Week 6 Saturday Six-Pack: Traditions of October

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Hear a faint scream in the distance? Could be a FOX executive or two panicking with a League Championship Series, and thus World Series, sans the Red Sox and/or Yankees. Hype for these two teams over the last decade has reached such a point that their rivalry overshadows the Fall Classic. No two teams should be bigger than their sport’s championship, particularly not a sports tradition as rich and historic as the World Series.

Of course, as another October tradition rolls around this weekend in the Red River Shootout, the excitement a rivalry adds to a championship race is evident. Texas and Oklahoma’s annual meeting has had direct impact on the BCS Championship five of the last eight seasons. When the two faced last October with Texas reeling, it just didn’t feel right.

Both enter this year’s installment undefeated and ranked in the top 11 with designs on a Big 12 Conference championship. The added significance such lofty implications gives this match-up is great for the sport. OU-UT defines rivalry. While Yankees-Red Sox happens 19 times a year, all the bitterness on these opposing sides is manifested in one glorious Saturday afternoon a year.

It’s an October tradition second-to-none, and the main event of the Week 6 Saturday Six-Pack.

Southern Miss at Navy

Navy’s dropped two of its four games by a combined four points. Last week’s 35-34 overtime loss to the Air Force Academy is certainly controversial; the penalty against Kriss Proctor that moved the Navy PAT unit back 15 yards was ridiculous.

But Mids are not the type to complain, so the Naval Academy trucks on with another high quality opponent coming to Annapolis. While Navy has twice been on the losing end of single digit decisions, Southern Miss has a pair of such wins to its credit over Louisiana Tech and Virginia.

The Golden Eagles are a much more balanced offense than Air Force, even if Tim Jefferson passed 10 times against the Midshipmen a week ago. Austin Davis threw for over 30 touchdowns a season ago, and has 10 through Southern Miss’s first five games. Davis has had issues with ball control though, giving up six picks. The Golden Eagles have also coughed up eight lost fumbles — that’s among the absolute worst in the Bowl Subdivision. Navy has forced nine turnovers on the season, placing them in the upper third of the nation’s defenses, and linebacker Matt Brewer is among the best at forcing turnovers.

How that affects Larry Fedora’s attack with a four-man rushing attack will shape this contest.

RATING: FOUR BREWS

These are two of the nation’s most consistent non-automatic qualifying programs. Their distinct styles should make for an exciting clash. Kriss Proctor and Austin Davis can be two of the most exciting quarterbacks when the opportunity calls for it.

Air Force at Notre Dame


The last time the Air Force Academy went into Notre Dame Stadium was Troy Calhoun’s first season as head coach. It also resulted in a 41-24 Falcon victory. This Irish team is quite a bit better than the version Calhoun’s first team ran all over, though.

The triple option poses issues for any defense. Air Force’s has the added caveat of Tim Jefferson, a very capable passer. Jefferson’s arm helped the Falcons knock off a very good Navy last week, and two weeks ago he set a program record with a trio of scoring tosses against Tennessee State.

Jefferson may have to throw to move the ball on the Notre Dame defense. The Irish have been very strong against the rush with studs like Manti Te’o and Harrison Smith anchoring the No. 19 ranked unit. Opponents are gaining less than 92 yards per game against the Irish.

The Falcon pass defense is its weakness. Casey Pachall of TCU punished the Falcons. Tommy Rees needs a breakout game, and could get it against AFA.

RATING: TWO BREWS

AFA is a very good team and runs its spread version of the triple option effectively. Jefferson’s is a name that will live in Falcon lore, and a defeat of Notre Dame in South Bend would cement it. He’ll need an exemplary afternoon, with help from potentially explosive back Asher Clark.

But this UND defense is one of the more formidable in all of college football. The team’s concern is at quarterback. It’s an interesting reversal from the Charlie Weis years when the Irish had great quarterback play and porous defenses.

Overall, the Irish are more talented and athletic. Calhoun’s Falcon teams have accomplished more with less, but overcoming Brian Kelly’s Irish is a tall order.

Georgia at Tennessee

Last week’s Florida and South Carolina losses broke the SEC East race wide open. Now, UF, USCar, Tennessee and Georgia all sport one loss. A second defeat this early into the slate would seemingly eliminate a team from contention. That makes this pairing in Knoxville something of a must-win.

Georgia’s stout rush defense would be enough to pose problems for Tennessee even if the Volunteers had a more effective ground game. Yet the Vols top two rushers, Tauren Poole and Marlin Lane are carrying for 4.5 and 2.9 yards per attempt against defenses not as impressive as the Dawgs’ No. 32 overall vs. the rush unit.

If UGa can sustain that pace without linebacker Cornelius Washington in the lineup will prove key. Washington is suspended for Saturday’s game, perhaps giving UT quarterback Alex Bray some breathing room via the rush. Bray has punished Cincinnati and Buffalo with his arm, and on the season has 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Those are solid figures to be sure, but against the one SEC defense he faced, Florida, Bray struggled. Should UGa. snuff any Volunteer run game, that will force Bray into more throwing situations. And more passes means more big play opportunities for dangerous safety Bacarri Rambo.

Conversely, the UT rush defense has shown weakness. One legendary Georgia back made his name against Tennessee 30 years ago (Hershel Walker); can Isaiah Crowell use the Vols as his launching pad to super stardom?

RATING: FIVE BREWS

The SEC East is already shaping up to be a wild race. Desperation is already in the air, forcing these two alike teams to play with an extra sense of urgency. Either of these teams strikes me as a potential 10-game winner, but either could just as soon win seven and it wouldn’t shock me. Expect Bray to pass a lot. If he limits his mistakes, the Volunteers have a great chance. Kellen Moore was clean against the Bulldog defense, which powered the Boise State offense. But the Dawgs’ thrive on forcing mistakes.

Pitt at Rutgers


Pitt rebounded from a pair of lost leads against Iowa and Notre Dame with an impressive Big East Conference opening defeat of USF. The Panthers won just a single league championship in the BCS era in 2004, and that team bore the dubious distinction of being arguably the worst automatic qualifier ever — until UConn a season ago, anyway, but I digress.

The Panthers depart for the ACC, and what better parting gift than a second and final automatic entrance to the BCS dance via the Big East championship? Week 5’s defeat of USF was a step in the right direction, but just one step. The top half of the conference is indistinguishable and interchangeable. Rutgers is a part of that.

The Scarlet Knight scored a crucial conference-opening win at Syracuse. RU has played well defensively, allowing 16.5 points per through four games. Greg Schiano has significant weapons with which to work on the offense end like Mohammed Sanu, one of the most talented receivers in the entire collegiate game. H-back Joe Martinek plays an integral role in the passing game, both as a capable receiver and hard-nosed blocker.

Yet the Scarlet Knights continue to struggle with what was their most significant problem a year ago, play at the offensive line. RU has allowed 10 sacks in four games, and no RU rusher with 10 or more is averaging more than three yards per carry. Freshman Savon Huggins is the only RU ball carrier to score a touchdown.

Conversely, Pitt’s offense thrives on its run game. Ray Graham used the national stage of a Thursday night ESPN broadcast to elevate into the mainstream consciousness. He’s a top tier back compensating for his lack of size with an elusive run style, nose for holes, and breakaway speed. He’s averaging nearly 30 yards per game more by himself than the RU rush defense has allowed altogether.

The respective defenses more force their opposing quarterbacks to win this one. Tino Sunseri is completing a healthy 65.4 percent of his passes, but has just five touchdowns to four interceptions. Against an RU defense that has forced more turnovers than anyone in college football but Cincinnati, that’s a red flag.

Picks are a problem for RU as well. Chas Dodd has three of them in four games, and was pulled vs. SU for throwing two. Gary Nova stepped in to complete the Scarlet Knight victory, creating a controversy. It’s deja vu all over again; Schiano’s decision to bench talented Tom Savage for Dodd a season ago led to the former’s transfer. Is that a Pandora’s box he wants to open again?

  • RATING: THREE BREWS
    The Big East championship race will be topsy-turvy, and this one will dictate whether RU is a part of that multi-team chase. Todd Graham’s “High Octane Football” needs some fine-tuning, and the Panthers need to learn to finish. In other words, Pitt remains a work in progress while RU is something of a wild card, particularly with its staring quarterback decision coming at gametime. Perhaps the unpredictability of these teams makes this one worth more than a three rating.

Florida at LSU

Talk about a difficult introduction to college football. Florida’s highly touted freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel stepped in for John Brantley last week against the 1a. best defense in football, Alabama. A week later, Driskel gets his first career start against 1b. best defense LSU.

Did I mention it’s in Death Valley? That’s a downright nightmare scenario for a teenage, first-time starter. But recruits like Driskel choose to play at championship-craving SEC programs like Florida for these opportunities to perform when the lights are their brightest, and rarely do they shine as bright as a conference game in Baton Rouge.

Those lights also shine on the Tigers, of course. Tyrann Mathieu’s Heisman candidacy would get yet another boost with say, another forced fumble or an interception against the Gators. The Honey Badger must be licking his chops against a true frosh quarterback.

The Gator defense was as punched in the mouth as the UF quarterbacks by Alabama, and LSU does the same things well that the Tide do. Now, LSU doesn’t boast a rusher as explosive as Trent Richardson, but Jarrett Lee has been a more dangerous passer thus far than the Tide’s A.J. McCarron. The balance could give UF defensive coordinator Dan Quinn head aches.

    RATING: FOUR BREWS

Who doesn’t love an LSU night game? Even if this one ends before it’s over a la Bama-Florida a week ago, the initial atmosphere alone is worthy a four rating. Watching the well-oiled machine that is this Tiger team is a real pleasure on both sides of the ball.

Oklahoma vs. Texas

The great October tradition reignites with a combined 8-0 record between the Longhorns and Sooners as they roll into the Cotton Bowl. The dulcet tones of Brent Musberger, the crimson and burnt orange; this is college football, ladies and gents.

The well-established, well-known Sooners are a two-score favorite. The Texas defense has yet to face a genuine test in this young season, but it will get a challenge and more against the vaunted spread offense. Landry Jones’s name has fallen behind in early Heisman talk. A big outing on this grand stage would rectify that, and with Ryan Broyles to throw to, Jones will certainly get opportunities.

What Mack Brown does at quarterback is as exciting a plotline as the game itself. David Ash has the prototypical frame and style of an NFL quarterback, but with the feet that Vince Young and Colt McCoy used to lead the Longhorns to the game’s pinnacle in recent years. Case McCoy is the brother of Longhorn legend Colt. It’s an interesting race that will unfold before our eyes.

RATING: SIX BREWS

The rejuvenation after a one-year lull is exciting. The Cotton Bowl should be rocking in Saturday’s main event. The first 20 minutes should tell the story of the entire game. Should OU jump out to an early lead, the Sooners should roll. A close game the first quarter-plus suggests a close on throughout.

SATURDAY’S SIX-PACK: Samuel Adams Octoberfest

Like the Red River Rivalry and the MLB Playoffs, Sam Adams’ seasonal brew is an October staple. Octoberfest is a crisp, tangy beer with a nice bite. This one pours a rich amber with an orange hue not unlike the autumn colors and indicative of the almost citrus twist evident in each sip.