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Week 13 Preview

Week 13

This weekend has got games galore and all of them carry consequences. Lose, and the chance to go to a bowl, or, at least, a prestige bowl is out;- win and some teams become bowl eligible while others secure a nice trip, some nice doodads for the players, and a New Year’s Day Bowl. Growing up I looked forward to New Year’s Day almost as much as I did toward Christmas because all the important Bowl games were held on that day. Now, not all the big Bowl games are on the 1st but there are still plenty of important bowls on that day. So this weekend and next weekend carry the weight of the entire season. Some teams are going to have to settle with “reduced expectations”, (that never goes well in Southern football). Other teams will meet their goals and some will actually exceed expectations. There are a lot of games to cover, so, let’s get started.

First up is the #8 Missouri vs. #24 Ole Miss game. Missouri, at the beginning of the year, was not sitting pretty within the SEC. After their first year it was obvious that they were behind Missouri-Tigersthe power curve. But, in this, their second, year, they have attacked the SEC East like a tornado out of Kansas. They’ve lost only one division game, and that was against South Carolina, in overtime, when a field goal attempt “Bonked” off the upright. But, taking a closer look at their SEC schedule, it seems fortune has smiled on the Tigers. (the Missouri Tigers. There’s also the LSU Tigers and the Auburn Tigers, all within the SEC) These Tigers really haven’t had a big time test. They played Georgia after the Dawgs lost all their key players to a rash of injuries. Florida was ranked #22 when they played Missouri, but the Gators, it turns out, were ranked totally on reputation and not their performance. Florida is  looking at their first losing season in, what, 40 years? Not that much of a challenge, not this year. Mizzou lost to USC-South in overtime after blowing a huge lead in the fourth quarter. Other opponents don’t even have winning records. Now they have two big tests in a row, #24 Ole Miss, and #12 Texas A&M. To prove they are as good as people say they are they’ve got to win both. QB Franklin, out for four weeks with a shoulder injury, is coming back to the starting role. Does the phrase, “Dance with the one that brought you”, mean anything to Coach Pinkel? The Tigers are riding a wave of success with great momentum behind freshman Maty Mauk who has performed great. Now they are putting their final push toward the SEC championship game on to the shoulders of a player who has been out, not thrown the ball for a good while, and whose timing with his receivers is bound to be off. Refresh my memory, doesn’t Franklin get hurt every year, come back and start every year, and then get hurt again? Shades of Michael Vick. On top of that, Mauk is a much better passer. These Tigers are going up against a team whose record does not reflect how good they really are. Starting Franklin doesn’t appear to be a good move.

The Ole Miss Rebels looked like world beaters after pillaging Texas and taking away their cheerleaders. Their ship was then hit head-on by a Crimson Tide which caused some serious damage. Alabama beat them twice, causing them to lose to Auburn, and, possibly, Texas A&M. Then they hosted #6 LSU who looked like they were making a run for the SEC West Title. The Rebels, with a depleted defense, rose up and fought in a way that would make our Secessionist forefathers proud. The Bayou Bengals went down. Since that game Ole Miss has Ole Missregained its confidence and its swagger. They have won four games in a row and in each game they’ve racked up over 500 yards of offense. Talk about momentum, the Rebels are the personification of the word. Mississippi is playing its best ball toward the end of the year, which is what any coach wants. Win their last two games and a New Year’s Day Bowl is almost assured. QB Bo Wallace is averaging 266 passing yard per game. If the Rebels are going to win, he needs to play to at least his average. Mizzou is vulnerable through the air. Rebel freshman receiver Moncrief should be able to wreak havoc on the Tiger secondary. If there is one thing that Missouri’s defense does well, it’s shutting down the run. The game plan needs to be pass the ball on offense and, like in racquetball, make the other guy run. Wear out the D-backs, and before half time have them walking around with their hands on their hips after every play, struggling to breathe. The Rebs need to put pressure on Franklin and make his return a return to remember – painfully! He doesn’t trust his arm even when he’s healthy, which isn’t that often, he trusts his feet much more. This should benefit Ole Miss more than it does the Tigers. With an underclassman-loaded team, Ole Miss is showing they are a force to be reckoned with. Win this one and the wave of momentum they’re riding will carry them not only to January 1st but through the recruiting season and into next year. As for this weekend? Let’s just say my brother, the Ole Miss graduate, will be chatting “Hotty Toddy! Gosh Almighty! who the heck are we? Flim Flam! Bim Bam! OLE MISS, By DAMN!! Rebels win.

Baylor BearsThe next game pits the high-scoring Baylor Bears against the resurgent Oklahoma State Cowboys. Usually a cowboy will down a bear with a good clean shot, and, in the past, this is exactly what has happened. Not now, these Bears don’t give anyone a clean shot at them at all. They play catch like these kids have grown up together throwing the football around everyday. It’s amazing to watch their passing game. To add insult to injury, once the receivers catch the ball, it’s off to the races, and who would have thought that a bear can run that fast? Actually, bears, the furry kind, are much faster than most people think, and Baylor acts like furry bears. Last week against Texas Tech, at the 3:25 mark in the first quarter, Baylor was down, 20-7. With 4 Seconds left, let me say that again, with 4 Seconds left in the first quarter, Baylor was ahead 21-20. Are you kidding me? Once they got going it was all over but the crying. Now they take on the preseason Big 12, that only has ten teams, favorite, OSU. Let’s be honest, BU is going to do nothing different, no trick plays, nothing that they haven’t done before. They are just going to do what they do and dare the Cowboys to stop them. Baylor has set themselves up to win the Big 12, that only has ten teams, title for the first time since they became the Big 12 – with 12 teams. Baylor did win the Southwest Conference title back in 1980 when Mike Singletary was a young pup. He has since retired from pro ball and his successor, Brain Urlacher, has retired, as well. So it’s been a while since the Bears were champions.

Oklahoma State has fought its way back to a top ten ranking. They were the darling child of the press until they were embarrassed by West “By Golly” Virginia, which is really the onlyOSU cowboys signature win WVU has all year. It was a BAD to trip for the Pokes. Once the embarrassment wore off, OSU recovered in a hard-fought game against K-State, and, since then, they have run all over their competition. The Cowboys like to score, not like Baylor does, but they generally get over thirty points a games. OSU has a fast passing game as well. They don’t have the speed that Baylor does and they don’t strike as quickly as the Bears do, but they are efficient. O-State might do something different in this game, which is they rely more on the run than the pass. Baylor’s defense is good but they struggle against well-disciplined offenses. The best example would be their game versus Kansas State. If Oklahoma State is able to control the clock and drive for scores, they  keep BU from scoring too much. Honestly, they’re not likely to completely stop the Bears from scoring. Contain, contain, contain that’s all OSU has to do on defense, just contain the best way they can.
If, and that’s a big IF, there is a game that Baylor can lose, it’s this one. The Pokes run a similar type of offense, not the same, just similar, so their defense should be used to seeing it. But Baylor is on a tear, they are shredding everyone and only once has the Bear offense been held under 40 points. Hmmmm. Wasn’t that also against K-State, who pushed Ok State to the limit? Baylor is AVERAGING 61 points per game. OSU is going to play them tough. To win, the Cowboys they have to keep the game close. If Baylor gets a two-touchdown lead, the fat lady done sung, it’s over. Baylor Bears win.

Wisconsin#19 Wisconsin takes on upstart #25 Minnesota. Both teams sit at 8-2, both are ranked. Wisconsin has played far better than they did last year when they won their division by placing third, behind Ohio State and Penn State, who were both ineligible. Now the Badgers are riding their defense to a winning season. If they win out, they could end up in the Great White North championship, but they need some help. Chances are they won’t get all the help they need, but a good Bowl game is hanging in the balance. Since losing to Ohio State, Wisconsin has won five straight games and weren’t challenged much in any of them. Defense has been the key to the Badgers’ victories. They’re going to have to rely on that defense on Saturday. They don’t have to worry about facing a quick strike offense, or one that runs 60 plays per game. But they do have to worry about a very efficient and effective Minnesota running game. Wisconsin believes they’re up for the challenge. The Badgers will also rely upon their big uglies controlling the line of scrimmage on offense. The Badgers have run the ball. If they have to rely on the passing game, they’re sunk, Badgers don’t pass. They run, and run some more. They did play Big Ten favorite OSU tough but they couldn’t stop the Buckeyes from passing. That is something they don’t have to worry about against the Gophers.

Minnesota has been the surprise team of the Great White North Conference. Who would have thought the Golden Gophers were going to challenge the status quo? The Gophers are on aMinnesota roll. They have earned the right to believe in themselves. A long time ago, they were the Alabama of its time. They were the terrors of the north, who came down upon civilization with thunder and lightning. They won three national championships in a row, the last school to pull that off. They are not going to win the National Championship this year, and they already have two GWN loses, but it is possible that they could be playing for the Roses. To even have that chance they have to win all their remaining games, and in these next two weeks they have their biggest tests, with big-boy defenses, Wisconsin and Michigan State. Minnesota is a lot like the Badgers, they run the ball. There is no good reason to even try to pass, even though, at times, they’ve had some good pass plays. In this game they are going to drop back and throw the ball. What? Wait a minute, I just said they don’t have a reason to throw the ball! Yep, I did. Earlier this year, they didn’t have to pass, which is exactly why they’re going to throw. If the Badgers have a weakness, it’s in the secondary, so to keep their border buddies off balance, look for the Minn-haa-haa’s to drop back and complete a couple of deep passes. Wisconsin won’t know what hit them. What do they have to lose trying this game plan? Nothing! They weren’t even supposed to be in this position, anyway. They have nothing to lose, so why not go for broke, and the best way to do that, is to do what the enemy is not expecting.

It’ll be a close game no matter what happens, neither team is built to run away with the game. The Gophers are the underdogs, which is why I’m picking them to win it. I like what they’ve done this year and want it to keep going. So, Go Gophers.

ASUIn the Champaign and Caviar league out west, the best game will feature Arizona State against UCLA. The Sun Devils are looking to making it to the Rose Bowl, as they all do in this league. If they beat UCLA this Saturday, the PAC-12 Southern Crown is theirs. ASU has already beaten the other school in Los Angeles and now they get a chance to go for two. With the championship on the line they should have no trouble getting up for this game, this is exactly where they want to be. According to Coach Graham, “We’ve been talking about winning a Championship here for two years. I know our guys are focused, It’s a body of work at this point.”  The Sun Devils know that to meet their season goals, they have to beat UCLA. They have won six straight conference games. They dropped a game they shouldn’t have, against Notre Dame, but, since then, the ASU’s defense has shouldered the responsibility of winning, and become “shut-down” tight. They had a close game against Stanford-killer, Utah, but were able to pull it out in the last minute. Aside from Utah, though, they’ve been sailing right along. The offense needs to step it up in this final push for the Roses. They can move the ball, and they can be very good, but the last two games they have not been that good. They’ve scored the least amount of points they’ve scored all year and that’s just not going to fly on Saturday.

UCLA has also lost two games this year, but both were against PAC-12 foes, Stanford and Oregon. They established their personality in the second game of the season, against Nebraska.UCLA The UCLAns fell behind by 21 points and it looked like they were going to get crushed. But the Bruins rallied and fought back and wound up winning the game, 41-21. Since then they’ve been a blue-collar type team. They don’t quit, they keep moving forward. Against Stanford they were just plumb outmanned;- Oregon, they didn’t have the speed to keep up. So the Bruins do have room to improve. They don’t have much chance to make it to the Rose Bowl, but they do want to make it to a great Bowl game, like the Alamo Bowl, which is played in the great city of San Antonio. My daughter and I have plans to be there. So what does UCLA have to do? They’ve got to stop Arizona State’s passing game. Sun Devils are a pass-happy team, not like Baylor, but they still like to pass. If the Bruins can gum up the works against their receivers, the Sun Devils trip all over themselves. Offensively, UCLA stepped it up from where they were last year. Coach Mora is building one heck of a team and it’s obvious he’s building for the future. They win their remaining games and their future just keeps getting brighter.

Arizona State has more on the line then UCLA. They have motivation. Each team is a proven winner and this could be one of the best games of the day. I’m going to pick ASU to win only because I like Arizona St, they wear the same colors as my dad’s high school, and they have cooler uniforms. But, actually, it’s a toss up.

Texas A&MBonus Game! Bonus Game! ( oh my editor is not happy, but he will watch this game) Texas A&M is going to Cajun Country to take on LSU. The question on both sidelines will be can the defense stop the other offense? That is a great question, because right now neither team has a good defense, based on the SEC scale. Two of the best quarterbacks in the country will be playing, along with some fabulous receivers. A&M has already lost to both schools from the state of Alabama so they don’t have to worry about the Yellowhammer curse this Saturday. They’ve had some close games, like Ole Miss, Alabama, and Auburn, but in all their games the defense has struggled and they had to rely on the offense to keep scoring. When their offense is knocked off-kilter, they lose. That’s what happened against Bama, and again against Auburn. The Aggies have some freaky good receivers who make Johnny Football look much better then he really is. Wide Receiver Evans is this 6 foot 5 inch tall receiver that has arms like the wingspan of a California Condor. All Manziel has to do is throw the ball in his general vicinity and let him just out-reach anyone trying to cover him. The defensive backs for LSU have got their work cut out for them. The Aggie Wrecking Crew defense has not done its name proud this year. They’re the most glaring weakness in this 8-2 team,  more like a sieve than a wrecking crew;- everything gets through, just not quickly.

LSU is looking at the possibility of losing a fourth SEC game this year. When was the last time the Tigers were in danger of losing 4 conference games? Not sure, either, but it’s safe to say LSUit’s been a long time – yet they are still in the Top 25 teams in the Nation! Last year LSU relied on the running game to beat the Aggies. The way A&M has been against the run this year, the Tigers need to do the same thing this time. LSU can run the ball, they’ve just had big games where they needed to throw to stay in them. Coach Les Miles wants to gain yards on the ground. The offensive line will not have much trouble establishing control of the line of scrimmage, but they’ve got to control the clock all day. If they can hold the ball in the area of 35 minutes, they keep those receivers of A&M off the field – to say nothing of Johnny Football. If the game becomes a shootout, Zach Mettenberger is capable of playing that type of game. In their scorefest against Georgia, it was a very close game, between the hedges, in Athens, before the hospital unit became the Bulldog dressing room. Zach had a bad last drive and that cost the ballgame. But running is what they want to do. RB Hill puts it great, “We know what kind of offense they have over there and the recipe for success against those guys is running the football successfully.” Defense-wise, the biggest weakness the Tigers have is the same thing the Aggies have, stopping the run. The Tigers do not have the hogs on the D-line to stop a strong running game. This game they’re in luck! A&M doesn’t have much of a running game.

LSU is poised to beat the Aggies for a fourth consecutive time (EDITOR’S NOTE: LSU used to play A&M every year, when there was a southwest conference and a southeast conference), and they have to, so that they don’t slip to a mediocre Bowl. A&M still has a chance to make it to a major bowl, but if they lose this one  it’s second, maybe third, tier bowl. Oh, and Manziel can kiss his repeat Heisman hopes good-bye, if he hasn’t already done so courtesy of Auburn. My daughter, who is the apple of my eye and the joy of my heart, does not like LSU and she has high hopes of making the Texas A&M swimming team. She will not be watching this game as she says she just can’t take it. If I were to pick LSU to win, I doubt she’d talk to me until just before Christmas. So, It’s “Gig’em Aggies! Fight ‘em Aggies! Rah! Rah! Rah! A&M!”

Short Smokes: 

Michigan State takes on Northwestern, the Spartans better not slip up if they want to play for the Great White North Championship. Besides, the Spartan Defense is awesome. MSU wins.

Oklahoma vs. Kansas State, two teams heading in opposite directions. OU is on the way down, KSU is on the way up. Wildcats continue their climb up.

Michigan takes on Iowa, the Hawkeyes can beat the Wolverines and they just might,…….yep, I’m call it;- Iowa wins.

Mississippi State comes to Arkansas and for some reason that I can’t explain, I have a feeling the Razorbacks are going to pull this one out.

Pittsburgh vs. Syracuse: both teams are at 5-5 in their first season in the ACC, and both need to win to become bowl eligible. Pitts wins it.

Here’s another upset coming. Georgia Southern is going to use its triple-option attack to beat the Florida Gators and Will Muschamp will end the season on the hot seat.

Duke takes it’s magical season to Wake Forest and comes away with a win. Both schools with religious affiliations, Blue Devils and Demon Deacons. Go figure.

Alabama takes on Chattanooga….going to go out on limb and pick the Crimson Tide, but they better play better than they did against Mississippi State.

Oregon flies south to the desert to play Arizona, and the Ducks fly back as winners.

Florida State takes on a one-win team, Idaho. Who made FSU schedule?

Nebraska vs. Penn State: no curse of the hat this game, Cornhuskers win. (that might be the first time I’ve picked Nebraska to win anything)

Ohio State vs. Indiana, Buckeyes win by a lot.

Stanford hosts California, the Cardinal needs to win and they will.

USC keeps its improving ways against Colorado, but it will not be a blow-out.

Washington plays Oregon State, could be a good late game to stay up and finish a great day of football. Tell you next week who wins.

Boise State takes on San Diego State: this will be a good back and forth game with the Broncos coming out the winner.





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