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Don't Bet On It!: National Game of Disinterest

Having provided you with this week’s S.E.C. and national picks, I now devote my attention to proclaiming a national game of disinterest. (Proper modifier placement! Some sportswriters know about it; some others don’t!)

This week, I had a tough time determining the college football contest toward which I felt the greatest degree of indifference. I considered recognizing Florida International at Troy, until I realized that---egad!---these two teams are both 2-0 in conference play, so this is an honest-to-goodness Sun Belt showdown. I thought about bestowing the dubious honor upon Michigan’s doomed trip to Penn State, but I didn’t want to have a bottle thrown at me.

In the end, though, there could be only one. The national game of disinterest is:

Nebraska at Iowa State

At this point, you’re probably thinking to yourself, "Well, sure. I mean, the Cornhuskers were the marquee program in the Big Eight---heck, in all of college football---for a generation, as they racked up one season of nine or more wins after another, while the Cyclones stink on ice. Who could possibly care about this beatdown?"

That’s not why this is the national game of disinterest, though.

First of all, it isn’t as though Nebraska is altogether impregnable where Iowa State is concerned. I.S.U. famously upset the ‘Huskers in Ames in 1992 to deal Tom Osborne’s Big Red Machine its last regular season defeat until 1996. Nebraska’s loss to the ‘Clones in 2002 was the beginning of the end for Frank Solich and a setback suffered in Ames in early November 2004 virtually assured that Bill Callahan’s first season in Lincoln would be a losing one.

What makes this one so dull is that, quite frankly, these programs are on a pretty even footing these days. Since beating Colorado in their 2006 regular season finale, the Cornhuskers have gone 8-12; since falling to the Buffaloes in the penultimate game of that selfsame 2006 campaign, the Cyclones have gone 6-13. Nebraska and Iowa State have been to the same number of bowl games in the last four years: two apiece.

At the end of the day, in a season in which the Big 12 is staking a serious claim to the title "best conference in college football"---blasphemy, I know, but their argument is pretty doggone credible---this is one team that’s 0-2 in league play visiting another team that’s 0-2 in league play.

Both teams are more likely than not to turn it around eventually---both programs boast head coaches who previously served as the defensive coordinators for national championship-winning squads, after all---but, for the moment, you can forget all about how much better one of these programs is than the other as an historical matter. In the present, they both just stink . . . and that makes it, frankly, just too sad to pick.

Go ‘Dawgs!