NCAA Picks: Big 12 looks to back up OU’s big win
By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
Time for the rest of the Big 12 to step up.
No. 2 Oklahoma gave the conference a signature victory last week at Ohio State that should serve the Sooners well when the College Football Playoff selection starts sorting through contenders.
Two other ranked Big 12 teams hit the road this weekend for the worst kind of games: against nonconference opponents that are good enough to pull an upset but not good enough to be considered equals.
No. 9 Oklahoma State is at Pitt and No. 18 Kansas State visits Vanderbilt, giving the Cowboys, Wildcats and the Big 12 far more to lose than gain this weekend. Too much energy is spent and too many words are spilled on the debate over which conference is best, but the only league to get left out of the playoff twice is in need of a narrative shift.
Baker Mayfield and company have done their part, but it would be nice for the Sooners to get some backup and provide the Big 12 multiple playoff-worthy looking teams heading into conference play.
The Cowboys and Wildcats — along with No. 20 TCU — are probably the best bets to be formidable rivals that either help Oklahoma build a playoff case or beat Oklahoma and make one of their own.
There is one wild card: Don’t laugh, but Texas is at No. 4 Southern California on Saturday. The Longhorns have been involved in a few of these types of matchups in recent years. They have the scent of a big game, but never quite taste like the real thing.
Tom Herman’s job is to change that and beating USC in the first meeting between the schools since the classic 2006 Rose Bowl national championship game would be delicious not just for Longhorns fans but for the whole Big 12.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Illinois (plus 18) at No. 22 South Florida
The Bulls only played well in spurts during their first two games and then got an unexpected week off to deal with Hurricane Irma. It’s hard to guess what to expect out of them … USF 28-14.
No. 3 Clemson (minus 3¢) at No. 14 Louisville
The three meetings between the Tigers and Cardinals have been decided by a total of 15 points and all won by Clemson … CLEMSON 31-24.
No. 23 Tennessee (plus 5) at No. 24 Florida
Now might be the time for the Gators to start running the option. The Vols couldn’t stop it against Georgia Tech and just about everything else the Gators have tried in recent years hasn’t worked … TENNESSEE 24-20, UPSET SPECIAL.
Texas (plus 15) at No. 4 Southern California
If he wasn’t playing with Sam Darnold, Trojans RB Ronald Jones might be a Heisman contender … USC 48-28.
SMU (plus 19¢) at No. 20 TCU
Horned Frogs have won six straight and nine of 10 in the Battle for the Iron Skillet … TCU 49-27.
Air Force (plus 24) at No. 7 Michigan
Playing service academies and their option offenses can be a real pain … MICHIGAN 30-14.
Army (plus 30) at No. 8 Ohio State
No, really: Playing service academies and their options offenses can be a real pain … OHIO STATE 38-13.
No. 12 LSU (plus 7) at Mississippi State
Bulldogs need to work on those old-school fumble drills … MISSISSIPPI STATE 27-21.
Oregon State (plus 21) at No. 21 Washington State
Cougars QB Luke Falk will start after leaving last week’s game with an apparent injury … WASHINGTON 45-17, BEST BET.
RANKED ON THE ROAD
No. 9 Oklahoma State (minus 13¢) at Pittsburgh
Cowboys needed overtime to beat the Panthers last season … OKLAHOMA STATE 38-21.
No. 10 Wisconsin (minus 17) at BYU
What in the name of LaVell Edwards is going on with the Cougars offense? BYU averages just 4.26 yards per play … WISCONSIN 28-13.
No. 18 Kansas State (plus 3¢) at Vanderbilt
The Commodores are fourth in the nation in defense at 2.89 yards per play allowed … VANDERBILT 23-17.
No. 19 Stanford (plus 9¢) at San Diego State
Cardinal’s Bryce Love vs. Aztecs’ Rashaad Penny in a matchup of two of the best backs in the country who were backups most of last season … STANFORD 35-24.
No. 25 UCLA (minus 3) at Memphis
Bruins get the dreaded body clock game, kicking off at 11 a.m. CT or 9 a.m. West Coast time. Oh, and the Tigers are good … UCLA 38-28.
Colorado State (plus 28¢) at No. 1 Alabama … ALABAMA 45-14.
Tulane (plus 34) at No. 2 Oklahoma … OKLAHOMA 50-14.
Georgia State (plus 38¢) at No. 5 Penn State … PENN STATE 58-10.
Fresno State (plus 33) at No. 6 Washington … WASHINGTON 56-14.
No. 16 Virginia Tech (minus 21) at East Carolina … VIRGINIA TECH 42-14.