Update at the bottom. – J.E.
The Godzilla stalking the land this weekend is, of course, POTUS and FLOTUS having The COVID. So we’ll try not to be too obtrusive with our irrelevant football obsession. We pray for all the folks out there having COVID-19 symptoms – and for those worried that at any time they may test positive for it.
That includes the teams involved in Rice at Marshall and Troy at South Alabama, both of which have been Solemnly Postponed for this weekend.
We note that there’s been a Grand (and overdue) Perturbation in the AP Top 25, so don’t be surprised to see that as we chug through. The original ranking was truly just silly, if anything ever was.
There’s some good news to report, meanwhile: the MAC is back! The Mid-American Conference has voted to have a six-game season, which will start, in fine MAC style, on Wednesday, 4 November. November is when MAC goes days-of-the-week on us anyway, so we would expect nothing less. It will give us something more fun to think about than the after-election goat-rope.
The MAC will have a championship match on 18 or 19 December. We haven’t seen a formal schedule yet, but we’re as BOLO as it gets, to see about Toledo.
The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, heads to Orlando to take on #11 Central Florida on Saturday evening, Greek-alphabet rain events permitting. The Golden Knights’ defense hasn’t been quite as dominating this year, so wouldn’t you know it, this is the year Tulsa’s strength is more on D, with an adequate but not stand-out offense. UCF gives 21, which we think Tulsa can cover, but in a COVID year you just never know. Conditioning is such a factor.
Speaking of which, new #18 Oklahoma’s conditioning problem on defense was howlingly obvious last week. The guys were gassed by the end of the first half. They were missing assignments right and left through most of the second, and it looked like a significant part of that was just struggling for breath. D-backs looked like old ladies trying to open-field tackle. The offense did only marginally better. By the 4Q, when it counted, the O-line was pretty much down for the count. They never did bust it open for the run, other than off-tackle to the right, which became completely predictable the second time they used it. Hope that’s going to improve with the season.
At any rate, they’ll be taking their Sophoclean tragedy to Ames this weekend, just in time for the marquee slot on Saturday night. Iowa State is coming off the win in a moderately-paced semi-shootout with TCU, and if they can just run the Sooners around enough, they can probably reverse the 7.5-point OU give.
#17 Oklahoma State likewise heads out to meet Kansas (motto: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”) in Lawrence. Everyone’s on the road; Oklahoma venues will fall silent, denied any FBS ball this weekend. Last week Chuba Hubbard found his mojo against West Virginia, pride of the Big 12, so we assume Mike Gundy was wearing the right T-shirt and has duly taken notice of his obligation. Spencer Sanders hasn’t been formally slotted to start on Saturday, as far as we can tell, but we’re told he could. Illingworth turned in a good game last week. Kansas continues under its curse; anything could happen, but the unlikely probably won’t. Pokes are favored by 23, and what we’ll say is we think Kansas can cover, because the OSU D isn’t that good.
Navy will be at Air Force in Colorado Springs for a game that should be interesting, to say the least. Navy seemed to have a switch finally come on in the Tulane game, but definitely has position shortfalls that aren’t going to get much better this year. That said, Air Force hasn’t played a game yet (MWC will start play on the 24th), and will have wiggles to shake out.
We feel that it was somehow just like Air Force to announce their 2020 football schedule in a cutesy way – back in February, before The COVID started harvesting our year out from under us.
The Navy weekend at least remained the same. (And yes, that’s Duquesne, right at the beginning there.)
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Dust off your VCR.
The ②⓪②⓪ schedule is ready for play ? pic.twitter.com/nF34p2hmIo
— Sink Navy (@AF_Football) February 27, 2020
Do you know how long we’ve been waiting to use that? Get over yaselfs.
Air Force is a big question mark on defense, missing a number of returning players because of an academy option to sit out a semester, which those players are taking advantage of. The Falcons make up for it on offense with a lot of their skill position firepower coming back. But they haven’t played at all yet. That has an impact on Navy as well, of course, with no current-season game video to watch.
The cadets will be in the stands, giving Air Force that home field feel and margin. The oddsquad seems to be going with Navy’s participation already in two matches, awarding them a give of 7.
Army may have plunged from the Top 25 following the 24-10 loss to Cincinnati, but they host Abilene Christian (FCS, Southland) on Saturday, so they should have a fine win to celebrate by Saturday night.
Virginia Tech appeared gratifyingly viable in the first outing with NC State (motto: “They have a football team?”) last week, posting a 45-24 win and actually looking like they were improving and learning in the second half (unlike, say, a team we can think of that plays 20 minutes south of Oklahoma City). The Hokies head to Duke on Saturday, and Duke, at 0-3 in all-ACC outings, has been sucking ostrich eggs. That said, Duke has more than once been an extreme annoyance in the VT schedule, which probably explains the parsimonious 12.5-point Hokie give.
New #20 LSU basically suffered the same syndrome as Oklahoma last week: Total Defensive Implosion. Almost made you want to avert your eyes. But if we could stick with the Sooners, we could stick with the Zouave, which is what we did. Therefore, we also noticed that the offensive line was as untested and, er, still seeking its balance as we feared it might be. There were some flashes of potential, for sure (on the O-line), but no flashes of experience.
That said, the 600+ passing yards racked up by Mississippi State QB K.J. Costello were the story in the Bulldogs’ 44-34 win. The LSU D was getting no pressure on him, while also holding a missed-assignment festival in the secondary, complete with strolling minstrels and funny hats. BoPo’s got his work cut out for him. LSU will be at Vandy on Saturday night, with the Tigers giving 21, although that may be optimistic. The Commodores held Texas A&M to 17 points in the loss last week.
Kansas State got a big boost of confidence from crafting a very fine comeback win over Oklahoma, and we can’t omit to congratulate them on that. On Saturday the Wildcats host Texas Tech, which stunned #9 Texas last week with 56 points and a forced OT before the Longhorns could put it away 63-56. That was some crazy football. We’ll see if Kansas State, which remains dogged by skinny-roster syndrome, can keep up with them. The oddsdudes have K-State giving 2.5. Again, we’ll see. We’re rooting for them.
TCU gets its crack at #9 Texas tomorrow, after a relatively narrow 37-34 loss to Iowa State. A couple of big interceptions figured significantly: TCU picked 6 off one (which I think was actually ruled a fumble by ISU QB Purdy, but either way, Frogs got a defensive TD out of it), which is why they didn’t lose 37-27. But Frog QB Max Duggan, whose arm showed as well as promised by Coach Patterson, with three throwing TDs, got a bad break with a ball deflected by his own receiver into the hands of an ISU linebacker in the 4Q. That set the Cyclones up for the game-winning TD.
We have the feeling Texas will be more ready for TCU, and that basically, the 11-point Texas give looks like something the ‘Horns can cover, if they bring it for Ehlinger to do his thing.
#1 Clemson hosts Virginia, giving 28.
#2 Alabama (-18) hosts Texas A&M.
#3 Florida (-16.5) hosts South Carolina (motto: The Other USC).
#4 Georgia hosts #7 Auburn for their Storied Rivalry, poetically termed The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. (From back in the days when Athens, Georgia qualified as the “Deep South.” But that’s enough geopolitics.) We’re thinking this one’s our game of the week. Bulldog donation: 7.5. Don’t discount the upset. Should be some quality football.
#5 Notre Dame, which hasn’t played since 19 September, won’t play again until 10 October. If you’re Notre Dame, that’s how you climb from #7 to #5 in your second consecutive bye week, on the strength of a 27-13 win over Duke, and 52-0 over mighty South Florida. We haven’t done it yet, but we’re on the verge of conferring a motto on the Arsh: “C’mon man.”
#6 Ohio State will start play on 24 October.
#8 Miami (Da U; temporary motto: “Meh”) has a rare, genuine, non-COVID-involved week off. Big game with Clemson on the 10th.
#10 Penn State also starts play with the Big 10 on the 24th.
Best of the rest
We suppose some will get more excited about #22 BYU hosting Louisiana Tech (motto: Once Were WAC) on Friday evening here in very short order. But our hearts are with the Campbell Fighting Camels (FCS, Big South) in their struggle against Wake Forest, which started about half an hour ago. (The Demon Deacons are up 7-0.) We also compliment Wake Forest and the whole ACC on their moral leadership among the Power-3, putting it out there and playing all that non-conference ball in a COVID year.
A couple of higher-level games hold obvious promise. New #16 Mississippi State hosts Arkansas, which didn’t totally disgrace itself last week in the loss to Georgia. This will be a useful test of the Bulldogs’ staying power after the upset over LSU. Mississippi State is giving 17.
Baylor at West Virginia will be a don’t miss for Big 12 fans. Baylor crunched Kansas last week (who doesn’t), and the Mountaineers need work, but it should still give the conference a sense of what kind of factor Baylor will be, cruising for the moment with only one game’s worth of evidence. We’re thinking the 3-point Baylor give might reasonably be bigger, but that’s the problem: no one knows yet.
#25 Memphis at SMU is officially a pick-‘em, and is of interest to AAC fans, plus should give off some offensive fireworks.
You probably thought we’d neglect to mention the Storied Rivalry of Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee, but that’s because you don’t know us very well. They call this one “100 Miles of Hate.” We call it a nice Saturday evening with ESPN3. No junk-sale trophies, from what we can tell, but you can’t have everything. Western Kentucky’s giving 7.
The bridge-wing watch continues for Merchant Marine and Coast Guard, with binoculars.
*UPDATE*: Since Mohammed can’t make it to the mountain (comments-wise), the mountain shall be brought to Mohammed. The main thing that seems worth saying is that Tulsa is officially playing better defense than the Oklahoma Sooners. OU has lost two games in a row for the first time in over 20 years, and the problem is the defense. (Not that the offense would win any prizes so far, but it’s put up enough points to win, were there any Sooner game on the other side of the ball.)
TU has looked very good all evening in a wet, messy game, holding an improved if penalty-prone UCF offense to 26 points and just about 400 yards with 67 seconds left in the game. (OK, more like 450 by the final whistle.) In fact, Tulsa had to mount a comeback from well behind to get to the current 34-26. QB Zach Smith has been on like a light in the second half, with RB T.K. Wilkerson making holes when they’re most needed and giving the Hurricane a much-needed ground game. But the story has been the Tulsa D. It’s official now: Tulsa defeats #13 UCF 34-26. The Golden Knights had their shot at the end, but except for breaking one long throw, they just kept running into the Tulsa tackling and heads-up ball coverage.
What didn’t look good in soggy Orlando, on the natural turf field: Tulsa’s all-white visitor uniforms. After the first 10 minutes they were hopelessly mired in the “detergent commercial ‘before’ footage” look.
Congratulations to our purple contingent: LSU for the expected romp over Vandy, Kansas State for a satisfying win over Texas Tech, and TCU for edging out Texas! Who knew? (Don’t worry, ‘Horns; you can recover next week. Don’t bother bringing your starting offense.)
We would have liked to see a little more iron D from VA Tech in the 38-31 win over Duke, but a win’s a win. Good going, Hokies.
Navy’s JV defense didn’t turn out to be sufficient against the experienced Air Force offense, with its talent returning from last season. Sorry to see such a lopsided (40-7) loss. Feeling like the altitude adjustment may have been affecting Navy somewhat, in this year of iffy conditioning. But taking nothing away from Air Force. Congrats to the Falcons on screaming right out of the gate in 2020.
OK-State kicked Kansas around for a while and came away with the preordained win.
Arkansas topped Mississippi State 21-14, unexpectedly.
SMU hung on to knock off Memphis. SMU’s for real this year.
West Virginia, meanwhile, forced it to 2OT and got past Baylor. Hmm. Insightful thoughts.
And Western Kentucky takes home the honors from 100 Miles of Hate, downing MTSU 20-17.