College football predictions for a day when OU should be playing Georgia

College football predictions for a day when OU should be playing Georgia

Joe Castiglione made a nice recovery in getting Southern Methodist on the schedule, after the Southeastern Conference ordered the OU-Georgia game axed, since the Sooners would be unable to return the game (scheduled for 2031) as a non-conference opponent.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Sep 6, 2023, 11:46pm CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Sep 6, 2023, 11:46pm CDT

The real college football season arrives this week. For all the fireworks and celebrations, for the fun Sunday night and Monday night games, for the debut of Rocky Mountain Deion, Week 1 was a dud. It had no other choice.

Week 1 included just six Power Five conference matchups that crossed league lines. If not for five conference games (thanks, Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference), college football’s opening week would have come perilously close to a National Football League exhibition slate.

That changes this week. The Big 12 alone has seven games against fellow Power Five opponents, and there are 15 in all.

Of course, it could have been eight in the Big 12 and 16 overall. This was the week OU was scheduled to host Georgia. 

Sure, it’s going to be great in the future when Georgia and Alabama come to town on a regular basis. But that doesn’t help us in 2023.

Oh well. Joe Castiglione made a nice recovery in getting Southern Methodist on the schedule, after the Southeastern Conference ordered the OU-Georgia game axed, since the Sooners would be unable to return the game (scheduled for 2031) as a non-conference opponent.

SMU is a solid mid-major, about to become an Atlantic Coast Conference member in 2024.

OU needed a game because of conference realignment. SMU was available because of conference realignment.

The defection of American Conference schools Central Florida, Houston and Cincinnati to the Big 12 left the American in realignment mode, and among the teams added was North Texas.

The Mean Green originally was on SMU’s 2023 schedule as a non-conference game. That matchup was scrapped, and SMU was looking for an opponent.

The Sooners will return the game to the Mustangs in 2027.

Everyone’s happy. Except those of us who would have liked to see OU host an SEC preview against Georgia, the way Texas and Alabama are finishing off a two-game set, Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

SMU quarterback Preston Stone (2) (Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports)

Let’s get to the predictions

Southern Methodist at Oklahoma: Sooners 41-19. Mustang quarterback Preston Stone is a ballyhooed recruit — Brent Venables said Clemson tried to recruit Stone, and 247 Sports claims Stone is SMU’s highest-rated signee ever. Maybe in the 247 era. But blue-chip recruits existed long before websites issued rankings. Eric Dickerson wasn’t a bad get for the Mustangs back in the day. 

Oklahoma State at Arizona State: Cowboys 28-20. With all the talk of OSU’s revolving quarterbacks, not enough has been said about ASU’s freshman phenom, Jaden Rashada, who committed to Florida but encountered name, image, likeness trouble. Rashada got out of his commitment and gives the Sun Devils a big edge in QB talent, if not in experience.

Texas at Alabama: Crimson Tide 27-20. Bama was thought to have quarterback issues, but are we sure that the Longhorns’ Quinn Ewers is better than new Tide QB Jalen Milroe?

Oregon at Texas Tech: Red Raiders 34-30. Big 12 upset special. Tyler Shough quarterbacked the 2020 Ducks to the Fiesta Bowl; now he’s in his third season at Tech and a good player when healthy. Tech’s upset loss at Wyoming was not that surprising, but the Red Raiders remain a good team. 

Utah at Baylor: Utes 35-20. What happened to Baylor’s defense? The Bears were lit up by Texas State. Now Baylor is without injured starting quarterback Blake Shapen, just as Utah gets QB Cam Rising back for practice. The Utes easily handled Florida, 24-11, without Rising.

Central Florida at Boise State: Knights 28-27. A stiff test for UCF, and what a road trip — 2,608 miles. The Broncos have a good team, despite getting trucked by Washington. This would be a really good win for the Knights.

Iowa at Iowa State: Hawkeyes 13-12. The Cyclones are a mess, courtesy of the betting scandal, but we know they can hang with Iowa. Everybody hangs with Iowa.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh: Panthers 33-31. I’m still getting my mind around UC as a Big 12 team. I see “Cincinnati at Pittsburgh,” and I think National League baseball, circa 1970s.

Illinois at Kansas: Jayhawks 29-28. Illinois likes to play old-style. KU likes to play new-style. It’s 2023. New style wins.

Troy at Kansas State: Wildcats 25-21. Red alert! Red alert! Red alert! K-State often produces a September dud. Tulane last season (though the Green Wave turned out to be ferocious). Arkansas State in 2020. Vanderbilt in 2017. North Dakota State 2013. And Troy is the defending Sun Belt champion.

Houston at Rice: Cougars 44-14. The closest rivals in college football. About 3.8 miles. Well, there is that Henderson State/Ouachita Baptist rivalry in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Their stadiums are about 1,200 yards apart.

Southern Utah at Brigham Young: Cougars 27-3. BYU needs an offense. The Cougars had 14 points, 12 first downs and 257 total yards in a shutout of Sam Houston.

Nicholls at Texas Christian: Horned Frogs 61-14. Too early to tell if TCU has fallen fast, or if the Frogs were caught up in the Deion Sanders avalanche. 

Duquesne at West Virginia: Mountaineers 47-7. College football’s version of R&R. A weekend respite from the rigors of the nation’s toughest September.

Miami head coach Mario Cristobal. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Texas A&M at Miami: Aggies 24-20. With all the talk of A&M’s disappointing 2022, how about Mario Cristobal’s inaugural 5-7 season with the Hurricanes, which included a loss to A&M? Another loss to the Aggies would put Miami on a discouraging path.

Ole Miss at Tulane: Green Wave 35-31. Tulane doesn’t get many home games against SEC foes.

Auburn at California: Tigers 33-20. This is Auburn’s fourth trip to California for a game. The Plainsmen played Florida State in the 2013 national title game in Pasadena, played at Southern Cal in 2002 and played Santa Clara at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco in 1936.

Arizona at Mississippi State: Bulldogs 22-20. More future Big 12 pride on the line.

Vanderbilt at Wake Forest: Demon Deacons 31-24. How will life be for Wake without Sam Hartman? Life is pretty good for Notre Dame with Sam Hartman.

Ball State at Georgia: Bulldogs 56-7. Man, I wish Georgia was in Norman this Saturday.

Middle Tennessee at Missouri: Tigers 34-6. Little known fact. Missouri and Tennessee are tied for the most border states in the U.S., with eight each. Including each other.

Kent State at Arkansas: Razorbacks 54-13. The Golden Flashes miss Sean Lewis, who resigned as head coach after last season to become Deion Sanders’ Colorado offensive coordinator. Seems to be going rather well for Lewis.

Grambling at Louisiana State: Bayou Bengals 59-10. This would have been an interesting game in the Eddie Robinson heyday of the 1960s.

Austin Peay at Tennessee: Volunteers 54-7. Who was Austin Peay? A three-time governor in the early 20th century. Bummer. I was hoping he was an original Tennessee volunteer, from the War of 1812 days.

Furman at South Carolina: Gamecocks 48-17. Carolina needs a game like this to lick its wounds from a 31-17 beatdown by North Carolina.

McNeese State at Florida: Gators 49-10. Florida needs a game like this to lick its wounds from a 24-11 beatdown by Utah.

Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky: Wildcats 34-7. Cincinnati whacked the Colonels 66-13. Let’s see how UK does.

Colorado football coach Deion Sanders. (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Nebraska at Colorado: Buffaloes 31-21. Out of 24 coaching changes last off-season, I ranked the Huskers’ hiring of Matt Rhule No. 2 (behind Wisconsin’s Luke Fickell). I ranked Deion at Colorado No. 6, which is not bad. I love Rhule, but I’d look a lot better if I had those rankings reversed.

Wisconsin at Washington State: Cougars 23-21. National upset special. I love me some Fickell, but the Badgers looked a little shaky last week, and Washington State is playing for pride, as a left-behind member of the Pac-12. 

Purdue at Virginia Tech: Boilermakers 35-24. The Hokies continue to look like a program in trouble.

Texas-El Paso at Northwestern: Wildcats 23-13. Northwestern’s second-best chance to win a game this season. The Wildcats also play Howard.

Temple at Rutgers: Scarlet Knights 31-20. Hot take: Rutgers makes a bowl game.

Eastern Michigan at Minnesota: Gophers 33-13. Minnesota staged a great escape to rally past Nebraska. The Gophers have to get better to be Big Ten West contenders.

Nevada-Las Vegas at Michigan: Wolverines 51-12. Michigan at Vegas would be much more interesting for everyone involved.

Charlotte at Maryland: You know how West Virginia has the nation’s toughest September schedule? Maryland has the easiest. Towson last week, Charlotte this week, then Virginia, Michigan State and Indiana. The Terrapins could be 5-0 going to Ohio State on Oct. 7.

Indiana State at Indiana: Hoosiers 42-9. The Sycamores always will have Larry Bird.

Richmond at Michigan State: Spartans 37-17. I love Richmond’s nickname. Spiders. Always thought the Thunder should have been named the Spiders.

Youngstown State at Ohio State: Buckeyes 52-10. The Jim Tressel Bowl. Tressel coached both schools and was president of Youngstown State.

Delaware at Penn State: Nittany Lions 46-10. Back in the day, Tubby Raymond’s wing-T would have given even the Nittanys fits.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Stanford at Southern Cal: Trojans 55-25. Another one bites the dust. Great old California series that ends this year, due to conference realignment. USC’s next non-conference opening is 2028.

UCLA at San Diego State: Bruins 31-10. This isn’t a grand old rivalry; UCLA leads the series 21-1-1. But the Aztecs won the most recent meeting, in 2019, and the series isn’t ending. Games are scheduled for 2026 and 2031.

Tulsa at Washington: Huskies 50-18. UW took apart Boise State 56-19 last week. And I don’t think Boise State is that bad.

Cal-Davis at Oregon State: Beavers 48-28. Could Oregon State make a run at the Pac-12 championship? America is in the Beavers’ corner.

Notre Dame at North Carolina State: Fighting Irish 37-20. We circled this as a key game for Notre Dame, but it might not even be the keyest game for the Irish in the state of Carolina. Notre Dame plays at Duke on Sept. 30.

Appalachian State at North Carolina: Tar Heels 42-23. The Mountaineers always are capable, but UNC quarterback Drake Maye is something special.

James Madison at Virginia: Dukes 32-17. It’s quite possible, maybe even quite probable, that James Madison is the best football team in Virginia. 

Southern Mississippi at Florida State: Seminoles 45-18. A letdown is quite possible, maybe even probable, but that still shouldn’t deter the Seminoles.

Western Michigan at Syracuse: Orange 27-25. The ACC has some coaching stability. Syracuse’s Dino Babers is in his eighth season as head coach but ranks just fifth in conference longevity, behind Clemson’s Dabo Swinney (2009), N.C. State’s Dave Doeren (2013), Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson (2014) and Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi (2015).

South Carolina State at Georgia Tech: Yellow Jackets 44-7. New Tech coach Brent Key continues to impress me.

Lafayette at Duke: Blue Devils 30-13. This game kicks off about 115 hours after the Blue Devils walked off the Wallace Wade Stadium grass in jubilation, having vanquished Clemson on Monday night.

Charleston Southern at Clemson: Tigers 31-7. Hey, you ever wonder if it wasn’t all former Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei’s fault?

Holy Cross at Boston College: Eagles 46-14. Where have you gone, Gordie Lockbaum? The Holy Cross flash finished third in the 1987 Heisman voting.

Murray State at Louisville: Cardinals 52-10. The only Thursday night game. I’ll pass.

Air Force at Sam Houston: Falcons 29-14. Air Force isn’t a terrible pick to make the Fiesta Bowl. Its schedule isn’t stiff.

Idaho at Nevada: Wolf Pack 38-17. It’s I-AA Week in the Mountain West. Seven of the 12 Mountain West teams are playing I-AA opponents, starting with this one.

Cal Poly at San Jose State: Spartans 34-7. San Jose State played Southern Cal reasonably tough. But Oregon State handled the Spartans rather well.

Portland State at Wyoming: Cowboys 31-16. Portland State was on the wrong end of an 81-7 loss at Oregon. Wyoming is no Oregon, and the Cowboys likely will be coming off the high of upsetting Texas Tech.

Eastern Washington at Fresno State: Bulldogs 47-20. The Bulldogs got a big win at Purdue. They’ll be a contender for the Fiesta Bowl.

Idaho State at Utah State: Aggies 34-13. Utah State is a solid program, with an 11-5 record in the Mountain West the last two years.

Tennessee Tech at New Mexico: Lobos 21-20. New Mexico is a football program that never has found its footing. Since World War II, only two Lobo coaches have left with a winning record. Joe Morrison, the old New York Giants halfback, went 18-15-1 from 1980-82. And some guy named Marv Levy coached New Mexico to a 14-6 record from 1958-59.

Albany at Hawaii: Rainbow Warriors 37-14. What is Albany doing playing in Honolulu, other than enjoying itself? Albany is closer to Athens, Greece (4,836 miles), than to Honolulu (4,940).

Texas State at Texas-San Antonio: Roadrunners 27-23. Hey, this turns into quite the Interstate 35 showdown. The Bobcats upset Baylor in Waco; new coach G.J. Kinne has transformed Texas State with a load of transfers.

Marshall at East Carolina: Thundering Herd 21-20. The clock is ticking on East Carolina coach Mike Houston, who is 20-22 in four-plus seasons.

Alabama-Birmingham at Georgia Southern: Blazers 29-28. The first real test for UAB and new coach Trent Dilfer, who is the ultimate novice, but comes through here.

Florida Atlantic quarterback and Southmoore High School graduate Casey Thompson (11). (JEFF ROMANCE/THE PALM BEACH POST / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Ohio at Florida Atlantic: Owls 26-23. Casey Thompson, with his third school in three seasons after starting at quarterback for Texas and Nebraska, threw five touchdowns in FAU’s 42-20 victory over Monmouth last week.

North Texas at Florida International: Eagles 36-10. UNT’s second season with former Texas Tech receiver Eric Morris as head coach got off to a rocky start, a 58-21 home loss to Cal-Berkeley.

Memphis at Arkansas State: Tigers 45-7. The Red Wolves were helpless in a 73-0 loss at OU last week. No big deal. But getting whacked by arch-rival Memphis would be a big deal.

Wagner at Navy: Midshipmen 30-14. Westmoore High School’s Brian Newberry debuted as the Navy coach with a browbeating loss to Notre Dame in Dublin. Wagner is no Notre Dame. 

Louisiana at Old Dominion: Monarchs 26-20. In most any ranking of university names, Old Dominion is top-10.

Jacksonville State at Coastal Carolina: Chanticleers 31-26. Coastal lost coach Jamey Chadwell to Liberty but still has quarterback Grayson McCall, a three-time Sun Belt player of the year.

Connecticut at Georgia State: Huskies 27-13. If Jim Mora Jr. gets UConn turned around, he won’t be there long. 

New Mexico State at Liberty: Flames 49-11. Conference realignment isn’t chaos for everyone. Both these schools were independent not that long ago, with no apparent conference interest. Now both are in leagues.

Last week: 57-9.


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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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