Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (grief counselors standing by in Provo, where BYU is winless against FBS competition):
MCELWAIN TALKS DEATH THREATS – KIND OF
No Florida (31) fans are happy that the Gators are 3-3, on a two-game losing streak and still a lousy offensive team in the third year under putative offensive expert Jim McElwain (32).
But are some of them threatening the lives of coaches, players or others near the program?
McElwain went there at his Monday news conference, without being asked and without offering much of an explanation. In response to a question about handling some adversity during this season, McElwain took his answer in a different direction.
“There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger, and yet it’s freedom to show it,” he said. “The hard part is when the threat’s against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there.”
McElwain declined to elaborate, both to the media and apparently to his superiors. A Florida statement released later Monday said, “The University Athletic Association takes the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and families very seriously. Our administration met with coach McElwain this afternoon and he offered no additional details.”
As a veteran of parsing university statements, that’s an interesting one. The school all but called out the coach for failing to cooperate, making his assertion look a bit dubious.
McElwain should offer additional details to law enforcement, at the very least, and to Florida administrators. This really isn’t the kind of thing to keep “in-house,” as coaches like to say. Vague references to the media aren’t going to cut it in terms of handling the issue.
HOORAY FOR DAYLIGHT FOOTBALL
For the past few years, the biggest games of every Saturday have increasingly been clustered during prime time. The reason is obvious: ratings. But that glut also has prevented discerning fans from spreading out their TV viewing throughout the day. It has forced some ugly commutes home in the wee hours for fans at the games. It has made us a bunch of Australian marsupials, living a nocturnal lifestyle.
That changes this week. Almost all the big games will be played during daylight hours. Problem is, the networks have moved the prime-time glut to the 3:30 ET glut, but at least most of the major matchups will be over well before midnight.
The Dash takes a quick look at the key games in the rare afternoon windows:
Oklahoma State-West Virginia (33). When: noon ET. Where: Morgantown. A pair of teams with one loss in conference play that are trying to keep themselves in the Big 12 title hunt – and the Cowboys (6-1) are still thinking playoff if they can win out. This has been a weird series, with the favorite losing three of the past four. The favorite this time: Oklahoma State by 7½. Dash pick: Oklahoma State 35, West Virginia 31.
Penn State-Ohio State (34). When: 3:30. Where: Columbus. Humongous game in every sense. If the Nittany Lions win, they take a giant step toward the playoff (while still keeping in mind Michigan State awaits the following week). If the Buckeyes win, their playoff chances are boosted – but will the committee excuse the 15-point home loss to Oklahoma as readily as the pollsters have? (Ohio State ranking three spots ahead of Notre Dame in the AP poll and four in USA Today is ridiculous.) Favorite: Ohio State by seven. Dash pick: Penn State 28, Ohio State 27.
Georgia-Florida (35). When: 3:30. Where: Jacksonville. This shouldn’t be close, but the Gators have had a way of torturing the Bulldogs in the Cocktail Party game in recent years. Florida has won three straight – before which Georgia won three straight, and before that the Gators won three straight. If the Rule of Threes is going to continue, it’s time for Georgia to start a new winning streak. Favorite: Bulldogs by 14½. Dash pick: Georgia 27, Florida 10.
TCU-Iowa State (36). When: 3:30. Where: Ames. The most unlikely big game of 2017. Horned Frogs are undefeated and ranked fourth, which nobody saw coming. Cyclones are 5-2 and ranked 25th, which nobody saw coming. Worth noting that this likely won’t be your stereotypical Big 12 touch-football shootout – TCU and Iowa State are 1-2 in the league in total defense and scoring defense. Favorite: TCU by seven. Dash pick: TCU 28, Iowa State 24.
North Carolina State-Notre Dame (37). When: 3:30. Where: South Bend. Another game that wasn’t on any preseason list of major showdowns, but here we are. Wolfpack have won six in a row after an opening loss to South Carolina, and the Fighting Irish have won five straight since a one-point loss to Georgia. N.C. State has the same bye-week advantage Notre Dame enjoyed last week in preparing to maul USC. Important week for the Irish not to drink the media rat poison. Favorite: Notre Dame by 7½. Dash pick: Notre Dame 31, North Carolina State 28.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Jeff Monken (38), Army. Took on one of the toughest jobs in FBS in 2014 and has built a nice program. Army broke through last year by finally beating Navy and going 8-5, its best record since 1996, and the Cadets might top that this year. They’re currently 6-2, their best record through eight games since ’96. And Army is resolutely doing it infantry style, completing a total of 16 passes – an average of two per game. But the option game is strong.
COACH WHO SHOULD RIDE THE BUS TO WORK
Mark Dantonio (39), Michigan State. Taking the bus is the safest mode of transport for Dantonio if he wants to be safe from the next moving violation committed by his running back, LJ Scott, who was arrested last week after a seventh driving-related offense – most of them stemming from a suspended license. Dantonio, whose program has had a lot of garbage flowing through it recently, laid the hammer on Scott on Saturday by making him sit out one entire offensive series against Indiana. As a colleague noted Saturday night, after Scott scored the final touchdown in the victory over the Hoosiers, “Never forget that Dantonio was a Jim Tressel guy.”
If you can’t quite get to Columbus on Saturday for Ohio State-Penn State and wind up thirsty in Dayton, The Dash recommends a visit to Warped Wing Brewery (40). It’s a reconfigured warehouse with a bit of a German beerhall feel – lots of long wooden tables. Try a Gamma Bomb IPA and thank The Dash later.