Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (Michigan depth charts sold separately):
Welcome to the The Forde-Yard Dash Second Quarter, where we make some in-game adjustments and dive into a fresh set of topics.
THE HOTTEST RIVALRIES RIGHT NOW
Is it possible to cite the front-burner rivalry games of 2017 and not even include the Iron Bowl? Until Auburn re-establishes its worth – which may happen, but hasn’t yet – yes it is. It’s not even the hatingest rivalry in the SEC West at the moment. On to the list:
Mississippi-Mississippi State (11). The date: Nov. 23. The location: Starkville. The Faulknerian tragicomedy of this rivalry has reached a new high (low?). An Ole Miss booster is suing a Mississippi State player for what he told the NCAA he received in impermissible benefits. Said State player has been requested to appear at Ole Miss’ Committee on Infractions hearing next month. And the lawyer for a former Ole Miss head coach has enlisted the investigative aid of a writer for a Mississippi State fan site in churning through phone records. One of the State fan’s discoveries led directly to the resignation of Ole Miss’ coach. So, no, it cannot get much more vicious between the two fan bases, as they scratch each other’s eyes out in pursuit of finishing fifth in the SEC West.
Ohio State-Michigan (12). The date: Nov. 25. The location: Ann Arbor. Last time they met, Jim Harbaugh was “bitterly disappointed” and the Buckeyes were moving on to the College Football Playoff. Somewhere in the Upper Peninsula, a Michigan fan currently is rewinding video of J.T. Barrett’s fourth-down run for the four millionth time, looking for definitive proof that he went down short of the marker. There will be pass interference calls (and non-calls) to rehash as well. Last year’s game produced enough material for an entire new album from the Dead Schembechlers.
USC-UCLA (13). The date: Nov. 18. The location: Los Angeles Coliseum. This longtime rivalry gets renewed zest from the quarterbacks who rather dramatically reversed roles last year. UCLA’s Josh Rosen was the big name, the star, the guy turning heads – and then he injured his shoulder and missed half the season while the Bruins were snorkeling to a 4-8 bust. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Sam Darnold was exploding out of Rosen’s shadow to become the revelation of 2016, leading the Trojans to nine straight victories, including a blowout of the Bruins and then a Rose Bowl triumph. Darnold and Rosen both grew up in Southern California and now attend crosstown rivals, but they’ve never played against each other in high school or college. Hopefully that changes this fall.
LSU-Florida (14). The date: Oct. 7. The location: Gainesville. That location part of the equation is the reason why this rivalry has escalated in intensity over the past year. The hurricane-related postponement of a game scheduled for Gainesville last season and relocated to Baton Rouge produced remarkable bitterness on both sides. It made Florida’s upset victory in Death Valley – which was preceded by an on-field tussle that involved coaches and support staff – all the sweeter. Part of the negotiation for that game included moving the 2017 meeting of the two teams from Baton Rouge to Gainesville, resulting in LSU playing five SEC road games. Forcing the issue proved to be a pyrrhic victory for LSU athletic director Joe Alleva in 2016, and it could cost his program again in ’17.
Penn State-Pittsburgh (15). The date: Sept. 9. The location: State College. They’ve met 97 times dating back to 1893, but the rivalry was dormant for 15 years before renewing last season. It was a memorable game that wound up having long-term effects on the national picture – Pitt pulled out a 42-39 thriller, a result that ultimately helped prevent the Big Ten champion Nittany Lions from making the playoff. This year Penn State has playoff aspirations and quite likely cannot afford another loss to the Panthers. (Note: Penn State hasn’t beaten Pitt without some involvement from Joe Paterno – as head coach or assistant – since 1947.)
Oklahoma-Oklahoma State (16). The date: Nov. 4. The location: Stillwater. Other than a Tyreek Hill radar blip in 2014, Bedlam has been all Boomer Sooner in recent years. But the Cowboys might have the team to reverse that this season. With both teams entering the season ranked in the top 10, there could be a lot at stake when they meet. And then they might have to meet again a month later in the Big 12 championship game.
Clemson-Florida State (17). The date: Nov. 11. The location: Clemson. There has been no more impactful game in recent years, anywhere. To the winner has gone the ACC Atlantic Division title (eight years in a row), the ACC title (six in a row) and a College Football Playoff bid (three in a row). Some or all of those things could be on the line again in 2017.
While college football is far from the most important entity affected by Hurricane Harvey (18), the endless deluge in Texas has caused some considerable complications. The LSU-BYU game scheduled for Saturday night in NRG Stadium is looking for a new site; among the most likely alternative locations is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, which would make the matchup even more of a de facto home game for LSU. For the Tigers, this will be the third straight season altered by weather: the 2015 opener against McNeese State was canceled by lightning, LSU wound up with an unexpected home game against South Carolina that same year due to flooding in Columbia, and last year there was the previously mentioned hurricane rescheduling of the Florida game.
Meanwhile, Rice’s return home from being trampled in Australia by Stanford was postponed by the storm. On Monday the school announced that the team will fly to Dallas-Forth Worth and set up shop at TCU. The Owls do not play a game this week. Houston has evacuated to Austin and is practicing at the school that poached its head coach, Tom Herman, in preparation for the Cougars’ opener at UT-San Antonio on Saturday.
In a lesser crisis but one still directly applicable to college football fans, the Wall Street Journal has delivered this sobering news: America is facing a chicken wing shortage (19). Prices are soaring, supply is dwindling – The Dash is terribly concerned. This is no way to approach the season.
THE WORST LAST PLAY EVER
Massachusetts (20) played very poorly in the fourth quarter at home against Hawaii, losing a lead and eventually, trailing by three, faced with a final play from its own 45-yard line with five seconds remaining. But what the Minutemen did then was even worse.
At a moment when every team has either a Hail Mary or some type of gadget play in the arsenal, UMass threw a swing pass to a running back for a gain of three yards. Game over. Chances of winning were almost nil at that point, but you at least have to try, right? Coach Mark Whipple might as well have told his quarterback to take a knee and head to the locker room.
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