The Prognosticator is always amused by the college football analysts on all the networks previewing and predicting the week’s upcoming games.
They always talk matchups, who’s playing quarterback and blah, blah, blah. Not once do they factor in the historical matchups of teams. You can only get that right here. Cases in point: the Prognosticator was spot-on with last week’s Arkansas-Texas A&M and USC-Oregon State games. All the crazy things that happened in Jerry’s World and USC’s near-loss were not a surprise; they were all predicted. You see, college football is often more about those things than it is matchups. It’s tradition, like dotting the “i” at Ohio State, Traveler running on the Coliseum sidelines after touchdowns and the Tennessee band’s “splitting of the ‘T,” in Neyland Stadium.
A recent tradition is the firing of coaches in September. Not that anybody really noticed, but Georgia Tech fired Geoff Collins and, in a new twist, he took his AD with him. Another one would have happened were it not for Eliah Duncekwitz coaching like Mario Cristo-ball by playing not to lose. You can’t ever do that and especially not at Auburn and the result was predictable – a loss. It likely saved the coach on the other sideline from getting a pre-October buyout. Maybe he was just doing a favor to the guy who once hired him.
Two others – Cristo-ball and Sparty’s Mel Tucker – are safe only because they signed ridiculous overinflated contracts without proving they can actually win anything, another new college football tradition. Fans, boosters and alumni easily get fed up on failed expectations and in Miami they are already competing with UCLA for most boring game atmosphere in the sport. A team need to win big to even hope to get students and fans to games played at stadiums 20+ miles from campus and neither are on the verge of that happening anytime soon.
Now onto this week’s games. All times Pacific because the Prognosticator lives on the West Coast.
Friday, Sept. 30
Washington at UCLA (7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Message to U-Dub fans in Southern California: plenty of good seats available! Buy a cheap ticket (tip: hang out where the buses come in; that’s where you will find fans who could not give their extra tickets away) sit where you want (hey, there’s nobody on the 50-yard-line!) and watch the best Washington quarterback since Brock Anthony Huard claw up the Baby Bears’ defense. Don’t go into hibernation even after a two-or three-touchdown lead, however, for the Trampolines have a tradition of springing up from the turf when all seems lost. This may turn out to be a wild one. Winner: Washington
Saturday, Sept. 1
Michigan at Iowa (9 a.m., FOX)
About all the Weasels need to do is kick a couple of field goals to weasel out of Kinnick with the W. The homesters are so offensively challenged that not even its loud and loyal fans can provide enough of a Kinnick Edge for them to hope to beat over-regarded and over-ranked Big Blue. Winner: Michigan
Kentucky at Ole Miss (9 a.m., ESPN)
As strange as this might sound, the winner could sneak into the College Football Playoffs. It’s almost a bigger long shot than someone turning down a cocktail at the Grove tailgate party, but if one of them manages to fight through the SEC with just a single loss and other Top 10 teams stumble, it’s a possibility. Well it makes it worth peeking into this game, anyway. Mark Stoops has done wonders at UK and has installed a toughness not seen on the Commonwealth campus since Bear Bryant. The crazy Kiffins, on the other hand, well you never know what rabbits they will pull out of their helmets. They don’t have a quarterback, tho, to make a lot of that magic work and the team is still trying to find its groove in the Grove. And physical wins over flash. Winner: Kentucky
Alabama at Arkansas (12:30 p.m., CBS)
The Razorbacks hog-tied themselves last weekend but the Woo Pigs will try and shake that off, as do all teams when the Saban Storm Troppers march into town. The Tide is looking like a powerful tsunami at full force again and the hosts are going to have to weather the storm to stay in the game. Look for Bama – which might have two top receivers back from preseason injuries – to flood the leaky Arkansas secondary with long and deep pass plays; it’s interesting to note the Pigs are first in the SEC in sacks yet last in pass defense. They do have a potential game-changer in signal-caller KJ, and Will Anderson, Jr, and the Crimson stoppers will be busy all afternoon trying to keep him from breaking loose and knocking the wind out of the Tide. Winner: Alabama
Texas A&M at Mississippi State (1 p.m., SEC Network)
For those who have watched the Cadets, it seems like some type of mathematical error that they are 3-1 and have won their last two games. That’s because they haven’t actually beaten Miami and Arkansas, they just didn’t lose to them. Since Johnny You-Know-Who, there’s been something Auburn-esque about this program. The Leaches, tho, don’t care. They will simply run their offense and play surprisingly good defense. That was good enough last year to whip the Ags in College Station and it will be again in Starkville. If somehow that A&M voodoo works on the State Dogs then it’s only delaying the inevitable – another four-loss season for Jimbo. Winner: Mississippi State
LSU at Auburn (4 p.m., ESPN)
Hapless Harsin may not be able to coach or recruit but he has one thing on his side (and it’s certainly not the Auburn power players). It’s the answered prayers at Jordan-Hare, which is some type of mysterious disease that afflicts opposing coaches, players, the refs and especially field goal kickers. They all seem to have meltdowns on the Plains and do things so out of the ordinary that every game there is like a Halloween horror movie for them. If enough of those mysterious moments suddenly overtake the visiting Tigers then there would be another miracle moment that would – at least for another week – save Harsin’s job. The Bayou Boys aren’t that great themselves but they sure are better than Mizzou (and who isn’t) and this is going to be more like Penn State than Missouri. Winner: LSU
Georgia at Missouri (4:30 p.m., SEC Network)
There was some rumbling about the Dawgs last week after they failed to chew up Kent State but that’s like punishing your pet for not jumping into a lake to retrieve a stick. It’s not an ideal situation for Miserable Mizzou to walk into and this will be like throwing grilled steaks to a pack of starving bloodhounds. And if for some reason the Dawgs don’t have a big appetite that day, Duncekwitz will see to it that Missouri loses. Winner: Georgia
Clemson at N.C. State (4:30 p.m., ABC)
Earlier, the Prognosticator wrote about how college football traditions can determine the outcomes of games. And when Clemson got good and N.C. State started knocking on the door, this was almost a knock-out game for the Dabos. However, the Wolfpack would come to their rescue by – for example – missing a chip-shot game-winning field goal. Clemson wound up undefeated and won the National Championship one year as a result when a simple kick would have knocked them out of any hope of playing for the title/ Look for something along those lines to happen again, although the Tiger Cats can’t get too comfortable because they had to go to two overtimes to beat Wake Forest and were far from dominating in their opening win over a terrible Georgia Tech team. Hurricane Ian may have some impact on the game conditions as Carter-Findley Stadium could be a quagmire. Winner: Clemson
Arizona State at USC (7:30 p.m., ESPN)
At least Trojan fans not at the game can watch this one. The Pac-12’s horrendous distribution of the Pac-12 Network has resulted in it not being on at least two cable providers in L.A., and they could not see the nail-biting game at Oregon State. Instead, they had to follow it either the new way – pirated viewing on Facebook – or the old-fashioned way, by radio. And this will be one they will want to watch because the Devils had a devil of a time being consistent under Herm Edwards and Traveler is going to be sprinting so often after touchdowns he will practically be covering the distance from Los Angeles to Tempe. Winner: USC
Stanford at Oregon (8 p.m., FS1)
When both programs were at their peak, this series had developed a college football tradition. It was power vs. finesse and power won out every time, sending the Ducks’ National Championship hopes to the bottom of the pond. Nether team is close to that now. The Trees are shedding these fall Saturdays and the Quacks are far too dependent on a quarterback who is as likely to throw a pick-six as he is a dazzling touchdown. Winner: Oregon