This week merits another early edition of the Football Follies, in part because it’s Thanksgiving and we have other things to do tomorrow, but also just because the action kicks in on Thursday, starting out great and just staying that way right through Sunday. So here goes.
Tulsa and North Texas will make history on Saturday. No, not playing each other; they’ve done that plenty of times. The history-making event is North Texas being on the giving side of the oddsquad’s line. Yep, the Mean Green giveth 4 for Saturday’s game. More power to ‘em, we say. North Texas didn’t beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, and we aren’t going to let them forget that. But they are 7-2, bowl-eligible, and holding down 2nd in C-USA West. As long as Trey Watts is playing for the Golden Hurricane, we’ll call this a pick ‘em. Tulsa hosts, on what will be a coolish, 50s-and-sunny afternoon in Chapman Stadium.
Most of you know that the Bedlam match between #18 Oklahoma and #7 Oklahoma State will be played on 7 December. More on that epic rivalry next week.
Navy, meanwhile, has played all but the last game of the Midshipmen’s season. Navy and Army will meet for The Game on 14 December. But Army will be at Hawaii on Saturday to play the Black Knights’ penultimate game of 2013. The Warriors give 7; we think it’s really cute that there are folks who continue to bet on Army this year. Air Force hits the field one more time at heavily-favored Colorado State.
Saturday will see a fresh eruption of the annual rivalry between Virginia Tech and Virginia, as the two teams battle for the Commonwealth Cup (held for ages now by VT). The Hokies get the oddsquad nod by 12, but we expect the otherwise worthless 2-9 Yahoos to put in the Strangely Energetic performance they usually do in this match, and the Hokies to use at least one foot for target practice, at least a couple of times during the game.
All that said, VT, with a win, could potentially surge past Georgia Tech in the ACC Coastal standings, on the chance that GT loses to Georgia on Saturday. Things could even get interesting, with computers frying their circuitry and emitting pathetic squeaks, if division-leader Duke should lose to North Carolina. So it’s business as usual in the ACC Coastal, and VT needs to go ahead and win, as big as possible. The Hokies will at least get a better class of Booger Bowl that way. Cloudy and 40 in Charlottesville for kickoff.
Nevada (4-7) will mop up the season a 14-point dog (or, technically, wolf) to BYU, taking the field in Reno on Saturday afternoon for the honor of the Pack. BYU hasn’t had such a great season either, at 7-4, but is likely to requite Cougar bettors – and in any case would like to remain atop the Independents in the standings. A very nice upper 50s with bright autumn sun for the game.
TCU gets ready for the Horned Frogs’ game of the year on Saturday, hosting the recently sideswiped #9 Baylor Bears for their long-running rivalry (no bric-a-brac of note). This time a week ago, the Baylor give in the line would probably have been something like 25 or 30. At last check, it was 13. Does Purple have a chance? We consider it unlikely. Baylor won’t forget that Oklahoma still has an outside chance of hammering Oklahoma State. Both games matter (as does Baylor’s final game against Texas on the 7th. Yeah, the playoff-less Big 12 is just Stupidsville, schedule-wise). Should be a good one in Fort Worth, at any rate, with mild 60s and overcast at kickoff.
Proving once again that what it lacks in football galoomph these days, it more than makes up for in awesome trophies, the Big Ten features some good ones on Saturday. Our boys the Fighting Illini will take the field at home against Northwestern to play for the Land of Lincoln Trophy, which may not have the street cool of the old, non-PC Sweet Sioux Tomahawk (what could?), but which nevertheless entails the winner toting home a bronze stovepipe hat. If you can’t play for a cannon, an axe, or a spittoon, a bronze stovepipe hat is right up there. Northwestern has the hat right now. Both teams come in 4-7; Northwestern gives 3, but we’re bullish on Illinois. Cloudy and 40s for the game.
#17 LSU, meanwhile, hosts another rivalry match in Death Valley, this one against Arkansas on Friday, with the Golden Boot hanging in the balance. (Those in the know know that the Golden Boot is a mighty trophy, as trophies go: a four-foot high statue of the “boot” formed on the map by Arkansas and Louisiana. We like it.)
The Tigers give 24 to the cellar-dwelling Razorbacks, and can expect a better-quality Booger Bowl regardless of this week’s outcome. But we’re anticipating the usual speed and excitement of an SEC rivalry from this one, and of course, this is a week when Friday is nothing to sneeze at.
Wyoming will be at Utah State for their final regular-season game, and while the 5-6 Cowboys can’t catch the division-leading Aggies in the Mountain West-Mountain standings, they’re still in the hunt for bowl eligibility. Balmy 40s and overcast in Logan, UT on Saturday.
Now for the Tour de Top 10. For those who’ve been waiting all season, yes, it’s finally time for the Iron Bowl. It’s been a while since #1 Alabama and #4 Auburn were both in the Top 5 for this epic rivalry match. We assume that the sportsbabblers will not stop talking about it at any point between now and 7 PM Eastern on Saturday (and probably not even then). Visiting Alabama gives 10 to the Tigers, which is probably a pretty good prediction. We’re not convinced Auburn is All That, but Alabama isn’t exactly a scoring machine. It should be a very fine SEC-style match, in any case: fitting for the game that will decide the SEC-West.
#2 Florida State, invulnerable in the ACC Atlantic, will be in Gainesville to thrash poor old Florida, which ain’t your father’s Gator squad in this iteration of the rivalry game, that’s for sure. Seminoles give 27. Sure, why not.
#3 Ohio State heads to Ann Arbor for the annual storied-rivalry clash with Michigan – another lopsided collision this year, with the Buckeyes laying down 16 on the counter. At least they don’t come any more rivalry-ish than this one. (And who couldn’t love the football weather: 30s and overcast, but with sun peeking out late.)
#5 Missouri hosts #21 Texas A&M for a big SEC bout on Saturday night. Mizzou will nab the SEC-East with a win, but of course getting past the JohnnyAgs is no gimme. The oddsdudes have the Tigers giving 4.
An epic rivalry, and another big, freighted, standings-significant game, breaks out in Columbia, SC on Saturday evening, with #6 Clemson visiting #10 South Carolina (motto: The Other USC). The Palmetto Bowl trophy is just average, as trophies go (it’s a bronze football), but the teams can hurt each other with wins. Clemson can’t catch FSU in the ACC Atlantic, but can be knocked out of consideration for the BCS bowls with a loss on Saturday. A loss for South Carolina would mean no hope of the SEC-East, even if Mizzou should lose to A&M. We figure these two great teams will play hard just for football’s sake, so this is more can’t-miss pigskin for an already loaded Saturday.
#8 Stanford will host #25 Notre Dame in Palo Alto for the annual clash for the demurely named Legends Trophy. Hey, don’t sell yourselves short, guys. The Muted Burgundy gives 14 in this one. We’re all ROTFLOL over another of Notre Dame’s whack-a-mole appearances in the Top 25. Whatever; they’ll be gone after Saturday night.
The week’s surge starts on Thursday, however. No getting away from the excellent football this week. Texas will host Texas Tech tomorrow evening, and long-time members of the Greater Texas fraternity will continue talking about how it’s just not the same as the old Texas-Texas A&M rivalry of yore. It’s not, people. I remember that rivalry. We were A&M fans, on my grandparents’ side, and I recall some early years when life or death was decided by the outcome of the Texas-vs-A&M game. Texas-TT may be an accredited rivalry, with the Chancellor’s Spurs on the line, but as a Thanksgiving tradition, it isn’t growing on me yet. It should, however, be a pretty good game.
Thursday also gives us the Egg Bowl, featuring the bout between Ole Miss and Mississippi State for the Golden Egg Trophy. Hey, any excuse to chow down on pumpkin pie.
For the pick of Friday, we feel duty-bound to add Iowa at Nebraska, an old rivalry game which is now played for the Heroes Trophy. We kind of prefer playing for kitchen appliances, but OK.
East Carolina at Marshall on Friday afternoon will determine the C-USA East champion. Of course, Friday evening sees the Oregon Civil War unfolding in Eugene, with the Ducks giving 21 to the Beavers. Earlier in the day, a few hardy souls will tune in to see Washington and Washington State duke it out for the Apple Cup.
Of interest mainly to central Floridians, the South Florida Bulls of Tampa will head over to Orlando on Friday to take on the Golden Knights of Central Florida. They’re both in the oozing American Conference, which is taking over the Minors in FBS ball by osmosis, and we sense a longstanding rivalry in the making here. USF is awful this year, and the UCF club is 9-1 and #19, so we have no doubt who’s going to win. (But we’re pulling for the Bulls.)
On Saturday, Duke and North Carolina play for their Victory Bell, with ACC implications as outlined earlier. Kansas State will be at Pathetic Kansas for their rivalry, which is sporting of the Wildcats, considering they could probably just mail this performance in. Colorado (motto: “We take a pounding!”) will be at Utah for the Rumble in the Rockies.
Georgia will be at Georgia Tech for Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate, again with implications for the ACC. Purdue will be at Indiana for one of our all-time favorite garage-sale junk trophies, the Old Oaken Bucket. (I’m telling you, we have to keep the Big Ten around, just for the rivalry trophies.) Tennessee will be at Kentucky for their rivalry; UCLA across town at USC for theirs, and Arizona at Sudden #12 Arizona State for theirs.
In FCS ball, McNeese State has a first-round bye and will hit the field on 7 December to play the winner of Saturday’s game between Jacksonville State and Samford.
In Div III, we’re pleased to report that Heartland Collegiate’s Franklin College knocked off Washington U.-St. Louis in Round 1 of the playoffs last weekend, 17-10. Franklin takes on Wisconsin-Whitewater on Saturday.
USA South’s Maryville (TN) succumbed in a shootout last week to Hampden-Sydney, and retires honorably for the year.
In pro ball, Dallas will host Oakland on Thursday – not the more typical NFC bout for the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but at least it’s Pokes on Turkey Day. Green Bay at Detroit holds more interest for some folks, with the NFC North potentially in the balance. Pittsburgh and Baltimore, struggling for position in the AFC North, round out the Thanksgiving fare with some more play that matters.
In Sunday games, of course, Denver at Kansas City stands out as a tough and potentially great AFC West confrontation.
Play ball! – and enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday across the fruited plain.