It’s not a great weekend for college ball on TV – most of the games feature big-names giving a big check to mysterious schools you couldn’t find on a map with a global positioning system and a bird dog. The big boys are favored by lines that look like how much weight I need to lose before I’d fit into the jeans I wore in college. That would be “a lot.”
There’s always the chance of a world-shocker, but the sad truth is, when it comes to football, the race is to the swift and the battle to the strong. The only real question is, can the swift and strong cover 36.5 points?
But here are a few games that have a fighting chance to be somewhat competitive and provide insights into what the future holds for the great game.
They’re listed by broadcast times.
No. 18 Mississippi State (-9.5) at Kansas State; Noon, ESPN
This is the early test of whether Mississippi State is ready for relevance or pulls a Mississippi State. If you don’t know what that means, stop reading now.
The Bulldogs have a boy-dog quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald, and now-Florida coach Dan Mullen left the cupboard pretty full for new coach Joe Moorhead, who has a distinguished silver beard and looks more like the dean of the Mississippi State history department than the head football coach. He talks like a history prof too. There’s a measured calmness about him, even when he’s issuing polysyllabic insults to the media.
If he ever lashed out at an ESPN sideline reporter in the post-game walkup interview, it would take two dictionaries and a thesaurus before anybody realized it.
But he’s going up against the king of measured calmness, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, who just signed a five-year contract extension at the age of 78. Most people of my generation will still be working at that age, but only so they won’t have to live under bridges and catch fish for food. I digress.
Snyder’s teams are always well disciplined, play with control and efficiency, and lose to visiting SEC teams but cover the line. I think that’s probably what we’re looking at here.
Arkansas State at No. 1 Alabama (-36.5); 3:30 p.m. ESPN2
The only reason I even mentioned this game is because Arkansas State gave up about 250 yards per game passing last year and 133 rushing, which could allow Tua Tagovioloa to pad his Heisman reel. You can watch Bryce Love, another Heisman hopeful, at 8:30 p.m. on FOX.
No. 3 Georgia (-9.5) at No. 24 South Carolina, 3:30 p.m. CBS
The fake news enemies of the people have been flooding the internet and airways with screeds about South Carolina being ready to rise from ignominy and once again take its place at the front rung of the college football elite. Yeah, I’ve heard that song on vinyl before.
Georgia’s got a great OL, Jake Fromm is a great quarterback, and D’andre Swift has the best name for a running back ever and is about that good at toting the tater.
The defense is young, but Kirby Smart is the head coach and defense is his jam.
I’ll take Georgia to cover, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they run away with it. But I’d be happy if South Carolina lost pretty or even won. I have no idea why.
See what this game does to you?
No. 2 Clemson (-12.5) at Texas A&M, 7 p.m., ESPN
Here’s a chance to see the apparent ACC Champion against a somewhat good team with a good new coach making $75 million over the next 10 years.
There’s no doubt Jimbo Fisher is happy to be in College Station rather than Tallahassee after watching Florida State lay a carton of jumbo eggs last week. He may not be so happy shortly after kickoff.
One day, he may turn the Aggies into holy terrors, but now? Nah.
Give the points and pray.
No. 17 USC at No. 10 Stanford (-3.5), 7:30 p.m. on FOX
As mentioned above, running beast Bryce Love is a legit Heisman candidate and this will be our first opportunity to see what the lad’s got in his senior season. USC is a really good team by Pac-12 standards that nevertheless gave up 308 rushing yards last week to Nevada Las Vegas, which hasn’t been much good since Colin Kaepernick graduated.
Whatever happened to him? I haven’t heard a peep out of old Kap lately. Har har.
Stanford has revenge working in its favor after getting beat twice by the Trojans last year, in the regular season and league championship game.
USC’s freshman quarterback JT Daniels who may be the real deal, but he is 18 years old playing in Stanford Stadium in front of maniacal – and very smart – fans, and JT never saw anything like that last year playing for Mater Dei High School. We have some mighty fine maters here in the South, but we never named a high school for them. No wonder California’s salsa is so awesome.
Stanford appears to have everything going for them in this game. That’s what scares me. JT Mater will have to handle the pressure if USC’s going to win.
No. 15 Michigan State (-6.5) at Arizona State, 10:45 p.m., ESPN
Michigan State had to come from behind to clip Utah State 38-31 last week. It was Utah State’s ninth straight loss in a one-possession game, and generally speaking, this is not a real good team.
Sparty is traveling from the fresh September weather of East Lansing, Michigan to play in a freakin’ desert where triple-digit temps are a regular thing. The forecast for game day predicts a 107-degree high, but the game is played at night, so it could be only about mid-80s with low humidity at kickoff, and it was 89 in East Lansing earlier this week. But who are we fooling here? It’s a freakin’ desert, with cactuses and scorpions and shit.
Arizona State lost six games last year, including a head-handing whipping by N.C. State in the Sun Bowl. ASU is not a great team, but unless Mark Dantonio has masterfully adjusted the flakiness that manifested last week, the quality of the opponent doesn’t seem to matter.
I’ll be straight with you, I don’t know how to bet this game. You could tease Michigan State down to 3.5 and Clemson down to 9.5 and get $100 if you bet $110 – you could really lose your ass. They don’t call them teasers for nothing.
Fun fact: Over the past 30 years, the Vegas bookies have not had a single losing week. Advice: Save up and buy a casino.