"Over the last six or seven years, Colorado has been a very good football team, and we've hung in there, so obviously there's a lot of importance attached to this game," said the Nebraska coach. "There are certain games like Harvard and Yale, USC and UCLA, and maybe, Michigan and Ohio State that have geographical and historical backgrounds that no matter how the teams are playing or what their records are, they're still so-called big games. I don't think Nebraska and Colorado have that kind of history."
Is this a tiny bit of snobbery by the long-mighty Cornhuskers, a fixture in the Top 25 the last two decades?
Nobody can dismiss the game as routine.
Not only does it give the winner the inside track to the Big Eight title, it will likely propel the winner into the national championship race and eliminate the loser.
Whether Osborne wants to admit to a new rivalry is almost beside the point. The fact is that either Nebraska or Colorado has won or shared the Big Eight title every season since 1988.
When McCartney arrived on campus in Boulder, Colo., in 1982, fresh from being Bo Schembechler's defensive coordinator at Michigan, he was used to the feud that the Wolverines had with the Ohio State Buckeyes - and, to a lesser degree, with Michigan State.
The new Colorado coach was nonplussed when he discovered that the Buffaloes didn't have a special snarl for any team.
"I asked around, and there wasn't anything like that," said McCartney. ''It seemed like the logical team would be Nebraska. They were a lot better than us then, but it was still fun preparing for those games, just like it is now."
Making the Huskers a focal point helped shape Colorado into a national power by 1987, and the Buffaloes shared the national crown in 1990.
"They've made it pretty obvious they don't consider us a rival. But we'll probably always make them a red-letter game on our schedule."
A NEW QUARTERBACK U? As 14th-ranked Syracuse prepares to take on sixth- ranked Miami in a Big East showdown on Nov. 5, the spotlight is on the Orangemen's quarterback, Kevin Mason.
After an abysmal season opener in which the senior completed just 2 of 11 passes with two interceptions - in Syracuse's only defeat, a 30-29 decision to Oklahoma - Mason has blossomed, and now is second nationally in passing efficiency.
"I think overall, I'm 100 percent improved," said Mason, who had the unenviable task of succeeding the talented Marvin Graves. "But you know, I think I got 100 percent more to go. I don't feel I'm at where Marvin Graves was. I'm just going to keep improving on that until I do."
Before Graves, Don McPherson and Todd Philcox quarterbacked for Syracuse, and all three went on to professional ranks.
DEJA VU FOR GATORS QB. Terry Dean, who threw four interceptions in Florida's loss to Auburn two weeks ago, will have no trouble finding his way to the bench Saturday, when the Gators play Georgia.
He knows his way there, because he was benched in the middle of last season.
Junior Danny Wuerffel, who also replaced Dean in 1993, is expected to start for the fifth-ranked Gators, though coach Steve Spurrier has not made an official announcement.
"It's not a shock to me," said Dean. "It was pretty obvious last week. I hope Danny has a great game. I'm still a team captain and I'm going to do my part on the sideline."
WHO'S NO. 1? With Colorado playing Nebraska and top-ranked Penn State taking on 21st-ranked Ohio State in the second game of a televised doubleheader, the possibilities for the national polls are endless.
What happens if the Nittany Lions rout the Buckeyes, or win a close one?
Would a rout in the Colorado-Nebraska match guarantee the winner the top ranking?
How would a close finish between the Buffaloes and the Cornhuskers play, since the Buckeyes are not in the Top 20?
What if there's a tie in one game or both?
"With that poll stuff," said Nebraska linebacker Ed Stewart, "nothing ever surprises me."
THE TOP GAMES.
No. 21 Ohio State (6-2) at No. 1 Penn State (6-0): The Buckeyes are on a roll, but the Nittany Lions should have little trouble.
No. 2 Colorado (7-0) at No. 3 Nebraska (8-0): The Buffaloes have too many weapons, and one-third of the Huskers' offense is a medical casualty.
Arkansas (3-4) at No. 4 Auburn (7-0): The Tigers still have something to prove, unfortunately for the Hogs.
Georgia (5-3) at No. 5 Florida (5-1): Gator bait! Gator bait!
Southern Methodist (1-7) at No. 7 Texas A&M (7-0): When the Aggies get through with them, the Ponies may wish they'd been sent to the glue factory instead.
No. 13 Virginia Tech (7-1) at No. 6 Miami (Fla.) (5-1): The Hokies have been good this season, but not that good.
No. 16 Duke (7-0) at No. 9 Florida State (5-1): The Seminoles have struggled on offense lately, but they'll get well on the Blue Devils.
Wisconsin (3-3-1) at No. 10 Michigan (5-2): The Wolverines have a lot of reasons to want to beat the Badgers.
No. 11 Arizona (6-1) at Oregon (5-3): The Wildcats are revived.
Oregon State (2-5) at No. 15 Washington (5-2): The Huskies are seething.
No. 19 Texas (5-2) at Texas Tech (3-4): There will be a stampede in Lubbock.
Arizona State (2-5) at No. 20 Brigham Young (7-1): The Cougars can coast.
No. 22 Washington State (5-2) at California (3-4): The Cougars can still coast.
No. 23 Kansas State (4-2) at Oklahoma (4-3): The Sooners should be a welcome relief for K-State, which has suffered back-to-back losses to Colorado and Nebraska.
No. 24 North Carolina (5-2) at North Carolina State (5-1): Who knows?