Friday, September 11, 2009

Three Weekend Prognostications from the HSL

Detroit Lions at. New Orleans Saints

This one can only end one way...badly. What chance do the Lions have at pulling the upset on Sunday? About as much chance as Mrs. Doubtfire had in gaining custody of the kids after her bizarre three-month stint as a cross-dressing senior citizen. In other words, it might be fun for a minute, it might make you laugh and smile a few times along the way, but when it's all said and done, everyone will be crying, women will be shouting, and Pierce Brosnan will be choking to death on some over-spiced jambalaya.

I was at the Lions late-season game last season against these same Saints. And boy, that sure was some beating. The Lions defense provided ZERO resistance. I mean, ZERO. The Saints converted every single third down. Their punter never stepped foot on the field. Drew Brees spent part of the afternoon drinking Gatorade and eating nachos...and that was while he was still in the pocket looking for receivers. So maybe things are due to change for this year's matchup. Ummm, right.

The Lions did bulk up on D a little bit in the offseason. They grabbed the aging, but still semi-productive Julian Peterson from the Seahawks. Larry Foote was also plucked from the champion Steelers. Combining with tackling machine Ernie Sims, the Lions actually have a respectable linebacking core for the first time since George Jamison and Chris Spielman were anchoring the position. The secondary got its usual patchwork improvements, signing retreads away from other teams and hoping they will dramatically improve just by slipping on the Honolulu Blue. Cornerback Phillip Buchanon had perennial All-Pro written all over him coming out of Miami earlier in the decade. But it soon became clear that despite his track star speed, his overall technique and covering ability left plenty to be desired. He now comes to the D after a handful of fairly average seasons in Houston and Tampa Bay. They could put the name "Fernando Bryant" on his jersey and nobody would bat an eye. Anthony Henry was also picked up to aid the Cream of Wheat-soft secondary. The only problem is that he's like 4-5 years removed from his best days and has lost enough foot speed that the Lions acquired him with thoughts of shifting him to safety where they could better hide his declining agility. But after that plan didn't pan out, Henry was moved back to the island that is cornerback in the NFL, where he will most likely get abused so routinely by opposing receivers that it wouldn't be so unlikely for him to file rape charges with the police following some of the games. In other words, Drew Brees better be prepared to have the time of his life on Sunday. Let's just hope he is kept under 500 yards. We don't want things to get embarrassing...

Prediction: Saints 31, Lions 10

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at. Michigan Wolverines

In last year's contest, the Irish smoked the Wolverines on the field, but lost their obese coach to a horrific knee injury in the process. And even though that wound up being a humiliating day for all Wolverine fans, I can honestly say I would probably take that exact same result if the opportunity presented itself. That's how much I enjoy Charlie "My Head is a Perfect Square" Weis.

The game on Saturday should be much different. The quarterback situation in Ann Arbor last fall was not something you see very often. Michigan has made a habit of sending their signal callers to the NFL, and that's why seeing Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan hack it up last year was such an abnormal sight. Things look to be back in shape now thanks to the arrival of two very talented freshmen. Even while taking into account that the opponent last weekend, Western Michigan, was beyond awful on defense, QB's Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson were very impressive. Forcier displayed a deft touch with the long ball and a poise of a guy that had been playing college ball for two or three years. Robinson didn't show much in the way of the arm, but sure put on a show with his feet. He shows a unique ability to make something out of nothing, which is a refreshing change from the typically immobile Michigan quarterbacks of the past.

The defense also appears to be a much improved unit. Coming into the game with Western, many people expected the Broncos to put up some big numbers at the Big House with returning star quarterback Tim Hiller leading the way. The rejuvenated Blue defense had other plans, however, and spent most of the afternoon pummeling the shell-shocked Hiller into one of the worst games of his career. The Irish team coming to AA will present a much stiffer challenge. They will also be riding high after an opening-week destruction of a high-powered Nevada team. Jimmy Clausen seems to finally be coming into his own as the golden boy of South Bend. He has tremendous talent alongside him, most notably at the wide receiver position, which will provide a significant challenge for the gifted but still youthful Michigan secondary.

The one thing that I have grown to dislike about this rivalry is the rising popularity of the "Rudy Sucks" t-shirts sold all over the Ann Arbor area each year leading up to this game. Not to get on a soapbox or anything, but let's be honest for a minute. Rudy Ruettiger does not suck. The man was five foot nothin', he weighed a hundred and nothin', he barely had a speck of athetic ability, and he hung in there with the best college football players in the land for two years. AND he walked out of there with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. What more does the guy have to prove before we start to give him a little respect? Please, fellow fans of the Big Blue. Root for your squad, wish injury on Belly-Buster Weis, get under the skin of Sunshine Clausen...but please, refrain from insulting Rudy. You wouldn't heckle God, would you? Exactly.

Prediction: Michigan 27, Notre Dame 23

Central Michigan Chippewas at. Michigan State Spartans

Despite each team's result from college football's opening weekend, this game might be more of a contest than some would be led to believe. The Sparties began their '09 campaign with a wood shed job against the Craig Kilborn-led Montana State squad. On the other side of things, Central went on the road to the desert and saw their usually explosive offense get absolutely shut down by Arizona's defense. Dan LeFevour, the Chips multi-talented QB, accounted for virtually no yardage and will surely be chomping at the bit to straighten things out in this game. MSU's offense came out humming in the opener to the tune of almost 500 yards.

Senior wideout Blair White got off to a huge start with nine catches and 162 yards. White will be trying to make history in another way this year, as he tries to break Wayne Chrebet's single-season record for "Backhanded, Semi-Racist Compliments from Broadcasters Only Paid to Caucasian Wide Receivers." You know, stuff like, "He isn't the most athletic guy in the world, but he manages to get the job done," and "He's not the type of guy to break a game open, but he will get you the tough yards over the middle." This has long been a tradition in the world of football broadcasting. Even when Keyshawn Johnson was making like 75 third down grabs a year for the J-E-T-S, Chrebet was still widely considered to be their "third down guy" and the "ultimate possession receiver." For now, Blair White will just have to keep playing ball and trust that he will ultimately get his due credit as the year goes on. After that, he has full permission to take off the pads, let his guard down, and go join the "Tom Waddle-Ed McCaffrey Support Group for 'Exceptionally Crafty' Wide Receivers."

Prediction: Central Michigan 20, Michigan State 16

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