Football Follies 2021: NCAA week 5

Football Follies 2021: NCAA week 5
Army QB #4 Christian Anderson explodes for a 72-yard TD run early in the Black Knights 23-10 win over Miami (OH), 25 Sep 2021. Army Athletics video, YouTube

Virginia at Miami (Da U) is teed up for Thursday night, and we assume no one is surprised that the Hurricanes are giving 5.5.  Well, not surprised at the give anyway; seems a tad on the parsimonious side as regards the number.  (Well, hello.  The Yahoos took this one 30-28.  Da U’s suffering continues.)

Friday night will bring the Storied Rivalry of #13 BYU at Utah State, competing once again for the Old Wagon Wheel.  We’re delighted by the Old Wagon Wheel, currently in the custody of BYU.  Like such tokens as the Brass Spittoon and the Fremont Cannon, it’s a real wheel as opposed to a replica mounted on a trophy base infested with architectural representations, or player statues in what look like figure-skating poses.

Old Wagon Wheel: BYU-Utah State rivalry. Via BYU Athletics

Cougars give 8.5.

Inner Circle

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The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, is now 1-3 after the win over Arkansas State.  TU continues its road to competitiveness in the American on Friday night, with a key clash against Houston.  Houston has lost a step from its glory days, but comes in 3-1 with wins over Rice, Grambling, and Navy.  The 28-20 win over Navy could have been bigger; Tulsa’s D has been very effective against the run this season, and is exactly suited to shutting down Cougar sparkplug Ta’Zhawn Henry.  With Tulsa hosting this one, the oddsbubbas have the Golden Hurricane giving 4.  We’d call it a toss-up, and likely an exciting game.  Roar, Hurricane, roar!

New #6 Oklahoma, in survival mode after narrow wins over unranked teams, is scouring the countryside for an offensive line as it prepares to board the buses for Manhattan and a faceoff with Kansas State on Saturday.  We applaud Lincoln Riley for his quest to broaden the Sooner strategic base beyond airpower, but you do need healthy running backs and a multifaceted O-line for that.

K-State is freshly de-ranked after the loss to Oklahoma State last week, so we’re shaking totem all over this one, and frankly ignoring the 10.5-point Sooner advantage in the line.

New #19 Oklahoma State clobbered Kansas State last week, and hosts sudden #21 Baylor Saturday in what will be an interesting match for the Big 12.  We’re not convinced quite yet about Baylor, which narrowly prevailed over an Iowa State that was imploding all over itself in its last outing.  But the Bears certainly won’t be beanbag.

We register a bit of distaste, because we just can’t help ourselves, for the Oregon-like Sponge-Bob-hued attire the Bears turned out in on the 25th.  Do better, gents.  The Pokes are giving 3.5 in T. Boone.

Navy, 0-3 after a newly respectable showing against Houston, will be at home entertaining Central Florida on Saturday.  The Knights are 2-1 with a week 1 win over Boise State (though the second win was a blowout of Bethune-Cookman).  Not surprisingly, UCF gives 14; the Knights are unranked this year but still one of the top-half teams in the American.

Army keeps sticking the landing (or, as you might say, completing the pass), and is 4-0 heading for Ball State on Saturday.  The Cardinals are 1-3, with their last two losses to our own Wyoming and Toledo.  The Black Knights give 9 in Muncie.

Air Force pummeled Florida Atlantic 31-7 last week to go to 3-1.  The Falcons’ loss was to Utah State, on which they hung 45 losing points and 619 losing yards, so the chops are in evidence.  Saturday’s meet is at New Mexico, 2-2 and coming off a loss to (go figure) UTEP.  So Air Force is favored by 10.5 in our fun fave Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque, USA.

Virginia Tech sprayed and vacuumed the Spiders (I promise you, that’s the way to defeat spiders) last week, and heads into an off-weekend 3-1.  The earlier loss to West Virginia, pride of the Big 12, hurt, but with the 3-1 overall and the conference W versus UNC in week 1, the Hokies top the ACC Coastal at this point.  Next week: the Arsh, in Blacksburg.

Nevada jumps into the fire on Saturday, meeting Storied Rival Boise State on the Smurf Turf, always one of the Wolf Pack’s biggest challenges each season.  Nevada rolled out in style with a win over Cal in week 1, but sits now at 2-1 after a loss two weeks ago to Kansas State.  QB Carson Strong has been effective connecting with an impressive receiver corps; we’ll see if BSU, which came within a point of Oklahoma State two weeks ago, has the secret sauce to shut the Pack offense down.  The oddsquad has the Broncos favored by 6.5.

LSU, 3-1, hosts #22 Auburn in an SEC West showdown (not to mention a Stored Rivalry) on Saturday evening.  The famed Tiger Bowl sees Auburn arriving 3-1 with massive wins over non-Power-5 teams and a 28-20 loss to (now) #4 Penn State on 18 September.  LSU, bringing its curiously underprepared O-line, is giving 3.5.  No funky rivalry tokens in this one; just abstract War Eagle-Zouave vibes to echo throughout eternity.

TCU is 2-1 after dropping a painful Storied Rivalry loss to SMU, which once again bears off the Iron Skillet.  Congratulations to the Mustangs.  TCU’s brief flirtation with the top 25 is probably over for now; the Toads host Storied Rival Texas on Saturday, and of course the Longhorns crushed Texas Tech last week to win the Chancellor’s Spurs.  We don’t exactly expect a razing, burning, and sowing with salt in the Fort this week (TTU put up points in the 70-35 loss), but Texas has a good chance of validating its 5-point give.

Toledo heads to UMass on Saturday, and isn’t likely to disturb the Minutemen’s uninterrupted record of learning-opportunity losses.  Whatever our affection for UMass, we must of course root for the Rockets, now 2-2 after a nice recovery win over Ball State.  Toledo’s give of 27 is feasible, though our Inner Circle has a habit of underperforming versus beanbag opponents.  Toledo is a nice chance to mention that we’re more than ready for some weeknight football courtesy of the obliging MAC.

Wyoming may have had a narrow escape at UConn last week, but the Pokes clock in for a bye week at 4-0.  Nice job.  They’ll be at Air Force on 9 October.

Top 10

It’s hard to choose which is the game of the week this go-round, but #1 Alabama hosting #12 Ole Miss for an SEC West clash (and Storied Rivalry) is obviously an eye-catcher.  The sportsbabblers presumably will be consumed with Rebel head coach Lane Kiffin’s rhetorical faceoff with ESPN host Michael Wilbon, whose insightful commentary this week has included such gems as:  “Lane Kiffin’s a cute little story for guys like us who have to talk about sports every day and we can come in and say ‘Ha ha ha, Lane Kiffin.’ Lane Kiffin equals embarrassment at some point wherever he is.”

Kiffin flamed back:  “[W]ay to go out on a (limb) and pick the number one team in the country at home who is a huge favorite. How long did you watch film to make that surprise pick? Really newsworthy captain obvious.”

Tide gives 14.5.

The other top candidate for game of the week is of course #2 Georgia hosting sudden #8 Arkansas.  We’re holding capitalization (i.e., Sudden) in abeyance for this week’s sudden teams, awaiting further developments from their recent decisive wins – in this case, the Hogs’ over Texas A&M.  The oddsquad is dubious, awarding the Bulldogs 18.5 in the line.

#3 Oregon (Hmm) heads to Stanford giving 8.

#4 Penn State (-12.5) hosts Indiana in the marquee slot on Saturday.

#5 Iowa (-3) visits Maryland on Friday night.

New #7 Cincinnati is giving 1.5 at #9 Notre Dame.  We kind of see this one as the other way around.

New #10 Florida (-8) will be at Kentucky Saturday afternoon.

Best of the rest

The whole FBS picture is finally settling down with mostly conference play and relatively few strange outliers (e.g., Toledo at UMass).  That said, there are still a lot of unbalanced matches to winnow down our “best” selections.

Duke at North Carolina for the Victory Bell is obvious, of course, as a Storied Rivalry.  The oddsdudes don’t see it as very competitive (for good reason), and have UNC giving 20.

Bowling Green heads to Kent State for their Storied Rivalry, the Golden Flashes finding a rare opportunity to give 16.5.  It’s the MAC opener for both teams.

Ordinarily we wouldn’t think much of a ho-hum plaque trophy (the Anniversary Award), but it looks to us like a couple of the commemorative brass attachments on the left are held together by Scotch tape, so we’re all in with a mighty train-whistle blast, unless advised otherwise.  That would be our kind of game trophy.

And of course we’d never miss Florida International at Florida Atlantic for the Shula Bowl, a great Storied Rivalry dating to 2002.  FAU gives 10.5.

The trophy’s not the worst of the Big Slabs of Wood.

You would really think #14 Michigan at Wisconsin would be a rivalry game, but no.  Nevertheless, if you don’t have other plans at 11 AM Central on Saturday, it could be a good watch.  Badgers are giving 1.5.

#11 Ohio State (-15) at Rutgers seems to hold little promise of a competitive outing, but the Scarlet Commies have played worse.  Might be worth checking in on.

If you can’t sleep, #18 Fresno State will be at Hawaii for a late-night treat on Saturday (leaking rapidly into Sunday over on the East coast), with the Bulldogs giving 11.

Other ranks

In FCS, our McNeese State Cowboys have receded to 1-3 after a thumping 31-0 loss to Incarnate Word.  They saddle up again on Saturday to host Southeastern Louisiana for a morning (Central) Southland clash.  SELA has been racking up points to accumulate a 2-1 record – even putting 42 on Louisiana Tech (motto: “Remember the WAC?  Yeah, that was, like, a preview of 2021, dude”) in the Lions’ one loss.  SELA is also ranked #14 in the coaches poll, though the season is still comparatively young and this will be their first in-conference meet.  The 10 AM kickoff in Lake Charles is expected to feature rain and upper 70s.

In Div II, Slippery Rock, 4-0 and now #7 in the Coaches Poll (after a surge by Notre Dame-OH), hosts another PSAC match with Clarion (Clarion, PA).  Clarion comes in 0-4 and unlikely to knock off the Rock.  But the community of Clarion will have its hands full with the Allegheny Toyota Annual Autumn Leaf Festival, a 9-day jubilee seeing its 68th iteration this year and kicking off in its own right on Saturday.  There are too many events to chronicle, but we, personally, would be going for the Antique Tractor Show and the Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest.

There’s merch, and a nice selection of photos from previous festivals, at Facebook.

Clarion Autumn Leaf Festival Parade (Clarion, PA), 2018. Courtesy Clarion Autumn Leaf Festival, Facebook

Back in Slippery Rock, expect upper 60s and autumn clouds for the 6 PM kickoff.

Central Oklahoma, 1-3, got paddled last week by Northwest Missouri, but comes bucking out of the chute again to host MIAA opponent Lincoln U. (Jefferson City, MO) on Saturday afternoon.  Lincoln is 0-3 and hasn’t had an easy time of it.  If their own game against Northwest Missouri hadn’t been cancelled, the Blue Tigers would presumably be 0-4.  As it is, they lost to Fort Hays State 72-0 on the 18th.  We give UCO a decent chance to win this one, which for the Bronchos will be the 2021 Hall of Fame Game.

Kickoff, at 2 PM Central in Edmond, will see rain and temps in the 70s.

In Div III, Rose-Hulman is 1-2 and mid-pack in the HCAC with a slew of other 1-2 wonders.  The Fightin’ Engineers go to HCAC play with the visit to Defiance (Defiance, OH) on Saturday.  Defiance comes in 0-3.  Expect upper 70s and cloudy for the 1:30 PM game start.

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is 3-0 after putting the hurt on out-of-conference opponent Kean last week.  They’ll be back to NEWMAC play hosting Worcester Poly (WPI, Worcester, MA) on Saturday.  WPI is 1-3 and averaging 277 total yards a game, so we kind of think the Mariners can take them.

WPI, of course, is knee-deep in distinguished alumni like Robert Goddard and Dean Kamen, but fewer may know that J. Geils was a student there in the 1960s.  Fewer still are probably aware that Geils dated Meryl Streep in high school, before launching his varied collegiate career.  Geils studied mechanical engineering at WPI, but of course is best known for his career as a guitarist who formed the J. Geils Band, popular in the 1970s and ‘80s.  He passed away at his home in Groton, MA in 2017.  R.I.P.

USMMA will have the advantage of a sunny, mid-70s forecast for the 2 PM kickoff in Kings Point.

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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