Tramel college football predictions: The Big 12 is best vs. COVID
Big 12 football has had a disappointing season on the gridiron. Three losses to Sun Belt Conference teams on September 12, including two by teams that within three weeks would beat OU.
No undefeated teams headed into November. Only one team, OSU, remaining in contention for the College Football Playoff after the first week of November.
But give the Big 12 credit. The conference is leading the nation in getting games played.
COVID postponements and cancellations are raging all across college football. Just this week, Ohio State-Maryland, four Southeastern Conference games and perhaps Arizona State-California have been called off.
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And outside of the Mid-American Conference, which began play eight days ago and has gotten in all nine of its scheduled game, the Big 12 has been the best at avoiding pandemic stoppages.
The Big 12 has staged 29 conference games so far, with only one game failing to launch. That was the October 17 OSU-Baylor game, which has been rescheduled for December 12 in Waco.
The rest of the nation:
SEC: six games postponed, 40 games played.
Big Ten: three games canceled, 19 games played.
ACC: two games postponed, 48 games played.
Pac-12: Two games canceled, another one likely to be canceled, and four games played.
American: three games postponed, 26 games played.
Conference USA: 21 games played, 11 games postponed or canceled.
Sun Belt: two games postponed, 23 games played.
Mountain West: Two games canceled, 16 games played.
That includes only conference games. A bunch of non-conference games were squelched, including TCU-SMU and multiple Baylor games.
But since the pandemic hit, this season always was going to be about getting in as much conference play as possible.
And the Big 12, along with the ACC, has led the way in avoiding postponements and cancellations. Good job.
Let’s get to the predictions:
TCU at West Virginia: Horned Frogs 26-17. TCU has a shot at a winning season. Win this game and beat Kansas, and the Frogs are 5-3 going into the season finale against OSU.
Baylor at Texas Tech: Bears 23-20. The loser is bound for ninth place in a league with nine teams and Kansas.
Vanderbilt at Kentucky: Wildcats 23-0. Mark Stoops has to get wins when he can. UK’s next two games are against Alabama and Florida.
Arkansas at Florida: Gators 37-17. If this game goes on, it will go without Razorback coach Sam Pittman, who was diagnosed with COVID. Too bad. This was a matchup of two of the leading candidates for national coach of the year. Florida’s Dan Mullen has done a great job, but my vote goes to Pittman, whose team was handed a killer schedule. Some predicted a winless season. But Arkansas has scratched its way to a 3-3 record.
South Carolina at Ole Miss: Rebels 31-21. Both teams are 2-4, but 2-4 in the SEC West is a lot different than 2-4 in the SEC East.
Wisconsin at Michigan: Badgers 27-20. Strange year in the Big Ten. Only six of the 14 teams have a winning record. No team can join that club this week, and Wisconsin can leave it by losing to Michigan. Maryland almost certainly was going to leave the club, but got a reprieve when its game against Ohio State was canceled.
Indiana at Michigan State: Hoosiers 35-16. Stranger year in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers appear to be the conference’s second-best team.
Iowa at Minnesota: Hawkeyes 28-21. The loser falls to 1-3 and becomes more ready than most to get 2020 behind us.
Illinois at Rutgers: Scarlet Knights 24-20. Greg Schiano is a great football coach. They knew it in Piscataway, New Jersey. The rest of us are beginning to realize it.
Penn State at Nebraska: Cornhuskers 26-20. Combined records -- 0-5. Where have you gone, Joe Paterno and Tom Osborne?
Northwestern at Purdue: Wildcats 19-17. The only two unbeaten teams left in the Big Ten West.
Miami at Virginia Tech: Hokies 33-30. VPI lost to Liberty last week, but the Hokies play everyone tough. Miami strikes me as overrated.
Wake Forest at North Carolina: Tar Heels 38-35. When you can figure out Carolina, let me know.
Notre Dame at Boston College: Fighting Irish 27-24. Classic spot for a letdown. BC played Clemson about as tough as Notre Dame played Clemson, and BC did it on the road.
Louisville at Virginia: Cardinals 31-30. A game postponed from last week. Fortuitous scheduling.
Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech: Panthers 25-15. The Yellow Jackets are 2-4 in league play and have been outscored by 100 points total. Pitt is 3-4 in league play and has been outscored by 18. Easy call.
Florida State at North Carolina State: Wolfpack 23-20. Do they curse Jimbo Fisher’s name in Tallahassee? I mean, seriously. What a mess he left behind.
Southern Cal at Arizona: Trojans 31-24. With about 2½ minutes left in USC’s game against Arizona State, the Trojans’ chance of winning, trailing 27-14, was less than one percent. SC won 28-27. Football is a funny game.
Colorado at Stanford: Cardinal 24-23. The Buffaloes didn’t look half bad against UCLA. Win this game, and Karl Dorrell really will have something to build on.
Oregon at Washington State: Ducks 45-22. Oregon’s only road games are WSU, Cal and Oregon State. Only the coronavirus can stop Oregon.
California at Arizona State: Sun Devils 35-27. Cal still faces severe quarantines, so I don’t see how this game gets played.
Utah at UCLA: Utes 30-20. Man, Chip Kelly’s team did not look good in a 48-42 loss at Colorado.
Oregon State at Washington: Huskies 41-17. Jimmy Lake makes his debut as the UW coach. Hard to believe Chris Petersen is out of the game.
SMU at Tulsa: Golden Hurricane 24-21. TU seems like a pretty good team, but how would we know? The Hurricane has had three games postponed or canceled. It’s mid-November, and Tulsa has played only once in consecutive weeks.
East Carolina at Cincinnati: Bearcats 37-10. I’m a believer in Cincy. I think the Bearcats are legit. Is that enough to get them into the playoff? Probably not.
Army at Tulane: Black Knights 23-17. If OU fans get a chance to watch, they might as well. The team the Sooners would have been playing (September 26 at West Point) if not for COVID, against the opponent OU is scheduled to open against in 2021.
South Florida at Houston: Cougars 36-20. Remember when UofH was the nation’s most cursed team, with game after game called off because of COVID? Houston didn’t start its season until October 3 against Tulane. But now the Cougars have played five straight weeks.
Temple at Central Florida: Knights 45-16. UCF is 4-2 and still a tough out. This is a tuneup for the November 21 showdown against Cincinnati in Orlando.
Colorado State at Boise State: Broncos 27-10. Boise State has quarterback problems. Starter Hank Bachmeier has missed the last two games, backup Jack Sears (a Southern Cal transfer) was injured in the first quarter of the showdown against Brigham Young last week and true freshman Cade Fennegan was overmatched the rest of the way, in what became a 51-17 BYU rout.
Fresno State at Utah State: Bulldogs 31-21. Utah State fired coach Gary Andersen over the weekend. What are schools doing? Southern Miss, now Utah State. That’s inexcusable, unless there’s some kind of conduct problem. It’s a disgrace, an affront to players, to fire a coach in mid-stream, but especially in a pandemic season.
Hawaii at San Diego State: Aztecs 25-24. Underrated result of last week -- San Diego State lost to San Jose State. The Aztecs have been Mountain West powerbrokers for several years. Has that changed?
Nevada at New Mexico: Wolf Pack 40-24. Jay Norvell’s team can get to 4-0. If Nevada keeps this up, the former OU assistant could be in line for a better job? Maybe Iowa, his alma mater?
Nevada-Las Vegas at San Jose State: Spartans 33-23. San Jose State also is 3-0. Anyone up for a Nevada-San Jose State championship game in the Mountain West?
Coastal Carolina at Troy: Chanticleers 42-27. The Coastal story keeps rolling along.
South Alabama at Louisiana-Lafayette: Ragin’ Cajuns 35-14. The Cajuns’ only loss remains a 30-27 defeat to Coastal. The teams could rematch in the Sun Belt title game.
Georgia State at Appalachian State: Mountaineers 30-13. Appalachian State still plays both Coastal Carolina and Louisiana-Lafayette, so the Sun Belt could get really interesting.
Texas State at Georgia Southern: Eagles 34-30. Our man Jake Spavital, a Tulsa Union grad, is 4-17 as the head coach at Texas State, including 1-8 this season. How have the Bobcats gotten in as many games as the Mid-American Conference combined?
Florida Atlantic at Florida International: Owls 28-20. Two teams that often are hard to distinguish. This season, the best way to tell them apart is that Atlantic is the good one.
Middle Tennessee at Marshall: Thundering Herd 34-14. No one gives undefeated Marshall much mid-major love. I wish the Herd had played cross-state West Virginia in the non-conference.
Texas-El Paso at Texas-San Antonio: Roadrunners 38-27. The Miners are in San Antonio this week, in Midland next week. UTEP moved its November 21 home game against Alabama-Birmingham to a high school stadium in Midland, because ov COVID.
North Texas at Alabama-Birmingham: Blazers 39-30. Seth Littrell’s Mean Green is just 1-2 in Conference USA but could get back into West Division contention with a victory.
Southern Mississippi at Western Kentucky: Hilltoppers 28-19. Same goes for Southern, which while 2-5 in C-USA is just 1-2 in the conference, which is led by 2-1 UAB.
Rice at Louisiana Tech: Bulldogs 41-14. The Owls have played only two games all season but beat Southern Miss 30-6 in its last outing.
Eastern Michigan at Ball State: Cardinals 31-21. Sorry, I missed out on picking three Mid-American games. I moved my picks up to Wednesday to accommodate the MAC, but the Tuesday games put too much of a crush on my schedule.
Toledo at Western Michigan: Rockets 35-34. Quite possibly the MAC West title game. Both opened with routs last week.
Central Michigan at Northern Illinois: Chippewas 24-21. Central coach Jim McElwain wins -- he was 22-15 at Colorado State (few have done better), 22-12 at Florida (some have done worse) and now is 9-6 in Mount Pleasant.
Last week: 36-12. Season: 211-81.