Week 1 |
Week 2 |
A Little Revolution Now
And Then Is Good Thing
Everybody likes the underdog. Everyone roots for David. Everyone
wants to see Cinderella get the prince.
As a pure fan of college football, and one who watches more college
football than any human being alive, I have no tolerance for
lousy matchups and bad games. That's why I live for the big weekends. I
love the hype, I love the rivalry games, I love the monster showdowns
like Oklahoma vs. Texas and Florida vs. LSU. That's why I selfishly
wanted to see all the big boys survive on Saturday, so I could have my
epic October 6th.
And then something funny happened halfway through the weekend; I
realized that this was the epic weekend I was
looking forward to.
Just how incredible were the 24 hours from when South Florida knocked
off West Virginia, to the Colorado win over Oklahoma, to the Kansas
State win over Texas, to the Auburn win over Florida, to the Maryland
win over Rutgers, to the fantastically entertaining battles between Cal
and Oregon, Wisconsin and Michigan State, Alabama and Florida State, and yeah, USC at Washington?
So now the question becomes, how does this week impact the entire
landscape of the season? For historical perspective, you have to go back
to October 5, 2003, when No. 3 (according to the AP Poll, back when it
mattered) Ohio State lost to Wisconsin, No. 5 Florida State lost to
Miami (who was No. 2), No. 6 LSU lost to Florida, No. 7 Arkansas lost to
Auburn, No. 10 Nebraska lost to Missouri, No. 11 Texas lost to No. 1
Oklahoma, No. 13 Tennessee lost to No. 8 Georgia, No. 15 Pittsburgh lost
to Notre Dame, No. 17 Minnesota lost to Michigan, No. 22 Kansas State
lost to Oklahoma State, and No. 25 Virginia lost to Clemson.
The key to
that weekend was how it opened the door for several teams that weren't
even in the discussion. As the season went on, No. 1 Oklahoma rolled,
until getting blasted by Kansas State in the Big 12 title game, USC,
ranked ninth on October 5th thanks to a loss to Cal, started moving its
way up, and eventual national champions LSU, ranked sixth, was able to overcome a loss the following
week to start moving up to the number two spot.
On a knee-jerk reaction to this weekend
and who benefits, its seems like this was a huge, huge weekend for the
Big Ten. Now, Ohio State is in striking distance of the national title
discussion. Wisconsin can be in that spot if it keeps winning, and beats
the Buckeyes in Columbus on November 3rd, and Purdue can make a lot of
noise if it can beat Ohio State this weekend. Now, Boston College,
Kentucky, South Florida and Missouri are major players, and teams that
got tagged early on, like Nebraska, UCLA, and Virginia Tech, should be
able to start creeping up.
Of course, if USC and LSU keep doing their thing, everyone else is just
playing for third. But if this weekend was any indication, we're not
quite done yet.
Brown Doing For You?
So just how much goodwill does a
national championship buy a head coach anyway? Texas’ Mack Brown is
about to find out. A lightning rod for criticism before capping a
perfect 2005 with an epic win over USC, his ‘Horns have shown some
wear-and-tear of late, losing three of their last eight, including
Saturday’s 41-21 debacle to Kansas State. Can the questions about Brown
competency be far behind? Hey, it may sound unreasonable for a coach
that’s been wildly successful, but expectations have never been
particularly reasonable in Austin. Brown’s detractors will no doubt
find it ironic that former Longhorn icon Vince Young was in attendance
for Saturday’s loss, the worst in the coach’s tenure at the school. You
see, they believe that without VY, the Rose Bowl win that capped the
2004 season and the national championship the following year would never
have happened. To them, they were Young’s accomplishments, not
Brown’s. Fair? Of course not. Real? You bet. And now, here’s comes
Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, that one-time haunted house whose demons
were exorcised by ...... yup, Vince Young. Texas has won two straight
in the series, but this is a fragile program that hasn’t looked good
this fall against anyone not named Rice. A loss to Oklahoma on Saturday
is going to resurface some of those sick feelings that permeated through
the Longhorn Nation during the five-year losing steak to the Sooners.
And along with those feelings will come the cries questioning Brown’s
ability to win big without Vince Young. Bank on it.
Indiana, We're All For You, Who?
During one of the most surprising weekends in the history of college
football, it was easy to overlook a story that many people have missed –
the Indiana Hoosiers. The Hoosiers finished last season with three
straight losses, but had shown that they weren’t that “far away” under
head coach Terry Hoeppner. They had knocked off Iowa and Michigan State
behind the playmaking and leadership of quarterback Kellen Lewis.
Coming into 2007, some thought this might be a team on the uptick and
with a gregarious leader like Hoeppner, a bowl game wasn’t such a far
fetched idea. But, during the summer, the beloved Hoeppner succumbed to
a brain tumor on June 19, 2007, leaving new head coach Bill Lynch the
task of not only taking the program to a new level but helping young men
deal with loss – a loss bigger than any the Hoosiers experienced last
season on the field. Lynch, his staff and players deserve a rousing
ovation after beating Iowa, on the road this time, for the second
straight season and taking the record to 4-1 on the year. Hoeppner
never got a chance to complete his goal of rebuilding this team, but
Lynch and company are taking care of business as Coach Hoeppner would’ve
Michigan About Rematch Possibilities
4. If I
hear one more person tell me that USC-Cal is an
“elimination game” in the race for the BCS title game,
I’m going to hurt someone. The rationalization that a
late-season game between two teams which could well be
worthy of inclusion in a playoff is actually a
post-season game is like saying a November meeting
between the Colts and Patriots should take the place of
the AFC title game. This system is as ridiculous a way
of choosing a champion as there is, and its defenders
are merely playing into the hands of those who are
trying to maximize the dollars available to the BCS
conferences through the antiquated bowl system – which
was created to attract tourists to warm-weather
locations during the holidays, not choose a champion –
rather than concoct a tournament that might require
spreading the dough around. Whichever team loses that
USC-Cal game will be likely eliminated from title
consideration, no matter how good it is, and that’s a
sin. It’s also the way it goes in the asinine world of
I-A football. Accept it, but don’t try to defend it,
because you sound like a toady for the establishment.
It's Still A Kid's Game
5. The importance of this
past Saturday goes beyond the enormous entertainment value given to
college football fans. It easily transcends the national title
picture, now thrown into a state of pronounced upheaval.
What is the truest and deepest meaning of this past Saturday of
It offers all of us cause to gain some much-needed perspective about
college football and, for that matter, big-time college sports.
For all the attention some people give to recruiting (I've made it a
point to ignore the shady meat-market aspect of college sports as
long as I've sat in a columnist's chair), and for all the scrutiny
given to coaches on a weekly basis, this cutthroat business is
ultimately shaped by kids who are subjected to an intense spotlight
and gameday pressures on a weekly basis. One bad day at the office,
one game in which an inferior opponent is overlooked, can derail a
whole season's worth of aspirations. One mistake made in the twinkle
of an eye can shatter dreams of glory. All the massive expenditures
made on behalf of a state school's football program can go right out
the window in a heartbeat.
One muffed Oklahoma punt.
One nightmarish game from Colt McCoy.
One huge catch by Maryland receiver LaQuan Williams against Rutgers.
One nonexistent half from a sleepwalking Florida team.
One careless fumble by Oregon receiver Cameron Colvin at the goal
line against Cal.
One needless pick-six thrown by West Virginia's Pat White against
These and other temporary lapses of concentration (or, once in a
while, huge plays made by players on geeked-up underdogs) will
influence whole seasons in substantial ways.
When you realize the fine line between victory and defeat; between a
BCS bowl and the GMAC Bowl; between a conference crown and a
fourth-place finish, it should dawn on us that college sports aren't
worth the amount of money spent on them.
We could have had the same spills, chills and thrills we had today
without hundreds of millions of additional dollars spent on athletic
Donors and philanthropists, send money to the homeless and the
uninsured, not to the next gleaming football facility. All the
buildings in the world won't change a simple fact: kids will be
kids, and seasons will be affected as a result.