In this heightened political season, sports terms tend to get thrown around all too freely to describe circumstances surrounding the presidential election. Did a candidate move the yard marker? Was that speech a Hail Mary? The candidate is behind the 8-Ball, (I am allowing for the one or two people who will call billiards a sport). Much of the terminology used comes from football.
However, the sport that seems to get used most frequently is boxing. Perhaps the idea of marrying pugilism and politics makes sense. Having spent some time working for the US Olympic Committee and seeing more than 350 amateur boxing matches, (and some legends in the making), at the 1984 Olympics, I can see where maybe there is a connection, with talk about politicians jabbing and throwing knockout punches. It can also be pretty ludicrous, which of course is why I am appropriating it for this space. Throw in Week 6, of the college football season and we have an opportunity for a bag of mixed metaphors that will leave you begging for the games to get here for some sense of sanity.
College Football Preview; Week 6
LSU (3-2, 2-1) @ Florida (4-1, 2-1); POSTPONED
The SEC owes me a makeup game on this one. There was an entire story line about how the Tigers were rocked back on their heels and replaced the old trainer, (Les Miles) with the team “cut man,” (Ed Orgeron) and showed new life with an offensive outpouring; and the Gators have been bloodied by a loss and a fat win in consecutive weeks. You owe me this one later in the season, SEC.
Indiana (3-1, 1-0) @ Ohio State (4-0, 1-0); 3:30pm EDT, ESPN
Indiana? Where did that come from? Did we go all “Apollo Creed” and pull a name out of the phone book? No, we did not. Indiana belongs in this preview. The Hoosiers decked Michigan State last weekend 24-21 in overtime, and for the sake of this one Saturday, in this one month, in this one year they are in the Big 10 East Division conversation.
Their defense stopped MSU on 11 of 15 third down conversions last week. They are not, however, going to be able to keep their gloves up the entire time. They are going to have to throw some offensive punches. Junior quarterback Richard Lagow has thrown for nine touchdowns but also has six interceptions. A modicum of offensive production is going to be needed from him and from running back Devine Redding.
Ohio State, on the other hand, has been throwing haymakers all season. The Buckeyes rolled up 669 yards of offense last week in a 58-0 knockout of Rutgers. They are third in the nation in scoring at 57 points per game, and fourth in total offense. Indiana is going to want to fight this in a phone booth, nice and tight corners, to avoid Ohio State’s offensive diversity.
Tennessee (5-0, 2-0) @ Texas A&M (5-0, 3-0); 3:30pm EDT, CBS
This is two expected light heavyweights who have stepped up in class to have the heavyweight match-up of the weekend. Every time we think the Vols are going down for the count, they get up off the canvas and wind up being the one still dancing at the end. They have had to come back in four of five games this season, in one case, by as much as three touchdowns. It would help if they would dance and duck less at the beginning of the game and let quarterback Josh Dobbs loose earlier. He has 18 touchdowns this season, (13 passing and five rushing), but is having to perform minor miracles in the last two quarters every week. His job is going to be a little tougher now that Butch Jones confirms injured running back Jalen Hurd will miss the game.
For A&M, this is still the early rounds for their title belt, because after Tennessee, the Aggies have Alabama next week. They have been solid with double digit wins each week since the season opening overtime win over UCLA and could go 6-0 for the first time since 1994. Getting some talent back in the ring will be the key for A&M. Injured defensive end Myles Garrett and wide receivers Speedy Noils and Ricky Seals-Jones are late-in-the-week game decisions. Quarterback Trevor Knight has not been lights out but he has been efficient in moving the team.
Alabama (5-0, 2-0) @ Arkansas (4-1, 0-1); 7pm EDT, ESPN
I know, it’s Alabama and I know it is Arkansas. I know it seems like a classic mismatch; the reigning Super Heavyweight champion versus a team that is trying to develop an iron chin.
The Razorbacks dropped their first game of the season last week, a conference opener to Texas A&M. Arkansas is struggling to stop scrambling quarterbacks which you would think would not bode well against Alabama’s Jalen Hurts. The freshman does not have an amazing tale of the tape when it comes to his stats, (has not even hit the 1,000 passing yard mark), but his 7:1 touchdown to interception ratio is a byproduct of being able to keep plays alive under pressure, the exact thing that hurt the Hogs defense last week.
Arkansas is going to have to “cut off the ring” and contain him more than others have, in order to still be standing in the late rounds of this game. Razorbacks first year starting quarterback Austin Allen has thrown 10 touchdown passes without an interception over the last four games, but it is going to have to be the improved, more physical offensive line that makes the difference for Arkansas. No glass jaws allowed here if you want to end Bama’s nine game winning streak over you.
Washington (5-0, 2-0) @ Oregon (2-3, 0-2); 7:30pm EDT, Fox
This might seem like a strange game to include, considering Oregon’s record, but this is the rising “Golden Gloves” winner that only people in certain parts of the country saw coming, versus the former perennial contender that now struggling to stay relevant.
Oregon’s highlights have always come on the offensive side of the ball, and the Ducks are certainly competent if not proficient there this season. Running back Royce Freeman is back from injury and had 138 yards and three touchdowns last week in the loss to Washington State. Graduate transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop is being replaced this week by freshman Justin Herbert, who has thrown exactly five passes this season. Brady Hoke’s defense has been the issue. The Ducks are #102 in the country against the run and #109 against the pass and have not beaten anyone beyond “tomato can” status this season.
Washington, on the other hand, is young and spry and fleet of foot. They blew out Stanford 44-6 last week in a game that got the attention of the “rest of the nation.” They held the Cardinal scoreless until the end of the fourth quarter. The defense has 20 sacks and 10 fumble recoveries to go with three interceptions and puts you in a corner with quick jabs and before you know it, the fight is over.
Florida State (3-2, 0-2) @ Miami (4-0, 1-0); 8pm EDT, ABC
Miami needed a makeover and went out and got a new corner team, (Mark Richt) and turned into a contender much faster than anyone expected. The Canes are one of only two teams that has not faced a deficit all season, (Boise State being the other) and is one of two teams that has not allowed a play of 40 yards or more, (Ohio State is the other). In other words, the defense that is second in the nation in points per game is not going to get beat by big roundhouse punches. The offense is balanced and this is the game to prove they have arrived.
Florida State looks like a shell of the once great champion who has been clinging to its glory. The Seminoles have given up more points through the first five games than any team in program history and they are giving up the yards in big chunks. Running back Dalvin Cook has been the dagger in the Canes’ heart the last two seasons with late game deciding touchdowns. If FSU wants to stay in the bout they are going to have to score quickly and often. Before we give up on the perennial contenders though, we have to remember that Florida State has a six game winning streak over Miami and that the Canes were 7-0 going into the match-up in 2013 and walked out with a 41-14 bludgeoning.