Just For Argument's Sake ...

From the picking the Big Ten's best linebackers (good luck) to Texas and OU leaving Dallas to non-BCS teams to, of course, ND-USC, Ivan Maisel tackles all the hot topics.

Originally Published: October 12, 2005
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

From nagging questions to soapbox moments to Heisman hype, Ivan Maisel tackles the hottest topics in college football.

1. What's it like to make 25 tackles in one game?
Tim McGarigle
It just seemed like Northwestern's Tim McGarigle made every tackles against Wisconsin.
"I'm not going to lie," Northwestern linebacker Tim McGarigle said Monday afternoon. "I'm pretty sore right now."

His Monday schedule included one education class, 20 minutes of moving back and forth from the hot tub to the cold pool, and then extended couch time watching Monday Night Football.

"I go back and watch the film," McGarigle said, "and I was kind of shocked. Out there in the heat of the moment, you have no idea you're making that many tackles."

McGarigle made 15 solo tackles and had 10 assists Saturday in the Wildcats' 51-48 home-field victory over the Badgers. Two of his stops were sacks. Two others occurred behind the line of scrimmage. It's not as though McGarigle ran into stat guys who wanted to build up the home team. No other Northwestern player made more than eight tackles.

"Any Big Ten game is physical. When you have 300-pound guys trying to take out your knees on every play, you're pretty sore. Wisconsin is a real physical team. Their goal is to come and pound the ball down your throat. We did a good job of stopping the run [Badgers rushed for 189 yards, 23 below their average]. Our defensive tackles, Barry Cofield and Trevor Schultz, played great. That forces the linebackers to make plays. I don't want any two other guys playing in front of me."

The humility is typical of McGarigle, said Northwestern linebacker coach Pat Fitzgerald.

"He actually missed three tackles," Fitzgerald said. "Those were the only three tackles he wanted to talk about. He understands why he missed them. There are a lot of things he needs to work on. He's a hungry player who wants to get better."

McGarigle is reminiscent of Fitzgerald, an undersized Northwestern linebacker who won the Nagurski Award as the nation's best defensive player in 1995 and 1996. McGarigle is listed at 6-foot-1, 235, and he has gained 31 pounds since he arrived on campus from the north side of Chicago.

"He's what you want in a linebacker," Fitzgerald said, "a very diligent worker with incredible linebacker instincts. He's very physical. He's a master of the craft."

Especially against the Badgers -- in three games against Wisconsin, McGarigle made 56 tackles.

"That's the exact team I love playing," McGarigle said, "a power team that you have to get off your blocker and go make the tackle. I would hate to play our offense. I'm a Big Ten linebacker who wants to go out there and pound people."

2. How could they? How could Texas and Oklahoma leave the Cotton Bowl?
OU-Texas
The days of OU-Texas in the Cotton Bowl may be winding down.
I am a traditionalist. I didn't grow up going to Fair Park in early October, but as transplanted Texans are fond of saying, I got there as fast as I could. The Sooners and Longhorns have been playing in Dallas, not quite 200 miles from their respective campuses, since 1929. And after 2007, they won't be there any more.

Oh, the city of Dallas is scrambling to keep the schools from moving the game to their respective campuses, but the city looks like a spouse trying to save a marriage that can't be saved. While mayor Laura Miller is "absurdly optimistic," as quoted by The Dallas Morning News last Saturday, the facts are lined up against her, and against the city.

Fact: The city of Dallas didn't lure Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to Fair Park. The Cowboys are going to Arlington.

Fact: The city has waited far too long to renovate the aging edifice. The Cotton Bowl game on Jan. 1 has fallen from the first tier of bowls to the second, and clings there because of tradition, not the creature comforts of Fair Park in 35-degree, New Year's Day weather.

Fact: No matter how new and improved the Cotton Bowl becomes, Texas and Oklahoma can keep more ticket buyers happy on their own campuses. Texas is getting ready to spend another, yes, another $100 million to expand Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

"We would get 90,000 Texas fans in our stadium that would see the game every other year," Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said in Dallas on Friday. "Now we get 37,500 fans here every year." Do the math -- that's more than 50,000 Texas Exes who could see their team's biggest game of the season.

And do the other math -- home games are seven-figure profit centers for athletic departments with high eight-figure budgets.

Miller is thinking of a $50 million bond issue. It's hard to believe that would be enough to bring the Cotton Bowl among the 21st-century palaces that pass for stadiums these days.

"It's not our place to tell [the city of] Dallas what to do," Dodds said.

I think both schools have told Dallas their intentions. They've built huge stadiums and they can fill them. Tradition didn't keep Auburn-Alabama in Birmingham, and that rivalry, now home and home, didn't miss a beat. Texas and Oklahoma will survive leaving the Cotton Bowl.

3. There are nine unbeatens left. Click on Mapquest.com and tell us who has the shortest road to Pasadena? The longest?
The shortest road to get to 10-0 appears to be at the feet of UCLA. The Bruins have no ranked teams among the next five on the schedule. But the trick for the Pac-10 teams (no league playoff) is to get to 11-0. Since the 11th opponent is No. 1 USC, the Bruins' bridge to the Rose Bowl might be out. Funny thing, since the Bruins could be the first to play for the national championship in their home stadium since Miami won the 1991 title in Orange Bowl.

Two other teams among the nine have only one currently ranked opponent remaining -- Texas Tech and Florida State. But the Red Raiders must play at No. 2 Texas on Oct. 22. Construction on their road to the Rose Bowl won't begin until that game ends.

The Seminoles are the only one of the eight with four road games left. And, like the Seminoles' possible ACC Championship Game opponent, Virginia Tech, as well as Alabama, Georgia, and Texas, Florida State has a difficult league playoff game as the last step.

Nope, the shortest road to Pasadena starts in State College. Penn State has three of its final five games at home, plays two teams with losing records (Illinois and Purdue) and has no games remaining against top-10 teams.

The longest road starts in Tuscaloosa. Alabama has three ranked opponents remaining, one of them in the top 10 (Tennessee, LSU, Auburn), along with a presumed SEC playoff game against Georgia.

The next longest road belongs to the team that is actually closer to the Rose Bowl than any of the other. The Trojans play three ranked opponents as well (Notre Dame, Cal, UCLA). One fact in USC's favor: after the Notre Dame game Saturday, four of the Trojans' last six games are at Memorial Coliseum.

Virginia Tech plays only two more ranked teams (Boston College, Miami), both at home, but the Hokies' five remaining opponents currently have a combined record of 19-9.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com