What To Watch: Oxford An Important Football City
By Steve Barnes
I keep up regularly with one friend from my college days at Ole Miss. Caron and I were both Florida kids in a small town called Oxford in north Mississippi. We had common ground. I dated her best friend. We double dated at an Alpha Omicron Pi formal in Memphis. The story of her singing-waiter date still gives me a headache, but Caron and I turned into the best of friends.
We experienced great things at Ole Miss. There were frat parties, tailgating and of course, probably the reason a girl from West Palm Beach and a boy from Pensacola went there, Southeastern Conference football.
That fall was 30 years ago. A strange year in which Ole Miss lost to Tulane and Memphis State, but beat LSU and Tennessee and ended up in the Independence Bowl where the Rebels lost, 9-3, to Air Force in the worst soccer game in history.
Caron and I have remained friends the last three decades, so imagine my shock when I was informed of her daughter's college choice: Duke.
OK, the kid has more brain power than her mom and I combined, but Duke? Go to a football school!
As it turns out, she did.
The Blue Devils beat Miami by 18 points last week. Anyone who predicted that either is a liar or has the newest mansion in Las Vegas.
Now, Duke controls its own destiny and can advance to the Atlantic Coast Conference title game against Florida State if it takes care of business. I am thinking they will. Games at Wake Forest and home against North Carolina seem quite winnable.
Not to be too Satanic, but give me the Devils over the Deacons. Then over the Heels.
Then there will be a contest in Charlotte with Florida State. If Jameis Winston somehow can't play, we are looking at the 9-3 game Caron and I saw in Shreveport.
By the way, the Duke coach is David Cutcliffe. He used to coach at Ole Miss.
SOUTH CAROLINA EYES: The biggest Ole Miss fans in the world are looking West from Columbia, S.C. Should Missouri happen to fall in Oxford this week, the Gamecocks will have the inside track to Atlanta for the SEC championship game. The Rebels are hitting their stride, but if Mizzou does escape Lafayette County, Miss., Texas A&M still is waiting. The chances of the Tigers knocking off both are about as much as Alex Rodriguez being the new "Say No to Drugs" endorser.
Gamecocks, get ready for Bama.
A GOOD LONG SHOT: This week, Baylor plays Oklahoma State in a Top 10 game. Should the Bears win — and averaging a zillion points a game helps the odds — look for some weirdness in the final year of the BCS. If Winston is charged with a felony in Tallahassee, and that is possible, he will be suspended from competition by the university. If Baylor can put a whuppin' on the Cowboys, why can it not jump Ohio State in the BCS standings? If Winston cannot compete, voters are more likely to want to see what the Bears offense can do against Alabama than FSU with a third-string quarterback or Ohio State with a balsa-wood schedule.
Oddly enough, a school who has an iconic coach named Bear might have to play Bears in Pasadena.
THREE MORE: Central Florida escaped last week with a win over Temple. That was the last good shot to derail the Knights from a BCS game. Rutgers, South Florida and SMU are all that stand in the way now. A scare should focus UCF to the point they take care of business.
Whoda thunk? UCF in a BCS game, Florida looking for a way to spin the situation. Good luck, Gators sports information department.
HEISMAN POSES AND POSERS: With the recent revelations from Tallahassee, it appears we are about to give Archie Griffin a Heisman brother. The sophomore is in line to win a second award. Johnny Manziel can cruise to the trophy with two more good games. Even if there is not a single piece of evidence against Florida State's Winston in an alleged sexual assault case, too many voters will shy away from him. That is sad.
Look for the three in the front row in New York to be Johnny Football, Oregon's Marcus Mariota, and in a late run, AJ McCarron of Alabama.
THEY LOOKED GOOD: Northern Illinois looked good earlier in the week when it beat Toledo. Jordan Lynch appears to be the real deal when it comes to college quarterbacks, although he has said he will change positions to get to the NFL. I saw Matt Jones move to wide receiver at the Senior Bowl, but with his running ability, wouldn't it be fun to see Lynch as a running back? Any stretch sweep he ever runs in the future, the pro defensive backs will have to respect his ability to throw.
That is a pretty cool weapon to have in your holster.