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30 Sep 2005

Seventh Day Adventure: Rammer Jammer

by Vinny Gauri and Russell Levine

Russell: Another week, another week of lousy picks from the two of us. I don't know about you, but I think Lloyd Carr's play-calling is having an effect on my prognostication skills.

Vinny: Seriously. I haven't seen anything like this since the Anita Bryant concert.

Russell: I really don't have a joke there. Just kidding, Lloyd, we love you. Just don't lose this week, OK?

Vinny: In a related story, I'm getting really tired of the street performer guy in Terminal 1 at O'Hare Airport constantly singing Elton John's I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues. Frankly, I'm not sure what's more painful right now: our picks, Michigan's predicament, or the fact that I can't get that damn song out of my head...

Russell: It could be worse. If you lived in my house you'd wake up humming the theme to Jack's Big Music Show.

Michigan (+5.5) at #11 Michigan State, 12 p.m. ET, ABC

Russell: Things are getting desperate for Michigan, which is the underdog in this in-state rivalry for the first time since the Fielding Yost era, I believe. I'm trying to look for a positive in this matchup, and about the best I can come up with is that Michigan State might be overconfident.

Vinny: Slap-happy John L. Smith is still telling his team they're the underdogs, since they haven't won this contest since 2001 in the infamous Spartan Bob Clockgate game. In fact, he's now calling Michigan a "wounded dog." Does that mean the Spartans will (run and) shoot the Wolverines to death this week? Probably.

Russell: Michigan's defense has played a little better this year, but this is the first real test from one of those dreaded mobile QBs that always kill the Wolverines. Drew Stanton was in the midst of putting on a clinic against Michigan last year when he hurt his shoulder, leading to the Wolverines' spectacular comeback.

Vinny: Chad Henne is still mired in a sophomore slump without Braylon Edwards around to bail him out of trouble. Mike Hart is expected back in the Michigan lineup after a hamstring injury has kept him out the last two weeks. But how many people come back from a hamstring injury too soon and pay the price? David Akers, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

Russell: If things get ugly in this one, I might have to pop in the DVD of last year's game that UM was kind enough to include with my season tickets, so I've got that going for me, which is always nice. It kills me to say it, but I'll take Sparty and lay the points.

Vinny: This line has been rising all week. Normally, anytime Michigan is an underdog, it's a good bet. I do think this will go down to the wire, as just about every Michigan game does -- and I've got an octogenarian heart to show for it. But there are plenty of things going the Spartans' way here. I keep changing my pick in my head. Aw, screw it. I'll take my alma mater (Michigan) and the points.

#3 Virginia Tech (-10) at West Virginia, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

Vinny: Rich Rodriguez is saying this is the best VaTech defense he's ever faced. In fact, he's saying this might be the best defense he's ever faced. Combine that with the Hokies' usually superlative special teams, and the VaTech offense has it pretty good these days.

Russell: Virginia Tech pretty much authored the statement of last Saturday, annihilating a good Georgia Tech team with some vintage Beamer ball that included a blocked field goal and two interceptions all returned for touchdowns. The Hokies are very quietly positioning themselves for a Rose Bowl berth should Texas stumble.

Vinny: The Mountaineers haven't had much of a contest since their opener in the Carrier Dome. In the process, they've gotten carries for a whole stable of running backs, including Pat White (6.7 yards per carry). And QB Adam Bednarik's grandfather was the first cousin of Chuck Bednarik.

Russell: At 4-0, West Virginia might be the Big East's best hope for a less-than-embarrassing BCS representative after Louisville was humiliated by South Florida last week. The Mountaineers' defense is strong enough to give Marcus Vick fits if he's forced to pass to beat them, but I don't think the offense can do much against the Hokies.

Vinny: I'm saddling the Hokies with my Fred Edelstein Lock this week. Let's see if they're really as good as advertised. If so, they should be able to overcome that kind of baggage.

Russell: I'm not sure anyone can overcome that. I'd feel much better about picking West Virginia if this was a night game and the crowd in Morgantown had all day to get lubricated. They'll still be feeling no pain for the noon kickoff, but I doubt we'll see any trash cans tossed from the upper deck or attempted ambulance overturnings. Still, I'm going with the double-digit home dog as West Virginia frustrates Vick enough to keep it close all day.

#23 Iowa State (+3.5) at Nebraska, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Russell: Nebraska may be undefeated, but I think they still trail 2-2 Illinois in the new Harris poll. Put another way, the fans in Lincoln are referring to their head coach as Beau Bridges. They're not exactly satisfied with the offense's progress in year two of Bill Callahan's West Coast attack.

Vinny: Looks like he picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue. Wait, that was Lloyd Bridges. Anyway, I'm waiting for Callahan to call his squad "the dumbest team in the country" like he did with the Raiders. The Huskers had 11 penalties for 91 yards in their close escape over Pitt two weeks ago. And they had 10 penalties the week before that. They kicked Callahan out of Oakland, but you can't take the Oakland out of him.

Russell: Iowa State laid the wood to Iowa earlier this year, although that win is looking a little less impressive each week. They're coming off a thriller against Army at West Point last Friday in which they really didn't play very well, and they will have to be much better to put up points against the Black Shirts.

Vinny: The Black Knights shut down the Iowa State running game (71 yards on 32 attempts). The Cyclones need to get Stevie Hicks going like he was against Iowa (118 yards on 28 carries).

Russell: My big concern in picking Nebraska is the line. I'm not sure they can score enough to cover, even if they shut the Cyclones out. I'll take Iowa State and the points.

Vinny: Yes, the Husker offense is awfully anemic these days -- Zac Taylor is completing only 44% of his passes. I like the road dog (Iowa State) as well.

#5 Florida (-4) at #15 Alabama, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Russell: Urban Meyer's offense gets all the attention, but his Gators are winning with defense. They completely shut down Tennessee two weeks ago and were shutting out Kentucky last week when they decided to take the second half off.

Vinny: Since Shaun Alexander and Freddie Milons left Tuscaloosa, I haven't thought of the Tide as having many offensive weapons. But RB Kenneth Darby -- who may be just as good as Gerald Riggs Jr. -- and wideout/returner Tyrone Prothro are making me re-think that.

Russell: For Florida, Chris Leak looks great throwing the ball -- gone are the poor mechanics and questionable decision-making of a year ago. But he's not the run-pass threat that Meyer loves to have in his spread-option offense, and that makes the Gators a little one-dimensional.

Vinny: This should be another down-to-the-wire contest, and probably low-scoring. But I like Leak to come through in the clutch again. The Gators win by a touchdown.

Russell: Alabama is solid, if not spectacular. Only a blowout win on the road against South Carolina raised eyebrows. But they are solid all around, and the defense is excellent. If Brodie Croyle can make a play or two down the field, they could win this game, but I have to go with the team with the overall talent edge, and that's Florida. But who cares what I think? Let's get an expert opinion, and for that, who better than Warren St. John, Alabama native, raving Crimson Tide fan, and the author of the awesome book on fandom, Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer.

Warren St. John: The real problem for Alabama fans, as far as I can tell, is the overwhelming evidence, presented constantly by Florida fans and various sports writers, that Urban Meyer is actually the Messiah. It's hard enough to beat an average Division I team without having to deal with the Almighty; so by that measure, 3.5 points seems kind of stingy. What if with a single wave of the hand, Urban opens up the field and casts our starting D-line into the fiery chasm of hell, never to return? I just don't think 3 or 4 points is suitable compensation.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that the almighty Urban plays fair, and doesn't use witchcraft or perform miracles on behalf of the Gators. In that case, Alabama has a chance ... a chance. Brodie is the man; Darby and Coffee are doing well in the backfield. The D is strong. I think the game comes down to the play of Bama's young OL and on the play of Bama's linebackers and their ability (or not) to blitz and clog up the Spread.

When I was reporting Rammer Jammer, I got to see Bama play the Gators twice and one year, and let's just say things didn't quite roll the Gators' way. In fact, I have a vivid memory of a UF student in the Swamp whose blue face paint was streaked with tears like a school girl's mascara. Losing is always an ugly experience, but when you're wearing face paint, it's a different kind of ugly. I know those losses probably feel pretty fresh to Gators fans, but to us Bama folk, they feel positively ancient. I'm cautiously optimistic that the Tide could cause some blue face paint to run this Saturday. If they do, I'm sure Urban will open up the skies and bring a cleansing rain down upon his supplicants' heads.

Vinny: Wow, how are we supposed to top that? Warren, you're my hero.

Russell: Buy the book! And check out Warren's blog. There's plenty more where that came from.

#1 USC (-16.5) at #14 Arizona State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Russell: So USC falls behind 13-0 at potential danger-spot Oregon last week and I think the players were laughing. After 45 unanswered points and a blowout win, Matt Leinart said it was good to fall behind. Hey, whatever works for you, Matt. It's your world, we're just living in it.

Vinny: I'm not sure I should be saying this until USC plays a real defense this year (in the Pac-10, that may not happen until they play UCLA, if it happens at all), but is this offense better than the 1994 Penn State version? As far as NFL talent goes, I would have to say yes, although the Trojan offensive line may not be quite as good.

Russell: Sam Keller, Derek Hagan, and the ASU offense can score with anybody -- and they'll need to. But a lack of balance is going to be their undoing in this game. Simply put, USC can run the ball with Reggie Bush and LenDale White, and Arizona State can't -- not against a decent defense.

Vinny: The Trojans have had some injuries on defense, but Pete Carroll is recruiting so much talent (his student equipment managers probably run the 40 in the low 4.4's) that the backups are doing the job just fine. And this week, they got a commitment from maybe the best high school defensive back in the country (Pat Perez). It's just not fair.

Russell: USC is green on defense, but if they get a lead, the aggression comes out. They put the hammer down once they got ahead vs. Oregon. I look for SC to run the ball early and try to put some sustained drives together. That keeps Keller and Co. on the sidelines, and prevents the offensive shootout everyone is predicting. The potential upset won't materialize this week as USC cruises (and covers).

Vinny: Yup, until the line starts creeping over four touchdowns, I have to pick USC to cover every week.

Utah State (-2) at Idaho, 5 p.m. ET

Russell: This week's "blogger special" is a big game for Idaho, which, at 0-4, needs to protect those five points they received in the inaugural Harris Poll.

Vinny: Have you seen the list of voters in that Harris Poll? I have no problem with having old coaches vote. They probably enjoy watching game film (they need an excuse to get away from their wives again) and they usually know what's going on (except for maybe Earl Bruce, who's been delusional since the early-90's). But Terry Bradshaw? I don't even think he watches NFL games -- he just reads (and not very well) a shot sheet during highlights. Jack Moss has been dead for at least 10 years. Rocket Ismail? (Shudder). The list of clowns is endless.

Russell: OK Vin, you know you actually have to talk about these teams eventually, right? I actually watched a bit of the Idaho-Hawaii game last week on ESPNU. If anyone is wondering whatever became of the first ESPN "Dream Job" winner, Mike Hall, you can find him on ESPNU's studio show. Not sure where they stuck the season two winner, who was some NBA washout ... I think it was either Fennis Dembo or God Shammgod, I'm not sure.

Vinny: Utah State beat UNLV 31-24 at home last week, while Idaho lost at UNLV 34-31 a few weeks ago. I'm not sure what that means. But I'll take the team that beat the common opponent. Plus, I've had good luck with Aggies this year. Utah State covers on the road.

Russell: Did you know Idaho has its own domed stadium? Sure, my living room has greater seating capacity, but it's a dome nonetheless. It's also one of the last bastions of old-school Astroturf, which makes the broadcast look like some high-school game from 1987. I'll take Utah State in this battle of new teams in the WAC.

#13 Notre Dame (+3) at #22 Purdue, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Vinny: So much for that vaunted Purdue front seven. The Boilers were gashed for 301 rushing yards by Minnesota last week in the Baggy Dome. Granted, the Gophers have had the best running game in the country for years. But if the Purdue defensive front can't hold up, they're in trouble because their secondary is atrocious. Oh, by the way, Bryan Cupito threw for 271 yards against Purdue. As much as I gave Glen Mason a hard time about not winning a big game last week, I really could have said the same about Joe Tiller.

Russell: Talk about getting punched in the gut. How many games has Purdue lost in excruciating fashion the last couple years? This is getting as predictable as a Michigan road opener.

Vinny: You know the Irish are looking to avenge their embarrassing showing at home against Purdue last year. It took awhile for the Notre Dame offense to get rolling in Seattle last week, but I think there will be no such hitches this week. This should be a scorefest.

Russell: Well they were rolling on their first-offensive snap, the notorious "pass right" that Weis called from his own one.

Vinny: There's no doubt Weis has made a difference for the Irish this year. And it's hard to root against him when you hear about that story. That was so impressive, I can't even call him by a Rodney Dangerfield character this week. Notre Dame wins outright at Ross-Ade.

Russell: I think last week's loss may send Purdue into a funk like the Wisconsin loss did last week. I'll take Notre Dame and the points, and make them my Fred Edelstein Lock.

South Florida (+21) at #9 Miami (Florida), 8 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Vinny: "Time on my hands, could be time spent with..." Dammit. Anyway, I think Bobby Petrino can put his realtor's business card back in his desk drawer after that 45-14 pounding at the hands of South Florida. That had to get the attention of the 'Canes.

Russell: For Louisville fans still trying to get an ID on the mugger that destroyed their Rose Bowl dreams, it was South Florida, which is not to be confused with the other D1-A stepping-stone programs in the Sunshine State. South Florida is actually in the center of the state and plays at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Central Florida is just over from USF in Orlando, and is coached by my all-time favorite Notre Dame coach, George O'Leary. Moving south, there's Florida Atlantic, coached by the immortal Howard Schnellenberger, and Florida International, coached by Don Strock -- no word on whether David Woodley (RIP) takes over the coaching reigns if FIU is struggling at halftime.

Vinny: Just how much talent is there in the state of Florida? If the Bulls can field a competitive team -- and judging by last week, they sure can -- the state is more loaded than anyone would have you believe. South Florida WR Amarri Jackson sure looks like he could play for the 'Canes or anyone else.

Russell: You're right, the most impressive thing about USF's destruction of Louisville was the display of speed. All these second-tier Florida schools have built their programs by recruiting in-state leftovers after the big three have had their pick, and I guess there's still plenty of speed to go around. That looked like one of those circa-1980s Orange Bowls where slow, lumbering Nebraska would get run out of the building by some Southern school.

Vinny: You would have to think this is a let-down situation for South Florida. But the Bulls' pass rush against Louisville was relentless, and we've seen Miami have trouble protecting Kyle Wright. I'm going to regret this (like almost all my picks), but I like the Bulls to cover and make this a game.

Russell: It's an awful lot of points to spot when your team struggles on offense, as Miami does. USF won't make it two in a row, but they can cover that number. Give me the Bulls and the points.

The Picks
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" in bold)
Game Vinny says Russell says
Michigan (+5.5) at #11 Michigan State Michigan Michigan State
#3 Virginia Tech (-10) at West Virginia Virginia Tech West Virginia
#23 Iowa State (+3.5) at Nebraska Iowa State Iowa State
#5 Florida (-4) at #15 Alabama Florida Florida
#1 USC (-16.5) at #14 Arizona State USC USC
Utah State (-2) at Idaho Utah State Utah State
#13 Notre Dame (+3) at #22 Purdue Notre Dame Notre Dame
South Florida (+21) at #9 Miami (Florida) South Florida South Florida
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  Last Week Season Total
Vinny 2-6 (0-1) 12-19-1 (0-4)
Russell 2-6 (1-0) 10-21-1 (2-2)

Posted by: on 30 Sep 2005

72 comments, Last at 03 Oct 2005, 5:51pm by Carl


by Trogdor (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 1:38am

How often does a team destroy a top-10 team one week, then is a 21-point underdog the next? I didn't see them at all against Louisville, but I'd have to think they'll cover, because I don't think Miami can score 21.

Oddly enough, a couple days ago I was looking through the archives for some old article. I saw the old "Dream Job" updates (yeah, the offseason was that slow), and actually thought to myself, I wonder what ESPN ever did with that guy who won? Now I know. And now I can not think about it again for another couple years.

by Erasmus (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 2:33am

Kenneth Darby might be as good as Gerald Riggs Jr.? I guess we will have to wait and see, Riggs has had played better defensive fronts then Darby has this season. But Darby is a guy who ran for over 1000 yards last year despite not starting/getting the bulk of the carries until the 6th game of the season after Ray Hudson went down. On a team that everyone knew was going to run the ball. And Darby is leading the SEC in rushing despite having Taylor Britt playing at guard for them.

The keys of the game for Alabama, will be getting the offense going in the 1st half, something it has not done at home all season. Bama can get away with allowing Arkansas to have the ball 4 times inside the 50 (including once on 11) and get only 6 points away from it-but not Florida. And despite people talking about Bama having the number 1 pass defense last season and returning all of its starters-they have not faced a passing attack that is as good as the Gators. Anthony Madison a great tackling corner is only 5'8 and can be/has been exploited by taller WRs.

As a totally biased Bama fan/student-I say Alabama wins the game in a close one-because I/us deserve this....

by almon (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 5:51am

can someone plz explain the difference between flanker, split end, wide out & slot receiver? can't find any good website that explains this stuff. thanks!

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 9:25am

Almon, this is the way I use those terms, and I think the way they're generally understood.

Split end: A receiver split out wide, on the line of scrimmage. In 4 and 5-receiver sets, there are 2 of them, one on each side of the line.

Flanker: A receiver split wide, a yard behind the line of scrimmage, on the side opposite from the split end. In a 2-receiver set, he'll usually be the man in motion.

Slot receiver: A receiver a yard behind the line of scrimmage closer to the formation than the split end or flanker, lined up "in the slot" between the offensive line and the widest receiver on that side. In a 3-receiver set, he's often the man in motion. (A 4- or 5-receiver set has 2 or 3 of them, respectively).

Wide out: A generic term for any receiver. It's most often used in unusual formations (like the "bunch" - 3 receivers all on the same side), or when discussing a receiver not in the context of a particular play (Braylon Edwards is a rookie wideout for the Browns).

There are of course numerous ways to arrange the receivers, so there are times when these terms won't strictly apply. But in well over 90% of the cases, I think you'd be able to use them like this.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 11:34am

Hmm. Thoughts on the weekend.

It's kind of funny to me that Gameday is going to Tempe for the USC/ASU game. They freely admit they don't really care about ASU. It's odd to think that they're going to a given location not because of the home team, but only because of the visiting team.

Unfortunately for me, the USC/ASU game isn't being broadcast here in DC. Now there are some other good games to choose from to show instead, but they decided not to show any of those either. Instead, we're getting Syracuse vs. Florida State. Ugh. What a horrible game. Maybe I'll head to ESPNZone or something to watch it, but then again, on Saturdays there's a minimum tab of $10 per person per hour for the privilege of watching a game there. So maybe I'll just cough up the $20 for a weekend of GamePlan.

I can't see ND losing to Purdue. Every year recently Purdue has got a lot of steam, then they jump the track at some point and it's downhill from there.

CollegeFootballNews listed Texas vs. Missouri this weekend as the game that has the biggest probability of an upset (with USC/ASU second). I think they're on crack, but you never know with Texas given the OU game next week.


by Steelersin06 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 11:41am

Vanderbilt is 4-0. Showdown with MTSU tonight for the soul of Nashville. Vandy should be 5-0 going into the heart of the SEC schedule. Must enjoy while it lasts.

by real fred edelstein (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 12:08pm

I see that Russell did his homework this week.

You might go undefeated if you switched to Miami(-21) and Nebraska(-3.5)

Freddy Edelstein rule of thumb- Home team favored against a ranked opponent always wins.

no. 2- s.flor is not good yet

by GatorGriff (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 12:11pm

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Vin & Russ: Please please please reconsider the Florida-'Bama game. I don't need your pick. I don't want your pick. Go back now and change that pick so the Gators will win.

by GatorGriff (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 12:11pm

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Vin & Russ: Please please please reconsider the Florida-'Bama game. I don't need your pick. I don't want your pick. Go back now and change that pick so the Gators will win.

by GatorGriff (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 12:12pm

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Vin & Russ: Please please please reconsider the Florida-'Bama game. I don't need your pick. I don't want your pick. Go back now and change that pick so the Gators will win.

by real fred edelstein (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 12:15pm

I see that Russell did his homework this week.

You might go undefeated if you switched to Miami(-21) and Nebraska(-3.5)

Freddy Edelstein rule of thumb- Home team favored against a ranked opponent always wins.

no. 2- s.flor is not good yet

by real fred edelstein (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 12:15pm

I see that Russell did his homework this week.

You might go undefeated if you switched to Miami(-21) and Nebraska(-3.5)

Freddy Edelstein rule of thumb- Home team favored against a ranked opponent always wins.

no. 2- s.flor is not good yet

by Russell (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 12:21pm

Hey everybody, we know we're having some problems with the double-post showing up, because you get a blank screen when you hit "say it". That's OK. Your posts ARE going through, so no need to re-submit.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 1:20pm

Between you and me, I could honestly say, that things [for Purdue] can only get better.

Translation: it can't get any worse. Notre Dame as an underdog in Ross-Ade? Whatever.

The whole offseason consisted of people saying "Purdue returns 11 starters on defense." As soon as the Akron game was over, that became "Well, they're all still young." What, we need 11 returning seniors for their experience to count?

I don't know if I can even bear to watch the game on Saturday.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 1:38pm

In the research group I was once a part of, the advisor called members "young" until they completed a project for which they were the lead. That was the turning point. Regardless of how old they were or how many projects they were involved with as a 'secondary', or how much experience they had prior to joining.

This led to some people that were newer to the group, but came up with innovative ideas, losing the "young" tag before those that had been there much longer.

The point of the completely unrelated anecdote? If you're a returning starter that's started at least half a dozen games or so, you can't be considered "young" when one uses the term "young defense". USC has a bunch of sophomore starting wide receivers, and no one is going to say they're "young".

Purdue had 11 returning starters on defense - regardless of whether they're sophomores or seniors, they aren't "young".

But it's a nice excuse.


by DMP (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 2:14pm

Between the SI article on Stanton Magic (if this nickname ever catches on, I just want people to know *I* cam up with it during the UM-MSU game last year - just ask my wife. And yes, it is intended to echo "Magic Johnson", the first Magic Man from Lansing), Drew Sharp turning on UM, and Mitch Albom declaring Stanton king for the week, things definitely look wierd. And this coming from an MSU guy.

I agree with you guys that MSU could come out overconfident. This is just one of the things that bit them in the but in the past two years - including losing to PSU after beating #4 Wisco last year. Everyone seems to forget right now that Spartan defense is still aweful. Everyone seems to forget that they played 3 cupcake teams (sorry, Illini) and ND - and ND had multiple guys with 100+ yards on that game. I hope John L. hasn't forgotten that and I hope he reminded his players. MSU wins, but I am almost completely sure Avant approaches 200 yards, making MSU fans puke in their mouths a few times before the game is over.

One last word on Stanton. Like I told my wife (Michigan alumn) last year at the game when I blurted out the nickname, I have no idea if he can be a great QB. I don't even think he makes the best decisions scrambling sometimes. I have no idea how he manages to be the slowest successful running QB in history. He may even throw INTs. One thing is sure, and that is that the kid (to use the parlance of our times) is a baller. Completely unafraid to play. That might not be much for y'all UM people with all the blue-chippers on your side, but for a State guy, it's nice to see. I have no idea what kind of person he is outside the field - and if evidence ever came out that he is not a good person, I take it all back - but on the field it's Stanton Magic and that's that. Obviously, she wasn't remotely interested in my reasoning.

PS: Mike Hart is pure magic too, but I'll let someone else write about that. It'll be huge if he plays.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 4:11pm

Ahh! First the Scramble crew stops picking against my Broncos, and now you guys are going one worse and actually picking FOR my Gators!

I have a feeling this is going to be a very long, very sad weekend.

by Vinny (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 4:50pm

We didn't touch on this game (we talked Minnesota last week and we'll surely be talking Penn State next week with their matchup vs. the Buckeyes) but Minnesota-Penn State always promises to be interesting. For some reason, the Gophers have been an El Guapo for JoePa over the years. As always, if Michael Robinson doesn't give the ball away too many times, the Lions should be in this. But another matchup of Minnesota's ground attack vs. an allegedly very good defense (not a knock on PSU, just a reference as to how Purdue's D was exposed last week by the Gophers).

by almon (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 5:24pm

Tragdor - thanks, much appreciated!

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 5:56pm


Remember it's basically the same defense as last year. It hasn't really changed. It's definitely a good defense. It's just a question of whether or not they can handle a zone blocking scheme.

Or, of course, the other problem: Penn State's offense is now a fast strike offense (my God, how weird it is to say that).

Which means that even if they stay in the game, and are doing well, they're on and off the field quickly, and the defense spends a ton of time on the field.

Week 1: Defense on the field for 32:03
Week 2: Defense on the field for 35:08
Week 3: Defense on the field for 31:41
Week 4: Defense on the field for 39:59

Yah. They had less time of possession than their opponent all 4 games. Including the 2 where they scored over 40 points! Robinson's average scoring drive has been 1:30! (Incidentally, Morelli's only drive was 5:32) Non scoring drives tend to be about that long, too.

Penn State needs to get a lead quickly, and then they need to establish a running game and grind the clock out. The defense simply can't stay on the field that long. Not against Minnesota.

On a side note, for those who haven't seen Penn State this year yet: their offense is going to be scary, scary good in two years. Morelli so far looks like an accurate, efficient, smart quarterback, and all three freshman wide receivers have been excellent. Even if they haven't been going against the best defenses, it's still a huge display of talent.

by el carg (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 6:58pm

Warren St. John:

So Meyer is the Messiah, but we've always caled Brodie Croyle Touchdown Jesus. Maybe Job is a better name for for that poor nice boy, but roll tiders have always looked at him as their savior. Think Brittle Brodie will make it through the season? Either way, count on four Bama losses -- to Florida, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. Just enough to keep Shula there another year, and that certainly will make the rest of the SEC happy.

by el carg (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 7:07pm

Warren St. John:

So Meyer is the Messiah, but we've always caled Brodie Croyle Touchdown Jesus. Maybe Job is a better name for for that poor nice boy, but roll tiders have always looked at him as their savior. Think Brittle Brodie will make it through the season? Either way, count on four Bama losses -- to Florida, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. Just enough to keep Shula there another year, and that certainly will make the rest of the SEC happy.

by Russell (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 7:41pm

I think you underestimate Bama if you just write them down for 4 losses. The defense will keep them in every game, and they're going to knock off at least one of those big 4 teams on their schedule.

by Russell (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 7:46pm

I think you underestimate Bama if you just write them down for 4 losses. The defense will keep them in every game, and they're going to knock off at least one of those big 4 teams on their schedule.

by Kyle Manley (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 9:21pm

Everyone will finally see why the hook and ladder doesn't work in the SEC when the Urban Myth gets it handed to him in T-Town this weekend. Roll Tide! Be sure and check out these winning picks...www.collegepicks.blogspot.com

by Kyle Manley (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 9:21pm

Everyone will finally see why the hook and ladder doesn't work in the SEC when the Urban Myth gets it handed to him in T-Town this weekend. Roll Tide! Be sure and check out these winning picks...www.collegepicks.blogspot.com

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 10:16pm



I'm watching Pitt vs. Rutgers right now. Rutgers is gashing Pitt up and down the field and is up 17-0 right now. Rutgers drove the field for a TD, has a punt return for a touchdown, and recovered a fumble leading to a field goal.

Great coaching job, Dave Wannstedt!


by Vinny (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 10:17pm

Pat - I agree PSU has a very good defense, I'm just pointing out that some were saying the same about Purdue's front seven until they got steamrolled by Minnesota.

by Russell (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 10:19pm

Rutgers could still blow this game. (Sorry Gal).

by Megan (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 10:25pm

Russ, if there's anything the 2003 NCAA basketball season taught me, it's to always pick your alma mater to win. You'll be kicking yourself if Michigan pulls this one out.

by Megan (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 10:28pm

And Penn State sucks!

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 11:01pm

Rutgers is up 27-0 before halftime.

You'd think Rutgers was USC and Pitt was, well, Rutgers, the way they're dominating this game. Pitt is a really, really bad team - and yet somehow they weren't that bad last year. What happened heh.


by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 1:06am

Rutgers is doing its best to give this game away. They're trying hard to give it up, after a 27-0 halftime lead, it's currently 37-29 Rutgers with 6 minutes to go, and Pitt driving for a tying TD (if they make a 2-pointer).

What is it about these Friday games - almost all of them have been really good, with multiple overtime games, and pretty much all nailbiters.'


by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 1:10am

A Hail Mary fake punt.

That's not something you see every day.

It wasn't just some random fake punt play that was thrown poorly. The punter was on the 50 or so, they ran all the gunners down to the 5 yard line, and he just tossed it.

Fell incomplete.


by Joey (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 3:46am

Rutgers-Pitt Friday Night:
Like the one announcer said, that fake punt isn't a terrible idea...if you throw better than a girl so there's at least some chance of completing it!

College replay absolutely sucks. They had to look at a play where the runner recovered his own fumble at the same spot where the fumble occurred. Pointless! What the heck did they see wrong with the coaches' challenge system? (I know one conference--Mountain West or WAC, I believe--is using it.)

I can't believe how bad Pitt is. I doubt this is what Pitt fans had in mind when they hired Wannstadt.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 7:17am

Sort of makes you wonder whether the Dolphins' turnaround actually says anything about Saban beyond "He's not Dave Wannstedt."

by peachy (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 8:29am

Has a former NFL coach ever been fired after one college season? Wanny might be the first...

by Russell (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 11:10am

No doubt, Pitt is terrible, but I don't think you can write off Wanny 100% just yet. As others have pointed out, Carroll didn't exactly get off to a flying start at USC. Not saying Pitt will go that route, but let's give the guy a couple of years. Besides, I bet Callahan gets fired by Nebraska before Pitt cans Wanny.

by Russell (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 2:29pm

Wow, VaTech is making it look easy in the early going vs. WVA, while Texas is struggling. Maybe VaTech really is No. 2.

As far as Michigan-MSU goes, I'm uh... I'm uh ... I'm uh not saying a word.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 2:49pm

I'm stuck watching UM/MSU now. I'm a huge fan of a good defensive struggle like this. Why don't they just make it a 7-on-7 drill?

So far, these are the defensive stops I've seen (I missed the first 15 minutes or so): MSU marched the ball down the field effortlessly before insanely calling a HB option pass, which was intercepted (lost in the review is the horrible nature of 2 calls - Smith's and the official's), then UM had a drive stall when they got way too conservative, Carr wussed out on 4th and inches, and they were promptly bailed out on a running into the kicker. Are these defenses even trying?

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 2:57pm

Oh wait, Michigan just punted. Holy cow. Of course, it was the result of a wide-open drop on 3rd down.

I still can't see a TD Waterhouse commercial with Sam Waterston without thinking about robot insurance.

I forgot I also saw Michigan punt earlier. They failed to convert on 3rd down when Massaquoi dropped an easy pass on 3rd down, and the announcers started making excuses because of his broken hand. Now if his hand's broken and he can't catch, why is he running patterns in the first place? Use him as a blocker or put another receiver in there!

Wow - four blockers against 2 defenders, and both of them overran the play anyway. You just can't have a worse defense against a WR screen than that. And now it's tied.

by Russell (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 3:52pm

Trogdor, if I rooted for Ohio State, I'd learn to appreciate defensive battles too.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 4:30pm

Speaking of defense, how about that Spartans D? It sure would be nice to know what the college rule on those kinds of situations is - it was obviously not a pass, but was it according to the rules? In the NFL, that one comes back...

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 4:49pm

I think it's safe to say the Jets won't be spending a 2nd-rounder on Rivas.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 4:59pm

Wow, both kickers suck. MSU is just finding ways to lose.

by Russell (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 5:09pm

Don't want to give away my material, but I'm too ecstatic, so I'll say it. John L. Smith's "hook and ladder" call in the final 30 seconds was one of the worst calls ever. JLS was brutal down the stretch.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 5:10pm

Michigan State deserved to lose.

Game tied, 35 seconds left, you have the ball on the 35 and you don't go for the win in regulation (I don't consider that stupid double-pitch play as any serious attempt to go for the win).

We saw this in LSU/Tennesse too, teams getting the ball with enough time to win in regulation and saying "Eh, let's do overtime. Sure we COULD have a chance to win in a situation where the opponent doesn't get an equal chance, but let's not."

Coaches that make such decisions don't deserve to win.


by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 5:11pm

Congrats to UM for successfully not losing. It's good to know order is restored, it just wasn't right seeing Michigan as an underdog at MSU. Now the force is slightly more in balance, methinks.

Bama jumps out quick on FU, as Kibbles feels the sting of being Vinnyed Russelled. Be careful which games you pick - you're racking up new enemies left and right, guys.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 5:19pm

14-0 Bama. So far Florida's offense looks like absolute garbage. We've seen this before, when a 'high-powered spread' offense goes up against a talented defense (see: Oklahoma). I'll be interested to see what adjustments Meyer makes, because right now they can't do jack.

Maybe they'll go with heavier, more pro-style formations, try to run the ball a little better? Especially if Leak did hurt himself on that INT return, he's not going to be running around a whole lot, and they may need to hammer it up in there.

by Dan (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 5:39pm

In watching Florida-Alabama, I can only imagine how unhappy Chris Leak is (or, at least, how unhappy I would be if I was Chris Leak). He was not recruited to UF to run the option, and now is being forced to give up his body on almost every plan in an offense not meant for his talents. He does not have the skill set or the body for the spread option and the UF offense looks seriously out of whack. The Leak brothers have not had good luck in their college QB careers.

by Russell (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 6:39pm

Meanwhile, SC is in trouble again vs. ASU. And this doesn't look like last week, when you just sensed it was only a matter of time until the Trojans turned it on. They've looked totally out of sync in the first half.

by MDS (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 6:45pm

Can USC show for the second week in a row that it can just coast through the first half and then dominate the second? I wouldn't bet against them, but I think it'll be harder against ASU than it was against Oregon.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 6:47pm

Last week it was some flukey things (tipped interception returned a long way, a punt that brushed a player) that gave OSU the lead. But that's not the case here. USC doesn't look in the game at all.


by DMP (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 7:19pm

Man, there is nothing worse than not being able to see your team on TV on the big game. I'm in Seattle, I don't believe in buying game packages for TV, so I was stuck "watching" UM-MSU by following ESPN.com's terrible game track. So I have very little credibility to comment on what transpired, but credibility problems have never gotten in the way of a Spartan arguing something anyway. Here goes:

Russell, John L. has made many bad decisions on big games that I have seen. I thought he shouldn't have gone for the FG in the ND game in the 4th, where I think they were in a spot were TMQ's go-for-it in the Maroon Zone applied. Especially with a kicker known to be shaky. Following the drive chart here on ESPN.com, I "saw" them get in the red zone in the 1st half, long pause, then WHAAAAA - Jerramy Scott intercepted. Que?? What's Scott doing throwing a pass in the redzone if you're supposed to have a marginal Heisman candidate as your QB? Again, I don't even know what the play actually was, but it looked like Jonh L. going loco on me again. I also don't know why he wastes so many trick plays on games like the Illinois drubbing. Guess what? All the good teams are scouting your trick plays for the big game if keep showing them off like that. As I didn't see the game, can't wait to read your take.

Also, nice to see Carr continue with his pattern of going conservative and lose games to get them out of the national championship running, but taking chances playing MSU. Not sure why he plays with so much "pride" in this game to keep the attention of all the area recruits, and yet calls it with a whistle stuck in his hoo-hoo in all the other games. Of course, I'm just bitter about this because it's been working for Michigan recruiting for the better part of four decades.

Told Mike Hart is magic. It was easy to see his return was going to change the make up of the game a lot.

I just hope John L. doesn't turn into the poor man's version of John Cooper losing these games...

Anyway, I just needed to let this out somewhere. If I keep going on about this game at home, my wife is going to think I'm mad enough to have a problem with being married to a Wolverine. I don't need that kind of trouble.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 8:38pm

Michigan State doesn't have nearly enough talent or off-field problems for Smith to be Cooper.

"What’s Scott doing throwing a pass in the redzone if you’re supposed to have a marginal Heisman candidate as your QB? Again, I don’t even know what the play actually was, but it looked like Jonh L. going loco on me again."

That was the halfback option pass I was mocking earlier. They had moved the ball extraordinarily easily on that drive, yet for whatever reason felt the need for a trick play. It was intercepted, then fumbled, the official ridiculously called it incomplete, it was replayed and ruled correctly. It was an absolutely horrible call - they were running for about 12 yards per attempt, and receivers were getting incredibly wide open with no pass rush to speak of. Why they couldn't just pound it in for another TD, I'll never know. I guess I'm just not a Smith-level supergenius.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 8:50pm

Minnesota vs PSU: Who's for real, Minnesota's rushing, or Penn State's rushing defense?

Answer: Penn State's rushing defense. Man, did they just beat the crap out of Minnesota. Held them to 14 points, and they shouldn't've got those. I was glad to see that Penn State got an interception at Minnesota's last possession, because I thought it was serious crap that they kept trying to rush Maroney even though it was the worst thing for them to do offensively.

People are going to whine about Robinson's completion percentage, but he did exactly what he needed to do. Throw often enough to make the linebackers, safeties, and corners play tight, and then run right through them. He didn't need to complete passes. Just make them.

So here's the question I asked two weeks ago: Penn State's 5-0. Their early schedule doesn't look so pansy now, with USF beating Louisville, and Minnesota beating Purdue. Do they stay unranked?

Man, that was a great game to watch if you're a PSU fan. They did everything I said they needed to do: dominate time of possession, and handle the zone blocking. Done, and done.

by Vinny (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 9:15pm

And now USC might even cover. Unreal. Their D makes plays when it has to, and you know the O is going to kick in sooner or later. Leinart hasn't looked good but the O-line has made enough room for Bush and White, who are as awesome as advertised, again.

UM-MSU: JLS really did call some headscratchers with that hook and ladder and the halfback option. I know he's trying to protect Stanton from injury, but he's your best player, use him! I think there were only two designed runs called for him. Inexcusable. As dominant as MSU's offense can be, they scored only 3 points in 2nd half and OT - the D scored the other 7. That's all on JLS. Why get away from the moving pocket that worked so well in the 1st half?

And if any player was "magic" in this game, it was Mike Hart. He's the real deal, and the UM offense is completely different with him on the field.

Bob Davie, who I think is a very good color man, just called Brady Quinn a first round pick, maybe right now. That's a stretch, but I like his throwing motion better than Sam Keller's.

Geat win by Bama, but ugly injury to Prothro.

by DMP (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 9:44pm

Trogdor, the lack of talent at this point combined with a few off-field problems (Teague suspension, something about sending a scholarship letter to the youngest Clausen while a sophomore) with a mounting, but still early, record of losing close games/making bad calls against Michigan is why I mentioned being a "poor man's" version of Cooper. Hopefully it won't get to that.

On L. being a "supergenius": seems like he comes up with sweet plays and all that, but seems like he loses sight of game strategy. So instead of calling an HB option after setting up the D with a succession of conservative calls and a deep field with space to throw to, he calls it in the redzone when there is less space to fool the D and no need for it considering the ease with which they ran in the first place.

by Russell (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 9:52pm

Good God, I'm bad at picking games.

I didn't see the end of the Alabama game. Vin, how late in the 4th quarter did Prothro get hurt? Didn't Shula learn his lesson last year when Croyle got hurt late in a game that was already decided?

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 9:59pm

Well, Russell, it looks like your Fred Edelstein Lock is going to come through unless Purdue really changes the way it's going. But then, USC manage to come back to win (although not cover) so you never know.


by Vinny (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 11:05pm

Prothro got hurt maybe midway thru the 4th? The game was definitely out of reach. Croyle was throwing it deep to him in the end zone. Definitely unnecessary.

The PSU-OSU game next week should be very interesting. Plus the Red River Rivalry - wonder how much Texas will be favored by. OU is crushing KSU, although that may not mean much. Wait, touchdown KSU. Now its 33-15.

by Vinny (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 11:46pm

Ouch. Tough loss for Vandy. Great effort by MTSU to block the kick to save the win.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 11:54pm

The PSU-OSU game next week should be very interesting.

PSU-OSU is bizarre: it's like two clone teams playing each other. Fast linebackers, good secondary, strong running game, running quarterback with questionable accuracy, and fast wide receivers. I've just described both teams. If PSU doesn't turn the ball over, I'd almost give it to them because of home field advantage. If they do turn it over, they'll lose. However, they didn't turn it over at the Minnesota game, so who knows? A lot of the turnovers in the Northwestern game were bad luck, but there were a lot of "almost" turnovers in the Minnesota game as well.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sun, 10/02/2005 - 12:04am

Why didn't Vandy use its timeout? It seemed like a really weird end-of-game scenario.

Vandy had one timeout left, 11 seconds left, everyone assumes they're going to take a shot at the end zone then kick. Suddenly the hike and spike the ball, then everyone sorta runs around for a few seconds, confused, the kicking team has to rush out onto the field with the ball snapped with no time left on the play clock, and an MTSU guy goes through almost untouched. It didn't even seem like the blockers were 100% set and ready for the play to start.

What, did they think the timeout was worth bonus points if unused at the end of the game?

As for USC, eesh. They can't keep giving up leads like that, and it wasn't like it was last week - this week they really looked out of it, until they decided to go to the ground game, where they gashed ASU. However, the bigger worry is they lost another two or three defensive starters to injury. They've lost almost ten defensive starters to injury this year, and no team, no matter how talented, can continue to suffer those kinds of losses and compete (although they did admirably in the second half).


by Harris (not verified) :: Sun, 10/02/2005 - 2:01am

Hey Russell, after that MSU DT returned the fumble for a touchdown, did you leave even a single stick of living room furniture unbroken?

by Russell (not verified) :: Sun, 10/02/2005 - 9:23am

Harris, excellent question. Luckily for my furniture, I had my three- and five-year-olds watching with me, so had to restrain myself. It was more shock and disbelief than out and out rage.

And then, because this is the way I am, I jumped online and read the NCAA rulebook, search for the definition of forward pass vs. fumble. I'll talk about this more in my column, but I think Musberger was wrong when he said "there's no tuck rule in college." The only reference I could find says basically that once the arm starts forward with the ball in hand, it is a forward pass, no matter what else happens. There is nothing written about intent to pull the ball down or pump-fake. So I was pretty convinced that Michigan got hosed on the call, and called Vin (watching from a Chicago sports bar) to debate the point with him.

If anyone can find something in the college rulebook (it's available somewhere on www.ncaa.org, but I don't have the link handy) that defines what Henne did yesterday as a fumble, please email russell-at-footballoutsiders-dot-com and let me know where in the rulebook it appears.

by Domer (not verified) :: Sun, 10/02/2005 - 11:16am

Even Bob Davie is on the Charlie Weis bandwagon.

The ESPN shot of Purdue DC Brock Spack's bumfuzzled look -- after an ND back waltzed for a TD -- was priceless.

by Harris (not verified) :: Sun, 10/02/2005 - 12:06pm

You're a better man than me, Russ. I would have just blamed all the destruction on the kids. Then again, the 5-year-old likely would have sold you out or demanded a hefty bribe so you probably made the right decision.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Sun, 10/02/2005 - 12:51pm


Mr. Russell is approaching Steve Serby- hood

now 12-27-1 ATS on the year (if my arithmetic is correct)

do you have ANY idea how hard that is to do?

about as hard as going 27-12-1

you're on a roll, kid; keep it up

by chris (not verified) :: Sun, 10/02/2005 - 9:43pm

For DMP in Seattle (comment 54): Fox Sports and SI both have game trackers that are better than ESPN's. Could be that ESPN's server is overloaded. Who knows.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 10:45am

psst: Vinny, Russell - I'm telling you, Ohio State's gonna kick Penn State's butt. C'mon, you know you want to pick OSU. You know you do.

by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 5:51pm

The alma mater plays Houston this week. Whatever you guys do please, please, please pick the Cougars. Big.

We are a team without a school. Show some mercy. Pick Houston.