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As a slow-footed, 130-pound defensive back on a top-ranked team, I'd like to think I had a lot of grit—and usually a great view of our games from the sidelines.
But the other deep subs and I were always ready to get the call. In fact, we always imagined how the scenario would play out:
"Dumke!" Coach Ike would scream, ripping off his headset, searching for me frantically amid all the other reserves, the game on the line, not a moment to lose. "Dumke, get over here!"
"Right here, Coach!"
"Dumke! You got your helmet ready?"
"Good! Because Fredrickson's just broke and he needs to borrow it."
For better and worse, it never went down exactly that way. But since we were on the winning end of plenty of blowouts, I was sometimes called on to help preserve the last two minutes of a 42-point lead.
I thought of those times fondly as I scanned the college football matchups this week. On screen, at least, it appears that the third-stringers should have their helmets ready for a range of possibilities, including the chance of playing.
Most of the Big Ten has scheduled patsies—not that anything's guaranteed in the conference this year—and most of the lineups in other leagues aren't much better.
Everybody wants to rack up enough wins to qualify for some kind of bowl game, even one named after almost-tasty late-night stoner food or Internet companies they've never heard of. But that's another story.
On to the games.
Thursday night special:
Boise State over BYU: I have way too much to do to watch this game. I'll probably catch it anyway.
The Ohio State over UAB: Should be a big week for the Buckeye subs.
Iowa over Central Michigan: But if it's scoring you want, find a soccer game.
Wisconsin over UTEP: I would chastise the Badgers for playing a weak schedule, except that this year they need one.
Michigan State over Eastern Michigan: Expect the Spartans to figure something out—their passing game is much better against teams with no defense.
Penn State over Temple: Anyway, did you hear what Mitt Romney said now?
Nebraska over Idaho State: This is lame.
Northwestern over South Dakota: This should be a sorry game too, but it's Northwestern we're talking about.
Illinois over Louisiana Tech: The first one to 50 takes it.
Syracuse over Minnesota: It's hard to win a shootout without your shooter.
Game of the week:
Michigan over Notre Dame: The Irish defense is probably good enough to clog up the Michigan offense. Who cares? Go Wolverines!
Around the nation:
No. 4 Florida State over No. 10 Clemson: The overrated home team gets past the overrated visiting team.
No. 3 Oregon over No. 22 Arizona: My colleague Drew Hunt, perhaps the top Ducks fan in Chicago, can feel optimistic that the Wildcats don't tackle often, even on defense.
Oberlin over the University of Chicago: After losing 33-0 to Elmhurst last week, the Maroons will try to find their offense on the way to Ohio.
Last week: I went 12-2, though some losses sting more than others—I was as thrilled to have missed Stanford's defeat of USC as I was horrified by Michigan State's flop against Notre Dame. Season: 34-8.