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.
01 Nov 2007
by Russell Levine
With college football set for the season's stretch run, it's time to start thinking BCS matchups. Ohio State leads a pack of four major-conference unbeatens, but all four have significant tests remaining.
LSU is in the pole position among teams that have been beaten once, followed closely by Oregon, and those teams will be involved in Saturday's two biggest games.
Chi is a former staff writer at several newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle/Examiner, where he covered the Pac-10 for a number of years. He has been around big-time college football seemingly his entire life, having attended high school in Ann Arbor and currently residing in SEC country in Florida.
Here are the games Sam and I will be discussing this week:
Kansas, aided by coach Mark Mangino's sartorial stylings, had little trouble dispatching Texas A&M in the second half and now finds itself a huge home favorite against reeling Nebraska.
The Huskers put up a pretty good fight at Texas last week before getting run over by Jamaal Charles in the fourth quarter. Tom Osborne is back as interim athletic director, and he's already dropping hints that Bill Callahan is on the way out.
Nebraska as a near three-touchdown underdog is an eye-opener, but it's possible the Huskers -- who have lost starting quarterback Sam Keller for the year -- don't have much fight left. Will they still play hard for Callahan? What about Osborne?
As for Kansas, a win here sets the Jayhawks on course to play Missouri for the Big 12 North title in the regular-season finale.
Notre Dame is 1-7. Navy is a decent 4-4, but this is not a vintage Navy team. So why even bother with this game? The answer is as obvious as Notre Dame's 43-year winning streak over the Middies is long.
If Navy can't beat the Irish this year, it's possible it never will.
Notre Dame supporters have been patient with Charlie Weis to this point, and are confident better times are ahead. Others aren't so certain. Regardless of who's right, Weis could see the tide start to turn against him in a major way if he can't beat Navy.
Thanks to a soft late schedule, Notre Dame has a shot at a strong finish, but 2-10 is also a distinct possibility.
A seven-game winning streak has Michigan in the BCS top 12. More importantly for Michigan fans, their favorite team has played itself back into having a meaningful season. Win their the final three games against Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, and the Wolverines will go to the Rose Bowl. In fact, the Wolverines can go 2-1 and still end up in Pasadena as long as they beat Ohio State.
Michigan's Chad Henne and Mike Hart both sat out last week's win over Minnesota, but are expected to play this week. Hart's backups, Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor, each went over 100 yards against the Gophers, but Hart will carry the load if healthy.
This series has traditionally been decided by which team runs the ball better, and with Jehuu Caulcrick and Javon Ringer on the other side, this year should be no exception.
The much-trumpeted Nick Saban bowl finally arrives. Beyond the hype, this is a huge game with SEC- and national-title implications.
For LSU, which will be without second quarterback Ryan Perrilloux after a FnDC incident this week, this weeks represents their best chance to impress. While the Tigers appear to be just a Boston College or Ohio State loss away from the title game, the winner of the Pac-10 showdown between Oregon and Arizona State could receive enough of a bump in the polls and the computers to surpass LSU in the BCS standings.
In other words,
crazy brilliant uh, gutsy Les Miles is likely to "Let 'er rip" this week in an effort not only bury the ghost of Saban that continues to hang over his head, but impress the voters as well.
Alabama would control its own destiny in the SEC West with a win, a remarkable achievement in Saban's first year in Tuscaloosa.
The Nutmeg State has suddenly discovered there is more to life than insurance, Indian casinos, women's basketball and, of course, Brass Bonanza. All it took was UConn's stunning win over South Florida at home last week, a victory which gave the Huskies control of the Big East race.
Things seem to be falling into place for UConn, which has already beaten Temple on a dodgy replay decision and Louisville thanks in part to the phantom fair catch. The Huskies might not need divine intervention to beat Rutgers, reeling after a 31-3 pummeling at the hands of West Virginia last week.
This game will provide a test of Rutgers coach Greg Schiano's mettle. Can he get his team ready to play after a huge disappointment last week? If so, he might just be able to ride Ray Rice to a win. If not, this game could go like many of the UConn-Rutgers meetings on the hardwood (at least on the men's side).
Arizona State survived one game against a team that "warning, may contain football-like substance" by coming from behind to beat Cal at home last week. Things get an awful lot tougher this week at Autzen Stadium against Oregon, which may be the hottest team in the country.
The Sun Devils have to be concerned about the health of starting quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who has a sprained thumb on his passing hand, an injury has limited him in practice this week.
ESPN, proving that it does college sports better than anything else, swung an arrangement with FSN to air this game nationally, giving everyone a chance to evaluate the Sun Devils overall and Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon's Heisman worthiness.
Missouri appears headed for a season-ending showdown with Kansas to decide the Big 12 North title, but the Tigers need to be wary of pesky Colorado, which has been tough at home this season.
Dan Hawkins -- who is clearly coaching Division I football -- appears to be building a solid program from the wreckage of the end of the Gary Barnett era. (Note to self: When I finally get the chance to market my long-planned "Greatest Sports Meltdowns" DVD set, Hawkins must be included.)
Missouri will be without the services of one of its best defenders. Safety Cornelius "Pig" Brown tore his Achilles' last week and is lost for the season. (On a side note, how can a defensive back be named "Pig?" I would have thought that nickname was the exclusive property of offensive and defensive linemen.)
Matt Ryan had his Heisman moment last week. The national media has collectively decided to forget that he was awful for 56 minutes against Virginia Tech, but the final touchdown pass, combined with the tackling of his coach in celebration, and the sideline vomiting has moved him to the front of the list.
Yet, even though Boston College is ranked second in the BCS standings, they are a long way from qualifying for the championship game. Florida State has designated this as a "sod game," and even though the Seminoles appear to be in disarray, it wouldn't be an absolute stunner if they came to Chestnut Hill and left with a chunk of the Eagles' FieldTurf.
More likely scenario: This will be a tight game until Drew Weatherford -- back in at starting quarterback for the Seminoles with Xavier Lee suspended -- throws the inevitable pick or three, allowing Ryan and the Eagles to pull away for the win. Put another way, Doug Flutie should really be enjoying himself on the ABC postgame show.
And yes, Sam and I tagged this game with the first dreaded "Double Edelstein" label of doom. So you can probably forget about everything in that last paragraph.
Or, alternately, download the MP3 by clicking on the icon below:
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
|Visitor||Spread||Home||Sam Says||Russell Says|
|Arizona State||+7||Oregon||Arizona State||Oregon|
|Florida State||+6.5||Boston College||Boston College*||Boston College*|
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
|Last Week||Season Total|
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