Our Inner Circle will be keeping us well entertained on Thursday and Friday this week, and not just because the MAC leads the FBS off with a match tonight between Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois. NIU, much the stronger program on average, is giving 7.5, a tribute to the 2-5 EMU Eagles’ improving tenacity on defense. (They’re not much to look at on offense, but they’ve managed to keep losses to better teams surprisingly narrow all season.)
Our real interest develops in the other Thursday game, for which details below. #20 Stanford (-21) will also be up in Corvallis to take on Oregon State, in case you feel like staying up that late.
The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, heads to Dallas Friday evening for a clash with SMU. Tulsa has sunk to 2-6 after the lopsided loss to Connecticut, whereas the Mustangs are 5-2, and creamed UConn in week 5. On the other hand, Tulsa wiped out Houston in epic fashion (45-17) a couple of weeks ago, while SMU lost to Houston 35-22. The oddsquad, faced with the fey and faerie-like Tulsa D, has wisely settled on a 9.5-point spread in SMU’s favor.
#10 Oklahoma drops one, and keeps hovering around the top 10 on the strength of about 40% of its offensive plays – which, come to think of it, if Oklahoma can do is a testament to…something. Anyway, before we go totally off track here, the 6-1 Sooners are hosting Texas Tech (4-3) on Saturday in the marquee slot, yet another game they could very much lose through inattentiveness, although they’re giving 20 at the gate. At this point, unless there’s a mass suicide this week in the top 10, we don’t see OU being in the Final Four in the CFP.
#11 Oklahoma State fell back a step as well, and will need to gird its loins for the early-Saturday bout with #22 West Virginia, pride of the Big 12. The Okie-Pokes have been a bit frustrating this fall just where they’ll need to be consistent this week: on the deep ball from the Mountaineers. A few heroic, cinematic super-efforts in the secondary won’t do the trick; consistency in line pressure and long coverage will be key. Cowboys give 7.5.
Navy has the week off, with Temple looming a week from tonight.
Army, 6-2 and bowl-eligible, is also off. The rivalry match with Air Force is next up on 4 November. In the meantime, Air Force will be at Colorado State this Saturday to play for the noble Ram-Falcon Trophy, token of a Storied Rivalry that goes back to 1957. We’ve never quite seen the point of enclosing the trophy – which features a ram and a falcon – in Plexiglas, but it does seem like a very Air Force thing to do. CSU is 6-2 and leading the MWC Mountain; Air Force a less-satisfying 3-4 and playing catch-up to get into the Booger Bowl pool. Rams give 10.
New #13 Virginia Tech gets an ever-so-slight breather with divisional opponent Duke, 4-4, visiting Blacksburg. The Blue Devils have lost their last four straight, including an informative 31-6 trouncing by (now) #8 Miami (Da U), and although we’re wary of the 15 points, we do expect the Hokies to take this one. Division rival Miami is next week, and VT will cross that bridge when they come to it.
Kansas State, after the impressive effort against the Sooners last week, heads to Lawrence for the Storied Rivalry match with Kansas (motto: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”), played for the seemliest of loving-cup trophies, the Governor’s Cup. The 3-4 Wildcats’ Big 12 hopes are pretty much out for the season, but they’ve still got a reasonable shot at a bowl bid. In this case, we say load up on points: KSU is offering 24, but take more if you can get ‘em.
LSU is up one to #23, and will spend a bye weekend sharpening the Tiger claws for the Storied Rivalry clash with Alabama coming up on the 4th.
#4 TCU heads to Iowa State, suddenly #25 and all up in everybody’s Kool-Aid. We frankly think the sportsbabblers are just being silly, trying to fan the wispy embers of a “Cyclones startle Frogs” theme. TCU has a much better defense than Oklahoma or Texas Tech. But the game might be as good as the minimal Frog give of 6 suggests.
At last (yes, we got here): Toledo is our big hope for some Thursday night fun, hitting Ball State in Muncie for what we confidently expect to be a blowout as long as Woodside’s arm holds out. Toledo is 6-1 now, with the one loss to the ACC-fangled Miami (Da U), and perched atop the MAC West. Ball State, 2-5, not so much. Sad to say, the Cardinals remind us more of penguins waddling around on D. We like the Rocket give of 26. (And we are gratified to see that there are apparently only 7 tickets left for sale in Scheumann Stadium. $22, if you happen to be in the area. Crisp, 50s, and the rain looks like holding off until Friday.)
UPDATE: Toledo is up 30-10 early in the 3Q as this goes to post. No broadcast or online availability here, although it’s on ESPN3.
Wyoming, now 4-3, hosts New Mexico on Saturday for an MWC Mountain clash the Pokes will really want to win, to stay in contention for a bowl slot. The Lobos come in 3-4, hungry, and no beanbag. We’re not that impressed by the UNM give of 1.5; we’d have it the other way, actually. But we agree with the oddsdudes that it will be a close, hard-fought game. (Real Fall too: 40s and dropping, under the big mountain sky behind the front.)
#1 Alabama is off.
Which is just as well, since who would be watching Alabama play anyone, with #2 Penn State at #6 Ohio State for the game of the season? Even people who don’t follow football know that this game is the make-or-break watershed for the Big 10’s CFP hopes, and much of the 2017 season for everybody. This is, like, it. Buckeyes give 6-ish at home (which for the skinflint OSU bettors is pretty out there). We’re feeling Urban-y for this one, but not overwhelmingly so. We wouldn’t take the points.
#3 Georgia is at Florida to play for the Okefenokee Oar, a Storied Rivalry of prodigious dimensions under normal circumstances, but see Penn State-Ohio State 2017, above. Bulldogs give 14.
#5 Wisconsin is at Illinois giving 26.5.
#7 Clemson (-14) hosts Georgia Tech.
#8 Miami (Da U) is at North Carolina giving 20.
And #9 Notre Dame hosts #14 NC State (motto: “They have a football team?”), giving 7.5.
Best of the rest
We know you knew Arkansas-Ole Miss was a Storied Rivalry. Ole Miss is giving 3.5. We have a new name to suggest for the Rebels: Low-Riders.
There is no Storied Rivalry like the one for the Bronze Pig, as you also know. Yes, it’s time for Floyd of Rosedale to make his annual appearance, as Minnesota and Iowa face off in Ames for a Big 10 bout that by rights should overshadow everything within a 1,000-mile radius.
We’re quite sure you know that the original Floyd of Rosedale died of cholera in 1936, which we frankly think speaks rather poorly of their husbandry, there in Minnesota.
But you may not have known that FDR’s son-in-law, Curtis Dall, who attended the rivalry game in 1935 as a guest of the two governors, suggested renaming the pig “New Deal.” We believe that to have been a joke (and to have been unrelated to the cholera). The governors left Floyd’s name in place, however.
Iowa, current custodian of the pig, gives 7 at home on Saturday.
In funky random match-ups, Missouri will be at Connecticut on Saturday for their second game ever, and hey, there’s a line on it. Mizzou gives 13. Old Dominion, we are proud to report, will be at North Texas for the inaugural meeting between these two C-USA teams. UNT, of the C-USA Remnant, gives 11 to the New Blood.
In FCS, McNeese State edges up one more notch to #18, but has a major test coming on Saturday at #4 Central Arkansas. The 6-1 Bears, also Southland, went down big time to Kansas State in a cross-ranks match in week 1, but have been mopping the floor with FCS opponents ever since. The 6 PM kickoff in Conway will be enlivened by the front sweeping through, which will send temps plummeting into the upper 30s by game’s end.
In Div II, Slippery Rock did succumb to Edinboro last week in a disappointing 49-39 loss, but is still in the fight with a #5 ranking in Super Region 1, as the tournament picture starts to shape up. The Rock hosts PSAC foe Clarion U. on Saturday, which comes in 1-7 and seems to suffer mainly from the almost total lack of an offense.
Clarion, PA looks like a lovely campus on the south end of the Allegheny National Forest, but we were intrigued to come across this unelucidated slice of campus life among the images available at Google.
We’re sure it means something positive. Rain and 50-ish at game time.
The University of Central Oklahoma hosts Central Missouri (Warrensburg, MO, Home of Mo the Mule) on Saturday, which is not only ranked #6 in Super Region 3, but boasts Dale Carnegie and famed temperance crusader Carrie Nation as notable alumni.
Fast facts about Ms. Nation:
Fashioning herself as “a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn’t like,” Nation reportedly applauded the assassination of president William McKinley (who she believed was a secret drinker), believing that his death was a “tippler’s just desserts.”
She waged her war on spirits with a hatchet, using it to attack drinking establishments.
We’re bullish on our 4-4 Bronchos, but not that bullish. We do hear through the grapevine that the earlier-absconded half of the UCO band is back in North America, however, so we don’t entirely despair. Mid-50s and partly cloudy for the 2 PM kickoff in Edmond, OK.
In Div III, we, personally, are as bummed as we can be that Rose-Hulman fell to Franklin last week, unable to overcome a 29-22 deficit after a barn-burner of a 3Q that saw 28 total points scored. Franklin now edges RHIT out for Heartland Conference honors. The Fightin’ Engineers head to Bluffton U. (OH) on Saturday to meet the 2-5 Beavers. Chilly 40s and overcast for the 1:30 PM game start.
Christopher Newport knocked off William Paterson U. (Wayne, NJ) to surge to 5-2, and heads to Union, NJ to take on Kean University on Saturday. Kean is about as -ish as not, at 3-4 and 3-3 conference. A pleasant 70 for the noon kickoff, but rain will be coming in later in the day.
For the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, it got ugly at Worcester Poly last week, with a tough 41-7 loss. The Mariners, now 3-4, have this week off.