Downs & Distance

Two thumbs down for Oklahoma State

Jim McBride’s four items of interest on this week’s college football landscape:

Two thumbs down

One of the worst movies in the history of movies is “Johnny Be Good,’’ a 1988 comedy (though the yuks are few and far between) starring Anthony Michael Hall as gifted high school quarterback Johnny Walker. Walker is pursued by a ton of schools that offer him the sun, moon, and stars (a.k.a. women, cash, and gifts) to sign on. Though the movie bombed, apparently the good ol’ folks at Oklahoma State decided to use the screenplay as a blueprint to run their program since 2001, when Les Miles was the coach. The allegations (as reported by Sports Illustrated) coming out of Stillwater (including coaches paying players, hostesses having sex with recruits, and no-show jobs) are hardly stunning. What’s stunning is how long these alleged transgressions have gone on. Stay tuned as SI has three more articles planned examining the Cowboys program.

Manhattan project

UMass has taken its lumps this season, and things aren’t going to get any easier any time soon. Coach Charley Molnar is bringing his club to Manhattan Saturday, but it’s not for a day of sightseeing in the Big Apple. Instead, the guys from Amherst will be in Manhattan, Kan., to face Kansas State. The Wildcats, who fell in Week 1 to FCS foe North Dakota State, aren’t likely to be gracious hosts. Kansas State, which is coached by Bill Snyder and plays in the Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium (how cool is that?), has a very tough offense to prepare for because of the exciting QB tandem of Jake Waters and Daniel Sams. Waters is more of a pure passer, completing 70 percent of his tosses, while Sams, who played QB, receiver, running back, and returner in high school, is in charge of the ground game; he already has two highlight-reel TD runs this season.

Duck season


In his never-ending bid to becoming the world’s smuggest coach, Southern Cal’s Lane Kiffin took it to another level this week. Fresh off one of the school’s ugliest losses in recent memory (lucky for us East Coasters, the 10-7 home loss to Washington State, which was nationally televised, wrapped up early Sunday, when most of us were asleep), Kiffin made the decision to announce his starting quarterback for this week’s tilt vs. Boston College via video released by the school. Cody Kessler, who has been battling fellow sophomore Max Wittek for the job, will get the nod, just as he did the first two weeks when Kiffin — who is not popular with the fandom — kept his choice secret until game time. OK, we get keeping it under wraps until kickoff for competitive purposes. But announcing it online to avoid reporters? That’s extraordinarily weak.

No laughing matter

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The most anticipated game of the season is on tap Saturday afternoon when No. 6 Texas A&M hosts No. 1 Alabama in a rematch of the biggest upset of the 2012 season. The Aggies’ 29-24 win in Tuscaloosa sent shock waves through the Southeastern Conference and launched the phenomenon that is “Johnny Football,” as QB Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel, whom Alabama coach Nick Saban labeled “a fierce competitor,’’ frustrated the Crimson Tide with his wizardry. There are unconfirmed reports that Saban still is making his charges run laps for losing that game, the lone blemish on the Tide’s championship season. “We just have to lock in on him this time and stay locked in,’’ said Alabama safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. Still can’t believe that Saban, who hasn’t laughed since 1976, recruited a kid named HaHa.

Jim McBride can be reached at