We could learn as early as next month if the Big 12 is planning on expanding. I wonder if what happens this weekend could affect the conference's decision. I say this because the Big 12 is already in some jeopardy of missing out on the College Football Playoff for the second time in three seasons.
Of course, Oklahoma lost in Week 1, and in Week 2 the Big 12 saw ranked Oklahoma State and TCU both lose at home to fall out of the Top 25. The Cowboys were jobbed by the referees in their shocking 30-27 loss to Central Michigan on a spectacular Hail Mary and lateral play by the Chippewas -- we probably won't see a better ending all season. Except that CMU shouldn't have been allowed that final untimed down. Officials wrongly gave CMU the chance when OSU was called for intentional grounding on fourth down the play before. Rules state that the game cannot end on an accepted live-ball penalty. I don't understand why the NCAA can't just give the game to Oklahoma State, but the rulebook states that: "when the referee declares that the game is ended, the score is final."
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I blame Pokes coach Mike Gundy for all this as he simply could have had QB Mason Rudolph run around for a few seconds on fourth down to run out the clock instead of throwing that pass. You can rule Oklahoma State out of the playoff because it's not running the table the rest of the way, although part of me hopes it does to see how the College Football Playoff committee might take that refereeing mistake into account. OSU is -6.5 at home vs. Pittsburgh this week.
Go ahead and eliminate TCU from the playoff as well because the Frogs lost 41-38 in double overtime at home to Arkansas, and TCU isn't good enough to run the table, either. TCU had won 14 straight home games, the third-longest active streak in the nation. Frogs QB Kenny Hill drew a totally stupid unsportsmanlike penalty with a throat-slash gesture that provided the Hogs with enough field position to score late and send the game into OT. Texas Christian should have no trouble bouncing back this week as a 23.5-point favorite against visiting Iowa State, which has looked terrible thus far under first-year coach Matt Campbell.
Here are a few Week 3 opening lines that caught my eye. Rankings from AP poll and games Saturday unless noted.
No. 6 Houston at Cincinnati (+7.5): This is the Thursday night ESPN game and probably one of only two chances for Houston to lose a regular-season game playing in the weak American Athletic Conference. The other would Nov. 17 out of conference vs. Louisville. These two schools could both be in the Big 12 next season, although I tend to think it will be Houston and BYU if the conference does expand. The Cougars rested injured quarterback Greg Ward and No. 1 tailback Duke Catalon in Saturday's 42-0 scrimmage against Lamar. Coach Tom Herman said both could have played if it was a conference game, so you can expect them here. Smart move to sit them with the quick turnaround. The Cougars had three players top 100 yards rushing for the first time since 1974 and finished with 381 yards on the ground in the victory. Cincinnati won at Purdue on Saturday, the school's first victory at a Big Ten school in nearly 60 years. But I barely consider Purdue a Big Ten school in football. UC lost at No. 25 Houston 33-30 last year despite 523 yards passing and four TDs from Gunner Kiel (gone now). Ward threw for 161 yards and two scores but was picked off twice. He also rushed for 119 yards. This will be the first time a Top 10 team has played in Nippert Stadium since Nov. 17, 2007, when the Bearcats lost 28-23 to No. 5 West Virginia. The pick: Cincinnati (to cover but not win).
No. 2 Florida State at No. 10 Louisville (+2.5): This might be the biggest home game in Louisville football history and ESPN GameDay will be there. It's the first Top-10 matchup at Papa John's Stadium since 2006. If the Seminoles win this, I think they have a clear path to the playoff because they host Clemson on Oct. 29 and the Tigers haven't looked all that great yet. I haven't seen new Heisman odds posted yet at sportsbooks, but if Louisville sophomore QB Lamar Jackson isn't the favorite then something's wrong. Jackson followed up his ACC-record eight-TD game in Week 1 against Charlotte with a conference-record 610 yards of offense while totaling five more scores in a Week 2 blowout of Syracuse. The Cardinals set a school record and came within 13 yards of the ACC record with 845 yards offensively. They lead the nation in yards and points per game but obviously haven't seen any defensive athletes like FSU has. The Noles breezed by Charleston Southern on Saturday. They beat visiting Louisville 41-21 last year. Jackson had 339 yards of offense and three scores but U of L allowed 510 yards. The pick: Florida State.
No. 3 Ohio State at No. 14 Oklahoma (+1.5): The Sooners can save some face for the Big 12 with a win here and keep their playoff hopes alive. A loss knocks them out for good. Per ESPN's Football Power Index, there's now an 80 percent chance that the Big 12 champ will finish with two or more defeats this year; that percentage going into the season was 36 percent. No two-loss Big 12 team is getting into the playoff. This line already has dropped a point as people are probably not used to seeing OU as a home dog and are betting them heavy. Last time OU had a plus in front of its spread in Norman was in 2000 when No. 3 OU took down No. 1 Nebraska 31-14. I'm shocked that Oklahoma allowed this, but Ohio State has rented out the Lloyd Noble Center, the Sooners' basketball arena, for a pregame pep rally that will feature Brutus and the Buckeye band. Why would you do that if you are OU? I have no idea if Ohio State is any good after destroying Bowling Green and Tulsa. But remember that the Buckeyes are incredibly young and brought back the fewest starters in the nation. That will finally matter going to enemy territory for the first time. The pick: Oklahoma.
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