A Mid-Season Break
By Steve Barnes
"I can feel it coming in the air tonight."
— Phil Collins
It has been a couple of decades since the Genesis frontman sang that lyric, but I can relate to it this week. I can certainly feel it in the air — a weekend of bad college football games.
Some of them were obvious last-second additions to the schedule as the visiting team really doesn't have any business on the same field as the home squad. Try these matchups on for size: Bethune-Cookman at Florida State, Savannah State at Miami, FIU at Louisville, Florida A&M at Ohio State, Kent State at Penn State, North Texas at Georgia and New Mexico State at UCLA. Is anyone looking forward to any of those games? Then again, Michigan had the fight of the year last week against Akron.
There are some intriguing matchups this week, although none really are must-see TV. Georgia Tech at North Carolina is a battle of a veer offense and a pro-style offense and that is cool. Stanford had better watch its step against Arizona State; that one could be close. Michigan State and Notre Dame seem to always play each other tough. Utah State could stoke the fire under Southern Cal coach Lane Kiffin's chair. Virginia Tech plays Marshall like they should every season. Now those games I will check out.
REMEMBER WHEN THESE MATTERED: Also on the schedule this week: Kansas State takes on Texas. KSU lost to an FCS team. Texas just got crushed by BYU and Ole Miss. Tennessee heads to Florida. This is a battle for fourth place in the SEC East behind Georgia, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. LSU hosts Auburn. A Tiger will win, we know that. It'll be Mike big over Aubie. The best part of that one might be the tailgating in Baton Rouge before the game.
SOME EMOTION IN TUSCALOOSA: Colorado State visits Bryant-Denny Stadium this week. The Rams are coached by former Crimson Tide offensive coordinator, Jim McElwain. CSU also has a running back from Kansas City, Mo., named Donnell Alexander. His father was the late Derrick Thomas, a member of the NFL Hall of Fame and one of the most beloved Alabama players in history. The Tide fans will show some class for a young man who is representing his father well in Fort Collins.
SPEAKING OF BAMA: Here is a bold prediction for this week: Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri has picked off Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel in the first two games of the year. This week, he will do it again. The Tuscaloosa native will get a pick six against Colorado State in front of the home folks.
UPSET ALERT: Last week, the Sun Belt's Louisiana-Monroe went to Winston Salem and beat Wake Forest. Another Sun Belt team could be primed to pull one this week. Troy goes to Mississippi State on Saturday. These two have played three times. Troy won big in Starkville once, lost 11-8 after turning the ball over six times in the red zone and lost as the Bulldogs escaped with a 7-point win at Troy a season ago. Dan Mullen had better not lose to the Trojans.
A GOOD BET: In Brigham Young's first two games, Mother Nature showed up in a bad mood. In the opening loss at Virginia, the game was delayed due to lightning. A week later in Provo, there was another lightning delay prior to BYU beating Texas. The sheer math says there is no way there could be three delays in a row. The best bet of the week in nice weather in Provo when the Cougars take on Utah.
BO DON'T KNOW TACT: It seems Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has put his proverbial foot in his proverbial mouth. I have not heard the entire recording of the coach ripping Nebraska fans (the censors did a good job), but I know I don't like it. I covered a game at Nebraska about 10 years ago and I will admit Cornhuskers fans are the classiest and most knowledgeable I've ever been around. They were asking me about players on the team I covered who had graduated two years before, treated me as one of their own in the tailgate areas and most impressively, several subscribed to the Alabama newspaper that employed me. They subscribed so they could keep up with my assigned team all season and even quoted some of my stuff from earlier in the season back to me. I tend to pull for the Huskers after that experience.
A WEEK OFF: Further proof this is a weak football slate this week: Oregon, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Illinois, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Arizona and even Navy have open dates.
A PAT ON THE BACK: I've always shied away from predicting games. I figured if I could accurately predict the outcome of a college football game before it was played, I wouldn't be a sportswriter. Instead, I would have the nicest house in Henderson, Nev., and a day at work would be driving to the casinos to pick up my winnings. However, last week I picked Ole Miss to beat Texas 42-28. The final was Rebels 44, Horns 23. Pretty close. Why can't I do that with Powerball?
HEISMAN POSES AND POSERS: Teddy Bridgewater needs to rack up some stats against FIU after looking human last week as Louisville beat Kentucky. Jameis Winston found another offensive weapon in Kameron Williams, but he won't see much playing time in the Seminoles' game against Bethune-Cookman. Same deal for Alabama's AJ McCarron and T.J. Yeldon against Colorado State. Braxton Miller is day-to-day for Ohio State with a strained knee ligament. There is no reason to put him in the game against FAMU. If Notre Dame wants to have someone Lou Holtz can crow about, this would be the week for an Irish player to do something.
CHECK THE SCOREBOARD, PLEASE: I live in Florida, but not the part most people equate with being in the Sunshine State. I am closer to Auburn than to Florida State, closer to Tuscaloosa than Gainesville. Therefore, there are many Alabama fans in my neck of the woods. On the talk radio circuit and the fan chat rooms, Bama fans are highly upset. It seems they don't like the fact that Johnny Football did not fall flat on his face last week when the Tide went into College Station and beat Texas A&M. From the things I've heard and read this week, Alabama fans are ready to lynch any media member who thinks Manziel had a pretty good game against Alabama, which he did. Instead, of concentrating on the big picture, the Tide fans are screaming that the media is trying to give Johnny the Heisman Trophy again and Bama gets no respect at all. Folks, Alabama WON THE GAME! Who cares if Manziel is still getting a lot of exposure? Guess what? He deserves it. Get over that and remember those media members who "show Alabama no respect" have voted them No. 1 in the nation.
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: We are a week closer to Stanford-Oregon, Alabama-LSU, Florida State-Clemson and Michigan-Wisconsin.
This might be a good Saturday to get to the beach before autumn weather visits the Gulf Coast. Wake me when this weekend is over.