Continuing our survey of week one cupcakes teams are playing in lieu of actual competition.
1. Youngstown State.
Playing: Ohio State
Mascot: Pete and Penny Penguin, who break the mold for mascoting by not only being a rare paired mascot, but by being flightless birds. Unfortunately, both are dying due to global warming, and will transfer to the University of Nunavut next year. (Actually, the university has tried twice to bring live penguins to live in a habitat on site, but like polar bears, Michigan fans, and the elderly, they cannot adapt to the climate of Ohio.)
Stadium differential: 81,568
The line: No line. Again, a great sign.
Beating best described as: Clint Eastwood disconnecting Hilary Swank's lines in Million Dollar Baby: a humane and compassionate death at the hands of a good friend. Or family, actually--Youngstown State is coached by Jon Heacock, brother of Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock. YSU was also the home of Jim Tressel from 1986--2000, where he won 135 games and won several D-1AA championships. In other words: they're cozy, and Ohio State will shut down the offense once they reach a digit of respectable decisiveness (28 points? 90 points? Being a Florida fan, we have no idea what this number would be.)
The only possible scenario for a real thirty to forty point assbranding here would be Tressel, enraged by his team's embarrassment at the hands of Florida, to come out in a black sweatervest and goatee and destroy his former employer, thus demonstrating a true barbarian loves not friends, but only the sword and the swift and inescapable talons of sweet death. This is unlikely, but would make our Saturday.
2. Florida International.
Playing: Penn State.
Mascot: The Panther. Roarrrrgh.
Stadium differential: Considering that FIU shares the Orange Bowl with UM, not as big as you might think: 34,863. (In fact, Florida International gets the final game at the Orange Bowl, not the 'Canes, something we attribute to A'Mod Ned claiming the place for himself last year during the FIU/UM brawl. It's really his to share or not, depending on how he feels.)
The line: Penn by 38.5
Beating best described as: Nikolay Valuev punching you in the face until you die. Florida International brings in a young head coach, Mario Cristobal, to get his first taste of being thoroughly and completely overmatched. They return the nation's fourth best passing defense, which would be tasty happy news if Penn State needed to pass in this game. They don't: PSU will run the ball at will on FIU with Austin Scott and the beefy Nittany Lion line and sandbag much of what they have in the playbook for next week. Morelli may give a gasp or two early by handing an easy pick over to FIU's secondary, but if this surprises Penn State fans by now, we have other news for you: Richard Simmons sleeps with men.
As for FIU as plucky little Joe...Sure, there's a cut man in the corner, but you won't need him. Cut men can't help you dodge fists the size of an Ottoman coming at your head at ninety miles an hour. Soda Popinski wants his due, and he will suck if from your broken skull with a straw if he has to.
3. Western Michigan.
Playing: West Virginia
Mascot: A particularly demonic-looking Bronco. Fear his lidless eyes, rider.
Stadium differential: 29,900
The line: 23.5. Damn near competitive, we say!
Beating best described as: Sensei Teaches Student A Noble Lesson Of Pride And Humility. Sensei is fast--oh, holy smoking hell is he fast. And Student is talented--oh, yes, most talented, with an 8-5 record in the MAC, a bowl appearance in the International Bowl, and veteran Bill Cubit taking a promising second turn through a surprisingly talented Directional Michigan school.
And for a quarter, perhaps, the plan will work, as it usually does for a quarter or so. Student may land a field goal, reaching through the defense--well played!, says Sensei. He may intercept a poorly thrown ball, or perhaps stifle a rusty option game for a series or two. Most impressive! says Sensei. Or most likely, Western Michigan will find a hole in the ever-risk-friendly 3-3-5 and do what most teams do at one point to WVU: burn them for a long touchdown.
And then, student, a certain cold fire will alight in Sensei's eyes. This means he is now "aware;" this is a metaphysical term, meaning he has become sensitive to the changing demands of the situation. Feel joy, Student! You are about to learn!
And by learning, we mean that Sensei is about to whip your motherfucking ass.
Oh, and you are not prepared for the definitive, nutpummeling, teeth-shattering, fistfeast of an asswhipping you will get from Sensei. It could be from Pat White meowing in your direction as he gets to the edge for a 70 yard td, or from Owen Schmitt splitting you in two on the dive keeper. It may also be Steve Slaton stripping you of your gi, and leaving you naked in the street for all to mock, Student. Oh, and Sensei will laugh at your sodden underwear, Student, because even Sensei's humiliation is instructive, and will remind you to always wash whites with just a hint of bleach for extra whiteness in case just this thing happens.
It will be fast. It will likely be a thirty point burst or so. And then, it will be over, and you must thank Sensei for his kindness, in addition to getting him a fresh Asahi from the refrigerator immediately.