Each week Chuck Culpepper curates the top story lines of the college football world, presenting a one-of-a-kind take on the sport’s hot topics. The countdown begins . . .
25. COMEUPPANCE. For longtime TCU fans, Texas’ dismal 50-7 loss at TCU, with its 37-0 halftime deficit and its sad Texas touchdown with 5:14 to avert a shutout, might have brought comfort for the 69-7 beating of 1969, or the 58-0 of 1970, or the 52-7 of 1973 . . .
24. NO. 3 BAYLOR (4-0) AT CONSENSUS NO. 128 KANSAS (0-4). One might hope Baylor Coach Art Briles remembers his manners.
23. THE AGONY OF REPEAT. This upscale human difficulty shows in college football having one repeat consensus national champion in 20 years, college basketball one in 23, the NFL one in 17, baseball none in 15 (and counting). Ohio State’s woolly win at Indiana seemed to show how a lavishly talented team could semi-suffer from its own awareness of its lavish talent even while having enough lavish talent to prevail.
22. A GOOD MIAMI VISITS A VERY GOOD FLORIDA STATE. Had the Hurricanes (3-1) won at Cincinnati last week, this might have conjured a whole bunch of nostalgia for the late 20th century when some of these games were so large, the press box would spill over into a ground-floor office just outside the stadium and the game itself would warrant a T-shirt. Somebody should design a T-shirt just to feign irony.
21. MY JOHN CARROLL BLUE STREAKS. As we fell from unbeaten and from No. 11 in the d3football.com top 25, our 30-27 loss to the Ohio Northern Polar Bears on Homecoming Saturday at Don Shula Stadium was the kind of gut-wrencher – 24-7 lead in the third quarter, winning touchdown on fourth-and-20 – that reminds that in following sports, we risk pain.
20. COMEUPPANCE, CONTINUED. . . . or, as the world has changed in the new century, Texas’ dismal 50-7 loss at TCU might have mollified those TCU fans who watched the 81-16 of 1974, or the 44-14 of 1977, or the 41-0 of 1978 . . .
19. NO. 1. Ever since it nearly and famously won at Auburn on Sept. 12, losing in overtime, Jacksonville State has persisted with football operations with a 4-1 record, a peerless FCS ranking and a reminder of the importance of forgetting.
18. ILLINOIS (4-1) AT IOWA (5-0), SATURDAY. After their 10-6 survival of barrenness at Wisconsin on Saturday, the Hawkeyes are ranked for the first time since Nov. 21, 2010, yet they’ve kept the same coach (Kirk Ferentz) all along. There ought to be some kind of award for that, citing patience, fiscal necessity (big-long contract) and maybe even human understanding.
17. THE BOSTON COLLEGE DEFENSE. Five games, 140 yards per (No. 1 in the nation), held Duke to nine points, still lost, and almost all the Heismans go to offensive players. Here’s to defenses, everywhere.
16. THE INDIANA FOOTBALL. Its fifth-year coach (Kevin Wilson) stands 18-35 but 4-1 this season, and from the looks of the gumption and fight against Ohio State on Saturday, it ought to keep him.
15. COMEUPPANCE, CONTINUED. . . . or Texas’ 45-16 win of 1986, or the 38-0 of 1990, or of the 24 straight beatings between 1968 and 1991, the 62 Texas wins in 86 meetings overall. In fact, it’s possible nobody ever enjoyed anything any more than Frog fans enjoyed Saturday.
14. UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY. Gene Wang’s story recalled Navy defensive end Will Anthony saying, in the run-up to the Air Force game, “I have to watch my words.” When a military-academy player says this, the opponent clearly is doomed.
13. THE TRANQUIL FLORIDA STATE. It’s 4-0, it dropped a notch in the rankings after winning on Saturday at Wake Forest, and nobody cares. Considering the scrutiny from last autumn, this must feel so happy.
12. NO. 13 NORTHWESTERN (5-0) AT NO. 18 MICHIGAN (4-1), SATURDAY. It’s the No. 1 scoring defense (Northwestern) against the No. 2 scoring defense, the No. 2 total defense (Michigan) against the No. 5 total defense, and the No. 1 third-down defense (Michigan) against the No. 2 third-down defense. It would be good to remember that scoreless ties are perfect beings, and that allowing overtimes to mar them is a travesty.
11. MANHATTAN, KAN. OVER DALLAS. The latter has the Red River Showdown between No. 10 Oklahoma (4-0) and woebegone Texas (1-4), while the former has No. 2 TCU (5-0) against Kansas State (3-1), another indication of an inverted natural world.
10. TOLEDO, YET AGAIN. Last year, the battle for the major bowl berth among the Second 63 (those teams “below” the Power 65) came down mostly to Boise State and Marshall. This year, some Rockets have landed at No. 24, and their win at Arkansas made them a cause for all those who stand against entrenched snootiness.
9. TEMPLE, YET AGAIN. The Owls are 4-0 for the first time since 1974, and one might wonder if they could reach 7-0, get to Halloween, get to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and see Notre Dame run in.
8. BIG, BIG BACKS. LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott rushed for a collective 507 yards on Saturday and reminded that while their prospective tacklers are large men, we still can feel their pain.
7. ALABAMA AS AN UNDERDOG. It hadn’t happened in 72 games before Saturday, when the line came to rest at one point. After what happened to Georgia on Saturday, any fan base facing similar from here should have some big booster try to move the line.
6. A GOLDEN TIME FOR TEXAS A&M FANS. On the one hand, they have a 5-0 record, a No. 9 ranking, a first-place vote and two weeks to prepare for Alabama, but on the other, they must watch in agony and sympathy as their dear neighbor, Texas, flounders so melodramatically. Maybe the former can help them endure the latter.
5. THE BUMPTIOUS AMERICAN ATHLETIC WEST DIVISION. Memphis, Navy and Houston stand a collective 13-0 and play each other on three weekends in November, in a league that boasts Temple in the East and clearly deserves some kind of slang moniker with “Power” in it.
4. NO. 23 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS (5-0) AT NO. 5 UTAH UTES (4-0). If someone had told you in about 1975 this would be the game of the day in the country in 2015, you might have said that must be some futuristic, wondrous world up ahead.
3. FLORIDA GATORS. Now comes that window of time when the fans are back from a two-season lull of 11-13, have a 5-0 team that just wrecked No. 3 Ole Miss and leaped 14 spots to No. 11, and can appreciate the freshness, giddiness and unexpectedness. This window should last about 20 minutes.
2. CARLOS WATKINS. A lofty spot on any weekly ranking almost never goes to a 300-pound defensive tackle, but when it neared midnight and Notre Dame tried a two-point conversion and a large man moved the pile to imperil the quarterback and preserve a Clemson win and sustain Clemson as a playoff prospect, a 300-pound defensive tackle might have also moved a season.
1. A LONG-SNAPPER AT TULANE. Aaron Golub just became, according to the school, the first legally blind person to play in an FBS game, snapping for an extra point with no vision in his right eye and limited vision in the left. Really, you can’t beat him.