With a Thursday night game looming here is the earlier than usual slate for Week 13.*
1. USC -3.5 at Arizona St
No turkey of a game here. Could be the second wildest game of the weekend. I will take the Home Dog to at least stay within a field goal against one of the country's premiere underachieving teams this year.
2. Nebraska +5.5 at Colorado
Which NU team shows up: the one that allowed 76 points to KU, or the one that scored 73 against k-state? Wouldn't the Huskers like to push a reset button and start the conference season over?
3. UT -5.5 at A&M
This one's easy: the Aggies played KU to within 8 points in College Station. And they don't even hate the Jayhawks.
4. Arkansas +12.5 at LSU
LSU is a fine team, and if they make it to the BCS title game on a virtual Home field, they will be tough. But they get a little more respect than they have earned.
5. Boise St +3.5 at Hawaii
By the time this one is over, there will be but one FCS team remaining with a zero in the loss column. Say it loud. Say it proud., “Rock Chalk, Jay-Hawk. . .”
6. Duke +14 at UNC
The greatest rivalry in all of sports. Game Day. Fifty-two cable and satellite channels. 720 degree coverage. Hey--it makes as much sense now as it does in February or March.
Regardless, the Tar Heel pigskinners avenge Tyler Hansbrough’s broken nose.
7. Alabama +6 at Auburn
Historically, the most bitter rivalry in college football. For REAL. But a distant second this week.
Ya know something? It is hard to take a team that loses to La. Monroe seriously.
8. Tennessee +3 at Kentucky
The second best basketball school on the football field in the land states its case for the Cotton Bowl
9. Georgia -3.5 at Georgia Tech
Matthew Stafford is good. So good, he would be a nice back up QB at a number of Big 12 schools: KU, Mizzou, NU, Oklahoma, Texas, A&M, Tech. . .
Should be good enough in this game.
10. Okie St +12 at Oklahoma
Speaking of backups, Joey Halzle will get the job done after a week of taking first team reps. Barry Switzer, the Big M’s old boss, will have the Sooners ready to play. They will put the finishing touches on a 6-2 record and stamp their ticket for San Antone a week hence.
But by 12 points? Are you kidding me? Against a team that could stay within 15 of KU at Home?
11. Notre Dame +3.5 at Stanford
Notre Dame has one last chance to avoid double digits in the L column. If this game were only in South Bend, where the Fighting Irish are riding their longest home field winning streak of the season. . .
12. Florida St +14 at Florida
You can throw the record book out the window in this rivalry game. Unfortunately, for FSU, Tim Tebow will be throwing the football into the end zone—and carrying it. . .
13. k-state +1 at Fresno St
What could Vegas be thinking?
14. Oregon -2 at UCLA
Like the other OU, Oregon’s backup QB—in this case, Ryan Leaf’s little brother—will look a lot better after a week of preparation as The Man. Unlike the other OU, the Ducks’ starter is irreplaceable.
15. KU -2 v. Mizzou (Kansas City)
Saving the best for last. Almost always a good practice.
Mizzou would have had the edge in this game in October, before the Jayhawks learned that they could not only compete with, but beat teams on the Road—teams that had counted the KU game as a W before the season started.
On the last Saturday of November, this game is rated as a virtual toss-up by Vegas and by anyone who has a clue.
But someone has to have the edge. Who is it?
Some say Mizzou. Some say KU has been the beneficiary of an easy schedule, that they have not played anyone currently in the Top 25 or anyone with more than six wins. As if that somehow means they are not a legitimate Top 5 team. Never mind winning at a venue where Oklahoma lost while at full strength. Never mind defeating k-state on the Road when they were playing well, one week after they pounded Texas by 20 points in Austin. Never mind taking out A&M on the Road when they were playing well and were desperate to win when it was still conceivable that their coach could keep his job.
Never mind scoring more points than any team in history against Nebraska. Never mind putting up 43 in Stillwater, and handily taking out a team by 15 that had beaten Tech and k-state and lost to Texas on the last plays of those games.
Forget the schedule. KU has taken care of business the way a strong team should take care of lesser teams.
Some still subscribe to the myth that Mizzou has the edge at QB. In REALity, Chase Daniel is very good. He has a strong arm, he is elusive, he makes good decisions. But he is no better in any of these respects than Todd Reesing. In fact, if anything, Touchdown Todd is more accurate than Daniel. But the difference in the two in quarterbacking skills is so slight as to be negligible.
If there is any meaningful edge at QB, it stems from the fact that Daniel has shown that he is susceptible to succumbing to big game pressure. Those championing Mizzou point to the fact that they played OU tough in Norman. They rarely mention that, although Mizzou was in position to win that game, Daniel dropped the ball. Literally, as well as figuratively. Meanwhile, Reesing has not shown that anything adversely affects him. He shrugged off two early INT’s in his first Road start and proceeded to rip k-state apart. And virtually every time the Hawks have fallen behind this season, he has responded immediately with a T.D. drive. No matter the situation, he just keeps playing his game.
Still, I doubt that QB will be the deciding factor in this game. As they say in those PGA commercials: These Guys Are Good.
Jason Whitlock has been singing the praises of Jeremy Maclin, Mizzou’s freshman speed demon, calling him the best player on either team, and suggesting that he will be the X-Factor that separates the teams.
Again, I have to give Mizzou its due. Maclin is a play-maker. And if the game were likely to be a low scoring, 14-10 affair, I might agree that he is the most likely player to break the big play that determines the Big 12 North’s representative next week in Alamo-town.
But KU has playmakers, too. The same day Maclin took a short pass and turned it into an 82 yard TD to help Mizzou down A&M, Marcus Henry took a short pass from Reesing between two Okie St defenders and turned it into an 82 yard TD. Maclin had more separation from the defense as he crossed the goal line, but whether you beat your pursuers to the end zone by two yards or five, you get six points. No extra credit for style points. And don’t forget Dexton Fields, Dez Briscoe, and Brandon McAnderson, all of whom have recorded big plays this season—not to mention Reesing’s 53 yard scramble at Colorado.
In a game in which both teams could score in the 30’s, or even the 40’s, there will be big plays. Whether either team scores on one big play or a number of shorter plays is not going to decide the outcome. The key will be not settling for field goals.
In their last three games, KU has rolled to 164 points (54.7 ppg), while Mizzou has scored 144 (48 ppg). Neither team has a meaningful edge offensively.
So which team is better equipped to make the other settle for field goals? KU has the better defense. That much is certain. But does it REALly make a difference? It doesn’t unless the better D can actually stop or slow down the opponent’s offense.
This game is reminiscent of two games in recent years. The first, in this very stadium, being the Chiefs vs. the Colts in the 2004 playoffs. Zero punts the entire game by either team. But the Colts had the better D, relatively speaking, and held the Chiefs to a field goal on one possession. That was the game.
The other is USC vs. Texas. UT had a marginally better defense, but it was not good enough to stop the Trojans’ offense. There were some punts, however. Two by each team. But the team with the better D made one play, stopping USC on a fourth and 2, to take possession with two minutes remaining, down 38-34.
If it comes down to one defensive play, the Jayhawks are more likely to make it. But not by much.
In fact, it is likely that neither team makes a play that wins the game. Rather, one team will fail to make a play. As USC did when an easy INT was dropped for no apparent reason on what turned into the game winning drive. Missed chances to secure turnovers will be huge. Dropped passes in the end zone will be huge. Bad spots or bogus penalties called by a ref or line judge that coincidentally help Texas whine its way into a BCS bowl will be huge.
But how do you assess the probability of these things. You don’t. You can’t.
What you can do is ask which team has the better Offense overall. Answer: It’s a push.
Running backs? KU
Overall D? KU.
Defensive line? Linebackers.? Defensive backs? KU. KU. KU.
Special teams? Big edge to KU in punting. Maclin and Hereford are a push in kick returns. Place kicking is a push.
Coaching? KU. (See 3 of the last 4 year, with Mizzou favored every game.)
And, in my mind, most importantly (again saving the best for last), offensive line. It is this group, more than any other, which determines who controls a close game. KU has the edge.
Makes you wonder why KU is only a two point favorite.
Beats me. Probably because in none of the areas in which KU has the edge is it a big edge, with the exception of punting.
In sum, if the game is efficiently played, without cheap points off turnovers playing a major factor, KU has enough advantages to justify giving 2 points.
And besides, KU is 10-0 against the spread. Why in the world would you bet against that?
Lose, Tigers, lose to the Big Blue.
You’re in the big time when you play KU.
Throw the ball away and have no fear.
Tonight the Hawks will grab your tail and kick your rear.
So lose, Tigers, lose to the Big Blue.
We’ll score many points and you’ll score few,
We will stomp you ‘til you moan and groan
And you’ll wish you’d stayed at home.
*For entertainment purposes only. No guarantees. No refunds.