Big 12 dress rehearses, Pac-10 opens up for week four

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I’m going to go ahead and get my one Stephen A. Smith-ism for the season out of the way right now: this weekend, the Big 12 and Pac-10 are not the SEC. 

Now that I’ve blatantly stated what everyone already knows, let’s look forward to this weekend. The Big 12 has a relatively low-key Saturday as the big kahuna — which will take the forms of corny dogs and pure, unadulterated hate — between Texas and OU will be next week in Dallas. For tomorrow, The Longhorns and the Sooners take the field against interesting, but beatable, opponents.

Pac-10 conference play gets into full swing for week four, but two of the most interesting games still come out of conference as Oregon State travels to Boise State and Stanford heads to the midwest to take on Notre Dame.

As JT mentioned in his preview, we will be posting our records at the bottom of each preview. So, crack your knuckles and prepare to have written proof that I have no earthly idea what I’m talking about when it comes to college football.

No. 24 Oregon State at No. 3 Boise State (8:00 ET)

THE LINE: Boise State -18

THE PLOT: This was supposed to be round two of two for Boise’s marquee games this season. As it turns out, though, Virginia Tech hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations and Oregon State doesn’t appear to be a front runner in the Pac-10. Nevertheless, Boise has to win this game and win big if they’re going to even be in the discussion for the national title. Luckily for the Broncos, they don’t lose at home. Since 1999, Boise State is 64-2 on the Smurf Turf.

THE PICK: Despite the struggles of Tech, I still think Boise State is a really good football team who is extremely well-coached. Boise always seems to take care of business when they have to and this game is no exception

THE SCORE: Boise State 48, Oregon State 17

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No. 16 Stanford at Notre Dame (3:30 ET)

THE LINE: Stanford -4.5

THE PLOT: Stanford comes in to this game averaging 51.7 points per game and has completely dominated in every aspect of the game. Notre Dame is breaking in a new coach in Brian Kelly, but has been competitive through their first three games. Right now, the Irish seem to play to the level of their competition, so if that’s any indication, this game could be closer than some people expect it to be … but not too close … don’t get excited.

THE PICK: Andrew Luck is simply the best (I’m officially jumping off the Jake Locker bandwagon) in the Pac-10 and maybe in the country. In week four, he shows why again.

THE SCORE:  Stanford 30, Notre Dame 21

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UCLA at No. 7 Texas (3:30 ET)

THE LINE: Texas -16

THE PLOT: Supposedly, this is a “dress rehearsal” for Texas as the Red River Rivalry against OU is next weekend, but I wouldn’t count out the Bruins just yet. Texas coach Mack Brown has been answering questions all week about his o-line and offensive production as a whole. There’s no doubt the defense has been good (allowing roughly 44 rush yards/game) but Rice, Wyoming and Texas Tech aren’t exactly known for running the ball, either. A little misleading are the Longhorns.

THE PICK: Last time UCLA rolled in to Austin, they rolled right back out with a 66-3 victory. This time, it’ll be a little different. Texas wins — but barely.

THE SCORE: Texas 24, UCLA 20

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No. 8 Oklahoma at Cincinnati (6:00 ET)

THE LINE: Oklahoma -16

THE PLOT: To quote British comedy giants Monty Python, “And now for something completely different.” With Oklahoma, you’re not quite sure what you’re going to get week in and week out. Cincinnati was expected to contend for another conference title this year. Now, they’re struggling to survive in a very down Big East (maybe the understatement of the year). 

THE PICK: Cincinnati is desperate enough to come out swinging in this game against the Sooners. This one is interesting for a half, then Oklahoma’s talent takes over as Bob Stoops‘ team pulls away late.

THE SCORE:  Oklahoma 34, Cincinnati 17

Last Week:

Straight up: 1-2

Vs. spread: 0-3

Overall:

Straight up: 4-3

Vs. spread: 2-5

(Week one I didn’t predict scores or display spreads)

LOOK: Arizona State to wear Pat Tillman-themed uniforms

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Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.

The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.

Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.

Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

Jim McElwain says family, players have received death threats over 3-3 start

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Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.

How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.

“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”

In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger, C Zach Shackelford in concussion protocol

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Texas has lost two straight upset bids in strikingly similar fashion: true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger leads a potential-game winning drive, scrambles, hits his head on the turf and ends the possession in a puzzling throw.

The first came in last week’s loss to No. 10 Oklahoma. Trailing 29-24 late in the fourth quarter, scrambled for two yards to the Texas-48 yard line but hit his head on the Cotton Bowl turf and was forced to leave the game for five plays. Shane Buechele pushed the Longhorns to the Oklahoma 31, but he was replaced after a sack and Ehlinger ended up throwing the ball away on 4th-and-13 from the OU 34 with two minutes to play. That, as they say, was that.

Fast forward to Saturday and Texas was trailing No. 11 Oklahoma State 13-10 in overtime when Ehlinger opened the possession with a scramble that again saw the back of his head bang against the Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium turf. He stayed in the game this time, but ended the game on a puzzling (to say the least) interception to absolutely no one on 3rd-and-4 from the OSU 6.

While Ehlinger was not evaluated for a concussion during the game, he did not practice Sunday and head coach Tom Herman said Monday that Ehlinger and center Zach Shackelford are in concussion protocol.

Complicating matters for Texas is that sophomore back-up Shane Buechele is playing on a gimpy ankle that kept him out against San Jose State and Kansas State that Herman said will not improve as the season goes on.

No matter, Texas will face a hungry Baylor team on Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU) that nearly completed a comeback against No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday night.