Government Shutdown, Sure; Football Shutdown, No Way
By Steve Barnes
It appears, despite the government shutdown, the service academies will play football this weekend. Army travels to Boston College; Air Force to Navy.
The Secretary of Defense actually had to sign off on this one. One would think things like Syria, Al Quida and, well, the government shutdown would be of higher priority than making sure there were enough plane tickets to get the Air Force backup punter from Colorado Springs to Annapolis.
It would have been a neat irony if the Air Force-Navy game had been canceled. Without it, the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy could not be presented this year.
Here is a simple solution for future possible government shutdown — the three academies must schedule better competition.
This week, if Army was to play at Alabama, Air Force at Oregon and Army at Ohio State, the senators from those states would work tirelessly to ensure their schools did not miss a game on their schedules. There would be no threat to college football schedules and 800,000 federal employees would be back on the job.
WE DIDN'T SEE THIS ONE COMING: In the preseason, a look at Ohio State's schedule revealed perhaps two games that would be a challenge for the Buckeyes. OSU passed the first test with a win over Wisconsin last week and most people — or at least me — thought the only other test would be Nov. 30 at Michigan. It seems most people — or at least me — overlooked Northwestern. The Wildcats are undefeated with wins over Cal, Syracuse, Western Michigan and Maine. The early slate wasn't exactly murderer's row, but 4-0 is 4-0. Northwestern is a nice surprise, but look for the Buckeyes to burst the Wildcats' bubble this week in Evanston.
KIND OF STRANGE TO ME: Does anyone believe twins can be separated at birth? Former LSU star Matt Flynn started at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders last weekend. I saw his headshot on the Raiders game and did a double take. Then I Googled the actor Matt Damon and checked out his headshot. They could be twins. The Raiders lost to the then-winless Washington Redskins last Sunday, so maybe it was Damon under center while Flynn was working on another "Bourne" movie. Also, I caught the end of the Ole Miss-Alabama game on the radio and the call of Tide play-by-play man Eli Gold. Listen to him when you get a chance. When he gets excited he sounds exactly like Rush Limbaugh. I can honestly imagine hearing, "The only way to describe the President's program is Touchdown Alabama!" There is a difference between the two men, however. Gold seems to know about politics.
DID JOHNNY RUIN IT FOR THE REST?: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has become kind of a folk figure in Tallahassee. He even has picked up the nickname, "Famous Jameis." In the Seminoles chat rooms, fans have started a grassroots campaign for the Heisman Trophy for Winston. But with the immature decisions made by Johnny Manziel after winning the award last year, will the Heisman voters go for another freshman? I doubt it.
HEISMAN WATCH: As the calendar turned to October, it is time for some real candidates to step forward. Look for Oregon's Marcus Mariota to have a great week. Tailback De'Anthony Thomas is out and Mariota should get to keep the ball a little more than usual against a porous Colorado defense. Braxton Miller will have a big stage with Ohio State visiting Northwestern, while Alabama's AJ McCarron and T.J. Yeldon might want to get their stats early. The Tide hosts Georgia State for homecoming at Tuscaloosa and the reserves will get a lot of playing time. Yeldon might be fading a tad anyway. Fellow sophomore Kenyan Blake has looked great in a reserve role and that role could increase as the season progresses. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater gets to pad his resume this week at Temple.
TIME TO 'SHOW ME': Is Missouri for real in the Southeastern Conference? The Tigers (one of three Tigers in the SEC, joining LSU and Auburn) are 4-0 with a win over an FCS team, a MAC team, a victory at Indiana and another over a Sun Belt team. Now Mizzou goes to Nashville to play a pretty good Vanderbilt squad. In cool twist, the game features James Franklin versus James Frankin. The Tigers are led by senior quarterback James Franklin, Vandy's head coach is, yep, James Franklin. The elder Franklin's Commodores should prevail this week and move to 4-2 behind Jordan Matthews, one of the most underrated wide receivers in the country. The senior could go in the top two rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft.
THE TIN BOWL: Folks in the Heart of Dixie circle the date each year. This year the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn is set for Nov. 30. Until then, folks in Bama get to see a new in-state rivalry this week. South Alabama will head up I-65 to take on Troy. After the Trojans started 2-0, they are in the mired in a three-game losing streak including a controversial 38-31 loss last week at Duke. The Jaguars in their first year of bowl eligibility are 2-2 with a win over Western Kentucky (who had just beaten Kentucky) and at Tulane. Last week, USA made a great showing in a 24-17 loss at Tennessee. Las Vegas has Troy as a three-point favorite at home, basically indicating the teams are evenly matched. It may not have the luster of Roll Tide-War Eagle, but this one is important in the state. Each team is a member of the Sun Belt Conference and the winner will have a leg up on the other during the all-important recruiting season.
DO THEY HAVE ANOTHER ONE IN THEM?: Last week, Arizona State put 62 points on Southern California, causing Trojans coach Lane Kiffin to be pulled off the team bus, then get tossed under it. The Sun Devils are 3-1 with their only loss to Stanford. This week, ASU meets Notre Dame at Jerryworld in Arlington, Texas. A win for the Devils, and they have a good shot at one, will make the Pac-12 South a lot more interesting.
UNDER THE RADAR: In a game that has not received a lot of publicity outside the Southwest, Oklahoma hosts TCU on Saturday. Texas Christian is underrated and this could be a trap game for the Sooners. The Horned Frogs get OU after it went to South Bend and beat Notre Dame and a week before the Red River Rivalry against Texas. Careful, Sooners. Be very careful.