Yesterday, I made a joke about the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. Multiple commenters corrected me on my apparent misapprehensions concerning the presence of trees in that portion of the Grand Canyon State, and I also received a cordial and professionally worded e-mail from Steve Shaff, the assistant athletic director for media relations at NAU, acquainting me with the history and topography of the region.
I wrote Steve back to explain that my predictions postings routinely contained good-natured jests---I even made a joke at the expense of my own team in the same posting---and his reply essentially said "no harm, no foul" . . . but he ended with: "Go Gators!" It turns out that Steve Shaff spent eight years as an assistant sports information director at the University of Florida. This should give you some idea of just exactly how lousy my luck has been lately.
That, plus the fact that I went 1-4 in last week’s national forecasts to fall to 24-24 for the year, should be all the reason you would ever need to heed my weekly disclaimer: Don’t Bet On It!
The following games were the best I could come up with as national games of nominal interest on a truly terrible weekend of intercollegiate gridiron matchups:
Kansas Jayhawks at Kansas St. Wildcats: You know it’s a crummy weekend of football when a Sunflower State showdown between a visiting team that’s tied for last place in the weaker division of the Big 12 with a 1-3 conference mark and a home team that sits at 5-4 overall despite being first in line for a beatdown in the league title tilt makes the cut. Nevertheless, it is an in-state rivalry game being played prior to Thanksgiving, so I feel it is my duty to remind Bulldog Nation at every opportunity that, yes, it can be done. There’s no reason in the world why we ought to provide the Yellow Jackets pride of place at the end of our slate and we would do well to follow the lead of such local foes as the Jayhawks and the Wildcats. As for which one will win this game, oh, heck, let’s say . . . Kansas. If I’m wrong, I’ll just say I accidentally left off the "State."
Northwestern Wildcats at Iowa Hawkeyes: While I have, from time to time, been put out with our Big Ten brethren, I have tried to bury the hatchet between our respective conferences, and, while I am not above mocking the Midwestern league’s ersatz trophy traditions (in fact, I’ll probably do so before reaching the end of this posting), I do not have a knee-jerk negative reaction to the Big Ten. Earlier in the season, I had the Hawkeyes ranked No. 1 and I think the notion that Ohio State’s struggles in national championship games can be held against Iowa is as nonsensical as the suggestion that the Oklahoma Sooners’ BCS title tilt faceplants at the end of the 2003 and 2004 campaigns ought to have kept the Texas Longhorns out of contention in 2005. That said, I do find it odd that Hawkeye fans quote "West Wing" episodes quoting "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" rather than just, you know, quoting "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." In any case, if you’re looking at the Hawkeyes and wondering, "Who are those guys?" you need not be concerned . . . as long as Northwestern doesn’t show up wearing white straw hats, Iowa ought to be all right this weekend.
Navy Midshipmen at Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Seriously, do we even have to play this game? We all know what’s going to happen. The brave young fighting men of the United States Naval Academy will do Annapolis proud by battling valiantly right down to the wire and faring just well enough for just long enough to make us believe, before the accursed Golden Domers find a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the most heart-wrenching manner imaginable. I almost can’t bear the thought of watching this one unfold, because I’ll be rooting for Navy like every patriotic American, but, if the Mids can’t get by the Irish in places like Baltimore and Philadelphia, they surely aren’t going to escape South Bend with a win over Notre Dame.
Ohio St. Buckeyes at Penn St. Nittany Lions: Believe it or not, there’s nothing on the line in this one. There’s no Sweet Sioux Tomahawk, Old Oaken Bucket, Old Brass Spittoon, Little Brown Jug, Paul Bunyan Trophy, Paul Bunyan’s Axe, Pecos Bill’s Rattlesnake Lasso, Antique Moldy Doodad, Freeform Partially Melted Yard Sale Nick-Nack, Leaky Burlap Bag of Loose Dirt From an Abandoned Mine, or Steaming Pile of Monkey Dung in a Corrugated Cardboard Box at stake. No one gets a slab of bacon, a statue of a pig, a gold pants charm, a handful of leftover Halloween candy, an incomplete set of chess pieces that have been gnawed on by stray dogs while sitting half-buried in the dirt in the yard of a collapsed farmhouse, or a random array of unrelated useless products shoplifted by Jim Delany from the ten-cent bin of the local drug store for winning this game. How will Penn State find a reason to eke out a victory at home with nothing more hanging in the balance than a conference win? The mind reels.
Those are this week’s national picks, with respect to which I would remind you once again . . . Don’t Bet On It! (As long as I’m offering disclaimers, it probably would be prudent of me to mention that I did not genuinely accuse the Big Ten commissioner of shoplifting. The fact that I’m not particularly funny doesn’t change the fact that I’m joking.)
Coming Soon: National Game of Disinterest.