Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns entertain UCLA on Saturday.
With any luck at all I won't see a minute of college football this weekend. That might sound strange, especially leading into an article about a weekend chock-full of the sport.
Should Mother Nature bless me for several days later this week, I'll be picking up a case of fisherman's elbow while most of the weekend schedule is being played. The Texas Gulf Coast beckons, and I'm answering the call.
Three of the games on the Week 4 slate are intriguing to my Lone Star roots for one reason or another. All of them would appear to be dog-friendly matchups.
Good luck this weekend, whether you're betting or fishing.
TCU at SMU (+17½, 55)
Friday, Sept. 24 - 5 p.m. PT (ESPN)
Everybody grab your Bibles 'cause there's a showdown revival this Friday evening when the Cowtown Christians go to war with the Big D Methodists. You fine folks in Ft. Worth might want to plan on extra wait time at Angelo's Barbecue if you're going to stop there before making the short trek to Dallas.
Seriously, this could be an entertaining contest and might wind up being the only game I do catch a glimpse of or pick up on a radio while castin' from a dock or pier. TCU (3-0) is fourth in the AP and fifth in the latest USA Today Poll. Even if you account for media lunacy and coaches letting their assistants fill out the cards, that makes the Horned Frogs solid national title contenders...for now.
TCU hosted its neighbors from down South I-35 last weekend and popped Baylor by a 45-10 count. That was an easy 21½-point 'cover' to move the Frogs to 2-1 against the NCAAF betting spread. I'm rooting for TCU, but this is the first real road game of the season and I'm not about to disrespect a June Jones-coached team. Ever.
The Frogs have been the Mustangs' stallion for a while now, winning three straight and nine of 10. But SMU has cashed three of the last four, five of the last seven. If you're a trust fund child, play the game straight up and bank on a solid opportunity. Me? My parents were poor which is why I learned to fish.
Tulane at Houston (-20, 60½)
Saturday, Sept. 25 - 12:30 p.m. PT
Won't spend too much time on this one since the Cougars are coming off a loss and and will be without Case Keenum. When I first looked at the college football schedule back in the summer, this one was circled because of a great time I had in my younger days watching the two teams play. The site was the Houston Astrodome, and the game was the 1973 Bluebonnet Bowl.
Amidst a sea of Green Wave fans who got nasty with their tongues at the start, the final was Houston 47, Tulane 7. I'm not even a Cougars fan, and it was satisfying after hearing about how much Houston, both the university and the city, sucked.
It ain't gonna' be a 40-point difference at the end this time, though the college football oddsmakers still see it as a rout. The Cougars take a week off after this one, so there's no look-ahead danger. But without Keenum, who is expected to miss the rest of the year with an ACL injury, I've got no clue how UH head coach Kevin Sumlin will work his offense. I'll bite on the 'under.'
UCLA at Texas (-15½, 43)
Saturday, Sept. 25 - 12:30 p.m. PT (ABC)
The Longhorns and Bruins get together on a gridiron for just the third time and trust me, there are plenty of fans on both sides that remember the other two. College football record books certainly will never let Texas fans forget UCLA's last visit to Austin.
The two schools played a home-&-home in the late 90s with the Bruins on the turf at Memorial Field in the Lone Star capital on Sept. 13, 1997. The Longhorns were ranked 11th in the AP and favored by 11 points despite starting QB James Brown unavailable with a bum ankle. College football oddsmakers could have favored UCLA by 62 as it turned out and Texas still wouldn't have covered.
Cade McNown was the Bruins star with five TD passes, but the real star was the Longhorns' putrid play: eight turnovers, six of which led to UCLA touches. Final score: Bruins 66, 'Horns 3. It remains the worst loss in UT history, and ultimately led to the firing of John Mackovic and the hiring of current head coach Mack Brown.
UCLA swept that two-game series the next year with a 49-31 win and cover at home as eight-point spread favorites.
Texas (3-0) is seventh in the AP entering this renewal of the series, fourth on the coaches list. UCLA (1-2) is not ranked but that hasn't deterred early action on the Bruins with the line bet down a point or so from the 16-16½ openers.
The Longhorns come in off an important Big 12 road win in Lubbock last Saturday over Texas Tech, 24-14. Texas was a three-point favorite, jumped to a 14-0 lead, then shut the Red Raiders down after they tied the game entering the half. The 'Horns defense limited Tech to 144 total yards, negative-14 of that coming on the ground. Texas covered the spread for the first time this season in the win.
Rick Neuheisel and the Bruins come in off their first win and cover versus the high-flying Houston Cougars this past weekend. A 3½-point underdog, the Bruins muffled the Houston offense that managed just three points the first three quarters with Keenum injured in the first half. UCLA coasted to a 31-13 win in the end.
I'm impressed with Texas' defense, but for some reason don't expect that to translate to a lower-scoring game than the oddsmakers are listing.