Friday Night Bites: Meat for the grinder
One last round of weeknight appetizers before the binges of Saturday:
• FIU @ Louisville, 7:00 p.m. ET (ESPN): Florida International could beat an AQ team. Could you have gotten that sentence out without choking on bile a year ago? It was just about this time in September 2010 that the Golden Panthers were on their way to an 0-4 start -- a mark they achieved by falling to Rutgers by five points, Texas A&M by seven and putting up valiant first-half fights against Maryland and Pitt before going on to more significant losses. At the end of the season they walked away with the Sun Belt trophy. Who'll sleep on them in 2011? And even if Louisville doesn't, can they pull out a win?
The Cardinals experienced significant misfires against Murray State. Quarterback Sunny Will Stein is a sentimental favorite, but backup phenom Teddy Bridgewater couldn't put it together in his first collegiate appearance, and turnover problems plagued the team. With so many new moving parts, it's as difficult to draw a real bead on what's going on with Charlie Strong's boys after one game against an FCS team as it is to assess FIU after last week's shellacking of North Texas. But this wouldn't be the dumbest Week 2 upset pick you could make.
• Missouri @ Arizona State, 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN): This is not going to be pretty, y'all, and there's two things to blame for that: The first is the weather in Tempe, where temperatures are expected to reach 102 today, and where even the Sun Devils themselves were cramping on the field last week. The second factor is the injury report, which, well, here:
The Sun Devils have already lost starting cornerback Omar Bolden (torn ACL), linebacker Brandon Magee (Achilles) and wide receiver T.J. Simpson (knee). Safety Ezekiel Bishop is likely done for the season after suffering a knee injury last week, and Deantre Lewis, the second-leading rusher in 2010, still hasn't returned after being wounded in the leg in a random shooting in February.
Missouri is also dealing with its share of injuries with defensive end Jacquies Smith dislocating his elbow and linebacker Will Ebner spraining his ankle during Saturday's win. Center Travis Ruth (Achilles), tight end Eric Waters (hamstring), and wide receivers Jerrell Jackson (hamstring) and Gahn McGaffie (sprained knee) will also likely sit out. Left tackle Elvis Fisher is lost for the season after rupturing a tendon in his left leg.
Everyone's going to be miserable, is the point. Except maybe Vontaze Burfict, who does not recognize weather patterns, as he is made of extremely angry granite and retains his own self-regulated heat or cold as he sees fit. Neither squad has been tested against AQ competition this season. Missouri barely escaped defending MAC champs Miami (Ohio) last week, while State rolled over UC Davis. But Missouri has a new quarterback in James "no, not THAT James Franklin" Franklin, and Arizona State has Burfict. Stewart Mandel has the Sun Devils pegged as victors by a touchdown, and I suspect that estimate might be low.