Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 11:26 AM
It's never too early to start mapping out the race to the BCS championship in college football. Even though there are several teams who are still undefeated at the moment, it's clear that certain teams virtually control their own destiny in terms of playing in the big game.
#1 LSU and #2 Alabama will face each other on November 5. Should the winner of that game stay undefeated, they will absolutely, positively play for the national championship. It's possible that the winner of that game could lose to somebody else and still get there. But, for now, it's a clear "playoff" game in a sport that doesn't have a playoff.
#3 Oklahoma and #6 Oklahoma State will face each other on December 3rd. Should a victory cap off an undefeated season for the winner...you'd have to expect that team to face the SEC survivor in the BCS title tilt. Sure, Oklahoma State would have to be ahead of Wisconsin and Boise State in the computer rankings. A win over Oklahoma would probably be enough to trump strength of schedule for Wiscy and Boise. Wisconsin isn't getting much help in the Big Ten this year with so many teams taking at least one step backward while they apparently got better.
(Don't forget that there's no Big 12 Championship game this year because there are only 10 teams. There's a good chance that OU/OSU will be the defacto championship game because the winner would own the tie-breaker even if they lost a game somewhere along the line)
Maybe it won't work out this way. There are usually some big surprises on the way. But, right now...it's a reasonable scenario to ponder. The SEC and the Big 12 will spit out the two most likely championship contenders in virtual playoff games during the regular season.
Wisconsin and Boise State will be there if there's an opening. If this season is destined for A LOT of surprises, the Oregon-Stanford winner may be in the mix as well...as well as the Alabama-LSU loser. Crazy things have happened in this race over the past decade.
With that as a backdrop, Saturday's Oklahoma State-Texas game looms rather large. Oklahoma just throttled Texas in Dallas last week. Should Okie State struggle, they're going to lose the style point battle to a significant degree. It will be more difficult to outshine Wisconsin and Boise State in the computer beauty pageant. But, if Oklahoma State matches OU, or tops them....suddenly the bracketing seems much more secure.
At first glance, Oklahoma State should have no trouble with Texas.
The young Texas secondary was absolutely abused by Oklahoma last week, with Landry Jones passing for 367 yards and three touchdowns. Running backs only had 16 carries for OU at the Cotton Bowl because yardage was coming so easily through the air.
Oklahoma State has a high octane offense led by a 28-year old quarterback (as of his Friday birthday) that will likely move up and down the field at will in Austin. This is a team that lives to attack through the air...and they don't call off the dogs until they've humiliated an opponent.
Oklahoma State comes in fresh as a daisy after a 70-28 cakewalk over Kansas last week. Texas comes in with its confidence blown to smithereens after its "men vs. boys" loss to the Sooners. If this game is played two weeks ago...the Longhorns would have had some swagger to them. Now, they just might be shellshocked. Okie State still has its swagger. T. Boone Pickens buys them a new locker room full it every offseason.
On the other hand...
Oklahoma State's defense is very vulnerable...and significantly worse than Oklahoma's. In fact, Oklahoma State currently ranks 104th in the nation in total yards allowed, and 103rd in the nation in passing yards allowed. OU hurts people, and spent last week in the Texas backfield terrorizing inexperienced quarterbacks. Oklahoma State is more passive...which makes them vulnerable to the Texas Trickeration that worked so well against UCLA and Iowa State.
Oklahoma State is prone to long lapses where they lose focus. You'll recall that happened in the first half at Texas A&M a few weeks ago. The Cowboys fell way behind before rallying for a very close victory. Most of the media attention was either on the Aggies' choke job...or the heroic rally. Nobody talked about the dead first half! You play a dead half in Austin...and you're not going to match Oklahoma in style points. You might lose the game outright.
This is the first Texas home game since the Horns "got good" again. The explosive breakout performances came on the road at UCLA and at Iowa State...which means the home crowd never got to express their appreciation to the young Horns. An experienced college town like Austin doesn't have patience when veterans screw up...or when overhyped "phenoms" keep throwing interceptions. But, when undersized kids are scampering all over the place trying to score an upset...the noise and the energy is going to be there. This week anyway. If Texas gets blown out again, seats will be cheap for the Kansas and Texas Tech games coming up.
JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK has been working very hard on this game because a big pointspread cover is likely in one direction or the other. Obviously, a replay of last week could triple the Vegas spread or more. Heck, if Oklahoma State is clicking, they could have this spread tripled by halftime. But, if Texas is primed to score an upset...then it's a double digit cover for the home underdog. In fact, this may be one of the most volatile games all season in terms of final score potential. Volatility is a handicapper's best friend, and an oddsmaker's worst enemy.
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We also have a great TV TRIPLE CROWN planned for Saturday. Among the possibilities:
Michigan at Michigan State on ESPN (previewed yesterday in the NOTEBOOK)
Baylor at Texas A&M on FX
Utah at Pittsburgh on ESPNU
LSU at Tennessee on CBS
Ohio State at Illinois on ABC (regional)
Florida at Auburn on ESPN
Arizona State at Oregon on ESPN
A few other 'blowout' possibilities exist in TV matchups that only alumni could love. Maybe we'll be on Wisconsin to slaughter Indiana on ESPN2 in an early kick, or Oklahoma to do the same to Kansas in a late start. Maybe Alabama-Ole Miss makes it into the mix. You'll get three TV gems you can parlay to profits if you include this feature on your Saturday itinerary.
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