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      Smack Zone — Football

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      The Games are Getting Interesting (But not Texas-Oklahoma, because the Longhorns suck SO much)

      [caption id="attachment_1267" align="alignright" width="178"]Michigan Wolverines Michigan is rolling, but can the Wolverines overcome Northwestern's stingy D?[/caption] The mid-point of college football season is just about here. Some games this week mean something. Here is a breakdown of three of those games, with the Smack Zone fearless forecast. Read it, then register for the Smack Zone weekly football picks contest for a chance to win Smack Apparel merchandise (see link below). (Yes, we know Texas plays Oklahoma this week, but we figure anyone who picks the Longhorns in that one isn't qualified to be here or even watch sports.) No. 13 Northwestern (5-0, 3-0 BIG 10) vs. No. 18 Michigan (4-1, 1-0 BIG 10) Anyone who tells you that they predicted a 5-0 start for Northwestern is, quite simply, a liar. After a stunning upset of Stanford to open the season, the Wildcats have somewhat quietly climbed their way into the top 15. A win in Ann Arbor on Saturday afternoon would solidify Pat Fitzgerald’s squad as a team to be reckoned with in the second half of the season. While their offense is far from overwhelming, their defense has been stifling. Led by Senior DL Dean Lowry, Northwestern is allowing an FBS best seven points per game. Under first-year coach and Michigan man, Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines have wasted little time returning to national relevancy. With a victory this Saturday, Michigan will have already matched their win total from 2014. Although their passing game has left much to be desired, the Wolverines’ rushing attack has picked up the slack, averaging more than 230 yards per game during their four-game winning streak. Of course, like Northwestern, they have relied heavily on a defense that has posted back-to-back shutouts against BYU and Maryland, and is giving up just 7.6 points per game. Smack Zone’s Pick: If you’re a fan of defense and tough, old-school football, this game is definitely right up your alley. Barring Jim Harbaugh making a return to play quarterback for his alma mater, don’t expect many fireworks in the Big House Saturday afternoon. We like the Wolverines in a slugfest, 17-13. No. 23 California (5-0, 2-0 PAC 12) vs. No. 5 Utah (4-0, 1-0 PAC 12)  It’s hard to believe that just two years ago, the Golden Bears finished 1-11 and were one of college football’s worst teams. Now in their third season under head coach Sonny Dykes, Cal is seeking its first 6-0 start since 1950. Junior quarterback and NFL prospect Jared Goff has already thrown 15 touchdowns this year and is completing better than 70 percent of his passes for a Golden Bears’ offense that is averaging over 43 points per game. Not to be outdone, their defense leads the FBS with 18 takeaways through 5 games. Utah has climbed all the way up to No. 5 in the AP Poll after a 63-20 rout of Oregon in Eugene. Senior quarterback Travis Wilson picked a great time to play one of the best games of his career, accounting for nearly 330 yards of total offense and torching the Ducks’ secondary for four touchdown passes. Coming off a bye week, the Utes will look to keep that momentum going with another victory over a Top 25 team. Through five games, this is a team that certainly deserves much consideration as a legitimate playoff contender. Smack Zone’s Pick: College GameDay will be on campus in Salt Lake City for this matchup of the PAC 12’s lone remaining unbeatens. Both offenses will surely put up points, however, Utah’s defense, and a rowdy home crowd will seal this one in the fourth quarter. We’ll take the Utes in a good one, 38-31. [caption id="attachment_1268" align="alignleft" width="300"]Florida State Florida State will roll. Right? Oh, yeah. That's right.[/caption] Miami (3-1, 0-0 ACC) vs. No. 12 Florida State (4-0, 2-0 ACC) We’re only a week into October and Miami fans are already calling for Al Golden’s job. (Again) If he loses to rival Florida State for the fifth time in five tries on Saturday night, the Hurricane faithful may not even welcome him back to South Florida. Miami’s offense has largely been led by two sophomores, quarterback Brad Kaaya and running back Joseph Yearby, who have combined for nine touchdowns. They’ll certainly look to get the Hurricanes off to a fast start offensively, just as they did in last year’s matchup against Florida State, when they jumped out to a 16-0 lead. After suffering a hamstring injury in the first quarter of a win over Wake Forest last weekend, ACC rushing leader, Dalvin Cook, is currently listed as day to day. Although Jimbo Fisher is confident that his star running back will be ready to go Saturday night, Johnathan Vickers and Jacques Patrick can be expected to see additional snaps with backup Mario Pender still hospitalized with complications due to a collapsed lung. Thankfully for Florida State, their defense has been stout thus far this year allowing just 11.5 points per game, good for sixth in the country. Smack Zone’s Pick: This has been a historically great rivalry, and that’s enough of a reason to tune in. Everett Golson hasn’t been lights out so far (he’s no Jameis Winston) but he has yet to throw an interception this year. Meanwhile, Miami ranks second-to-last in the FBS in third-down efficiency and Kaaya is just 2-6 on the road as a starter. Miami will make mistakes and Florida State will take advantage. We’ve got the Noles, 31-17. Think you can do better? Test your pigskin prognostication prowess in the Smack Zone weekly football picks contest. Register and pick at CONTEST.SMACKAPPAREL.COM. The weekly winner receives three Smack Apparel t-shirts and the runner-up gets one t-shirt. DO IT!  

      Miami Fan: Dolphins Finally Got It Right by Firing Philbin

      New Smack Zone contributor and Dolphins fan Mike Julianelle WAS going to write about how much it sucks to get up and watch a crappy team play a crappy game in crappy London. Then Joe Philbin got fired, and all was right with Mike's world. Sort of. Here's what he wrote instead: By Mike Julianelle, Smack Zone Contributor It’s a sad day when you start rooting for your team to lose just so they’ll fire their coach. As a Dolphins fan, that’s what I was doing Sunday morning. And at the end of last season. And the end of the 2013 season. And when Cam Cameron was the coach. And when Dave Wannstedt was the coach … But hey, at least Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the Jets (there’s no other kind of loss to the Jets) was good for something: The Dolphins finally fired Joe Philbin! And only 10-to-22 months too late! Let’s ignore the fact that 2015 was a wasted season as soon he wasn’t fired in January, regardless of the flashy Suh signing and subsequent preseason buzz. And let’s ignore the fact that even if interim head coach Dan Campbell lights a fire under the team and fires off a few wins, the odds that they can overcome two division losses and a 3-0 (probably 4-0) Patriots head start and somehow win the division are basically, laughably ZERO, and the odds that they can secure a wildcard berth are slim-to-none. Not at 1-3, with a patchwork offensive line, a decimated secondary, no linebackers, an inability/unwillingness to run the ball, and a quarterback who can’t throw a deep ball or an end zone fade to save his life and an owner who doesn’t have much of a backbone or any knowledge of football and somehow I’m not even referring to part-owner Gloria Estefan. [caption id="attachment_1243" align="alignleft" width="300"]Dolphins If Joe Philbin was in charge of an actual dolphin show. Image: Giphy.[/caption] Instead let’s rejoice and ignore the fact that now we have to wait another four months before they hire a new head coach and another six months before the optimism of draft season dawns and another 10 months before the 2016 season starts and another sixteen months before we get depressed again. Today, they finally did something right! Mike Julianelle lives somewhere in New Jersey (we think; maybe it's Staten Island) and publishes the "anti-parenting" blog, Dad and Buried. He also writes for something called Huffington Post, whatever the hell that is. He's a long-time Dolphins fan for some reason.  

      God, NFL Kickers Suck Now

      By Erez Ladetzky, Smack Zone Contributor After Week 4 of the NFL season, one thing sticks out like a thorn: Kickers are bad. Kickers are really bad. Sure, the NFL made the extra point harder by moving it to the 15-yard line, but is that really an excuse for missing so many field goals?? The extra point has already been missed more times this year than all of last season*! Josh Scobee, who missed two critical field goals last Thursday in the OT loss to the Ravens, was promptly cut the next day. The kicking game is so bad after Sunday that a number of teams are calling Scobee in for a try out (he is injured and will need a few weeks to heal). Teams are willing to bring in Scobee, who is injured and missed two kicks last week. That has to be a blow to the egos of all these kickers missing left and right (pun intended). There might only be five good kickers remaining in the NFL. By good, we mean when they line up for a kick, they have an 85 percent chance of making it. It’s gotten that bad. The Saints kicker missed a potential game-winning kick at the end of the fourth quarter. Josh Lambo of the Chargers missed an easy field goal with no time remaining in a tie game. Lucky for him, Cleveland did a Cleveland thing and was offside. He made the game winning kick following that. (That guy in Jacksonville missed a bunch, too, but it's Jacksonville so who cares besides Gus Bradley? You know, GUS BRADLEY? He's the Jaguars coach. Gus. Bradley. Nothing? You need to read more.) Nobody for sure knows why kickers are struggling so much. Yes it is a lot of pressure to make a kick, but these guys are professionals. If you have a knack for kicking something, call an NFL team and see if you can try out. About half the league is looking for kickers. Don’t worry if you don’t make it or get cut, another team will be looking for you. *Including two by now-former Bucs kicker Kyle Brindza, who was released even as we wrote this post.

      Texas Football is STILL Better than These 33 Things

      [caption id="attachment_1236" align="aligncenter" width="474"]Texas Football Things are bad for the University of Texas, but it could always be worse. Illustration: Steve Hill for Smack Zone.[/caption] We know what you’re thinking: What college football team sucks more than the Texas Longhorns under second-year coach Charlie Strong? Wait a minute. WHY WOULD YOU ASK SUCH A QUESTION? What are you, some kind of agitator? Do you relish negativity? Are you one of those people who enjoys the misery of others? Damn, that’s cold, dude. And at the start of Red River Rivalry week, too. You ought to be ashamed. Rather than ask such a negative, nasty, unhelpful question, why not take a positive approach? Why not think of it in terms of how much better University of Texas football is than these 33 things:

        1. A root canal.
        2. Dropping a bowling ball on your big toe.
        3. Taking a sip of coffee that you thought was still warm but turns out to be ice-freaking-cold.
        4. Taking a sip of coffee you didn’t realize was about 8,000 degrees and burning the hell of out your tongue.
        5. Unpassable kidney stones.
        6. Running out of gas on Route 90 between Del Rio, Texas, and Van Horn, Texas.
        7. NOT running out of gas on Route 90 between Del Rio and Van Horn.
        8. Idaho football. Barely.
        9. Dropping your iPhone in the toilet.
        10. Losing the remote. Again.
        11. Sitting in a recliner 15 feet away from the coffee table, which is where the remote turned out to be.
        12. Graduating with $60,000 in student loan debt and having to move back in with your parents.
        13. Standing in line for an hour at the DMV with no signal on your iPhone.
        14. When the PlayStation network is hacked again and all you want to do is play FIFA 16.
        15. Going into the Swamp on a high with national title aspirations and getting the crap kicked out of you.
        16. Getting sand in your Tag Heuer at the beach.
        17. Not being able to figure out what Instagram filter works best on your amazing sunset photo.
        18. Drafting Jordy Nelson in the first round on your fantasy football team.
        19. When Tori Spelling spills the beans about your summer romance.
        20. Any given Kardashian.
        21. At least half of the kickers in the NFL today.
        22. Stepping in dog poop – barefoot.
        23. Getting eliminated from baseball’s post-season on the last day of the season.
        24. Getting your name spelled incorrectly on the cup at Starbucks.
        25. When you have the perfect tweet about how bad Texas football is, but it’s too many characters.
        26. Finding out Darth Vader is your father.
        27. Finding out Hayden Christensen is Darth Vader.
        28. Making out with Michael Scott of the Office.
        29. Having to login EVERY TIME you open an app on a free Wi-Fi signal.
        30. Craving Chick-fil-A on a Sunday.
        31. Watching your carefully planned and choreographed Star Trek routine turn into a national laughing stock when the band loses its shape on the field and it starts to look like a giant Jawhawk performing oral sex instead of battling the Enterprise. [caption id="attachment_931" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Kansas State band Image: Kansas State University.[/caption]
        32. Ebola.
        33. Toby Flenderson.
      Flenderson Texas football is bad, yes. But it is still better than all of these things. So, take heart, Longhorn fans. It could always be worse.

      The Gators are BACK! (Aren't they? They're back now, right?)

      [caption id="attachment_1230" align="aligncenter" width="474"]A 38-10 romp in the Swamp against Ole Miss means the Gators are back, baby. At least until Saturday. Lose at Mizzou and it'll be like Muschamp 2.0. Just. Like. That. Illustration: Steve Hill for Smack Zone. A 38-10 romp in the Swamp against Ole Miss means the Gators are back, baby. At least until Saturday. Lose at Mizzou and it'll be like Muschamp 2.0. Just. Like. That. Illustration: Steve Hill for Smack Zone.[/caption] The Gators are back. Aren’t they? It sure looks like it. A 38-10 shocker against Ole Miss at the Swamp on Saturday rocked the college football world. Coach Jim McIlwain, seemingly, can do no wrong. After a comeback victory against Tennessee vaulted the Gators back into the AP top 25, the follow-up romp against the No. 3-ranked vanquishers of the Crimson Tide jetted UF nearly into the top 10. They are close enough, at No. 11, to once again sniff a conference and national championship. Oh, and it’s a nice bonus for those who bleed orange and blue that the Gators tip-toed past undefeated Florida State in the rankings. They seem to have found a coach, a quarterback (redshirt freshman Will Grier) and an identity. Sure, they are ranked only 58th in total offense (a troubling 90th in rushing) and 37th in total defense, but they are ranked at the top of the SEC East at 3-0 in the conference and roll into this week’s road game against Missouri ready to consolidate their early gains. So, yes. At 5-0, the Gators appear to be back. Where do they go from here? First, they must avoid a road upset against Mizzou and true freshman quarterback Drew Lock. There are no guarantees, of course, and this could all come crashing down with a loss in Columbia. But … Get past that one, and things get real interesting. It starts with a huge matchup on Oct. 17 at LSU, which is currently the only remaining UF opponent that is ranked higher than the Gators. While a victory in Baton Rouge would be enormous, a loss would not necessarily end Florida’s title aspirations. That’s because the schedule falls favorably for Florida. After seeing them stuff Ole Miss Saturday, it’s completely realistic to envision Florida rolling against Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic. Then there’s Florida State, which comes into Gainesville on Nov. 28 having won two in a row and four of five against UF. Even if they lose to LSU, the Gators could win out in the regular season and set themselves up for an SEC championship game matchup against the winner of the SEC West – Texas A&M, Alabama, LSU or Ole Miss. At that point, a victory would leave the Gators at 12-1 (assuming a loss at LSU and a victory against the Seminoles, remember), and it would almost certainly be enough to gain entry into the national championship playoff. Yes, it’s early. Yes, the Gators haven’t displayed the consistent and convincing dominance of the national championship teams under Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer – yet. But in Gainesville, they are ready to party again. (By the way, we're not affiliated with Scooter Magruder in any way, but he rocks it on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and just about anywhere else you can post videos about sports and stuff. Follow him -- especially if you love the Gators and anything and everything Southeastern Conference. Scooter's entire Snap cast of his night in the Swamp's nosebleed seats is well worth watching, but here's a quick glimpse.)