It's the first weekend of October and already several football teams — from the local high school fields to the national college scene to the NFL — have come to a crossroads. Here's a look at some of this weekend's big games that will either expose teams as frauds or perhaps spark their seasons:
Plant at Armwood
This has pretty much become the best high school game in the Tampa Bay area. This season, Plant blew a 24-point lead with 19 minutes left and lost to Tampa Bay Tech. Tampa Bay Tech then lost to Armwood, which is undefeated. This game means the world to both teams, but it has to mean a little more to Plant, especially now that it has nursed itself back to just about full strength after early season injuries.
Oklahoma at Miami
We have no idea what to think of Miami. The Hurricanes easily could have lost to what we're finding out to be mediocre-at-best Florida State. Then they waxed Georgia Tech before getting pasted by Virginia Tech. Maybe this game will give us some answers, about Oklahoma as well as Miami. The Sooners have played one good team, BYU, and they lost, which brings us full circle, because BYU was hammered at home by Florida State.
LSU at Georgia
We'll say it right now. At least one of these teams is a fraud, and maybe both are. LSU is somehow ranked No. 4, and it didn't look like the fourth-best team in the country when it squeaked by Mississippi State. Meantime, Georgia is 3-1 and ranked No. 18.
Penn State at Illinois
After beating up three cream puffs, the Nittany Lions lost their first game against a real team — at home, no less. Joe Paterno's team was supposed to duke it out with Ohio State for the Big Ten title, but we'll see this week if Penn State had a bad game Saturday against Iowa and will actually compete for the conference title, or if they're just a pretender that was overrated to start the season.
Southern Cal at Cal
When USC won at Ohio State, we all assumed the Trojans were as powerful as ever. But then they lost to Washington. So up steps Cal as a legitimate challenger to USC's standing as the top team in the Pac-10. The Bears rose to No. 6 in the polls, but then were killed 42-3 at Oregon. If Cal beats USC, we think it would say more about USC than Cal. Could the Trojans' dominance in the conference be coming to an end? This game will help answer that.
Chargers at Steelers
The defending champion Steelers needed overtime in their opener to beat a Titans team that remains winless. Then the Steelers went out and blew two fourth-quarter leads in losses to the Bears and Bengals. With the Ravens off to a 3-0 start in their division, can the Steelers really afford to fall to 1-3?
Letter of the day
Not only is this our letter of the day, it might be our favorite letter ever at Two Cents.
Subject: FSU Football — I want to break up.
Dear Florida State Football Program,
I am breaking up with you today. It's really hard to say this after all we have been through. I have seen you shine brightly from the highest mountains, and I have held your hand when times are tough. The truth is: It's not me, it's you. You see, FSU Football, you and I just don't work any more. You have let me down for way too long. Actually since the fat guy was in office. I simply cannot watch the horrible pass protection, no pass rush, dropped passes, stupid penalties, and obvious lack of execution week after week, season after season. I can't watch a once mighty football team flounder to beat small schools with far less resources. Your program has many, many great players. Why are they not playing like it? Why is the defensive backfield unable to stop simple backyard passing plays? Why is Mickey Andrews not being called out? Why in the heck are there two head coaches?
What is that you say? "Don't be such a fair-weather fan! Stay with me, we will get better!" I just can't, FSU Football. I simply don't believe in you anymore. I don't believe we are good together. I wish I knew the answers to help you, I don't. I will tell you this: When I sat in the Leon County Civic Center listening to my graduation commencement speech in 1994, there was talk of accepting challenges, rising up above mediocrity, and improving each and every day. When I left Tallahassee, there were names like Ward, Dunn and Brooks. Now all of that is gone. What is left is a coaching staff and mentality that is past its prime. It's not just the losing, it's the way you have lost. You say you care and you want me to stay, but you just won't change. And I just can't let you continue to break my heart anymore. I will miss you. I will miss the good times we had. Maybe someday our paths will cross and we can be together again. Right now I have to go on with my life. I need some time apart.
Dr. Marc Rogers
FSU Class of 1994