Preseason games have concluded; the long Labor Day of football has passed; and we now enter the grind of the season — the week-in and week-out war of attrition that will determine who hoists the
incredibly ugly prestigious 2022 College Football Playoff Trophy. If the calibre of play last week was any indication, even this mortal version of the 2021 Crimson Tide seems very well positioned to get to the dance again.
But first things first: opening the Alabama home slate with a beatdown of Mercer. The coin toss may actually be a helluva’ lot more competitive than the game itself. So you can be forgiven for throwing on Eli in the background while you watch better stuff and tend to your errands. And there are better games to be had today.
No. 13 Oregon (+14.5) at No. 3 Ohio State (11:00 Fox) — The morning gets us off to a strong start with this week’s most important contest (allegedly), and perhaps even a CFP elimination match, as the Oregon Ducks travel to the ‘Shoe. Little did we know that last week’s bad showing by the Oregon secondary (and a somewhat iffy outing by OSU in the Twin Cities) would loom large against a new-look OSU passing attack. That will in fact be the matchup to watch CJ Stroud vs. Oregon’s DBs; so too will OSU’s tackling on the outside be one to watch. The Buckeyes defense will be put in a lot of one-on-one situations. Can Oregon actually cover OSU’s WRs, for my money the best 1-2 starting punch in CFB? Both teams will try to pound it, but this game is going to be won in the air. (This was also one of our games to avoid for you degenerate wagerers out there.)
No. 10 Iowa (+4.5) at No. 9 Iowa State (3:30 ABC) — The biggest game in series history and the first time both have been ranked in the Top 10. Ever. OSU-Oregon gets the love, but this is my personal game of the week. It’s always close, always chippy, usually defensive, and always a good contest. This time it’s also an elimination match for a playoff spot. This will be an outstanding way to spend your late afternoon.
Owing to a woman that I loved very much, I will be pulling for the Cyclones in Ames. But my head and wallet tell me that Iowa is every bit as good as, and probably more physical than, their hosts. I think the wrong team is favored, TBH.
Liberty (-4) at Troy (ESPN+) — It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Flames, coming of a one-loss, Top 15 season are being overlooked again. This team is even deeper than it was last year; the coaching staff is still intact; and it returns 20 starters. Barring a complete collapse, by season’s end it could be a viable Top 10 squad. No joke (in fact, I have them ranked 11th in the Blog Poll for a reason).
Nor is it an exaggeration to say that the Troy Trojans are one of the most talented, toughest outs in the G5 when playing at home. It’s hard to drive down I65-S into those pine forests and then emerge with a W. Not many teams do it. This game could be one of the most important in Group of 5 this year. Depending on how the season shakes out, it could even have dark horse playoff implications as well. And, for just casual fans of the sport, it will be one helluva’ contest. Trust me.
Once again, I am grateful that Greg Sankey keeps Hugh Freeze out of the SEC. The Mad Scientist is a true pain below the belt.
No. 15 Texas (-6) at Arkansas (6:00 ESPN) — Fans of these two long-time SWC rivals still don’t like one another, and it’s been 30 years. Coach Sark is trying to reestablish the Longhorn fence around Texas recruiting, the location where the Hogs have always had to go for talent. So for Arkie, this one is both a test of how far they’ve come, as well as playing for the future in all kinds of ways: It’ll be an SEC game in a year or two (vomit.) Sarkisian’s teams weren’t terribly inconsistent at UW and USC, but neither were they particularly consistent either. After smacking around No. 18 ULL with raw talent, can the retooled ‘Horns waltz into Razorback Stadium and do the same against an SEC team (marginal as it is?) How far have the Piggies come in 2 years? We learn a lot today.
Appalachian State (+10) at No. 22 Miami (6:00 ESPNU) — Did Miami at any point in time resemble a Top 25 team last week? Not to my eyes, they didn’t. Here’s a chance to prove it: one of the best teams in the Sun Belt, a defense that will get after it, and a rushing attack that will pound the ball until Ghost of Bear Bryant wants to see a forward pass. This is a chance for App. State to make a huge statement win for the SBC. Well...make another one. Ask Iowa State and Kansas State what happens when you don’t take the upper echelon of the Fun Belt seriously. I’m conflicted. I want to see Manny Diaz lose because I want to get back into the South Beach crootin’ market, but at the same time SOS matters, y’all. And the rest of Alabama’s non-con slate is reconstituted, dehydrated buttcrack. Not even a goat would eat it.
Arkansas State (+5) vs. Memphis (6:00 ESPN+) — Shame this one isn’t on a larger network. It’s always a fun rivalry game between the two schools just 60 miles apart. For ‘Bama fans there is perhaps a rooting interest too. Former Analyst (and I guess Cincinnati and UT coach) Butch Jones was named the Red Wolves coach this offseason. Coming off a tough game against an FCS Final Four team, they now host their archrivals from afar. Memphis also comes off a tough tussle with an FCS playoff team, but they’re on the road. And as with most things Memphis, the Tigers don’t travel well outside the 901.
SMU (-23 o/u 72.5) vs. North Texas (6:00 ESPN+) — The two fastest teams in college football (seriously, look it up), and just about 45 miles or so from one another from Dallas to Denton. Neither gives too much of a toss about defense, viewing that side of the ball as a wasted opportunity that could be better spent scoring points. SMU has far more talent, but the Mean Green are fun in their own right for a CUSA squad. Ever wanted to see the hurry-up option ran for 7 plays followed by a kill shot to end zone...all in the span of about 72 seconds? Want to see another team that will never run the ball? Then this Texas shootout is just your kind of nuttiness.
Be Ready To Grab the Remote
UAB (-22.5) at No. 2 UGA (ESPN2 2:30) — Is JT Daniels healthy? How will Kirby respond after last week’s big win over a meh-ish Clemson team? Did Georgia shoot their wad, or is there still life in that Bulldog red rocket? UAB has an outstanding defense (for CUSA), and if this comes down to a battle of wits, Bill Clark is an infinitely better sideline man. Can even a flat UGA team just out-talent the Blazers? You get the feeling this one may be close for the first half. But if it goes into second half still competitive, grab the remote. You never know when Kirby is going to go full DWAG. He has this habit of dropping games to bad teams.
Virginia Tech (-20) vs. Middle Tennessee (1:00 ACCN) — For the same reasons as above: an inconsistent team coming off a big win, hosting a veteran coach: except this time it’s a deep Mighty Mitsu Blue Raiders offense that looks to give Justin Fuente the stink eye. It shouldn’t be that close. But, you never know when the Hokies are going to derp it up all over the field. Like UGA, they tend to gack away home games they ought not too...and especially early in the season.
Air Force (-7) at Navy (2:30 CBS) — I’m not going to insult your intelligence here. It’s one of the pillars of the Commander in Chief Trophy. The service academy games are almost always close, physical, and hard-fought. And this year, on the 20th anniversary of the worst attack on US soil, it will certainly carry more emotional resonance than usual.
(Feel free to skip this paragraph, if you’d like to avoid #politics: Our hearts go out to the survivors and families of those killed in those September attacks, as well as the servicemen who went to Afghanistan and did their jobs: the Taliban was deposed, Mullah Omar is dead, Osama Bin Laden is dead, Al Qaeda was all-but destroyed, the Afghan people were given back their country and 20 years of protection — what the people, administrators, and armed forces of Afghanistan chose to do with that freedom, including whether or not to continue fighting for it, is not the failure of America. And there’s not a damned thing that any one of you should be ashamed of.)
Watch Your Ass
No. 5 Texas A&M (-17) at Colorado (2:30 Fox) — Would it really surprise anyone, the way that the Aggies play early in the season and as erratic as Jimbo’s teams are, to see A&M lose to a steady Colorado team in the altitude of Boulder? Even if it’s “just” Karl Dorrell?
Toledo (+17.5) at Notre Dame — Last week the Irish gave up a ton of chunk plays through the air to a Seminoles team held together by JUCOs and duct tape. Toledo is among (if not the) best team in the MAC, and they can and have punched above their weight class before — ask Michigan. Brian Kelly always has a game or two where he screws around and almost loses at home. If it’s this one, the Irish very well could lose. Either that, or Botre Dame comes out, handles their business like an alleged Top 10 team, and pastes their neighbors to the East.
Buffalo +13 at Nebraska (2:30 BTN) — Why isn’t Nubber favored at home over a MAC team by a whole lot more? Two things. 1. Buffalo is one of the 2-3 best teams in the MAC and a really tough opponent to draw, when 2. You are Nebraska and you suck. This team is simply dreary to watch. The fall of Scott Frost has been glorious to behold. Nebraska travels to No. 5 Oklahoma next week, and fans may be looking at the Bulls as something of a trap game. But if UB wins, it won’t be a fluke. They may be undermanned, but the defense is ferocious, and the offense is among America’s best. And when you’re UNL, you literally cannot overlook any opponent, especially not a quality one.
NC State (-2) at Mississippi State (6:00 ESPN2) — Call me a hater, but I just can’t get up for watching Mike Leach football. Throwing 3-yard quick hitches 70 times a game, and wasting an OL and running backs meant for power football, is just grim.
Mizzou (+5.5) at Kentucky (6:30 SECN) — This one should be a defensive contest with passing games looking to prove something and both squads figuring to battle it out for third in the East this season. It’ll be interesting to see if UK can throw a football yet, and how far Drink’s team has come from last season. Could be elevated to Grab The Remote if it’s close down the stretch. But I doubt it will be a fun game to watch.
Pitt (-3.5) at Tennessee
Stanford (+17.5) at No. 14 USC (9:30) — It’s the late game on Fox, so I’ll watch it. But I can’t say as I’m happy about the prospect. And what lunatic decided a Clay Helton team is No. 14? Kedon Slovis is a stud though. I look forward to watching him get a few coaches and GMs fired in the NFL — that’s the true USC tradition.
Utah (-7) at BYU (ESPN 9:15) — What did I tell you last week? Eliminate the explosive play, and BYU is a very pedestrian offense. Unfortunately, their archrival has the defense to do exactly that thing. The Holy War is usually far more heated and hated than this, and the chances BYU does a lot of dirty crap are still high, but it likely won’t be engaging viewing for the non-Mormons among us.
This Week’s Unwatchable Filth
Washington (+6) at Michigan (7:00 ABC)
This would have been one helluva Rose Bowl in 1923. But it’s a century later, and instead you get Great Value Bo Schembechler and waterlogged Ray Perkins. Where to start with these two, besides the unlikable coaching, I mean?
Wasted potential? Last week, the No. 24 University of Washington Huskies lost at home to FCS Montana. Washington’s 2020 Recruiting Class was ranked 17th. Montana’s was ranked 15th...in Division 1AA.
Stupefyingly bad offenses? Last season, the Wolverines were 90th in Adjusted Offense. The Huskies were 67th. How bad? Michigan was 102nd in explosive plays. Washington was 119th. The 9 teams below them combined for 12 wins. This is where I note that the two teams start a combined six 5-star players between them on offense.
Defensive masterminds that implode against any and every scheme devised after 1986?
Self-importance? Two teams that tout their bona fides despite having won exactly one-and-a-half national titles between them in the past 61 years?
Maybe it’s the perpetual Big Ten-Pac 12 fart-sniffing that we as a nation have to endure. And, make no mistake, these are the standard-bearers of that Football Stockholm Syndrome. These two programs are the reason we have to take the Rose Bowl very seriously.
Is it any of that? Perhaps.
But maybe it’s more that this is just going to be a bad, bad game of American collegiate football between one coach in over his head, and another with his eyes on his pension.
It may be competitive; it may be close; but that doesn’t mean it will be good.
This game is Missouri - Kentucky in a higher tax bracket...except that game will actually wind up mattering at the end of the year. This one won’t.