Our ranks have thinned considerably, as coaches get thrown in dumpsters right and left and others ride by on bicycles and broomsticks. Naming no names, because we’re not that kind of Football Commentary Service. But we’re just saying.
We did take note earlier today of some fun being made of incoming head coach Brian Kelly’s inaugural address to the troops at LSU. Something about the accent. We didn’t really catch the whole thing. (We think Clay Travis was offering it as listening fare, but we can’t swear to that either, so it’s a good thing we’re not giving a deposition to the FBI.)
The Inner Circle has one competitor this year for a conference championship. We blame it on climate change. Which is a reminder that people really haven’t thought through all the ways climate change can affect us. But if you never thought you’d see Michigan at #2 again – climate change. It’s coming for us all.
We do anticipate bowl action for most of our Inner Circle. To TCU, we’ll bid a fond farewell for the season.
As a general note, we point out that (a) yet a 42nd bowl game has just been added to the slate in the last 24 hours (referred to by the cognomen “As Yet Unnamed Bowl in Texas”); and (b) there’s now a Fenway Bowl (!) (!!), which we’re over the moon about. More on the Fenway Bowl as its appointed week crests the horizon.
The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, finished the season 6-6 with the rivalry win over SMU. All we have at hand this week – with the exception of Toledo (see below) – is bowl predictions, but we’ll go with those and report that Tulsa is predicted to meet our very own Wyoming in the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl in Orlando. More on each bowl as the weeks heave into view.
New #14 Oklahoma finishes the season 10-2 after the loss in Bedlam, and for the first time in who knows how long (yes, we know you know) is not in the championship game. Blah blah blah blah blah blah Lincoln Riley blah blah blah blah blah. The Premier Booger Bowl predicted for the Sooners is a match with #17 Utah in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. We assume OU will get creamed, or at least smacked in the head with a trick play in the final minute, as Utah, at least, will bother to prepare for its big chance.
As every schoolboy knows, Head Coach Emeritus Bob Stoops will be back to take the Sooners down I-35 for this one. There’ve been Brent Venables sightings in Norman to fan the flames of rumor about his front-runnership for the job in 2022.
New #5 Oklahoma State also finishes 10-2, and apparently is being positioned above #6 Notre Dame for a Final Four slot in case of an outbreak of chaos in the current top 4. The Cowboys’ next stop is the Big 12 title match with #9 Baylor on Saturday morning in Arlington. Pokes give 6. Speaking of 6, they’d better watch theirs. Baylor is as good or better.
Navy is 3-8, having trounced Temple last week, and continues the countdown to The Game with Army on 11 December.
Army is 8-3 after prevailing over Liberty, and is also preparing for The Game. As things look now, it appears Army will appear in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth opposite Marshall.
Air Force is 9-3 and second in the MWC-Mountain after a rousing cruise over pus-encrusted UNLV, and is predicted to meet SMU in the Tropical Smoothie Café Frisco Bowl at Toyota Stadium – home of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas – in Frisco, Texas.
Virginia Tech finished 6-6 after a most satisfying rivalry win over Virginia, and we are truly thrilled to report that the bowl prediction for the Hokies is an appearance in one of our very favorite bowls, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium. We knew one of our number would someday make it to the Pinstripe Bowl, and we couldn’t be prouder. The anticipated opponent is Penn State, which is also a most gratifying circumstance. (It’s a noteworthy circumstance for multiple reasons, of course, as VT just hired Penn State DC Brent Pry to replace Justin Fuente as the Hokies HC. Coaches rising upward in the weird wind with umbrellas; I’m telling you.)
Nevada is 8-4 off the very decisive win over Colorado State, and finishes third in the MWC West. The Wolf Pack appears to be headed for the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl in Dallas, facing Liberty’s Flames. The First Responder Bowl was cancelled shortly before kickoff last year due to a combination of COVID and weather, but we’re hopeful that it will go on as scheduled on 28 December.
LSU, 6-6 and in the bowl biz after a trying season, is being projected to meet Kansas State – late denizen of the Inner Circle – in the Mercari Texas Bowl at NRG in Houston. That ought to be right up LSU’s alley, the legion of legendary fans being able to navigate to Houston in their sleep (or other conditions of impaired consciousness). This one is after the New Year’s Day festivities, on 4 January 2022. We’re seeing that new HC Brian Kelly, struggling to lose his Irish accent, will coach the Tigers for the bowl, but we await further advisement on that. The time factor is at least propitious, with right around a month to go.
TCU finished the season 5-7 with the loss to Iowa State, and retires honorably to wave soggy hankies at departing head coach Gary Patterson. Patterson is reportedly talking to Texas about a staff position with Sarkisian. Meanwhile, TCU has hired SMU’s head coach, Sonny Dykes, to replace Patterson for the 2022 season. Dykes, an offense guy with a promising but mostly abbreviated record at a series of schools, is the son of the legendary Spike Dykes, long-time head coach at Texas Tech in the 1980s and 1990s. We know the Frogs will be back in fighting mode soon.
Toledo wound up 7-5 with the slaughter of Akron, and is already locked in, as noted in last week’s comments, for the Bahamas Bowl. Sadly, the Makers Wanted consortium of Elk Grove, Illinois dropped sponsorship of the bowl after last season. So it’s now just the Bahamas Bowl. But it’s in the Bahamas, so how bad can it be, right? Toledo is a veteran contestant in the Bahamas Bowl, at any rate. The Rockets’ opponent is also confirmed: the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee. Toledo and MTSU will kick off the bowl season at noon on Friday, 17 December.
Wyoming finished off with a loss to go 6-6 on the season. As noted above, it’s looking like a Tulsa-Wyoming match in the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl, which is also on 17 December but starts at Camping World in Orlando at 6 PM.
Other title matches in the Week of Champions
Kicking off very shortly here on Friday evening, the Conference-USA title game features New Blood Western Kentucky and UT-San Antonio duking it out at the Alamodome, with the Hilltoppers giving 3. (UTSA is up 28-13 in the 3Q as this goes to post.)
An hour later, #10 Oregon and #17 Utah meet for the PAC-12 championship at Allegiant in Las Vegas. The Youths are favored by 2.5. (Savvy PAC-12 bettors know the Ducks never start playing in earnest until midway through the third quarter. You can’t usually get away with that when playing Utah. Update: Hah! Sure enough, the Youths are 14-0 in the 2Q. O-Ducks never fail. Ergo, fat lady ain’t sung yet. But clearly Old Yellow hasn’t had their java jolt.)
Kent State and Northern Illinois will kick off the MAC title game Saturday morning at Ford Field in Detroit, the Golden Flashes (7-5) uncharacteristically giving 3.5 to the 8-4 Huskies.
At noon Pacific time, Utah State meets #19 San Diego State in one of the million LA suburbs no one outside of SoCal has ever heard of: Carson, California (off the 405 west of Compton). The Mountain West title game will be played at Dignity Health Sports Park, which serves as the ballfield for Cal State-Dominguez Hills. Oh, and it also houses the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer. 🙂 Maybe that will help with any orientation challenges. The facility is served by a Benihana; the Aztecs are favored by 6.
Next up, the Sun Belt title game will kick off in Lafayette, LA’s Cajun Field, featuring Appalachian State at #24 U-LA-LA. The 10-2 Mountaineers give 3 to the 11-1 Ragin’ Cajuns.
Finally, we get to #1 Georgia in the SEC championship game with #3 Alabama, very likely the game of the week. The Tide could cause a multi-car pile-up in hail and sleet with a win over the ‘Dogs. They’ll play at Mercedes-Benz in Atlanta, with Georgia giving 6.5.
#4 Cincinnati gets its best shot versus #21 Houston in the American title match at the Bearcats’ Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. That game kicks off at the same time as the SEC face-off (both starting at 4 PM Eastern/3 PM Central). The Cougars can’t be counted out, but Cincinnati is favored by 10.5 and certainly likely to blast through this one.
At 7 PM Central, in Lucas Oil in Indianapolis, #2 Michigan and #13 Iowa will clash in the Big 10 championship. As with the SEC game, a tremendous amount for the CFBP+ is riding on the match. Iowa has been looking vulnerable in recent outings; the Wolverines are favored by 11 in the line.
Bringing up the rear in the title-game schedule, #15 Pitt and #16 Wake Forest meet at Bank of America in Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday night for the ACC match. One thing we can say: few prognosticators expected this pair of contestants at the beginning of the season. The Panthers give 3.5.
Best of the rest
Yes, there’s rest. USC and Cal have the little matter of their postponed game from 13 November, a COVID casualty. You’d think it would be a Storied Rivalry, but it has never become one. They’ll be in Berkeley Saturday night with Cal giving 4.5. Who knows; Blah Blah Lincoln Riley may be there with the Trojan Athletic Department retinue, to see and be seen in stray camera coverage. Fox Sports 1 or tickets starting at $22.
We’ve farewelled all our hard-working Inner Circle teams for the season, but will pause to note the tournament schedules for the other divisions.
In FCS, you’ll be shocked – shocked – to learn that Sam Houston and North Dakota State will be bucking on Saturday for slots in the quarter finals on 11 December. Imagine that. Montana, James Madison, and Sacramento State are naturally still in it; Villanova is playing Holy Cross as I type in a Friday-night round 2 match.
(Sam Houston, incidentally, is a Southland Conference running mate of McNeese State and seeded #1 in the FCS tournament. In fact, SHSU’s opponent on Saturday is Incarnate Word, also a Southland team, and making its second appearance in the FCS playoffs. Sam Houston will fleet up to join Conference USA in 2023.)
The FCS semis will be on 18 December, and the championship game will be held on 8 January 2022 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco.
In Div II, Saturday sees the quarter finals, and we note that PSAC’s Kutztown will be meeting Shepherd for one of the matches. Also still in it, and familiar to our correspondents: MIAA’s Northwest Missouri State, and the sinister Colorado School of Mines. The semi-finals are 11 December, and the Div II title game will be held 18 December at last year’s venue, the McKinney (TX) Independent School District’s splendid McKinney Stadium, which is a much better facility than most Div II college programs have.
In Div III, this is the year, as explained a while back (before all of us slept so many times), that the championship game moves to Canton, Ohio, where it will be played 17 December in Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
In the interim, the quarter finals are tonight and Saturday, and the semis on the 11th. Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater are naturally still in it, as is Mary Hardin-Baylor, in which we have a benign extracurricular interest as its games are highly accessible to family members stationed at Fort Hood in Texas.
Wishing the best to all the contestants.
Feature image: Tulsa RB #8 Deneric Prince breaks the plane for TU’s second TD in a 34-31, come-from-behind win over SMU on 27 Nov 2021. AmericanAthleticConf (ESPN), YouTube