Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Week 4 Preview: Road Trip to Evanston

Okay, here's the lineup for Saturday:

Ohio at Northwestern
Notre Dame at Michigan State
Iowa at Pitt

Let's start with the game we'll be attending live in person. Despite being on the waiting list of this week's Bottom 10, Ohio might be the most talented 0-3 team in the country. I know that sounds like damning with faint praise, but look at the numbers. They lost last year's top running threat, Kalvin McRae, to graduation. In Week 1 they went to Wyoming and lost by one point. They faced the Beanie-less Buckeyes in the Shoe and held a lead in the fourth quarter. This, despite their No. 1 quarterback (Theo Scott) being knocked out and replaced by bad-ass named Boo Jackson. For their home debut in Week 3, they faced Brett Farve, Favre, whatever clone Dan LeFeevur, who is destined to be the next overachieving MAC QB in the NFL. Ohio lost by three.

So now they face the Smart Kids of Northwestern University, in the smallest, boring-est stadium in the Big Ten. NU has opened 3-0 by beating another smart kid school (Duke), a I-AA school (Southern Illinois) and doormat Syracuse. Northwestern will probably win, but hopefully Ohio has gained enough confidence to make it a close game, perhaps even pull out a win.

Child molestation is all in a day's work for Sparty.

Notre Dame survived its first real challenge last week, both in terms of on-field opponent and facing down the demons of 2007. This week is another test, since the Sparty-ND matchup is always unpredictable. MSU features Javon Ringer, a bull of a running back. The defense will need to bring him down by whatever means necessary. He won't pinball off you like Sam McGuffie last week, he'll just run you over. Hoyer is a strong, senior QB, but I am not impressed (yet) with the wideouts. MSU has been challenged once, in a road game at Cal, and while they lost they were in it the whole way.

After all, having survived blocking like this, last week we got blocking like this:

Meanwhile, after losing to Bowling Green (MAC Attack'd!) and edging past Buffalo, Wannstache has decided the solution is to just get better:

"I think we're right where we need to be. We just need to run better and throw better. That's the issue -- to be more effective. I don't think doing one or the other more is an issue. It's just an issue of doing it better."

Would you trust this man to lead your Division I football program?

This game will be a homecoming of sorts for coach Ferentz, who was a grad assistant on the 1980 Pitt coaching staff. Look at all this future talent (click for larger image):

Joe Moore is a legend, particularly at Notre Dame. Kirk, of course, went on to the Ravens and then Iowa. Foge Fazio was the next head coach at Pitt, served under Lou Holtz at ND and was defensive coordinator with some successful Minnesota Vikings teams in the 90s. Jackie Sherrill went on to Mississippi State, where he castrated a bull to motivate his players. Don't recognize the guy to Dickerson's right.

For Iowa and ND, here's a worrisome trend: winning the first road game. Rare is the school (I can think of only Wisky and Southern Cal) that has won its first road game, and the landscape is littered with those who traveled early to face decent competition and failed (Mich St, Ohio St., Meeechigan, California, Tennessee).

Pick Six:
TM and I both have a couple worrisome games: Florida at Tennessee for her, Auburn hosting LSU for me, and Wake Forest at Florida State (now ranked*) in common. FSU has cruised through two cupcakes, but they will be missing several players suspended in the wake of the academic cheating scandal. I don't know the details of the scandal but I think players smuggled a 64-pack into final exams instead of the standard 32.

This is how Florida State cheats.

Quigley takes a breather this week, after taking it on his furry chin last week. His six teams face this murderer's row: Troy (the team, not just one guy named Troy), South Carolina State, Sam Houston State, bye, Temple, Fake Miami.

Nationally, I expect Florida to handle Rocky Top and Auburn can score enough points on LSU's brutal defense. Arizona State's loss takes the luster off the Georgia matchup, but even in the desert the Bulldogs should be fine.

Viewing schedule:
11 am: Ohio at Northwestern (live)
getting updates: Iowa/Pitt
2:30 (or soon as we get home): ND at Michigan State
checking in on: Florida at Tennessee
6pm: Wake/Fla St
6:45 pm: LSU at Auburn
7pm: Georgia at Arizona St.

Nebraska: settle down Huskers, you don't play this week.

* By the way, take a look at who is lurking at the top of the "also receiving votes" section. Oklahoma State?!? Who have they beaten? (Answer: awful Washington State, Houston, I-AA (Southwest) Missouri State.) That merits them on the cusp of the Top 25? There are a ton of three-win teams out there (Iowa, Nebraska and Northwestern, to name three) with just as much merit.


TinaMarie said...

You didn't mention another 3-0 team that could MAC-Attack someone... Ball State. What about the Turtles? Who is fearing them this week?

mpf004 said...

If Ball St can go on the road to beat a Big 10 foe, even a middling one in Indiana, then we can start talking about them. Los Turtles spread fear to Directional (E.) Michigan.