In the near future, he could be hyped as the hottest player in college football. Two months ago, that player was Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold.
But on Saturday night in Los Angeles, we could see the future on the field and, instead of Darnold, it might be Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate. It’s an unlikely duel only because two months ago, when Darnold was posing on magazine covers, Tate was standing on the sideline as a backup.
Tate was Mr. October during the Wildcats’ four-game win streak, rushing for 840 yards as Arizona put up 48.8 points per game. He emerged as a Michael Vick-like running threat and produced rushing performances of 327, 230, 137 and 146 yards against defenses from Colorado, UCLA, California and Washington State, respectively.
What makes Tate even more dangerous is he’s not a one-dimensional runner who can be scouted and stopped. He also completed 70.7 percent of his passes with six touchdowns last month.
At the end of September, Arizona was nothing special and coach Rich Rodriguez was thought to be running out of time in Tucson. An injury and a quarterback change changed everything. Why was Rodriguez not starting Tate sooner? Good question.
On the first Saturday of November, the Wildcats are running into a USC team that just turned in its most complete game of the season in a 48-17 win at Arizona State. Darnold passed for three touchdowns with no picks, and Ronald Jones II rushed for 216 yards and two TDs on just 18 carries. The Trojans bounced backed impressively after getting embarrassed by Notre Dame.
As for Tate, believe the hype. USC will be Tate’s toughest test yet, but its shaky run defense can be cracked. The Wildcats, who should be live ‘dogs, were getting 7½ points early in the week and the line is down to 7.
It’s possible the Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences will get shut out of the four-team playoff, and it’s a certainty that either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State soon will be eliminated. When the rivals hook up in Stillwater, expectations for the defenses will be low and the total (76) is high.
The Cowboys’ Mason Rudolph is a more attractive NFL prospect than the Sooners’ Baker Mayfield, but the veteran quarterbacks are as good as it gets at the college level at the moment.
Mayfield has completed 72.5 percent of his passes with 23 touchdowns and three interceptions, and he led Oklahoma to a statement win at Ohio State. Rudolph has completed 65.6 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and five interceptions, and he led Oklahoma State to a 50-39 win at West Virginia last week. The Cowboys are scoring 44.5 points per game to rank No. 4 in the nation. The Sooners are averaging 42.9 points to rank sixth in scoring.
Oklahoma opened the week as a 3-point underdog. Rudolph has been roughed up the past two weeks while his numbers have dropped off, and that might be the reason the line has dipped to 1½ and 2.
Rivalry history points to Oklahoma, which has won four of the past five Bedlam games, with victories by 18 and 35 points the past two years. The Sooners are 12-2 in the past 14 meetings, losing by more than three points only once.
Saturday’s plays: IOWA (plus-18½) over Ohio State; Virginia Tech (plus-1) over MIAMI; INDIANA (plus-13) over Wisconsin; Texas (plus-7) over TEXAS CHRISTIAN; Oklahoma (plus-2) over OKLAHOMA STATE; Florida (plus-3) over MISSOURI; Louisiana State (plus-21½) over ALABAMA; Stanford (Pick) over WASHINGTON STATE; Arizona (plus-7) over USC.
Last week: 4-5 against the spread