My romance with college football was a gradual one, but it was those mid-October Saturdays in the early 2000s that this sport won me over for life.
In those days, Miami and Florida State would meet as Top 5 teams in the early afternoon slot, and then Texas and Oklahoma would do the same in the late afternoon. Those games felt as big as NFL conference championship games, played in the middle of the regular season. The players were the cream of the crop of their respective regions, playing for bragging rights that dated back to when they were high schoolers or even younger and would extend into infinity. Those games, to a young kid falling in love with the sport, felt truly larger in life.
Proof: As a high school sophomore, I, a young Texas fan, declined to take a date to the homecoming dance because pictures would have taken place during the second half of the Texas-OU game. Oklahoma won, 65-13.
In an era before the SEC's ascendance, at least one of FSU, Miami, OU or Texas played for the BCS championship every year from 1998 through 2005. To me, the absolute apex came from 2001 through '03:
Oct. 13, 2001: No. 1 Miami 49, No. 13 Florida State 27; No. 3 Oklahoma 14, No. 5 Texas 3
Oct. 12, 2002: No. 1 Miami 28, No. 9 Florida State 27; No. 2 Oklahoma 35, No. 3 Texas 24
Oct. 11, 2003: No. 2 Miami 22, No. 5 Florida State 14 No. 1 Oklahoma 65, No. 11 Texas 13
Fast forward nearly 20 years and here we are.
Miami is back in a Top 10 showdown... as a heavy underdog... against ACC Godzilla Clemson. Florida State is mired in a multi-year rebuild, playing in an ACC game against Notre Dame. And Texas and Oklahoma are playing not to be eliminated from the Big 12 title race.
Here are this week's picks.