Oh boy oh boy, it’s a Football Thursday night for the history books.
But we’ll get back to that. Just FYI, Thursday “night” starts at 4:30 PM here in these parts. Good thing that’s about when it’s getting dark now.
The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which was Conference USA champion in 2012 and which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, heads off to East Carolina on Saturday to offer itself as a 17-point dog to the Purple Pirates. Shall we just say that the spirit is willing, on the Tulsa D, but the flesh is weak? Well, OK, I’ll add that if I see one more imbecilic, unnecessary false start from the eager but less than disciplined offensive line, I’m going to march from here to Chapman Field and slap ‘em silly myself.
To kick off the Thursday night action, the #10 Sooners of Oklahoma will be in Waco to challenge the #6 Baylor Bears. The oddsquad has the Bears giving 16, which even Sooner bettors clearly aren’t arguing with. Although the Sooners have the tools to beat the Bears, there’s no question that Baylor has been playing with more consistency, grit, and basic “want-it-bad” than the Sooners really ever do, certainly more than OU has played with this year.
It’s fair to point out that Oklahoma will be Baylor’s first real test of the season. But it’s equally fair to point out that Baylor has some tremendous talent, and hasn’t been hanging over 750 yards per game on opposing Ds out of offensive average-ness. Oklahoma, of course, brings one of the stingiest Ds in the Big 12, and some headliner talent of its own on offense, including an improving if not yet fully BCS-ready quarterback.
But experienced Sooner fans all know the feeling. That feeling when the Sooners, for whatever reason, sort of lose steam, sometime in the second quarter. If regaining or maintaining a lead isn’t just a matter of staying on the clock after that, the Sooners are going to lose. It’s a sickness. The Dallas Cowboys have it too. Baylor, like Bret Maverick, won’t be coming there to lose. The Sooners won’t catch any breaks. They’re going to have to want this one, with fire under the butt.
We’ll see if they do. TOC prediction: Baylor wins, but doesn’t cover. Also tonight, with a 6 PM PST kickoff, #3 Oregon heads to #5 Stanford for the other humongous game of humongousness on this night of nights, NCAA football-wise. We’re going with the (10-point) overdog on this one too: Oregon, also known as the Mariota Ducks, really is the better team all around. We think the Heathered Mauve is a bit overranked right now.
That said, however, the Ducks have a perennial quirk: they tend to start slowly. They almost never come out in steamroller mode from the opening kickoff. If Stanford can find a way to strike early and make Oregon struggle for the run, there’s certainly a possibility of preventing the patented Duck rhythm from building. Short of just taking QB Mariota out of the game, however, the Mauve will have trouble breaking up his remarkable symbiosis with receivers Hawkins, Huff, and Addison.
Lay in your vittles, sports fans. It’s going to be a bumpy night.
But there’s a big Saturday ahead too. Continuing with TOC Nation action, #14 Oklahoma State hosts Pathetic Kansas on Saturday afternoon, with a 31-point give. Take the points.
Navy hosts Hawaii, and yes, the two teams have played before, in 1999 and 2009. Hawaii won both times, but Navy’s got a better shot this year. The Hawaii tie-in will, of course, come up in game coverage, given the Hawaii-intensive c.v. of Coach Ken Niumatalolo (Indian name: Needs a Nickname). Mids give 17, which is probably a little excessive.
Army hosts Western Kentucky, which for some reason is only giving 5. Hilltopper bettors are clearly wimps. Air Force plays Friday night, meeting the Lobos in Albuquerque (and uncharacteristically a 3-point dog in the line).
Virginia Tech will be at #11 Miami (Da U) for a big ACC Coastal clash, and it looks to us like the bettors haven’t given up on the Hokies just yet. The oddsbubbas have the Hurricanes giving only 6 right now, in spite of VT’s underwhelming performances in the last couple of games. Miami didn’t look so awful darn hot losing to FSU on Saturday, and the Hokie D has shown itself capable of more than we’ve seen from it since mid-October. No question Miami has turned in the better record, however, and we’re feeling at least the 6 points, here at your Football Commentary Service. Edge: Da U. Hokies still have a shot.
Nevada will be at Colorado State on Saturday, and darned if the Rams aren’t giving 9. Well, they did beat Tulsa in the season opener. We think the Wolf Pack has a good shot at redemption in this one, however.
TCU, up in Ames to collide with Iowa State, is probably undervalued by the oddsdudes, who have the Horned Ones giving 7. We figure they’ll cover.
Illinois will be at Indiana Saturday afternoon, with the Hoosiers giving 8. The Fighting Illini woke up and showed some spark against Penn State, but although we’re not counting them out in this one, we note that Indiana racks up points, even in its losses. We’d sure like to see the Illini nail one, though.
Wyoming hosts #16 Fresno State, and frankly, we don’t know what Bulldog fans are thinking, backing a stingy 9-point give. Granted, it will be cloudy and in the 40s in Laramie, which is a good 30 degrees chillier (and about 7,000 feet higher above sea level) than the Bulldogs are used to at home. Good luck to the Cowboys, at any rate.
Around the Top 10, Saturday will requite us with yet another humongous game, as #13 LSU hits Tuscaloosa to take on the #1 Tide, after a week off for both. Yes, it’s rivalry time again. (Not to mention an outside chance for LSU to do a little SEC West-busting.) With Mettenberger and McCarron on the field, and their offensive weapons, the game promises more offense-candy entertainment than that unspeakable 9-6 defense-fest of a couple of years back. Tide give 12 as of this writing, but be alert for the failure to cover.
#2 Florida State gives 35 in an outing at Wake Forest. #4 Ohio State has the week off, as does #7 Clemson, whose Tigers we still eye with suspicion in a Top 10 perch. (Just so you know we’re fair-minded, here at your Football Commentary Service, we eye the Sooners at #10 the same way.)
#8 Missouri heads to Kentucky to give 13 to the Wildcats. #9 Auburn, which has been doing a little SEC West-busting itself to date (losing to LSU in September, but beating A&M on 19 October), will be at Tennessee on Saturday. Tigers give 7, a tad parsimonious in our book. Iron Bowl still to come on the 30th.
In other notables, Minnesota and Penn State meet to battle for the Governor’s Victory Bell, probably the least interesting of the rivalry trophies the Golden Gophers play for. The Nittaly Lions have custody of the bell right now. Goldie gives 1 for Saturday.
Arkansas will be at Ole Miss for their longstanding rivalry game. Rebels give 17.
Virginia will be at North Carolina for the always overhyped South’s Oldest Rivalry (not to be confused with the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry between Auburn and Georgia. What they lack in nutty trophies in the South, they more than make up for in silly names). Tar Heels understandably give 13. We believe the winner’s party favor from this match is a glossy game program, which you’d otherwise have to pay $7 for at the gate.
In Unprecedented Meetings action, Boston College, for some reason, will be at New Mexico State on Saturday, giving 24 to the Aggies in between bouts of sightseeing and cultural study around Las Cruces.
In FCS ball, the McNeese State squad Cowboys up after last week’s drubbing and heads for Nacogdoches to take on cellar-dwelling 3-6 Stephen F. Austin, whose doughty Lumberjacks did manage to score on Texas Tech in a 61-13 loss in Lubbock back in September. McNeese State has dropped to #11 in the FCS Top 25, still pretty respectable after the 41-7 loss. But Southeastern Louisiana may have the lock on the Southland Conference title now.
In Div III, Rose-Hulman rides its exciting win over Mt. St. Joe into Saturday’s match-up with winless Anderson U. (Anderson, IN). The 5-3 Engineers are actually second in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings (behind Franklin), with an excellent chance to punch another win ticket. A stellar 50-ish and partly cloudy for kickoff.
Christopher Newport has homecoming on Saturday, hosting the Averett U. (Danville, VA) Cougars in Pomoco Stadium. Averett comes in 1-7 and sweeping up the rear in the USA South standings. CNU is 6-2, but unlikely at this point to surge past Methodist, Huntingdon, or Maryville (TN). Clear and 50-ish for the 7 PM kickoff in Newport News.
Catching up with our MIT Engineers, we note a gratifying 52-21 victory at home over conference-leading Endicott College on 2 November. MIT will host Maine Maritime in Cambridge on Saturday. The Mariners come in 1-6 after a loss to Salve Regina. We regret to report that Maine Maritime has been sanctioned by the NCAA for self-reported violations of NCAA rules related to scholarships for student athletes (in Div III, that’s not the same thing as “athletic scholarships”). The total amount involved was $6,150 between 2007 and 2012, which for a Top 25 FBS school is, like, the recruiting team’s restaurant-tip money for one weekend.
MIT, at 4-3, remains mid-pack in the New England Football Conference, behind Endicott, Salve Regina, and Coast Guard. Partly cloudy and 40s in Steinbrenner ’27 Stadium for the kickoff.
Deer Creek is revving up for the final regular-season game Friday evening versus Bishop McGuinness, always a tough district match in 5A2. Both teams are 4-2 district, but the Antlers are 6-3 overall to the Villains’ 5-4. Deer Creek needs this one to stay in good shape for the playoffs, with Guthrie and Carl Albert both lurking a notch up in the district standings. Antlers host.
Putnam City (The Original) plays at 9-0 Jenks (6A ball’s standings-topper) Friday evening, looking likely to drop to 2-8 for the season. PC North, 4-5, rounds out 2013 at 5-4 Yukon tonight, with a reasonable shot at posting 5-5 on the season.
A mild upper-50s to low-60s for high school ball, in the stadiums of central Oklahoma the next two nights.