Posted: Friday November 4, 2005 10:29AM; Updated: Friday November 4, 2005 1:14PM
I'm not including the Auburn-Kentucky game in this week's "Pickoff" in hopes that Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville will implicate me in a conspiracy to prevent Virginia Tech from appearing in the Rose Bowl. I am including the Hokies, however, because they are playing a top-10 opponent. I'll include the Tigers each of the next two weeks because they'll be taking on No. 11 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama.
ESPN's job is to televise compelling games, Tommy. People would rather watch Texas-Ohio State than Ball State-Auburn. Your job is to win ball games. So you'd rather schedule Ball State than Texas. Next conspiracy, please.
This week on BCSI Miami, Lieutenant Caine [David Caruso and, hey, that town is flush with Ca(i)nes] heads to Blacksburg to investigate a copycat crime: the Hurricanes and another top-10 school playing a snoozefest in primetime. The Hokies have the nation's No. 1 scoring defense (9.13), while the Hurricanes are No. 1 in total defense and have allowed just 10.86 points per game. As crucial as this game is to both the ACC and national championship, we could be looking at a repeat of the Miami-Florida State season opener.
If a Penn State defensive lineman would do this to JoePa, what chance does Badger back Brian Calhoun have? The answer should decide the Big Ten championship. The Nittany Lions are one second removed from an undefeated record, while Wisconsin is probably a fumbled punt snap (at Minnesota) away from having two losses. Calhoun, whose 21 touchdowns are most in the nation, will face a Penn State defense led by LB Paul Posluszny and DE Tamba Hali.
This flock of Ducks is flying under the radar ... not that I have any idea whether Ducks are even picked up by radar. Save for a loss to USC in September, Oregon is undefeated -- and virtually unnoticed. Quarterback Kellen Clemens was lost for the season after breaking his ankle at Arizona, so Dennis Dixon replaces him. A win Saturday would almost assure Oregon a 10-1 season and give the Pac-10 a trio of one-loss teams. Not bad for a weak conference.
The Domers are homers. By the time the Fighting Irish depart South Bend for their season-ending Nov. 26 game at Stanford, they will have spent 60 consecutive days in-state (the lone away game since the Sept. 24 win at Washington was in West Lafayette, Ind.) Notre Dame's Indiana jones plus Tennessee's listless offense should add up to an easy victory for the Weis guys, but be careful: The last four times these two have played, the visitor has won.
Uh-oh. See, the Red Raiders, they can fling that hide. Quarterback Cody Hodges leads the nation's No. 1-rated passing offense (433.4 yards per game). The Aggies, well, their secondary is so weak it should be tertiary -- actually, whatever the word ending in "-ary" and beginning with the integer "115" is, that's what they'd be. Because that's where A&M is rated (out of 119 schools) in pass defense.
Brad Smith is a spectacular dual-threat, but when quarterbacks undergo Heisman scrutiny, their position, more than any other, should also have a "Momentous Win" component. That's where Smith is lacking. A home win over Nebraska doesn't cut it. A road victory in Boulder would bolster Smith's Heisman resume.
Don't you wish there were a better term than "passer efficiency rating?" I mean, if you're Rams quarterback Justin Holland, who's No. 4 nationally in P.E.R, do you really wow the babes with that "I am extremely efficient!" line? I dunno. The Horned Frogs have only a head-scratching loss to SMU to blame for not being undefeated, but Holland's to-do list this week includes "BEAT TCU."
Why I love Brett Basanez: According to SI On Campus stringer Tania Ganguli, two weeks ago in East Lansing, Basanez, after previously admonishing his unit for a 3-and-out series to open the game, called a fake play ("Deuce Right Mississippi") in the huddle. The fourth-year starter knew his teammates were too afraid to question him. After a beat or two, Basanez let them in on the joke, everybody laughed, and the Wildcats proceeded to score seven TDs against Michigan State.
Poor Fisher DeBerry. The Air Force coach is less than two weeks removed from his controversial comments ("Afro-American kids can run very, very well") and now he has to gameplan for an entire team of Black Knights. In unrelated news, New Zealand's national rugby team is considering a name change so as not to offend anyone.
Even though Arizona's nickname is "Wildcats," the turf at Arizona Stadium bears the exhortation "BEAR DOWN." That also could be the headline after the undefeated Bruins, who have been living on borrowed time for a month now, visit Tucson. Mike Stoops' team has only laid one egg all season (a 28-0 loss at Cal) and this is the kind of upset Stewart Mandelhas been waiting for all season.