Weekend Preview: Red River Rivalry remains a tradition like no other

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No sport does tradition quite like college football, at least in this admittedly biased college football writer’s opinion. This weekend we get a glimpse of one of the great traditions in the sport with a side of deep-fried, well anything probably. The Texas State Fair is on my bucket list and is highlighted by the annual meeting between Oklahoma and Texas. The fanfare that surrounds the game may only be rivaled by a few others in the sport. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and the Army-Navy Game are two that quickly come to mind.

Neutral site games may not be quite the novelty they once were, thanks to multiple games played in Atlanta and Arlington purely for a big-ticket event to please television partners, but the Red River Rivalry is something else that brings everything back to pure basics. The venue is the historic Cotton Bowl, full of history and lacking the modern-day luxuries many fans seem to take for granted. Yet, it is the perfect setting for one of college football’s classic rivalries.

The Red River Rivalry highlights the action this weekend, but so much for the focus on what it could mean in the Big 12 race. Instead the narrative will focus on the future of head coach Mack Brown.

Mack’s last stand?

The annual Red River Rivalry game remains one of the top traditions the college football regular season has to offer, and thankfully it managed to survive the wreck left by realignment over the past few seasons. But the big question this year will be whether or not Texas head coach Mack Brown can manage to save his job with a win against the Sooners. Oklahoma has roughed up the rival Longhorns each of the past two seasons and bring a three-game winning streak in to the early afternoon Big 12 clash. Since 2000, the Longhorns have lost nine out of 13 meetings. Although Texas enters this year’s edition with a 2-0 record in Big 12 play, there is much speculation that Brown could be coaching in his final Red River Rivalry game.

Texas may need to win to help save Brown’s job for next year, but a hard-fought contest with the Sooners is all most Texas fans hope to see given the recent history in this series. That could be a realistic expectation. Oklahoma seems to have turned a corner with Blake Bell taking over at quarterback, starting with a win at Notre Dame, but this Oklahoma team may not be as strong as they have been so Texas should manage to prove they at least belong on the same field. Proving that should start with protecting the football. Texas has had 10 turnovers in the last three meetings at the Texas State Fair.

Is Georgia ripe for an upset?

Georgia looks to be one of the top one-loss teams in the country, having only been defeated by an undefeated Clemson team currently sitting in the top five of the rankings on the road in the first game of the year. Since then the Bulldogs have come through in the clutch to beat South Carolina, LSU and Tennessee. In those times of need Georgia has been able to turn to quarterback Aaron Murray, who has delivered when needed time and time again and earned a spot in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy. This week, however, will Murray be able to rally Georgia to another SEC win with a number of players out of action?

Running back Todd Gurley is expected to be back for the Bulldogs as they host Missouri, who comes to Sanford Stadium with a perfect 5-0 record. His running mate, Keith Marshall, suffered an ACL injury last weekend and is done for the year. Receivers Michael Bennett (knee) and Justin Scott-Wesley (ACL) are also out of the mix this weekend. The injuries have been piling up for Georgia but they have managed to get by. Could Missouri be the team who end that winning streak? Missouri should be able to put up some points. The Tigers have scored at least 40 points in all but one game this season, and they scored 38 points the one game they did not.

Big road test for Oregon 

One of the more bitter rivalries that few seem to recognize is the one between Washington and Oregon. Fortunately this game will receive an afternoon time slot, so everyone can get a chance to check out the animosity for themselves. Oregon has certainly been piling up points this season but they face their first real test when they visit Washington Saturday afternoon. The Huskies are coming off their first loss of the season but put up a respectable fight against Stanford on the road last weekend. Returning home to what should be a raucous crowd thirsty for a win against Oregon should be a good setting for Washington. Oregon has won each of their last three trips to Seattle, and the Ducks have won nine straight in the series for the longest winning streak in the series.

Who should be on upset alert?

Other than the teams already mentioned above, who else might want to be on high alert this weekend?

LSU: You could make a case that LSU is the best one loss team in the country, if not for Georgia. The Tigers host the Florida Gators this weekend. Florida’s defense may be capable of giving LSU some problems, and if LSU’s offense is sluggish at any point, Florida could steal a rare victory for a road team in Baton Rouge.

South Carolina: The constant question regarding the status of Jadeveon Clowney is a bit overdone at this point, but his impact on the field is still respectable even if the numbers suggest otherwise. The Gamecocks are on the road this weekend at Arkansas for the first of three straight road games.The Razorbacks are in the midst of a brutal stretch of their schedule but pack a running game that could make things interesting.

Northwestern: After hanging with Ohio State last weekend, the Wildcats are on the road for another tough Big Ten match-up. Northwestern travels to Madison, Wisconsin to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. The only games Wisconsin has lost this season have come on the road, at Ohio State and Arizona State (who could forget that cray ending?). As usual, the Badgers can run the football very well with sophomore Melvin Gordon rushing for nearly 700 yards and seven touchdowns so far.

Michigan: The Wolverines have struggled at times this season, including in games against Akron and Connecticut. Could Michigan be walking in to the lion’s den this weekend in Beaver Stadium? Well, technically, probably. Penn State was roughed up by Indiana, of all teams, last week and look to bounce back in a strong way. The depth concerns at Penn State may get a lift from one of the top crowds in Beaver Stadium in the Bill O’Brien era, but will it be enough to rattle Michigan?

Purdue responds to Jim Harbaugh’s ‘after-the-fact’ facility complaints

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In what could only be considered a stunning development, Jim Harbaugh is making headlines.  Again.

Following Michigan’s 28-10 win over Purdue Saturday, Harbaugh took issues with the facilities at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette.  From no air conditioning in the visiting locker room — there is in the home team’s locker room — to just two urinals, total, for the entire team and staff to use to lack of on-site medical facilities, Harbaugh was highly critical of the situation, calling on the Big Ten to address the situation league-wide.

The situation was so bad from their perspective that Harbaugh afforded his starters the opportunity to take pregame respite on the team bus from unseasonable heat that was close to 100 degrees on the field

From mlive.com:

There’s no air conditioning,” Harbaugh said. “It was so cramped, so hot. It was like a hot box. Really the only way to get relief was to open the doors, and you have people watching you dress. It’s not good.

“The number of urinals for players and staff, I think there was two. There’s not even a private door. …

“There has to be a minimum standard of care for the players,” Harbaugh said. “We put a lot of emphasis into the health and safety of the players, but it doesn’t even seem sanitary.

“I wish I had taken a picture of the actual table that is given to the visitors to put players on that are injured. It looked like it was from the 20s.

Not surprisingly, Harbaugh’s criticisms didn’t sit well with Purdue.  In fact, the football program felt compelled to issue a lengthy statement addressing the issues raised by the opposing coach — flatly stating that there were options UM could’ve taken advantage of but didn’t.

Below is that statement, in its entirety:

Purdue regards the welfare of all student-athletes as its No. 1 priority. We would fully support a conversation regarding a conference-wide set of guidelines for visiting football team accommodations because we have experienced less-than-ideal conditions on the road. There is no place for gamesmanship when it comes to player care and safety.

The after-the-fact concerns expressed by Michigan are somewhat surprising because a member of its football staff conducted a walk-thru of our facilities with our athletics department staff at Ross-Ade Stadium on July 18.

Furthermore, to help teams prepare in advance, our visiting team manual highlights in bold type “there is no air conditioning in the (visiting) locker room,” with accompanying Purdue Athletics staff contact information about how to request preferred temporary accommodations. We did not receive any such request.

Basic x-ray is available within our athletic footprint and more-sophisticated capabilities are located two blocks away, similar to the arrangements at many other schools. Our sports medicine staff members, in fact, have received numerous compliments from their Michigan counterparts regarding the care they received at Purdue.

Mark Richt’s ‘guess is’ Ahmmon Richards ‘will be ready to go’ for Miami vs. Duke

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It appears No. 14 Miami’s passing attack will be bolstered for its ACC opener this coming Saturday.  Maybe.

On his radio show Monday, Mark Richt seemed cautiously optimistic that Ahmmon Richards will be available to play in the Week 5 game against Duke this Saturday.  Richards hasn’t played at all yet this season as he’s been dealing with a hamstring injury that surfaced in the middle of summer camp.

The wide receiver did, though, practice Sunday, leading to Richt’s hope that the sophomore will see the field for the Hurricane against the Blue Devils.

“We didn’t do a lot on a Sunday, but he seems to be doing fine,” the head coach said by way of the Sun-Sentinel. “My guess is he’ll be ready to go.”

Last season, Richards’ 934 receiving yards and 19.1 yards per catch were tops on the Hurricanes.  His 49 receptions were second on the team.  Following that breakout season, he was named a consensus Freshman All-American.

With Richards sidelined, Braxton Barrios leads the ‘Canes in receiving yards (140) and yards per reception (17.5), while Christopher Herndon‘s nine catches through two games lead the way as well.

Boise State’s Michael Young arrested on drunk-driving charge

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For the second time in as many days, it’s time to push the “Days Without an Arrest” ticker back to double-zeroes.

The latest to do the honor is Boise State’s Michael Young, with the Idaho Statesman reporting that the defensive back was arrested early Sunday morning on a charge of driving under the influence.  KTVB-TV in Boise reported that Young failed a field sobriety test and blew a .142 on a breathalyzer test.

The arrest and charge came after Young was pulled over for allegedly running a red light.

“Boise State is aware of Michael Young’s arrest earlier this morning,” a statement on the incident from the university began. “As is always the case, the matter will be handled appropriately and internally.”

Young is a backup defensive back who has played in the last three games after missing the season opener for undisclosed reasons.  He had a career-high four tackles in the 19-point loss to Virginia in Week 4.

Young is also the second Broncos football player arrested in a little over a week.  Last weekend, defensive lineman David Moa was charged with disturbing the peace following an incident outside of a Boise nightclub.  Moa, a starter who was first-team All-MWC last season, did not play at all in the first quarter in the first game after his arrest this past weekend.

Effort to schedule Georgia Tech-Georgia State makeup game fails

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Georgia Tech lost a game to Hurricane Irma, a Sept. 16 trip to Central Florida. Georgia State also had a game canceled due to Irma — Saturday’s scheduled game with Memphis, which was axed to makeup the Memphis-UCF game that was supposed to be played Sept. 8.

So if Georgia Tech lost a game, and Georgia State lost a game, and the Atlanta schools stadiums’ sit just 2.2 miles away from each other, wouldn’t it make sense to try to get them together?

The sides tried, but the effort isn’t going to work.

As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Tech and Georgia State officials attempted to find a date that worked for both sides, but one simply is not available.

Georgia Tech attempted to arrange the game for Oct. 7, the Jackets’ original bye week, but Georgia State has a conference game against Coastal Carolina on Oct. 7. Georgia State is off on Nov. 18, but Georgia Tech visits Duke that day. The rare Championship Saturday makeup isn’t even possible (provided Georgia Tech doesn’t win the ACC Coastal) because Georgia State hosts Idaho on Dec. 2, in what is Idaho’s final game as a Sun Belt member.

Incidentally, Georgia Tech and Georgia State have never met on the field despite being two miles apart. Perhaps this episode will spur the Atlanta neighbors to invite the other over to play sometime down the line.