From Last Word on College Football, Tony Siracusa
Last week I took to the college football pulpit to proclaim that some teams needed to stop being so benevolent and take back what they wanted. Some teams listened, (looking at you, Tennessee), while others held on to their overt altruism, (Bruins). I have decided, unilaterally of course, that I was so compelling at the pulpit that I returning for another week. I am here to tell you, the fans, that “The truth shall set you free!” Now this is more than just a phrase my wife tells our teenage daughter in trying to get her to own up to her teenage-type activities. This is also the case for Week Five of the college football season. We have some games that are going to tell us if teams have been telling the truth about themselves or if they have been dubious with us, the fans.
Stanford (3-0, 2-0) @ Washington (4-0, 1-0);-Fri 9pm EDT, ESPN
We knew who Stanford would be, and they have been genuine to the hype. The Cardinal are a mature, physical, fundamentally sound team that does not beat themselves. Stanford had its first tough test of the season last week against UCLA, but in typical Stanford fashion they made the critical plays at the critical moments and took their ninth straight win over the Bruins. UCLA held Christian McCaffrey in check, not in terms of yards, (he had his ninth straight 200+ all-purpose yards game) but in terms of impact on the game. Still, the junior has 555 yards from scrimmage as a quarterback/running/wide receiver this season, so knowing where he is at all times is critical. Washington’s Chris Petersen went into Pac 12 Media Days saying he had no idea what his team had done to deserve the off-season hype. The Answer was easy. The offense was young and very talented. Sophomore quarterback Jake Browning has thrown for 14 touchdowns in four games. Righteousness comes this week though as UW’s wins have been over significantly lesser opponents. But if you want the real truth for this game, it is surprisingly on defense. Stanford has the number eight scoring defense in the country giving up only 12 points per game. Washington is 15th at 14.5 points per game. We’ll call it the gospel of deterrence.
Tennessee (4-0, 1-0) @ Georgia (3-0, 0-1); Sat 3:30pm EDT, CBS
What a difference a weekend makes. Tennessee rid itself of the demonic losing streak to Florida with a convincing come-from-behind win, while Georgia was dominated across the board by Ole Miss in a 32-point blowout. So now we have affirmation about the direction of the two programs in the SEC East race, right? Well, hold on to your hymnals there, sports fans, because just as Tennessee had not beaten Florida in 11 years prior to last week, the Vols also have not won at Georgia in 10 years. Who is the unholy schedule maker that is putting Tennessee through this in back to back weeks? Last year, Tennessee couldn’t finish games. Now they are having trouble starting them, having to come from behind all too often already. Once Butch Jones let Josh Dobbs be Josh Dobbs, the senior quarterback scored five second-half touchdowns against the Gators last week to go with 399 total yards. Conversely, Bulldogs quarterback Jacob Eason has been sacked nine times and desperately needs his offense to produce a consistent running game. If someone gets in Butch Jones’ ear at the start of the game and tells him he is down 21-0 already, it could really his team’s performance.
Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0) @ Michigan (4-0, 1-0); Sat 3:30pm EDT, ABC
A battle of two top 10 teams that win on the line, in the trenches, in the muck and mire, at the point of attack, and any other clichés you want to think of for the offensive and defensive line battles. But there is a difference, and that difference is Michigan’s defense. They have the most sacks and the most tackles for loss in the country. They are first in the country in giving up third down conversions. They are 11th in the country in yards given up per game and 13th in the country in points given up per game. What better time to step down from the pulpit and into the dirt in order to quote one of the greatest TV characters of all time, The Wire’s Omar Little; “If you come at the king, you best not miss.” In other words, Wisconsin cannot leave missed opportunities on the field and expect to win. The Badgers asked for, and got, a lot out of freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook in last week’s 24-point thrashing of Michigan State. But the 26 passing attempts was way out of the comfort zone for the coaching staff. They would rather rely on the predictable/reliable running game with Corey Clement and his four yards rushing per carry.
Utah (4-0, 1-0) vs. Cal (2-2, 0-1); Sat 6pm EDT, Pac 12 Network
This might seem like an unusual game to highlight, but here at Tony’s House of College Football Worship, (we are still testing the name with focus groups), we not only seek the truth but are eager to grant redemption. Cal is on the edge of putting together a good run so frequently this season. Senior quarterback Davis Webb has 1,837 yards passing and 18 touchdowns already, and the Bears move the ball well. If only it weren’t for also having to play defense. They are #117 in the country in total defense. Case in point? They went into halftime with a two touchdown lead against Arizona State last weekend and then gave 31 fourth quarter points. One stop guys…that’s all it takes. Enter Utah. The Utes have a stingy defense, (#24 in the country in total defense), and have an adequate offense. Junior quarterback Troy Williams led the Utes to two touchdowns in a win over USC last week, but those were as much a byproduct of Trojans meltdown and some amazing offense by Utah. So this should be a real battle between the “selfless and the greedy,” or “good and evil,” or “yin and yang” or some other cliché about opposites.
Louisville (4-0, 2-0) @ Clemson (4-0, 1-0); Sat 8pm EDT, ABC
We could preach to you about how Louisville has the sixth best defense in the country in points given up per game. We could tell you that Clemson has a defense that has given up only one field goal in the first quarter of a game all season. But would you listen to us? Probably not. The sermon you are really looking for is about the duel between Clemson’s Heisman finalist quarterback Deshaun Watson and his 1,000 yards passing and nine touchdowns and 60% completion rate facing off against Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and his 15 total touchdowns and 1,330 yards passing. At Tony’s House of College Football Worship and Hot Wings (some of the early focus group results are coming in, so we made changes), we aim to please. Both teams have legitimately good defenses but hardly anyone will notice….until one of them makes one critical stop in the fourth quarter, because that will likely determine the game. And if you are tired the next morning at your “other” church because you stayed up late watching this, just tell them about our house or worship. I’m sure they will understand.