With college football’s home stretch slowly coming into view, this Saturday offers fans another batch of important games that will lead us closer to clarity. Two national championship contenders hit the road against ranked teams while several other hopefuls remain locked outside the top of the BCS like single guys waiting fruitlessly to get into an exclusive South Beach nightclub. The NFL also has several key division matchups as well the league’s most surprising undefeated team looking to stay perfect on the road.
Oh… there’s also a little thing called the World Series going on, so make sure your cable bill is up to date.
Ssssshhhh…. don’t call it the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail party anymore. The powers that be don’t like the image it portrays. As if the 75,000 fans that pile into the Gator Bowl this Saturday won’t be imbibing their favorite brand of bourbon. On the bright side, that’s more fans than have seen a Jaguars home game all season. While still undefeated, Florida is a far cry from the offensive powerhouse it’s been in years past, particularly in the red zone. The Gators have scored only 16 touchdowns in 36 red zone attempts this season, not exactly reminiscent of their national championship runs. The good news for Florida is that they’re still controlling time of possession and their defense ranks among the best in the nation in most categories. A Gator victory could seal the SEC East but the Bulldogs won’t roll over, even though they’ve lost 16 of the last 19 meetings. Most Gator fans remember the Georgia’s end zone celebration two years ago. Florida exacted its revenge by winning 49-10 the following year, calling two timeouts in the final seconds to rub it in. Look for Urban Meyer to give Tim Tebow every chance to break Herschel Walker’s all-time conference rushing record against the school he played for.
Who would have thought a former Florida State Seminole would have affected the outcome of this weekend’s Texas-Oklahoma State game? Yet, Deion Sanders’ relations with wide receiver Dez Bryant landed Bryant a year-long suspension. Bryant, Oklahoma State’s best wide receiver, scored 19 touchdowns last season and was their leading receiver this year before being suspended by the NCAA. Just because they’re a man down, however, does not mean Texas should overlook the Cowboys as they’re the Longhorns’ biggest remaining obstacle to a national championship bid. Texas quarterback and Heisman hopeful Colt McCoy is coming off a near perfect weekend where he went 26-for-31 and threw for three touchdowns against Missouri, yet he has never won in Stillwater. Iowa, USC, TCU, Boise State and Cincinnati fans will be watching this game with bated breath, hoping for entry into that exclusive nightclub after all.
Before USC gets on the other side of that velvet rope, they’ll have to take care of a little green. The winner of Saturday night’s Oregon-USC game will likely win the Pac-10 and keep their national championship hopes alive. The loser will not. USC has won an impressive eight consecutive conference titles. Oregon, who currently leads the conference, would like nothing more than to end to that streak. After getting off to a strong start, the Trojans have allowed 62 points in their last two games, how very un-USC-like. They’ll need to shore up their defense in Eugene this weekend against an Oregon team that can light up the scoreboard.
Expect the cheese steak, kielbasa and cholesterol count to reach an all-time high in Philadelphia this weekend as the World Series is not the only big game in town. Philly fans will be treated to Eagles-Giants in the afternoon and Phillies-Yankees at night, a rare opportunity for the town to double up on some brotherly hate for the Big Apple. Good thing the 76ers aren’t hosting the Knicks that Sunday for the town might run out of draft beer. After starting 5-0, the Geeeeeee-Men have dropped their last two. The Eagles are coming off a Monday night victory over Washington but lost the previous weekend to the hapless Raiders. As usual, the standings atop the NFC allow little room for error. This one should go down to the wire.
What Josh McDaniels has done in a short time as head coach of the Denver Broncos is nothing short of amazing. While other rookie head coaches in the league are still struggling to win their first game (Raheem Morris, Steve Spagnuolo), McDaniels has yet to lose. In the off-season, Denver looked like a team in shambles with a new quarterback (Kyle Orton) and a disgruntled wide receiver (Brandon Marshall). Not so much anymore as peace and harmony has taken over in the mile high city. McDaniels brings his perfect record into Baltimore this weekend, trying to continue Denver’s hot start. We’ll see if Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the gang have anything to say about Denver leaving town 7-0.
Have we had enough Brett Favre talk yet? Believe it or not, there are two-year old football fans who never saw him play in a Packer uniform. We’re once again subjected to the endless Favre-Rodgers-Packers drama which discounts the fact that this game itself is actually of great importance. And for all you Favre-fans, you’re in luck for Fox will feature a Favre-Cam the entire game. That’s right. Three and a half hours of nothing but Favre, which is considerably less than ESPN usually shows in a day. Here’s hoping there’s no need for a mid-game trip to the lavatory. And why is that we only discuss what this game means to Favre and not what it means to the quarterback who succeeded him? Don’t discount Aaron Rodgers’ desire to prove Green Bay made the right choice. The game should be exciting, but wouldn’t most fans rather inject Favre and Rodgers with some truth serum, then have them tell us how they really feel about each other? Now THAT would be a pay-per-view event worth watching. The Vikings sacked Rodgers eight times earlier this season. If the Pack wants a chance in this one, their offensive line will have to provide a little more protection.
The New Orleans Saints march on. Their offense behind Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Marques Colston and Mike Bell remains the most prolific in the NFL. The Saints are giving opposing defenses and scoreboard guys around the league a workout. They came back from down three touchdowns last weekend in Miami to finally filet the fish and with ten games to go, we’re starting to hear premature talk of a perfect season. We’ll see if the Falcons can bust their bubble on Monday night. With ten over-.500 NFC teams fighting for six playoff spots, the Falcons will have to give it their best to do what no other team has yet to do this season… and that’s beat the Saints.