We’ll talk more about the new CFB ranking at the appropriate time (which may be when we note that Notre Dame has plummeted to #18, but we’re not going to handicap it). But now that we’ve had a couple of iterations of this new process, and nothing has broken down, we here at your LU Football Commentary Service will make the administrative switch to referring to the CFB ranking rather than the AP Top 25 ranking.
With that in mind, week 12 unfolds around us (we’ve already missed Massachusetts downing Ball State, among other delights from the MAC), so let’s get started.
The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, can’t catch a break. Tulsa, 2-7, finally got a second win last week, but only because they were playing (a) SMU (b) at home. They have to play UCF in Orlando on Friday night, and the 5-3 Knights are much the better team, in spite of their uncharacteristic loss last week to UConn. The weather, at least, will be better in Orlando than in Tulsa, where it will cloud up and drop into the 20s as soon as it’s dark. UCF gives a mere 20, clearly for no other reason than that weird loss to the Huskies.
Freshly-unranked Oklahoma (6-3; one-time #4, for those keeping track) will be in Lubbock to take on Texas Tech, although it’s not clear how much anyone cares. I’ve never seen such apathy in the Vegas line on a Sooner game. It’s a little freaky. The local news affiliates are saying QB Trevor Knight won’t be ready on Saturday, and redshirt frosh Cody Thomas will start behind center.
Oklahoma State will host Texas on Saturday evening, for a battle of Big 12 also-rans. The Okie Pokes are 5-4; Texas comes in 5-5 after a big win over West Virginia. The Longhorns are even giving 2.5 right now, and the way OSU has been playing, I don’t know many who’d disagree.
Navy (4-5) hosts Georgia Southern, which may be Sunbelt, but ain’t beanbag. The 8-2 Eagles lead their conference, and have lost – narrowly – only to NC State (motto: “They have a football team?”) and Georgia Tech. The Mids’ quest for bowl eligibility is still alive, but they’ll want to make good on the 3 points they’re giving.
Army, coming off a satisfying win over Connecticut, will be at Western Kentucky on Saturday, with the Hilltoppers giving 7-ish. (We predict a 3-6 Army will not be bowl-eligible this year, since they’re going to lose to Navy in December.)
Air Force, meanwhile, hosts Nevada from our Inner Circle in a Mountain West clash in Colorado Springs. Air Force is 7-2 to Nevada’s 6-3, and both are on a roll lately, so it could be a pretty good game. Both are 3-2 conference, but Nevada is atop the West Division right now, with a realistic shot at the conference title if the Wolf Pack stays the course.
Virginia Tech will be at #21 Duke on Saturday, and apparently hasn’t quite exhausted the “aura” of more successful years, if we go by the point spread. 8-1 Duke, currently perched atop the Coastal Division, gives only 5. The Hokies don’t seem to have repented of their strategic chaos on offense, but each Saturday is a clean slate, so we’ll see.
New #4 TCU, now our mascot in the Top 10, heads to Lawrence to put in some time with Kansas (known in the Big 12 by its official name, Poor Old Pathetic Kansas). The Frogs give 27.5, clearly because their betting partisans are a bunch of wimps.
Kansas State, now #13 after last week’s unfortunate outing with TCU, takes the week off to prepare for a meet with West Virginia, pride of the Big 12, on Thursday 20 November.
#17 LSU heads to Arkansas to shake off the curse of being ranked just above Notre Dame. All right, all right; it’s really to play for the coveted Golden Boot – a dreadful, gaudy thing that strikes just the right note as a rivalry prize. Kind of looks like what the Saudis would give as a fishing trophy. This Storied Rivalry is always a tough game, and the oddsbubbas seem to have it as a pick-em right now. We don’t doubt the Tigers for this one, as long as the team that took the field last week against Alabama shows up.
Wyoming has the week off, looking forward to Boise State on the 22nd.
Our Game of Humongitude this week is clearly #1 Mississippi State at #5 Alabama (also, of course, an accredited Storied Rivalry). At this point, after the Tide’s OT victory over LSU, it could be the game of the season for both of them. A win in this game is how Alabama stays alive for both the SEC title and a CFB berth; the Bulldogs need a win for insurance going into the Egg Bowl on the 29th, if nothing else. #10 Ole Miss will watch with intense interest, because of course the Rebels gave Alabama its only defeat this year, and are by no means out of the running in the ridiculous SEC West.
The CFB gurus have vaulted Oregon to #2 after the smackdown of #23 Utah, and we can all decide how we feel about that. For us, personally, Florida State’s been getting a little stale up there. But Oregon seems a tad dubious. At any rate, the Ducks have the week off.
Florida State, now #3 (see what they did there?), heads to Miami to take on Da U in the marquee slot on Saturday evening. (One of several Storied Rivalry matches this week.) ‘Noles give 2.5. Readers will be shocked, shocked to learn that Jameis Winston’s student conduct hearing has just been postponed until 1 December, which we’re sure is a date selected completely at random.
LU Nation Inner Circle fan Cousin Vinnie is bound to be gratified that Arizona State is now #6. Since this ranking appears to be on the strength of the Sun Devils’ win over Notre Dame, we are left to wonder about qualities like judgment and perspicuity at the CFB. But for now, we’ll just enjoy ASU’s good fortune. The Sun Devils will be at Oregon State late on Saturday, giving 9.
Baylor surges again to #7 after smacking the Sooners around, and let us just say right now that if the CFB is going to rearrange the Top 10 every week, we’re going to start thinking it’s even dumber than the BCS. Bears have the weekend off.
Ohio State has rebounded to #8 after the victory over Michigan State, a move that kind of makes the CFB look like it’s been waiting for 10 weeks to take vengeance or something. I don’t know. Urban’s the man and all that, but this looks as questionable as ASU at #6. Buckeyes will be at Minnesota, which is now taking a detour through the stratosphere as the new #25 on the block. If Goldie and Pals should manage to defeat Ohio State, and then get crowned #8 by the CFB gurus, we’ll have our answer.
#9 Auburn will be at #15 Georgia for what should be a good game. Ole Miss has the weekend off.
Best of the rest
We understand that there are some people out there who care that Cal is at USC this evening. Bully for them. (And go Cal!) #16 Nebraska at #20 Wisconsin on Saturday may be more notable for the weather in Madison (low 20s and more snow) than the football.
In rivalry action, #19 Clemson will be at #22 Georgia Tech for their long-running rivalry. Clemson gives 2.5, but we think the Yellow Jackets will take this one.
Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe (both Sunbelt) meet for their annual rivalry – and probably the best tailgate vittles all year – on Saturday.
Northwestern, meanwhile, will be in South Bend to take on #18 Notre Dame, renewing a rivalry series that saw its last meeting in 1995. If there’s a knickknack for the winner, there doesn’t seem to be a record of it. The Arsh give 18, and may cover.
Kentucky will be at Tennessee for one of the most storied of Storied Rivalries. This match used to be the “Battle for the Barrel” – a wooden beer barrel – but after an alcohol-related car crash involving Kentucky football players in 1998, that tradition was discontinued. (The first Barrel was brought on the field in 1925, during Prohibition, and was reportedly labeled “Ice Water.” Some decades later, enterprising Volunteers stole the Barrel from Kentucky, whose students responded by kidnapping the Tennessee mascot, Smokey the Bluetick coonhound. But things are much better now, without all that sophomoric skullduggery.) Vols give 8.5.
In the Historic Firsts corner, the New Big 10 gives us Indiana playing Rutgers for the first time.
In FCS, McNeese State has subsided to #11 after the loss to the Lumberjacks. The 6-3 Cowboys will be in Hammond, LA to take on Southeastern Louisiana, which comes in 7-3 and no more than half-bad, having lost to a better class of team (Stephen F. Austin, Tulane) but also to crummy SE Missouri State. McNeese ought to have the edge, certainly. Temps for the afternoon game may not make it out of the 50s, which for southern Louisiana is an Arctic chill.
In Division III, Rose-Hulman hosts the Earlham College Quakers (Richmond, IN) for the final game of the regular season. The 0-9 Quakers pretty much suck, so although RHIT has lost to the three teams above it in the HCAC, and can’t improve its conference standing, it still has an excellent chance to finish with a 7-3 season, for the first time in years. Low 30s and cloudy for the 1:30 PM (CST) kickoff in Terre Haute.
Christopher Newport, USA South champion after its victory over Maryville (TN), has the final weekend of the regular season off, but will be preparing for the first round of the playoffs on 22 November.
Merchant Marine hosts St. Lawrence U. for the Mariners’ final game of the season on Saturday. USMMA is 2-7, the Saints 7-2, so we can make an educated guess how this one’s going to go. At least the weather will be crisp and clear, topping out around 40 but sunny and bright.
Buffalo and Miami are, of course, battling for second place in the AFC East as I finish this. As is their wont, they’ve each posted a timid 3 at this point.
Sunday will put up a few good showdowns, including a fine NFC clash between the 7-2 Eagles and the 6-3 Packers, as well as a big AFC collision in the Sunday night slot featuring Patriots at Colts.
Broncos will be at Rams, which we know interests one of our shipmates here, but only qualifies as a “big” game for Denver and St. Louis fans.
Steelers get another Monday night bid, although anyone who thinks they’re going to have trouble with the Titans is smoking something funny. Just enjoy; it’s football.
We neglected to mention last week that the Cowboys’ outing with the Jaguars took place at Wembley Stadium in London. The Pokes will be back in action, on NFC East time, against the Giants on the 23rd.