It’s not really quite late enough in the season for there to have already been an FBS game this week. But Arkansas State edged Georgia Southern 27-26 Wednesday night. The American and the C-USA Remnant have some games lined up for us Thursday night, to compete with Arizona at Niners in the pros. (Update: SF up 7-0 on the Cardinals as an unimpressive first half wanes.)
This is, of course, the Week of Weeks, Saturday of Saturdays, for a particular couple of Big 12 teams (or, as our correspondent Walt Reed likes to signify it in Pinyin, the “Big Shee.” And why not, since the Big 10 parades around in Greek garb as the “Big Chhah”? We are nothing if not diverse and multicultural in the great American heartland). We’ll get to that. (The Week of Weeks factor.) Astonishingly, there appear to still be nearly 500 tickets left for the taking at the Cotton Bowl.
Bonus: Hurricane Matthew.
The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, hosts Troublesome Rival SMU on Friday night, in a game that could be pretty good. SMU has had a bad habit in recent years of beating Tulsa unexpectedly and against all reason, in spite of usually being the worser team. It’s a little like VT and ECU, only with less money and way fewer fans in the stadium. Tulsa gives 17, because the Mustangs truly suck this year, but we’ve been there and done that. Got plenty of T-shirts. Just come out on top, Golden H.
Oklahoma, bouncing back to #20 after an unimpressive win over TCU, squares off with freshly unranked Texas in the annual Red River Shootout in the Cotton Bowl, which all self-respecting fans on both sides prepare for by arcane ritual. No ritual is the same, mind you. It’s just an obligatory observance. (It’s a brunch event here on the Left Coast, where the game starts at 9 AM.)
Both teams come in 2-2, which is, like, unheard of. If the Longhorns can’t tackle any better than they managed to last week, Oklahoma has a shot, even with a still inconsistent O line making RBs Perine and Mixon do all the work. We’re really sorry to see OU DE Charles Walker won’t make the game. His absence will help Texas keep the dual ground-air threat viable from play to play.
Sooners give 11.5. Go ahead and work your giggles out now; we know how that goes. Hands on holsters, gentlemen. Here we go.
Oklahoma State hosts Iowa State on Saturday. The Cyclones gave #13 Baylor fits last week, and won’t be a pushover, in spite of their undistinguished record (and the Cowboy give of 17).
Navy hosts #6 Houston between the checkerboards on Saturday, assuming the outer band of Hurricane Matthew doesn’t interfere. Houston is the first top 10 ranked team to visit Navy in 15 years, and the Mids are stoked, even coming off the excruciating loss to Air Force. Realistically, with the Navy injury losses and general inexperience, we have to go with the oddsquad on this one, which favors the Cougars by 17. But South Carolina (motto: The Other USC) can tell everyone what happened to the #2 team in the nation when it visited Navy in 1984. Go NAVY!!
Army has a respectable shot at Duke (-5) on Saturday.
We have another match-up of faves this weekend as Air Force heads to Laramie to take on Wyoming. One thing’s for sure, neither team can plead altitude-induced unreadiness. The 10.5-point advantage for Air Force looks a bit poorly researched from here. The Pokes have another good shot at this one. We’d just love to be there.
New #25 Virginia Tech (Hokie hy!) heads down to take on Sudden #17 North Carolina, in what bids fair to be very good ACC clash. It’s going to be hard to keep our bearings in the 3:30 PM (EDT) slot on Saturday. A lot of good action on tap. As with other Atlantic seaboard games, the progress of Matthew may be a factor here. The oddsdudes seem a bit smarter than the AP algorithm, awarding the Tar Heels no more than a 1.5-point give.
Nevada will attempt to bounce back from the loss in Hawaii in the late-afternoon slot on Saturday, hosting Fresno State. Beware: the Bulldogs only slouch sometimes. The Wolf Pack is giving 9, and will be at home; we’re hopeful. Mackay Stadium in Reno is another place we’d love to be on an October evening.
LSU at #18 Florida is postponed due to Hurricane Matthew. Ugh.
TCU (-28.5) will be at Kansas (motto: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”) to fry some Jayhawk in that Iron Skillet they worked so hard for. ‘Nuff said.
With Kansas State hosting Texas Tech, the northwest concession booth will be back in action in Manhattan on Saturday. The oddsbubbas have K-State giving 8 – which might seem like a lot, on paper, until you consider that the Red Raiders have proven conclusively they have no defense whatsoever.
Toledo dives into MAC action at Eastern Michigan on Saturday, and from here, the 17-point give by EMU looks really nutty. The Rockets held their own very well against BYU and destroyed a couple of quality FBS opponents in the preceding weeks, whereas EMU has only edged Bowling Green and Wyoming, and been royally thumped by Mizzou. Maybe some drunk guys got hold of a Saudi prince’s wallet and are egging each other on to run up the spread for the Eagles. We’ll see. We figure Toledo is at least as likely to win this one as to cover the 17.
#1 Alabama (-14) will be at #16 Arkansas. We’re not expecting any surprises, but right about now is when the Hogs have had a habit of stunning people, and ‘Bama has had a habit of being stunned. So, you know, figure on the Tide to roll, as nature intended.
#2 Ohio State (-29) hosts Indiana.
New #3 Clemson (-17) will be at Boston College Friday night. Sooner bettors would so be running that spread up.
#4 Michigan (-29.5) will be at Rutgers.
New #5 Washington heads to Eugene to take on Oregon. Since the O-Ducks graduated almost everyone who made them the team they used to be, an upset is unlikely, especially if the Huskies play the way they did against Stanford. But the PAC-12 sportsbabblers are hoping desperately for an upset anyway. Washington gives 9.
New #7 Louisville has the week off.
#8 Texas A&M hosts #9 Tennessee, which would be easier to see as the game of the week if the Vols seemed like they were really that good. Aggies give 6.5.
Miami (Da U) has made a stealth run to #10 after the nice win over Georgia Tech, and has the marquee slot on Saturday hosting #23 Florida State for their Storied Rivalry meet. It’s still not quite clear as this goes to post if Matthew will interfere or not. That said, we’re also not clear on how fans from out of town would get to the game. Miami’s 3-point give is just one of the unknowns, known and unknown, surrounding this one.
Best of the rest
Excepting the Red River Shootout, there can’t be a Storied Rivalry with as much high water behind it this week as Iowa at Minnesota, where the men of grid will be squaring off for one of our all-time favorite trophies, Floyd of Rosedale: The Bronze Pig. We’ll never stop regretting that the game no longer results in a custody change for a live pig, as it did in more heroic days. It was a better world then. But casting a pig in bronze is genius, period. Hawkeyes give 1; it’s anybody’s game.
Meanwhile, Maryland (-1.5) and Penn State will renew their Storied Rivalry in Happy Valley – as will Vanderbilt at Kentucky (-3) in Lexington. No fun garage-sale junk in the mix, however.
Purdue will be at Illinois (-10.5) to play for the Purdue Cannon. We’re happy for them, although it’s way cooler when it’s a real cannon, as opposed to a little cannon replica mounted on wood.
That said, we are greatly encouraged to report that Purdue FIRST’s science/tech program for young people did something else with a cannon a few years ago that makes up for any lameness inherent in miniature-replica trophies.
So Purdue and cannons? They’re like that.
In FCS, McNeese State heads over to Hammond to take on Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday evening. LU correspondents will remember SELA went down to OK-State 61-7 in week 1. The 1-3 Lions’ Southland record is 1-1, with the loss coming last week to Lamar. The 3-2 Cowboys are still hovering around #20, but they need another good win here. Forecast at the 6 PM game time: hot.
Finally slipping Div II Slippery Rock in where they belong, we note that The Rock continues PSAC play on Saturday hosting Mercyhurst U. (Erie, PA). The shamrock-themed Lakers come in 2-3 (1-1 conference) to The Rock’s 4-1. And we defy anyone to produce an athletics booster in the same league as Mercyhurst’s Sister Damien Mlechick. The 6 PM kickoff on Saturday is looking at clearing showers and 50s.
In Div III, Rose-Hulman has reached the big weekend of the season, heading to major rival Mount St. Joseph U. (Cincinnati) for a Saturday showdown. RHIT is 4-1 to MSJ’s 2-3, but they’re 3-0 and 2-1 in conference, respectively, and second and third in the ranking. Unlike most years, when Rose-Hulman struggled to win five games, the outcome could really matter this year. Clear and 60s for the 1:30 PM kickoff.
Christopher Newport has a convenient week off, with Hurricane Matthew bearing down.
Merchant Marine has another Liberty League outing at Worcester Polytechnic (Worcester, MA) on Saturday. WPI comes in 4-1, and tends to be a tough competitor, as befits a team playing as the Engineers behind their mascot, Gompei the Goat. (We so don’t want to know.) You only wish your school’s alumni included Robert H. Goddard (yes, that Robert H. Goddard) and J. Geils (yes, that J. Geils). Again, we don’t feel this will affect the game. Partly cloudy and a pleasant upper 60s for the 1 PM game start.
Dallas hosts Cincinnati (-1) in the late afternoon slot. Once again, a Rams game will put SoCall Cowboy fans out in the cold (this time on CBS).
Redskins hit Baltimore early as a 4-point dog. Pittsburgh (-7) hosts Jets, also early. Sporting a give of prodigious proportions – by NFL standards – the Steelers prove they announced their presence with authority last week.
Denver (-4.5) hosts Atlanta late. New Orleans has a bye this weekend.
Giants at Packers (-7) enlivens our Sunday night, far away from Matthew’s tricky track. Monday brings us Bucs at Panthers, if Matthew hasn’t decreed otherwise by then.