OK, we can get tonight’s NFL season opener, which is [was] about to start, out of the way with the comment that it should be a pretty good game. New Orleans at Green Bay. Two of the league’s best QBs, with most of their starting line-ups healthy. We do note that former Sooner Garrett Hartley, kicker for the Saints, is out with a hip injury for an indefinite period. And speaking of injuries, Peyton Manning’s shoulder surgery has him iffy for the 2011 season. He’s likely to be out for at least the first half of it.
[Note at the posting break: Packers 42, Saints 27 in the 4Q. Aaron Rodgers in charge.]
Some of us will also be watching #9 OK-State hosting Arizona tonight, however. Big game for the Cowboys’ continuing top 10 hopes. They are favored over a Wildcat squad missing its top wide receiver, Juron Criner. OSU is in black and orange tonight, looking much spiffier aesthetically than last week, and pretty good on the field as well. They’ve driven down to the Arizona 2 – OK, touchdown! – in the first 4 minutes. [Post-time note: OSU dominating Arizona 34-14 in the 4th.]
Tulsa will be at Tulane on Saturday to take on the Green Wave, a conference/division rival. Tulane is known as one of the reliable punching bags of Conference USA (Memphis is the other one), but the Green Wave bagged a win over FCS team Southeastern Louisiana last weekend, and will be feeling feisty against the Sooner-thumped Tulsa squad.
This annual match takes place every other year in the Superdome, where tiny contingents from each school do their best impression, in the vast echoing chamber, of the “We are HERE!!!!!!!” chorus from Horton Hears a Hoo. Their bands make a little more noise, but not much. Tulsa gives 13 in this one, and you can safely take ‘em. (Tulane did let the Southeastern Louisiana Lions score 33 points.) The Golden Hurricane needs this one to survive September without losing its division hopes.
This is Oklahoma’s bye week; the Sooners will be preparing to meet #5 Florida State on the 17th. The Seminoles are taking it easy on Saturday as well, hosting the FCS/Div IAA Buccaneers of Charleston Southern (motto: “We’ve got chutzpah!”), who lost 62-0 to C-USA’s Central Florida last week. Apparently no one is willing to bet on this match, which makes perfect sense to us.
Navy travels on Saturday to Western Kentucky, home of the Hilltoppers, and gives 10 but might oughta give more, after the performance against Delaware. That said, the outmatched Hilltoppers held the Kentucky Wildcats to 14 points in their outing last week, and won kudos for their hitting and tackling on defense. So it could be a game. Army will be down the road from TOC at San Diego State, where the Aztecs are justly favored.
Virginia Tech is favored by 17 at East Carolina, another perennial C-USA stand-out that dropped to a top 25 team last week (South Carolina; motto: “The other USC”). The Pirates are almost always in divisional contention in C-USA, but their chances aren’t good against the Hokies. As the season wears on, #11 VT looks to have a strength-of-schedule problem, with none of the ACC rivals they will play ranked in the top 25, and a relatively weak non-conference schedule. Other than FSU, they’re certainly the early stand-out in the ACC. But the two teams won’t play unless (until?) they meet for the ACC title.
Nevada kicks it off big time on Saturday at Oregon, where the Ducks are smarting from their whuppin last week. The oddsquad has Oregon giving 26, but we’re thinking the Wolf Pack has a chance to cover. The Ducks are by no means a juggernaut, as LSU proved, and their defense could stand to speed up. Nevada will be shaking out some key offensive starters who have finally made it to the head of the line, but their biggest challenge will probably be stopping the Ducks’ fast-paced attack. The good news is, they don’t have to start worrying about it until about 22 minutes into the game.
Elsewhere in the PAC-12, where only #6 Stanford and #13 Oregon are in the top 25, Cal will be taking on new PAC-12 member Colorado (motto: “We take a pounding!”), and looks likely to go 2-0, after downing Fresno State last week. Stanford should roll handily over Duke. In other FBS action, a marquee game between #3 Alabama and #23 Penn State will get lots of attention on Saturday. Much as we love JoePa and the Nittally Lions, we figure the Tide will triumph. Air Force might give TCU some heartburn, though.
In Division II, the Bulldogs of Southwestern Oklahoma State host Southern Arkansas for Parents Day in Weatherford, OK. The SWOSU Bulldogs became the first member to win a game from the new Div II Great American Conference (est. 2011), with their victory over Northwestern Oklahoma State last week. This was a record-setting achievement we were previously unaware of.
The NWOSU Rangers will head to Pueblo, CO to take on the CSU-Pueblo Thunderwolves of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, who topped West Texas A&M 26-24 last week. WTAM was ranked #19 in Div II, but the big news was that the Thunderwolves’ offensive coordinator, Chris Symington, rose to the challenge at the Big Texan Steakhouse (I-40, Amarillo) and consumed a 72-ounce steak in 59 minutes. We wish the Rangers well, and have two words for them: “ROAD TRIP!!!!”
In Division III, the Christopher Newport Captains host the Stevenson University (MD) Mustangs, another non-conference opponent. The Mustangs, who play in the Capital Athletic Conference, lost to Shenandoah in their season opener. From what TMF tells us, it sounds like the Captains have a good shot at going 2-0, even without a top-class kicker. At least the musical accompaniment will be top-notch.
Rose-Hulman has a bye this week, but will roar back on the 17th to face non-conference foe Kalamazoo.