UCF will turn Penn State's Happy Valley into Gloomy Gorge tonight

Running off at the typewriter. …

Let's get this out of the way right at the top of this column:

UCF is going to beat Penn State tonight.

You heard me, UCF is going to go into Happy Valley and turn it into Bummed-Out Basin or Crestfallen Canyon. Not necessarily because UCF has suddenly turned into FSU, but because Penn State just isn't Penn State anymore. The Nittany Lions may still play in the mighty Big Ten, but they don't have the talent or depth of a traditional BCS power.

Because of the massive NCAA sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex crimes scandal, Coach Bill O'Brien told me earlier this week that Penn State has only 62 scholarship players dressing out against UCF. Translation: The Knights actually have 18 more scholarship players and more depth than the Nittany Lions. They also have a better, more experienced quarterback who will make the difference tonight. Mikey likes: UCF and Blake Bortles over Penn State by 10, FSU over Nevada by 100, Open Date over Florida by 3 turnovers, Texas A&M over Alabama by 6 Sharpies in Upset Special, Saints over Bucs by 7, Dolphins over Colts by 4 in Upset Special II, Raiders over Jags by 1/2.

Short stuff: Did you see where CBS will employ a "Johnny Cam" today – a camera devoted exclusively to A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel? Personally, I think it would be much more entertaining to have a "Johnny Cam" after the game when Johnny Highball is out on the town. … Shameless plug: Check out WKMG sports anchor David "Ping" Pingalore and me talking college football on "Local 6 Sports Saturday" after today's Texas A&M-Alabama game. … Earlier this week it was the 100th anniversary of Bear Bryant's birth. This is believed to be the biggest day in Alabama since the invention of naked-lady mudflaps. … The World According to Stan: Every Thursday on our Open Mike radio show (6 to 9 a.m. on AM 740), former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy gives us his opinions on sports, politics, pop culture, etc: This week I asked Stan about Syria. "I haven't heard an argument that would convince me we need to get involved," he replied. "There's a lot of bad things that happen in this world. If we're going to be the world's policemen and enforce what's right in the world then why didn't we go into Darfur and places like that? There's a lot things that happen in the world that we can empathize with the people, but it's not practical for us to get involved. I think we should stay out (of Syria) right now." …

Estimates are that Jameis Winston alone has helped FSU sell 10,000 extra tickets for today's home opener against non-conference patsy Nevada. In related news, Blaine Gabbert will be responsible for the Jaguars selling 30,000 fewer tickets for their next home game against Indianapolis. … Speaking of embattled quarterbacks, Josh Freeman did not show up last week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' team photo. My prediction: By Week 4, Freeman won't be showing up in the starting lineup either. … Speaking of the Bucs, coach Greg Schiano denies a report that he manipulated the vote so that Freeman wouldn't be voted a team captain. Considering the Bucs are located in Florida, I'm sure Schiano will just blame the disputed vote on hanging chads and butterfly ballots. … Manipulating results? Who does Schiano think he is – Michael Waltrip Racing? … And, by the way, I'm glad NASCAR penalized Waltrip's race team for trying to illicitly get its drivers into the season-ending Chase for the Championship. The message from NASCAR officials to Waltrip's race team was crystal clear: "Hey, fellas, back off. We're the only one allowed to manipulate results!" …

As much as I believe Manziel blatantly broke the rules and shouldn't be playing in today's mega-game against Alabama, can we please stop with the ridiculous rhetoric that A.J. McCarron is a better quarterback than Manziel? McCarron is a product of Alabama's system whereas Texas A&M is a product of Johnny Football's brilliance. … Clemson beats Georgia, and Miami beats Florida. Let's hear it for the ACC (Ascending Credibility Conference)! … Mark my words, former Oregon and current Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly will revolutionize NFL offenses much like another former college coach did a generation ago. That college coach also came from the West Coast, and his name was Bill Walsh. … Last word comes from Auburn grad Charles Barkley: "Johnny Manziel's doing something I never thought was possible. He's going to make me root for Alabama. (He's) annoying me so much, I'm really close to saying, 'Roll Tide!'"

Open Mike:

Don't forget, you can click on OrlandoSentinel.com and read the wildly popular Open Mike blog and interactive extravaganza to get my freshest takes on what's happening in the world of sports. Here's a blog on Wednesday's 100-year anniversary of Bear Bryant's birth:

"Happy 100th birthday, Bear Bryant, who was born a century ago on Sept. 11, 1913.

You were a great coach -- just not as great as Nick Saban.

Yes, I stated as much in a column a few weeks ago, but a former Bear Bryant player confirmed my belief during a recent interview.

John Croyle, a former Alabama All-American defensive end under Bryant, told me that he believes what Saban has done in the modern age of college football might be even more impressive than what the Bear himself accomplished.

"With the scrutiny of the media and intrusion and microscope of the NCAA, it's much harder (to win) now," said Croyle, who has an inspiring new book out entitled: "The Two-Minute Drill To Manhood: A Proven Game Plan for Raising Sons."

"Obviously I played for who I consider the best college coach because he taught so much extra," Croyle added, "but Coach Saban is right there with him if not more because of the extraneous circumstances (in today's game).

Croyle, it seems, agrees with what I wrote in my recent column comparing Saban and Bryant. Saban has already won four championships – three at Alabama, one at LSU – compared to Bryant's six. Saban's won two in a row, three of the last four and has done it playing in the most dominant, dynastic era not only in SEC history but in college football history. Four different programs have won championships in the SEC's unprecedented run of seven straight national titles. Not only that, but the SEC finished last regular season with six teams ranked in the top 10.

The fact is, it's much harder in today's world to win four national championships than it was for the Bear to win six in the 1960s and '70s. There are many more programs in football and basketball capable of winning a national title now than there were 50 years ago. Back in the Bear's day, there weren't scholarship limitations and big-money TV deals that evened the playing field and allowed so many different schools to compete at the upper echelon of college football.

Happy birthday, Bear.

You will always be the most iconic coach in college football, but not necessarily the greatest.

 

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