And so it is upon us once again. College Football Season. Christmas come early for so many of us. What any one of us would do or give up — 2 weeks worth of vacation time / Christmas or birthday presents/ that new car we hoped to buy / the Vegas trip with the boys that our wives and girlfriends “promised” we could go on this year– for the chance for our Laundry Liaisons of the Gridiron to hoist that prestigious Crystal (foot) ball up in the air. And the great thing about this year is that there are no one or two teams that everybody loves.
There seems to be a hope and glitter in most every college football fan’s eyes for this season. We could easily have our first back-to-back national champs since USC did it in 2003-2004. (Or did they really since this whole scandal approached them — thanks Reggie! –and USC did not even really play for the championship in 2003. But I digress.) Or could we have the first Non-BCS conference team hoist that trophy? I’m sure some angry hillbilly from Norman is waiting for that with his hunting rifle so he can blow it to smithereens. “Damn you Statue of Liberty! I mean fake Statue of Liberty!”
I love the college football offseason almost as much as the real thing for many reasons, but I’ll limit it to 5:
1. Minimal stress and no potential letdown.
2. Overhearing your friends from other colleges telling each other, “Man, we’re going to have a great year, so and so is back and he’s up to 230 lbs, coach is gonna do great things… 10 wins at least!” When you know, shaking your head, “Ain’t no way, 7 tops!” Those starts to conversations are my favorite because no matter how much or little you know about your team or how good or bad they really are, you will defend them ‘til the death!
3. Comparing your team’s incoming recruiting class with your buddy’s. Any real college football fan has been a part of one of these. Friend One: “Hey, did you read Rivals the other day? Did you see who we signed?” with this smile like they are in the 3rd grade and Tommy just told Johnnie Katie has a crush on him and he secretly already likes her as well. You get my point. Friend Two: “Oh, yeah? We have 3 five-stars, 5 four-stars and 7 three-stars.” Friend One: “Well we have 2 five-stars that are way better, 4 four-stars and 9 three-stars. Ha! We beat you in the three-star category!” And is it not extremely fun (like comparing resumes between a Harvard Law Grad who also doubled and got his M.D. from Johns Hopkins competing against the guy who went to Butterfinger Community College) when you and your friends are comparing teams and one of you went to Ohio State and the other went to, say… Harvard? Ah, you can sever a friendship so easily thanks to CFB.
4. This is the time when cooler heads prevail (I didn’t say smarter), in which we become NCAA and BCS expert analytical gurus to determine why we think our ideas to change the system are the best ideas and question why brass figureheads have not thought of them already. And I pick this as the best time because during the season emotions run too high and no one is thinking clearly, all they see is their team’s respective colors. But you know this back and forth well: 4 team playoff! 8 team! 16! 4 Super-conferences. All conferences play a title game. No more automatic bids.
We’ve said them all and heard them all. Happily drinking or downright hung-over (from the booze and/or the loss that probably started this conversation in the first place.) we still think the NCAA should hire us to fix the problem because they damn sure can not.
5. The headlines. Some years can be as dull as Bubba’s filet knife but this offseason was packed with Jersey Shore like drama.
- Kiffin says he’s a Volunteer for life, only to pistol whip them in the faces with his clipboard when they are not looking while running duck and covered back to Mommy.
- Jeremiah Masoli (The Ugly Ex-Duckling) causing all sorts of ruckus on the Eugene campus, gets kicked off the team and just in the nick of time finds himself on the other side of the Vast Mississippi in Oxford, in the land home to the Conference Where Real Men Come to Play… or die, otherwise known as the SEC. Either way he’s still going to find himself in some deep…you know, and not the legal kind.
- Watergate. Monicagate. Katrinagate. And now, Trojangate. It seems like just yesterday OJ was running wildly in the Colliseum when this thing started that it has now finally come to an end and quite the violent one. All it took was Sunny D Lite, wearing the prize from Blood Diamond dangling by a drooping earlobe and a few “cabbage leaves” hanging out of his back pockets to screw up one the most galvanizing decorated programs ever! This is the worst punishment since SMU contracted The Black Death and they have yet to recover — while not on USC’s grand scale, SMU was pretty damn good. I think USC will recover one day but it won’t be today. And even though Lane is a fine recruiter I wonder if he can duct tape his way through this entire mess, hell, will he even stay and see them through this whole mess? Only time will tell.
- Notre Damn us! That’s their name, isn’t it? It seems they can not win for losing lately and lately meaning a longggg time. The independent and hard headed Fightin’ Irish try and turn their luck once more, with a proven winner at every level he has coached, Brian Kelly. And so Weis gets bumped for the next fool to sit in the throne, hopefully this time the fool (Kelly) can find his and the Irish’s pot of gold.
- The Hollywood sign of headlines has to be the San Andreas fault-like shifting and almost shifting of the landscape that is college football. The Cornhuskers move to a conference that has a team with the color Maize (Spanish word for corn for those not keeping score at home) in it and now makes the Big 10, I mean Least Eleven, I mean, Big 12, huh? I’m corn fused, an almost relevant threat finally.Texas single-handedly threw their weight around and made everybody skittish especially Dan Beebe, which oddly enough is now a household name nobody knew 3 months ago. The Burnt Orange Nation literally would have been a nation, I mean, the Big 10 invited them, the SEC entertained the thought and the Pac-10 did everything except name California Texas West. Had that happened and we were looking at the Pac-16 the next few years would have been game busters for the BCS I’m pretty sure.
But hey! The Pac-10 did get Utah and Colorado. I mean, who doesn’t want the Provo and Colorado Springs TV market? Boise State goes from the WAC(k) Conference to the MWC, at least we’ll have a semi interesting game every year between the Blue Broncos and the Horned Frogs (you think at one point they were only the Frogs and somebody said, “Hey, let’s put Horned in front so it sounds tougher?”) Me too.
The Aggies and Sooners thought about heading east to the SEC. The Aggies think they were mediocre in the Big 12? I’m sure the Bayou Bengals and Tide were waiting patiently to pounce. But, on that I think the Aggies could’ve done well for themselves in trying to steal some of UT’s recruits. They would have the one recruiting token the Longhorns would not have, “Son, you want to play in the best football conference in the nation? Just sign right there.” But all Mike Slive wanted was the Texas TV market, not the Aggie Engineering department. The Sooners would have just kept on doing what they do, win a bunch of regular season games and choke when it meant something. Big Game Who?
As the new season creeps up, there are questions and expectations aplenty around the landscape of college football. Arguably the best QB in the nation is at the helm for Arkansas, the question remains if Mallet and Petrino can live up to the hype of being the sexy sleeper pick to win the SEC.
Florida, on the other hand, is in a position they haven’t found themselves in since before Urban Meyer arrived. John Brantley is an NFL prototypical QB but the expectations for success in Gainesville are just as grandiose as the other big boys around the nation and they will not settle for looking up at the Bulldogs or Gamecocks.
If Spurrier has any year to perch his Gamecocks on top of the East he should look no further than right now. The Tide comes in as prohibitive favorite to win it all but the mounted pressure from some of the most rabid fans and the bulls-eye that’s painted on their backs might be too much. They have Florida at home but are on the road for South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU and the team that almost beat them last year, Tennessee.
LSU is not only not picked to win the SEC or their Western Division but they are picked 4th in the West. The last time they finished 4th was in 2002, the year before they won the National Championship. And if Les can not get it done this year he might find himself looking for employment elsewhere, maybe Ann Arbor.
This brings me to Rich Rod at Michigan. Oh how the mighty have fallen. He is 8-16 in his two years which is abysmal by any Maize & Blue fan’s standards. His first year: 3 wins, last year: 5 wins. If he continues the trend and somehow pulls a rabbit out of the hat to beat Ohio State he might actually be safe. If not? The Big House is going to be one unhappy family.
Speaking of expectations, “Dad” as I like to call him (Jim Tressel) and his Vince Young wanna be (Terrelle Pryor) both have a chance to win it all and take the Heisman. They have a few road blocks in Miami, Wisconsin, and Iowa but if they are as good as advertised those teams should be more like speed bumps rather than road blocks. And I’m as sure as Mexico’s drinking water isn’t safe that Tressel is praying he does not have to face an SEC team if he gets that far. ”Please let it be Boise State.” Since 2000 OSU is 0-4 versus the SEC with combined points at 134-73 and in the BCS Championship it is 79-38. But hey! If they do play an SEC school and get beat maybe we won’t hear from a Big 10 school for a few years. Yeah right.
The Pac-10 minus USC is quite laissez-faire when it comes to football; the rest of the country usually just dismisses them by all accounts. USC is playing with a huge chip on its shoulder and would love nothing more than to prove even with their penalties that they are still a force to be reckoned with. But even though from top to bottom they are not as strong as other conferences, their QBs are of the nation’s elite with quite possibly the #1 pick in Jake Locker.
The Big 12 is pretty soft except the usual suspects and another trying to emerge from middle. OU should be looking down at the competition all year with what they have coming back and the fact that Texas has lost quite a bit of firepower on both sides of the ball. The highest expectations in the Big 12 lie in College Station, the Aggies have finished no better than 3rd in the Big 12 South since 2000 and that was only once. Their only weakness is defense. BCS Conference opponents last year scored 30+ points 8 times against the Ags and 40+ points in 5 of those. A&M has a high caliber offense that can challenge anybody in the land but if they can’t stop anybody it’ll only mean looking up for them in the standings once again. Heisman hopeful Jerrod Johnson hopes to change that.
The ACC has a few teams where expectations are looming large. Miami is starting at its highest poll ranking since 2006 and by season’s end it was unranked. Jacory Harris & Co. are looking to rekindle the spark that past U teams have had. To get there will be a tough road starting in Week 2 when they visit the Shoe in Columbus. Seminole Nation on the other hand is quietly sobbing but nodding in approval that Senor Bowden is gone. It has been a long time coming and now its time to see if his successor ‘Ol Jimbo Fisher can work some Tallahassee magic and right this ship back to the top of the standings.
But I do not believe expectations could be any higher than right smack dab in the middle of the booming metropolis that is, Boise, ID. That have waited, salivated, yearned, longed for (okay, you get the point) this chance. They are sitting in the catbird’s seat for the National Championship. With a win early over Virginia Tech it is crystal clear sailing for them. No one should even pose as a moderate threat. Their only worry even with that win is that an 11-1 SEC or Big 12 team gets the nod over them. Scenario: If Alabama runs the table (12-0), Ohio State runs the table, also (12-0), Texas or OU (12-0) and Boise State (12-0) what the hell do you do? Because of the gauntlet they will have to run and their seating as of now, Alabama would have to be in. But who gets the other nod? Do the Broncos finally deserve their shot? We shall wait and see but me personally? I want to see powerhouses collide.
And here we are, buckling ourselves in for what will be another rollercoaster session of tremendous college football. Counting on the alarm clock that is College Gameday with Fowler, Herbstreit and Corso to wake us up. Eating our Bud Light and cheerios because the milk has gone bad and with one eye half open seeing which mascot head Corso will pick to wear. Making sure we’ve read and reread the money and spread lines on the for sure bets. Taking the ever so stupid 12 team parlay because we can spend $5 and have the chance at a $12,000 payout. Getting the tailgate set up with kegs, bourbon, wings, barbecue, shot blocks, horseshoes, washers, redneck golf, cornhole and the like. Throwing the football around with strangers but only if they are wearing the same colors because in some parts of the country it would be considered treason to mingle with the enemy. Going over the offense and defense with your friends as though you are the coaching staff. Marching into the stadium with your chests held high because this IS the year. Goosebumps ablaze as 90,000 fans start the ooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOO Fight!!! Or the oooooooooOOOOOOOOOOO Go, Fight, Win, Kick ASS!! The halftime mini-trek back to the tailgate for a drink (or two) and to see a quick byte on the TV about the game. Making new friends and newer enemies. Renewed rivalries. We love college football. Touchdown Jesus, Between the Hedges, The Big House, Oregon’s wardrobe, Death Valley, Rocky Top, Uga, the 12th Man, The Rock, The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, Ohio State v Michigan, Army v Navy, The Iron Bowl, The Red River Shootout, The BCS Selection Show. The season may start in September but we worship it all year long. We know when the air starts to get a little crisp we smile and close our eyes because IT is upon us.
By Dozier Taylor