IT’S ALL HAPPENING! The “Invictus/Weakened Edition, 11/24-24”

Starting Five

1. “I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul.” William Ernest Henley was not known as a rabid college football fan. He was a 19th-century British poet, after all. However, the author of “Invictus” would be pleased with the results of the 2012 college football season. To wit…

“If we had a vote, we wouldn’t put USC No. 1 in the preseason poll, either (wink wink, Lane)”

2…. Notre Dame begins the season unranked and unloved but finishes it 12-0 and ranked No. 1. USC starts the year No. 1 and unbeatable and finishes it unranked. Irish linebacker Manti Te’o, who had zero interceptions in his first three seasons, has seven in 2012.

3. Defections and disillusionment hovered over ironically named Happy Valley all summer, but one man — first-year head coach Bill O’Brien — was determined to rebuild. The Nittany Lions, minus their best player (Silas Redd, who made an exodus to Southern California) and a few other key contributors (Brett Fera, kicker; Malcolm Brown, WR, both of whom also transferred), finished 8-4 after defeating Wisconsin in overtime. Did anyone have them winning more than even four games?

4. Like Penn State, B1G member Ohio State began 2012 with no chance at a bowl due to NCAA sanctions. Say what you will about Urban Meyer, but the Buckeye State native led the silver helmets to a 12-0 season in his first year. Meyer has now led two different schools — Utah, OSU — to undefeated seasons and a third, Florida, to a pair of national championships.

For the record, on day that Urban led OSU to undefeated season, Jim Tressel got lifted on players’ shoulder inside Horseshoe

5… Under first-year head coach Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh loses its season-opener at home to FCS Youngstown State. The Panthers recover to defeat No. 13 Virginia Tech and No. 18 Rutgers, and they should have beaten the Fighting Irish if it were not for a missed field goal (and a missed penalty by the officials on that kick). If Pitt beats USF next Saturday they’ll be 6-6 and bowl-eligible.


Larry Hagman died on Friday, fittingly in Dallas. In the late 1970s, in the time before cable television, when the networks were a their peak, there was no bigger male television star in the world than the man who played J.R. Ewing (the female counterpart would be whoever was the hottest of that season’s “Charlie’s Angels”).

The inimitable J.R. Ewing

For those too young to remember, Ewing was Tony Soprano in a ten-gallon hat. Except that he was more charming, certainly more handsome and refined, but no less possessed of that duality of venal wickedness and disarming charm when the moment called for it. J.R. Ewing has to be one of the ten best television characters of all time.

Another item, and feel free to offer a suggestion. We cannot recall an actor who played two characters on TV that are both so widely remembered and so utterly disparate. Major Anthony Nelson was a likeable astronaut who just happened to have one of the world’s most beautiful women (the aptly named Barbara Eden) land in his lap and was smart enough not to upset the jeannie in the bottle. We’ve seen actors play two different roles on successful shows (Tony Danza, Heather Locklear), but we cannot think of anyone who showed as much range.

“Oh, Master…”

Finally, it’s worth noting that Hagman both grew up in Texas and that he did serve in the Air Force. The man, who was as fascinating a character in real-life as he was onscreen, really did research his roles.

Notre Dame-USC bits of tid…

1. The Irish did not allow a first-quarter touchdown this season.

2. USC had 30 yards after catches last night, the Trojans’ lowest total in the past four seasons.

3. The contest drew a 10.3 Nielsen rating. By comparison, last season’s Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl averaged a 9.4.

In College Station Johnny Heismanziel throws for 372 yards and three TDs’ as Texas A&M routs Missouri, 59-20, in a meeting of SEC freshman schools. Manziel, who is looking as if he will become the first (redshirt) freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, led the Aggies to two 50-plus point wins, one 60-plus point win, and one 70-point victory. Manziel would make it two consecutive Texans to win the Heisman, neither of whom played for the state’s flagship university. Horns down, indeed.

No. 2 on his chest, but likely No. 1 in the Heisman ballot




Gene Chizik is out at Auburn. He was gone before the Tigers fell behind 42-0 at halftime in Tuscaloosa. Our friend Stewart Mandel notes that Auburn has now fired its last three coaches (Terry Bowden, Tommy Tuberville, Gene Chizik) to have led the Tigers to an undefeated season. War Eagle!

L.A.’s most notorious curmudgeon/gadfly, T.J. Simers, asks Jim Mora, Jr., if UCLA tanked its game versus Stanford knowing the two would meet next week in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Go to the beginning and then to the 4:30 mark. Also, tell us if Mora says, “Because we’re competers, T.J.”

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