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COUCH POTATO COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 5: Entertainment abounds if you like watching one team beat the other one like they stole something

No. 18 Virginia at No. 10 Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m., NBC

This is the best game this week. Hard to believe, I know. How did Virginia get ranked No. 18, anyway? They have beaten Pittsburgh, William & Mary, Florida State and Old Dominion which have an accumulative record of 7-8 against Colgate. They all played Colgate or the equivalent every week. Notre Dame, which took Georgia to the wall last week, is an 11-point favorite. You’d have to bet $450 on Notre Dame to win straight up to win $100. That’s a better deal than it appears to be. Notre Dame has nice helmets. They look really cool on TV. That’s the best reason to watch this game.

Clemson at UNC, 3:30 p.m., ABC

Clemson is a 27.5 point favorite over North Carolina, coached by Mac Brown, who is 68 years old in his first year at Chapel Hill, a powerful indication that they couldn’t get anybody else to take the job. Clemson has covered the spread in six of its last seven games. You’d have to bet $1250 to win $100 if Clemson wins straight up. So if you bet $12.5 million you’d win $100,000 right? That’s only $30,000 less than the hush money Stormy Daniels allegedly got because she allegedly slept with an allegedly high-ranking government official and then didn’t stay hushed. So it’s a better deal than that.

Texas Tech at Oklahoma, noon, FOX

The over-under is 71.5. That’s a flock of points until you think, if Oklahoma wins 49-23, you win. Is 49-28 that hard to imagine, even with Texas Tech’s quarterback out for weeks and weeks with a shoulder injury?

Ole Miss at Alabama, 3:30 p.m., CBS

Ole Miss is just awful. But the Rebels beat Arkansas, which is just unbelievably bad, and would probably mop the floor with Tennessee, which goes to show that there are some incredibly bad football teams in the SEC this year. Alabama is not one of them. This will be a bloodbath.

Mississippi State at Auburn, 7 p.m., ESPN

It’s time to start talking about Auburn as being real this season. The Tigers pasted Texas A&M last week, which goes to show that Jimbo Fisher is overpaid. So is Gus Malzahn, but he’s 4-0 right now, and the Tigers are feeling their oats. Mississippi State is coming off a home win over Kentucky, which is showing signs of folding their tent unusually early this year. Auburn should hammer them flat, raising spirits on the Plains ever higher. The Tigers still have to play Florida, LSU, Georgia and Alabama. Do you believe in miracles?

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COUCH POTATO WEEK 4: After three weeks of little, a bounty of games that have meaning in the vast, indifferent universe that holds eternity

Tennessee at Florida; Southern Miss at Alabama; California at Ole Miss, Noon, ESPN, ESPN2 and SEC, go find out for yourself which one.

Tennessee and Florida are such flaky teams this year that it wouldn’t surprise me if the Vols won. Florida lost Felipe Franks last week to a stomach-turning ankle injury, but Kyle Trask came in and did just fine, leading the Gators to an unlikely comeback win over Kentucky, which did more to help Florida win than Florida did. Florida’s got enough offensive weapons around Trask that he could be an effective, game-manager kind of dude they can win with, especially against a team that gave up 38 points to Georgia State and lost at home. Both teams have been painful to watch because they profane the game of football. They’re playing the early game, so make a bloody Mary to help you through it.

Alabama is a 39-point favorite against Southern Miss, which I don’t think will stand up because Jack Abraham is a good passer and Alabama’s pass rush isn’t good enough to pressure him and the defensive backs often neglect to cover all eligible receivers. I don’t really blame Alabama’s defense for sucking – they’ve had more injuries than many overloaded passenger buses that plunged off a cliff. Most recently, defensive lineman LaBryan Ray messed up his foot or something and is out for six weeks, and Antonio Alfano, that five-star DL from New Jersey, has apparently decided he likes sitting in his room playing video games more than going to school and playing football. Nick Saban said they’re operating under the assumption that he has quit, which is a reasonable conclusion when a guy doesn’t come to practice or go to class. Alabama needs to wrap Tua in bubble wrap like a precious china teacup, tell him to throw passes to the Four Wide Receivers of the Apocolypse, and score enough to put in Mac Jones as soon as practicable. If Tua gets hurt, Bama’s a solid top-20 team with a good chance at going to the Gator Bowl.

California has slid to a two-point dog at Ole Miss, a team that I cannot understand. But I think they’ll win, because California is good at a lot of things, but not college football.

Michigan at Wisconsin, Noon, Fox

I’ve seen Wisconsin play twice and they are a good football team. They always are. But this year, they have quite a few people who could beat me in a footrace, vastly improving their chances of winning the egregious Big Ten and maybe even making the playoffs. Jonathan Taylor is a holy terror at running back. Unless Michigan has done something I have heretofore seen no evidence of, He’ll go through their defense like shit through a short dog. Michigan has been just good enough not to get the uber-expensive Jim Harbaugh sent on the road to perdition, but this could be the year.

Auburn at Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m. CBS

All right, now, here we go. We got a ballgame, folks. Texas A&M has to win or it’s their second loss of the year, their first in the league, and they’ll be playing for funsies the rest of the year. QB Kellen Mock got smushed two weeks again in a decisive loss at Clemson, because Clemson’s defense bounced his head off the turf a few times, which will make you see the world entirely differently. Auburn’s defense is – I’m not kidding – about as good as Clemson’s. But the big question is, will this be the week that the wheels come off Auburn’s offense? The Tigers have gotten better each week, QB Bo Cox, who’s 18 and looks 12, has made some freshman flubs but also a few great plays, and they have four runningbacks who are all fair, but when you switch them in and out they’re better because the one in the game is usually better rested than the linebackers who’ll be chasing him. But still … Being an Auburn fan this year is a little like that movie, The Matrix, where you wake up from a beautiful dream of life and find you’re in a box full of goo serving as a battery in a dark, giant machine that cares not for you nor any human. On the other hand, this Auburn team reminds me of a bunch of other ones that were flawed, but kept finding ways to win until they started believing they were good and then, what do you know, they were good. Auburn fans love teams like that – that do goalline stands, make opposing star quarterbacks underperform, give up 99-yard touchdown passes, but then run back a 50-yard field goal attempt 99 yards with no time left to win.

Notre Dame at Georgia, 8 p.m., CBS

Excuse my SEC bias, but I think Georgia is the best team in the country right now, and I’ll be stunned if they don’t hand Notre Dame their head this Saturday. The defense is swarming and cruel, and QB Jake Fromm gets far less attention than he deserves. He’s a sweet, smiling friendly guy who is cold-blooded killer on the field, and he made former five-star Justin Fields say “screw it,” jump into the transfer portal and land at Ohio State, where he’s raising all kinds of Hell in the Big 12. Notre Dame is always pretty good, always plays a weak schedule, and gets far more credit than they are due for beating teams that couldn’t win a 5A high school state championship in Georgia. Georgia’s a 14-point favorite, and I think that’s low.

 

 

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COUCH POTATO’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL SUNDAY REVIEW, Sept. 8, 2019 – Will Florida be better with the backup QB?

Will backup QB Trask make Florida more consistent?

Poor Felipe Frank mangled his ankle against Kentucky when two 300-pound Wildcats scissored him at high speed and and his right ankle went one way and he went the other. It was horrible to watch, and harder to watch was our boy, the high-strung, emotional, hard-trying, inconsistent, water-and-gasoline Felipe in obvious pain, wiping tears from his red face with a towel trying to put on a tough-guy face and give his team a thumbs up as trainers toted him off the field on a stretcher with an air cast on his foot. He’s gone for this season, off to long months of rehab and long years of grinding pain. Dislocated ankles as bad as that one looked are a bitch – you do get better but you don’t get well.

But then, what do you know, here came Kyle Trask, perhaps the only good second-string quarterback in America who didn’t hurl himself into the transfer portal and teleport to a program far, far away. He settled the Gators down and paced an 11-point, comeback win over Kentucky, who was playing with their backup quarterback after a horrid injury to their starter. The Wildcats missed a makable field goal with 54 seconds left to pull out the defeat, then Florida tacked on a decorative touchdown on a long play in the waning seconds.

All in all, it was an exciting game and we learned a lot of stuff. Kentucky’s a program, and won’t die easy this year – they’d have won if their kicker could have poked the ball about a foot to the right so it went between the uprights instead of sailing harmlessly by the upright, leaving Florida’s then 22-21 lead intact.

I think it’s safe to say that Florida is one of those emerging teams that has some talent sprinkled throughout, but makes up for lack of talent by playing ugly. They drag you down into their swampy comfort zone and cheerfully beat you wallering in the mud, biting reptiles, stinging bugs, brain-eating amoebas and general hideousness.

Trask, a redshirt junior who has graduated and could have gone anywhere else to play, may be a steadying influence. If nothing else, he loves being a Gator, or else he’d be long gone.

If he doesn’t try to do too much, gets the ball to the guys around him who can go with it, and the offensive line steps up its game just a touch, the offense could come together enough to be a big, old ugly team that can’t do anything right but beat you.. The defense was always semi-good, in a scattered, sputtering, fail-and-recover sort of way.

The Gators, 3-0 now with a conference win, look more like a spoiler than a contender this year. But we’ll know more next week when Tennessee comes to Gainesville.

The Vols finally got a win – 45-0 over Chattanooga, which wasn’t much of a team. But when you’re stuck in the kind of nightmare tailspin the Big Orange was in, it doesn’t matter how you come out of it. That victory does not mean there aren’t a few hundred thousand Vols fans who didn’t read that demented column last week suggesting that Athletic Director Phil Fulmer fire head coach Jeremy Pruitt and take over himself to lead the Vols back to the towering heights attained under his leadership before, you know, everything went to shit.

Is Auburn’s offense starting to show up?

It’s hard to tell a lot about how Auburn performed against Kent State, who didn’t put up much of a fight.

Auburn’s defense has been the strength of the team, buying time for the offense to catch up.

But the Golden Flashes caused a moment of discord when quarterback Dustin Crum gashed the Tigers secondary with a 53-yard scoring pass. A lot of people were suddenly thinking, Oh, Lord, if this guy can do that what are Joe Burrow, Jake Fromm and Tua do?

The Tigers ran the ball the best they have all year. Baby Bo got more work under center and gets smoother all the time. They piled up more than 600 yards – but again, it was, like, you know, Kent State.

We’ll find out Saturday when AU goes to Texas A&M, which has a lot to prove after laying an egg at Clemson – even though Clemson had a lot to do with that.

It’s a big game. If Auburn wins, Texas A&M is playing for funsies. If Auburn loses, the Tigers will be behind the eight-ball from here on out.

And they’re young and growing and all that – except for the OL, which is mature and just not real good, but the feeling so far is that Auburn’s offense has been wobbling along at high speed like a car racing down the interstate with a loose wheel. You’re just waiting for those lugs to pop off.

Is Alabama that good? Is Clemson?

Yeah, yeah, they are. It’s just that we expect them to be flawless and destroy all that dares stand before them.

Alabama’s offensive line still looks sketchy at times – though it did show signs of stabilization after a miserable first quarter against South Carolina. Then Tua got uncrunk and here he went again, 444 yards and four touchdowns like it was nothing.

The defense got beat a few times by … South Carolina … and that makes you wonder what it’ll do against better teams with actually hellacious offenses. But let’s face it – Alabama’s schedule is cake. Ole Miss, Arkansas and Tennessee are awful, and Mississippi State was pitiful losing at home to Kansas State. A trip to Texas A&M on Oct. 10 is nothing to look past, but it’s not as ominous as it once was. LSU, way up there on Nov. 11 should be a dilly, but it’s at Tuscaloosa and if Alabama hasn’t worked the kinks out by then, it’s not going to. Auburn has a good defense – and if the offense catches up and builds come confidence the regular-season finale in Auburn could be a bitch. But if Auburn loses a few games and the offense sputters, they’ll be done for by late November.

Clemson’s waltz to the postseason is even easier. There’s not a team on their schedule they shouldn’t stomp.

Alabama will have to get past Georgia, probably, in the SEC title game if all goes as expected, and the Dawgs look damn good. That Jake Fromm is a smooth operator. He just calmly drops back into the pocket and murders you, and those two running backs are horror shows. The defense is hellish.

There seem to be a lot more pretty good teams this year. Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Wisconsin are all scary, and could beat anybody on a good day. Maybe even any day.

But it still looks like Clemson, Bama and Georgia in that order again this year – if nobody gets hurt, which has a bad habit of happening. Oh, and if LSU keeps torching defenses and smushing opposing offenses, put them in the mix, too.

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COUCH POTATO: College football Week 3, Sept. 14, 2019 A few halfway-decent games to watch instead of mowing the grass

Arkansas State at Georgia, ESPN2, Noon ET

Were you the kind of wicked little child who on hot, summer days enjoyed getting a magnifying glass and vaporizing entire ant beds by focusing searing light on the helpless insects? If you were, you might tune in to this game. It’ll be in the high 90s in Athens, Ga. and the searing southern sun will beat down on Georgia beating down on the Red Wolves in another game of the sort that should be legislated out of existence.

Hate to say it, but Nick Saban is right, again, and damn it, he usually is. The Power 5 schools should be mandated to play five games against other Power 5 or Group of 5 schools. It’s got to be a rule because nobody’s going to do it unless you make them because these days, you can lose two games by 1 point on a safety on a bad call on the last play of the game, and you go to the Peach Bowl instead of the College Football Playoffs.

A few good teams could work UCF into the schedule, because I’m about to buy their propaganda that they are the best team in Florida because the other ones aren’t so hot and the Knights beat the snot out of everybody. But is Georgia going to invite them up to Athens to bake in the blistering sun and run the risk of losing? Is Alabama going to play Penn State? Nope. Because those guys at Alabama and Georgia aren’t dopes.

Alabama at South Carolina, 3:30 p.m., CBS

This could have been almost interesting if South Carolina didn’t lose their starting quarterback in the first game, a loss to North Carolina. They don’t stand a snowball’s chance in Columbia, S.C. as it is.

Bama’s a 25.5-point favorite, which is likely to be eclipsed, I’d think, unless Tua gets hurt. He’s delicate, like his passing touch, when the ball floats beautiful and straight, like a feather pillow, into the fingers of the streaking Jerry Jeudy. He’s a wonder to behold, but I always fear that he’ll shatter like a clay pigeon in a cloud of birdshot if a defensive end gets a clean shot at him. And the way the OL has been playing, that’s possible.

Like a lot of Bama fans and gamblers, I have these recurring dreams, where Tua goes down and the trainers help him off the field, and instead of Jalen Hurts, Mac Jones buckles up his chinstrap. I wake up in a cold sweat, then realize it was only a dream, but just in case I’ve developed precognative powers, I log onto BoDog at 3 a.m. and put a buck on the other team to cover and a quarter on Jalen to win the Heisman.

What the hell do you say about about this game? Tua needs 300 passing and three or four TDs to stay in the Heisman running. It’ll be interesting to see if Alabama’s offensive line and defense have gotten any better, which they’re bound to do sooner or later, but not yet.

As far as saying anything about South Carolina – well, the new quarterback is doing all right, I guess. Bowl bid good? We’ll see.

Stanford at UCF, 3:30 p.m., WatchESPN

If you want to fool around with your computer to see this game on WatchESPN, it might be worth it to determine if UCF is the best college football team in Florida. I think they are, right now. They’re pretty good, and so far, everybody else is sketchy at best.

Well, Florida is sketchy, with a decent chance of turning things around, and today’s game against Kentucky will tell a lot. Florida State and Miami are awful. Miami might improve. Florida State is done like dinner.

Stanford has looked awful this season. Why on earth they’d agree to fly to Orlando to play this band of cutthroats in the middle of hurricane season is beyond me.

Florida at Kentucky, 7 p.m., ESPN

This one was going to be be so good. Then kickass Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson got hurt and can’t play the rest of the season, placing the Wildcats’ 1-game win streak over Florida in jeopardy.

Taking over is Sawyer Smith, a transfer from Troy, who has a cool name and threw for about 1,700 yards last year. I don’t know if he’s any good, but if he were better than Wilson, he’d have started. He was the starter at Troy last year because their starting guy got hurt in the Liberty game and he took over. If he were still at Troy, he’s be running a solid fourth string, so take Florida and give the points.

Florida’s long string of mediocre quarterbacks seems to be continuing with Felipe Franks, the returning starter I thought was going to be really good this year. He wound up last season playing very well, then he’s been flaky as grandma’s biscuits so far this season. He may turn things around any minute now – and this week would be a good time to do it. Or maybe he’ll fall down and throw it to the wrong team and stuff.

Oklahoma at UCLA, 8 p.m., FOX

This should be ruthless. The odds on UCLA coach Chip Kelly getting fired this year are 30-1, which might be a pretty good bet. He’s still showing up for the games as we speak, but I wouln’t be surprised if he started staying home and watching on TV, talking to his assistants on the cell, and checking occasionally to see if the check is still being auto-deposited.

The Bruins are off to a 0-2 start, bringing Kelly’s record there to 3-11, and it’s not like there were any moral victories in that pile of smoking ruin.

Oklahoma’s offense is smoking, and the defense shows up just long enough to earn a letter jacket at the end of the year. But UCLA doesn’t have the firepower to exploit any weaknesses the Sooners have.

It’ll be fun to watch because Jalen Hurts is exciting, unshackled in Lincoln Riley’s swirling offense. Will he get 600 yards? Probably not, but maybe.

I don’t know what the line is, but take Oklahoma and the over.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL COUCH POTATO: That Week 2 was a helluva Week. Here’s what we learned.

There are about a half-dozen teams that are really good right now. There are a few more with a chance to be. Here’s part 1 of Couch Potato’s piercing analysis.

LSU has adapted. The SEC – and the world – just got more complicated

LSU went to Austin and beat the hell out of Texas, yet another ripple in the rising tide of parity in college football.

LSU gave up 38 points and still beat Texas because quarterback Joe Burrow was so hot he contributed to global warming. He hit 31-of-39 passes for 470 yards and four touchdowns, Justin Jefferson caught nine balls for 163 yards, and two other guys totaled more than 100 yards in receptions, which had never happened before in LSU history.

LSU has an offense, and God have mercy on the land. Right now, LSU can beat anybody.

They will get to prove this from Oct. 12 to Nov. 11 when they play, in sequence, Florida, Mississippi State, Auburn and Alabama. Florida and Auburn will be at home. Both have looked flaky, and both may have gone South by then, or they may be streaking badasses with burgeoning confidence. Because that’s the kind of teams they are.

Alabama slaughtered a terrible team, so it’s hard to tell much, but something doesn’t seem right

Tua completed 16-of-24 passes for 227 yards and 3 TDs, which sounds pretty good, but it was New Mexico State and Tua seemed a little off. He wasn’t as lethally accurate as he usually is and many of those yards have to do with Jerry Jeudy being able to get open against anybody and do pretty much as he pleases once he catches the ball, which he does if he’s between the sidelines and sometimes when he’s not.

The offensive line doesn’t look just right. The running game is not crisp. The defense is all right – just all right. They really miss those two starters at inside linebacker, though the young freshmen taking their places do mix it up. The secondary seems better than last year. Last year, it sucked.

It was 103 degrees on the field and the foe was New Mexico State, so, what can you say? That’d sap anybody’s will to live, I guess.

But that kicker, though. Alabama has a kicker who can make field goals. And extra points. This is exciting.

Tennessee is done

Right now, there are two teams left on Tennessee’s schedule it can beat. Chattanooga next Saturday, and UAB in November.

This is a bad team, but it’s a bad team with something wrong. I don’t know what it is, but Tennessee causes a disturbance in the force when they waller around the way they do. It’s more than players and coaches. It’s something that makes an old sports writer’s neck tingle, like Spidey sense. It’s like a cold breeze on a hot day that chills to the bone. It’s … evil spirits. Imbalance in the world and community psyche. I just shake my head and say, “Yeah, soon we’ll know. It’ll blow up. But not just yet.”