This is the Friday Tailgate, the place for you to hang out and talk football, wine, women, and song while you're waiting for the workday to come to an end. Which, sure as you're standing there and you''re the athletic trainer for the Rutgers Scarlett Knights, it never, ever will. Ever. Thursday night Big East football: it's like the emergency room on a Wednesday morning (half full with agitated, injured people who'd rather be somewhere else and want to stab Kelly Ripa in the eye with a burning trident.
Maestro, to the old school soundtrack . . .
They say that if you hear an owl screeech in Sanford Stadium on a fall night it means Jarvis Jones actually killed someone. Superstition, man.
That one's for you, Sheldon.
By now you've probably heard that Notre Dame will be joining the ACC for sports other than football, and will fill its football slate with 5 ACC contests. A couple of thoughts about this arrangement. First, the fact that no one knew this was coming means that John Swofford will be in charge of planning the next major amphibious assault on the shores of occupied France. That's some big news to drop on a random Wednesday morning. Second, it continues the trend of conferences eschewing their historical, geographic bases in the name of . . .well, everybody else doing it.
Never mind the fact that you'd pass a full quarter of the country on your way from South Bend to the Atlantic coast. In my mind, the ACC's heart and soul has always been on Tobacco Road, its epicenter always in North Carolina. With Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College and Notre Dame in the fold, at least most Georgia Tech students will be able to see the Jackets play basketball when they're home over Christmas Break. Virginia Tech and Miami I could overlook, but the utter Yankeefication of the ACC really is a shame.
Oh well, let's turn to the SEC. This weekend's slate of games is interesting for reasons which no one foresaw a short month ago, reinforcing why college football is God's sport. He laughs at your plans, and in the Old Testament turns your ACL to salt. Or something. But I digress.
It appears that Tyler Wilson will be out against Alabama, which was the last thing John L. Smith needed. That one could get ugly in a hurry if Arkansas can't move the chains and their defense is forced to stand toe to toe with the Bama offensive line. If you get a chance to watch these guys work, I recommend it. They're a great unit that seems to work well together. This one has all the makings of a Sabanball masterpiece in which the victim is bludgeoned by a tidy 35-10 tally that doesn't begin to reflect the underlying ass whipping at the hands of America's most efficient house elf. You give
Dobbie Saban a sock, he is freed, then fills the sock with quarters and beats you with it. That's the deal.
Florida travels to Knoxville in what passes for a marquee game at this point in the season. It's tempting to pick the Vols to outgun a Gator offense which is dysfunctional and a Gator defense that could use your help if you've ever played organized football and did anything this summer besides smoke out in your dorm and raise Jimmy John's quarterly profits by 420%.
But I'm not so sure. The Gator offense started to look much better in the second half against Texas A&M once Jeff Driskel was unleashed to react and run rather than standing there in the pocket missing open receivers. He looked a lot less like John Brantley, and all Gator fans can agree that's generally a positive. Meanwhile, I still want to see if Tennessee can run the ball against a solid SEC front 7, which Florida actually has.
While a lot has been made of Florida's apparent poor conditioning (including by me, about 4 sentences ago) I think there's more to the story. SEC fans haven't had a chance to get acquainted with College Station yet. For those who don't know, it's actually not far from the Gulf Coast and has humidity to match. It's actually further south than Hattiesburg, Mississippi and about as close to the equator as Dothan. I wasn't there on Saturday, but I can assure you it was probably not as balmy as Knoxville.
So, all things considered, I'm betting Will Muschamp's Gators keep it closer than many pundits seem to expect and can win this one if Driskel doesn't do anything stupid. Will that happen? Even Driskel doesn't know.
In the game we all care most about, Georgia takes on a Florida Atlantic squad which won a tight 7-3 decision against I-AA Wagner, then got run all over by Middle Tennessee State, 31-17. The Blue Raiders had 2 backs go over 100 yards on the ground, and I think we may be stouter on the offensive line than the gang from Murfreesboro. Georgia will be able to run the ball if we want to. I just don't know how much "want to" we'll see. I suspect instead that we'll see some guys held out to freshen up for the rest of the SEC schedule, and a superior Bulldog team that pulls away in the second half. One James Franklin down, one to go. Prediction: UGA 48, FAU 17.
I'll see you tomorrow. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves about whatever floats your collective boats. Until tomorrow . . .