THE BOTTOM LINE
By Brad Edwards, Special to ESPN.com
They say records are made to be broken, but that may not always be true.
From Cal Ripken's consecutive games streak to Cy Young's career wins to UCLA basketball's 88 straight victories, there are a few feats in sports history that will probably never be repeated. Add coaching wins in major-college football to that list.
Though the all-time record has yet to be settled between Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno, it seems obvious that these men are in a league of their own. On Saturday, Bowden won his 357th game, and Paterno won his 350th. Those of you who watched the Penn State-Illinois game on ESPN2 most likely saw history, because it is highly unlikely that anyone will ever win 350 games again in Division I-A.
For starters, it's a matter of simple mathematics. Averaging 10 wins per season, it would take 35 years as a head coach to reach 350 wins, but only one coach in major-college history has ever averaged 10 wins for as long as 25 years (Tom Osborne had 255 victories in his 25 seasons at Nebraska). More than likely, it would require closer to 40 years to reach that mark, and nobody gets a head coaching job before the age of 35 these days.
Sure, the regular season will be 12 games from now on, and almost everyone with a winning record goes to a bowl, so any program with a pulse should be playing at least 13 times per season -- as opposed to the 10- and 11-game seasons that were common early in the careers of Bowden and Paterno. But even so, it's just not that easy to average 10 wins.
Bob Stoops is one of the rare coaches to take over a major program at a young age, and his teams averaged 11 wins in 13 games over his first six seasons at Oklahoma. But this year has shown that even the best coaches at the best programs have occasional seasons that will bring down that average.
For argument's sake, though, let's assume Stoops can keep winning at his current pace. If he does, he would reach 350 wins in the 2030 season at the age of 70. Keep in mind that Stoops is already the highest-paid coach in Division I-A, closing in on $3 million per season, so you can only imagine what he'd be making if he's still contending for championships 10 years from now. Could he, or anyone else with that kind of success, resist the opportunity to challenge himself at the next level? And why would anyone keep dealing with the media scrutiny and other coaching headaches until the age of 70 with so much money in the bank?
There's only one logical reason. The record.
And the longer Bowden and Paterno keep going, the less likely it is for anyone to think about catching them.
ONE OF THE ALL-TIME GREATS
One of the truly great careers in college football history is coming to a close, but very few people know just how great it has been.
Many of you have heard of Memphis senior running back DeAngelo Williams, and some of you may even know he leads Division I-A in rushing this season after finishing third in the nation last year. But what is unbeknownst to almost all college football fans is the company he keeps on the all-time record lists.
For his career, Williams is averaging 6.3 yards per carry, which is the most in major-college history among players with at least 700 rushing attempts -- ahead of guys like Ricky Williams and Archie Griffin. Knock it down to a minimum of 650 carries, and only Mike Rozier and Bo Jackson have a better number than DeAngelo Williams (currently with 854 carries).
Williams played his 40th college game on Saturday, running for 226 yards in a win over East Carolina. And among players with at least 40 games played, his yardage also mingles with college football's all-time greats.
Unlike his statistical peers -- all of whom won the Heisman Trophy in their senior years -- Williams will not win the Heisman. He probably won't even get enough recognition to reach the ceremony in New York. But his career will certainly be documented in the record books as one of the greatest of all-time, even if most people didn't see it.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Other news and notes from Saturday's action:
• Missouri QB Brad Smith became the sixth player in Division I-A history to rush for 200 yards and pass for 200 yards in the same game, and he did it against what was the nation's No. 1-ranked defense against the run. Smith ran for 246 and passed for 234 against Nebraska, increasing his career rushing total to 3,853 yards -- just 42 shy of Antwaan Randle El's all-time record for quarterbacks. He'll go for that record this Saturday at Kansas, which has the nation's No. 2 rushing defense, allowing just 75 yards per game on the ground.
• In a Sun Belt Conference struggle, Arkansas State beat Florida Atlantic 3-0 in overtime. There was some good defense and plenty of offensive ineptitude, but that's not what made it historical. It was the first Division I-A game to be scoreless through four quarters since 1983, when Oregon and Oregon State tied 0-0, and it was obviously the first game ever to go scoreless into overtime.
• Michigan improved to 3-2 in Big Ten play with its overtime victory at Iowa, once again keeping an entire stadium and TV audience on the edge of their seats until the very end. All five of the Wolverines' conference games have been decided by three points or fewer and were in doubt until the final play -- the winning scores all coming in the last 30 seconds.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
1The number of wins Rutgers needs to become bowl eligible. The Scarlet Knights haven't been to a bowl since 1978, the longest current drought among major-conference teams.