Posted: Wednesday November 1, 2006 10:10AM; Updated: Thursday November 2, 2006 7:31AM
Will this season's West Virginia-Louisville game live up to last year's overtime thriller?
Submit a question or an opinion to Stewart.
Nothing lasts forever; And we both know hearts can change. And it's hard to hold to a candle; In the cold November rain.
When it comes to months, November never has garnered a particularly favorable rep. Just listen to Axl Rose, who was apparently so stigmatized by one too many nasty Novembers that he penned a nine-minute opus about it. Is November any less suited for candle-holding than, say, January or March? I think not. And I'm sure it wasn't a coincidence that the makers of that inordinately dark and just plain awful Keanu Reeves-Charlize Theron romance movie a few years back called it Sweet November, not Sweet April.
When it comes to college football, however, this particular November is shaping up to be ... awesome. How awesome? Starting with Thursday night's West Virginia-Louisville game, we could potentially see as many as five games between top-10 teams. The others: Michigan-Ohio State (Nov. 18), Cal-USC (Nov. 18), Notre Dame-USC (Nov. 25) and possibly an SEC title game matchup of Florida or Tennessee vs. Auburn or Arkansas (technically, that one's in December). And if 8-0 Rutgers manages to crack the top 10, you can throw in Louisville-Rutgers (Nov. 9) and/or Rutgers-West Virginia (Dec. 2).
Never before in the BCS era have there been so many late-season games pitting fellow BCS aspirants. Not even close. Usually we spend the last month of the regular season waiting to see if the No. 1 and 2 teams will get upset by somebody -- not play each other. In fact two undefeated teams haven't met after Nov. 1 since 8-0 Tennessee beat 8-0 Arkansas on Nov. 14, 1998. This year, it will probably happen at least twice, possibly more.
So quit your whining, Axl. This is going to be fun. One might even suggest it's going to be like a month-long playoff -- but I wouldn't, lest the university presidents come in and cancel it.
What's wrong with Michigan's offense? Play calling? Injuries? Execution? A combination? Saturday, the offense set up more chances for Northwestern to score than it did for Michigan. -- Adam Pence, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Say it with me, now: Mario Manningham. I know that may sound overly simplistic, but believe me, it explains everything. Not only are the Wolverines missing his production (88 receiving yards per game, nine touchdowns), but since defenses don't have to account for a guy who is a threat to go deep every time Michigan snaps the ball, they also can feel more confident blitzing and bringing extra defenders to stop the run. Furthermore, because the Wolverines don't have their deep threat, naturally, their play-calling is more conservative -- and opponents know it's going to be more conservative, giving them even more cause to blitz/stuff-the-run, etc., etc.
Isn't it amazing how, in a sport with 22 players on the field at the same time, one can make that big a difference? Once Manningham returns (from what it sounds like, if not this week against Ball State, then next week at Indiana), I think you'll see things open up quite a bit.