Bob Stoops, a weary nation of SEC haters is placing its hopes in your hands.
Stoops and his No. 19 Oklahoma Sooners are at No. 23 Tennessee on Saturday. After the Southeastern Conference set another record by packing 10 teams into the latest AP Top 25, Oklahoma’s trip to Knoxville represents the best chance for the league to be fed at least a small portion of humble pie this week.
Getting worked up about early season college football rankings is up there with analyzing exhibition NFL games on the list of things sports fans do but should not. But the SEC making up 40 percent of the best teams in the country, according to the 61 members of the media who vote in college football’s oldest rankings, was a bit startling.
Count Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker among those with SEC fatigue. Striker gave a colorful quote Tuesday to reporters in Norman about all the praise the SEC gets and added: “I don’t understand why.”
Striker and the Sooners beat Tennessee at home last season and took down Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to end the previous season.
As for the rankings, history suggests that early in the season teams with a recent history of success tend to get the benefit of the doubt from voters. The SEC has a lot of those teams right now.
One game won’t change any minds on either side of the current SEC debate — Overrated or Overpowering? But safe to say there will be a lot more Sooners fans on Saturday around the country than normal.
Reaching into the Twitter bag for questions.
Q: Please inform us who doesn’t belong? — jake_hawg34 asked about the 10 ranked SEC teams.
A: While there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about Tennessee’s future under Butch Jones, the Vols are getting a lot of traction out of beating Iowa. Big Ten team’s should be so lucky. Last week in a victory against Bowling Green, the Volunteers allowed 11 plays of at least 20 yards.
Mississippi State went from unranked to ranked on the strength of a victory against Southern Miss, owner of four victories in the previous three seasons.
And yes, I’m still skeptical about Missouri, though to be fair the Tigers have earned their benefit of the doubt with two straight East titles.
Q: Most impressive team this past weekend? — NateBair
A: Texas A&M is the obvious choice, but how about a little love for Temple? Understandably, what’s wrong with Penn State was the theme coming out of the Owls’ upset. Then again it is possible Penn State won’t face another defense that good until it goes to Ohio State in mid-October. Plus, Temple’s offense, awful last season, was efficient against a stout D.
West Virginia smothering Georgia Southern was also noteworthy.
Q: Is it too early to panic in Austin? — tricerapops
A: Yes, though feel free to be worried. Charlie Strong has taken a slash-and-burn approach to restoring Texas. The problem is at places such as Texas (Michigan, USC, etc.) the negativity around a program can build up fast and create a toxic environment that makes it impossible for a coach and team to thrive. The Longhorns need to show progress fast or risk slipping into a permanent state of dysfunction.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Utah State (plus 13 1/2) at No. 24 Utah
Utes have won 13 of 14 against the Aggies … UTAH 24-14.
No. 7 Oregon (plus 3 1/2) at No. 5 Michigan State
Ducks-Spartans II figures to be another high-scoring affair with both teams looking shaky in pass defense last week. …. MICHIGAN STATE 42-33.
No. 19 Oklahoma (minus 1) at No. 23 Tennessee
Score one for the SEC haters … OKLAHOMA 34-27.
No. 14 LSU (minus 4 1/2) at No. 25 Mississippi State
The Bulldogs snapped a 14-game losing streak against LSU last year … MISSISSIPPI STATE 24-17.
No. 20 Boise State (minus 2 1/2) at BYU
Even with QB Taysom Hill out, the Cougars represent one of the Broncos’ toughest tests … BOISE STATE 24-20.
WEIRD ROAD TRIPS
No. 13 UCLA (minus 29) at UNLV
Last year, Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, coached by Tony Sanchez, beat St. John Bosco High School from Bellflower, California, with QB Josh Rosen, 34-31. Now Rosen starts for the Bruins and Sanchez coaches the Rebels … UCLA 45-14.
No. 21 Missouri (minus 10 1/2) at Arkansas State
Red Wolves get a rare Sun Belt home game against an SEC team … MISSOURI 31-14.
No. 22 Arizona (minus 11 1/2) at Nevada
Wildcats had a hard time shaking UTSA in opener … ARIZONA 28-21.
No. 9 Notre Dame (minus 12 1/2) at Virginia
Irish hoping versatile C.J. Prosise can become top tailback … NOTRE DAME 28-14.
Appalachian State (plus 17 1/2) at No. 12 Clemson
Mountaineers have one of the most experienced teams in the nation … CLEMSON 38-17
No. 10 Georgia (minus 20 1/2) at Vanderbilt … BEST BET, GEORGIA 42-13.
No. 11 Florida State (minus 28) at South Florida … FLORIDA STATE 41-10
Tulane (plus 28 1/2) at No. 15 Georgia Tech … GEORGIA TECH 38-7.
Ball State (plus 29 1/2) at No. 16 Texas A&M … TEXAS A&M 52-14.
Fresno State (plus 29) at No. 17 Mississippi … OLE MISS 38-7.
Toledo (plus 21½) vs. No. 18 Arkansas at Little Rock … ARKANSAS 42-17.
South Carolina (minus 7) at Kentucky
Wildcats go for two straight over the Ball Coach … UPSET SPECIAL, KENTUCKY 31-24.
Cincinnati (minus 6 1/2) at Temple
Owl power … TEMPLE 28-23.
San Diego State (plus 13 1/2) at California
The Bears’ schedule is ferocious. If they have any chance to go bowling, this is a must-win … CALIFORNIA 45-35.
Minnesota (minus 6) at Colorado State
Tricky trip for Gophers … MINNESOTA 24-21.
Washington State (plus 2) at Rutgers
Two fan bases waiting for their teams to implode … RUTGERS 34-31.
Last week’s record: 14-2 straight; 10-7 vs. spread
Upset specials: 1-0.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP. AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org