It’s time for the annual observation that it can’t possibly be Week 11 already.
Now that we’ve reached November, however, football lovers will be gratified by the persistent availability of games for viewing. With the Mid-American Conference around, there are pretty much games – FBS or NFL – every day of the week now. A bunch of MAC teams played Tuesday evening; a bunch more play Wednesday. Knock yourselves out, guys.
The Thursday fare will feature #21 Clemson at Wake Forest in an ACC clash. The Tigers are likely to walk away with that one, but in the pro game, the insanely competitive AFC North offers us Browns at Bengals, for those who like to live on the edge.
And then there’s the CFB picture. We’ll get to that.
The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, has two advantages on Saturday. One is that it will be at home. The other is that its record is 1-7, whereas the visiting opponent, SMU, comes in 0-7. Incredibly, Tulsa gives 12.5 in the line.
#15 Oklahoma hosts #12 Baylor, in what, a few weeks ago, would have counted as an important game for the CFB as well as for the Big 12. Now it’s not terribly important for either. But winning it may bag the 6-2 Sooners a better class of Booger bowl. OU gives 6.
Oklahoma State has the weekend off, and none too soon. Next up: Texas on the 15th.
Navy is off Saturday as well, awaiting Georgia Southern next week.
Army will host UConn, now of the American and struggling, like Army, at 2-6. The Huskies give 5 or so. Air Force, winner of the Commanders’ Trophy after the victory over Army, heads to UNLV for a Mountain West match. Falcons give 6.
Virginia Tech has a well-timed week off, followed by #22 Duke on the 15th.
Nevada continues this week’s Inner Circle trend with a week off. Next stop: Colorado Springs for an MWC clash with Air Force on the 15th.
New #6 TCU and #7 Kansas State are the big news of the week, for both the Inner Circle and the Big 12 (not to mention the CFB). They meet in Fort Worth on Saturday evening (6:30 PM Central) for an offense-off that could well decide the Big 12 title. The Alabama-LSU game in Death Valley is what keeps this showdown from being, objectively, the undisputed game of the week. But if you’re a Big 12 fan, you’re square if you ain’t there. Toads give 6, but we wouldn’t take ‘em.
Speaking of #16 LSU, it’s almost certainly playing for pride and a good bowl slot at this point. (Alabama-LSU is, of course, a longstanding rivalry, although unattended by that annoying bric-a-brac there’s so much of.) There are three Top 5 teams between the Tigers and the SEC West title, plus #11 Ole Miss.
#5 Alabama, meanwhile, is still in the CFB hunt. The Tide faithful are certainly hoping RB T.J. Yeldon will be back in action on Saturday. Tide gives 6.5 even before we know Yeldon’s availability, but we’d be wary of points.
Wyoming plays Friday night, hosting Utah State. Conditions look to be cold (30s) but clear in Laramie. The Aggies are giving 6.5
#1 Mississippi State plays Tennessee-Martin (FCS, OVC) on Saturday, for some reason. The SEC teams do tend to slot these pro bono matches with the Other Ranks into their November schedules; someone out there probably knows why. The Skyhawks come in 5-5 and hopelessly overmatched.
#2 Florida State hosts ACC opponent Virginia, giving 19. #3 Auburn hosts Texas A&M and is favored by 21.
#4 Oregon faces a challenge, and another big CFB-freighted game, at #17 Utah on Saturday night. The Youths aren’t the team they were a few years ago, but they always play Oregon tough, and certainly have the means to edge out the Ducks. On the other hand, this is Oregon’s last big chance to make a CFB case for itself, with its final two games being against unranked Colorado (motto: “We take a pounding!”) and rival Oregon State. Ducks give 8.
#8 Michigan State, meanwhile, has its biggest chance of the year to make its own case, with the annual Storied Rivalry match with #14 Ohio State in the marquee slot on Saturday evening. Spartans give 3.5, and we’re pretty much with the oddsquad on this one.
Numbers 1 through 3 may not face much competition this weekend, but it’s shaping up to be the biggest weekend of the season so far for 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.
It’s a big week for 9 and 10 too, but let’s be real: they are, in fact, a rung down from 1-8. Still, #9 Arizona State hosting #10 Notre Dame is likely to be a pretty good show. Sun Devil give is a parsimonious 2.5.
Best of the rest
It’s a significant Storied Rivalry weekend, but we’d be remiss not to mention, before we get into that, the pro bono work #11 Ole Miss will be doing, hosting one of our all-time favorite teams, the Presbyterian Blue Hose (FCS, Big South). The Blue Hose are 5-4 and coming off a painful loss to Liberty, while the Bulldogs are coming off a painful loss to #3 Auburn. That’s really the only thing they have in common. Good luck to both teams.
In rivalry action, we’ve finally made it. It’s Floyd of Rosedale time. Yes, Iowa will be at Minnesota to duke it out for the bronze pig. Rivalry trophies just don’t come any better, at least not in these hygienic, over-managed times. (It was ever-so-slightly better to have the prize be an actual live pig, as it was to begin with, in 1935.)
We like to pass on Lore from these Storied Rivalries when we can, and we’re proud to report that the very first Floyd of Rosedale was reputed to be the brother of a pig named Blue Boy, which had a feature role in the Will Rogers movie State Fair. Let all those other lame rivalries try to top that. (To start with, you’d have to register the family relations of your livestock with some football-rivalry bookkeeper. We defy anyone outside of Iowa or Minnesota to even make the attempt.)
As befits a pair of 6-2 Big 10 teams, the Hawkeyes and Golden Gophers have a virtual pick-em going in the line.
At another level of rivalry play, San Jose State will be at Fresno State Saturday night to face off for the Valley Cup. The Bulldogs give 2.
In FCS, McNeese State is up to #6 after the win over Northwestern State. The 6-2 Cowboys host 6-3 Stephen F. Austin in a Southland bout in Lake Charles Saturday evening. The Lumberjacks lost last week to Sam Houston, the unranked stalker that surprised McNeese on 11 October. It’s likely to be a good game. Mild 60s and overcast for the 7:00 PM kickoff.
In Division III, Saturday is Rose-Hulman’s big weekend of the year: the annual showdown with archrival Mt. St. Joseph University (OH). The Fightin’ Engineers head to Cincinnati for this one. MSJ is 7-2 (6-1 HCAC); RHIT is 6-2 (4-2 HCAC). MSJ can’t lose any more games, so even with a win, it isn’t possible for Rose-Hulman to vault past it into second place in the HCAC, behind Franklin. The Engineers are playing for pride. Cloudy with looming showers and 50-ish at 1:30 PM Central.
Christopher Newport, 6-3 (6-1 conference), will be in Maryville (TN) for its final game of the regular season against Maryville College. The Captains are perched atop USA South, but Maryville is in second place at 6-2 (5-1 conference). CNU needs to down the Scots to cruise to the Div III playoffs. (Maryville will have Methodist on the 15th, but is likely to prevail in that contest.) The afternoon game will see clear skies and a high of 60.
Merchant Marine will be in Schenectady on Saturday to play Union College. Union is 1-7 to Merchant Marine’s 2-6. But the Dutchmen have the clear advantage in alumni prestige, boasting President Chester A. Arthur and William H. Seward, who made his name (for most Americans) by buying Alaska for us. 40s and partly cloudy for the 1 PM Eastern kickoff.
The Cowboys play the 1-8 Jaguars on the road on Sunday, which is just the sort of situation Dallas likes to take advantage of by losing.
On the other hand, the surging Steelers will be at the 1-8 Jets, and somehow we bet they’ll come up with a thumping win.
Other than Browns at Bengals, already mentioned for Thursday night (Cincinnati’s giving 6.5, BTW), it’s not a huge week for the NFL, with no other real conference-freighted face-offs. Interesting match-ups include Chiefs at Bills and Niners at Saints in the early slot on Sunday. The Bears have been troubled with gaffage to date, but they might hold a surprise or two for a so-so-running, 5-3 Packer squad on Sunday night.
Panthers at Eagles Monday. And then it will be time to start in with the MAC again. Gotta love November.