Clear Your Schedule | Week 9, 2023

By Brian Wilmer -

Greetings, sickos! Hope you’re ready to settle in for another installment of Clear Your Schedule!

It’s that time of year when it’s 64 degrees in your house because you refuse to give up on summer and turn on the heat. You’re also sneezing every 15 seconds because of ragweed or whatever silly allergen has descended from the evil trees along with every leaf that just spent the last six months growing.

Really? Just me? Seriously?

Fine, let’s talk football.

Sunday Stories

It’s time for the four biggest stories from the week prior in college football. Agreement is not required, but I always appreciate it.

Give me Liberty or give me a championship:  This wasn’t exactly a Sunday story, but with CUSA doing the odd midweek thing for the entirety of October, it’s the best we have.

The Liberty Flames overcame a sluggish effort in Lynchburg to turn away Middle Tennessee, 42-35. They would then go on earlier this week to take down Western Kentucky in Bowling Green and earn a bid to the CUSA championship game in their first year in the circuit. All the takes are fine — the Flames’ schedule is trash, the CUSA is week, all of them — but Liberty has combined a new coaching staff and a sizable group of new players to get within a win of some conference hardware. The Flames are fourth in the nation in rushing yards, tallying nearly 281 a game behind the P5 transfer duo of quarterback Kaidon Salter and running back Quinton Cooley. Liberty’s only league games remaining are next Saturday against Louisiana Tech and on the road to close the slate at UTEP, so if they take care of business, the festivities will be in Lynchburg to open December.

Also, with all the hullabaloo about putting JMU in a bowl, Jacksonville State is very quietly 7-2. Just saying.

Adios, Arkansas:  Arkansas put up a pathetic 187-yard, three-point showing in a loss to Mississippi State that set football back 50 years, and that was enough to cost offensive coordinator Dan Enos his job. The Razorbacks have essentially no shot at a bowl now after going the last two years, and the 9-4, Outback Bowl-winning season looks like a complete outlier. Sam Pittman is only 21-23 (10-21 in the SEC) even with that year, and the wolves are howling at the doors in Fayetteville. Seeing what Eli Drinkwitz — also in his fourth season — is doing at Missouri on the other side of the league isn’t helping matters.

Five Points, five Ls:  Speaking of Drinkwitz, his Tigers clobbered South Carolina last week, and things are getting a bit troubled in Columbia. People even tweeted after last week the records of Will Muschamp and Shane Beamer at the same points in their coaching careers at Willy B. Spencer Rattler is catching a ration of hell — fairly or not — for the Gamecocks’ struggles. While it is true that he has thrown for four touchdowns in the last three games, they all came in one of those games, a 41-39 loss to Florida.

The bigger problem is on the other end of the ball, as South Carolina is DFL in the league in yards allowed per game (446.7 ypg) and pass defense (305 ypg). Carolina is a 15.5-point dog at A&M this week, and though there’s a seemingly winnable game against Jacksonville State next, they’ll be sitting at 5-5 — if they beat A&M, Jax State, and Vandy — needing to split the final two with Kentucky and Clemson at home to get bowl-eligible. They likely wouldn’t feel comfortable unless they won both.

Quinn-tessential bad luck:  Texas took a sharp hit both during and after last week’s outing against Houston, as it was announced that star quarterback Quinn Ewers had sprained his AC joint and would miss time with the injury. Ewers is completing 71 percent of his throws and passing for 274 yards per game for the 6-1 ‘Horns, so any downtime will be a problem for Texas. 5-2 BYU also comes calling this week, which doesn’t help.

Maalik Murphy will take the snaps for Texas Saturday, but one has to wonder if the call to Arch Manning in the ‘pen may happen if Texas struggles. Murphy is a freshman with great size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds), but is just 4-for-8 for 47 yards in his very short collegiate career. Murphy went 1-for-2 for seven yards last week in relief of Ewers.

Bad Bets

And now for the time that I show off my complete lack of handicapping skills. I make no claims to the contrary. With that, here’s what you’ll read every week:

I’ll pick four games each week, with many not in the huge P5 windows, because I tend to color outside those lines a bit. I’ll just pick straight lines as they are listed on the day I pick them — no money lines, no teasing, nothing else.  I’ll keep track of my record as the season goes along, and you can trash me in the comments each week for my lack of prediction prowess.

(I had a minor emergency last week — all is well now — but this explains the gap in weeks.)

NOTE:  None of the text within is meant to serve as gambling advice. This is largely meant for parody and light-hearted review. At no point should any of the picks in this article be construed as gambling advice offered by or me.

Week 7

Navy (-3.5) at Charlotte
WHAT HAPPENED:  Navy 14, Charlotte 0. The less we say about that game, the better.

Troy (-4.5) at Army
WHAT HAPPENED:  Troy 19, Army 0. See above.

Troy kicked field goals in the first and third quarters to bookend a 13-point second stanza. But hey, Army gets to celebrate a new football home.

#14 Louisville (-6.5) at Pittsburgh
WHAT HAPPENED:  Pittsburgh 38, Louisville 21. That’s about right.

The stereotypical trap game ensnared the Cards, as the Redbirds were outscored 24-0 over the final two quarters. Jack Plummer threw 52 times for the Cardinals — getting ripped twice, including a pick-six — and the Louisville faithful were left with a stomachache akin to just having eaten a large Shaqaroni pizza. Maybe even one of those spicy garlic crust ones.

Wyoming (+10.5) at Air Force
WHAT HAPPENED:  Air Force 34, Wyoming 27. This line ballooned to 12-and-a-hook on the day of, and it seemed — rightly — to be the sucker bet of the day. This game didn’t really prove revelatory — the Falcons are legit, which we knew, and the Cowboys are a threat, which we also knew — and the Falcons are still keeping the pace ahead of the (checks notes) UNLV Rebels.

Wait, what?

Week 9 (3-1 in Week 7, 11-11-2 this season)

Miami (OH) at Ohio (-7.5) (3:30pm, CBSSN)
Marshall (-3.5) at Coastal Carolina (6pm, NFLN)
Troy (-6.5) at Texas State (7pm, ESPN+)
UNLV at Fresno State (-8.5) (10:30pm, FS1)

Two road dogs, a road favorite, and a home dog inside a touchdown? Feeling pret-tay, pret-tay wobbly about that slate, folks. Reread that disclaimer above about not taking any of my advice. Ever.

And finally, here are the four “under-the-radar” games I’ll be watching this week and how to watch them. I’ll also include lines if there are any — for informational purposes only, naturally, as outlined in the above disclaimer. I don’t yet have a name for this section. All times are Eastern.

(Note:  Most of the “under-the-radar” games happened Tuesday-Friday, so these aren’t as sneaky as usual.)

#6 Oklahoma (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) at Kansas (5-2, 2-2) (noon, FOX):  Jalon Daniels is out — again — for Kansas, which leaves Jason Bean to take the snaps for the Jayhawks. It’s hard to discern whether the Jayhawks are the wounded animal who will attack if approached or the prey who shows its belly before the predator consumes it. Kansas is just 3-2 over its last five, but has a 29-point win over UCF in its pocket. Yes, that’s the same UCF that Oklahoma knocked off by two in its last outing that led some national outlets to declare that the Sooners are for real.

The Sooners are usually sniped by K-State during these big early-season runs, but maybe this is the year the Jayhawks get them? I’m not terribly confident. If it happened, though, the laughter from the southern end of I-35 would be deafening.

LINE:  Oklahoma -9.5.

#1 South Dakota State (7-0, 4-0 MVFC) at #4 South Dakota (6-1, 4-0) (2pm, ESPN+)I said it last week and I’ll say it again:  The MVFC is a freaking gauntlet. These two are the primary combatants atop the circuit, and they’ll square off in arguably the biggest game of the day in any classification. Only an Aug. 31 South Dakota loss to Missouri keeps both teams from entering the game without a blemish.

The DakotaDome in Vermillion will be rocking. The game is sold out, and the ‘Yotes are fourth in the FCS playoff committee rankings. The playoff rankings don’t really mean a lot this far out, but know that the Showdown Series is going to be a brawl — maybe literally — from the opening whistle. The stat lines between the teams are incredibly similar, and this one looks to be one that will require the final whistle to decide a winner.

LINE:  None at press time.

#2 Montana State (6-1, 4-0 Big Sky) at #9 Idaho (5-2, 3-1) (4pm, ESPN+)The Big Sky has not been the juggernaut this year that it usually is — granted, there is still a lot of firepower at the top in Montana, Montana State, Idaho, and Sacramento State, but there is a lot of meh in the middle of the standings. Idaho State has been fun to watch, tallying the fourth-best passing attack in the FCS at north of 342 yards per game, but games at Sacramento State and Idaho loom for the Bengals.

This leaves Montana State firmly in the driver’s seat, with its fourth-best rushing game (326 ypg) and top offensive output (507.1 ypg) in the FCS. The Bobcats have winnable home contests against Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona left before a season-finale at Montana — assuming, of course, they can clip the Vandals in the Kibbie Dome.

LINE:  None at press time.

Louisiana (4-3, 1-2 Sun Belt) at South Alabama (4-3, 2-2) (5:00, ESPN+):  While the top two teams in the Sun Belt West battle ahead of them, the Ragin’ Cajuns venture to Mobile to take on the Jags.

Something about this game feels off — especially the line, without offering a single iota of betting advice — but it may just be the fact that both of these teams are clawing for what could be among the final bowl berths secured by their league. Both teams are 3-2 over their last five, with South Alabama having scored 110 points over its last two outings. Louisiana dropped a tough one to Georgia State at home by a field goal, but its only other loss over the last five came in an 11-point decision at Minnesota that also seems a bit off.

Louisiana outpaces South Alabama by nearly 40 yards per game on the ground, but its leading rusher has just five scores. The Jaguars score 35.4 a game — heavily buoyed by blowouts of Southern Miss and ULM in the last two — and the Cajuns are 170th in the land in points allowed per game (27.86).

It’s danger zone time for whomever drops this one.

LINE:  South Alabama -10.5.

As quickly as this season started, the end looms. We only have four more weeks left of the regular season before we move on to the playoffs, 502 bowls, and eventually a cold winter.

The season is too short. Life is too short. May neither be taken for granted.

Until we meet again…

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