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College football: Trip down memory lane shows progress of game

One of the best things about
college football
is how well the past
translates to the present ... at least in terms of old televised games.

Last weekend, I watched a replay of the 1985 game between No. 1 Iowa and No. 2 Michigan at Kinnick Stadium. One of the Big Ten Network’s “Greatest Games,” it was a nice trip down memory lane of one of the biggest games of my childhood.

As an 8-year-old that fall, I don’t remember too many specific details of the Hawkeyes’ dream season that saw them spend 4 weeks atop the AP poll after a 7-0 start; they finished ninth in the final poll, going 10-2 after a loss to UCLA in the Rose Bowl.

But I do remember some general things about that year: the win over the Wolverines being a big one, as was the loss 2 weeks later to Ohio State in a rainy game in Columbus.

I also remember Chuck Long coming in second to Bo Jackson in the closest Heisman Trophy vote ever, and my uncle refusing to watch the second half of the Rose Bowl after Ronnie Harmon – who had fumbled once all season – lost four fumbles and dropped a wide-open TD pass in a 45-28 loss.

But even more than those memories, I reveled in the staggering differences – and even a few similarities – between the CBS broadcast of that Iowa-Michigan game in 1985 versus what we see nowadays.

Difference: Stopping play because the crowd was too loud. In what seems absurdly comical today, Michigan QB Jim Harbaugh refused to take a snap at least three different times because he claimed he couldn’t hear.

Twice, the referee stepped in and requested that the Iowa defense – and eventually, the PA announcer – to ask the fans to quiet down so the visiting team could hear the snap count.

Similarity: The uniforms. There were subtle differences, but in this day and age of teams wearing a different uniform combo each and every week, it was nice to notice the Hawkeyes and Wolverines looked like they could be playing 30 days ago, not 30 years ago.

Difference: The graphics. I’m sure they were state of the art at the time, but they didn’t even have the clock and score displayed at all times. It was only at clock stoppages – and a few times between plays in the fourth quarter – that they flashed the important game information that we take for granted on today’s telecasts.

Similarity: Brent Musberger. His voice sounded younger, but the current
play-by-play man of ABC’s game of the week was still calling things in much the same polished, smooth way he does today. No mention of any of the players’ beautiful girlfriends in the stands, however.

Difference: Officiating. It was really refreshing to see a game where there was nary a pass interference or roughing the passer call (there was one defensive holding), despite both teams playing smash-mouth, physical football.

I loved the fact that they let the players play and the coaches coach, and none of the players looked at the referee after every play and complained about not getting a call.

Similarity: Surprisingly, style of play. Both teams ran first, passed second and, despite the passing games not being as complex or creative, both teams made big plays on the ground and through the air. It was Big Ten football the way you always think of it, and it was extremely entertaining.

I guess the point here is that the more things change, the more they basically stay the same. Some of the changes the sport – and TV networks – have made over the years are very good ones, while others aren’t as good.

Still, they’re what make college football what it is today, and – past or present – I’ll never turn down the chance to watch a good gridiron game.

No. 25 Georgia at No. 7 Auburn

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn


Line: Auburn by 3½

What’s up: The Tigers gave been tearing it up lately, and the Bulldogs are still struggling to get healthy. Look for more of the same Saturday.

My pick: Auburn 31-21

No. 12 Oklahoma State at No. 24 Texas

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin

TV: Fox

Line: Oklahoma State by 3

What’s up: The Longhorns have risen from the early-season ashes like a phoenix, but a win over Oklahoma has really been their only test so far. The Cowboys are still eyeing a BCS bowl, so should be properly motivated.

My pick: Oklahoma State 38-24

No. 16 Michigan State at Nebraska

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln


Line: Michigan State by 6

What’s up: The Spartans can lock up the Legends Division title with a win, and have a great chance to do so now that their offense is starting to click … and the Huskers’ ‘D’ isn’t what it used to be.

My pick: Michigan State 27-20

Texas Tech vs. No. 5 Baylor

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington

TV: Fox

Line: Baylor by 27

What’s up: The Bears control their own destiny in the Big 12 race, and their offense should have little trouble against the Red Raiders. Expect a shootout, but Baylor loves to play that way.

My pick: Baylor 58-31

Florida at No. 10 South Carolina

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia


Line: South Carolina by 13½

What’s up: The Gamecocks used to win with defense, and the Gators with an explosive offense. The key in this one will be Steve Spurrier’s ‘O’ against Will Muschamp’s ‘D’.

My pick: South Carolina 34-20

No. 4 Stanford at USC

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles


Line: Stanford by 4

What’s up: The Cardinal have put themselves in prime position for a Pac-12 title, but need to overcome a potential hangover after beating Oregon to avoid an upset. The Trojans’ offense is getting better, but may not have many chances against Stanford’s physiocal, ball-control style.

My pick: Stanford 27-10

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