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I end up at the bar talking with two other reporters I haven't seen in a while. They're smart, good people and up on current affairs. One is an otherwise nice girl who went to college at Florida. The other appears to be a onetime fan of what used to be called Big Ten football.
I mention these details because it turns out they know I cheer way too hard for my alma mater's team, the Northwestern Wildcats. That might be because I barrage even casual acquaintances with Facebook posts about that week's game and all the anxiety it's causing me on top of my normal anxiety.
Our conversation quickly goes awry. Something like this:
FLORIDA FAN: I've been to your stadium. It's kind of like going to a high school game.
ME: Yeah. Remind me again—didn't you guys lose last weekend?
SAD FORMER BIG TEN GUY: That was a great game!
SAD FORMER BIG TEN GUY: The SEC plays some real football—fast, with defense. The Big Ten—
FLORIDA FAN: Doesn't.
SAD FORMER BIG TEN GUY: You know what I liked? When Northwestern came out of nowhere and beat Notre Dame. You know, that one time.
FLORIDA FAN: And now Notre Dame's good again!
SAD FORMER BIG TEN GUY: 1995—now that was a good year.
ME: So what's your take on government regulation?
The good news? There are more games this week. So let's get on to them.
Thursday night special:
Miami (Florida) over Virginia Tech: On the upside, one of them's got to lose.
Michigan over Minnesota: Call me a genius, but based on their 5-3 record, the Wolverines are beatable. But probably not by the Gophers. Minnesota has won only two of the last 30 contests for the Little Brown Jug.
Iowa over Indiana: Thanks to postseason bans and lousy teams, the Hoosiers have a chance at getting to the conference championship game. IU fans know what that augurs: a disappointing loss.
Michigan State over No. 21 Nebraska: I keep going back and forth: Rice Krispies or Honey Nut Cheerios?
Anybody over Illinois: In this case, it'll be No. 6 Ohio State.
Penn State over Purdue: The Boilers' best performances came in narrow losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State. Add another segment to the season highlight reel.
Northern Illinois over UMass: UMass is not as good as its 0-8 record would suggest.
No. 4 Notre Dame over Pittsburgh: Whatever.
No. 16 Texas A&M over No. 17 Mississippi State: From where I sit, the Aggies' offense seems too good for the Bulldogs. Of course, I'm in a cubicle in Chicago.
No. 2 Oregon over No. 18 USC: As far as I'm concerned, the Trojans lost this the moment they let De'Anthony Thomas graduate from Snoop Dogg's youth league to Eugene.
No. 24 Arizona over No. 25 UCLA: If either team scores fewer than 40, the fans should feel ripped off.
No. 1 Alabama over No. 5 LSU: I'd love to see the Tigers pull the upset, just to fuck with the whole BCS system. And also to fuck with Alabama.
Carnegie Mellon over University of Chicago: Who'd you rather—Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller?
Last week: I went went 9-7, my worst performance yet. I blame it on Obamacare. Season: 89-29.