Intriguing edge of radar game
When it comes to gaining respect from the big boys, Tulsa sort of plays a one-game season. Just like it did back in 1898, 1899, 1901 and 1902. And just like those years, the one game is against Arkansas.
If Tulsa goes to Fayetteville as a favorite Saturday and rolls up its usual huge point total on the Hogs, Tulsa's credibility (and its BCS chances) will increase big time. True, Arkansas is a mediocre SEC team that was waxed by Texas, 52-10, and Alabama, 49-14. But it is still an SEC team, with a win over Auburn and close, late losses to Kentucky and Ole Miss.
If Todd Graham's crew, which has bought in to the coach's notion that a 14-0 season with a Conference USA title, a BCS at-large bid and a BCS win is an obtainable goal, stays on course for all that stuff, it will mark the Golden Hurricane's first win over a BCS conference school since 1998, when they beat neighbor Oklahoma State. Last year, the team thought Graham was crazy when he brought up those goals.
This year, no one is rolling their eyes. They are just rolling up points -- over 56 per game.
Co-offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is mightily trying to deflect focus from his return to Arkansas, where he was a prep coaching legend before a brief, rocky stint calling plays for Houston Nutt in 2007.
If Nutt were still at Arkansas, this soap opera would register much louder. As it is, it's still an interesting subplot.
I am curious to see how Tulsa handles the opportunity. And how they handle the SEC's top rusher, Michael Smith, with a defense that is rated in the middle of the national pack. A Tulsa win would be huge for the Golden Hurricanes, and another setback for Bobby Petrino, whose own offense is one of the very few to not top 28 points in any game so far.
Can the Pac-10 construct a Wall Street-style bailout package for the group that needs it most in these troubled times? That would be Washington. The state, that is.
The Washington State Cougars, a once-proud program, has sunk into desperate times. The Cougars have surrendered 60-plus points four times, a first in major college football. In retrospect, it seems miraculous that Wazzu held Oklahoma State's mighty offense to a mere 39 points in the opener.
Stanford's struggling offense seems unlikely to hit the 6-oh Saturday, but you never know against WSU.
I'm not mean-spirited. I know college athletes don't want to be pitied. But I do feel sorry for the players and for rookie coach Paul Wulff and his staff. He inherited a mess from Bill Doba.
It's not that the cupboard is bare at Wazzu. There is no cupboard. There may be some lumber around to build one, but it hasn't been found.
Washington State's level of talent and level of play is so low that it has become a serious embarrassment to the conference. Throw in the winless year over in Seattle that cost Tyrone Willingham his job at Washington, and I am not sure if worse college football has been played in one state since 1987's Sunflower State classic, when Kansas State tied Kansas, 17-17, with the 'Cats finishing the year 0-10-1 and the Jayhawks 1-9-1.
So here's the bailout plan:
1. Expand the scholarship limit for the Cougs and Huskies from 85 back to 95.
2. Offer generous tax incentives for families of the blue-chip players who want to stay in-state and support their local programs, instead of shipping out south of the (state) border.
3. Redistribute the wealth in the Pac-10 by taxing the rich and forcing other schools to ship some of their players north to help the disadvantaged Washington programs. The super-rich (USC) would have to send three freaks-in-waiting to each team. At least one skill player would have to be part of the bailout package. Heck, Pete wouldn't even miss them.
Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, and Arizona would have to send two guys to each team. Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona State would be taxed just one player for each program.
The Sun Devils have clearly slipped in to this lower tax bracket by dropping off the top of Camelback Mountain lately. So, that's 14 live bodies each donated to the cause of rebuilding the Cougars and Huskies. It's a start.
Just like on Wall Street, other painful steps will have to be taken. Cuts must be made. Washington must be rescued from its naked ambition. Next season's date with LSU must be cancelled. Ditto for 2010's scheduled collisions with BYU and Nebraska. The Huskies have an enormous deficit of talent that would even make "W" blush. The next administration will inherit it. These cuts are necessary for the short term health and growth of the program.
Washington State has not been as guilty of taking on more foreign (nonconference) debt than it can possibly handle. But the planned junket to San Antonio next year to face Notre Dame is an earmark that has to be looked at. Isn't Portland State, a more prudent option, available?
An emergency measure could be to eliminate the Cougs' finale in Hawaii this season. It takes away some of the drama of the Apple Cup.
By the way, the final part of the bailout plan is to roll back the rules for the Apple Cup to the pre-overtime era. A fitting conclusion would be a 17-17 tie, just like that game 21 years ago in Manhattan, so that neither side has to face another loss.
I know what some of you are thinking: these "spread the wealth" measures are extreme and un-American. They will make the Pac-10 "socialist." In other words, a place where there is no upper crust, just a massive middle class content to get by on equally distributed wealth.
Yes, comrades. We are seeing a glimpse into the future. And it looks a lot like the ACC. Or the Big East.
You do realize the above is a goof, right? I assume so.
But I take no chances in the context-free, irony-free age of blogs and YouTube.
You want to join us on the GameDay set and go head-to-head with Corso and Herbstreit with your picks?
Come on down!
But, you better have a whole bunch of multi-platinum records or a gold medal. All of a sudden, the ante has been upped, friends.
First, Kenny Chesney joined us in Nashville and went 7-3 in his selections, including a correct pick of host Vandy over Auburn. He also hit on a couple of SEC upsets, like South Carolina's road win over Ole Miss.
He more than held his own, and backed his picks up with solid info.
After watching Kenny's guest spot, LeBron James checked in and said he'd like his shot. The King matched Kenny's record of 7-3. He missed on Penn State's win in the 'Shoe, but there was no way the Ohio native, who is buddies with Beanie Wells, was not going to back the Bucks.
Guest pickers are encouraged (actually they are required) to take a shot or two. We can't have a guy, however popular they may be, sit there and pick 10 favorites. Booooring. With one of his shots, LeBron took Arizona against USC and came up a little short. No disgrace there. The Big Man did just fine.
So, this week the Gameday hotline rings again. It's Dale Earnhardt, Jr. With the NASCAR boys up the road at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, Dale Jr. thought he'd be able to chopper over to Lubbock and take a lap with us Saturday morning. Then, the practice schedule was changed, and Dale Jr. had to send his regrets. I guess he figures that trying to win a Sprint Cup race is a bigger deal than sitting there on our set and throwing out college football winners.
Well, he has a point. We hope Dale Jr. can join us another time. The seat is always open. Tony Stewart or Carl Edwards, or Jimmie Johnson, the same goes for you guys.
This week, The General has stepped up and enlisted. Bob Knight never seems to enjoy making predictions in basketball games. A guy with that much knowledge isn't always comfortable with having all that wisdom distilled down to a "who do ya like?" one-word answer.
But Knight follows and likes football, too. Wouldn't it be funny if he threw up a "hook 'em" sign and said the 'Horns will trample the Red Raiders?
We're not counting on that. But The General will be a fun addition to our picks segment and we are looking forward to being a part of the wild scene that waits in Lubbock this weekend.
Speaking of high stakes, Mr. Corso has a lot on the line for his "headgear" pick this week. At 4-5, he cannot afford another loss, or else his bowl eligibility will be threatened. He's got to get to 8-7 for our 15-week season, or he may have to pass on the Rose Bowl pick. Sunshine Scooter, this is a week for "urgency and redemption."
At a crucial moment in his campaign, will he have the guts to pick Tech? Or the guts to pick against them, in front of a rapid Red Raider crowd?
Chris Fowler is the host of ESPN's "College GameDay." Kick off each Saturday with "College GameDay" at 10 a.m. ET to get the latest news on college football.