By Jonathan Lowe
September 9, 2017
OK. I didn’t leave you folks much time to chew on this week’s games. Heck, if you’re a regular to the site, you may not see this until after kickoff. But in all of this revelry, there are more important issues at hand. Some of the games scheduled for today had to be postponed or cancelled due to the impending threat of yet another catastrophic hurricane set to hit American shores in less than two weeks. While most of the country gets to sit back, sit up, and cheer vociferously, we should keep the people of South Florida in mind as they get ready to deal with the behemoth that is Hurricane Irma. And let’s not forget those in Southeast Texas starting to get lives back on track after the devastation that was Hurricane Harvey. As tough as it is to move forward in this post, here are today’s highlights.
Utah at BYU: I’m going to spend a a brief amount of time on this (and the next) matchup. Most rivalries are built on proximity and conference affiliation. This is one of those cases. After the brief hiatus a couple of years back, the “Holy War” got back on the regular-season stage last season. For the better part of 90 years, these programs fought over conference supremacy. More recently, this game has been setup for later-season status points and year-round bragging rights. But I’m glad that it’s still kickin’. This rivalry just feels natural. Really, it’s about as natural as…
Iowa at Iowa State: Some rivalries are, well, just built on proximity. As many of you readers know, I have a personal stake in this game. Spending four years of my life in Ames, this day was marked on the calendar every year. Many of my peers would make the trek to Iowa City every other year, while making our home site as uncomfortable as possible on those other occasions. And while only about a two-hour drive lies between the two campuses, the football programs only spent four years battling it out in the same conference (1907-1910). This game is purely for bragging rights. And, truthfully, that’s probably the way it should be.
Boise State at Washington State: For quite a while, WSU was a bit of an outpost. Sure, the University of Idaho is a stone’s throw away. However, when you looked at college football in that part of the country (from the Cascades to the Bitterroots), you relied on the Cougar program for your fix. Then, a little-known school in the city of Boise said, “Hmm, why don’t we give this D-IA football a try.” The Bronco program has been building for a long time. From Junior College to a short NAIA stint to lower divisions of the NCAA, BSU had a pretty good history before stepping into the higher division of college pigskin. Once the move was made, the program quickly gained attention. First, it was for their trademark Blue Turf. After a while, it was due to them being able to rack up a ton of wins and some pretty impressive bowl trophies. This weekend, could the Broncos take a step toward becoming the place to go for college football in the Inland Northwest?
TCU at Arkansas: No, it’s not Oklahoma-Alabama. This game, though, could be a launching (or stall-worthy) point of the early season for each team. That appeared to be the case for the Horned Frogs last year. They entered this particular matchup a top-15 team. After the double-overtime loss in Fort Worth, Gary Patterson’s team didn’t look quite the same. Yeah, they rebounded against Iowa State and SMU. However, the team lost 5 of their last 8 to finish with a pedestrian 6-6 record (6-7 if you include the Liberty Bowl loss to Georgia). On the other side, the win was supposed to be a coming out party for the Razorbacks. They rose into the Top 25 that next week, then inside the Top 20 before alternating wins and defeats for the rest of the regular season. As these teams head into the rematch in Fayetteville, the Horned Frogs look to return to their above average standards, while the Hogs try to finally turn the corner under Bret Bielema.
Stanford at USC: This game may not ask the “What’s Your Deal?” question anymore, but it is still a BIG deal when speaking to the importance of West Coast pigskin. The Cardinal got a week off after their trip Down Under. The Trojans got out of the gate slowly, needing a big finish to prevail against Western Michigan. Now, it that was last year’s MAC-champion Broncos, OK. But the new-look WMU — minus quarterback Zach Terrell and coach P.J. Fleck — should have been a little easier to handle for USC. But Sam Darnold has a chance to boost his Heisman stock again if he carves up the Cardinal’s stingy defense. And a victory here might mean more for Trojans in the long term. Both teams will play Notre Dame. Both will travel to Pullman. However, Stanford has a regular season edge by hosting Washington in early November.
Auburn at Clemson: When these two squads opened the 2016 season on the Alabama Plains, one set of Tigers were “reeling” while the other set was “smarting”. The team that sports mostly navy had folks wondering if its head coach had lost the magic that guided the program to a national title game. The team that sports mostly orange looked to turn the bitter loss of that championship opportunity into positive momentum. Auburn, the losing squad, found out that it could still play with the top of the title-contending list. Clemson, the winning squad, discovered a propensity for nail-biting finishes. This year, one set of Tigers should be back, while the other set of Tigers should be reloaded. This game will let us know which Tiger narrative is closer to the truth.
Oklahoma at Ohio State: Just a few months ago, this was being touted as a battle of coaching legends. Bob Stoops had the chance to save some face against a man that didn’t just beat him on the Oklahoma plains, but also in a national title game. But Stoops’ sudden retirement now brings a matchup of “Grizzled Veteran vs. Rising Rookie”. Lincoln Riley began his Sooner head coaching career with a runaway victory over UTEP. The second stanza will be a little trickier to write. All the while, Urban Meyer has been rolling along. The Buckeyes had first-half struggles at Indiana. The second half proved a little more fluid on offense, easing any tension that may have been around in the first thirty minutes. A win at the Shoe should provide an answer, although muted, to Alabama’s win over Florida State.