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Weekend Primer


Last week in college football taught us some valuable lessons about how a coach on the hot seat can hang onto his job. If you're Texas A&M's Dennis Franchione, you beat up on the one coach in your conference doing an even worse job than you are. If you're Nebraska's Bill Callahan, you brazenly taunt fate by, as a new book from a Nebraska student reporter alleges, calling the legendary Tom Osborne a "crusty old (expletive)". If you're Clemson's Tommy Bowden, you hang 70 on Central Michigan. As these men have proven, there's more than one way to hold off the firing squad. Well, at least until the end of the season.

USC at Oregon. Pete Carroll's team took advantage of a bye week in South Bend to right their increasingly Paul Hackett-esque season, while Mike Bellotti's squad is still trying to overcome their own Irish-related stigma of being the team that lost to the team (Cal) that lost to the team (UCLA) that lost to Notre Dame. After the loss, Notre Dame is now 1-5 in their last six games with the magical green jersey.

The Trojans are no doubt thinking, "Wait a second - -we have to play another team with hideous green and yellow uniforms?" After Oregon, Southern Cal will take on the Green Bay Packers, followed by the Australian rugby team and the Washington Generals. Pick: University of Nike by 7

Western Michigan at Eastern Michigan. If you're scoring at home, these two teams - which comprise two-thirds of the Directional Michigan juggernaut -- have a combined five wins this season ... but unlike other teams from that state (cough, Wolverines), no losses to I-AA schools. Pick: Wamus over Emus by 5

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USC's quest to fulfill Jim Harbaugh's now-Nostradamus-esque prophecy as the greatest college football team ever continues in Eugene, Ore. Clever journalists tried to claim that the Trojans' turbulent flight to South Bend was the most terrifying part of an otherwise-easy weekend at Notre Dame Stadium. The truth is, the most terrifying part was the fact that John David Booty wanted his starting job back ... and Carroll nearly gave it to him.

Tracking the fortunes of college football's greatest corporation, Notre Dame, we find the stock to be ... down, after the Irish were dealt their second-worst home loss ever. Just as the Irish were the perfect remedy for USC's struggles, along comes Notre Dame's own elixir: a bye week, and then Navy. The last time the Irish lost to Navy, Roger Staubach was the Middies' quarterback, John F. Kennedy was president and Greg Oden was 13-years-old. Pick: Bye week by 10

As the SEC continues to back up Les Miles' claim that USC has an easier road than if it played in Dixie, Arkansas hosts Florida International. If Darren McFadden does manage to win the Heisman this season, he should saw it in half and share it with whomever in the Razorback athletic department was responsible for scheduling North Texas, Chattanooga, Ole Miss and FIU in a five-week span. Pick: Hogs by 39

Kentucky's march to fulfill Coach Rich Brooks' claim that his team is in the class of USC continues against Mississippi State. The Wildcats' best season in recent history has produced a worse record so far than the most disappointing season of the Pete Carroll era. Then again, Brooks deserves kudos for bringing his Pac-10 style of play (high-octane offense, no defense whatsoever) to a conference that usually considers 20-17 a shootout. Pick: Cats by 14

As Florida takes on Georgia in what school officials would rather the media not call the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, quarterback Tim Tebow has a bruise on his non-jump-pass-throwing shoulder. Who'd have thought that a scrambling quarterback with an inconsistent offensive line, no other real running threats in the backfield, taking on the most brutal defenses in the nation week in week out, would have gotten banged up? Stunning ... Now that Boston College is in the national title mix and Matt Ryan is a Heisman candidate, think they'll show that Doug FlutieHail Mary pass a few times on TV? ... Considering how much USC fans whined about the length of their lawn, Notre Dame's field looked much less jungle-esque this time around ... Hey, Auburn, the way LSU's supposedly vaunted defense has been sliced up the last few weeks, there was no reason to resort to that dirty chop block on Glenn Dorsey ... Last week USC needed a 10-0 fourth quarter run to defeat a weak conference opponent, and dropped three spots in the rankings. This week, Oklahoma needed a 10-0 fourth quarter run to defeat an even weaker conference opponent, and naturally held on to their No. 4 ranking ... In a season of upstart programs joining the national elite, isn't it nice to remember the days when Louisville was going to be the next major power? They were so cute and naive, weren't they? ... Now that Ron Zook's Illinois has come back down to earth, it can go back to being most famous for Red Grange, Dick Butkus, Hugh Hefner and as Tom Cruise's safety school in Risky Business.

"If lessons are learned in defeat, our team is getting a great education."- Murray Warmath, former Minnesota head coach