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Inside College Football | Chris Dufresne ON COLLEGE
FOOTBALL

It's Time to Separate Men From the Boys

October 09, 2003|Chris Dufresne

I would very much like to start a crusade against the proliferation of college games being played on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Houston at East Carolina on Tuesday may float your boat, but Tuesday is a bowling night in my book and always will be.

Friday night was, for years, hands-off so as to not impede on the high schools, but even sacrilege has its price if, say, you're a struggling conference and the sports cable network Rush Limbaugh once worked for jangles the change in its pocket.

In a perfect world, college football games would be played on Saturday, preferably at noon, preferably on grass, preferably with 25 Keith Jackson mimics at the microphone.

I would also make an exception for ... this week.

There are simply too many good games to cram into this weekend, not enough Oct. 11 hours to do justice to the unfolding dramas.

For this week only, I would have staggered the kickoffs like takeoffs at LAX, starting today after the Dr. Phil show.

This is the Saturday even playoff advocates have to stash their anti-BCS manifestos and enjoy the spectacle.

Because there is not a playoff, a regular-season October weekend can be spellbinding instead of a mere jockeying for tournament seeding.

This weekend, eight undefeated teams are involved in games that could help win or cost them the national championship, while half a dozen other games are worthy of consideration.

Some of these potential epics have soap-opera subplots and intersectional intrigue.

A breakdown of the top 10 -- in order of importance, not appearance.

* No. 2 Miami (5-0) at No. 5 Florida State (5-0).... Otherwise known as Bobby Bowden's recurring nightmare. Miami limps into Tallahassee without star tailback Frank Gore after sweating out a two-point victory over West Virginia. It's Florida State's game to win, right? Well ... Miami has cost Bowden three outright national titles and 10 times as many sleepless nights. Failed last-second field-goal tries that could have either tied or won games in 1991, 1992 and 2000 are known in lore as Wide Right I, II, and III. Last year, Xavier Beitia's 43-yard field-goal attempt to beat Miami sailed Wide Left. The kicker couldn't face the media afterward because he was sobbing so hard.

I was at Miami's practice facility in August and noticed a practice goal post that was noticeably slanted to one side. In honor of Florida State, I thought.

* No. 11 Texas (4-1) at No. 1 Oklahoma (4-0). No one remembers that Mack Brown beat Oklahoma his first two years as Texas coach. What they remember is three consecutive losses that have earned Texas its Pillsbury Doughboy reputation.

"This game is really important to Texas fans, so it's not something we're proud of," Brown said of the losing streak.

In 2000, Oklahoma crushed Texas, 63-14. In 2001, Oklahoma was nursing a 7-3 lead when Texas return man Nathan Vasher inexplicably downed a pooch punt at his own three with two minutes left. From there, linebacker Teddy Lehman returned a deflected Chris Simms' pass for a touchdown.

Last year, Oklahoma went on a 24-0 second-half run to erase a 17-11 Texas lead en route to victory.

Texas has already suffered a loss, to Arkansas, but the Red River Shootout stakes remain large.

"It's a game that's in the way of where we want to be," Texas receiver Roy Williams said.

The Texas subplot, as usual, involves a quarterback controversy. On the heels of the Simms-Major Applewhite debate, Brown now faces a quandary with Chance Mock or Vince Young. Mock is the redshirt junior and more of a pocket passer; some are calling Young, a redshirt freshman, the most exciting player since Michael Vick.

After watching Oklahoma blitz the stationary Simms into sack-land the last three years, Young would seem to pose an interesting threat to the Sooners.

Yet, Brown isn't saying how he'll deploy his quarterbacks other than to say that Mock will get the start.

"We will continue to play both quarterbacks," Brown said. "I'm not going to talk about how or where."

We know one game in which Young did not play, the Arkansas loss.

Like they're saying in Boston right now, it's time for Texas to "Cowboy up."

* No. 3 Ohio State (5-0) at No. 23 Wisconsin (5-1). Ohio State's first trip of the year! (Did the Buckeyes pack enough socks, put a stop on the mail, make sure the neighbor kid picks up the newspaper?) Ohio State has won 19 consecutive games but nine of the last 12 have been decided by a touchdown or less.

* No. 10 Nebraska (5-0) at Missouri (4-1). Hey, this Nebraska comeback is going better than the Eagles Reunion Tour.

* Auburn (3-2) at No. 7 Arkansas (4-0). For Auburn, all it took was a grease monkey to pop the hood and tweak the carburetor on Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who rushed for 185 yards against Tennessee.

* No. 20 Michigan (4-2) at No. 17 Minnesota (6-0). This game was moved to Friday to avoid possible conflict with baseball's Twins. Excuse me, what conflict? Minnesota is trying to stay on track for its first Rose Bowl trip since 1962.

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