The good news. Only one of the top eight teams, Arizona, doesn't have to play any of the others. Colorado plays two (Michigan and Nebraska on the road) and also travels to No. 15 Texas. Florida State plays at Miami, takes on Florida at home and also faces Notre Dame in Orlando. The upshot of this scheduling is that much of the warp-drive offense we have seen will be brought into sharper focus during an eight-week period that begins next Saturday when Colorado visits Michigan.
The bad news. Even though these head-to-head matchups likely will pare down the roster of the elite, there are numerous permutations that could get us to the New Year without a clear national championship game. That would leave the ultimate decision of who's No. 1 in the hands of—shudder, loud cymbal crash—the Voters. But let's not pull out the calculators just yet; any man speaking the words bowl coalition in September should be strapped to a goalpost and pelted with oranges.
The season is young. There is time aplenty for upsets, for some interloper to crack the Elite Eight and restore some credibility to hypotheses of parity. Perhaps Kansas State, which has a 14-0-1 home streak but hasn't beaten Nebraska in Manhattan (where the two teams meet Oct. 15) since 1959. Perhaps Notre Dame (the Fighting Irish as interlopers—is that wild?) will beat Florida State. USC and UCLA both have to play Arizona. Relax, there's time.
But for now, in the early days of fall, there is a clear gulf between this one group of teams and all the rest. UCLA had been expected to challenge for the national title, but the Bruins left Lincoln a sobered group. "After a performance like that," Edwards said, "I guess you'd have to say we're not national championship contenders."
Cheer up, man. Who is a contender? It's a small group at the top.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]