So here we are, just across the doorstep of the 2013 college football season, and none too soon. It’s been quite the off-season.
First, we mourned Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend, then we grieved for Manti Te’o’s gullibility. Then we watched about 1,500 clips of Jadeveon Clowney’s hit in the Outback Bowl. Then we marveled at Johnny Football’s ability to party as hard as any Kardashian and sign as prolifically as Pete Rose.
Presiding over this carnival was the NCAA. But just when its credibility seemed as sketchy as an injury report from Steve Sarkisian or Mike Leach, it came crashing down on Oregon with savage force.
The Ducks will be allowed only 24 scholarships in the next two signing periods, rather than 25, and if that doesn’t teach them a lesson, this warning from the NCAA committee on infractions will: “Any more shenanigans, no more post-practice Popsicles!”
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But, to 2013. If you’ve scanned the preseason polls, you may have noticed something really fishy.
Not only are the top five spots in both the media and coaches polls mirror images, Nos. 15-25 are the exact same as well. What are the odds of that?
The coaches poll is released first, so apparently the writers and broadcasters went to school on it. Of course, we all know that coaches don’t spend July assessing game tape and advanced metrics for their poll vote, they pass off that nonsense to a publicist.
So what we have is, the writers taking a cue from the flacks. Which not only adds a layer of worthlessness to the concept of preseason polls, it may mean that it isn’t Nick Saban who’s in charge of the game, but Karl Rove.
On to Saturday’s best offerings, chronologically:
• Purdue at Cincinnati, 9 a.m. (PST), ESPNU: If you can name half the 10 teams in the new American Athletic Conference, you get an autographed Johnny Manziel parking ticket (hint: Cincy is one). Somehow, the Bearcats’ new coach is Tommy Tuberville, and Purdue’s new man is Darrell Hazell, late of Kent State. Cincy won four of the last five Big East titles, which, along with four bucks, gets it a caramel macchiato at Starbucks.
• Rice at Texas A&M (7), 10 a.m., ESPN: The kindler, gentler, more toothless NCAA sat down Manziel for the first half of this one. Here’s the sort of thing realignment has done: The two teams played 79 times from 1914-95, and this is the first meeting since. Rice has big hopes for its first consecutive bowls since 1960-61, while A&M looks forward (well, maybe) to Alabama in two weeks and doesn’t have to play Florida, South Carolina or Georgia.
• Nicholls State at Oregon (3), 1 p.m., Fox Sports 1: When’s the last time an FBS team scored a hundred points? Nicholls has 17 starters back but it went 1-10 last year, capped by a 77-3 loss at Oregon State. Meanwhile, in 20 of its last 40 games, Oregon has put up at least 49.
Alabama (1) vs. Virginia Tech at Atlanta, 2:30 p.m., ESPN: What can you say about ‘Bama, other than: Enough. The Tide has had 29 NFL picks over the past four drafts, and yet is making an appearance at No. 1 for the sixth straight season, second all-time only to Miami’s seven (from 1986-92). Tech went 7-6 last year, its most losses since 1992. But if you assume the Hokies have always been salty, think about this: When these teams met in 1973, ‘Bama won 77-6 and rushed for 748 yards, 11.9 per carry, probably satisfying even Bear Bryant.
Georgia (5) at Clemson (8), 5 p.m., ABC: ESPN College Football GameDay is rolling out a special four-hour show for this one (and expanding to three hours every other Saturday in 2013). It’s a juicy meeting of top-flight quarterbacks — Tajh Boyd of Clemson and Aaron Murray of Georgia, who have 69 career starts between them. Clemson is trying to become the first team in history to beat two top-10-ranked SEC teams consecutively, having nipped LSU in the Chick Fil-a Bowl a year ago. A mere 59 miles separates the two campuses.
LSU (12) vs. TCU (20) at Arlington, Tex., 6 p.m., ESPN: TCU had three players quit the first week of camp, including a couple of possible starters. LSU is replacing its entire defensive line, thus suffering the indignity of being dropped to 12th — which makes the Tigers sixth-highest in the SEC. After a team vote, coach Les Miles allowed top runner Jeremy Hill back in the wake of an off-campus altercation (doesn’t LSU always have somebody dealing with an off-campus altercation)?
Boise State (19) at Washington, 7 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Yeah, it’s great that every Pac-12 football game is televised on something these days. But must they always compete with each other? Broncos dust off their big-game reputation, Huskies try to get off the 7-6 schneid.
Nevada at UCLA (21), 7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks: Chris Ault finally retired after two stints in Reno, leaving the Pistol offense to 38-year-old Brian Polian, who was at Notre Dame under Charlie Weis, more recently at Stanford and Texas A&M. Bruins primo linebacker Anthony Barr sustained a head injury last week in practice, but says he’ll play in the first meeting of these two.
Northwestern (22) at California, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2: It’s their second meeting, and the first — a 20-14 Rose Bowl win in 1949 — gave the Wildcats their only bowl victory until last Jan. 1. Jared Goff becomes the first true freshman quarterback to start his first college game for Cal. As for Sonny Dykes, the last six Bear coaches have won their opener since Roger Theder failed to do so in 1978 against Nebraska. Of course, that was also the last time a newbie opened against a ranked team.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org