This week Levi and I will be providing a preview of the three college football games this weekend that have serious BCS implications and discussing one of our least favorite terms in sports, “elite.” As always, feel free to leave us some “elite” comments and/or suggestions via twitter or the comment section.
First Down- Alabama vs. LSU
The premier SEC matchup of the weekend and the game that ESPN College Gameday will be attending is the Alabama Crimson Tide vs. the LSU Tigers in Tuscaloosa. Five of the last six years the winner of this game has represented the West in the conference championship game, the exception being the 2010 Auburn Tigers. Alabama comes in 8-0 and ranked #1 in the country. Alabama is coming off of four consecutive games of absolutely scorching less-than-stellar competition. LSU enters the contest 7-2 and trying to keep their SEC West hopes alive after losses to Georgia and Ole Miss this season.
Alabama’s offense comes in with less than impressive numbers from a yardage standpoint. They are 35th in the country in total yards per game at 462.8. However, they are 10th in scoring offense at 41.3 points per game. Look for the Tide to try to control the game on the ground against an LSU defense whose clear weakness is stopping the run, giving up almost 150 yards per game on the ground (good for 50th in the country). Alabama’s offensive game plan needs to be a steady dose of T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, who will both hopefully hold on to the ball this week. Using this to set up the passing game, AJ “Slick” McCarron may be able to hit Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White, or Kenny Bell on a few deep balls.
LSU will want to look at the game film from last year for their offensive gameplan. Zach Mettenberger had his best game of the season last year against the Tide. They converted ten of twenty third downs, ensuring that the defense had to stay on the field longer than they were accustomed too. The Alabama defense thrives on keeping offenses off of the field and only having to play about 50 plays or so a game. LSU’s key to success will rely on a solid rushing game from Jeremy Hill to ensure they possess the ball and put themselves in convertible third down situation where Mettenberger can find star WR’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. However, this will be no easy feat against an Alabama defense that has allowed 9 TDs all year (6 to Texas A&M), and only one at Bryant-Denny.
Score prediction: Alabama-27 LSU-14
Second Down- Stanford vs. Oregon
This Pac-12 matchup is the only top 5 matchup of the week (in the BCS at least Stanford is #6 in the AP poll). This game will be the biggest Thursday game of the year, and give me something to do after my two tests on Thursday. Oregon comes in 8-0 and this is their final regular season game against a ranked opponent and a victory would almost guarantee they win the North division of the Pac-12 and punch a ticket to the conference championship. Stanford needs this win to tie Oregon for the division lead and possessing the tiebreaker would almost certainly dash Oregon’s BCS hopes, while keeping their hopes alive.
Oregon’s offense is an absolute machine. They are second in the nation averaging 632.1 yards per game, and an unfathomable 331.5 rushing yards per game (they are second in rushing to Army, who averages less than 75 passing yards per game). The offense begins and ends with Marcus Mariota, my Heisman favorite for those who care, who is the definition of dual threat. He has 2,281 rushing yards and 511 rushing yards, with 20 passing TDs and 9 rushing. He also has yet to throw an interception. If, and that’s a huge if, you can slow him down you still have to stop the three-headed running back monster of Byron Marshall, Thomas Tyner, and De’Anthony Thomas. That group has over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 27 touchdowns. Stanford’s defense if particularly susceptible to the pass, so look for Mariota to have a big day throwing the ball to leading receivers Josh Huff and Bralon Addison. Stanford has a decent run defense, but the necessity to be in nickel and dime packages most of the night will leave them thinner up front than usual.
Stanford enters the game with mediocre offensive numbers. They average over 100 less yards per game than Oregon in both facets of the game, and are scoring 23 less points per game. Kevin Hogan is having a decent year as the Cardinal quarterback, and Tyler Gaffney will be a 1,000 yard rusher barring injury. This offense simply does not have enough firepower to keep up with Oregon though. Oregon’s scoring defense is also stingy, only allowing 16.9 points per game. In the words of Charles Barkley, “They’re in a lot of trouble.” The best thing they can do is possess the ball and try to keep Mariota and Co. on the sidelines as much as possible.
Score Prediction: Oregon-45 Stanford-13
Third Down- Baylor vs. Oklahoma
The major Big 12 matchup this week is between the undefeated Baylor Bears and the one-loss Oklahoma Sooners. The Big 12 picture is still very murky, with the lack of divisions and a conference championship game. Should Baylor win, they’d still need wins against Texas Tech, Texas, and at Oklahoma State to win the Big 12 outright in all likelihood. Oklahoma needs to win this and then close the year with a win against Oklahoma State, and have Baylor and Texas Tech lose again and Texas lose twice to win the Big 12 outright.
Baylor’s offense is on pace for a historic season. They’ve scored 70 points or more 4 time already this season, and 69 another. They are also averaging an NCAA leading 718.4 yards per game and 417.1 passing yards per games. The rushing offense is only 7th at 301.1 a game. They do face their toughest defense of the season though with the Sooner defense being 10th in total defense. The Sooners are worse against the run than the pass, so look for Art Briles and Philip Montgomery to call on Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin earlier and often in this one. Don’t worry though, Bryce Petty will still “get his.”
Oklahoma comes in with one of the more lackluster offenses in recent memory in Norman. Their running game is decent at 17th in the country. They have 6 players with over 100 yards rushing this season, led by running backs Damien Williams and Brennan Clay. They passing game has not been as good. They are averaging 201 yards per game, good for 93rd in the country. Of course, when your quarterback is nicknamed the “Belldozer” do you really expect any different? Doesn’t exactly sound like a gunslinger’s nickname does it? They will face a defense that does not get the attention it deserves, because of the prolific Baylor offense. Baylor is weakest against the run though, so if Damien Williams and Brennan Clay can get it going Oklahoma might have a shot in this one.
Score prediction: Baylor-55 Oklahoma-28
Fourth Down- The Use of the Word “Elite”
There are some words that are vastly overused in sports. Playmaker. Gamebreaker. Gym Rat. Workhorse. But, none of these are worse than “elite.” I’m sorry, but every single quarterback who wins a Super Bowl is not elite. All players who win NBA championships are not elite. Does any sports reporter, journalist, anchor, coach or player actually know what that word means?
Per Webster’s: “the people who have the most wealth and status in a society: the most successful or powerful group of people.” Sure, you can argue with me until you’re blue in the face that winning a Super Bowl means being an elite, and yes that does make that team “elite”, especially for that season. However, team success does not make a player elite. For example, Robert Horry won 7 NBA Finals. He also averages 7 points and 5 rebounds and 1 block per game for his career. He is not an elite player. He was a very good role player, who hit clutch shots.
Anyone care to tell me how Trent Dilfer, Jeff Hostetler, Brad Johnson, Mark Rypien, and Joe Flacco are alike? You give up? Ok, they are all Super Bowl winning quarterbacks AND they are all not elite. If 14 of the 32 starting NFL quarterbacks are considered elite then the word loses all meaning. In any given season, you might be able to consider 4 or 5 guys elite. Tom Brady is elite. Peyton Manning is elite. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees? Also elite. Nick Foles threw 7 TD passes on Sunday, so he must be elite right? No.