Football Follies 2017: NCAA Week 12

Football Follies 2017: NCAA Week 12
Army DB #23 Elijah Riley (Port Jefferson, NY) intercepts Duke QB Daniel Jones in 11 Nov 2017 win over the Blue Devils. (Image: Screen grab of GoArmyWestPoint video, YouTube)

There may not have been a whole lot of admirable defense in the Battle of I-75 on Wednesday night.  But Toledo on offense made up for it, walloping Bowling Green 66-37, and surging to 9-2 overall.

The bigger news for the MAC is that Akron’s Zips somehow managed to edge out Ohio on Tuesday night, in a weird 37-34 match in which almost all the action was in the first half.  People certainly know young Zip QB Kato Nelson’s name now.  A 6-5 Akron grabs the top spot in the MAC East from 8-3 Ohio – which last week had beaten Toledo, the MAC West leader.  Pigskin does bounce funny sometimes.

Inner circle

The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, is in Tampa Thursday night to meet South Florida, a match that (a) matters to USF, but (b) the Bulls don’t really have to worry much about.  USF, 9-1, plays Central Florida next week to decide who carries the AAC-East flag to the conference championship.  2-8 Tulsa is a little bump in the road.  We love our Golden H just the same.  USF gives 22.5.

#4 Oklahoma is in its most dangerous spot, surged into Final Four contention late in the season, and playing a patsy.  The Sooners will be at Kansas (motto: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”) on Saturday, occupying Memorial Stadium in Lawrence and giving 37.  This is moronic-loss bait to the Sooners, and we’re going to keep saying that until the final whistle on Saturday afternoon, unless they’ve already covered going into the 4Q.

Which they really want to do, given the style points #5 Wisconsin is going to reap from beating #24 Michigan.  More on that in a moment.

#13 Oklahoma State and Kansas State round out our Sooners and Sunflowers weekend.  This suddenly seems like a totally awesome idea for every year.  Border War!  We’re seeing Kansas setting up a sunflower market at the state line, with a wildcats and jayhawks pen for the kids to gawk at (because that’s how Kansas rolls), and Oklahoma driving up in a Conestoga wagon, escorted by pistol-packing cowboys, to do some garden-department shopping.  Barbecue: a must.  K-State, 5-5, is on the hop down to Stillwater, where the 8-2 Pokes are still in some remote mathematical contention for the Big 12 playoff, and will be giving a mean 20.  Good luck to both our IC teams.

Navy, of course, hits the sod at #8 Notre Dame, annoyingly at the same time OU, OSU, and Kansas State are all playing (2:30 Central for everyone involved).  Navy’s 6-3 and very unlikely to catch Memphis in the AAC West, but at least is bowl-eligible now.  Arsh give 18 in the Storied Rivalry; realistically, Navy’ll be lucky to cover.

Army not only beat Duke last week, but is 8-2, number 1 in the Independent standings, and headed to North Texas to take on the Mean Green Saturday evening.  We kind of love North Texas around here, and danged if they aren’t 7-3 and leading the C-USA West this month.  They’re even giving the points on Saturday, all 2.5 of ‘em.  We know Army is eying the better class of Booger Bowl this year, as befits the Independents Leader That Isn’t Notre Dame, so we’re not giving UNT much of a chance to cover.

Air Force, at #25 Boise State Saturday night, is 4-6 and seeing its season start to circle the drain.  Hey, they could still pull it out, but the oddsquad is betting against it.  Broncos give 17.5 on the Blue Field of Death.

Virginia Tech, now 7-3, takes a dive out of the top 25, but has the good grace to host Pitt in the early slot on Saturday, relieving our congestion at the mid-afternoon juncture.  The 4-6 Panthers haven’t been so awful darn productive on offense this season that they’re likely to overcome VT’s distinct defensive advantage.  But we’re hopeful for a good game.  Hokies give 15.

Nevada, 2-8, has ascended to mid-pack in the MWC West with the win over San Jose State, and heads to San Diego State for a Saturday night meet.  The Aztecs surprised everybody by losing to Fresno State a few weeks ago, but it’s not out of the question for them to still catch the Bulldogs, based on their respective schedules (see below).  We take the SDSU give of 16 seriously at any time.

New #20 LSU has 150 pounds of trophy to keep shiny for another year, and the knowledge that, interestingly, stomping the Arkansas of 2017 (now 1-5 conference, and the dragging anchor of the SEC West) will get you bumped up four slots in the rankings.  We could expound skeptically on that for a while, but will move on smartly.  LSU is at Tennessee Saturday evening, giving 16.  An OU-type dangerous situation, for the LSU of 2017, but we’re expecting them to handle it.

New #12 TCU has taken the expected dive out of the top 10, subsiding to 8-2 and heading to Lubbock to take on 5-5 Texas Tech.  We anticipate the Frog D dealing more effectively with the Red Raiders’ intermittently explosive offense than it did with the Sooners’ last week – as do the oddsdudes, who have TCU giving 7.

Wyoming, coming off the road win over Air Force, hosts Fresno State Saturday at high noon Mountain.  The Pokes are 7-3 now and bucking for a good Booger Bowl – the likelihood that division-leading Boise State might lose to Air Force or Fresno State being remote.  We do think it’s a bit silly that the Bulldogs are giving 1.5.  We’d reverse that, and add a couple of points (call it the Josh Allen factor).  But the game will be no gimme for either team.  Dress warm: blustery and barely above freezing on the back side of the front.

Top 10

The action for the toppest of our top 10 is downright hilarious this week, as opposed to last.

#1 Alabama, back where nature intended, hosts Mercer (FCS, Southern) for one of the SEC’s patented November FCS slaughters.  Mercer is 5-5 and fifth in Southern, but they did keep it close with Auburn (24-10) in September.

#2 Clemson, no longer Left Behind, hosts the Citadel (also FCS/Southern), which is always up for getting guillotined by a Big in November.  Gotta hand it to ‘em.

#3 Miami (Da U) entertains Virginia on Saturday morning.  We keep expecting Miami to get stung, but although Virginia is only a bit more than half-bad this year, Saturday ain’t it. Hurricanes favored by 19.5.

#5 Wisconsin hosts #24 Michigan in what will need to qualify as the game of the week, given its implications for the Badgers and the Final Four.  Such is the Big 10 East that Michigan is 8-2, 5-2 conference, and yet only mid-pack.  This of course correlates big league with the #24 ranking: Michigan has (as top 25 teams go) no offense.  That said, Wisconsin needs not just a win, but a big, honking win, especially if Oklahoma makes mincemeat of Kansas.

However that plays out, the Badgers are virtually certain to meet the #9 Buckeyes for the conference title.  Clemson, Miami, and Oklahoma will each have to play for a conference title as well.  Much will therefore remain up in the air until the lady of size warbles her last in December.  Wisconsin gives 7 on Saturday.

#6 Auburn hosts Louisiana Monroe, giving 36.5.

#7 Georgia hosts Kentucky, and with the Bulldogs giving 21.5, and Kentucky being Kentucky, this won’t be a get-well match for UGA’s ranking.

#9 Ohio State hosts Illinois, giving 41.

#10 Penn State hosts Nebraska, giving 26.5.  The Nittany Lions are getting all sudden again, but with their remaining creampuff schedule, they won’t be getting suddener, Final Four-wise.

Best of the rest

The upper tier is kind of sucking up all the oxygen now, and Rivalry Madness is mostly next week (although see below).  But we wouldn’t actively steer you away from some fun-looking match-ups, including the Storied Rivalry of #19 NC State (motto: “They have a football team?”) at Wake Forest, in which the Demon Deacons for some reason give 1.5.

We like the randomness factor of Delaware State (FCS, MEAC) at Florida State, and we think the match-up of cult icon UMass at BYU (-4) is just precious.

Florida International will be at Florida Atlantic for this Shula Bowl thing they do, and more power to them.  Going back all the way to 2002, this is a Rivalry in search of a Story, but its prospects look bright, especially with such a worthy patron saint.  FAU gives 14.5 on Saturday.

And we do have to mention a couple of Storied Rivalries that are important to the Lost Tribes of the PAC-12.  In the marquee slot on Saturday evening, UCLA will meet #11 USC for whatever it is they do when they get together these days.  The Trojans give 16.

Cal will be at #22 Stanford, striving to win back the Stanford Axe, which the Golden Bears haven’t had since 2009.  Since nobody in today’s Safe Space Nation thinks of things like “stealing the Axe” (something the student bodies used to do in the bad old days), Cal is reduced to fuming ineffectively while the jokesters of the Candy Pink make like Aristophanes with the “Axe” chant all up in their face.

The un-fierce board-mounted axe head of Palo Alto. (Image: Wikipedia)

This sorry spectacle goes well, we feel, with an axe-head divided from its logistical end and mounted For Your Safety on a slab of wood.  Talk about Foof-opolis.  Might as well give away dainty, scented Axe table favors, with little ribbons and sprays of baby’s breath.  Speaking of giving, the Heathered Cerise is donating 16.

Other ranks

In FCS, McNeese State has slumped slightly to #19 heading into the season finale at Lamar (Beaumont, TX) on Saturday night.  Lamar comes in 2-8, and probably won’t interfere much with the Cowboys’ ranking.  If the Pokes get there in a couple of hours today, they can catch some culture we certainly wouldn’t want to miss, if we had a free evening in Beaumont:

 

Perusing Lamar’s football record this season, we do note that one of the two wins came in a 72-6 cross-ranks slaughter of UT-Permian Basin (Odessa, TX), which plays in the Lone Star Conference in Div II.  Very few state university systems can boast a Permian Basin campus; Texas’ is conveniently located across a busy Odessa intersection from a Wal-Mart Super Center.

In Beaumont, much closer to home for the Pokes, expect 70s and lingering showers for the 7 PM kickoff.

In Div II, the season has ended, with Slippery Rock finishing 8-3 and 3rd in PSAC West.  Well done, Rock.  Three PSAC teams advance to the Div II bracket; West Chester, of PSAC East, plays Shippensburg on Saturday, and California (PA), #2 in West, plays Assumption (Worcester MA).  Indiana (PA), West titlist and PSAC champion, has a bye week and will meet the winner of West Chester-Shippensburg on the 25th.

The University of Central Oklahoma rolled over Northeastern State in Tahlequah last week to finish the season 7-4.  Good job, Bronchos!  UCO’s MIAA conference sends two schools to the Div II tournament.  Conference champ Fort Hays State (KS) has the bye this weekend; Northwest Missouri State plays Ashland (OH) on Saturday.

In Div III, Rose-Hulman obliterated Earlham College 83-14 to finish the season 8-2 and #2 in the HCAC behind Franklin.  Congrats to the Fightin’ Engineers for a great year.  HCAC champ Franklin College will host Wartburg Saturday in the first round of Div III tournament play.

Christopher Newport kept it competitive in the final game last weekend, falling to #13 Wesley College 31-14.  The Captains finish the year in fine style, 5-5.  The NJAC sends two schools to the tournament: Wesley at Rensselaer, and #17 Frostburg State hosting Wittenberg, both Saturday at noon.

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy prevailed in the one that matters, clocking in 48-23 over Coast Guard.  The 5-4 Mariners won’t be advancing to post-season play, per se, but do meet Buffalo State (SUNY) on Friday evening, 17 November, for an event known as the ECAC Clayton Chapman Bowl.

This startling event seems to erupt out of nowhere; apparently, USMMA was invited to it on Monday, and thus has four days to prepare.  This is why we love Div III ball, especially in New England, where teams just sort of roam around looking for other teams to play.  Buffalo State plays in the Empire 8 Conference; USMMA is in ECAC (for football), but what that means, exactly, is another story.

ECAC is at least sending one team – Springfield (MA) – to the Div III tournament.  Springfield hosts Husson U. (Bangor, ME) on Saturday.

It’s all great fun, at any rate.  The Clayton Chapman Bowl will be in the stadium at the University of Delaware, and we know you won’t want to miss it streaming live on ecacsports.com.  Dry but chilly in Newark on Friday night, dropping into the 30s after the 7:30 PM kickoff.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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