This week’s picks column is dedicated to the late, great Alex Karras, who prior to KO-ing a horse in “Blazing Saddles” embodied what the old Black and Blue Division (today’s NFC North) was about.
Dirt beneath one’s fingernails. Sweat occasionally spiked with blood streaming down a player’s face. The helmet decal beginning to peel off at the ends.
Ballgames played on the unforgiving dirt/grass surfaces of Wrigley Field, Metropolitan Stadium, Lambeau Field and, of course, old Tiger Stadium.
Chicago had its Butkus, Green Bay its Nitschke, Minnesota its Purple People Eaters. And Detroit had Karras, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound defensive tackle every bit as nasty as the others.
Remarkably, Karras, a four-time Pro Bowl choice from 1958-70, never made it into Pro Football’s Hall of Fame.
Maybe the honor comes posthumously.
Either way, in honor of Webster’s dad, I’m picking his alma mater (Iowa) to beat Penn State this weekend.
Here are this week’s picks:
Notre Dame 34, BYU 17
Unless Steve Young, Austin Collie and Vai Sikahema all show up at Notre Dame Stadium in their 20-year-old primes, the Cougars aren’t springing the upset.
Ohio State 38, Purdue 20
The Buckeyes are playing at home in a stadium that hasn’t witnessed a Purdue victory since 1988.
Ohio State’s marginal defense allows the game to remain interesting through the first half, but the Boilers’ penchant for lousy third quarters bites them once again.
Navy 30, Indiana 28
Maybe I’m in the minority, but the Hoosiers are getting better. Having said that, I still take Navy as the Midshipmen’s triple option attack is something the Hoosiers aren’t often exposed to.
Michigan 27, Michigan State 21
Is there a harder team to figure out than Michigan State? They’re great, no, they’re good. They’re good, no, they’re average. In-state rivalry games tend to be close, but, face it, the Wolverines are just better.
Wisconsin 24, Minnesota 14
The Golden Gophers haven’t stormed the Wisconsin sideline to retrieve Paul Bunyan’s Axe since 2003. Minnesota hasn’t won in Madison since 1994. This game is in Madison.
Nebraska 45, Northwestern 41
What do you get when you combine a pair of suspect defenses with two high-powered offenses? Lots of points. The Cornhuskers win a thriller on the road.
Iowa 20, Penn State 16
The Nittany Lions are coming off a bye week, but it won’t matter. Alex Karras has a great view of this one and his Hawkeyes deliver.
Indianapolis 24, Cleveland 20
A lot of the so-called experts thought the Colts got a steal in the fifth round when running back Vick Ballard was still on the board last April. With Donald Brown out, this is the rookie’s chance to prove it. And he does.
Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.