Unless the Wicked Witch of The East Coast Bias turns your favorite team into Washington State, there's a good chance you'll have little to fear this Halloween other than stray tick-tackers and pumpkin smashers. But not everyone's on the same hayride.
Nope, I'm afraid. Very afraid. There are a handful of things mounting this college football season -- things that, quite frankly, scare the bejesus out of me whenever they come to mind. Here are just three of them:
The Inevitable SEC Secession Campaign
You know, I look forward to the enchanting exercises in circular logic that occur every year when Joe Southeastern Conference trots out his tired "My SEC team is better than your non-SEC team because...it's in the SEC!" line. But what terrifies me is that one day things will get so wacky, these folks and their teams will secede from the NCAA and start their own league. It's gonna happen.
This could be the year, especially with the prospect of Alabama going unbeaten until the SEC Championship game, where it'll likely meet a one-loss Florida or Georgia squad. The winner of that game, regardless of its final record, will surely have a rabid fan base clamoring for a sniff at the championship game in Miami. God help us if an SEC team gets snubbed.
Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech
It's not that the Sooners-Red Raiders game will be boring to watch. No, siree. It's that this game has the potential to be college football's version of the Hundred Years' War. It may never end.
If both teams stay on course, Oklahoma-Texas Tech will feature the second- and third-highest scoring offenses in the country ... and absolutely no defense! It could closely resemble your last game of Madden. So, if you're thinking of betting, take the over. And if you were thinking of watching, well, pack a lunch and a sleeping bag. This could possibly be the most monotonous shootout in recorded history.
Another Big Ten Loss in the BCS Championship
Hypothetically speaking, if Penn State becomes the third Big Ten team in as many years to reach the championship game and lose, would the conference get sold off, Lehman Brothers-style, as spare parts to the Big 12, SEC, Pac-10, etc.?
The question merits consideration. It's highly likely this season could end, and undefeated Penn State's capstone victory would have come against an Ohio State squad with a serious credibility problem after a lopsided loss at USC and multiple unimpressive showings against unspectacular opponents. Surely, the BCS would jump at the chance --and perhaps even rig computers -- to slot Joe Paterno in the national championship. However, if the Nittany Lions cannot succeed where Ohio State has failed, the Big Ten could potentially lose its clout as a conference that can compete on an elite level.
Just when Tony Danza's daytime talk show submarined and you thought you were rid of him for good, young Matt Williams entered your life. The former Texas Tech field goal contest winner become the Red Raiders' real kicker, went 9-for-9 on extra point attempts and rekindled memories of the The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon. Great, just great.
Danza-bashing aside, this is easily the greatest college football story in recent memory. No question about it. Unless somebody lines up one of those "Million Dollar Throw" competitors under center, you're not going to find a fitting analogy for this unless you dive into the ranks of fictional sports movies. To reiterate the story, Williams is a Texas Tech student who won a between-quarters kicking contest earlier this year and was plucked from the stands, literally, after coach Mike Leach spotted him. When the Red Raiders' kicking game went south, Leach actually installed Williams as the team's starting kicker, and now it's, well, the greatest story ever.
Williams could potentially win this weekend's game against No. 1 Texas on a last-second field goal, which means Lubbock's not only ground zero for one of the year's biggest games, but also for thousands of aspiring screenwriters looking for the right inspirational story about improbable kickers.
For the better part of the last four years, rabble rousers have harped on the notion that Ty Willingham was unfairly relieved of his post as Notre Dame head coach. Even as Willingham's tenure as Washington coach continued spiraling downward, Irish haters still enjoyed sneering at the Golden Domers' perceived elitism.
Well, where are those people now? What, nobody's defending Willingham's 11-32 (and counting!) record at Washington? What gives?
Apparently, the initial argument is no longer valid, or at least, not quite as valid as before. That's because, in four years as the Huskies' coach, Willingham failed to finish higher than ninth in the Pac-10, or even put together a winning season. And when you look back and realize Willingham has essentially been the anti-Urban Meyer over the last seven years -- i.e., turning his teams sour in a mere two-year window and/or stripping them of their offensive identities -- it's become nearly impossible to make a football case for the guy. So impossible, in fact, Willingham's out of work again.
While it's always stylish to bash Notre Dame for its lucrative NBC deal, pompous coach, or subdued bar scene, vindication has officially arrived. The Willingham firing? Totally justified.
After watching USC whomp Virginia opening weekend, I had a hard time believing the Cavaliers could win a game against a bag of trail mix. Now, suddenly, this team's won four straight games, including two straight matchups with top 25 opponents. Huh?!?
I still don't believe it. If Virginia makes the BCS, I quit. There.
1. More unlikely BCS qualifier: Virginia or Minnesota?
2. Bigger sports pet peeve: Rain delays or TV timeouts?
3. Better college football night:Thursday or Friday?
4. More formidable unit:Ohio State's offense or Oklahoma's defense?
5. Tougher Oregon stadium:Autzen or Reser?
6. Better kids' TV show:Reading Rainbow or Mister Rogers' Neighborhood?
7. More outdated: Wishbone offenses or analog clocks?
8. More exciting game:Jenga or Twister?
9. Deeper conference:Big 12 or SEC?
10. Likelier Texas Tech record: 11-1 or 10-2?
Picking winners from last week's slate of games was like hunting in a zoo. This week figures to be a little more challenging.
• Oregon (+3) at Cal.
• USC (-42) vs. Washington.
• Northwestern (+6) at Minnesota.
Last week: 3-0. Season: 5-4.
Ty Hildenbrandt writes Quick Slants every week. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his podcast at SolidVerbal.com.