Having beaten Brigham Young and preseason number-one Arizona on the road, and having lost only to Utah, the Rams are now number ten in the national football pools, and the cheering in Fort Collins has a freshness and an innocence you don't notice over in Boulder.

Besides, on Saturday afternoons in so many previous Rams seasons, the only thing you could hear were the cows mooing in the corral next to the stadium. Surely, this 10-1 regular season has been worth some lengths of plastic pipe and a few thousand hangovers.

Say it loud: Long live mischief.
That, however, is not the kind of thing you'll find at the Air Force Academy. The Falcons stalled on the tarmac early in the season but were flying high last week on an amazing seven-game winning streak before coming up short Saturday in a valiant comeback try at Notre Dame. Still, when their precise, triple-option offense scores a touchdown, no one rushes the field to commit vandalism. Instead, squads of beleaguered freshmen march out of the stands to do synchronized pushups in the end zone. The most outlandish expression of defiance you'll find in Zoomie-land is that banner raised high when Air Force plays Navy: NUKE THE SQUIDS.

So, then. The final horse in college football's Colorado trifecta this season may display neither the grinning swagger of CU nor the joyous anarchy of the Rams, but it's a model of starched military discipline and good Calvinist work ethic. Wander into the Air Force locker room sometime and you'll be shocked: Coach Fisher DeBerry has no Samoans the size of bungalows, and his slight running backs, each with the acute look of the falcon in his eye, are built along the lines of the tennis team at most schools. That's because many of these young men soon hope to fit into the cramped cockpits of F-16s. They also are studying astrophysics, not basket-weaving, so they are more likely to wind up running corporations than running their cars into trees. This year, the Falcons even had the good sense to upset once-beaten Utah, thus giving rival CSU the inside track at the league title.

Seven straight? The Feisties do it with smarts, cunning and speed. Always have, always will. If they get to a minor bowl like the Copper, the opponent had better look out.

While we wait for the bids (everybody's going bowling), it may be time to sit back and savor this extraordinary football season. The NFL Broncos--with their all-business attitudes and their porous defense--may be in the sewer this season. But the scent of college football has never been so strong on the air along the Front Range. It's the scent of verve and joy and authenticity, and we should savor it while we can, before graduations and the other sea changes of the game take it away.

So eat your heart out, Texas. Whip that mule, Alabama. Bundle up for a long, cold winter on the flats, Ohio. This golden autumn belongs to Colorado and to Bill McCartney--at least until the Rams and Buffs bring home their bowl trophies.

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