Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
25 Oct 2007
by Russell Levine
Face it. It's an SEC world and the rest of us are just living in it.
I've been accused of SEC bashing, so I want to clear the record. I've said that I don't think the gap between the SEC and the second-best conference (the Pac-10; my earlier opinion on the Big East has been disproven) is anywhere near as wide as it was last season. Still, on any given weekend, if you could only watch the games from one conference, just about any neutral observer would pick the SEC. (I still think Les Miles is crazy, though.)
This Saturday is no exception. Florida and Georgia set to renew acquaintances in the Cocktail Party game in Jacksonville and Steve Spurrier gets his latest chance to get under Phil Fulmer's skin as South Carolina takes on Tennessee.
This will also be a big weekend for the national championship race as the top two teams, Ohio State and Boston College, face their biggest tests of the season. And if a team like Virginia Tech or West Virginia is to sneak into the title game, they will start down the path in key games this week.
To help me make sense of it all on this week's podcast is CBS Sportsline Spin columnist Clay Travis, who is also the author of the outstanding book Dixieland Delight: A Football Season on the Road in the Southeastern Conference. I can't recommend this book highly enough, no matter if you love or hate the SEC or have ever set foot on one of its campuses. If you've ever wondered where "'Bama Bangs" came from or what it's like to travel to Mississippi with two Indian friends, this is the book for you.
Here are the games Clay and I will be discussing this week:
Seven games haven't taught us all that much about Boston College, other than that quarterback Matt Ryan is really, really good.
All the talk this week has been about whether Boston College has a shot at the national-title game, but Virginia Tech, hanging around in the BCS top ten despite being de-pantsed at LSU in its second game, may actually have a better chance to get to New Orleans -- although the Hokies need LSU to lose again.
This could well be the first of two meetings between these two, with the second coming in the ACC championship game in Jacksonville.
Speaking of teams hanging around in the BCS ... presenting, seventh-ranked West Virginia! If the Mountaineers win out and catch a few breaks from above, they could end up in the championship game despite finishing with the same a record as South Florida, a team that beat West Virginia.
And yes, I realize I had West Virginia one spot above South Florida in my BlogPoll ballot last week. That was a mistake that will be corrected next week -- assuming the Mountaineers don't fall victim to the same fate against Rutgers that the Bulls did last Thursday.
Mike Teel is questionable to play for Rutgers with a banged-up thumb on his passing hand. That injury may explain some of the perplexing interceptions Teel has thrown over the last month, but the Scarlet Knights need him to be able to go to have a chance to win this game.
USC has a brewing quarterback controversy after Mark Sanchez led the Trojans to a 38-0 win at Notre Dame last week. Pete Carroll seems to be indicating that he'll go back to John David Booty once his broken finger heals, but Sanchez appears to believe otherwise.
Oregon continues to have one of the nation's most explosive offenses, and a defense that makes opponents look explosive. The winner here may be the first to reach 40 points.
The winner could also re-emerge as the Pac-10 favorite, as both teams have yet to play unbeaten Arizona State.
The annual "cocktail party" game in Jacksonville -- at least that's what most people still call it -- will play a key role in shaking out the SEC East standings, where there is a five-way tie in the loss column.
Florida has owned Georgia -- winning eight of the last nine in the series and 15 of 17 -- and can get back to the SEC title game by winning out. Quarterback Tim Tebow may soon own the Heisman Trophy if he continues to play like he did in a wild win over Kentucky last week, but all the punishment he's taking in the Urban Meyer's, ahem, repetitive offense is starting to add up and he appeared to be favoring his non-throwing shoulder as he left the field in Lexington.
Florida's defense can be had, and if Matthew Stafford is on, the Bulldogs can break 30 points and pull off the upset.
Surprising Kansas gets its first real test of the season -- and Dennis Franchione tries to stave off unemployment for another week -- as the Aggies host the Jayhawks.
Even Hawaii is taken more seriously than Kansas, whose only half-decent win came at Kansas State. If the Jayhawks survive here, they still need to win at rising Oklahoma State before a season-ending showdown against Missouri.
Kansas will have to slow the Big 12-leading rushing offense of A&M, which ran it up on Nebraska last week. Still, Franchione is on the thinnest of ice, especially after his secret
gambling tip sheet newsletter to boosters became public a few weeks ago. That little faux pas could allow Texas A&M to skate on paying Franchione a reported $10 million buyout at the end of the year.
When 0-2 Notre Dame visited 0-2 Michigan earlier this year, Brian of mgoblog nicknamed the game a "cripple fight."
The matchup of South Carolina's suddenly punchless offense against Tennessee's porous defense deserves a similar moniker.
Tennessee, fresh off a 41-17 strafing by Alabama, is a much better team at home and will probably try to pound Arian Foster to get to an early lead and just play defense against Steve Spurrier's pop-gun attack.
The Head Ball Coach is playing musical quarterbacks and throwing visors with regularity, so you know something is very wrong with the Gamecocks. Still, "Darth Visor" gives chills to any Tennessee fan worth his salt, owning the Vols as he did while at Florida.
Ohio State fans have a message for the rest of the college football world: They're back.
The Buckeyes are undefeated and atop all the polls in a supposed rebuilding year, but they can make a few believers (outside of SEC country, at least) if they handle a Penn State team that plays much better at home.
The Buckeyes bring a suffocating defense to Happy Valley, where they will face a Phoenix-Coyotes-be-damned "whiteout" at Beaver Stadium. If Anthony Morelli takes care of the ball, and the defensive line can get to Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman, the Lions have a chance to
spare the world from another Ohio State appearance in the national-title game pull the upset.
Arizona State finally begins the varsity portion of its schedule this week, meaning their No. 4 ranking in the initial BCS standings could disappear faster than ASU Coach Dennis Erickson did from Idaho.
Following this contest, the Sun Devils still play USC, Oregon, and their rivalry game against Arizona, so multiple losses are a distinct possibility.
Not too many people figured Cal would limp into this contest on a two-game slide, but the Bears have fallen to Oregon State and UCLA the last two weeks. Suddenly, a dream season, in which they were thisclose to being ranked No.
2 1 a few weeks ago, is in danger of running completely off the rails.
Or, alternately, download the MP3 by clicking on the icon below:
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
|Visitor||Spread||Home||Clay Says||Russell Says|
|Boston College||+3||Virginia Tech||Boston College||Virginia Tech|
|West Virginia||-6||Rutgers||West Virginia||Rutgers|
|Kansas||-3||Texas A&M||Texas A&M||Kansas|
|Ohio State||-4||Penn State||Ohio State*||Ohio State|
|California||+3||Arizona State||Arizona State||Arizona State|
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
|Last Week||Season Total|
138 comments, Last at 29 Oct 2007, 4:19pm by Pete