Second string

Wouldn’t it be something if 2008 could match last year’s trip-wire to trip-wire action?

Forget about it.

“I don’t think there can ever be a season like last year,” Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel said this week.

Daniel was in the huddle for a lot of the muddle.


His Tigers went from No. 1 in the nation on Dec. 1 to not even making it to a Bowl Championship Series game.

Three-loss Illinois, which lost to Missouri in the season opener, played its season-ender in the Rose Bowl.

You could look it all up in “Ripped Knee’s Believe It Or Not,” published by University of Oregon Press.

It was the season Appalachian State shocked Michigan, Stanford jaw-dropped USC, Hawaii finished 12-1 and Notre Dame finished 3-9.

The No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the Associated Press media poll lost on the same weekend three times, and USC, California, South Florida, Boston College and Oregon all climbed to No. 2 before losing grip.

Cal was a granola-bar toss from No. 1 when its backup quarterback let the clock expire in a home loss to Oregon State. Cal then skidded, Tedford over heels, out of the poll.

Missouri and West Virginia entered the final weekend 1-2 before both were hit with 1-2 sucker punches.

Ohio State was No. 7 in the BCS in mid-November, yet somehow climbed to No. 1, and Louisiana State hilariously advanced from No. 7 on Dec. 1 to No. 2 on the evening of Dec. 2 in a circus-like circuitous route to its second BCS national title in five years.


Georgia got by-passed in the standings without playing and did not take kindly to it, responding with an eight-team playoff proposal that had the legs of an abalone.

Such is the ruinous state of this playoff-less sport that ESPN was willing this week to offer the Southeastern Conference $2.25 billion over the next 15 years to televise field chunks of this organized fraudulence.

It’s not that 2008, to be unveiled in five acts starting tonight over a long Labor Day weekend, doesn’t hold promise.

The Pacific 10 Conference campaign, for season’s sake, opens tonight, with Oregon State traveling to Stanford.


“I suppose you’ve got to jump into it sometime,” Beavers Coach Mike Riley said.

June Jones (remember him?), who left Hawaii for Southern Methodist, a Phony Express football operation since getting hammered with the NCAA death penalty two decades ago, makes his debut at Rice on Friday.

If Jones, who led one of the most outrageous turnarounds in history at Hawaii, can’t fix SMU, no one can -- not even the boosters.

“Everyone here feels like there’s hope now,” Jones said.


Hope is such an August word.

Art Briles left Houston for Baylor to get under the hood of another jalopy. And the prospect actually excites him.

“Yeah, it does,” he said. “Stupidly, it does.”

Saturday, in Baton Rouge, the LSU Tigers play their first game as defending national champions against some rag-tag team from Boone, N.C. . . . Appalachian State.


Can Labor Day weekend history repeat itself?

Isn’t deja vu a French phrase?

Nah, it could never happen again in a hundred years . . .

Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor, scene of last year’s debacle, first-year Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez makes his Big House debut against Utah, a school near a mountain range (Wasatch) that could rekindle that haunting from the Appalachians.


USC, which hasn’t lost a regular-season game outside the Pac-10 since a Sept. 21, 2002 defeat to Kansas State, makes its first-ever trip to the University of Virginia, designed by Thomas Jefferson and once a campus stroll for Edgar Allan Poe.

The game features two former one-year New York Jets coaches, Pete Carroll and Al Groh, who combined to go 16-17 in the Big Apple. Of course, neither of them had Brett Favre at quarterback.

Opening weekend is only the window crack.

Joe Paterno, entering season No. 43 at Penn State, gets an opening coaster against Coastal Carolina, with more pertinent questions coming down the road.


Brigham Young’s quest for a BCS bowl bid could end almost before it starts if it looks past Northern Iowa toward Washington and UCLA.

Washington plays at Oregon, affording Ducks Coach Mike Bellotti the random chance to call Huskies quarterback Jake Locker “the most dangerous quarterback in college football.”

Alabama plays Clemson on Saturday in an early game hugely important to the programs and coaches, while Illinois and Missouri reunite in St. Louis for a game that could tie up some last-year loose ends regarding which school belonged in the BCS.

Sunday rouses in-state blood with Kentucky at Louisville and Colorado State at Colorado, and Monday introduces relative strangers with Fresno State playing at Rutgers and Tennessee headed toward UCLA.


Opening weekend never gets old.

Daniel can’t wait to burn his first Illinois defensive back.

“I’m just excited,” he said. “Everyone is excited about hitting someone, banging someone else’s pads other than your team. . . . It’s about time to play a game.”

Rick Neuheisel was once MVP of a Rose Bowl, but he’ll have a lump in his throat larger than Minnie Pearl’s hat when he leads UCLA out of the tunnel against Tennessee.


The pundits smell a train wreck, but Neuheisel said, “We get to decide how well we play.”

Just don’t ask 2008 to live up to 2007.

It’s like asking Nadal and Federer to “do that Wimbledon final thing” again.

Take it one week at a time, 2008.


Be the best season you can be.