Friday, September 17, 2010

Watch With Me

I hate making predictions.

I have long been of the school of thought that college football is so unpredictable that there is no way to know how a game will play out.  Predicting a winner is tough enough in all but the most lopsided affairs.  Any remotely accurate prediction is nothing more than a lucky guess, and each and every incorrect offering provides evidence that the would-be clairvoyant doesn't know what the hell he or she is talking about.

Of course, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.  So why not throw some stuff at the wall?  I don't know about you, but here is what I'm watching this weekend.  If your television displays something other than what I describe over the next few paragraphs, you should get it checked out, because you can take this stuff to the bank.

Not really.  The research here is minimal.  In fact, you'd probably be wise to bet on the opposite of whatever gibberish is forthcoming.  Here we go.

Cal @ Nevada  Friday Night 9:00 p.m. CST (ESPN2)

Really, no football on Friday night until 9:00?  When is the west coast going to realize that it is a sideshow and nothing more?  Yeah, it's great to watch SMU @ Fresno State in the late game on Saturday when you're hammered and not ready to stop watching football, but this business about being the main event is a bunch of bull.  Cal doesn't have Jahvid Best.  Nevada doesn't have Chris Klenakis, a longtime assistant at Nevada who is now the offensive line coach at Arkansas.  The Wolf Pack lost the brains behind their offense, but I'm giving them the nod for no reason other than their lack of an "s".  Nevada in a thriller.  Nevada 34, Cal 31 (OT)

Arkansas @ Georgia 11:00 a.m. CST (ESPN)

This is the big one for me and the dozens others reading this.  Arkansas is your unbeaten, untied, untested underdog, despite the fact that they are ranked #12 nationally, bring nearly their entire team back from last season, and face a Georgia team that was unable to find the end zone last week against South Carolina, looked completely inept when tasked with tackling South Carolina freshman Marcus Lattimore, and, at the moment of this writing (4:22 p.m. CST), will be without their best player, stud receiver A.J. Green.

I think Georgia will find the end zone against the Hogs, but will do so infrequently, which is bad news for the Dawgs.  Arkansas will certainly find it, and if they find it early, things could get ugly.  Last year, Bobby Petrino schemed all summer for the matchup against Georgia, and the Hogs responded with a 21-point opening salvo.  It was only the questionable ejection of defensive leader Jerry Franklin that slowed the Hogs' momentum, and helped Georgia turn the tide.  Petrino revealed this week during his radio show that this season was no different, and that the Razorback offense has been held back against two lesser opponents in order to retain some new wrinkles for the Bulldog defense, as well as the Alabama defense, who the Razorbacks play next week.

If anyone can have a workman-like effort and produce 400 yards passing, it's Ryan Mallett.  That's what he did last week, and I foresee something similar going down tomorrow.  Mallett will be efficient above all else, but it won't be the coming out party he enjoyed last year against Georgia.  Look for Joe Adams and the Razorback defense to be the stars of this one, while Mallett quietly throws for 300-plus and two touchdowns, and the committee of Razorback running backs handle the rest of the scoring.  Arkansas 42, Georgia 24

Alabama @ Duke 2:30 p.m. CST (ABC)

If you are wondering why in blue blazes the defending national champion Crimson Tide are going on the road to play the weakest member of a weak football conference, you aren't the only one.  It's not very often you see a team go on the road as a 24-point favorite against another school from a BCS conference, but that's what you'll see tomorrow.  Wallace Wade Stadium just doesn't have the same magic that Cameron Indoor does.  I'm tuning in purely to witness the carnage as the Tide tuneup for a potential Top 10 clash next Saturday.  Mark Ingram makes his debut, but Trent Richardson is still the star.  Bama gives up its first touchdown of the year, but the Tide roll regardless.  Alabama 30, Duke 10

Florida @ Tennessee 2:30 p.m. CST (CBS)

The SEC on CBS.  For the last four seasons, this weekly game in this coveted time slot has done more to shape the national champion than any other.  I don't foresee the matchup between the Gators and the Vols to play much of a role in shaping the SEC Champion, much less the national champion, but there are storylines nonetheless.  Vince Dooley's son makes his SEC debut in a rivalry game that has decided the East Division representative in Atlanta the vast majority of the time since conference expansion in 1992.  The Vols are licking their wounds after getting shellacked in the fourth quarter against Oregon, but fortunately for Tennessee, the Gator offense seems too preoccupied with staying out of prison and snapping the football to score too many points.  Look for lots of momentum swings early, but superior Gator talent on the defensive side of the ball to make the difference late.  Florida 23, Tennessee 10

Clemson @ Auburn 6:00 CST (ESPN)

Not the most appealing game to be chosen for GameDay, but that's where Chris, Kirk, Lee, and crew are this week.  The purple-and-orange Tigers from Death Valley are visiting the blue-and-orange Tigers on the Plains, in a rare game where an assistant coach is likely to get more airtime than either head coach.  The camera loves Auburn Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn, who is arguably a bigger star than either his boss Gene Chizik or Clemson Head Coach Dabo Sweeney.  Auburn's offensive unit looked pedestrian in a Thursday night victory over Mississippi State last week, although Cam Newton seems to have lived up to his massive hype, at least in the eyes of Auburn fans.  I haven't seen him make an impressive throw yet, and I'm convinced he won't make it through the season if he continues to be as physical as he was against State.  Once again, Newton's legs make the difference.  Auburn 24, Clemson 20

Mississippi State @ LSU 6:00 CST (ESPNU)

Last year's contest was too close for comfort, as far as the Tigers are concerned.  Chad Jones returned a punt 90-plus yards for a touchdown late in the game to put the Bulldogs away, and special teams could play a significant role this Saturday as well.  Star LSU Cornerback Patrick Peterson showed out as a return man in the Tigers less-than-impressive victory over a depleted North Carolina squad, but he may have trouble getting too many touches.  It's doubtful that Dan Mullen will allow a kicked ball to go anywhere remotely near Peterson, and neither of the Bulldog quarterbacks seem competent enough to get a pass close enough for Peterson to intercept.  Assuming he is providing his usual blanket coverage, he will be far too close to a Bulldog receiver to get a play on the ball.  Depending on your perspective, it's either a pillow fight or a defensive struggle.  Either way, it's Saturday Night in Death Valley, and the drunks will make the difference.  LSU 24, Mississippi State 14

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