Back in the 70s, years before I even became a pretend “journalist” like now, a couple of buddies from New Orleans came up yearly for the Derby. Neither was a sports writer, but they somehow finagled press passes to the Downs, posing as covering the race for some papers in Bumfuck, Mississippi.
I never asked.
Back then, and it still might be, the Downs had a sumptuous buffet for all media types covering the event on the Thursday before the race. Twice my guys snuck me in.
It is impossible to describe the extensiveness of the spread. Suffice to say, the scribes and talking heads from across the land and around the globe could get anything they desired to sup upon. Lox and bagels. Check. Fried chicken and greens. Check. Egg Foo Young. Check. Baba Ganoosh. Check. Carnitas. Check. Palak Paneer. Check.
OK, you get my point. I’ve never experienced anything like it. A Husko Gordo at the time, I dove in head first, and one year needed to be carted out in a wheelbarrow. Figuratively if not literally.
Well, Week I of the college pigskin season is a veritable Thursday through Monday buffet. And, given the delectability of some of the boffo matchups, it’s the gridiron equivalent of that describe above.
Because the nagging nabobs of negativitude are already on my case, because of my picks last week, I shall not weigh in on such highly anticipated engagements as Oregon @ Georgia or Notre Dame @ Ohio State. They seem like gimmes to me, so I’m going to advise who will prevail in games that appear more evenly matched.
Says the fellow who last week picked but one underdog, Hawaii, over Vandy, which prevailed by the wafer thin margin of 53 points. Guess the ‘Dores didn’t spend too much time on Waikiki Beach. Like many, I thought Scott Frost couldn’t find yet another way to lose a one score game, but it’s what he does like a master. The Toppers, Aggies and Fightin’ Illini all won.
3-2. An acceptable Week 0 start to the season, while I work the kinks out.
Here we go with Week I:
Pennsylvania State @ Purdue. It’s an odd quirk of the human personality. How we can like or dislike someone whom we have never met. A lot of times it is like that for public personalities. Just from reading about them, or seeing them on the telly. Such as this enmity out of nowhere I feel for James Franklin. Don’t know why, but the Nittany Lions coach just irks me. But, hey, his 401K is considerably larger than mine. In this cockamamie world, he got one of those are your really serious contract boosts, after going 4-5 and 7-6 the last two seasons. On the flip side, local favorite son Jeff Brohm is but 28-29 in West Lafayette, but was a lofty 9-4 last year, beating the Vols in a Music City Bowl Shootout. In this tasty opening course of Week I, the pigskin shall be flung. And the game shall so be won. Boilermakers.
Utah @ Florida. The Utes have ambitions. Many, including yours very truly, have them in their preseason Final Four. Hopes run amuck in the Beehive State. But this opener is not exactly a family holiday at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. More like a visit to Croc Encounters. The muckety mucks in GatorLand are serious about getting back to the halcyon daze of Coach Visor and Pope Urban. New mentor Billy Napier, considered the surest thing since, oh, Scott Frost, has got him a budget and some staff. Like 140 in the team photo, along with 116 players. Kyle Whittingham, arguably the best coach around whom nobody thinks about, and his squad carry the ambitions of the entire Left Coast. Dan Mullen’s Gators took an inexplicable precipitous dive last year, after he built the program into a contenda. He gone. Will Napier rekindle the fire in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium? Yes, but the joy will have to wait until after this disappointment.
Cincinnati @ Arkansas. Cognizant that visiting Cincy lost 5 footballers to the top 100 picked in the NFL draft, and that he’s not sure how their replacements will fare, Arkansas’ down-to-earth good ol’ boy coach said this, “Some guys bring iced tea, some guys bring liquor.” I just get a kick out of this fella, who after a not-so-good first season in Fayetteville, started to turn it around in the nation’s hardest division, going 8-4 last year, then whipping the Nittany Lions in what was then called the Outback Bowl, but now has a new commercial moniker. The question for Luke Fickell’s Bearcats as the program amps up for its on the horizon move to P5 is have they maxed out? Famously undefeated they were in ’21, until succumbing if not meekly, not so difficultly at the hands of the Crimson Tide in the Cotton Bowl semi-final. This intriguing tussle, along with those two mentioned above, is pour moi one of the most anticipated matchups of a boffo Week I. Woo Pig Sooey.
Miami (OH) @ Kentucky. Among the famous sports alums who played football for the Redhawks, or at least for whatever the politically incorrect nickname of Miami used to be, are Sean McVay, coach of the reigning Super Bowl champs. And Ben Roethlisberger, who once upon a time gave U of L fans a look at his future with a dominant performance in the 2003 GMAC Bowl. And, some old dude, kind of an innovator named Paul Brown. Plus weren’t there a plethora of future superstar coaches who started their careers there? Think so. In hoops, there’s Wally Szczerbiak, and that’s about it. Which tradition makes Miami (Oh), maybe, perhaps, possibly a bit troublesome opening foe for a basketball school like UK. Actually, not really. Even if the Cats will be without an undetermined number of players, for reasons not disclosed. Cats go Krogering.
Louisville @ Syracuse. Who shall be the first responder here who, without cheating by looking it up on the interweb, can post in the Comment section the name of what used to known as the Carrier Dome? Prize? Nah, no prize, just the glory of the significant achievement. The huzzahs that shall surely come your way. They’re expecting a raucous crowd in upstate NY Saturday night. One who won’t be there is one of my favorite “mascots” of all-time, the Dome Ranger. Football, oh yeah, the actual football. Despite their other woes, the Cardinals have owned ‘Cuse the last couple campaigns. To the tune of 30-0 and 41-3, both on Floyd Street, where the last three of these encounters have been contested for some odd scheduling glitch. This one will be closer. Babers’ guys will probably have a better passing attack, with a new OC, lately of UVa. But it won’t be enough. Cards have a joyous flight home.
— c d kaplan