The Kickoff: Georgia-LSU should be a thriller

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Peter Schrager

Peter Schrager is the Senior NFL Writer for and the national sports correspondent for FOX News Channel's "FOX Report Weekend." He's the co-author of Victor Cruz's New York Times' best-selling memoir "Out of the Blue" and lives in New York. Feel free to e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter.


The battle of the game (season?) savers

Both Georgia and LSU escaped potential season-ending scares against unranked opponents last weekend. There's a chance neither team would have been so fortunate had it not been for the outstanding individual efforts from two star players. Since Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones entered the world of SEC football last fall, the two receivers have consistently been pitted against each other by SEC fans in pre-game tailgate chatter, sports bar arguments and post-church Sunday conversations. Like the Stones vs. the Beatles or Cox (Courteney, not Joe) vs. Aniston, Jones and Green have been neck and neck in some hypothetical competition that the guys at EveryDayShouldBeSaturday describe as an "imaginary duel for most talented wide-out in the SEC" since Day 1.
After his all-around Superman effort on Saturday, Green may have taken the lead in the "war of the wide-outs." As a receiver, the Georgia sophomore was as brilliant as always. Green's eight receptions for 153 yards accounted for nearly half of the Bulldogs' yards in their 20-17 win over Arizona State. But Green's biggest play came on special teams and not on a kick or punt return. Lined up on the defensive line late in the fourth quarter with the game tied at 17, it was the 6-foot-4 Green who blocked ASU's 38-yard, game-winning field-goal attempt. Minutes later, Georgia quarterback Joe Cox connected with Green for 36 yards on third-and-six to set up the eventual game-winning field goal by Blair Walsh. The Bulldogs are now 3-1, having won three wild ones in a row. Despite warts and flaws in spots all over the field through four games, the 'Dawgs are now right back in the thick of things in both the SEC and BCS hunt heading into October. Green's the leading reason why. Lining up against the sophomore on Saturday will be another season saver, LSU safety Chad Jones. If Green played a large role in Georgia's win last Saturday, Jones might have played an even larger one in LSU's near disaster in Starkville. The junior's 93-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Tigers a 30-21 lead early in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State. Minutes later, on a third-and-the-season situation from the LSU goal line with the Tigers leading 30-26, it was Jones who made the Olajuwon-style swat of Tyson Lee's play-action pass attempt. On the very next play, it was Jones who stuffed Lee's 4th-and-goal quarterback sneak attempt. Forget A.J. Green vs. Julio Jones on Saturday. It'll be Green vs. another Jones in a battle of two season savers. LSU has been one of those teams so many pundits have labeled "fraudulent" this week, unable to inspire the masses with their tight wins over Mississippi State and Washington. I think they're just fine. The 'Dawgs, on the other hand, have been in one maniacal finish after another. Some would say they're fortunate to be above .500. My pick? Gimme the 'Dawgs between the hedges in another close one. A.J. Green, obviously, plays a major role. Georgia 31, LSU 27

The other devastating quarterback injury of the weekend

If the Tim Tebow injury news out of Lexington was scary Saturday night, word of Baylor super soph Robert Griffin's season-ending ACL injury in Waco was downright devastating. Griffin, the Big 12 track champion/do-everything sophomore QB, was knocked out early in the first quarter of Baylor's 68-13 victory over Northwestern State, when he was stuffed on a fourth-down rushing play. After being helped off the field, Griffin would return to the game with his leg heavily wrapped and finish the rest of the half with a Montana-esque passing performance, going 13-for-19 for 226 yards and three touchdowns. He led the Bears on four scoring drives. With the game in hand and a 41-10 halftime lead, he sat for the remainder of the blowout. There was half-glass-full optimism, both from Griffin and Baylor coach Art Briles, about the injury after the game. But when the MRI results came in Sunday, both their worst fears were confirmed — there was an isolated tear and Griffin would be lost for the year. Even more than Sam Bradford's Week 1 shoulder injury, the Griffin news sets his team back light years. Whereas Bradford, Tebow or even Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen are surrounded by top-caliber recruits and four-star offensive talent, Griffin was more or less a one-man team for Baylor. He's so damn good that his one-man act was enough to keep Baylor competitive more often than not. It's a shame. I hate to write the Bears off for the rest of the season, but it looks as if any hopes for the program's turnaround are out the window. This was supposed to be the year for the Bears' grand revival. Bowl-barren for a Big 12-record 15 years, Baylor had been assumed able to find a way to win at least six games and go bowlin' come December this season. So much for that. Up ahead for the Bears is a brutal conference schedule. The Bears face Oklahoma in Norman and go up against ranked opponents Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Texas and Texas Tech at home. With Griffin, Baylor had a shot to play spoiler to at least one, if not two, of those opponents. Without him, they likely stand no shot. It'd be one thing if veteran backup Blake Szymanski was good to go from here on out, but even that's in doubt. After Griffin was taken out on Saturday, Szymanski — who passed for a school-record 2,844 yards as a sophomore in '07 — suffered a shoulder injury in the second half. Though Briles said the senior is "day-to-day," shoulder contusions are never good and the injury could very well sideline him for quite some time, as well. So, it'll be up to third-string freshman quarterback Nick Florence. On Monday, Briles said of Florence: "What Nick brings to the table is a lot of intelligence, a lot of youth which a lot of times in these situations aren't bad, because he just wants to do whatever he can do to help the team win." Baylor has Kent State on Saturday in Waco. Let's see what Florence can do under center against a less-than-formidable opponent. As for the Bears' bowl dreams, they may have to wait until next year. Yet again.

Free money

With Boise State now ranked No. 5 and more than likely facing a clear path to a 13-0 season, I can't help but think of a man I met during my annual Vegas vacation back in August. Standing at the Venetian sports book, this gentleman, almost as if he was from the future, told my friend and I, "Vegas is giving out free money this year" and insisted the Boise State 10.5 over/under win total was the smartest bet in "the history of this town." Naturally, we wrote the guy off as a kook and proceeded to drop $100 at the blackjack tables in a three-minute span instead. Money well spent, right?
Well, here we are in early October, and it seems Boise State is almost a lock for 11 wins, if not the full 13. Looking at the schedule, it's hard to see — outside of the Oregon season opener — where Vegas oddsmakers would have even identified two other potential losses for this Boise squad. Perplexed as to why it seems Sin City was just giving away dollars (and why I didn't listen to that mystery man from the future a few months back), I reached out to Richard Gardner, the sports book manager at, for his thoughts. "Prior to the season, Boise State had a projected win total of 10.5 games. However, what must be noted is that the over was heavily protected at -200," Gardner said. "The Broncos had to play Oregon in their first game and also play some potentially tough road games — traveling to Fresno State and Hawaii. They have lost the last two times they played at Aloha Stadium. Ten point five is a key number we believed would see even action. And believe it or not, even though it may have seemed that Boise State winning at least 11 games was a sure thing, our betters did not completely agree. Truth be told, we did have even action on both sides of the total." The Broncos are 4-0 against the spread in 2009. They play UC Davis on Saturday afternoon. Interestingly enough, Vegas isn't accepting any bets on the game. The line currently reads as OFF. Apparently, Sin City has learned its lesson. Finally.

The soundtrack of our lives

When I think of the Dave Matthews Band, I think of cool summer nights, hippie chicks with necklaces made of hemp and music festivals where anything goes in the parking lot. I think of the guy in my freshman dorm who wore the same tie-dyed Phish T-shirt every day to class. I think of the dozens of peers who quoted lyrics like "Could I have been anyone other than me/ Could I have been oh, anyone other than me" from 1995's "Under the Table and Dreaming" in my high school yearbook. I think of a lot of things. None of which are college football. Yet, here we are, a year removed from the Kenny Chesney experiment, and ABC/ESPN's college football theme music is ... The Dave Matthews Band! Every Saturday night, it's a veritable Yasgur's farm on my television set. One week after another, I'm watching quarterbacks get brutally sacked and then promptly chillin' out and relaxing to the opening riff of "Ants Marching" as we head to commercial. I'm not complaining. It's just a bit, I don't know, different? We're used to rap, heavy metal, Hank Williams or Sam Spence's NFL Films orchestra with our football. Adult alternative hits from the mid '90's? It might just take a bit of time to get used to. What's in store for us next year? I'm hoping ESPN takes it back even further. I'm requesting some Big Band stuff. You know — Roger Wolfe Kahn, Paul Whiteman, Ted Lewis, Gus Arnheim — the Roaring '20s! Gus Arnheim! Hey, anything's possible.

Straight out of Crompton

Each week, we like to tip our cap to some of the best college football blogs. This week's post worth highlighting comes from the Alabama-based, in which a thread emerged reporting on Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton's father being escorted out of Neyland Stadium after arguing with a pack of fellow Tennessee fans who were heckling his son. One 'Bama commenter's take: "He probably took a swing at the guy, but missed completely and hit somebody three rows up." Another: "If this is true, it means that at least SOMEONE in the Crompton family has some fight in them. That's nice to see." Gotta love SEC fans. There's nothing like them. To read the entire chain, check it out here.

Upset picks of the week

I didn't fare so well last week, misfiring on both my Fresno State-over-Cincinnati and Pittsburgh-over-N.C. State picks. Last week: 0-2 Season record: 4-4 This week's picks: Oregon State over Arizona State; Northwestern over Purdue
Tagged: Boston College, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Boise State, Kent State, Arizona State, Oregon, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi State, LSU, Georgia, Fresno State, Notre Dame, Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas, Cincinnati

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