Yesterday, we went around the SEC, so now it is time for us to turn to the national games of interest. My 3-2 record in last week’s nationwide forecasts doomed me to carry a 23-13 non-SEC record for the season into this weekend. At this point, I shouldn’t even have to warn you, but I will, anyway: Don’t Bet On It!
The following games all will be played on Saturday, October 23:
Air Force Falcons at TCU Horned Frogs: As college football games go, this ought to be a pretty good one, but, as mascot incongruities go, this one is awfully odd. Maybe this is just me, but the first thing that popped into my head when I thought of the Falcons and the Frogs was Timothy Hutton using his job at the Black Vault to obtain classified information, which he then passed along to Sean Penn with instructions to deliver it to a KGB agent code-named Simon Wheeler, who accepted the proffered information, then proceeded to relate a lengthy story about Jim Smiley and his jumping frog, Dan’l Webster, after which Hutton poured lead shot into the mouth of his pet falcon, attempted unsuccessfully to release the weighed-down bird in a field, and sat down to await the arrival of U.S. marshals and Calaveras County deputy sheriffs to take him into custody. Yeah, that’s probably just me. In any event, I’m picking Texas Christian in this one.
Nebraska Cornhuskers at Oklahoma St. Cowboys: Fans in Lincoln are rewriting R.E.M. songs to suit their mood, because, in their view, it’s not the end of the world as they know it, and they don’t feel fine. Given the state of the Cornhuskers’ psyche, I would be inclined to side with the Pokes in Stillwater, but I can’t get past this fact: Oklahoma State has cobbled together its 6-0 record by beating six teams ranked outside the top 100 nationally in pass defense. You read that correctly; every opponent the Cowboys have beaten fields one of the 20 worst pass defenses in Division I-A. I have to think a mad Nebraska squad will be able to buck that trend.
Michigan St. Spartans at Northwestern Wildcats: These two teams compete in rivalry games for the Land Grant Trophy, the Land of Lincoln Trophy, the Megaphone Trophy, the Old Brass Spittoon, the Paul Bunyan Trophy, and the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk, but none of those trinkets will be on the line this Saturday. In fact, there is no mildewed hunk of driftwood fished from the debris ringing an abandoned scow floating aimlessly on Lake Michigan, no rusted-out pail with a hole in the bottom found dangling at the end of a fraying rope suspended from the rotting timbers of the entrance to a forgotten mine shaft in one or the other of the two Arcadia Townships, and no moldy pair of wadded boxer shorts plucked from the lint trap of a decaying Joliet laundromat at stake this Saturday, as this game is that rarest of rarities: a Big Ten football game played in the second half of the season in which the battle offers only meaningless championship implications, unimportant bowl ramifications, and hollow bragging determinations, but no tangible prize better suited for a low-rent garage sale, tourist-targeted roadside stand, or despondent afternoon spent rummaging through a deceased elderly relative’s attic than for a major college football game. Too bad for the Spartans that they’re going to go home empty-handed after winning such an inconsequential contest.
Wisconsin Badgers at Iowa Hawkeyes: Yep, you guessed it . . . there’s some sort of nicknack or piece of bric-a-brac up for grabs in this one, as the two teams will compete for the Heartland Trophy, a brass bull that changes hands annually. Through 85 series meetings, the Hawkeyes hold a narrow 42-41-2 edge over the Badgers, so this is one Big Ten victory marker I’m not going to mock. How could I? These are two storied programs with a longstanding rivalry that is as close as close can be, so I have to be respectful toward such a venerable trophy, which dates all the way back to . . . 2004? Did I read that correctly? Yes, I read that correctly: Iowa and Wisconsin, who will not be protected rivals when the league begins divisional play next year, have squared off in six trophy games in a series that dates back to 1894. Yeah, when your victory trophy is younger than my older child, you should expect me to make fun of this silliness. Iowa is going to win the game, but my respect for Kirk Ferentz will plummet if he doesn’t roll his eyes, sigh, and (in the argot of the blogosphere) MDWM when accepting the hokey Heartland Trophy.
Oklahoma Sooners at Missouri Tigers: Could this be a preview of the Big 12 Championship Game? Both clubs roll into this game sporting undefeated records, and, with Alabama and Ohio State having gone down to defeat in the last two weeks, the race for the top spot suddenly is wide open. The winner of this game automatically is anointed as the conference frontrunner and vaulted into contention for a whole lot more. With so much on the line for both teams, what . . . oh, stop it, already. We all know the Sooners are going to win this one.
Those are my takes, for whatever they might be worth, but, as you know, they aren’t worth a whole lot. Accordingly, while I hope you derived a degree of entertainment from the foregoing forecasts, you should not mistake what you gleaned from my prognostications for enlightenment. In any case, this much should be clear: whatever you do, . . . Don’t Bet On It!
Coming Soon: National Game of Disinterest.