Professor’s Picks Week 3

Professor’s Picks
Week 3

Grades slipped last Saturday as Auburn, Michigan, and Vanderbilt knocked off Miss State, Notre Dame, and U Conn respectively. The professor tries to get the class back on track on this weekend that features a few stellar pairings.

2011 Overall Record: 26-7
Last Week’s Record: 10-3

Best Pick: No games stood out, so let’s go with Texas over BYU (and that says something about the current state of the Longhorns).

Worst Pick: Auburn continued a long trend of baffling this old prof, knocking off a disappointing Mississippi State team with a goal-line stand at the final whistle.

Around the South

GAMES OF THURSDAY, SEPT. 15

LSU (2-0) at Mississippi State (1-1)
7 p.m. CT • ESPN
Starkville, Miss. • Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (55,082)
Series Record: LSU leads, 68-33-3 • Last Meeting; Sept. 18, 2010 (LSU, 29-7)
Comment: LSU won 19-6

GAMES OF SATURDAY, SEPT. 17

Auburn (2-0) at Clemson (2-0)
12 p.m. ET • ABC Sports
Clemson, S.C. • Clemson Memorial Stadium (81,500)
Series Record: AU leads, 34-11-2 • Last Meeting: Sept. 18, 2010 (AU, 27-24, OT)
Comment: Two tough teams to figure out. Both sets of big cats have used up some of those nine lives, but the Auburn Tigers have looked a little better.
Professor’s Pick: Auburn

Ole Miss (1-1) at Vanderbilt (2-0)
11:21 a.m. CT • SEC Network / ESPN3.com
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (39,773)
Series Record: UM leads, 47-36-2 • Last Meeting: Sept. 18, 2010 (VU, 28-14)
Comment: Vanderbilt could wake up a few people by knocking off Nutt’s Rebels … let’s say they do.
Professor’s Pick: Vanderbilt

Coastal Carolina (2-0) at Georgia (0-2)
1 p.m. ET • Georgia PPV / ESPN3.com
Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Series Record: First Meeting
Comment: Coastal coach David Bennett provided Georgia fans with their first bit of fun all season with his passionate defense of head Dog Mark Richt (if you haven’t listened, click the link and prepare to laugh). As long as his Chanticleers don’t knock off UGA, he’ll still be a fan favorite after Saturday. Also, The Campus Game would like to wish a get well soon to longtime favorite Larry Munson.
Professor’s Picks: Georgia

Tennessee (2-0) at Florida (2-0)
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS Sports
Gainesville, Fla. • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field (88,548)
Series Record: UF leads, 21-19 • Last Meeting: Sept. 18, 2010 (UF, 31-17)
Comment: This is a huge early season SEC East game. The winner joins South Carolina as a co-favorite in the division. It looks to be a battle between Florida’s fast and stingy defense against Tennessee’s young slinging QB Tyler Bray. The Vols still seem a little green to beat the Gators in the Swamp (but don’t be too surprised if they do – how’s that for hedging?).
Professor’s Pick: Florida

Navy (2-0) at South Carolina (2-0)
6 p.m. ET • ESPN2
Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)
Series Record: USC leads, 4-3 • Last Meeting: Nov. 12, 1988 (USC, 19-8)
Comment: After a slighlty scary comeback from a 17-0 deficit in Week 1, and an emotional and fortunate victory over Georgia, the Gamecocks could be ripe for a letdown. The Middies offense is tough to get ready for anytime, so a close game is certainly feasible. SC may be at the point where they can win even if not totally sharp emotionally.
Professor’s Pick: SC

Louisville (1-1) at Kentucky (2-0)
7 p.m. ET • ESPNU
Lexington, Ky. • Commonwealth Stadium (67,942)
Series Record: UK leads, 14-9 • Last Meeting: Sept. 4, 2010 (UK, 23-16)
Comment: The battle of the bluegrass state pits two teams that have not been impressive in spite of the 3-1 combined record. I think Kentucky is slightly better.
Professor’s Pick: UK

North Texas (0-2) at Alabama (2-0)
6:30 p.m. CT • FS South / ESPN3.com
Tuscaloosa, Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)
Series Record: UA leads, 3-0 • Last Meeting: Sept. 19, 2009 (UA, 53-7)
Comment: Oh my, tune in early to listen to Eli Gold because the contest is likely to be over real quickly. Tide rolls.
Professor’s Pick: Alabama

Troy (0-1) at Arkansas (2-0)
6:30 p.m. CT • CSS / ESPN3.com
Fayetteville, Ark. • Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000)
Series Record: UA leads, 3-0 • Last Meeting: Nov. 14, 2009 (UA, 56-20)
Comment: Bobby Petrino’s Razorbacks are rooting around out of sight and out of mind for many college football fans. That will change when they tangle with Alabama soon. A nice tuneup in Troy.
Professor’s Pick: Arkansas

Around the Nation

West Virginia at Maryland … two new coaches and two pretty decent teams. I’ll take Mountaineers on the road. Professor’s Pick: WVU

Pitt at Iowa … New Panther coach Todd Graham usually wins quickly and he’s catching the Hawkeyes after a tough loss to in-state rival Iowa State. Will it be enough? No. Professor’s Pick: Iowa

Michigan State at Notre Dame … the Spartans are physical and for the past decade or so have really given the Irish fits (remember last year’s fake FG win?). ND has outplayed both South Florida and Michigan but only have a tough-to-swallow 0-2 record to show for it. Can’t stick with the Irish bandwagon another time. Professor’s Pick: MSU

Ohio State at Miami … the Canes Al Golden is one of the up and coming coaches in my opinion, and I think Miami beats under-achieving Ohio State. Professor’s Pick: Miami

Oklahoma at FSU … although this is a battle of Top 5 teams, neither impresses me so much at this point (just not sold on either squad). The Sooners traditionally struggle on the road against highly-ranked teams under Bob Stoops, but it’s been a while since FSU won a game with national implications. Oklahoma is probably a bit more sound. Professor’s Pick: Oklahoma

See you at kickoff!

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The Devastating Decade

The Devastating Decade

The days go slow, but the years pass fast.

A decade ago, planes crashed into buildings in the heart of our nation’s greatest city. Those attacks not only ended many lives, they also shattered many spirits and damaged our national psyche. Even so, as President Bush promised, the people who knocked down those buildings soon heard from all of us (U.S.). That was a chilling, powerful, and spontaneous remark, his finest moment in office, and a piece of Americana that your grandchildren will learn about and revere.

College football and the other sports games would go on, as they always do.  Perhaps as much as anything aside from time, prayer, and resolve, sports helped America recover some semblance of normality during this devastating decade since the 9-11 attacks. The games went on, our teams won and lost, and soon enough we could again pay attention to fun things in life without crying, cursing, or cowering.  The resiliency afforded by freedom should never be underestimated.

But, we haven’t forgotten that day.  We haven’t forgotten – and we never will.

Welcome back to The Campus Game and week two of the 2011 college football season.

There will be many a solemn salute to the ten-year anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, but I will avoid watching them for the most part. Even these many years later, even though I lost no close relative or friend to the attacks, remembering that day and its aftermath are still too raw for me. I would imagine a lot of other Americans feel the same way.

Professor’s Picks and Around College Football

Professor’s Picks earned a nice “A” in week one, although the early semester assignments were pretty simple. The curriculum stays basic this week so it’s important to keep the marks up because the course accelerates starting in Week 3.

2011 Overall Record: 16-4
Last Week’s Record: 16-4
Best Pick: Northwestern over Boston College (even without QB Dan Persa)
Worst Pick: (Tie) Reversed the winner/loser of the two big SEC games – picking Georgia over Boise and Oregon over LSU. That’s a couple of pretty big blunders.

Around the Nation

The national slate is not stellar this second week of the season, but does serve as a prelude to next week’s blockbusters (OK-FSU, Ohio State-Miami, Mich State-ND, Tennessee-Florida, LSU-Miss State, and others).

East

Alabama travels to Penn State for what will probably be the last meeting between a Joe Paterno-coached Nittany Lion team and the Tide. The two have had some memorable games over the years, and JoePa may be outmanned in this one – but the Tide better not take a win for granted. Keep an eye on Virginia Tech. The more I look at the Hokies schedule, I can see them running the table during the regular season. Beamer’s boys will play on the road at East Carolina this weekend. East Coasters get a chance to see this year’s early season Heisman leader when QB Andrew Luck leads Stanford against Duke at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham.

Midwest

Michigan hosts Notre Dame in the first night game at the Big House in Ann Arbor. Brady Hoke will try and stay unbeaten in his first season coaching the winged helmets, while Irish coach Brian Kelly tries to rally his team from a mistake-filled loss to South Florida.  Oregon State travels to Madison and plays powerful Wisconsin (my vote for best-looking team of Week 1).

Southwest

BYU and Texas square off in Austin. Perhaps the Cougars could earn a Big 12 bid by beating Bevo … or would that aggravate the Longhorns leading to a BYU blackball?

West

New PAC-12 member Utah opens conference play against USC in Los Angeles. The Trojans barely escaped Minnesota last week. Will the Utes get an upset win in their debut?

Around the South

Central Michigan (1-0) at Kentucky (1-0)
12 p.m. ET • ESPNU
Lexington, Ky. • C.M. Newton Field / Commonwealth Stadium (67,942)
Series Record: UK leads, 5-0 • Last Meeting: Sept. 30, 2006 (UK, 45-36)
Comment: The Cats struggled past Western Kentucky in the opener, and best be careful with the Chippewas. Go with Big Blue at home.
Professor’s Pick: Kentucky

Mississippi State (1-0) at Auburn (1-0)
11:21 a.m. CT • SEC Network / ESPN3.com
Auburn, Ala. • Pat Dye Field / Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)
Series Record: AU leads, 59-23-2 • Last Meeting: Sept. 9, 2010 (AU, 17-14)
Comment: Auburn used a rabbit’s foot, a four-leaf clover, and a month’s supply of horseshoes to beat Utah State after getting outplayed for 58 minutes. The Tigers will need to pick up the tempo this week because Dan Mullen’s Bullies demolished Memphis. Auburn improves but does not get so lucky this week.
Professor’s Pick: Miss State

Alabama (1-0) at Penn State (1-0)
3:30 p.m. ET • ABC / ESPN3.com
University Park, Pa. • Beaver Stadium (106,572)
Series Record: UA leads, 9-5 • Last Meeting: Sept. 11, 2010 (UA, 24-3)
Comment: Although Joe Paterno will be in the press box, seeing him coach against the Tide will still be a treat for us old traditionalists. Joe might wish he was sending out John Cappalletti, Lydel Mitchell, Franco Harris, Matt Millen, Shane Conlan, Todd Blackledge, and two or three of those Suhey boys. Sorry Joe – all the stars are wearing the Crimson helmets this weekend. For the Tide, the biggest concern is still at QB. AJ McCarron was clearly the best option for Bama last week, but will need to keep his composure in Happy Valley.
Professor’s Pick: Alabama

Cincinnati (1-0) at Tennessee (1-0)
3:30 p.m. ET • ESPN2 / ESPN3.com
Knoxville, Tenn. • Shields-Watkins Field / Neyland Stadium (100,011)
Series Record: UT leads, 4-1 • Last Meeting: Sept. 26, 1992 (UT, 40-0)
Comment: This game is not getting enough attention in my opinion. Derek Dooley’s Vols are really young, but sophomore QB Tyler Bray can sling the football. Butch Jones brings a Bearcat squad to Neyland Stadium that is not intimidated by big programs, UC having played in two BCS games in the past five years.
Professor’s Pick: Tennessee

South Carolina (1-0) at Georgia (0-1)
4:30 p.m. ET • ESPN / ESPN3.com
Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Series Record: UGA leads, 46-15-2 • Last Meeting: Sept. 11, 2010 (USC, 17-6)
Comment: Think Steve Spurrier would enjoy blowing out a reeling Georgia team between the hedges? Does GEICO run those ads with the slick-haired guy all the time? The Gamecocks played poorly on defense against East Carolina, but their offense really clicked once Spurrier inserted QB Stephen Garcia into the game. Georgia got manhandled on both sides of the ball by Boise State and must pass protect for QB Aaron Murray against an aggressive SC front that led the SEC in sacks last year. As much as Georgia and head coach Mark Richt need the win, I just have trouble seeing where the offense will come from … or how the defense can shut down Garcia, Marcus Lattimore, and Alshon Jeffrey.
Professor’s Pick: SC

Southern Illinois (1-0) at Ole Miss (0-1)
5 p.m. CT • Ole Miss PPV / ESPN3.com
Oxford, Miss. • Hollingsworth Field / Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (60,580)
Series Record: UM leads, 1-0 • Last Meeting: Sept. 10, 1994 (UM, 59-3)
Comment: This day and age, even SEC teams cannot count any team as a gimme. That said, Houston Nutt and the Rebels should (better) beat the Salukis.
Professor’s Pick: Ole Miss

New Mexico (0-1) at Arkansas (1-0)
6 p.m. CT • ESPNU
Little Rock, Ark. • War Memorial Stadium (53,955)
Series Record: UA leads, 2-0 • Last Meeting: Nov. 28, 1987 (UA, 43-25)
Comment: New Mexico is arguably among the worst five FBS teams, and Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino does not have the reputation of taking it easy on inferior opponents. Expect to see 50 points put up by the pigs.
Professor’s Pick: Arkansas

UAB (0-0) at Florida (1-0)
7 p.m. ET • Fox Sports Net / ESPN3.com
Gainesville, Fla. • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field (88,548)
Series Record: UF leads, 1-0 • Last Meeting: Aug. 31, 2002 (UF, 51-3)
Comment: Let me go on record as favoring Florida in the SEC East. The Gators have as much talent as anybody (including LSU and Alabama), but they do have the conference’s toughest schedule. UAB is not a part of the toughness aspect of that schedule.
Professor’s Pick: Florida

Northwestern State (1-0) at LSU (1-0)
7 p.m. CT • LSU PPV / ESPN3.com
Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (92,400)
Series Record: LSU leads, 10-0 • Last Meeting: Sept. 19, 1942 (LSU, 40-0)
Comment: LSU turned in perhaps the most dominating performance of week one, and now the Tigers get a bit of a breather before the SEC schedule cranks up. LSU cannot sleepwalk through this one, but they don’t need to peak either.
Professor’s Pick: LSU

Connecticut (1-0) at Vanderbilt (1-0)
6:30 p.m. CT • CSS / ESPN3.com
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (39,773)
Series Record: Tied, 1-1 • Last Meeting: Oct. 2, 2010 (UConn, 40-21)
Comment: An interesting Big East-SEC matchup. Paul Pasqualoni got the Huskies to a winning start in his debut, as did James Franklin in his maiden voyage commanding the Commodores. A difficult call.
Professor’s Pick: U Conn

National Picks

Notre Dame at Michigan … the Irish gained over 500 yards but lost to South Florida because of five turnovers and countless mental mistakes. They are favored over Brady Hoke’s Wolverines – even on the road – so somebody must know something. I’ll go one more week on the ND bandwagon. Professor’s Pick: Notre Dame

BYU at Texas … the Cougars ventured to SEC country and knocked off Ole Miss last week, but the Longhorns will be a tougher task. While UT is not fully back to national power status, I think they will handle BYU. Professor’s Pick: Texas

Utah at USC … Kyle Whittingham has a solid program at Utah. NCAA sanctions haven’t really impacted USC on the field yet (just wait a year), but the Trojans sure struggled against Minnesota. I’m going to say Lane Kiffin’s team plays better in Week 2 and wins a close one. Professor’s Pick: USC

See you at kickoff!

Back to Campus

Back to Campus
September 5, 2011
by Bob Epling

Welcome back to campus … a weekly review of the Saturday that was in college football.

Any good professor starts class with an outline of objectives, so at the end of this piece you should be able to:

  • Summarize the lastest rumblings in conference realignment
  • Identify three big winners and losers of the weekend
  • Explain why not to worry much about Notre Dame
  • Assess the immediate future of Georgia and Mark Richt
  • Preview big matchups coming up in Week Two

Conference Realignment – The Latest

Let’s get off-the-field news out of the way first. The continuing (and tiresome) saga of conference realignment stole some attention from the opening weekend of college football when University of Oklahoma president (and former U.S. Senator) David Boren released a statement announcing the Sooners would divulge plans – either to stay in the Big 12 or bolt to another conference – within weeks, if not days. Reports suggest the Sooners are smitten with the Pac-12, and could fulfill the wishes of left coast commissioner Larry Scott to expand his league to sixteen teams by bringing along Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech.

With Texas A&M having already given notice, the Big 12 teeters. If the “big four” head west, the conference might act proactively by inviting SMU, Houston, BYU, and other candidates to fill the vacancies. Otherwise, wait and watch the remaining schools … Missouri, Kansas and K-State, Baylor (left behind by their Texas brethren). While last year’s potential seismic shifts were a bit premature, this go around a significant realignment seems much more probable.

Week One Winners and Losers

Here is one man’s opinion on the top performances of the first weekend:

1. LSU … Pac-12 commissioner Scott may have been gloating about off the field maneuvers, but on the field his league got taken to the woodshed and no program took a worse whipping than Oregon at the hands of LSU. The Bengal Tigers never missed a beat with backup QB Jarrett Lee at the helm, physically dominating both sides of the ball in a 40-27 victory that was more thorough than the score shows. I’m already looking forward to seeing the defenses of Alabama and LSU collide later this season.

2. Wisconsin … While UNLV provided less than stellar competition, the Badgers looked terrific. Transfer Russell Wilson moved right into the starting quarterback role, providing a mobile dual threat. However, the most impressive aspect of the game was the power of the Wisconsin attack. A huge offensive line, two really good running backs, and a savvy veteran QB all add up to make the Badgers an early season national title contender.

3. Baylor and Syracuse … This ranking is a tie between the winners of the weekend’s two best games. Baylor and QB Robert Griffin III jumped all over TCU in Waco, fell apart as the Horned Frogs gigged their way into a late lead, then recovered and won a thriller 50-48. It’ll be tough to find a more exciting game all season. Up in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse trailed Wake Forest by 15 points in the 4th quarter but scored two touchdowns (adding a 2-point conversion on the last one) to send the game to overtime. The Orange prevailed with a TD in overtime for the 36-29 win. That’s a nice win for Coach Doug Marrone and keeps some momentum rolling from last season’s Pinstripe Bowl triumph. Hopefully, you got to see these two thrillers.

At the other end of the elation scale, here are this weekend’s biggest losers:

1. Big 12 … There’s no way to sugar-coat the looming loss of the league’s premier programs – Oklahoma and Texas – along with their sidekicks OK State and Texas Tech. Texas and ESPN deserve a lot of blame for the whole specter of conference-hopping overshadowing on-field performance. The Longhorn Network – which will have to be modified for Texas to join the revenue-sharing Pac-12 – was a joint (greedy) venture between the Bristol bad guys at ESPN and the peacock proud puffed shirts in Austin. It may well go down as a boondoggle that ruined at least one major college football conference (and could impact many others).

2. Pac-12 … Off the field, the league could emerge as a really big winner if the four schools mentioned above join, but at least for a weekend the conference got handled on the field. LSU over Oregon, Houston over UCLA, Sacramento State over Oregon State, Hawaii over Colorado, close wins by USC (vs. Minnesota) and Washington (vs. Eastern Washington) against heavy underdogs wiped the smile from Larry Scott for the weekend.

3. Georgia … Mark Richt and the Dogs looked nearly as bad against Boise State as they did at the end of last year during a 10-6 Liberty Bowl loss to Central Florida. The Broncos may not have been bigger, stronger, or faster than Georgia, but they certainly were tougher, better prepared, and more poised. With South Carolina, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Ole Miss on the horizon, things could turn ugly fast in Athens.

Notre Dame Will Win

Assuming Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly’s head did not explode after his Irish lost a frustrating, weather-delayed game to South Florida … I think his team will be OK. There is no excuse for a seasoned team to make a deluge of mistakes – a fumble at the USF 1-yard line that was returned for a touchdown, two interceptions inside the Bulls’ 10-yard line, a fumble on a punt return, dropped passes, botched punts, a missed chip shot field goal, back-to-back personal foul penalties leading to a TD – but those are correctable mistakes. The Irish still gained more than 500 yards of total offense, passed for nearly 300 yards in the second half alone, came back from a 16-0 deficit to lose by a field goal (although they never really threatened to win the game), and played solid defense most of the night. The main change will come under center where Kelly must replace Dayne Crist with sophomore Tommy Rees. Rees is not athletic in the size-speed categories, but he is smart and an accurate thrower. The Irish should be fine, but better fix things quickly with Michigan, Michigan State, and Pitt coming up.

All Not Well At Georgia

The Bulldog season could go south – and I mean Deep South – in a hurry.

South Carolina comes to Athens this week, fresh from sleeping through a quarter against East Carolina before pinning half-a-hundred on the Pirates. The Dogs hold a special place in the heart of Gamecock head ball coach Steve Spurrier … special in the sense that he loves to beat and humiliate them whenever possible. Consider that possible this weekend. SC features a strong, durable runner in Marcus Lattimore, an athletic (if unpredictable) quarterback in Stephen Garcia, a big-play receiver in Alshon Jeffery, and decent size and speed on defense.

Georgia boasts none of those weapons at this time. The loss to Boise was disheartening in a number of ways. The offense looked stagnant and directionless … playing nearly exclusively from the shotgun but not running a true spread attack. The team looked disorganized (an all too frequent occurrence) on both sides of the ball and undisciplined (multiple penalties on the very first offensive possession). Boise appeared in much better physical condition, Georgia having to call a timeout three minutes into the second half because the Dog defense was already out of gas.

Most surprisingly, the Dogs are very thin. How does a major college team – in the SEC no less – find itself playing a walk-on at linebacker when a starter (Alec Ogletree – who had moved from safety himself back in the spring) goes down in the first game? Scholarship players were available, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham (looking more and more like a questionable hire after a season and one game) and staff had apparently not cross-trained them at the inside positions. That is poor and inexcusable.

The buck stops with Mark Richt. The normally placid and friendly coach, a throwback to the Christian gentleman of yesteryear, spent the entire off-season ornery and defensive … with an “edge” as ESPN analyst Todd Blackledge stated Saturday night.

Richt will need any edge he can get this week because this game with South Carolina shapes up as pivotal for the Dogs’ 2011 season – and for the future of the program.

On the Horizon

Week Two includes excellent early weekend games with Arizona at Oklahoma State on Thursday, and Missouri at Arizona State on Friday. Other interesting games are Alabama at Penn State, Mississippi State at Auburn, and Notre Dame at Michigan in the first night game at the Big House.

See you at kickoff!