Penn State hosts Minnesota in college football on Saturday, a matchup in which the winner earns no less than an additional seven-day stay near the top of the Big Ten standings with the likes of league unbeatens Ohio State and Iowa.
And no one will care. Why? Because Joe Paterno is old.
Florida State doesn't play this weekend. In fact, the Seminoles are off until their October 22 date at North Carolina, one of those made-for-TV Thursday nighters that is going to either give FSU its first Atlantic Coast Conference victory of the season or drop it to 0-4 in the standings.
And no one will care. Why? Because Bobby Bowden is old.
Unless, of course, you stand him next to Paterno. JoePa turns 83 in December, while Bowden, a young whippersnapper by comparison, won't even hit the Big 8-oh until November 8. They are iconic figures in the sport, Paterno and Bowden, the kind of men that inspire funding, blueprinting and eventual construction of stadium statues.
But until they retire to the old coach's home, the one an increasing number of fans seem in a hurry to push them towards, their decades of good will continue to take a hit. That's not me talking. That's just the way it is. How our society works. Younger is better even when it isn't.
Penn State is 5-1 and ranked 14th nationally, so things are relatively quiet at the moment in Paternoville. Not the case in Tallahassee with Florida State having already lost four games by a total of 26 points. For the time being, FSU is entirely void of the national relevance it once enjoyed. Days when five-star high school studs from all over the country couldn't wait to put on the arrow-decaled gold helmet for the first time.
Bowden is being blamed. Same would be true if Penn State was struggling. What critics fail to recognize is that these programs wouldn't be maintaining such incredibly high football standards if not for Paterno and Bowden, the ones responsible for getting PSU and FSU to this level in the first place.
At this point in their respective careers, Paterno and Bowden are basically figureheads. Men who are the lined and weathered faces of their programs while the real work goes on behind them on the sideline and up in the coach's booth in the form of headset-wearing assistant coaches.
But they are figureheads with a purpose. Think about it, if Paterno and Bowden are fired tomorrow, who is the next coach in college football that still will be leading his team onto the field in his late-70s or 80s? He doesn't exist. JoePa and Bobby are the last of a dying (sorry!) breed, so if anything we should be looking to keep them around longer.
Frankly, it's time for people to quit questioning the two winningest coaches in the history of college football. Why? Because it's old.