There is one thing common to almost every good college football program in America. When the season starts, everyone expects to win them all. The goal of every player, every coach and every fan always starts out the same … to win every game and play for the national championship. In reality, it almost never happens. Few teams or coaches ever go undefeated. Almost every year, somewhere along the way, you are going to lose a game and from that point forward the real season begins.
What are you going to do now?
I first saw this phrase used by Bear Bryant in a speech he made to a national coaches convention. He was lecturing on what it takes to be a successful head coach, and he was talking about dealing with adversity. He gave the example of a man who had just lost his job and comes home to find out that his wife has run off with a drummer. He then asks the question, "What are you going to do now?"
Anybody who has ever heard the great Lou Holtz give a speech has heard him use that same phrase over and over again, "What are you going to do now?" In fact, I believe it is the most important ingredient of any great coach or any great team … the ability to respond to adversity. To get knocked down and get back up. To throw an interception and come back with a completion. To suffer a tough loss and follow up with a big victory. It's not so much about what happens to you in life, but how you respond to it.
Well, last week we had what they are calling Suicide Saturday. Six of the top 11 teams in the country lost, many to teams that were huge underdogs. Now, the teams must respond. Now they must show us what they are made of. Unless either No. 1 LSU or No. 2 Southern California can run the table, I believe the national championship game will include a team with one loss – just like the Florida Gators last year. So, the bigger question for the rest of the season becomes which team is going to respond the best to that one loss. Which team is going to have a chance to become a champion by remembering that you first need to act like a champion? It's time for a few folks to step up, hunker down and find out just what they are made of.
"What are these teams going to do now?"
No. 10 Oklahoma vs. No. 19 Texas – Both were upset last week by double-digit underdogs, so this game has lost a little bit of its national appeal. But, next to the Alabama-Auburn game, there is no rivalry more bitter than this one. The thought of one team having two losses and being out of relevance by the first week of October makes me believe it will be a nasty affair. I said before the season that Texas would win the conference unless Oklahoma could find a quarterback to go with all that talent. Well, the Sooners found a quarterback in Sam Bradford and they still have the most talent in the league so they will win this year's Red River Shootout. Unfortunately, after last week, I'm just not sure they are going to win the conference.
No. 1 LSU vs. No. 9 Florida – Last year, LSU had the most talent in the SEC, but Florida had the best team and knocked off the Tigers down in Gainesville. This year, LSU still has the most talent in the league and the best team … and, they play this one over in Baton Rouge.
No. 15 Virginia Tech vs. No. 22 Clemson – Last year, VT's defense did a number on the visiting Tigers. This year, Clemson's defense has all the right numbers, including a No.1 ranking in the ACC. They will be zeroing in on Hokies freshman quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Look for C.J. Spiller to have a breakout game after last week's slump against Georgia Tech and for the Tigers to get back on the winning path.
No. 20 Cincinnati vs. No. 21 Rutgers – It's been a while since Rutgers had to deal with losing a game that they were supposed to win. Maryland foiled the Scarlet Knights last week. Although I think Coach Greg Schiano will continue to build this program, I think we are seeing a leveling off as to how far and how fast they can do it. Cincinnati has a chance to go 6-0 for the first time since 1954 and, along with South Florida, has become the new darlings of the Big East. It sure is getting interesting at the top in the Big East isn't it? Don't look for Rutgers to move over to make room for the Bearcats just yet.
No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 23 Purdue – Every year, Purdue gets off to a good start and then gets a reality check when it gets into the conference schedule. Every year, Ohio State gets off to a good start and continues its winning ways right through the conference schedule. I think it has something to do with talent and this year, as in most others, the Buckeyes have a lot more than the Boilermakers.
No. 17 Missouri vs. No. 25 Nebraska – The Black Shirts will be at their best, but unfortunately for the Cornhuskers, the jerseys will have Missouri written across the front This will be a case of too much offense against too little defense and Mizzou gets a leg up in the Big 12 North.
No. 5 Wisconsin vs. Illinois – Did you see where Illinois is favored in this one? The Illini are 4-0 and off to their best start since 2000, thanks to the outstanding recruiting efforts of Ron Zook. But Wisconsin is also undefeated and hasn't even played that well for much of the year. The Badgers are due to put it all together on the field and they will do just that on Saturday.
No. 12 Georgia vs. Tennessee – This game would normally have a lot more hype surrounding it, but Tennessee is unranked with two losses and both teams are 0-1 in the conference. The head coaches, Mark Richt and Phil Fulmer, are sure to have their teams ready to play. The loser will have two conference losses, and will have probably lost any chance for the conference championship. And the Vols are not going to be happy about that.
Stanford vs. No. 2 Southern California – I wonder what Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh thought about USC's unimpressive and mistake-filled win over Washington last Saturday. Didn't he say before the season that this year's Trojans team was the best ever? Well, 16 penalties, three turnovers and a blocked punt didn't add up to the kind of performance Pete Carroll expects. Southern California lost its No. 1 ranking because of it, and I'll bet they put on a pretty good show at home against a Cardinal team that is 0-4. Stanford sophomore QB Tavita Pritchard is making his first ever start. The Trojans' defense is probably licking their chops.
- Southern California