'Cane offense has been the decline in rushing yards, though. Since Willis McGahee, regard the sad totals for the Miami Hurricanes:
Rushing yardage totals 2003--2005
They've troughed in the run game, a great factor in Dan Werner now coaching under The Orgeron at Ole Miss along with offensive line coach Art Kehoe. (Last week's total against the...forgiving defense at Missouri? Seven points.) The retrospread is now in full effect again under the guidance of old Erickson boy Rich Olson. They did nothing against FSU and looked confused, especially on pass plays. They ripped FAMU to shreds and hung fifty-plus on them. Shoot the difference and guess that they'll put up 24 points on talent and dumb luck alone, a wager we just pulled fresh from the deepest crevice of our gambling ass.
The Return of the Antichrist.
Or Bobby Petrino, whose going for it against Temple, predilection for scoring shitheaps of points on weak opponents, and glee in running over the kind, little old ladies of the football world has earned him status as Gridiron Lucifer, college division. Most vicious about Petrino's attack is its direct ties to the Don Coryell/San Diego State offenses of the seventies; while most people lump him in with mad scientists Mike Leach and other pseudo-spreadsters, Petrino does little you wouldn't have seen in a San Diego Chargers' game in 1982 aside from a few receiver-heavy sets and never, ever stops punching opponents in the face with the run. Pinpointing exactly what they do is difficult because they run so many sets and so many plays, but one salient point emerges: execution and gameplanning come fast and quick from Petrino's staff, and they line up each opponent in the crosshairs with precision. You have weak spots, they know them, and they will score by exploiting them.
Pondering something you, as an opposing fan, would likely not enjoy.
The extremely impressive thing about Petrino's whomping-stick approach going into the game: his total lack of respect for the vaunted Miami defense, its principal tie to past glories and its best hope for current ones. The Cardinals totalled 507 yards last year and lost in large part to a profoundly retarded celebration call on Louisville and the customary meltdown by Louisville's defense. That was, however, a meltdown in the Orange Bowl, not at Papa John's, where the Cardinals will enjoy both homefield advantage and complimentary packets of tasty garlic butter. (Hey, there's a reason they brag about making the artificial heart.)
A Great Battle Shall Commence.
Three things could happen that would be consistent with most people's lay of the land at this point:
One: Louisville breaks the seal on first-rank team status, beats the gangsta braids off Miami's defense, and shoots the Bobby Petrino job stability meter into the basement with a landmark win for the Cardinals. They almost beat Miami on the road last year, and forecasting a gasping shootout with Louisville scoring last won't make too many people sniff your breath to see if you've been drinking early. (Which you have, most likely.)
Two: Miami flaunts the trend, rebounds, and confounds the killshot called by the punditry in dramatic fashion. The last time the verdict was souring on them Miami went into Blacksburg and trounced Virginia Tech 27-7, beginning the long and colorful decline of Hank Bosnia in the process.
Three: Miami falling off the wagon in heart-stopping fashion. They concluded the season where they muscled up on Virginia Tech by completely flaking and showing up to the Peach Bowl as if they'd been getting their Goose on at the Cheetah the night before. The 'Canes finale was losing Leaving Las Vegas-style--we really still can't believe this happened--40-3 to LSU in the Peach Bowl to LSU's second-string quarterback. Atrocity could result again on Saturday if Louisville leaps to one of those 28-3 leads they're fond of snagging and Hurricanes players do what they did in the bowl game, which is quit, lay down, and wait for a new coach before attempting fight Louisville's players after the game.
Any one of these scenarios would conceivably fit into most people's expectations of what could happen. What would not is a complete steamrolling of the prodigious Louisville offense by a raging Miami squad, since nobody seems to seriously expect the UM defense to shut down Petrino's offense. That would be the biggest shock of all, especially to Miami fans getting more and more accustomed to shrinking point totals and devolved, cro-magnon 10-7 football.
Your ability to score these...touchdowns, as you call them, frightens and confuses me.
The Horn of Gabriel...
...or the point at which you'll know this game means business? If Miami's offense shows up with any coherence or effort at all, it's a game. The odds of them doing this seem low, though, given the usual learning curve associated with building new systems in, even simplified ones like the one Olson's having Miami work through now.
Cracked Apocalyptic Prophesy: 45-24, Louisville. Believe in big trends, Son of Man--the Miami offense slides and slides and slides into mediocrity, and the worst point for any transitioning offense comes in its first couple of games against serious competition. (See Chris Leak vs. Bama/LSU 2005 for recent evidence of that.) The pressure of keeping up with Louisville's offense even without Michael Bush will wilt them like so much cheap cheese on Louisville's home field. Unless Miami's defense puts a eleven-fold herculean effort in on their side, Louisville finally edges into the winning side of this equation.