The NCAA season is starting to near the end of the tunnel. But there’s still a lot of football to be played. So let’s dive right in.
Tulsa hits the turf tomorrow evening in Ruston (LA) to take on C-USA foe Louisiana Tech (motto: “Finally in a conference that makes sense!”). The 4-6 Bulldogs got whomped by Rice last week, but could still pull off a bowl-eligible season (if not actually bag a bowl bid). So they’ll be playing as tough as they can on their home field. Tulsa, at 2-8, is pretty much a lost cause this year. We Tulsa fans haven’t been used to losing in recent years (having, among other things, beaten Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010), and we don’t take it well. Whine, whine, grouse, grouse.
We do note that Trey Watts (J.C.’s son), high-performing Tulsa running back, has over 1,000 yards for a second season in a row, and is a semi-finalist for the 2013 Burlsworth Trophy, which goes to “college football’s most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on.” Good going, Trey! Watts will be on the field Saturday evening to help the Golden Hurricane make it respectable. TU gives 3, but that sounds awfully optimistic in November 2013.
#20 Oklahoma will be in Manhattan to take on Kansas State, a meeting fraught with peril for the Sooners, who suffer at random from Sudden Worthlessness Syndrome. It’s more than the 2013 problems of settling on a quarterback and keeping the defense healthy. It’s an institutional thing: a paralyzing lackadaisicalness that sets in whenever OU has achieved something mildly positive like one lousy freaking offensive touchdown. At any rate, we understand Blake Bell is out with his concussion, and Trevor Knight will start behind center for the Sooners tomorrow. The jumpy offensive line will have its work cut out for it. The Wildcats actually give 4 in the line, but we don’t advise taking any points. Sooners could always win this one, if they play like it matters to them. Weather starting to be a factor in much of the country: high around 30 and partly cloudy in Manhattan for the 11:00 AM CST kickoff.
Humongous game for the Big 12 in Stillwater on Saturday, vying for Game of the Week. The #4 Baylor Bears will lumber in to face off with #10 Oklahoma State. Baylor and OSU are 1 and 2 in the Big 12, respectively, and of course, the Cowboys have the opportunity not only to nab the pole slot themselves, but to knock Baylor out of the national-title conversation. Baylor gives 9, but no one, least of all your TOC Football Commentary Service, is counting the Okie Pokes out. We don’t know yet if Baylor backs Seastrunk and Martin will get to play; we do know QB Bryce Petty won’t have O-line stalwart Spencer Drango, or reliable receiver Tevin Reese, to count on. 30s and windy for the prime-time 7:00 PM CST slot in Boone Pickens Stadium.
Navy will shortly enliven our Friday in a bout with San Jose State, where it promises to be dry and in the 40s this evening. Navy rolls in 6-4, eligible, 1st in the Independents standings, and bound to get a Booger Bowl anyway, since neither Army nor Air Force is a bowl-slot rival this year. Spartans, giving 2, are 5-5 and 3rd in Mountain West, coming off their loss last week to Nevada.
Air Force dropped hard to louse-ridden UNLV, 41-21, in a chilly Colorado Springs last night. Army is off until the meet with Hawaii on the 30th.
The annoying Hokies of Virginia Tech have the week off to contemplate the novel value of having an “offense,” before next week’s annual rivalry bout with the Yahoos of Virginia. (The Yahoos will be down in Miami this weekend, on the short end of 20.) Creepy Duke, perched atop the ACC Coastal, can actually hurt itself with a loss to Wake Forest, as long as Georgia Tech, in 2nd, beats FCS’s Alabama A&M (Yellow Jacket give: 51). Typically for the Coastal Division, it may all come down to the final week, when Duke plays North Carolina and Georgia Tech meets Georgia for Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
Nevada has the week off, and will be preparing for the season-ender against BYU next week.
TCU is 4-7 and out of bowl contention. The Horned Frogs have the week off to prepare for their clash with Baylor on the 30th.
Illinois will be at Purdue to play for the Cannon, which is the kind of trophy we always give a big thumbs-up to. Purdue has custody of the Cannon, and gives 7 for tomorrow’s game, although both teams are 0-6 conference, and the Illini have the edge – 3-7 – in overall record (Purdue is 1-9). We think Illinois can take ‘em.
Finally! It’s time for the Paniolo Trophy, a rivalry prize we’ve been waiting for all season. A diabolical Wyoming has arranged to host this year’s match with Hawaii, and the gloomy, 20-ish conditions for the afternoon game won’t disappoint Poke fans. The two teams haven’t played for the Paniolo (“Cowboy”) trophy since 1997, just before the sideways slide/break-up of the WAC. It turns out, in fact, that Wyoming, which last won the trophy, lost, er, accountability on it, sometime between 1997 and now, which frankly sounds like a personal problem to us. In any case, Hawaii’s entry into the Mountain West has resurrected the rivalry opportunity for the two teams, and an inspired group of Hawaii fans came up with a lovely new Paniolo Trophy and presented it to UW in preparation for tomorrow’s game. Pokes give 6, and we just wish this one were going to be broadcast somewhere.
Cruising the Top 10, we note, in the Ho-Hum column, #1 Alabama hosting the (FCS) Chattanooga Mocs and giving 48. #2 Florida State hosts Idaho for an inaugural bout between the two teams. ‘Noles give 57. Ohio State, #3, will meet Indiana at home, with the oddsdudes assigning the Buckeyes a 35-point give. #5 Oregon heads to Tucson to take on Arizona, giving about 19 at last check.
#6 Auburn has the week off to prepare to host Alabama for the Iron Bowl next weekend. #7 Clemson will host the Citadel (FCS) and give a parsimonious 40. #8 Missouri will be at finally-ranked #24 Ole Miss for a very interesting Saturday night face-off. We frankly think the Tigers are a tad overranked, and it seems the oddsquad agrees with us: they’ve got Mizzou giving only 2 in the line. The Rebels can certainly beat them. Should be a good one.
#9 Stanford hosts Cal in the annual dogfight for the Stanford Axe, a rivalry trophy that wouldn’t be that dumb, in the grand scheme of things, except that it’s just an axe blade, with part of a broken handle shaft, mounted on a wooden plaque. LAME. You couldn’t really hurt anybody with it. Well, I guess you could clonk someone in the head with the wooden plaque. Apparently, Cal stole the axe early on (in the 1890s) and broke the handle, and somebody dressed as a girl to sneak it away, and there were all kinds of other undergrad shenanigans going on. At some point, a party-pooper stepped in and mounted the remainder of the axe to a wooden plaque.
Anyway, the Smoky Cerise has custody of the plaque, and with a 31-point advantage isn’t likely to lose it tomorrow.
In the best of the rest, #19 Wisconsin will be at #25 (LOL) Minnesota to duke it out for a real axe: one of our all-time favorite garage-sale trophies, Paul Bunyan’s Axe. We’re pulling for Goldie in this one, but we fully expect the Badgers, giving 17, to retain custody of the axe and expel the Golden Gophers from the top 25, with a forthwith on top just for good measure.
We of course can’t neglect to mention a game that ought to be a pretty darn good one (and which, believe it or not, is an accredited rivalry match going back to 1899): #12 Texas A&M at #22 LSU. Alabama and Auburn will settle the fate of the SEC West at this point, but the Aggies and Tigers are still in the hunt for good bowl slots, and they both play top-tier ball. The line has LSU giving 5.
Speaking of the SEC, if the West’s Ole Miss can knock off Mizzou, #11 South Carolina (motto: The Other USC), which is bound to crow last over the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (FCS, Big South) tomorrow, will be sitting pretty in the East. The Gamecocks, you’ll remember, edged Mizzou out in that 27-24 OT nail-biter back in October. The season may still hold a few surprises for us.
In FCS, McNeese State heads to Beaumont, TX for a confrontation with Southland Conference rival Lamar University. McNeese State, 9-2, can’t be dislodged at this point from the 2nd-place spot in Southland, but obviously would like to post another resounding win and keep or better the Cowboys’ #6 FCS ranking, with the playoff selections on Sunday for the non-automatic qualifiers. Lamar, we note, comes in 5-6 after edging Stephen F. Austin in an offensive shootout last week. Uncharacteristically chilly for south Texas tomorrow evening: 50-ish, dropping into the 40s, with rain, for the 6:00 Central kickoff. Moon waning gibbous.
Div III has wrapped up the regular season, and none of our TOC homeys will be advancing to the Div III playoffs. MIT’s New England Football Conference doesn’t get a Div III berth. Conference-wise, Heartland Collegiate’s Franklin will be at Washington U.-St. Louis tomorrow, at noon Central, for a first-round face-off. USA South champ Maryville (TN) will host Hampden-Sydney for their first-round match.
The Div II playoffs start tomorrow as well, of course, although we don’t have any direct TOC Nation connections in that regard. Best of luck to all the contestants.