This week, pigskin pundits Richard Connelly and John Nova Lomax bring us thier usual brainy, witty takes on college football. A must read: Their preview on Arkansas vs. Tennessee, which features Houston Nutt, Casey Dick and Jim Bob Cooter. Huh-huh, they said "Houston."
Also, Connelly -- fresh from a trip to NJ -- offers up some perspective on "Rutgers Fever," given last night's stunner over No. 3 Louisville. Somewhere, Jon Bon Jovi and Tony Soprano are clinking glasses.
The coin has been tossed: Connelly kicks off, Lomax gets the ball in the second half:
"Rutgers Fever" is a newly diagnosed condition prevalent in the Garden State this autumn. It has three main symptoms: 1) A sudden feeling of disorientation at the discovery that Rutgers actually has a football team; 2) A further feeling of confusion at finding out that the team is actually winning (Doctors call this the "You're Shitting Me" Syndrome); and 3) A certainty that the Scarlet Knights, or whatever they're called, will fuck things up somehow before the season ends. (This last symptom is derived from the basic New Jersey fatalism that comes from electing an endless stream of candidates promising to reform corruption in the state.)
Being a fan of college football in what's called the Tri-State Area is somewhat different than it is here in Texas or SEC country. You gotta laugh when the news-radio guy gives the updated scores on the Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame games and then says something like "and on the local-team scoreboard, Columbia trails Harvard at halftime 14-7." I imagine that a Texas native hearing that reacts in just about the same "Whatta buncha rubes" way a New Yorker would if he was in Waco and heard a hog-futures report on the hourly update.
Also, in terms of following college football in New York, I can report conclusively that if you're dashing away at intermission of a Sondheim show to get an update on the Louisville-West Virginia game, you're not exactly going to have to elbow your way through a crowd of people trying to beat you to it.
Nothing on the schedule last week was as thrilling as the "Being Alive" finale in Company was — not even the LSU-Tennessee game, which tells you how good "Being Alive" was — but here's hoping this week's somewhat lame line-up produces some cliffhangers.
Texas — Kansas State: Yet another in the long list of games that never get mentioned when Longhorn fans bitch about Notre Dame playing the service academies. The game will be played at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, which sounds like some place where you'd book a birthday party for your six-year-old. Texas 54-18.
Texas Tech — Oklahoma: Neither of these teams has been as good as advertised, and both are scrambling to save their seasons and their coaches' "genius" reputations. As always, the vote goes against the team running the gimmicky offense. Oklahoma 28-21.
Tennessee — Arkansas: In an experience that parallels mine in New York, anyone running out at halftime of this game to check on Sondheim news won't need to worry about competing with a big crowd. Arkansas coach Houston Nutt — or, to use his full identification, Arkansas coach Houston "Yes, that's my name" Nutt — faces off against Tennessee backup QB Jim Bob Cooter. And in Tennessee, you don't have to add any "Yes, that's my real name" to his moniker. Tennessee 24-21.
Notre Dame — Air Force: Yes, Air Force lost to San Diego State. But they kicked ass against Saddam Hussein. The world will breathlessly watch this game waiting to see what new way ND develops to give up an 80-yard TD by having two of their secondary tackle each other instead of the receiver. Still, the Irish win. And everyone will moan how they didn't win by a big enough margin, ignoring Ohio State and Michigan's squeakers against cupcakes last week. Notre Dame 42-28.
Houston — SMU: Geez, it's hard to be a Coog fan when the schedule is full of snore-inducing opponents like the Mustangs. SMU should be easy to hate — nestled in tony University Park, with a campus that's the self-important home to the fashion-obsessed offspring of Dallas's elite — but instead, no one gives a shit about it. UH 31-21.
After the jump: Lomax on Nutt, Dick and Cooter. Oh, behave!
Imagine, if you will, that you are a basketball coach. You've assembled a dream team that includes Shaquille O'Neal at the post, Reggie Miller at shooting guard, Larry Bird at small forward, Jack Sikma at power forward, and Calvin Murphy at the point. And let's just say that there's one second on the clock and your team is down by one point. Some moron on the other team -- let's just call him "Dennis Rodman" -- commits an idiotic technical foul, and you are given the option of choosing any of your players to take the foul shots.
Do you: A) Choose anybody other than O'Neal, who is more likely to catch Rakim as a rapper than he is to achieve mere competence at the stripe? B) Or do you send him to the line, the better, I guess, to "surprise" your competition? Or something.
I put forth this trans-sports hypothetical in an effort to help myself understand what the hell Dennis Franchione was thinking last weekend, when, down four points and faced with a goal-line situation with time running out, he elected to call on every weapon in his arsenal other than the one that works almost every time: 300-pound running back / Brinks truck Jorvorskie Lane.
Seriously — on the crucial third down from the two, Franchione called on Stephen McGee — a decent runner, but a guy who is about as likely to complete a pass as Kevin Federline is to pass MIT's entrance exam -- to win it for him with his arm. I repeat, Franchione wanted Stephen McGee to win the game for him with his arm in a short-yardage situation, with Jorvorskie Lane hulking there idle in the backfield next to him. Dumb.
And then Stoops rubbed it in by going for it on fourth and short at his own 30 with less than two minutes to go.
And making it.
And the second time, after a time out, he caught the Aggies with an ironic but all too real 12th Man on the field.
Post game, the A&M bulletin boards bristled with outraged Aggies comparing the size of Franchione's wedding tackle unfavorably with Stoops's, but we liked this Aggie lament better than all of those juvenile diatribes:
"This sucks. I'm drunker than Keith Whitley right now."
This week's picks:
Texas — Kansas State: Well, Rich, when Texas joined the Big 12, K-State was in its million-year supernova phase. Who knew they would collapse so far so fast? You are right, though, that this won't be pretty. UT 48, K-State 6.
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Texas Tech — Oklahoma: The battle of the Pirates and the Land Thieves...As a Horn fan, this is blasphemy, but should Stoops win this game and the last few on his schedule, he really should be the coach of the year. Think about all they have gone through: the loss of his starting QB and a key cog to his already-depleted offensive line in a booster scandal, a devastating injury to his Heisman candidate running back, and a blatant shaft job from the Pac 10 officials at Oregon, and his team is still top 15, and might be top ten at the end of the year. OU 27, Tech 20.
Tennessee — Arkansas: Remember when the Super Bowl came to Houston how every liquor store in town ran out of Cristal? It's gonna be like that in Fayettenam this weekend to, only the depleted items will be Copenhagen, banjo strings and Fighting Cock 103-proof bourbon. Anyway, we're thinking Arkansas QB Casey Dick will bust a Nutt all over Cooter and company. Pigs 27, Vols 17.
Notre Dame — Air Force: Ho hum. Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija slice through another herd of enlisted Caucasian Clydesdales. Irish 45, Flyboys 27.
UH-SMU: Geto Boys vs the Polyphonic Spree. Third Ward vs University Park. Cougars vs Ponies. A team made up of guys with names like Roshawn Pope, DeMario Williams and SirVincent Rogers against a bunch of guys like Chase Courtney, Connor McKay and Lucky DeLay. Seriously, who do you think will win? UH 42, SMU 13.