There may not be a game, but there’s always a tailgate:
1. Alabama 45, Mizzou 0: Once upon a lifetime, Alabama visited Columbia, Mo. It was September, 1978 (same month that Nebraska went to Tuscaloosa and lost). I was a junior at Mizzou, sports editor of the Maneater. We had just driven up to South Bend, Ind., the previous week to watch MU upset Joe Montana and defending national champ Notre Dame. Now here came Bear Bryant into town.
It was an amazing scene. MU played terrific schedules back then, and this was as good as it got. I don’t remember the final score and it doesn’t matter. MU returned an interception before halftime and took a lead into the locker room. The sellout crowd was worked up. The Bear must have had a great halftime speech, something like, “Let’s get serious now, boys.” Bama came out and waxed MU in the second half.
Afterwards, almost the entire Missouri press corp went to the Alabama locker room to get a look at the Bear himself. The Bama sports information people told us to get on the team bus. Huh? There were so many of us, and it was hot out, so they put us on the bus, turned on the AC, and waited for the Bear. Finally, he showed up, in a white short sleeve shirt, and a tie undone, puffing on a Marlboro. The AC made noise. The Bear grabbed the bus microphone and started growling into it. Nobody could understand a word. To this day, I have no idea what he said. But it still ranks as one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
The scene and result should be similar tomorrow, though I doubt Nick Saban will do the presser on the bus. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide. Call me Deacon Blues.
2. Michigan State 24, Iowa 17: James Vandenburg is not good on the road, but Sparty isn’t the team anyone thought. I like the Hawks within the 10 points here.
3. Kansas State 31, Iowa State 27: The temptation is to say this is Paul Rhoads’ annual upset. They’ll give Coach Bill all he can handle. But there’s something about this K-State team. They have the look. I don’t think they slip up.
4. Notre Dame 21, Stanford 10: Isn’t it too bad how Notre Dame has become irrelevant in college football?
5. Texas 35, Oklahoma 31: I don’t care about the game. I just want to find the chicken-fried bacon at the State Fair.
6. Louisiana Tech 28, Texas A&M 24: Can this really happen? Why not? Then again, I just want to hear someone from La Tech say, “We got jobbed by the BCS.”
7. South Carolina 17, LSU 13: Believe in the Gamecocks. And it’s hard to believe how close Nebraska was to this team last Jan. 2.
8. Nebraska will give up 14 points on its bye week. Just kidding. Lighten up, Francis.
9. I will not escape any Honey-Do’s on my Saturday off in the fall. Lock of the week.
10. Eagles 28, Lions 21: Ndamukong Suh gets a ride to the game.
11. Packers 24, Texas 21: A lot of people liked this match-up for the Super Bowl. Now, the Pack must win to stay above water. Which is why they’ll win.
12. Broncos 34, Chargers 28: Rule No. 1 when making picks: Never jinx your own team.
13. We’re all going to miss Beano Cook. I never knew the man. But I felt like I did, and anyone who watched him could relate to that. Beano was more than just the wacky uncle or grandpa visiting your living room. He was colorful, funny, a historian and overall a true lover of the game. Which made him a true throwback. And someone you needed to pay attention to, because you might learn something through the laughs.
College football’s not as much as fun as it used to be. That’s a fact. We the media are a big reason. We’re obsessed with either yelling about who should be playing in the national championship game or who should be fired. Beano was a character, from a time when the game was coached and played by characters, and we told their stories. I miss that. I need to remember to do more of that. We all do. Have yourself a Beano Cook tribute today. Remember to have fun.