Thursday, October 15, 2015

As Usual, OU-Texas Defies Logic

Some things are universally acknowledged to be the midway points of things. The Fourth of July, for example, is generally recognized as the unofficial midpoint of summer.

And the Oklahoma–Texas game generally signifies the midpoint of the college football season.

I've experienced that rivalry several different ways. I grew up in Arkansas, and the OU–Texas game was always interesting for us because Arkansas almost always played Texas the week after the OU game. Razorback fans took the annually televised clashes as opportunities to scout the Texas team and form opinions about what the Razorbacks should do. (I always knew what they needed to do — score more points than Texas, but they didn't do that very much.)

I went to graduate school in Denton, Texas, and I lived near the interstate. Every year, I could see the steady stream of traffic traveling south from Oklahoma.

Then, for four years, I was on the OU journalism faculty, and I was an unofficial adviser to the newspaper staff. OU–Texas week was always entertaining around the OU newsroom.

I've been in Texas for quite awhile now, in Dallas, no less, which is, of course, where the game is played every year.

As I observed last week, I've been watching this series most of my life, and I have seen the favorite lose the game about as often as win it. I should have picked the Longhorns to win. Their coach had his back to the wall — still does, even after beating the Sooners 24–17. But I made my prediction based on logic. That was my big mistake. You can't use logic when you're dealing with the OU–Texas game.

Idle: #16 Oklahoma State, #23 California, #25 Duke

  • #18 UCLA at #15 Stanford, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Stanford is currently riding the longest winning streak in the history of this series — seven straight wins.

    UCLA hasn't beaten Stanford since 2008 and hasn't won at Stanford since 2007. And there is more history that favors Stanford: The home team usually wins in this series, although things have been closer in games at Stanford than at UCLA.

    The historical momentum seems to be with Stanford — although there are a couple of mitigating factors to keep in mind. The rankings are very close; while not scientific, that does suggest that, midway through the season, the teams are seen as being relatively even. Also, since Stanford's winning streak is already the longest in series history, that suggests that the pendulum may be about to swing back.

    I expect a good game, but I'll go with the home team, Stanford.


  • #21 Boise State at Utah State, 8 p.m. (Central) on CBS Sports Network: Boise State is 12–2 all time against Utah State, which includes a 5–1 mark in games at Utah State.

    This ought to be a better game than most people probably expect. Boise State is 5–1; Utah State is 3–2. But Boise State is on a 12–game winning streak — and frequently rolls up big scores. I pick Boise State.
  • #24 Houston at Tulane, 8 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: Houston wins about three–quarters of the time in this series, but Tulane snapped a 10–year losing streak last season with a 31–24 road win.

    Setting aside history — even recent history — 5–0 Houston seems too much for 2–3 Tulane to overcome. I will take Houston.


  • Penn State at #1 Ohio State, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: Historically, Ohio State leads its series with Penn State 17–13, and the Buckeyes are 10–7 against the Nittany Lions when the game is played in Columbus, Ohio.

    Penn State lost its opener against Temple but has reeled off five straight wins since. The problem, though, is that none of the teams, not even the one that beat Penn State, is very good. The second half of the season promises to be much more difficult for the Nittany Lions; four of their last six opponents, starting with this one, are currently ranked.

    I don't think the Lions have the horses to stay with the Buckeyes. I pick Ohio State.
  • West Virginia at #2 Baylor, 11 a.m. (Central) on Fox: These teams have only played each other three times — in the last three years since West Virginia joined the Big 12 Conference. The home team has won each game, which means Baylor won the only other game played in Waco — by the score of 73–42.

    There has been a lot of scoring in those three games. When Baylor was held to 27 points in last year's loss, that was the low–water mark for scoring in this series.

    West Virginia might be held below that this time, but I think Baylor will win by a wide margin. In the Bears' first five games, their lowest score was the 56 points they scored against SMU on Labor Day weekend.

    I pick Baylor.
  • #3 TCU at Iowa State, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: TCU is 5–1 all time against Iowa State — a basketball school that has seldom had a decent football team. In fact, Iowa State has only one bowl victory in the last decade.

    I expect TCU to win.
  • Arizona State at #4 Utah, 9 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: When the season began, Arizona State was much more highly regarded. But the Sun Devils staggered to a 2–2 start with losses to Texas A&M and Southern Cal. They followed that, however, with wins over UCLA and Colorado and currently stand 2–1 in Pac–12 play.

    The 5–0 Utes face Southern Cal next week, but they aren't slated to face a ranked team again until near the end of the season. That kind of thing can make a team complacent — and might suggest an opportunity for Arizona State on Saturday night.

    But I don't think so. I think Utah will prevail.
  • Boston College at #5 Clemson, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: Seventy–five years ago, these teams met for the first time — in the Jan. 1, 1940 Cotton Bowl. Clemson won.

    They've met 23 times since then, always on one campus or the other. No neutral sites, not even in the years when theirs was a nonconference game. At Clemson, the Tigers are 5–3–1 against the Eagles. The Tigers also have an edge, albeit smaller, at Boston College.

    But what that doesn't tell you is the Tigers have won six of the last seven contests with the Eagles.

    I'll take Clemson.
  • #11 Florida at #6 LSU, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Is 6–0 Florida for real? I guess we'll find out this week.

    The Gators won their first two SEC games — against Kentucky and Tennessee — by a total of six points. In the last couple of weeks, they have clobbered Ole Miss and Missouri. If they win this game, they will have two weeks to prepare for what will probably be their final test — against Georgia.

    It won't be easy, but Florida should not be in awe of Death Valley, as so many teams are. The Gators are 16–15 there although LSU has won the last two meetings in Baton Rouge.

    The Gators may prove to be the better team, but I am leaning heavily to LSU.
  • #7 Michigan State at #12 Michigan, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Michigan leads this series of in–state rivals, but Michigan State has held the upper hand lately, winning six of the last seven meetings.

    The Spartans have played pretty well in the Big House, too, although Michigan still wins there about two–thirds of the time.

    The 5–1 Wolverines have been impressive, especially on defense. They have shut out their last three opponents, and they have allowed fewer than 10 points in five straight games. Utah, in the season opener, is the only team so far to score more than 10 points against the Wolverines in Michigan's only loss to date.

    Michigan State, on the other hand, has been lackluster en route to its 5–0 mark, struggling to beat Purdue and Rutgers in the last couple of games.

    Based on the rankings, this qualifies as an upset special, but I don't think it will be an upset when the dust from the season settles. I pick Michigan.
  • Louisville at #8 Florida State, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: This will be the 13th time these schools have faced each other, and Florida State is 11–1 in those previous games. What is more, Florida State is 7–0 at home against Louisville.

    Louisville has a 2–3 record, but that is deceiving. Louisville came within a field goal of now–fifth–ranked Clemson and lost by a touchdown to then–sixth–ranked Auburn. At 5–0, Florida State is imposing, especially at home, where the Seminoles haven't lost since 2012.

    I expect Florida State to win there again.
  • #10 Alabama at #9 Texas A&M, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: This is probably the SEC's game of the season — so far. No doubt more intriguing matchups are still to come, but right now this must rank as the game of the season — Ole Miss' win at Alabama notwithstanding.

    This will be the third time they have played in College Station, and Alabama won both of the previous matchups — the most recent being a 49–42 shootout in 2013.

    As much as the Aggies would love to win this one at home, I'm going to pick Alabama to continue its dominance.
  • #13 Ole Miss at Memphis, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: Memphis is 5&ndashl0, only one win away from clinching a bowl bid, and I am sure the Tigers will get it, too. Just not this week.

    These teams have been practically annual foes since 1921, and Ole Miss has won more than 80% of the time. The Rebels are currently riding a six–year winning streak against Memphis that included a 24–3 triumph over last year's squad. In the last 20 years, Ole Miss has only lost in Memphis once.

    Got to take Ole Miss in this one.
  • Southern Cal at #14 Notre Dame, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on NBC: These teams first played each other in Knute Rockne's day, and they have been playing annually since 1946. The historical record favors the home team, which is Notre Dame this year, and the Irish did beat Southern Cal the last time they played in South Bend, but the Trojans won the previous five times they played there.

    I've had misgivings about both teams from the start. Southern Cal (3–2) was pretty highly regarded heading into this season but last week's loss to Washington knocked the Trojans out of the Top 25. Notre Dame (5–1) just hasn't really impressed me. This is the game to impress people, a rivalry game.

    I'm going to make Southern Cal an upset special.
  • #17 Iowa at #20 Northwestern, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: Overall, Iowa wins about two–thirds of the time, but the series has been more evenly divided in recent years.

    In fact between 2005 and 2012, Northwestern had a 6–2 record against Iowa.

    This year's matchup is intriguing. It could have been a battle of unbeatens, but Northwestern was blanked by a Michigan team that increasingly appears to be the real deal. Still Northwestern has won three of its last four home games against Iowa.

    It should be good. I'll take Northwestern at home.
  • #19 Oklahoma at Kansas State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: Historically, Oklahoma wins more than 75% of the time against Kansas State. And, after losing a shocker to unranked Texas last week, the Sooners could use a confidence–builder like a win over the Wildcats.

    But 3–2 Kansas State won't roll over for 4–1 Oklahoma. And the Sooners' current five–game winning streak at K–State is bound to be used as a motivator for someone. In my upset special, I say Kansas State will prevail.
  • Eastern Michigan at #22 Toledo, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN3: Toledo has an eight–game winning streak against Eastern Michigan and is 16–3 at home.

    The 1–5 Eagles appear to be no match for the unbeaten Rockets. I pick Toledo.

Last week: 14–5

Upset specials last week: 0–2

Season: 87–15

Upset specials overall: 2–6

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