This is the beautiful thing – and the terrible thing – about college football: No one wins consistently forever. During the years that constitute a nostalgic period for me (1970s), the perennial national powers were Oklahoma, USC, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Alabama, Nebraska and Penn State. Sure, there were the occasional blurbs on the radar screen (e.g. Pittsburgh in '76), but by and large, the ‘Big Eight' was not necessarily the Conference, but the aforementioned teams.
Since that decade, each of these teams has known hardship. Alabama appears to be emerging from its long post-Bear hibernation under Mike Shula, USC has suffered the slings and arrows of Ted Tollner, Larry Smith and Paul Hackett and is now enjoying a powerful resurgence, post-Woody Ohio State endured Earle Bruce and John Cooper before hiring and prospering with Jim Tressel, Michigan has been up and down with Lloyd Carr after Schembechler, Notre Dame was a virtual circus after Era and Lou but now seems to be headed toward the outstretched arms of touchdown Jesus under the crafty tutelage of Charlie Weis, Oklahoma resurfaced in 2000 with Bob Stoops and Nebraska is still working through the labor pains started by Frank Solich and continuing under Bill Callahan. Most of these programs, steeped in tradition, were strong thirty years ago, have suffered calamity, and are now in the nascent stages of redefining themselves.
What does the remainder of 2005 offer? I haven't a clue; but one thing of which you can be certain is that it appears that the institution is on solid ground with its popularity growing exponentially with every season.
Saturday, October 15th
Alabama (-12 ½) at Mississippi Does the Sports Illustrated cover jinx have a one-week delay? If so, the Tide may be in trouble this weekend. Having made the cover last week, Brodie Croyle could be forgiven for being a bit nervous this coming Saturday. And the Rebels of Ole Miss better hope there is something to the SI cover jinx, because with the way Alabama has been playing that's about the only hope they'll have.
Bama by 17
Nebraska (-2) at Baylor The Bears have been solid and should still be pumped after their once-in-a-decade road win in Ames last Saturday. The crowd in Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco is expected to set a new-century record and could go as high as eight or nine hundred. On the other hand, Nebraska has only lost one game all season. Granted, they've played offense like a fair Texas high school team and defense like a good college team, but they still have Callahan on the sideline and, even worse, John Blake. It would take a courageous, devil-may-care sports prognosticator to actually pick Baylor in the upset this coming weekend.
Bears by 3
Colorado at Texas (-17 ½) All those long nights of partying in Boulder are about to catch-up with Barnett's boys. Is Texas the best team in the country? Absolutely not. But they're better than Miami and we all remember what happened when Gary's Party Pups went to Florida in September, don't we?
Texas by 17
Florida at LSU (-6) Less Miles + Bo Pelini + Jimbo Fisher divided by Urban Meyer + Charlie Strong + Dan Mullen = a long afternoon for the gumbo eaters.
Florida by 7
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M (-17 ½) What a matchup…Aggies of old against today's modern, sleek Aggie. The Aggies of old (OSU) have not fared well of late but then again, neither have the modern Aggies (A&M). The Aggies of old can't seem to muster any offense but then again, neither can the modern Aggies. The only bright spot on the horizon for the Aggies of old is that quarterback Bobby Reid has a foot injury and may not play. But whether he plays or not, we've got to go with Kyle Field and those 82,000 screaming underachievers.
Texas Aggies by 24
Iowa State at Missouri (-5 ½) Pinkel Piper Picked a Peck of Palsied Players…try saying that fast about five times. Hands down, Brad Smith will be the difference in this game. If he keeps the ball off of the turf and out of the hands of Cyclone defensive backs, Mizzou has a shot. If not, it's the Cyclones in a breeze. Let's give Smith the benefit of the fumble recovery.
Tigers by 7
Kansas State at Texas Tech (-14) Wasn't impressed with the Tech defense in Lincoln. Any self-respecting ‘d' would have held the Bug-Eaters (Nebraska's moniker in the early twentieth century) to about, oh, say, 6. Leach may be a very good coach if you discount his blind spot on defense, but Snyder is a great one, in spite of his newly discovered ‘no-punter' policy.
Tech by 4
Penn State at Michigan (-3 ½) Okay, Joe, you've won me over. I doubted you last weekend and I came out on the short end. The general opinion in the college football world is that an aging Paterno with only moderately effective bladder control can teach lessons to Lloyd Carr on his best day. Don't embarrass me, Joe.
Penn State by 6
Michigan State at Ohio State (-6 ½) Far be it for me to make a reckless statement like "Tressel is reaping what he's sewn", because that would be specious and unkind. So suffice to say that the Blackeyes aren't what they were cracked up to be in pre-season. The Horseshoe won't be a lucky one for Ohio State this Saturday.
Spartans by 3
USC (-11 ½) at Notre Dame The Trojans haven't been playing the first half the past few weeks, as they seem to think (and they've been correct so far) that two good quarters of perspiration are all winning takes for these veritable "Kings of College Football." But a word to the wise for Pete Carroll: Play four solid quarters this weekend or prepare for your streak to end.
USC by 10
Oklahoma (-6) vs. Kansas at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City While it's true that Mangino has done a fine job in Lawrence, he has still not affected the alchemical transition he has been looking for – the transformation of the Jayhawks from aspiring winners to solid contenders. And in spite of the Sooners' offensive line looking like that of a frat house pickup team and the erratic play of Rhett Bomar, Oklahoma should prevail.
OU by 14
Wann Smith has served two years as national columnist for the Pigskin Post, contributed to the College Football News (a contributor to Fox Sports and the Sporting News) and is currently the editor of the College Football Gazette. Smith lives in St. Louis with his family.
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