On a weekend when there wasn’t much movement among those who aspire to the Final Four, there were a couple of, uh, let us say, interesting results with local implications.
And, more important, those results handed your inveterate game picker a couple of Ls on the dreaded right hand side of the ledger.
Kentucky, the nation’s darling just a couple weeks ago, continued its plummet back to the norm. The Wildcats followed their loss to Georgia with a haven’t we seen this before mediocre performance in Neyland Stadium. Which means, victories almost assuredly ahead against Middle Tennessee and rival U of L, the Cats will more than likely not be Fun is Bowling in the New Year’s Six.
Jeff “Oh my, does I have a life altering decision to make” Brohm’s Boilermakers were throttled in the balmy clime at Minnesooooooota. Might he have been looking ahead to next season back home? Of course, he wasn’t, but Louisville fans fervently wish it were so.
But, Pitt, Syracuse and Washington State all prevailed, the latter under the newly mustachioed tutelage of Mike “All my synapses aren’t connected” Leach.
So, three up, two down for the weekend. Entering rivalry time, yours truly stands 33-22 for the year. Could be worse.
This week’s slate of games, upon first blush, looks to be the most boring of the entire campaign. Let’s hope some surprises are in store. Except, of course, for the games I predict.
Cincinnati @ Central Florida. Respect in the form of Game Day on the premises and the flexing of this AAC battle to ABC Prime Time have Orlando in the biggest tizzy since Mickey and Minnie were caught doing the nasty in the Swiss Family Treehouse over Labor Day weekend. I’ll tell you who is happier than the fans of the undefeated, defending national champion Knights. That’s Kirk Herbstreit, who won’t have to jump on a plane and fly cross country between his morning and evening gigs. The Bearcats served notice, or so it seemed at the time, when they opened with a W at UCLA. Their only blemish is a setback to tough Temple in Philly. Meanwhile the country’s largest university holds the country’s longest winning streak. The Knights are on a crusade -- Get it? Knights. Crusade. Pope Urban II. Council of Clermont. -- for back to back undefeated seasons for the first time since, well, maybe ever. UCF has been rollin’ but not steamrollin’. The Knights appear vulnerable. Will they be too pumped for another W? Are they vulnerable? Methinks, yes. Cincy upsets.
Syracuse vs. Notre Dame (Yankee Stadium). His odd hairline notwithstanding, Dino Babers is proving to be arguably the best young coach going. Within three seasons, he’s turned it around at the three programs where he’s head coached. The Orange are a rock solid 8-2, heading into two toughies to end the campaign. This one at the House That Ruth Built, and a home closer with another rising program, Boston College. The Hype Machine is pumped to 11. The Fighting Irish haters are chomping at the bit to see Brian Kelly get his comeuppance. Does the ‘Cuse have enough to prevail in this, their biggest battle in years? They’ll push the Irish. Hope I am wrong, but I just don’t think they’re quite ready to pull off the upset in Bright Lights Big City.
Southern Cal @ UCLA. Didn’t this used to be a really really really big game? Either in the Coliseum or Rose Bowl. Palm trees. Sunshine. California girls on the sidelines cheering on their football heros. No wild fires burning up the landscape. The kind of atmosphere that had you thinking, how come I didn’t matriculate at one of those schools? Well, not this season. The Trojans are 5-5, having fallen in 3 of their last 4. Clay Helton’s seat is warming to the touch. The Bruins are doing even worse. The Chip Kelly rejuvenation era got off to a shaky start. Four Ls, followed by a couple of Ws, then three more Ls. No titles are on the line. No trips to the Rose Bowl. Just some pride and bragging rights in a town taken over by smoke, the Rams and LeBron. Since my youth, I’ve always favored the Bruins since they used to swirl out of the huddle in those Cali blue and gold unis like some Busby Berkeley musical number. The Bruins upset.
Middle Tennessee @ Kentucky. Benny Snell Jr. was certainly upset after the L to Rocky Top. As much for some of his teammates lack of effort as for the defeat itself. He called them out. The Cats were obviously still hurting from the Georgia debacle when they visited Knoxville. The feisty Blue Raiders from the C-USA will not just lay down. They’ll certainly be a test if the offensively squiggly Cats haven’t shaken their hangover. Kroger Field won’t be quite as full, nor quite as rockin’s as it was two weeks ago. Will UK summon the energy to bounce back in a game they should win? Yes. But not by much.
North Carolina State @ Louisville. Given the events of the last few days, this game actually now has an aura of intrigue about it. Bobby Petrino is gone. So too his familial Thanksgiving dinner guests, to whom he provided jobs. Lorenzo Ward is sitting in with a short staff. Which unfortunately still includes the soon to be out of work Brian Van Gorder. Cardinal AD has called out the team, confronted them with the lack of effort on display in recent weeks. We will find out how much pride this gang has by whether they lay it on the line or not. State was upticking until the Wolfpack dropped 2 of its last 3, including last time out to the Demon Deacons. The visitors are about a two TD favorite. If the Cards keep it that close, the few fans that will be in the stands will likely go home pleased. I’d settle for maximum Cardinal effort. I don’t foresee Louisville putting a Whammy on the visitors.
-- Seedy K