We’re back, boys and girls, for another installment of Tire Fires. This week, we have some really dismal units just waiting to get tossed into a trash heap and burned at 1,000 degrees. As the year begins to wind down, we’ve got three teams that have gone from bad to burning-Kuwaiti-tire awful. One thing fans of all three of these teams can hang their hats on: the basketball season is underway. Though, it must be tough to ignore the wretched fumes emitting from the football stadium. Grab a clothespin and let’s hit it.
The #Drivefor6 is long dead…
… and it only gets worse for the Fighting Illini, which hosts the No. 3 Buckeyes on Saturday as a 33-point underdog. To which the gentlemen at The Champaign Room replied:
They’re a basketball school. I can empathize.
As with most of these Tire Fire games, there was always some indication of looming difficulty. For Illinois, I think that omen was giving up 42-points to Michigan State at home. This week, they’re staring at an Ohio State team that’s only failed to crack the 40-point barrier twice this season and has looked most proficient in its previous two contests, scoring 63 and 56, respectively.
What’s worse for Illinois is they’re facing the nation’s eighth best rushing attack while trotting out the Big Ten’s worst rushing defense, surrendering 239 yards per game on the ground. Against the more prolific rushing offenses in the Big Ten, the Illini have given up 335, 289 and 371 to Nebraska, Wisconsin and Indiana, respectively.
Most casual college football fans know the beast that is Carlos Hyde, so I’m sure Illinois fans are acutely aware he averages 7.1 yards per touch. And if they’re less familiar with his counterpart, Jordan Hall, they’ll certainly get to know him on Saturday. He’s averaging 6.6 yards per carry and has a nose for the end zone.
Braxton Miller has been very efficient this year throwing the ball. He won’t need to dazzle through the air, but he will. With two freshman corners lining up opposite his wide outs, Miller’s duel threat ability will be on full display.
Ohio State keeps rolling, but hey, you guys, basketball is BACK!
Maryland, my Maryland…
… time to be tossed into the fire. I was hoping a home game against Syracuse would be the medicine this team needed to stop throwing up on itself and finally reach bowl eligibility. It wasn’t. And Randy Edsall is still trying to scrub the vomit stains out of his finest Under Armour polo.
Since Edsall arrived in College Park, he’s 4-17 in ACC play, winless against ranked teams and winless in games after October 13th. This year has followed a familiar trend with the Terps going 1-4 since starting the season 4-0.
Look for the carnage to continue Saturday when the Terps go on the road to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. If you’re unfortunate enough to be a fan of either of these teams, look for the Hokie defense to feast on Maryland’s Tire Fire offense.
During Maryland’s abysmal five-game stretch, they’ve been outscored 183-67, averaging a pathetic 13.4 points per game. The biggest flames are stoked by the run game, easily the worst unit on the team, averaging a very inflated 142 yards per game on the ground. Even that fraudulent number would only be good for 90th in the country. When you extrapolate the Terps’ hellacious past five games, you’ll find they’re only averaging 74.2 yards per game, putting them ahead of UConn for 121st in the country.
Bud Foster’s defense should be able to muzzle the Terps with ease. The Fightin’ Lunch Pails boast the top rushing defense in the ACC and, per usual, rank atop or near the top in every other major statistical defensive category.
Just for fun, Maryland is only converting 26-percent of its third down during these past five games. The Terps have already mastered the art of not completing drives on their own and the Hokies will be more than happy to continue that trend.
Thankfully, the Blacksburg, VA fire department is used to these kinds of ugly conditions, so they’ll nearby for when this one gets out of hand. I know I’ll need a good post-game hosing down.
We return to the scorched cellar of the AAC…
… with bottom feeder Temple about to take on the class of the conference in UCF. Temple’s passing defense is already a Tire Fire, and it has the displeasure of facing Blake Bortles this week.
The Owls own the league’s worst passing defense, giving up an average of 322 yards per game through the air, as well as a league worst 8.6 yards per attempt by opposing quarterbacks.
Temple has already seen two other top passers in the league and crumpled under the heat from Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Cincinnati’s Brendon Kay. Bridgewater napalmed the Owl secondary for 348 yards and a pair of scores on a hair under 10 yards an attempt. Kay wasn’t prolific, but he was certainly efficient, completing 83 percent of his passes en route to an 18-point victory.
Even the undefeated Fordham Rams (Patriot League STAND UP!) quarterback Michael Nebrich got in on the action, throwing for 320 yards on 8.9 yards per attempt.
To boot, all three of these gentleman combined for zero interceptions.
UCF will walk into a cavernously empty Lincoln Financial Field in the driver seat for the AAC’s first and last automatic BCS bid and it will certainly be determined to keep things that way. On the other side, the Owls are already marked with the scarlet “X” next to their name in the standings, ineligible for postseason play.
I have a feeling the game will play out similarly to when big brothers across America used to force little brothers to repeatedly play Mortal Kombat as Sonya Blade, while the elder siblings beat the snot out of Sonya using Scorpion everyday after school. It’s going to be Bortle Kombat all afternoon, Owl fans.