Northwestern's Randy Walker has been coaching college football for more than 25 years, and there are times when that seems like an eternity.
Then he looks at Joe Paterno, and all Walker can do is shake his head in wonder. Still coaching at 74, Paterno has spent more than 50 years at Penn State. He's had five perfect seasons, won two national titles and was runner-up three times.
He's seen players go from fresh-faced young men sporting crew cuts to kids who dye their hair funny colors and wear earrings. He's been around so long, he remembers when Nike didn't exist.
"It's hard to fathom," Walker said, still shaking his head. "Some of the things he's accomplished, some of the things he's done, you don't ever say things won't be broken or there'll never be another one like him, but you're close to saying that about Joe Paterno. Golly, it's hard to fathom what he's accomplished."
But there are people who think Paterno has accomplished enough. The Nittany Lions are 0-4 (0-3 Big Ten) for the first time in school history, and Paterno remains stuck on win No. 322, one shy of Bear Bryant's Division I-A record.
Today (3:30, Ch. 4), Penn State will play its third Top 25 opponent when it travels to No. 22 Northwestern (4-1, 2-1).
"I don't know what people are saying about me. If they think I'm too old, that's their problem. I don't feel old," Paterno said. "I'm enjoying it. Even though we're 0-4, I like my football team."
In other televised games today, North Carolina is at No. 13 Clemson (noon, ESPN2); Wisconsin at Illinois (noon, ESPN); Indiana at Iowa (noon, Empire); Pittsburgh at Boston College (noon, Ch. 67); Elon at Hofstra (noon, MSG); USC at Notre Dame (2:30 p.m., Ch. 2); No. 11 Tennessee at Alabama (3:30 p.m., Ch. 4); Navy at Rutgers (3:30 p.m., MSG); Air Force at No. 18 BYU (5:45 p.m., ESPN2); No. 21 Florida State at Virginia (7:45 p.m., ESPN); and LSU at Mississippi State (9 p.m., ESPN2).
Considering what happened last weekend and what lies ahead, UCLA appears ripe for a letdown.
Don't mention that possibility to Bruins coach Bob Toledo, though. Just the thought of it riles him.
"My feeling is this: You play 11 football games, you only have 11 chances," said Toledo, whose fourth-ranked Bruins celebrate homecoming tonight against winless California in the Rose Bowl. "You've got to be mentally ready to play."
UCLA (5-0, 2-0 Pac-10) is coming off a 35-13 victory over No. 15 Washington, snapping the Huskies' 12-game winning streak.
The Bruins play at Stanford (3-1, 2-1) and No. 19 Washington State (6-0, 4-0) in their next two games before a Pac-10 finale against No. 5 Oregon (6-0, 3-0) at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 10.
In addition to their national championship hopes, which were decidedly fueled with the big win over Washington, the Bruins will have extra incentive against Cal (0-5, 0-3) since they lost to the Golden Bears the last two seasons.
In other games today involving teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, Baylor is at No. 2 Oklahoma; Texas Tech at No. 3 Nebraska; Stanford at No. 5 Oregon; No. 14 Colorado at No. 9 Texas; Duke at No. 12 Maryland; Arizona at No. 15 Washington; Vanderbilt at No. 16 South Carolina; Kentucky at No. 17 Georgia; Louisiana Tech at No. 20 Auburn; North Carolina State at No. 23 Georgia Tech; and No. 25 Toledo at Ball State.
Syracuse seeks sixth straight
The Syracuse Orangemen weren't given much of a chance to have a good season in 2001, let alone get the six wins needed to qualify for a bowl game.
How quickly things can change. Syracuse (5-2, 2-0 Big East) has won five straight games, and a victory today over Temple (2-3, 1-1) would make the Orangemen eligible for the postseason -- with four games left on the schedule.
"I want to go out there and prove to everybody that says we can't win, or I'm not good, or this team's not good, or this offense isn't good -- I just want to prove them wrong," quarterback R.J. Anderson said.
Anderson and his teammates have been doing a pretty good job of that since losing to Georgia Tech and Tennessee in the first two games of the season. And it doesn't promise to be that difficult against the Owls, who have lost 15 straight to Syracuse, the last four by a combined 156-36.
Then again, this is Syracuse, remember. The Orangemen struggled to beat Rutgers two weeks ago, finally eking out a 24-17 victory with a touchdown in the final two minutes, and Temple is coming off a 30-5 victory over Rutgers.
"I see a very dangerous Temple team," said Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni, who spent much of this week back home in Connecticut for his father's funeral. "I don't think I've seen a team in recent years that has more players returning."
Best 2-3 team in the country
Oregon State? No, we were thinking Troy State, which plays a schedule that would give Kansas State coach Bill Snyder a severe case of the shakes. Troy State, in its first year in Division I, pulled off this year's stunner with a 21-9 victory at Mississippi State last week. Troy State also held tough in losses at Nebraska and Miami. The Trojans have an upcoming date at Maryland and next year play at Arkansas, Iowa State, Maryland, Mississippi State and Nebraska. A longtime Division I-AA power, Troy State is trying to earn its way into the new Sun Belt Conference and appears to have made a sizable credibility down payment.
Stoops makes the move
After waffling a bit, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has named sophomore Jason White as today's starting quarterback against Baylor. White replaces Nate Hybl, who started the first six games. Why White? The sophomore's running ability rescued Oklahoma against Texas and he adds a dimension the Sooners will need for the Oct. 27 showdown against Nebraska in Lincoln.