Colorado May Bring Change to Big Eight


Things have changed in the Big Eight. A little.

Oklahoma is no longer No. 1.

Television and bowl revenue are down by about $500,000, because both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are on probation. Nebraska will try to recoup $300,000 of that by increasing ticket prices for its game with OSU from $18.50 to $25.

But some things never change. The Big Eight is still the Big Two and Little Six. Only this time, instead of Oklahoma and Nebraska battling for the conference crown, it is Nebraska and Colorado -- or Colorado and Nebraska, depending on loyalties.

As the two teams prepare to meet in Boulder Saturday, both are 8-0 overall, 4-0 in the Big Eight. Colorado is No. 2 in the country; Nebraska is No. 3.

"It's a little ironic," said Nebraska Athletic Director Bob Devaney. "Every year we have to contend with Oklahoma. Now we have to contend with Colorado. We're not doing anything special to get up for this game. Being up for this game comes naturally."

Devaney knows a lot about being up for big games. He led Nebraska to back-to-back national championships in 1970 and 1971. Cornhuskers Coach Tom Osborne has been trying to win just one ever since taking over the helm in 1973.

"If Tom Osborne hadn't helped me coach, we wouldn't have won the two we did," said Devaney. "I think he's the greatest coach there is. But it takes a little luck, too, and we've missed it closely twice."

Colorado has never come close.

Saturday, the Buffalos have the opportunity to take a giant step.

This game is the biggest thing to hit Boulder since Mork and Mindy. It's the Rocky Mountain High of which John Denver sings. More than 500 people camped out to get tickets. Radio stations are asking residents to do strange things -- like sit in a tub and have buffalo chips poured over them while they peel ears of corn -- just to get a couple tickets.

And why not? Colorado has won the Big Eight title outright only once, in 1961. Saturday, it can virtually clinch with a victory.

But Nebraska has won 20 of the last 21 meetings with Colorado. The only Colorado win in that span was a 20-10 decision at Boulder three years ago. Last year, Nebraska won 7-0 on a third-period touchdown run by Ken Clark.

"I know this year, Colorado, everybody says, is the class of the conference at this point," said Osborne. "I think we've got a pretty good team ourselves and Oklahoma, certainly, is not bad. They've played pretty well."

But Saturday, it is all Colorado and Nebraska. Both have noble objectives. Nebraska wants to give Osborne his first national title, and Colorado has dedicated its season to its late quarterback Sal Aunese, who died of cancer Sept. 23.

Let the game begin.

Pretty in pink: About five years ago, Iowa Coach Hayden Fry decided to soothe the opposition by painting the visiting team's locker room pink. It is supposed to take the edge off.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

What Fry hopes is that it will cause a little distraction. Sometimes it does. One year, Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler sent his team managers ahead to cover the walls with paper. This year, of course, Michigan is so good Schembechler didn't have to bother. The Wolverines won, 26-12.

Saturday, No. 8 Illinois (6-1) will be in Iowa City for its Big Ten game with the Hawkeyes (4-3), and Illini Coach John Mackovic is spending time acclimating his team to pink. Illinois has not played at Iowa since 1985, when it lost 59-0.

Mackovic has been wearing nothing but pink shirts and pink ties all week. He carried a stuffed pink flamingo to his weekly news conference and arrived for the quarterback luncheon in a pink hat.

"Think pink," Mackovic said.

Terps remembered: Ohio State's rally from a 31-0 deficit for a 41-37 victory over Minnesota made the Buckeyes only the second team in history to win after trailing by as many 31 points. Only on Nov. 10, 1984, when Maryland rallied from 31-0 to down Miami, 42-40, had another Division I-A team ever finished off such a comeback.

A sportsmanship vote: Charlie Hallman of the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch left Houston off his Top 25 ballot two weeks ago, after the Cougars ran it up on SMU, 95-21.

Unfortunately, Houston still jumped from No. 16 to No. 12 in the standings. But after getting upset by Arkansas, 45-39, last Saturday, the Cougars dropped to 17th. See, justice does prevail.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World