Game day fast approaches, and we have a long way to go but a short time to get there, both figuratively and (in the case of those of us who are making the trek to Stillwater) literally. I already have taken you around the SEC, so now it is time to look at the national games of interest. First, however, I must offer my usual caveat: I am a lousy prognosticator, so, when it comes to my predictions, please, remember . . . Don’t Bet On It!
Colorado St. Rams at Colorado Buffaloes (Sept. 6): You knew I was going to include this one, and you know why. I’m going to continue to sound this drumbeat because it’s an important point that bears repeating. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets do not deserve to be given pride of place as the Georgia Bulldogs’ season-ending opponent. Frankly, the rivalry has lost much of its luster since the Engineers left the league, and, historically, the Ramblin’ Wreck has not been a fixture on the late November slate. It was not until 1953 that the Golden Tornado took up permanent residence at the end of the schedule, a spot Georgia Tech never occupied prior to 1927. Meanwhile, the Auburn Tigers were the Red and Black’s final opponent for 18 of the first 23 years of Georgia football. The Plainsmen are our oldest rival and the Bulldogs have faced them more often than any other opponent. We need to go back to playing our real season-ending rival, Auburn, in the final regularly-scheduled game and move the Yellow Jackets to an earlier date to get them out of the way. This game serves to remind us that, yes, you can play your out-of-conference in-state rival before Thanksgiving. Oh, by the way, Colorado will win.
Maryland Terrapins at California Golden Bears: I hope the Terrapins left already, because it has to take a long time for a turtle to go all the way from the East Coast to the Golden State. Last year, the Terps surprised Cal in the Old Line State in an early game for which the jet-lagged Bears appeared to be half-asleep. Now, in Berkeley, with Maryland returning only nine starters, Cal will exact a little payback. All right, maybe a lot of payback.
Illinois Fighting Illini v. Missouri Tigers: Do you want to know how much of a non-stop thrill ride this game is liable to be? The one person I know with ties to the University of Illinois already has sent me a Facebook message including his cell phone number and his itinerary in Stillwater, where he will be this weekend instead of attending this exercise in futility. Neither of these teams gives any indication of having long-term staying power, but, when one squad has a senior quarterback named "Juice" and the other club has a sophomore quarterback named "Blaine," it’s not too tough to figure out which one is winning the football game. The artist who recorded "Angel of the Morning" (well, one of them, anyway) will send
her his counterpart back to "Men on Films" when Illinois reminds the Tigers that Missouri loves company.
Cincinnati Bearcats at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Sept. 7): In theory, this is one of the twelve or 15 games that will determine which three or four teams tie for the Big East championship. Fortunately for the visiting outfit with the bizarre cross-bred mascot, Brian Kelly is building a solid program at Cincinnati. Unfortunately for the Bearcats, they have three problems. First of all, they’re playing the State University of New Jersey in New Jersey. Secondly, they lost roughly 23 defensive starters. All right, that’s an exaggeration, but they lost a lot. Finally, the team is a bit down now that local broadcasting legend Dr. Johnny Fever has been fired for saying "booger" on the air. All that adds up to a Rutgers victory.
Oklahoma Sooners v. BYU Cougars: This was smart scheduling on OU’s part. Brigham Young is a "name" mid-major---heck, for 20 years, from 1984 to 2004, the Cougs were the "name" mid-major---that looks good on the slate, but, at the end of the day, BYU isn’t as good as advertised and doesn’t have the horses to hang with the Sooners for four quarters. This game may be competitive at halftime, but I expect Bob Stoops’s troops to pull away in the second half as Oklahoma cruises to a moderately easy win.
Oregon Ducks at Boise St. Broncos (Sept. 3): My wife recently asked me whether there were any Thursday night games being played this week. I allowed as how there were. She asked which teams were playing. I mentioned that the South Carolina Gamecocks would be tangling with the N.C. State Wolfpack, but noted that the marquee weeknight game had Oregon traveling to Boise. She looked crestfallen, did a double take, then looked even more crestfallen. "That’s the team with the bad uniforms . . . playing on the blue field, isn’t it?" I allowed as how this was the case. "We can watch the game being played below the Mason-Dixon line," she replied. Apparently, I won’t be seeing this game, but those of you who are will see a Boise State victory.
Those are my forecasts for the marquee national contests of the week. You are, of course, free to register your agreement, disagreement, or utter bafflement at my indefensible position in the comments below. Whatever you do, though, remember: Don’t Bet On It!
Coming Soon: The National Game of Disinterest.