Now, that’s what I’m talking about. The FBS schedule looks semi-normal again: Big 10 and Mountain West are back! Woot!
We’ve got some big ones teed up for you, and nothing currently in the Solemnly Postponed column, so let’s get right down to it. The one thing we can all be sure of: no matter who’s playing, it’ll be better than a presidential debate with muted mics and plexiglass.
OK, OK, Illinois is at #14 Wisconsin this evening, and barbecue and refreshing beverages are busting out all over the Great Midwest. Did we mention the Big 10 is in the house?
The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, plays Friday night, and we’ll be ready. TU is at South Florida, which we still have a minor sentimental attachment to because of that duty station in Tampa. But we’ll be root, root, rooting for the alma Mama, which enjoys an 11-point advantage per the oddsbubbas. Tulsa’s been “on” so far (amazingly, with the Solemn Postponements, they’ve only played two games, but it feels like more), and the 1-4 Bulls’ horns are dragging, so although we wouldn’t advise taking the points, we’re optimistic about a right-sized final score.
Oklahoma will be in the Fort to take on TCU in the Saturday morning slot. If TCU can stop dropping the ball all over the field, it ought to be another shootout (if not one quite as cosmically absurd as the Texas game). Come to think of it, the Sooners could stand to do less ball-dropping themselves.
On the Sooner bench, we’re pretty excited that OL transfer Chris Murray (from UCLA) will finally be available for tomorrow’s game. He’s a scooty-shooty guy coming from guard with the Bruins, and ought to make a difference in OU’s ability to open up the run, something they’ve been lacking this season. (Might help give Rattler another quarter second in the pocket too, although Rattler’s pretty scooty-shooty himself, in the QB sense.) Sooners give 6.5, because Sooner bettors have never lost the chutzpah crown yet.
New #6 Oklahoma State has a major test on Saturday hosting #17 Iowa State. We love both Big 12 teams more than life itself, but feel the Pokes, at least, are overranked. That said, we’ve seen, comparatively, a lot of play out of them, and neither one is beanbag. In default of another one with the same competitiveness and implications, we’d call this one our game of the week. Pokes are giving 4. We hear it will be a bit chillier than normal in T. Boone, if you’re heading there for some quality social-distancing.
Navy fights on, hosting Houston tomorrow as an 11-point dog. Or goat, take your pick. Houston’s not all that this year, at least what we’ve seen of them, but they always bring game.
Army hosts Mercer (FCS, Southern) for another nice scrimmage out of ranks. The Black Knights should be pretty well prepared for their outings with Air Force and Navy. We’d recommend, ideally, more practice against teams with an air game before the meet with Air Force, but Air Force is next up on the schedule, on 7 November, so that’s a baked cake at this point.
Air Force has a minor conference advantage, as it has already fired once this year, but the big news is that Mountain West play starts this week, and Air Force is in it, hitting the gridiron at San Jose State on Saturday night. SJSU struggled to 5-7 last year and isn’t expected to do a lot better in 2020, but of course it is 2020, so you never know. As the Falcons showed versus Navy, they’re being well served by their returning offensive stalwarts. Air Force gives 7.
New #19 Virginia Tech is 3-1 coming off the win over Boston College and heads for Winston-Salem Saturday to take on Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are 2-2, but that may be a tad deceptive, as their losses are respectable ones to #1 Clemson and a 45-42 cliffhanger to now-#23 NC State (motto: “They have a football team?”). Hokies give a sensible 7. Crossing that North Carolina state line is something of a hex for VT, a good 50% of the time.
LSU hosts South Carolina (motto: The Other USC) Saturday evening, giving 7-ish and keeping everyone skittish about what the Bopaleenie D is going look like this week. They were Solemnly Postponed last week, and we hope they’ve used the time well to reflect and recommit. It looks like Myles Brennan is still on the sick list, so TJ Finley will be starting behind center. In National Enquirer news, apparently Tiger great Odell Beckham, Jr., now with the wouldn’t-you-know-it Browns, was caught on video doing a Hunter Biden with an Obama-style pallet of cash, and we really just can’t take any more of that, so you should have enough search terms now to pursue it on your own, if you care to. LSU is banning Beckham Jr from school facilities. Sigh.
Kansas State is #20 and currently tied with Iowa State for first place in the Big 12. The Wildcats take their 3-1 for a spin hosting Kansas (motto: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”) in their Storied Rivalry match on Saturday morning. We understand KU’s Les Miles to be back at 100% after his bout with COVID positivity, which left him standing in front of the TV screen at home during last week’s game, taking notes and tweeting encouragement. Probably less fun than cleaning the gutters.
The Sunflower Showdown, which inspires our feature image this week, may sound a touch foofy, but don’t be fooled: this Storied Rivalry has a Toilet Bowl to its credit, and a nasty forfeit forced on Kansas in the Big 8 era (1980) when a player eligibility discrepancy was discovered. We’ll just let Wikipedia intone the particulars of the Toilet Bowl for you:
The lone tie during the Governor’s Cup era took place on November 7, 1987, in Manhattan, and is the most infamous game in the history of the series. Termed “The Toilet Bowl” and “The Futility Bowl” by national commentators, the game featured 1–7 KU and 0–8 K-State. The contest lived down to expectations and resulted in a 17–17 tie, which was secured when Kansas blocked a field goal at the end of the game. Following the tie, both teams lost their last two games of the season. KU coach Bob Valesente was fired following the season. His counterpart Stan Parrish kept his job, but did not make it past 1988 after the Wildcats posted an 0–11 campaign to extend a winless streak to 28 games. Parrish’s dismissal led to the hiring of Bill Snyder, who would shift the direction of the series in favor of the Wildcats.
Old Stan Parrish. Blast from the past. There’s a Governor’s Cup at stake, and K-State is giving 17.
Finally. FINALLY, we say. The Mountain West is announcing its presence with authority, giving us not just some fine match-ups this week, but a two-fer with our own Nevada hosting Wyoming on Saturday evening. If you can’t be in Mackay Stadium in Reno (and you can’t; it’s team families only), you can catch it on CBSSN at 5 PM Mountain.
The Wolf Pack offense will be led by redshirt sophomore Carson Strong again, and here’s hoping he has a better line this year. The O-line was the weak spot in 2019, limiting the effectiveness of RB Toa Taua, a tough short-yardage churner and the backbone of the running game. Also back this year are Romeo Doubs and Elijah Cooks at receiver; all in all, plenty to build on if the line has improved. Nevada should be interesting on defense; they’ve brought in Brian Ward this season, from Syracuse in the “stopping Clemson” years, and they’re going with a 4-3 baseline, which should be, as we say, interesting.
Wyoming brings back its robust running game from last year, with Xazavian Valladay leading the charge. The Cowboys’ O-line is a feature, not a bug, and returns experience with six starters, a nice position for relatively young quarterbacks in an air-war conference. Sean Chambers, who came out mid-season with a knee injury last year, is to start, but Poke-watchers think backup Levi Williams is likely to get plenty of field time. Wyoming’s weaknesses look to be in the receiver corps and on D, where they’ve lost significant talent from last year, basically across the board, and brought in a new DC to boot, Jay Sawvel, whose credits include DC at Minnesota and (most recently) Wake Forest.
Wyoming gives 2. They’ll see a brisk fall evening in Reno, clear skies and falling from the 60s to the upper 40s during the game. No place we’d rather be, except maybe Laramie, on a Saturday night in October.
Darned if #1 Clemson isn’t entertaining Syracuse in the early slot on Saturday. Tigers give 45.
#2 Alabama (-20) is at Tennessee for their Storied Rivalry match (no foncy names or bric-a-brac).
New #3 Notre Dame is giving 8 at Pittsburgh. No comment.
New #4 Georgia has the week off.
… [drumroll] … [trumpet fanfare] …
And … what you’ve all been waiting for: new #5 Ohio State, which checked into the neighboring AP 25 suite this week with a courtesy upgrade, will finally take the field hosting Nebraska on Saturday morning for its season debut. Technically, Illinois and Wisconsin are beating them to the punch Friday evening to inaugurate Big 10 action. But we all know who the ranking gurus have been waiting on. The Buckeyes are favored by 23.5. Let the wild rumpus begin.
#7 Texas A&M is off.
#8 Penn State, which like Ohio State got a courtesy upgrade for this week, will hit the ground running at Indiana, PSU giving a curiously light 7.5.
New #9 Cincinnati, which jumped up two rungs on the strength of not playing Tulsa last week, will be at #16 SMU, and we say don’t count the Mustangs out. Officially the Bearcats are giving 1, but we’d call this a pick-’em.
#10 Florida, which has settled kind of right about where we were thinking, has the week off. The time of edging upward from that position through inactivity is officially over, now that there are four robust Power conferences in play.
Best of the rest
Choice Storied Rivalry action kicks off first thing with #23 NC State at #14 North Carolina, putting in more sweat for the state victory bell. The Tar Heels give 18. We’re by no means pessimistic for the Wolfpack, however.
Auburn will be at Ole Miss for their Storied Rivalry, neither one ranked, which isn’t the more usual situation. Auburn is favored by 6.
#18 Michigan at #21 Minnesota are launching their seasons in style, not only clashing in their Storied Rivalry for the Little Brown Jug, but clocking in for the marquee slot on Saturday evening. Goldie and Pals are favored by 1.5. It’s 2020.
We feel like you just might not be wasting your time to check in on Baylor at Texas (-14), which isn’t a Storied Rivalry but could be some interesting football. Utah State at Boise State (-15) strikes us the same way. They’re looking pretty lopsided, but we’ve got a feeling.
We’ll wait for some of these other folks to surprise us.
It’s officially 22 days to the Storied Rivalry match in Div III between Coast Guard and Merchant Marine.