Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
02 Sep 2004
By Vinny Gauri and Russell Levine
For football fans, there is no rest on the Seventh Day. With apologies to Scramble for the Ball, PTI and anyone else we may have ripped off, welcome to Seventh Day Adventure a (very) light-hearted look at the world of college football. Each Thursday, Vinny and Russell will break down the week's biggest games and reference players and incidents that only a true college fan could understand.
(Ed. note: This game has been rescheduled to Friday, Sept. 10 due to Hurricane Frances.)
Russell: In the weekend's biggest game, Miami is -1.5 at home vs. FSU, which is pretty much the Orange Bowl advantage. Would you trust Chris Rix on the road?
Vinny: Fair question. But would you trust Brock Berlin anywhere?
Russell: Also a fair question. But I think Brock dates Miss Louisiana or something, so he's got that in his favor.
Vinny: She didn't dump him after he stunk up the joint against VaTech and Tennessee last year? Brittney, you can do better... Call me!
Russell: I think you're being too kind to yourself. Brock still has all his hair. I don't trust either QB, and if Bobby Bowden puts the headset on more than twice during the course of the game, I'm going with Miami at home. The 'Canes know how to win these games. Florida State seems to have forgotten.
Vinny: Russ, I never liked you. I'm going against all logic here (very similar to my approach at work) and picking the 'Noles to not only cover the spread, but to win the game outright, let's say 28-27. I think this is the year Rix puts it all together and avoids any major meltdowns. He's throwing to a guy named Craphonso Thorpe. That works for me.
Russell: Don't people understand that their first job as a parent is to give their child a name that won't get them beat up on principle alone?
Vinny: Maybe they were going with Johnny Cash's "Boy Named Sue" rationale to make Craphonso tougher. Alright, despite the fact that I haven't trotted out any of my Willie Williams jokes yet, let's move onÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.
Russell: I'm going with Miami, 21-13.
Russell: I've enjoyed the MAC portion of the Wolverines' schedule in recent years. Big ups to Ben Roethlisberger for leaving school early. You have to think Michigan won't have too much trouble in this one.
Vinny: Wait a minute. Didn't the Red Hawks (nee the Redskins) throttle Indiana State 49-0 last Saturday? That is Larry Bird's alma mater......
Russell: Did the basketball team show up?
Vinny: Quite possibly. I think this is going to be a game. You've got Josh Betts trying to fill Roethlisberger's shoes, with Matt Guttierez and David Underwood taking over for John Navarre and Chris Perry, respectively.
Russell: I don't know about you (actually I do) but which will you miss more? Navarre's 4-5 passes blocked at the line of scrimmage per game or his steely leadership? I think Guttierez will be fine, but there could be some bumps along the way. Michigan seems to grow running backs and linemen on trees, so I'm confident Underwood can carry the mail back there. You know how good Michigan is as a big favorite -- take the Wolver ... wait, make that Miami, plus the 14.5.
Vinny: Special teams could be fun to watch in this game, with two of the nation's best punt returners (Steve Breaston and Ryne Robinson) involved. Meaningless Factoid of the Week: Ara Parseghian's grandnephew is kicking field goals for the Red Hawks. Michigan escapes but can't cover: 28-21.
Russell: You have to love college football, if only for lines like this one. Question for you, Vinny: Has Jason White taken the gold medal in the "Run, Jump and Throw Like a Girl Olympics" from Danny Wuerffel?
Vinny: Nobody beats Wuerrfel in that category, except for maybe Martin Short in that old SNL skit - pure genius. Jason White was actually pretty athletic until doctors scoped his knees for the 12th time. Actually, he can still move around, and he's looking to prove that he isn't the Biggest Fraud on the Public Since One-Hour Martinizing after his (and OU's) late season collapse. OU always seems to take care of business in these types of games. They cover easily.
Russell: Nobody puts the hammer down like Bob Stoops. The man never met a five-touchdown spread he couldn't cover. The Sooner Schooner's going to be busy as OU rolls, 56-7.
Russell: Speaking of schools challenging themselves this week, Texas is -26 over North Texas, which actually wins its conference every year, something the Longhorns can only dream about. Your thoughts?
Vinny: Mack "Big Game" Brown never learns from his mistakes: He's considering another QB rotation with Vincent Young and Chance Mock. Regardless, Cedric Benson should be right behind USC's Reggie Bush in the early Heisman Watch after this one -- The Mean Green have to replace three all-conference starters at linebacker this year. Texas cruises (and covers), 56-10.
Russell: Wasn't "Chance Mock" Dirk Diggler's alter ego in "Boogie Nights?" Regardless, I don't know what's more amazing -- the fact that Mack Brown is still thought of as a good coach by anyone, or the fact that you know that North Texas lost three all-conference LBs. You need to get out more, my friend. Texas, 49-3.
Vinny: Karl Dorrell's ship at UCLA is taking on water: He opens up 6-7 last year and then it seems like half his team transferred or left early in the off-season. He's trying to plug the holes with some junior college transfers of his own. UCLA was 100th in scoring offense last year -- wasn't Dorrell an offensive assistant to Mike Shanahan? Yeesh. Les Miles has some losses of his own (namely Rashaun Woods and Tatum Bell), but I like the Cowboys here: 17-14.
Russell: I guess the "hey, we were a bowl team last year" argument is a tough sell for Dorrell. He's on very thin ice after the way the Bruins collapsed. Miles, on the other hand, has put together a very solid program at OK State. Now if he could just do something about those construction workers that weaved a giant "OU" into the brickwork of his stadium's new facade. The Cowboys win outright.
Vinny: Oregon State dropped Temple and instead scheduled co-defending champ LSU in Baton Rouge. Somebody in the Beaver athletic department has it in for Mike Riley. Derek Anderson threw for over 4,000 yards last year but matched his 24 TD's with 24 picks. I think he keeps the Beavers close. LSU, suffering from a bit of a hangover, can't cover but prevails, 24-20.
Russell: I think LSU will struggle a bit this year without Matt Mauck at the helm, but not in this one. Tigers devour the Beavers, 31-10. Vin, I know you've made the LSU roadie. How does Baton Rouge rate for gameday experience?
Vinny: Purportedly, Tiger Stadium has literally shook on occasion, including LSU's first win over Steve Spurrier in 1997. I happened to show up in Baton Rouge for an exceptionally cold October evening game against Eli Manning's Rebels in 2001. Ole Miss took control early so the crowd was pretty disconsolate throughout, except for a brief Tiger comeback in the 3rd quarter. Disappointing, but I'll have to give Baton Rouge another shot. My only other gripe is that there are only a few bars close to the main campus. The saving grace is that one of those bars is The Chimes -- great place.
Russell: The line we should be focusing on is the over/under on the number of weeks before Alabama fans demand Mike Shula be fired and replaced by Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom. I've got under 6 weeks.
Vinny: You're too kind -- that will take a max of 3 weeks. Remember, these are the same fans who think pasting a roll of paper towels to a box of laundry detergent makes a clever game souvenir ("Roll Tide").
Russell: So that's what that means. All I know is 'Bama's AD clearly didn't study the Tampa Bay Bucs game films from when Shula was their offensive coordinator. Made my high school's (yes, the Princeton Li'l Tigers) attack look like Mike Martz's. Back to this one, I think Croom will get it turned around at Mississippi State, but it could take awhile. Tulane can continue griping about the BCS all they want, they won't be getting in this year. A bad SEC team still has plenty of talent to cover that measly spread. MSU, 27-13.
Vinny: With Bobby Ross taking over at Army, you've got to think the Green Wave will be cellar dwellers in Conference USA this year. Meanwhile, Croom has his work cut out to make the Bulldogs a bowl team -- their offense was statistically the worst in the SEC last year. Jerious Norwood will need to break out as a real threat at tailback while QB Omarr Conner learns the new West Coast Offense. I think the Bulldogs cover as well.
Russell: I need to know before I make my pick, is Albert Means going to be in the Memphis lineup? You know, the first college player ever to receive a six-figure signing bonus?
Vinny: I believe Hart Lee Dykes still holds the record for taking the largest pay cut in order to play in the NFL.
Russell: And we know how well that turned out. Let that be a lesson to you kids -- stay in school! As for Ole Miss, they have to hope they can build off the momentum of the Manning years. It worked for Tennessee, right? Although I don't see any national titles in their future, I do think the Rebels will have enough to cover the number against Memphis.
Vinny: Speaking of hangovers (and I believe I was previously), Memphis fans probably need a couple Chaser caplets after their first bowl trip in 32 years. The Tigers have almost everyone back on offense, although one is QB Danny Wimprine, the MVP of the New Orleans Bowl. Wimprine? How much milk money did he lose in grade school? Regardless, DeAngelo Williams is another who returns, and I think he rushes for over 150 yards against David Cutcliffe's defense. Memphis wins outright, 31-24.
Russell: Speaking of hangovers, it's highly unlikely anyone will have one in Provo this Saturday as Notre Dame arrives to face BYU.
Vinny: How many favors did Notre Dame AD Kevin White call in to move BYU up from October 30 to give the Irish a warm-up before hosting Michigan? I'm not sure QB Brady Quinn has a complete handle on Ty Willingham's offense, even after having most of last season as a crash course. Ryan Grant doesn't have to share carries with Julius Jones anymore, but that might not be a good thing for the Irish. Still, having Justin Tuck (13.5 sacks last season) and Mike Goolsby back on defense will help. ND crushes a terrible BYU team and covers easily.
Russell: What's gotten into the water in Provo (since we know that's all they drink)? BYU hasn't had an offense this bad since before Vai Sikahema got to town. Notre Dame has no trouble with BYU or the spread in this one. Can Michigan and ND just agree not to play each other in the first game of the season? I've lost track of which school is leading in the race for "most games rescheduled to avoid opening against the other" contest.
Russell: Purdue seems to be a trendy pick in the Big 10. I don't see it. I see a nice eight, maybe nine-win team, but not one that can mix it up with the conference's big boys. I forget -- are the Boilers back to the "basketball on grass" attack this season, or will they try to win with defense?
Vinny: Purdue lost eight starters on defense, so it's already basketball season. College football observer Lee Gardy has a theory that everyone in West Lafayette either looks like Joe Tiller, or will look like Joe Tiller by 2007. If proven, that might be Nobel Prize material.
Russell: Purdue QB Kyle Orton's getting a lot of pub. He'll start the year off with a big performance against Syracuse, which could be "your Big East Champions!" thanks to conference realignment. Couldn't they have given the Big East's BCS bid to Conference USA? Or the I-AA champ? Purdue, 28-7.
Vinny: Walter Reyes needs a big game running the ball for the Orangemen as their QB situation is shaky for the 6th straight season. I think this is the year Paul Pasqualoni finally gets fired. But then I also think someone should be selling Fruit Loops-flavored milk. The Boilers roll, 31-14.
Russell: I think that about covers it for this week. Any best bets?
Russell: I'm keeping it in the Big 12 with Texas.
(Best bet in bold)
|Game||Vinny says||Russell says|
|Florida State (+1.5) at Miami||FSU||Miami|
|Miami (Ohio) (+14.5) at Michigan||Miami||Miami|
|Bowling Green (+32) at Oklahoma||Oklahoma||Oklahoma|
|North Texas (+26) at Texas||Texas||Texas|
|Oklahoma State at UCLA (pick)||Oklahoma State||Oklahoma State|
|Oregon State (+18.5) at LSU||Oregon State||LSU|
|Tulane (+6.5) at Mississippi State||Mississippi St.||Mississippi St.|
|Memphis (+3.5) at Mississippi||Memphis||Mississippi|
|Notre Dame (-4) at BYU||Notre Dame||Notre Dame|
|Syracuse (+12) at Purdue||Purdue||Purdue|