COUCH POTATO WEEK 9 GAME DAY: Offense wins championships and sells tickets, defense is there to allow the offense to talk to their coaches a few minutes while the other team scores

Wisconsin at Ohio State and Auburn at LSU – defensive teams head like lambs to the slaughter in the new world of college ball

Today, we see the last two teams in America that even try to play defense taking on two of the best offensive teams since the Big Bang, playing on their home fields.

Wisconsin goes to Ohio State, and Auburn goes to LSU.

Wisconsin hurt me so bad, losing to Illinois. I had bragged on the Badger, getting those old-school unis muddy and blood-stained, tackling people and all, just like the olden days. Then they shit the bed. Illinois ran up and down the field like velociraptors on meth, and they kicked a last-second field goal and everything.

Ohio State will kill them.

Auburn will field what will be the last remaining decent defense to be faced by the rampaging Tigers of the Louisiana swamplands. Florida had a good defense. Joe Burrow shredded their ass and hung 42 on them, but got a big boost from the other quarterback, that Trask kid, accidentally throwing the ball to LSU guys.

Auburn has a great front four. So good that they really haven’t blitzed much, because the fat boys with high numbers do such a good job of winning the line of scrimmage and pressuring the quarterback, because they run like bats out of Hell. You know what I bet? I bet they blitz some today and say “There’s six of us and five of you, see what you can do with this.”

Because LSU has really good receivers, and they like to send everybody long. Auburn’s safeties will not be able to cover them one-on-one. So the front seven has got to put some heat on Burrow.

Auburn has a flaky offense, but LSU’s defense kind of sucks, which creates an atmosphere in which the War Eagle might thrive. Bo Nix, 12-year-old quarterback, with his baby face and agile athleticism, would be a good choice to play Spiderman in the next movie. He looks the part, and would probably be better than the regular guy. Bo, like child actors and young quarterback the word over, operates on confidence, momentum, sheer talent, and running around dodging defensive linemen until somebody gets open – a style of play that could really work against LSU. If he could complete a few passes early, if the running backs could you know, just get a few first downs on third-and-short and things like that, if they could score a few, maybe even take the lead. If Nix struggles like he did in the loss to Florida, start recruiting early.

Because Auburn is playing with a strong sense of desperation. WIth one conference loss, if they lose this one, they’re playing for fun the rest of the year. Also Auburn’s fans have the sort of relationship with Gus Malzahn kind of like largemouth bass have with wounded shad. They attack and eat them. Gus will be a wounded shad if he loses to LSU here with Georgia and the Crimson Tide remaining on the sked.

I don’t really think Auburn will win. But I bet they cover that 11.5-point spread.


COUCH POTATO COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Week 9, Wisconsin at Ohio State, noon, FOX; Auburn at LSU 3:30 p.m. CBS; Tua-less Bama home vs. the egregious Arkansas 7 p.m. ESPN; and a few more

Wisconsin at Ohio State, noon, FOX

What was once a semi-interesting game dived over the cliff of irrelevance last week when the BAD-gers showed up dressed in Wisconsin’s uniforms and inexplicably lost to Illinois. The GOOD-gers had compiled a 6-0 record before the collapse, and had looked pretty good doing it. However, the titanic struggle to get by the wretched Northwestern 24-15 two weeks ago was our first clue that all was not well. Ohio State, which is rolling, beat Northwestern 52-3 on Friday night last week, a powerful indication of disparity in the Big Ten. (Why does the best team in the nation play on Friday night? Does the Big Ten not have somebody who negotiates TV contracts?). Ohio State, which managed to rid itself of Urban Meyer after last season, looks born again hard under Ryan Day, the journeyman assistant who took his place and may turn out to be the Ed Orgeron of the Great Midwest. He can prove himself once again this season by not suffering an inexplicable loss that disqualifies the Buckeyes from playoff consideration, a frequent mishap of his predecessor. Early in the season, Wisconsin had the look of an old-school badass team that played savage defense and whose offense consisted primarily of handing off to running back Jonathan Taylor and cheering him downfield as he ran over and by everybody on the other team. Ohio State is not likely to fall victim to this sort of thing – their defense has improved every week and their transfer quarterback Justin Fields has been amazing, and might even have beaten out former Buckeye and current Heisman frontrunner Joe Burrow of LSU. LSU vs. OSU would be a good game. We might get to see it in January sometime.

Auburn at LSU, 3:30 p.m. on CBS

We will get to see Auburn play LSU right soon. This is one of the three upcoming games of which Gus Malzahn needs to steal at least one to keep the faithful, faithful on the Plains. The other two are Georgia and Alabama – one of which seems possible, since Georgia came apart against South Carolina and Alabama will be playing with an at least diminished Tua, who injured the only good ankle he had left last week when a giant Tennessee guy fell on it.

Auburn might have a puncher’s chance, because the Tigers do have a good defense – but so did Florida, and LSU hung 42 on them with ease. Florida had dismantled Auburn the week before, which might have been an outlier now that I think about it. Auburn might have just had a really bad day. A really, really bad day. OK, Auburn’s offense is not that good.

LSU’s defense has been giving up a lot of points – but much of that is because they’re exposed a lot. Joe Burrow and his offense go tear-assing down the field all the time and scoring touchdowns before the defense has had a chance to get a drink of water, and the rules require that you kick off to the other team when you do that.

Here’s something to look at – Auburn’s freshman QB Bo Nix runs about most sprightly when his protection collapses and nobody has gotten open yet, which happened a bunch against Florida. Take a look at how LSU handles that, then imagine how poor, old Tua will do against the same onslaught hopping around on a bad wheel, provided he can play at all 20 days after surgery that requires drilling two holes in a couple or three ankle bones.

Arkansas at Alabama, 7 p.m., ESPN

The nightmare of every Alabama fan and ESPN programming executive came true last week in the form of Tennessee defensive tackle Greg Emerson, who swam by 6-7, 330 pure freshman offensive tackle Evan Neal as Tua rolled left and right into the unblocked rusher. Tua almost scooted by, but Greg dove and got him by the right ankle, which he then fell on top of with the full force of a 309-pound man running full tilt. The slow-mo replays would have made you want to vomit even if you handn’t given Alabama minus 34. Tua spent the rest of the game riding in ambulances to the hospital and discussing options with doctors and his mom and dad in the locker room while second-stringer Mac Jones took over in unspectacular if serviceable relief.

By the next morning the worst had been confirmed. It was a high ankle sprain, just like last year, only this time it was the right one instead of the left. Tua had “tightrope” surgery on his ankle. The idea of the surgery is to drill holes in the ankle bones and weave some medically engineered string through them to hold everything together real good and speed healing. But damn. Getting holes drilled in your bones? That’s got to hurt.

I, too, have had a high-ankle sprain. I missed the bottom step going downstairs summer before last and the side of my foot rolled up to briefly touch the inside of my lower shin. I saw something like a flash of bright light, and when no dead relatives showed up to usher me into the afterlife, I realized that I was not dead, but my left ankle was, I believe the medical terminology is, “fucked up.” I didn’t have surgery, but I can say that now, about 18 months later, I am getting around all right on it, but am even slower than I was before the swelling went down, and have plans to never run again.

So, anyhow, for the foreseeable future, Alabama is Jones’ team. I have a feeling that all those people who have been saying that Tua’s passing stats are inflated because he throws it 10 or 12 yards to one of the Four Wide Receivers of the Apocalypse, and they run about 50 more to score. It’s harder than you think to look receivers open, to hit them in the hands in full stride and to check down to make sure you are throwing it to the one with the best chance of catching it and scoring.

Alabama’s going to become a running time for the time being. Give it to Najee and tell the OL to run block until Tua gets back, then pass block better than they did on the play he got hurt.

Alabama’s defense needs to keep other teams from scoring points, which is the objective. The days of holding them to 31 and letting Tua do the rest are over.



The national championship race got a lot more interesting in the second quarter of the Alabama-Tennessee game last Saturday.

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagavailoa has one of the best arms ever bestowed upon a human, but his ankles are straight out of the Family Dollar Store bargain bin. The Alabama superstar suffered an ugly, ugly rolled ankle against Tennessee which Nick Saban said is a “high ankle sprain” and he’ll probably be back “in a week or two” though he admitted he really didn’t know what the hell he was talking about when he elaborated. It was the same time last year, the seventh game, when Tua suffered a high ankle sprain against Missouri, another SEC team that didn’t have a prayer. He was never the same after that.

Last year, it was his left ankle, this year it’s his right. I don’t know if that makes any difference. Last year, he was able to play with diminished speed, mobility and passing accuracy until Georgia got him good in the SEC Championship Game, which paved the way for substitute Jalen Hurts to come in and save the day. Once again, an injury to Tua affords him great opportunity, this time to win the Heisman Trophy with his chief rival riding the bicycle on the sidelines.

The grim fact is, even a mild high-ankle sprain requires about six weeks to get completely well. A moderate injury takes six-to-12 weeks. A severe one requires surgery, like Tua got last December after the Georgia game, and he said himself that he didn’t feel well until May and gained 18 pounds from lack of activity, which would be a lot even for me. He’s Samoan-American, both of which are good at gaining weight.

So, Alabama lost its best defensive player and kicker – yes, kicker – to injury and now its best offensive player is in trouble for the foreseeable future. The good news is, the offensive line has looked competent since “Cornbread,” offensive guard Deonte Brown, returned after an unexplained suspension two weeks ago. Incidentally, he’s called Cornbread because he used to weigh 400 pounds and now tips the scales at a scant 320. These Bama boys can eat.

The running game is improving. Najee Harris is future NFL and Brian Robinson is close. They’ll be getting the ball more.

The defense will have to change the mind-frame of “hold them to 35 and we’ll win.”

Is Alabama still the SEC’s best team if Tua can’t return? Probably not.


COUCH POTATO COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 8: Yeah, OK, it’s Saturday so let’s all turn on the TV and waller like hogs while giant young men in plastic armor collide

9 Florida at South Carolina noon, ESPN

South Carolina, the team that turned Kirby Smart into Marc Richt 2.0, hosts Florida, which hung with LSU for a while until QB Kyle Trask suddenly started accidentally throwing the ball to the wrong team at the most inopportune times possible. The Gators’ defense is a little dinged up, but not as bad as you’d expect after getting run over, under and through by LSU. South Carolina’s quarterback hurt a knee against Georgia, but they evidently did OK without him. He’ll be back this afternoon, if you care, and will continue to play unless Florida beats him up, which they often to to quarterbacks who aren’t Joe Burrow. He kicks their ass. The Gamecocks’ defense ruined Jake Fromm’s career last week and dropped him from an NFL project into a future high school coach, so God only knows what they will do to poor Trask. Coach Boom is cute but a little bit psycho, and he can coach the hell out of defense.

11 Auburn at Arkansas, noon, SEC Network

Auburn gets a chance at something resembling redemption after turning into a pumpkin two weeks ago at Florida. There’s probably a better word than redemption, I just can’t think of it right now, but one does not redeem in the grandest sense against Arkansas, which is just wretched this year. Auburn is about a 20-point favorite, which sounds about right.

12 Oregon at 25 Washington, 3:30 p.m., ABC

Here’s a great game to watch if you want to see the two best teams in the West face off, which is a little like attending a concert featuring the two best piccolo players in Montana play polkas. I’m sorry this isn’t funnier, but I didn’t get much sleep last night because I ate Vienna sausages, which so help me God, I will never do again.

2 LSU at Mississippi State, 3: 30 p.m., CBS

LSU will poun Mississippi State into whatever repugnant slime they make Vienna sausages out of.

16 Michigan at 7 Penn State, 7:30 pm., ABC

Here’s an outstanding opportunity for Jim Harbaugh to underachieve at the highest level on national TV. Penn State looks like an actual football team this year, a rare thing in Big Ten. I expect the Nittany Lions will run rampant in the coming weeks, setting the scene for a big showdown against Ohio State, led by the electrifying quarterback Kirby Smart ran off to keep Jake Fromm, the Vienna sausage of SEC quarterbacks.

Tennessee at 1 Alabama, 9 p.m., ESPN

There was a time many years ago when the Tennessee-Alabama game was a great reckoning between two southern powers with legendary coaches. Then all the wooly mammoths died after the glaciers receded and now it’s a contest to see how much hell Nick Saban can beat out of another former assistant who got a head coaching job he wasn’t ready for. The only cool thing about this stinker is that Alabama is finally at home in the dark and will get to unveil its multi-million dollar LED lights that flash red and blue and, one assumes, purple if they turn on the red and blue lights at the same time. The lights flicker like a disco ball – and I have to wonder, that stadium holds around 102, 000 people, and in that cohort, wouldn’t you think there’d be at least one person with epilepsy who could have a seizure while beneath the throbbing illumination Bama fans roar F-bombs to the tune of “Dixieland Delight?”