Four Down Territory: Saturday's Big Games AND Unveiling The Pigskin Stew Recipe
First Down: The Peach Bowl #10 Florida vs #7 Michigan: Michigan’s defense was rolling until they ran into Ohio State. But Florida is not the caliber of offense that Ohio State is and as such may have problems moving the ball against the Wolverines. But the big number to watch is the Florida run defense. They allow a lot of yards on the ground and that is exactly where Michigan wants to move the ball. The key for the Gators may be turnover margin where they are 10th in the country at +10. Turnovers can give the Gators some short fields and short circuit a Michigan offense that thrives when grinding out yards and taking time off the clock.
Second Down: The Cotton Bowl: #2 Clemson vs #3 Notre Dame: Many see this game as a foregone conclusion for Clemson. But do not be surprised if Notre Dame can win this one. The Irish have played a rugged schedule. In games against 4 common ACC opponents both teams racked up 3 routs and 1 close call (Clemson eked out a win over Syracuse and Notre Dame escaped Pitt). Both have young inexperienced quarterbacks. Where Clemson separates themselves is on the defensive line…but Notre Dame can get into a quick pass game and has a more balanced attack than most of the team’s Clemson’s defense has faced. This is a game where the team that avoids the big mistake will win it.
Third Down: The Orange Bowl: #1 Alabama vs #4 Oklahoma: This will almost certainly be a defensive struggle…as in both defenses will struggle to stop anyone. While there has been a lot of focus on the deficiencies of the Oklahoma defense let’s talk about what has been the Achilles Heel for Alabama in the game’s they’ve lost the past few years. The common thread has been opponents with a skilled offense led by an athletic running Quarterback. Alabama’s complex cover schemes and desire to play man-to-man are challenged by a quarterback who can tuck it and run for big plays. Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray is just that guy. If he gets loose on scrambles it may force Alabama into more zone coverage where OU’s receivers can work more freely. Alabama’s offense will score points, but so will Oklahoma’s.
Fourth Down: The Taste of Pigskin Stew: After starting a College Football blog called The Pigskin Stew, I decided to create a football-themed Pigskin Stew. Blending College Football History and experience making stews, chili and other stuff in a crockpot I set out looking for the right ingredients to create a stew worthy of the name and the game.
Football season begins in the heat of late August and early September in what is among the peak days of Tomato season in the North where the game was born. So we needed some fire and spice in a tomato-based dish. But the season finishes among the cold winds of November so the ultimate college football meal had to be a hearty stew to warm the insides at a cold tailgate party.
Because it is Pigksin Stew it had to be based in pig…and what better part of a pig is there than Bacon? The base also had to honor the game’s roots that started with a football game in New Jersey between Rutgers and Princeton. So the stew’s base is Jersey Tomatoes (or any other tomatoes).
Next we decided to honor some of the game’s legendary Coaches…Italian Sausage (Vince Lombardi), Old Granddad Bourbon and Coca-Cola (Coach Paul Bryant and Coach Joe Paterno). Also we added Crystal Louisiana Hot Sauce (Eddie Robinson).
Then we honored the important regions that have been a huge part of the game’s history. Western Pennsylvania, The Midwest/Big 10 and Heartland are represented by Kielbasa and Corn. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (and Knute Rockne) are represented by the Potato. Okra, Stubb’s BBQ Sauce, and Beef Broth honor the South and Texas.
And finally we honor the Greatest of the Food Bowl Games….apologies in advance to The Cotton Bowl and Rose Bowl….so we added a dash of Orange Juice (the Orange Bowl), Brown Sugar (The Sugar Bowl) and crushed Tortilla Chips (The Fiesta Bowl).