No. 1 Trojans will spoil Sun Devils' upset bid in Tempe
Posted: Friday September 30, 2005 12:28PM; Updated: Friday September 30, 2005 10:14PM
It's the start of the fourth quarter in Baton Rouge last Monday night. I'm already 9-0 on my picks for the week and my 10th pick, LSU, is nursing a 24-7 lead. Cut to me donning the (Loverboy lead singer) Mike Reno headband, standing on my couch cushion and air-mic'ing my version of the electrifying The Kid is Hot Tonight:
How do you like him so far?
How do you like his show?
How do you like the way he looks and the way he ro-o-o-lls?
The kid is hot tonight,
Whoa! So hot tonight.
Then LSU commits a pass interference on a Tennessee 3rd-and-long. And then JaMarcus Russell tosses a pick that gets returned to the Tigers' 2. And finally Gerald Riggs Jr. carries it to the ceremonial house in overtime for the 30-27 comeback victory.
Cut to me, slumped on the couch, headband now circumscribing my neck in a noose, as I mumble those lugubrious lyrics from another Loverboy hit:
It's over, it's over, it's over,
It's over, it's over, it's over.
So there goes my first undefeated week, but I remain a respectable 28-12 (.700) through September. One little stumble in the SEC will not stop me from working for the weekend. You want a piece of my heart, Phil Fulmer? You better start from the start. Turn me loose, turn me loose, turn me loose ...
The Trojans average 59.3 points per game (second nationally) while the Sun Devils score 47 (sixth). One hundred and six may be not only the total number of points scored but also the temperature in Tempe for a game beginning at 12:30 locally. Sam Keller & Co. will put some early heat on USC, but a Trojans defense led by Frostee Rucker will finally cool them off.
Leonard Maltin gave Gator (1976, starring Burt Reynolds) two stars while awarding Crimson Tide (1995, Denzel Washington) three. Sure, I could bore you with X-and-O analysis, but this is more fun. We'll go with Lenny on this one and take Shulabama in a mild upset.
I'm not sure if the Irish are all the way back, but the myth-making machine -- pre-dawn haircuts, honoring a dying child's play call, a mullet-haired wideout nicknamed "Shark" -- in South Bend sure is. If Jeff Samardzija catches the winning TD pass, do not be surprised if an enterprising photographer poses him atop a Great White.
A duel between the nation's top dual-threat QBs, you say? The Longhorns' Vince Young is more renowned, but the Tigers' Brad Smith is third nationally in total offense and the NCAA's active career leader in that category. The Longhorns, battle-hardened last month in Columbus, will avoid the upset this month in Columbia.
Neither school has produced a 300-yard passer in the 50 previous editions of this rivalry, and that won't happen here, either. That's because the Hokies and Mountaineers have the nation's Nos. 3 and 4 units in total defense. Ahh, but Tech has Marcus Vick and an always tenacious special teams unit.
When the Hurricanes share a stage with the Bulls, it will be like when Robert Redford shared the screen with Brad Pitt in Spy Game: playing against a younger version of yourself (yes, that was the best analogy I could think of). USF is a commuter school located in Florida's third-largest city with homegrown talent completely unawed by a foe with a top 10 ranking (ask Louisville).
That creaking you hear is the floorboards beneath the Spartans' bandwagon straining under the pressure of mounting expectations. The Wolverines could not be lower and their East Lansing neighbors could not be higher at the moment, which is exactly why I like Michigan. You take the bandwagon; I'm traveling by Carr.
In Laurence Maroney, the Golden Gophers have the nation's leading rusher, something no coach ever wants to leave home without. Minnesota is the northwestern-most school in the Big Ten, but it ain't Northwestern. Sorry, Nittany Lions, but a come-from-behind win in Evanston does not mean you're back.
Dog days of October for the Huskies, who face the Bruins, Ducks, Trojans and Sun Devils this month. Halloween will hardly seem frightening by the time it arrives. UCLA has had a week off to rest its 49.33 points-per-game offense, led by tailback Maurice Drew.
Back in Blackshirts? The Cornhuskers have made more news for being offensively inept (or for Brent Musburger's recent "sitting shotgun offense") than they have for being undefeated, but guess who leads the nation in scoring defense? Nebraska, allowing 5.3 points per game. The Cyclones will surpass that figure, but by how much?