Weekend Primer – Less Sandy Koufax, Less Hurricane Sandy, More Football

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November 1, 2012 by ryanoudoak

This weekend is shaping up to be the most significant in College Football this year as the BCS picture should become much clearer with Oregon and Alabama going on the road for their biggest challenges of the season. Aside from that top-5 matchup in Baton Rouge you may be aware of, there are a total of 7 matchups involving top-25 teams in College Football. But the action starts on Thursday night with a historically significant ACC matchup and the Ohio Bobcats trying to get back on track after their first loss of the season last week.

Baseball stepped aside early leaving the weekend to the world of football for sports fans. Apologies here to NBA and NHL fans, you will not see much coverage of your sports until Football has been concluded. This time of year belongs to football and the NFL Division races are really starting to heat up as we enter the midpoint of the season.

Thursday:

The NCAA and NFL kick off their weekends on Thursday Night. We have a full slate of College Football on Thursday Night, along with the weekly NFL Thursday Night installment; Friday night brings us a lone installment of College Football featuring the Pac-12.

College Football:

Eastern Michigan at Ohio 6 pm – Move along, not much to see here. EMU is one of the worst in the world of College Football and Ohio is looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season last week. Solich’s Bobcats are not much to watch and I wouldn’t expect the Eagles from Ypsilanti to put up much of a challenge, but it is the only game on TV for an hour and a half. Check out my Under the Radar picks for my take on this game and the late Sun Belt Game on Thursday. 

Virginia Tech at Miami – Remember when this was billed as the biggest matchup in the ACC of the year? It was an exciting idea when the Hokies made the move over from the Big East, it just hasn’t happened yet. Miami is trying to get right in their second year under Al Golden and VaTech is struggling through their first four-loss season since 2008 and trying to avoid their first 5-loss season since 2003. With a game against Florida St. coming up next week in Blacksburgh, the Hokies cannot afford another loss here. This sets up as an elimination game in the Coastal Division with 4 out of the 6 teams tied at the top with 2 Conference losses. North Carolina would be considered in the driver’s seat with wins over both Virginia Tech and Miami and the easiest road the rest of the way, but they are ineligible to make the Championship game. That would put tonight’s winner a couple steps closer to the ACC Championship game.

Middle Tennessee at W. Kentucky 9:15 – Everyone is looking up at UL Monroe in the Sunbelt. Both of these teams have already lost to the Warhawks, but the winner gets to stay just one game back and in the race. These are two talented teams and should provide an entertaining matchup to the die-hard College Football fan late into Thursday.

NFL:

Kansas City at San Diego – This should be a lopsided affair on Thursday Night on the NFL Network. Matt Cassel takes back the reins of the Chief attack this week after Brady Quinn went out against Oakland last week with a concussion. The Chargers are trying to right the ship after a three-game slide finds them a game back (really 2 games back) of Division-leading Denver. Norv Turner is feeling the hot seat in San Diego and Philip Rivers needs to bounce back after a dismal performance in Cleveland last week in a 7-6 loss. Check out my full preview of this game. 

Friday:

College Football is the only game in town on Friday Night.

Washington at Cal 9 pm – This game will help sort out the bottom half of the Pac-12 North as both of these teams are solidly behind the top-3 (Oregon, Oregon St., and Stanford) and solidly ahead of Washington St. A loss for Cal would eliminate them from bowl eligibility for the year with their seventh loss. Expect that to happen as Sarkisian’s Huskies will be too much for the Bears.

Saturday:

A full slate of College Football on Saturday including the biggest road tests of the year for two of the main contenders for the BCS National Title. Additionally, there are 5 other matchups of top-25 teams and many games of significance to Conference races.

Early games:

Missouri at Florida 12:00 – Missouri recorded their first SEC victory last weekend, complete with commemorative t-shirts and are looking for their first streak in league play. Florida has to be disappointed after their loss to Georgia last week likely bumped them from National Title contention. Will Muschamp must not let the Bulldogs beat his team twice, however. The Gators are playing their final SEC game this weekend and are in position for the SEC Championship with a slipup by Georgia. If the cards fell right (the right teams lost), the Gators could still slip into the National Title game.

Texas A&M at Mississippi St. – By the end of the day, if the Tide lose in Baton Rouge, the winner of this game could find themselves in solid second place in the SEC West. You have to give the Bulldogs an outside shot at the SEC West title, although with their decisive loss at Alabama last week, their road got pretty difficult.

Oklahoma at Iowa St. – Oklahoma is licking their wounds coming off their 2nd home loss of the year to the Irish last Saturday. The Sooners have been vanquishing inferior foes since losing to Kansas St. in late September but come limping into Ames this weekend probably down their starting RB Damian Williams and starting LT Lane Johnson. The Cyclones have injury troubles of their own as their leading tackler, LB Jake Knott, will require season-ending shoulder surgery following their upset win against Baylor last week.  Iowa St. has one of the better defenses in the Big XII, under 4th year coach Paul Rhoads, and it is unclear who the Sooners will turn to in relief of Damien Williams at running back. SR RB Dominique Whaley, the Sooners leading rusher from a year ago, has not played a snap in the last 2 games despite Williams getting dinged up in the opening quarter against the Irish. The Sooners still have an outside shot at a BCS at-large selection at the end of the year and perhaps an opportunity for revenge against the Irish, but a loss here could relegate them to their second-straight Insight Bowl appearance after lofty pre-season expectations. The Sooners aren’t used to playing noon games but as Bob Stoops says, “When you lose a game, you don’t get night games as much”.

Mid-afternoon games:

TCU at W. Virginia 3 pm – The Big XII newbies get together, each looking to stop 2-game losing streaks. The seasons for these respective clubs have to be big disappointments to this point in the season. The Mountaineers in particular had National Championship aspirations until two devastating losses at Texas Tech and at home against Kansas St. They have had two weeks to stew about the losses and visit with the team shrink during the bye week and should come out firing against the Horned Frogs. Perhaps they moved in some snow fences to help deal with the blizzard induced by Hurricane Sandy to help solve some of their defensive troubles.

Texas at Texas Tech 3:30 – Did the Longhorns learn how to tackle this week? If not, they are looking at another long week at Lubbock. Every Sooner fan is hoping for a bounce back for the Longhorns to salvage Mack Brown’s job in Austin and to provide a final speed bump for Kansas St. on their way to a Big XII Championship. Unless they made some vast improvements in their defense, however, the Red Raiders should get back on track after the loss to Kansas St. last week. How in the world did the offenses for the Mountaineers or the Longhorns ever get stopped when they played each other?

Pitt at Notre Dame 3:30 – Beat both Michigan teams in the same year. Check. Beat Navy. Check. Win at home as a favorite to salvage an undefeated season. Check. Win on the road as an underdog to a highly rated team to salvage an undefeated season. Check. The Irish have checked off and eliminated a lot of ghosts from recent memory this season. They have two main stumbling blocks left and the first is this week. Last time the Irish went 7-0 after beating a highly rated foe on the road was 2002 when they left Tallahassee with a victory and a #4 ranking. That lasted a week as they fell to unranked Boston College a week later and they finished the season 10-3 after a Gator Bowl loss to NC State.

Late Games:

You have a choice between the Bayou Bash and the Wild West tumble in the late games, but you can’t watch both (picture in picture?)

Oregon at USC 7 pm – This game is perhaps less anticipated since the Trojans’ loss to Arizona last week, but the significance is really just as great. USC was probably on the outside looking in on the National Title race anyway and probably all they really lost was a chance to play for the Pac-12 Title at home. Now that game will almost certainly be played at Oregon, per Pac-12 rules of the Division Champion with the best Conference record hosting the Championship game, and the game will still almost certainly involve these same teams. There are so many story lines in this one, including whether anyone can slow down the Duck attack. They haven’t really played anyone close to their level of competition all year, but finish the year at USC, Stanford at home, at Cal, and finally at Oregon St. before hosting that Championship game. There are also serious questions about just how good the Oregon defense is, as they’ve allowed some yards and points but mostly in garbage time after Chip Kelly has shut the team down in the second half. We should see a full game here even if it gets out of control. Expect no mercy from Kelly and the Ducks if they start rolling Kiffin and the Trojans.

Alabama at LSU 8 pm – Like Oregon, we are still unsure about how good this version of the Tide is. We are pretty sure they are both head and shoulders above of the rest of the College Football worlds, but by a strange twist of fate both teams have made it this far into the season without being seriously challenged. That ends today for both teams. LSU, like Southern Cal, is a much more understood commodity. We have seen LSU lose on the road at Florida and win in a big primetime game at home against S. Carolina. We know that LSU does not have a great offense and we know their defense is very good. If the Tigers can muster any offense against the Tide, we will know that they are susceptible to a high powered offense like Oregon. Also, we should get some answers about that Alabama offense as they face easily the toughest defensive matchup since the National Title game last year (aside from their own practices and scrimmages).

Sunday:

NFL rules the day on Sunday and order is restored to the sports Universe.

Early games:

Baltimore at Cleveland – The Browns are starting to show improvements with an impressive win against San Diego last week and the Ravens are reeling after heavy losses to injury on the defensive side of the ball. It is likely a matter of time before the Ravens fall out of playoff contention without the steady leadership of Ray Lewis on the field with them. It would be a bitter pill to swallow for Ravens fans if that slip started this week against the suddenly surging Browns.

Arizona at Green Bay – It doesn’t get any easier for Arizona this week following their shutout loss to San Francisco on Monday Night.  Green Bay finds themselves in an unfamiliar position chasing down a division rival and it would be hard to imagine that the Cardinals can bounce back in this spot on the road in Green Bay – oh, it is cold, by the way, in Green Bay.

Carolina at Washington – RGIII vs. Cam. Is there any other way to bill this matchup? Both teams are likely not in the playoff chase and are looking toward next year (particularly Carolina), but if Cam Newton can’t get up for this QB matchup against his peer then the talk will really start swirling about whether he was a one-hit wonder in the NFL.

Late afternoon games:

Pittsburgh at NY Giants – This game is still a bit up in the air due to Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the New Jersey area. Reportedly, the concern is more about the electrical grid and the transportation system allowing the game to take place less than a week after a Frankenstorm rolled in across the Jersey Shore (and no, I’m not talking about Snookie). The NFL is considering delaying the game for a day and playing on Monday Night. There is also speculation of whether the game could be moved to Pittsburgh as the game in New Orleans was moved to New York the week after Hurricane Katrina. No matter when or where this game takes place, it should be a great matchup of two of the better offenses and defenses in the league. Could this be a preview of the Super Bowl?

Sunday Night Football in America:

Dallas at Atlanta 9:20 pm – This just feels like the type of game that Tony Romo would win, doesn’t it? Prime time against an undefeated Falcon team that is rolling? Who’s really buying that Atlanta is the best team in football, anyway? They certainly don’t seem like a team that is going to roll through the season undefeated. This would be a win that would allow all the Tony Romo apologists to say, “See? I told you he was a good quarterback”, for about the next two months as he loses game after game of important divisional matchups.

Monday:

Monday Night Football:

Philadelphia at New Orleans 9:30 pm – Speaking of New Orleans, Drew Brees and the Saints are on a tear and are threatening to climb back into playoff contention. OK, they are 2-5 but how else do you bill this matchup. Michael Vick looks to get his miserable season on track in the Bayou: Andy Reid would really like to stop reassuring the fans and media that Vick is still the quarterback. Can’t they just play that Kolb guy whose been the backup for years? Oh, they got rid of him? That’s right. Do they still have a Detmer?

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