Tag Archives: rivalry week

To The State Of Michigan: Don’t Screw This Up

Originally this was going to be an article talking smack to Ohio State. Then it became an article talking smack to Michigan State. Then it started to bleed into saying things about University of Michigan and the matchup against Ohio State. Now it has all blended together and it’s come down to this.

State of Michigan: Do not screw this up.

Look, Michigan State and Michigan. We know that you don’t like each other and that’s fine. You don’t have to like each other. We can go back to hating one another after this weekend but for this weekend and probably only this weekend, we need to work together.

Everyone’s up to speed on what’s at stake here, correct?

If Michigan wins this Saturday in Columbus, the Wolverines are headed to the Big Ten Championship no matter what happens with Michigan State. If Ohio State wins and Michigan State loses, Penn State goes to the Big Ten Championship thanks to their tiebreaker. But if Ohio State wins and Michigan State wins… the Buckeyes go to the Big Ten Championship. We have to endure another year of THE Ohio State telling us how much better it is to be a Buckeye.

Do you want that hanging over your heads, Spartan fans?

That’s what I thought.

Look, we the Wolverine fans are going to do what we can but it’s not looking promising for our starting quarterback, Wilton Speight, to play. I honestly wouldn’t put it past Jim Harbaugh to have Speight doing minimal snaps just so Urban Meyer has to gameplan for him. Michigan’s going to do what it can to beat Ohio State but it might come down to Michigan State. The defense is still all there but man, that offense looked pretty bad last week. John O’Korn looked pretty rough against Indiana and that was at home.

So I’m going to put it all on the table here. Michigan State, this isn’t about sending Michigan to the Big Ten title game. If that happens, so be it but that’s not the point. The point is that we cannot allow Ohio State to go again. Can you fathom how annoying Buckeye fans will be if they win another national championship? You’ve already had a wasted season, so why bother winning one more game? Michigan State can’t go to a bowl game either way.

I know Spartan players don’t want to just take a knee and the fans don’t want to cheer against their team but that’s what needs to happen. I cheer for Michigan State when they don’t play Michigan and I’m going to be rooting like crazy for Penn State. Would I rather my team goes to the championship? Absolutely. I also don’t want my ultimate rival to go though.

But let’s back up a second here.

We can’t put this all on Michigan State.

Michigan fans, I know you’ve been talking an enormous amount of trash all season. You’ve been saying how great Harbaugh and his Wolverines are all season. Well, now it’s time to find out. Good teams win when things go their way. Great teams win when everything is against them. If Michigan is the title contender that we all like to hoist them up as, now’s the time for them to show it. They’ve looked subpar in their only road games this season so if they’re a great team, showing up big time in the Horseshoe is time.

So there it is. Your fate is in your own hands, Michigan. Don’t mess it up.

Michigan State, it’s up to you if Michigan fails.

Remember what they say: blood is thicker than water. Little brother, little sister, whatever. It’s time that we come together to hate the one, true enemy: Ohio State.

So remember Mitten State: don’t screw this up.

 

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Image courtesy Pixel Bay via Creative Commons

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Watching Only One SEC Football Game Each Week: Part Two

A little over a week ago, I introduced this idea. What if, for some terrible reason, I could only watch one SEC football game each weekend this season? Which games would I watch? Part one featured my picks for weeks one through six of the SEC football season. Here are my picks for the remainder of the season.

Week 7: #1 Alabama @ #10 Tennessee

This is probably the one game I’m most excited to watch all season. The Crimson Tide may have lost some key pieces to their championship team but they have plenty of recruits from their past few classes that can fill in those gaps. They also have Bo Scarbrough to replace Derrick Henry, and he definitely cannot be ignored. On the other hand, Butch Jones and Tennessee didn’t really lose important pieces to their puzzle at all. They return experienced players on both sides of the ball. The defense will be solid, and the offense has the potential to be explosive. If Josh Dobbs can pass for more than ten yards this season, the Volunteer offense will be hard to stop.

This game was a close one in Tuscaloosa last year, with Alabama obviously being the eventual victor. This year the two teams meet in Knoxville and I’m sure Neyland will be rocking. I don’t know that I’m right about this but I think the Vols will have a good chance to get a win at home over the Crimson Tide. And I’d be laughing at Lane Kiffin the whole time. He might have to block me on Twitter if they lose.

Week 8: #12 Ole Miss @ #6 LSU

There are a few Ole Miss games that will definitely have my attention this season. This game in Death Valley is liable to be one of the most exciting SEC West games we’ll get to watch all season. I’ve talked about him plenty in Part One of this duo of lists, but Chad Kelly will be huge for Ole Miss this season.

The Rebels lost Laquon Treadwell to the NFL at the end of last season, but Damore’ea Stringfellow has the potential to be just as important to their offense. Playing opposite Treadwell last year, he already put up some pretty impressive stats (36 catches, 503 yds., 5 TDs) for the Rebels. LSU returns Fournette who was mostly a force to be reckoned with last season. More importantly, their quarterback Brandon Harris now has more experience and can hopefully help balance Fournette’s rushing attack with his passing attack.

These two offensive powerhouses meeting in Baton Rouge should make for a fantastic, explosive football game. The winner? Whichever team has fewer turnovers.

Week 9: #25 Florida vs. #16 Georgia (at EverBank Field)

The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will always draw my attention as a Gator. Heading into this season, both teams are expected to be strong but both have some pretty big question marks. The Gators need to actually move the ball on offense and they need to choose a quarterback to do that…again. Their defense will be as solid as ever as they retain the title “DBU.”

Georgia will have running back Nick Chubb again and an exciting new coach in Kirby Smart. That combination could prove to be very dangerous. As far as SEC defenses go, theirs may be pretty average. But an average Bulldog defense might overpower a below average Gator offense. At the end of the day, I’d give this one to the Gators. But I don’t say that with much confidence.

Week 10: #1 Alabama @ #6 LSU

Alabama and LSU are the two highest-ranked SEC West teams in the preseason coaches poll, making this game an easy choice. Last season, the Alabama defense shut down Heisman hopeful running back Leonard Fournette in this matchup. The question is whether or not they’ll be able to repeat that feat now that LSU has a more experienced quarterback with Brandon Harris returning.

For LSU, containing the Alabama offense will be a must. Last season, they allowed them to outgain the Tiger offense by about 250 yards. If they allow Alabama to gain over 400 yards again, they’ll be hard-pressed to win this game. Fournette and Harris will be a destructive duo, but I expect the Alabama defense to be able to contain them pretty well. And for this reason, I anticipate Alabama winning this game, despite LSU’s home field advantage.

Week 11: Auburn @ #16 Georgia

I honestly have no idea what to make of Auburn at this point. Last season I expected them to be solid but I would consider their 6-6 regular season record anything but solid. Surprisingly, they only lost to Georgia by a touchdown. That team they played a close game with was not the same team that Georgia has this season. Mark Richt was replaced with a shiny new head coach straight from Alabama, Kirby Smart. And since running back Nick Chubb is returning from his injury, the Georgia offense will undoubtedly be more difficult to stop.

The Auburn defense under Will Muschamp’s replacement, Kevin Steele, will be what decides this game. Steele has worked with a number of impressive programs: Alabama, Clemson, and LSU, to name a few. Whether or not he’ll be able to resurrect a defense that struggled during most games last year remains to be seen. Because of my doubts for Auburn’s defense and my faith in Georgia’s offense, I give them the clear advantage in this game. But I don’t expect a blowout.

Week 12: Arkansas @ Mississippi St.

Arkansas is in a similar position to Tennessee this season, even though their outlook isn’t quite as favorable as that of the Volunteers. Head Coach Bret Bielema is entering his fourth year here after a decent season last year. In theory, he should finally have his players and his system in place.

Meanwhile, Dan Mullen has had to return to the drawing board for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs lived and died by quarterback Dak Prescott the past two years. Last year, they had pretty much no offensive production unless Prescott was involved. Now that Prescott is gone, Mullen is going to have to completely revamp their offense if he wants any chance of surviving in the SEC West. Since Arkansas seems to be on more of an upward trend here, I see them winning this game at Mississippi State.

Week 13: Rivalry Week

Sorry guys, but I really can’t pick just one this week. There are far too many interesting rivalry matchups.

All rankings listed are according to the Preseason Amway Coaches Poll, released on August 4th, 2016. Featured photo courtesy of wikimedia via user Neomrbungle.

E-Mail Kristen at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

ACC Links: Rivalries, Replays, and Deshaun Watson

Rivalry Games

Rivalry Week is always one of my favorite parts of the season. Of course, the worst part about it is that it signifies the end of the regular season. But the best part about it is that I always know which teams my favorite teams will be playing year after year. I can plan accordingly months in advance…more than months in advance, actually. While Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher admittedly has a pretty great Rivalry Week game with the Florida Gators on the schedule every season, apparently that set rivalry game isn’t quite enough for him. Fisher lobbies time and time again to try to get other coaches on board with set weekends for ACC football rivalries as well. What if Clemson and Florida State played on the same weekend every season? How would that affect the ACC? While the consistency is good in certain respects, it could also just make scheduling more difficult for other teams when you start adding in more games like that. So maybe Fisher isn’t going to get any immediate results, but it seems pretty clear that he won’t let go of this idea.

Instant Replay Officials

As football fans, we all experience it: that moment when it seems like we can see something so much clearer on television than the officials who are reviewing it at the stadium can. Or what about that moment when one play gets called a certain way in one game but gets called the opposite way in another game? The ACC has made a move to try to make those problems a thing of the past. It’s all about consistency. To achieve this consistency, they’ll be using instant-replay officials in the conference’s Greensboro, NC office to participate in every review discussion during home games at ACC football venues, as well as during Notre Dame’s home games. While this move is not a permanent one at the time, after testing it out this season, we can expect the NCAA Football Rules Committee to make its judgment about off-site replay officials after the end of the 2016 season. The SEC has recently opted to follow suit, and will be testing its own version of this system during the 2016 season as well.

Deshaun Watson and Clemson’s Offense

On Tuesday, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson officially accepted the Manning Award for his performance as the top-performing quarterback throughout the 2015 college football season. Watson had a phenomenal season last year, posting incredible numbers. He finished with 4,104 yards passing, 35 passing touchdowns, 1,105 yard rushing, and 12 additional scores. Watson actually nearly single-handedly led the Clemson Tigers in an incredible comeback against the Alabama Crimson Tide during that National Championship Game last season.

But what does this mean for Clemson’s offense looking ahead? Fortunately for the Tigers, Watson was only a sophomore last season and is therefore returning as their starting quarterback this season. Although Clemson wasn’t particularly strong when it came to rushing the ball, Watson’s talent as a passer and while scrambling gave them plenty of options to try. Last season, the Tigers threw mostly quick passes. This season, there’s hope that they’ll be able to burn teams on some deep pass plays as well. With the return of Mike Williams from injury, Watson should have a great target downfield for those longer plays. But the offensive line needs to execute better, too, if they want to give Watson enough time to get off those passes accurately. Either way, Watson returning is huge for the Tigers. Whether or not the rest of the team steps up to play closer to his level remains to be seen.

 

Picture courtesy of Ken Lund.

Rivalry: The Term that Justifies Everything

It is the job of ESPN and the other major networks to hype up the games they are carrying.  And, of course, when it is rivalry week, the promotion gets taken to a level that could never be matched by the actual game itself, especially when discussing a matchup as big as Ohio State against Michigan.

In a nutshell, Ohio State and Michigan was somewhat of a game until the end when Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock was injured and Ohio State scored a few meaningless touchdowns to make the game seem like more of a blowout than it actually was.  What was most interesting was the way that the announcers discussed Ohio State’s late game display of what would have been considered horrible sportsmanship and irresponsible coaching in any other game.

With the game well out of reach, Ohio State made the decision to go for it on fourth down when they were on a part of the field where it was not quite worth it to punt, but not quite worth it to kick a field goal.  Later, with about two and a half minutes to go, Ohio State went for it on fourth down with an Ezekiel Elliott run on the Michigan 3-yard line.  Michigan stopped the run and took over on downs.  Surprisingly, there was no criticism from the announcers.  In fact, the game proceeded as though nothing had happened and there was a discussion about how Ohio State and Urban Meyer were doing these things for “recruiting purposes.”  Using this justification, it seems logical to think that Ezekiel Elliott was also in the game for “recruiting purposes,” perhaps to show future Ohio State running backs that if you complain about play calling and not getting the ball, you get to stay in the game to rack up meaningless numbers the following week.

Recruiting is a key part of college football; this is common knowledge.  However, the notion that running up the score is a recruiting tactic is absurd.  Ohio State purposefully decided to keep its starters in during a blowout.  In an emotionally and historically charged game like this one, it isn’t out of the question that someone takes a cheap shot at an opponent who is purposefully trying to run up the score.  As a recruiting tool, Ohio State’s tactics today seemed backward and primitive.  To continue to run Ezekiel Elliott late in the game is a recipe for disaster, and irresponsible coaching, especially in a time when running backs are becoming increasingly replaceable and hit the wall a few years into their NFL career.

The takeaway from the end of Ohio State/Michigan is this: add the word “rivalry” into the mix and everything is justifiable.  Running up the score, unnecessarily endangering your star players, and providing a track record of bad sportsmanship is all okay as long as you do it against a “rival,” a term that has become overhyped, overused, and almost irrelevant in today’s college football playoff structure.  To think that Michigan was any more motivated to defeated Ohio State than say, Michigan State, or any other team the Buckeyes played this year, is an insult to all the teams and coaching staffs that Ohio State has faced throughout the year.