Ben Roethlisberger's ability to perform under a heavy pass rush remains critical to Pittsburgh's offensive success.
29 Nov 2007
by Russell Levine
Oh sure, there's still another week to play in what has been an outstanding, dramatic college football season. But many schools have already moved on -- to the "silly season" of coaching changes.
Games? You want games? Yeah, we've go those too. To wit:
You won't see the triple-option executed any better than Navy runs it under Paul Johnson. The Middies can score in bunches, but their defense is weak. Army is much worse on paper, but is coming off one of its best offensive performances of the year.
Virginia Tech dominated all but the last few minutes of the first meeting between these teams. Unfortunately, that brief letdown killed the Hokies' national-title hopes and ever-so-briefly elevated Boston College into title-game contention and quarterback Matt Ryan to the top of the Heisman chase.
The teams' fortunes have been divergent since then, with Boston College dropping a pair of games while Virginia Tech is playing its best football of the season. To the winner goes a berth in the Orange Bowl, unless something really crazy happens.
While No. 1 LSU against surging Georgia in the SEC championship had game-of-the-year potential, two-loss LSU against ho-hum Tennessee was little of the same allure. Still, the SEC title game tends to produce entertaining, surprising games, but not always close ones.
The big story has shifted from LSU's national-championship hopes -- now gone thanks to a three-overtime loss to Arkansas -- to the future of Les Miles. Michigan has now received permission to talk to the LSU coach about its opening, and the fact that the request was made public indicates that this is much more than a courtesy interview. It's likely that the Wolverines would have had to wait until after the national title game for a formal interview had LSU won last week, and may have even gone in another direction, so those in the Les-is-more camp in Ann Arbor have to be pretty happy.
As for me, I've been waffling on Miles for more than a year. Last week was another thumbs-down performance. Still, if hired, he will inject some badly needed attitude and excitement into a program that has become too staid.
There's much less at stake this year for these cross-town rivals. Last year, USC was stunned by the Bruins in a result cheered by the masses in the Georgia Dome restrooms. The Trojans were forced to accept a Rose Bowl bid as a consolation prize rather than playing for the national title.
This time around, the Rose Bowl is the prize, and incredibly, UCLA remains alive despite a 6-5 record. If the Bruins win, and Arizona upsets Arizona State, UCLA wins the conference on a tie-breaker.
People were quick to proclaim the end of the USC era when they lost to Stanford earlier this year, but they overlooked the fact that the Trojans were battling injuries for much of the season. They're getting healthy, and looked every bit of a perennial power in dismantling Arizona State on Thanksgiving night.
Let's see. West Virginia is:
Suffice it to say that the Morgantown fire squad has its couch-extinguishing teams at the ready.
When we last saw Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter, he was bleeding from the mouth after absorbing a savage beating from USC in a game in which the Sun Devils lost control of the Pac-10 race.
Now a promising season threatens to come undone if Arizona State can't rally emotionally and physically against pesky Arizona -- a team that has a little experience in pulling off upsets this year.
Arizona State will likely know the result of the USC-UCLA game by the time this game kicks off. A USC win could further deplete Arizona State's motivation for this rivalry game.
The SEC has certainly been the nation's most exciting, dramatic conference, producing thrilling finishes seemingly every week. But for sheer excitement, the Big 12 isn't far behind, especially if you love offensive football.
There was nothing offensive about quarterback Chase Daniel's performance against Kansas last week. You can search far and wide for a better outing in a big game than Daniel's 40-of-49, 361-yard, three-touchdown day, but good luck finding one. Another such outing could be enough to edge Florida's Tim Tebow off the Heisman perch he currently occupies.
Another such day will probably also send No. 1 Missouri to the national championship game. A Missouri-West Virginia title match might not be the most traditional of pairings, but it would certainly be entertaining -- as should this game. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford can also fill the air with footballs and the Sooners beat Missouri by 10 in their first meeting of the year.
This game should serve as a three-hour (all right, four-hour, given June Jones's favored no-run offense) coronation for Hawaii before what is expected to be a rowdy, sold-out crowd at Aloha Stadium. A win all but guarantees a trip to the Sugar Bowl for the Warriors.
Weak schedule or no, it is impossible to overstate the job Jones has done at Hawaii. He inherited a team that had gone 0-12 in 1998, with fan apathy, poor facilities and a limited budget. That he has managed to build a WAC powerhouse at a school that sits a five-hour flight from its nearest rival is an amazing success story.
The Washington team Hawaii faces in this game looks little like the squad that started 2-0 with an upset of Boise State thrown in. They've gone 2-8 since, and quarterback Jake Locker is beaten up from a year-long pounding. If Hawaii's defensive effort against Boise last week is any indication, this could be another long, painful night for the Huskies. Hawaii fields a surprisingly fast, physical defense at what is thought to be a finesse school.
This is also the final home game for Colt Brennan, who has become an adopted son in the islands, and he and the crowd should be able to propel the Warriors to finish off their unbeaten year.
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
|Visitor||Spread||Home||Orson Says||Russell Says|
|Virginia Tech||-5||Boston College||Virginia Tech||Virginia Tech|
|Pittsburgh||+28||West Virginia||West Virginia*||West Virginia|
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
|Last Week||Season Total|
260 comments, Last at 04 Dec 2007, 1:34pm by JDog