Will Moon's Deep Football Thoughts from Outer Space: Week Nine Preview
Sara Falligant/Opelika-Auburn News
I'll begin this column with the same reference that closed my previous one, Auburn now hits the harrowing bye week that no one enjoys. It comes at a good time for the Tigers, however, who get to rest up before facing a pretty brutal November slate. Fortunately, the national schedule for Saturday is about as strong as we've seen since the first two weeks of the season, with multiple matchups between ranked teams. So that's good. What's even better is we're bearing down on Halloween, the best day of the year overall. So let's have a little fun with that, shall we?
We're mixing football and horror movies. I may have to strain for these jokes, but whatever, we're doing it.
Stanford Cardinal at Oregon State Beavers (Thursday, 8 CT on ESPN)
This game isn't worth a crap, but I always mention the Thursday game and it gives me a chance to reference Zombeavers, a movie that actually exists. Oregon State's been playing like zombeavers this year, getting off to a 1-6 start, with the only win being by three points over FCS school Portland State. (It was bad enough that former head coach Gary Andersen, who did good work at Utah State and Wisconsin, quit a few weeks ago and willingly let the school off the hook for his $12 million buyout.)
Stanford, with the noble tree for a mascot, gets stuck with M. Night Shyamalan's comically terrible The Happening as its horror movie. The Cardinal, who should wipe the floor with the Beavers and still have designs on winning the Pac-12, lose this horror movie battle. At least Zombeavers knew how ridiculous it was going in. Picking a best bad part of The Happening is incredibly difficult. But, yeah, on the field Stanford should be able to name the score.
Florida State Seminoles at Boston College Eagles (Friday, 7 CT on ESPN)
Friday night brings us another meh matchup on the worldwide leader. Hey, remember when Florida State was supposed to be a playoff team? It's been a hellish season for the 'Noles, who have yet to win at home and need to win four of their last five to qualify for a bowl game. Fortunately for them, I guess, they get to hit the road, where they've ground out their two wins so far (over mighty Wake Forest and Duke). Their horror movie this year is the generally awful The Disappointments Room, which is also what you call any theater that's showing The Disappointments Room.
Trending in the other direction is Boston College. Steve Addazio's team has won consecutive road games at Louisville and Virginia and have steadily improved since taking three straight whoopings in September (from Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Clemson). I'm taking the Eagles to win and make it a true Night of the Eagle, which is an old B-horror flick from the '60s. Read all about it right here, or don't, whatever. But I do like how the main poster has the histrionic, old-school "Don't see this picture" warning on it, you know, cause it's just too scary.
Oklahoma State Cowboys at West Virginia Mountaineers (11 CT on ABC)
Poor state of West Virginia. The horror film for the homestanding Mountaineers has to be Wrong Turn, which, of course, is about backwoods cannibals terrorizing some interloping city folk. Obviously, this isn't something the state board of tourism uses to entice people to visit the Mountain State. As an Alabama native, I can sympathize. Anywho, the West Virginia team is actually quite solid. Their two losses have been close defeats at the hands of Virginia Tech and Texas Christian, both away from home. Kansas and Baylor excepted, the Big 12 is pretty wide open, so Dana Holgorsen's squad feels like they still have a shot at the conference title.
They could go a long way to reaching that goal with an upset of Flow-klahoma State this Saturday. In what stands to be a matchup of some of the most distinct and, uh, interesting coaching hair in recent memory, the two offenses should slug it out in a classic, high-scoring Big 12 affair. I was bullish on the 'Pokes early in the year, but they've scuffled enough of late to convince me to back WVU in this one. Either way, I expect it to be a fun game and a good way to kickstart a solid Saturday of football-watching. (BTW, Okie State's horror movie is the 2007 Z-movie Undead or Alive, which is horror-comedy-romance-western with cowboys and zombies. Oh, and it also stars that legendary thespian Chris Kattan. Truly, this film is a pillar of modern cinema.)
Arkansas Razorbacks at Ole Miss Rebels (11 CT on SEC Network)
Horror movies with pig imagery tend to be especially grotesque, and the movie Pig apparently takes that to such an extreme that it's only ever been shown a small handful of times. By all accounts, it's one of those movies that makes you question the choices you've made in life that led to you seeing it. So that makes it fitting for this Arkansas season in multiple ways. Watching their team get repeatedly embarrassed over the last few weeks has had to feel like torture porn for many a Hog fan, and what may well be the slow death of the Bret Bielema era in Fayetteville has been rather gruesome to watch. If the team has anything left in the tank at all, they should be able to win at Shea Patterson-less Ole Miss this week. A loss here, and I don't see why the Sausage shouldn't fire Bielema on Monday.
Before Patterson was lost for the rest of the year last week against LSU, the Rebels had been playing fairly feisty football (outside of that 66-3 clubbing at the hands of Alabama). But with their star QB out and no bowl to play for, keeping a fire in the team's belly may test the resolve of interim coach Matt Luke. I'm curious to see how they come out Saturday, but with both teams' starting QBs on the shelf, this could be quite the SEC pillow fight. Oh, and yes, would you believe it? There is a horror movie called Land Shark. It just came out this year. What a time to be alive! (But you won't be alive for long if you encounter the deadly land shark! Better shoot it with your laser gun.)
Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio State Buckeyes (2:30 CT on FOX)
Knowing him, part of me's surprised that Urban Meyer hasn't legally changed his name to Urban Legend. Urb's Buckeyes have been flying largely under the radar since getting handled at home by Oklahoma back in week two. But given that they're still Ohio State, they find themselves sitting at #6, the highest-ranked one-loss team in the country, going into their first big game since that OU defeat. Penn State famously upset the Buckeyes last year, which jumpstarted the Nittany Lions' run to the conference title, and you know Meyer and his guys have revenge on their minds. I'm leaning toward tOSU here, if only because I kinda feel like Penn State's not quite what their ranking would have us believe.
Not truly a horror movie, but definitely a movie that was a horror to make, Penn State's flick for the week is Roar, the movie where the filmmakers used real wild animals, including lions, to film scenes where the animals attacked the cast members. You see all those warnings and disclaimers attached to movies now, and you wonder where they come from. Well, they come from movies like this. As for the Nittany Lions, Heisman favorite Saquon Barkley can put a hammerlock on the trophy with a big game Saturday, but I'm still not quite buying what I'm seeing from them yet. Given the state of the rest of the league, the winner of this game should be able to punch its ticket to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game, though Michigan State's looming out there to potentially throw a wrench in the works down the road.
Georgia Bulldogs vs Florida Gators (2:30 CT on CBS)
This movie used to come on the Sci-Fi Channel a bunch when I was a kid (back when they spelled Sci-Fi the right way). It's a pretty fun post-Jaws creature feature (the killer gator attacks a fancy wedding at the end of the movie!). But I would've gone with Lake Placid, the late-'90s flick with Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda and wonderfully bizarre performances from Oliver Platt and Betty White(?!), except that the killer reptile in that movie is a crocodile, not an alligator. I commit myself to only the highest standards of accuracy in this column, you know. Watching either of those movies would probably be a better use of your time than watching this game, though. I was harboring thoughts that Florida might upset Georgia, as they have so many times in the recent past, but the wheels seem to be coming off in Gainesville. This Jim McElwain death threat story is especially strange and only seems to increase the chances that he may bugger off to some other job at year's end, which has been suggested by CBS' Dennis Dodd and gained enough traction that Coach Mac was forced to acknowledge the rumor in a recent press conference. Things seem uncharacteristically icy in the Sunshine State right now.
For Georgia's part, they've just got to focus on not screwing this up. Kirby Smart has gently reminded them of past UGa faceplants against UF, which was probably a smart move, though you never know how a team will react. You don't want the Gators' hex over Georgia to get in the kids' heads, but you also don't want your team to be overconfident, so it could go either way. But where the Bulldogs are mentally is probably the only thing that could get in their way Saturday. There isn't much on Florida's sideline that makes me think they have much of a chance. (UGa's horror flick is Cujo, even though that dog is a St. Bernard, not a bulldog. It's hard for me to imagine a bulldog ever being evil. This is not the face of doom.)
Texas Christian Horned Frogs at Iowa State Cyclones (2:30 CT on ABC/ESPN2)
That picture is now one of my all-time favorite things. Man, they used to really know how to sell a movie, didn't they? Frogs is a 1972 eco-horror film (starring a young, un-mustachioed Sam Elliott), and despite the title, it's a whole slew of different animals that are responsible for killing off the various victims in the movie, not just frogs. This general animal uprising actually helps, since the kind of horned frog that TCU uses as its mascot is actually a lizard, not a frog (which is an amphibian). That's your fun zoology fact for the day. When TCU's schedule was first made, I'm pretty confident they weren't super concerned about this game, but things have changed in Ames this year. The Frogs have managed a pretty respectable schedule so far, with wins at Arkansas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State to go along with a home win over West Virginia. Given how ISU is playing, if they get another win here it will only further bolster their resume, which will be important come December.
The Cyclones may be the surprise team of the year across the country. Their win at Oklahoma a few weeks ago came completely out of left field, and they've backed it up with convincing victories over Kansas and Texas Tech. Their two losses were competitive defeats at the hands of Iowa and Texas. This has all been good enough to see the 'Clones slip into the AP Poll at #25 ahead of this week's game. A win here and they could have legit designs on the conference title, which would be the school's first since 1912 (jebus). Who knows where this came from, but keep an eye on head coach Matt Campbell, because his phone's probably already been ringing considering how many schools may be in the market for a new head honcho next season. (There actually is a movie called Cyclone, but it's about an ocean storm and, uh, cannibalism. But landlocked Iowa State takes their name from an older name for tornadoes, so instead we'll go with Atomic Twister, an old TBS made-for-TV movie that starred the dude that played Zack Morris on Saved by the Bell. Spoiler alert - He throws his big phone at the tornado to destroy it.)
North Carolina State Wolfpack at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2:30 CT on NBC)
I'd be remiss if I didn't work a Leprechaun reference into this column, so fortunately Notre Dame's good this year and has an important game this week to allow for one. Of course, Leprechaun's not just a horror movie, it's a horror franchise. After the first one, which starred a pre-fame Jennifer Aniston, we had a whole slew of sequels that eventually led to the release of the cinematic glory that is Leprechaun 4: In Space, which was then followed by Leprechaun in the Hood (starring Ice-T!) and Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood. Truly, the world is a richer place because these movies exist. Notre Dame is also in a pretty good place right now, fresh off a curb stomping of USC. Playing NC State when they're ranked in the top 15 probably wasn't part of the plan, but without a conference title to win, the Irish can use all the resume-bolstering wins they can get. Between this game and trips to Miami and Stanford in November, they'll get plenty of chances.
Since losing to South Carolina to start the year, the Wolfpack (too sweeeeeet!) have ripped off six wins in a row and sit alone atop the ACC Atlantic division. After a fairly quiet last few months, they now face back-to-back tilts with Notre Dame and Clemson over the next two weeks. Simple enough, win both of those games and become a national title contender. You know, simple. Expect this to be a solid game, but Notre Dame's dominant running game should be enough to carry them past NC State. I think the Wolfpack may lose, but I do grant them the much better horror movie. An American Werewolf in London is a classic, and a far, far better movie than the jokey stuff I've referenced so far.
Vanderbilt Commodores at South Carolina Gamecocks (3 CT on SEC Network)
As a school that loves its naval imagery (taken from school bankroller Cornelius Vanderbilt's time as a steamboat mogul), the Commodores get the movie Ghost Ship. It's not an especially good or bad movie, but the opening scene is grotesquely memorable, if completely ludicrous from a MythBusters-y perspective. In a way, it's similar to how Vanderbilt's year has gone. They got off to a pretty great start, but have turned into good ol' Vandy since. They carried four straight losses (all but one were drubbings) into their much-needed bye last week, and now have their work cut out for them a little bit if they want to make it to a second-straight bowl. A trip to emerging South Carolina this week could be a litmus test to see if they've managed to regain their footing post-off week.
As for Cocky, they seem to be sitting fairly pretty at this juncture, carrying a 5-2 overall record into this weekend. A win here gets them bowl eligible for the second-straight year, and there are more wins for them to get left on the schedule, even if it does include dates with heavyweights Georgia and Clemson. They don't seem to be especially excellent at any one thing, but they're more than getting by. I expect that to continue this weekend. (Their movie is the South Carolina-set cult classic Slither, which was directed by James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy fame. That it's set in SC doesn't really matter that much, but gamecock or chicken-related horror movie pickings are slim. Of course, that doesn't mean famed Z-movie studio Troma hasn't made one, because it definitely has.)
Mississippi State Bulldogs at Texas A&M Aggies (6:15 CT on ESPN)
RIP Tobe Hooper. With most of the big games being played in the afternoon, State and A&M get to enjoy a bigger than normal share of the primetime viewing audience. This should be a good game, and far from any kind of massacre, chainsaw or otherwise. A&M has developed into a solid team over the course of the season, and QB Kellen Mond has become the kind of player who could make this a very entertaining dual-threat QB duel with State's Nick Fitzgerald. The winner of this game has a good shot at making it to a pretty nice bowl game, but for the Aggies' Kevin Sumlin, a loss could start to open up questions about his job security again, what with looming dates with Auburn and LSU left on the schedule. Losing all three games probably means the end of his tenure in College Station. I'm not sure what combination of wins and losses it would take to keep him around, but suffice it to say, beating State this week is a big part of the equation. I'm not picking that to happen, though.
I've been on State since early in the year and stayed on them even after they took consecutive thumpings from Georgia and Auburn. I still think this may be the league's fourth-best team, and that drubbing of LSU in September looks a lot more impressive now. If I'm right, then they go to Kyle Field and get a win, but I expect A&M to put up a fight. This one should definitely be worth watching. (I've already covered the lack of bulldog-related horror, and the scary movies set in Mississippi are usually concerned with the state's long history of horrible racism. The closest we come is the 2011 remake of Straw Dogs, which trades out the rural English setting of Bloody Sam Peckinpah's vastly superior original for the Magnolia State. Whether either version counts as a horror movie is debatable, though very horrible things definitely occur in both.)
Tennessee Volunteers at Kentucky Wildcats (6:30 CT on SEC Network)
That the original The Evil Dead (awesome movie, groovy franchise) is set in Tennessee isn't super germane to the film, but the words 'evil' and 'dead' are probably among many that come to mind when Tennessee fans think about their still-employed head coach Butch Jones. Both teams in this matchup are coming off 45-7 losses to SEC West foes, but the similarities don't extend much beyond that. Each passing week makes one wonder what exactly UT is getting out of keeping Jones around, and I suspect that we'll be wondering that again next week. There doesn't seem to be anything for the team to hang their hat on right now, but if they are going to take advantage of the relatively soft schedule they have remaining, they need to start doing it this week.
For their part, Kentucky is trying to get past their massacre last week at Mississippi State. It's been a bit of an up-and-down year for the Wildcats, who've managed to play down to their competition and get away with it on a couple of occasions, though you could argue that it cost them the Florida game. After such a dreadful performance last Saturday, I'm curious to see what kind of effort Mark Stoops is able to rally from his team this week. It'd be a great sign if they could shake off that beatdown and come out and take care of business against a dead Vol team, but UK's not anywhere near the place where something like that can be assumed. (For their flick, the Wildcats get the 1982 version of Cat People, even though the cats in the movie are leopards and panthers, not wildcats. It's a strange, erotic movie featuring Nastassja Kinski and Malcolm McDowell, and it also boasts a really cool theme song sung by David Bowie. You may know it from a memorable appearance in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.)
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Clemson Tigers (7 CT on ABC/ESPN2)
Christine in the movie of the same name is a 1958 Plymouth Fury, as seen above, and the Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech is a 1930 Ford Model A, but we're calling it close enough. Besides, I have to work John Carpenter in here somehow. Tech hopes to wreck Clemson's national title chances with an upset this week in a series that tends to favor close, competitive games. Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets are solid, with close losses to Tennessee and Miami their two blemishes thus far. (They'll look back and wonder just how in the hell they lost that Tennessee game.) You'd expect their option attack to struggle against Clemson's defensive front, however, so they'll have to be creative to find ways to attack the Tiger defense.
For the Tigers, they'll have had two weeks and a day to get over the upset loss at Syracuse. QB Kelly Bryant is expected to be back for this game, and Cousin Clem certainly hopes he can be somewhere close to full strength. An ankle injury suffered against Wake Forest hampered him at Syracuse, and then he was knocked out of that game with a concussion. Both could be factors in how the season goes from here, and Tech should provide a suitable test for him to see how explosive he can be. A suddenly huge game at NC State awaits Clemson after this game. For their creepshow, the Tigers get saddled with the blandly-titled Burning Bright, a film in which a bengal tiger tries to eat people during a hurricane. And Meat Loaf's involved! (Bask, for a minute or nine, in the gloriously harmonized guitars and operatic vocals of the seasonally appropriate "Bat Out of Hell".) Surely someone missed a golden opportunity to name this movie Tigercane or something like that. They could've beaten Sharknado to the punch by three years!
And so this concludes our run through several college football matchups and horror movies high and low. I now expect you to watch every one of those movies between now and Halloween, including Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood. Especially Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood. (But not Pig. I think the world would be a better place if fewer people saw that.)
The Shield (like Fantasy Football, but for Real)
This item mostly exists to justify including that excellent photo up there. I'm sure the NFL harshly fined all of those guys for wearing the Ghostface masks since not everybody on the team was wearing one, but I think more NFL teams should take to wearing intimidating masks en masse. I can't imagine anything more terrifying than if the Cowboys were to all wear lifelike Jerry Jones masks on the sideline this week in Washington. The Redskins would probably forfeit. (Former Cowboy great and Auburn native DeMarcus Ware actually did wear a Jones mask once for a Papa John's commercial (?!), and it was beyond horrific.)
Other suggestions include the Giants all wearing Eli Manning masks, though that may make the other team bust out laughing. The Seahawks could all wear mockups of Russell Wilson's cheery but still hauntingly vacant serial killer face, but the other guys on the team all hate him too much to dress up like him. The Lions could go with Matthew Stafford's being-tackled-without-a-helmet-on terror face, but that may end up being scarier to them than the other team. And the Chiefs, if they're done with the Ghostface masks, can flash back to the '90s and mask up to look like former starting QB Elvis Grbac from his mistaken identity People's Sexiest Athlete photo shoot. (Yes, I suggest reading about how People confused Grbac for KC's much handsomer then-backup QB Rich Gannon. It's quite a wonderful little story.)
So there, the league has finally allowed fun touchdown celebrations to be legal again. (See the Steelers' Juju Smith-Schuster and Le'veon Bell playing hide-and-seek last Sunday.) Now let's allow some creative mask work just in time for Halloween. (Although the great Andre the Giant did once remind us that "people in masks cannot be trusted".)
I had fun with this, and I hope you did, too. Enjoy your Halloween times and your football, and hopefully Auburn enjoys the bye week. Things will get more serious come November.
Also, horror movies I recommend you watch before the 31st that weren't mentioned here...
Halloween (original, not remake)
The Thing (the 1982 version, the greatest horror film of all)
The Fog (original, not remake)
There are many others, but that's a good mix of old and new, classics and oddities. Plus season two of Stranger Things is about to come out, so there's that, too. Again, enjoy your Halloween and your pigskin everyone. I'm back with a recap and maybe more spooky fun on Monday.