Starting Five

1. Alabama vs Michigan (Saturday, ABC, 7 p.m.) The last time the Wolverines played an SEC opponent, they lost by 38. And, in case you forgot, that team was Mississippi State, less than two years ago. We love Shoelace, but Bama’s O-line versus Michigan’s D-line spells migraines for Jim Delany.

2. Boise State at MICHIGAN STATE (Friday, ESPN, 7 p.m.) Since becoming head coach in 2006, Chris Petersen has only lost one game that was played 1) off the Smurf Turf and 2) before Thanksgiving weekend. That was a 10-7 loss at U-Dub on Sept. 8, 2007. The Spartans have not lost in East Lansing since 2009, to a team coached by Joe Paterno. We like Sparty here.

3. Clemson vs Auburn (Saturday, ESPN, 7 p.m.) In an opening weekend in which we have Tech vs Tech (Georgia-Virginia) and Cougars vs Cougars (Wazzu at BYU), this Tigers vs Tigers contest may be the best of the mirror games. Sammy Watkins, arguably the most exciting player in CFB, will be missed, but these are still two big-boy programs.

4. Notre Dame vs Navy (Saturday, CBS, 9 a.m.) The Irish, who have lost three of their past five to the Midshipmen, win if they keep it at two or fewer turnovers. Navy flew from Baltimore to Dublin. That’s cheating, no?

5. Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech (Monday, ESPN, 7 p.m.) Remember that Yellow Jacket offense that led the nation in rushing offense and passing efficiency and was averaging 51 points per game through five wins last season? Well, they return seven starters including leading rushers Orwin Smith and David Sims. Tech has quarterback Tajh Boyd, who at 6-6 has that Cam Newton thing going on.

The Red Grange Award

On October 18, 1924, Harold Edward Grange (you can call him “Red”) of Illinois returned the opening kickoff on the opening play in the history of Memorial Stadium 95 yards for a touchdown against Michigan. Later in that first quarter Grange scored on runs of 67, 56 and 44 yards. That’s four touchdowns covering 262 yards in one quarter against a Wolverine defense that had allowed a total of four touchdowns the previous two seasons.

History, though, remembers 10/18/24 as the day that beckoned Grantland Rice’s famous lede (“Outlined against a blue, gray October sky…”) after Granny watched Notre Dame score a desultory 13-7 win over Army. And you wonder why so many people hate Notre Dame.

Red Buttons never got a dinner and Red Grange never got an award, and this has always left us flummoxed. It wasn’t as if he lacked a cool sobriquet (“The Galloping Ghost”) or charisma: he made the cover of Time. Grange signed with the Chicago Bears the day after playing his last college game. He was decades ahead of his era.

And his name reminds us of a Peter Gabriel song. What’s not to love?

There’s a Fred Biletnikoff Award, a John Mackey Award, a Davey O’Brien Award (but not a Danny O’Brien Award, at least not yet), a Ray Guy Award, a Ted Hendricks Award (the 1970s’s Oakland Raiders lead the world in players who have had college football trophies named in their honor) and many others.

And yet there is no major award for, with all due respect to Jim Thorpe and George Gipp, the most spectacular player from the Golden Age of college football. If ever there were a player who personified what the Heisman Trophy purportedly stands for — as opposed to what ESPN’s Lee Corso believes it stands for (starting QB on the top-ranked team), then that player is Red Grange.

Grange scored six touchdowns that afternoon in the Illini’s upset of the Wolverines, amassing 402 total yards and ending UM’s 20-game unbeaten streak. Certainly if Rece Davis had been invented then, he would’ve been awarded a helmet sticker.

We want even more. The signature achievement John Heisman, the namesake of college football’s, if not sport’s, most well-known individual award, was to coach Georgia Tech to a 222-0 victory (we were tempted to employ the term “drubbing” here, but we don’t know what a “drub” is) over Cumberland College. Most people don’t even know where Heisman played college football (Brown –what is it with Brown and ignominious football coaches? — and Penn).

We completely endorse the definition for the Heisman Trophy (“…the most outstanding player”). We just believe that it is named after the wrong person, and so it is with that in mind that we here at Medium Happy are creating our own Red Grange Award that, too, will be bestowed upon the nation’s most outstanding player.

And if you are wondering about our clout, did you know who votes on the Mackey Award? The Nassau County Sports Commission. Can you name anyone on the Nassau County Sports Commission? Exactly.

Bill Hubbell, myself, and a coterie of willing volunteers whose names you will recognize (as soon as we blackmail persuade them to participate) will vote on the award and we will rely on one criterion: “…the most outstanding player.”

So to begin, let us name our preseason Red Grange Award favorites…


(Still waiting)


You get the point? We are naming no one. It’s August 30 and as of this moment nobody has played a single down yet. Hence, nobody is a favorite. Last year doesn’t matter. No one is going to “jump ahead” of anyone on our Red Grange Watch list after Week 1 simply because everyone, even Ego Ferguson of LSU, is currently in a dead heat. That’ll change.

Stay tuned for weekly updates on the Red Grange Award.

Week 1 Quick Hitters

–It may not be a fair metric since it is also a function of the opposition, but look out for the schools that win by 40-plus points on opening weekend. Those are the schools who are already running downhill with a load of momentum. We like West Virginia (versus Marshall), Arkansas (versus Jacksonville State), Florida (Murray State), Wisconsin (Northern Iowa) and USC (Hawaii) as the most likely to hit that mark.

–Anyone know who the FBS’ active career rushing leader is? His team hosts San Diego State on Saturday night (answer at bottom) He has never played a down for the school for whom he will start this weekend.

–Cal returns to Strawberry Canyon and Memorial Stadium after a one-year hiatus for a $321 million renovation to host Nevada.

— For the record, and before the rest of the country discovers his unique odyssey, we at The Daily (bow your heads) were on the Jesse Williams story last December. Brent and Kirk will surely be talking him up on Saturday night.

–Former Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist opens another season against a school whose name begins with South (South Dakota State). Odds are that Crist, now at Kansas, will start the second half this time.

Answer: Chris Polk, Washington, 4,049 yards  Montel Harris, Boston College  Temple Owls


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