Well this is the week that we’ve all been waiting for. The Florida Gators football team – and teams across the country — have mostly either played out-of-conference games that will be forgiven by the pollsters at the end of the year if they lose, or they’ve faced one or two cupcakes. Some have been huge gourmet cupcakes that you can barely get in your mouth like East Carolina, and some have been like New Mexico State: cooked to the 15-watt light bulb of the Easy-Bake Oven by Hasbro. The Gators open up their SEC schedule, most of the SEC big hitters get their first of many huge tests this week, and top teams the nation over get their mettle tested for the first time. Like the Gators, most of them are holding out for a hero. But they will all need their own personalized hero for their specific needs.
Incidentally, what do you call a buddy who used to be your best bro, but then he fades out of your life like the disappearance of Bonnie Tyler’s singing career? A Hasbro.
No. 6 Florida State at Boston College (8:00 pm Friday, ESPN)
And so we open the latest chapter of the Criminals vs the Catholics. Unlike Notre Dame, which is run by a French Catholic order, Boston College is a Jesuit school, which I learned in my UF Comparative Religions 101 class means they run a much more conservative offense and have no association with the Bear Clan Hurons. Florida has improved its academic standards a great deal since I graduated. The Eagles are looking for a hero who can do something about their inconsistency. Last year they toppled reputable teams like Virginia Tech and #9 USC, and played #3 FSU within 3 points and #24 Clemson within 4. But then they went out and lost to an absolute stinker of a program like Pitt, and even a mid-major like Colorado State. They will call on the Jesuit JuJu, a caped hero with the super-human ability to instill consistency in everything he touches, like the Jesuit order itself, holding the conservative Catholic line since 1534 when it was founded by St. Ignatius Loyola, famous for sitting on small leads and running down the score, and St. Francis “Wheels” Xavier, founder of The X-Men and noted for his penchant for punting on third down. Heck, Boston College even lost their bowl game last year to Penn State, which is still just trying to field a full and remotely competent team after being demolished by the child molestation scandal. And that is something about which the Catholic Church knows absolutely…it, ah….we’re going to need two super heroes here.
FSU is looking for a different kind of hero. They call him the courtroom colossus. He is known in the Halls of Justice as Shyster Shazam. Well, not in the actual Halls of Justice, but down in the Mezzanine, near the windows so he can keep one ear listening for ambulances. With his trusty sidekick, The Briefs Bandit, this malicious mouthpiece is faster than a speeding warrant, more powerful than a video tape showing clear evidence of domestic abuse, able to leap tall community responsibility in a single bound. Because against the pathetic Almost Competitive Conference, FSU needs no help winning games. They need help keeping their players eligible. And out of jail.
Beantown Batman 20
No. 15 Auburn at No. 14 LSU (3:30 pm, CBS)
Les Miles is looking for a quarterback guru and he has been looking for one for years. They think they have their super hero already in Leonard Fournette, who carried nearly 30 times last week averaging almost 6 yards per tote. But that barely worked against Mississippi State, and they will eventually run into Alabama, Texas A&M and Ole Miss which will not be nearly as forgiving of a one-dimensional offense. And this season they may be in the most dire need for a someone to fight the quarterback crimes of Brandon Harris. It’s not that he makes a bunch or errors, but he is so incapable that he isn’t allowed to do much of anything. Seventy-one yards – like he had last Saturday – is not going to win many SEC games. That’s Will Muschamp-at-Florida type of passing yards.
Speaking of whom, Muschamp (who will be correctly referred to in this space as “TOG” – The Other Guy) will be the opposing defensive coordinator and despite his pedigree for coaching dominating defense, Auburn has been exposed a shocking number of times in the first two games against a fair Louisville team and an middle-pack FCS team which cut through TOG’s vaunted defense enough times to force overtime last week. But the Curse of TOG that dogged the Florida Gators for four years has followed him to Auburn and has infected the formerly juggernaut offense of Gus Malzahn. TOG, who famously turned the Gators from QBU to QBPew, not only rolled out a defense that gave up 405 yards (238 on the ground) to ACC’s Louisville, and then had his defense out-performed by an FCS school the following week, but has also put the voodoo on the quarterback position. Jeremy Johnson only threw for 137 against Louisville, and while he had 14 completions, 3 of them were to the Cardinals’ defense. He played catch with the defense two more times Saturday against Jacksonville State when the Tigers were out-gained on the day by an FCS school. Auburn had an unstoppable offense and an athletic and effective defense that just needed an elite coordinator to make Auburn invincible. The GusChamp monster was to be a beast that nobody could stop. Now it is Auburn that needs to stop GusChamp from continuing to sprint backwards. They need to exorcise the Curse of TOG. They need to put in a call to Boston College: they need an old priest and a young priest.
Tiger Shark 23
Atomic Auburn 20
No. 16 Georgia Tech at No. 10 Notre Dame (3:30 pm, NBC)
Now we get to the French-Canadian Catholics as they take on the Ramblin’ Wreck. Which reminds me that Tech needs a creative branding hero to save them from their own stupid slogans and mascots. A yellow jacket is a runt wasp that lives in holes in the ground. Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of men like the terror of getting a little stingy on their tootsies. But from what I have been told from my local friends who are Georgia Tech graduates, they will settle for anyone with the powers to force even moderately attractive women to enroll in the school.
The Domers will pass on the hero. They’ve already been given a miraculous win on the year saving them from an embarrassing loss. They’ll settle for a visit from Doc Brown and his Deloran to travel back in time to sit out super star quarterback Malik Zaire on the play that got him knocked out of the confessional booth for the rest of the season. Calling Captain Capacitor: FLUX Capacitor, that is.
Hulk Smash Wreck 37
Danny Boy Wonder 20
Nebraska at Miami (3:30 pm, ABC)
Not to be outdone by their in-state rivals FSU and their Criminals vs Catholics battle, the Hurricanes hold another installment of Criminals vs Cornpones. Miami doesn’t need a super-powered attorney like FSU does, because the program has slid so far down the tubes that their starters are not noticeably better than their scout team players, nor even the janitors at the stadium, for that matter. Of course their home game janitors have plenty of time to hit the gym and practice football because they only have three fans to clean up after. What the ‘Canes need is the personal accountant for the Super Friends and The Avengers: Super Solvent. Because the hero Miami needs is someone with the power to find enough money in the budget to buy out Al “The Tie” Golden’s contract and then scratch together enough green to entice a guy who is actually above the coaching Mendoza Line.
Nebraska needs a whole team of heroes. Not for winning games, mind you. They already know that is a lost cause. The Cornhuskers and their fans need dates! They are calling on the Fantastic Four From Farmers.com. Because the Criminals vs Catholics/Cornpones comparison has more than just the criminals in common. Nebraska fans are the only people in the country who have dated fewer women than ordained Catholic priests.
Huskers Havok 23
Oh Mighty Ibis 21
South Carolina at No. 8 Georgia (6:00 pm, ESPN)
The Gamecocks are in an awkward position here. They already have a super hero heading up their coaching staff. Back in 2005, they sent Billy Baston to the R.V. to summon the immortal elders Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Gazetteer, Zeus, Mercury, Tungsten and Harpo to grant him his powers to lure the great Steve Spurrier to the Carolina chicken coop. I am not sure if I got that exactly right, because my memory of the mid-‘70s Saturday morning show “Shazam” – on which most of South Carolina history is based – is a bit fuzzy. I spent most of my weekends in that decade binge-watching H.R. Puffinstuff. Ahem. But after bravely fighting off the evil villains of mediocrity and the roaming ghost of Steve Taneyhill, Super Spurs has gotten long in the tooth. He sometimes shows up at practice wearing his cape on the front. And let’s just say his tights have become far tighter than most lower-row season ticket holders are comfortable with. Stevie is ready for the Retirement Home of Justice.
Georgia is looking for Superman, plain and simple. Someone who can fly over the globe and if necessary use his x-ray vision to see inside the caves of deserted islands and find Tom Hanks. Because every piece of reality for Georgia fans has been a castaway for the last 35 years, all the while thinking they still have Hershel Walker and Erk Russell and a down Florida program that allowed them to be a national elite for about five minutes in 1980. They need Superman to fly them back to Memphis, I mean Athens and let them see what the Bulldawgs really are. And when they see that their head coach is in fact Helen Hunt, Wilson isn’t the only one who will be deflated. And Mrs. Hunt (a.k.a. Mark Richt) will need Aquaman to communicate with her mind underwater (because Richt is still in way over his head) and let her know what the Dawg fans really think about her. Being Helen Hunt, she naturally goes around thinking they are like Paul Riser: Mad About You. Well, Helen, they are in fact mad about you, but not the way you are thinking.
Dawg-tor Doom 32
Captain ‘Cocks 16
No. 11 Ole Miss at No. 2 Alabama (9:15 pm, ESPN)
Ole Miss will obviously need a hero very quickly to protect them from the NCAA. The best way they can avoid prosecution is to call on The Wonder Twins to clink their rings together and call out, “Form of….a college football sacred cow like Alabama, Notre Dame or FSU,” because they never suffer any real punishment for their crimes. Alabama on the other hand wants nothing to do with any heroes. They are the enemy, the Legion of Doom, the super villains. UA does not stand for University of Alabama, but rather Unholy Alliance between the defensive wonder Nicky Satan and the offensive guru Lane Kiffin – known in super villain circles as Doctor Douche.
Crimson Thor 27
Mississippi Magneto 20
Florida at Kentucky (7:30 pm, SEC Network)
Where have all the good quarterbacks gone, and where are all the signal-calling gods? Where’s the pocket-wise Hercules to fight the SEC odds? Isn’t there a White (or Black) knight upon a fiery steed? Late at night Gator fans toss and they turn and they dream of what they need. They need a hero! They’re holding out for a hero ’til the end of game night. He’s gotta be strong-armed, and he’s gotta be fast in decision making and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight. Whatever that means.
You didn’t think I was just dropping the Bonnie Tyler card on the stack for nothing, did you?
Yes the Florida quarterback battle has finally been settled for at least one series or two. Subject to change. Your mileage may vary. So nobody has won the quarterback position yet. Someone needs to. Now! The future of the free world depends on it. Because if Florida continues to turn the quarterback rotisserie, the team will continue to suffer from fits and starts and if the season begins to go down the tubes early for the sixth straight year, nobody in the world will be free from the Gator fans nonstop caterwauling. And the hero has to come from within the team. Someone has to step out of the phone booth with a big orange and blue “S” on his chest and crush this starting job like bending a steel bar, which Superman seems to do a lot for no apparent reason. And he needs to use his super breath to blow all the Kentucky fans out of Commonwealth Stadium, sending them flying down the streets of Lexington careening everywhere like confetti in a wind storm. Not for any tactical reason, but because it would just look really funny.
In the past, heroes have emerged. Clark Kent has pulled open his shirt and turned into 12-Gauge Leak, Sexy Rexie, The Big Tebowski, The Baby-Faced Assassin, The Throwin’ Mayoan, Wonder Wayne and of course the weary Mississippi gunfighter who attempted to settle down with a homestead family, but a smoldering settler/rancher conflict forced him to win the SEC Player of the Year two seasons in a row…a hero known simply as “Shane”. Now it is time for the next legend to be made. He already has the wise old Merlin of his journey, The Quarterback Whisperer as he is known in these parts. Now all he has to do is take the bull by the horns, win the starting job against Kentucky, and fly straight up into space with Gator Nation riding his cape all the way. The very next step has to be to come up with a super hero nickname, because Transcendental Treon and The Grier Lantern are not going to cut it.
Galactus Gators 30
Wonder Wildcats 17