Sports

Casey’s Call: College Football — Week 11 Preview

(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

By Casey Keefe
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The magic carpet ride Cam Newton is on has taken an ugly turn. Newton took himself from an unknown quarterback of a “mediocre” team to the Heisman frontrunner in the matter of a few months. However, things have started to unravel off the field in the past couple weeks.

First we heard of his alleged academic cheating while at the University of Florida. Now, we hear that after his season at Blinn Junior College, his father allegedly “sold” him to the highest bidder, Auburn. It looked like Newton was close to siding with Mississippi State, but when informed that – in Cecil Newton’s words – it would take more than a scholarship to lock up Cam, the Bulldogs backed off.

Of course, Cam and his father have denied these allegations. However, two unnamed Mississippi State recruiters have come forward and said that both Cam and Cecil said in different phone conversations that a significant amount of money would have to be forked over if he was to become a Bulldog. According to one of the recruiters, Cam called after his final decision and apologized, saying he liked Mississippi State but his father said “the money was too much to pass up at Auburn.”

As I said earlier in the week, we live in a guilty until proven innocent society – not that I need to remind anybody of that – but we can’t doom Cam until some real concrete evidence comes forward. However, we can’t be totally ignorant either. It’s obvious that there’s a lot of crookedness involved in big time college football. Players are bought and sold – always have been, always will be.

There will surely be more to come from this story. When/if the truth comes out, we’ll either see Newton’s college legacy destroyed, or we’ll uncover one of the biggest witch hunts and travesties in NCAA history.

#1 Oregon @ California: The Ducks are flying high these days. They control their own destiny for the Pac 10 title, and more importantly a spot in the BCS title game. However, they can’t for a second overlook the Cal Bears or else they’re sure to be upset come Saturday.

The game is in Berkeley where Cal is 4-0 on the season, with none of the wins coming by less than a 28 point margin. Plus, it isn’t exactly a comforting feeling for Chip Kelly knowing he hasn’t had the best of success playing on the road against Cal.

The Bears suffered a setback when they lost quarterback Kevin Riley for the season with a knee injury. But junior backup Brock Mansion has flashed some ability and running back Shane Vereen is more than capable of putting up big numbers. Oregon’s defense must be sharp or else they’ll be for a surprise against the resurgent Bears offense.

Where the game will be decided is who wins the battle between the Ducks #1 ranked offense and Cal’s strong defense. Oregon averages 55 points per game and 567 yards per game. We know about their explosive running game featuring Heisman-candidate LaMichael James, plus the vastly maturing Darron Thomas at quarterback… They’ll be going up against the Pac 10’s #1 pass rush (28 sacks) and a secondary that only lets up an average of 178 passing yards per game.

It’ll be a big boost for the Bears playing at home, but I’d be absolutely shocked if they actually knock off the Ducks. Oregon is too well coached to allow a letdown to happen this deep in the season. Cal will put up a fight, but they are 0-10 all-time against #1 teams – I expect that number to increase to 0-11 come Saturday… Prediction: Oregon

Georgia @ #2 Auburn: This one shapes up to be a classic trap game for Auburn. Here they are just a few weeks away from solidifying a BCS title spot, yet they face the enormous off the field distractions surrounding their star quarterback Cam Newton. If the Tigers aren’t 110% focused come Saturday, they’ll fall to the Bulldogs.

Georgia has had a horribly disappointing season, but is still vastly talented and more than capable of pulling off this upset. Quarterback Aaron Murray and receiver A.J. Green form a deadly combination. Their offense has been red-hot in recent weeks, and it’s no secret how shaky Auburn’s defense can be.

The Tigers will score on the Bulldogs defense, but will they be able to slow down Murray and company? That’s the biggest question. Plus, Auburn hasn’t beaten Georgia in 5 years. Add all the controversy surrounding Newton and you don’t exactly have a whole lot of good karma… We’ll get a good indication of what type of character Auburn has. This is a game that can either bring out their best – or worst.

I’m tempted to take the Bulldogs, I really am. But in the end, I expect talent to win out. It’ll be a high-scoring game which won’t be decided until the final few minutes, but when it is, I think the Tigers will squeak it out… Prediction: Auburn

#19 Mississippi State @ #12 Alabama: This is a matchup between two extremely talented teams – one is flying high, on a six game win streak (Mississippi State) and the other is coming around to the crushing reality that their hopes for a national championship repeat is dead (Alabama).

The Tide can’t be feeling too bad for themselves or else they’ll kiss away their chance at the SEC title. In comes a dangerous Bulldog team that has one of the best running attacks in the nation, behind Vick Ballard and Chris Relf. Nick Saban must have his defense ready to play or else they’ll be smacked again.

The Bulldogs must get a big time game out of their defense. Alabama will be a handful to deal with, as is always the case. The Tide have too much pride to give anything short of their best effort. Mississippi State is making a big deal about the lack of respect they’re getting from the odds makers – Vegas has them as 14 point underdogs.

I think State would have a decent chance at pulling off this upset if the game was at home, but in Tuscaloosa I just don’t see it… Prediction: Alabama

Penn State @ #9 Ohio State: The Buckeyes have been flying under the radar ever since their loss to Wisconsin a few weeks back – Just the way Jim Tressel likes it. They are still very much alive for the Big 10 title and another Rose Bowl berth.

Penn State is having a rough year but they’ve been playing like a different team ever since Matt McGloin took over the quarterbacking duties from Rob Bolden. McGloin has thrown 5 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in his last two games against Michigan and Northwestern. Throw in the ground game led by Evan Royster and the Buckeyes are sure to have their hands full.

On the other side is where the biggest matchup of all lies. Penn State has a strong defense which has had their share of injuries but is still a solid unit. It’ll be up to them to slow down Terrelle Pryor and company. The bottom line is playing at the Horseshoe will provide a huge boost for the Buckeyes, and it’s hard to bet against Tressel spots like this… Prediction: Ohio State

#23 South Carolina @ #22 Florida: The SEC East is on the line as these two get together on Saturday. South Carolina has never beaten the Gators in the Swamp, as they’re 0-12 all-time. Gamecock quarterback Stephen Garcia summed up the enormity of the matchup saying it was “the biggest game” of his life.

South Carolina has a dynamic offense with Garcia, receiver Alshon Jeffrey and the banged up but still effective Marcus Lattimore at running back. The bad news for this group is they’ll be going up against a very strong Gators defense that usually plays a step ahead of their opponents. Garcia has to be careful not to turn the ball over. Such mistakes have doomed the Gamecocks in their 3 losses this year.

Urban Meyer has been experimenting at quarterback – splitting time between starter John Brantley and converted tight end Jordan Reed, who some are comparing to Tim Tebow. They’ll be going up against one of the worst secondaries in the nation. Can they take advantage of their chances deep? – That’ll be a big factor one way or another in this game.

In the end, I think we’ll see the Gators come away with the win thanks largely in part to their defense, especially the secondary… Prediction: Florida

Quick Hits…

- It will be interesting to see how Syracuse rebounds this week at Rutgers after their disastrous loss to Louisville last week at the Carrier Dome. The Orange are still in good shape within the Big East but they’ve certainly made life harder on themselves.

- Brian Kelly hands over the quarterbacking duties to freshman Tommy Rees as the Irish welcome in 14th ranked Utah. The Utes are coming off as disappointing of a loss as you can possibly have, getting waxed 47-7 at home against TCU. Can Notre Dame’s defense find a way to slow down the angry Utes?… I doubt it.

- Oklahoma hasn’t beaten Texas on the road in 66 years – That will change come Saturday. The Longhorns are a mess and quarterback Garrett Gilbert is on the verge of losing his job. Their defense is strong but they won’t be able to contain Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden and his star receiver Justin Blackmon.

- Big game between two ranked teams in Columbia as Missouri plays host to Big 12 rival Kansas State. Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert is coming off a couple rough starts and will look to rebound against the Wildcats. It wouldn’t shock me if K-State plays tough, but it’ll only be a matter of time before their defense lets down.

- Virginia Tech is on an absolute roll ever since their shocking 0-2 start. They’ve won 7 straight and will look to continue the streak against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels are on a roll of their own. Butch Davis has done a phenomenal job guiding his team through all their injuries and suspensions. In the end, I can’t see Frank Beamer’s Hokies wasting such a golden opportunity to grab complete control of the ACC.

Check back on Monday for my recap of all the weekend’s action.

Questions? Comments? Email me: ckeefe@wfan.com

Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter: @CaseyKeefeWFAN

pixy Casey’s Call: College Football — Week 11 Preview