For a few precious hours last Saturday, it felt like the college football season had begun two months early. Or at least it did in my Brooklyn neighborhood, where fans in U.S. soccer jerseys spilled on to the sidewalks outside of several overflowing sports bars. The atmosphere inside my chosen viewing locale, Downtown Bar and Grill, was every bit as intense and electric for USA-Ghana as a September game day in Ann Arbor or Tuscaloosa.
But alas, once that second Ghana goal went through the net, a sense of utter deflation took over the room. It wasn't just that our dream of a deep World Cup run from the Americans was dead; suddenly a whole bunch of bandwagon soccer fans like me had to ask themselves: "NOW what are we going to do for the next two months?"*
The answer: Start talking about college football. Sept. 2 still seems an eternity away, but hey, my
And let's start with that aforementioned barnstorming quarterback.
First off, give credit to Washington for its
At the same time, I don't think the Pacific Northwest teams are forgotten anymore. Oregon, for one, gets plenty of coverage.
Meanwhile, the one guy I'm fairly certain
The guys I think you'll see mentioned most frequently as candidates to start the year will be (in no particular order): Ingram, Locker, Rodgers,
Some guys who would jump up the pecking order pretty quickly if they and their teams get off to hot starts:
The other thing we know for certain is that come December, there will be at least one or two finalists, and perhaps even a winner, who weren't on anybody's radar coming into the season. Go back to this time last year and you won't find Ingram,
You are absolutely, 100 percent right, Mike. And in being right, you touch on an extremely important angle that's almost never addressed when discussing BCS vs. a playoff.
I think we can all agree that a playoff, were it to suddenly materialize tomorrow, would please an overwhelming majority of fans. It would also be received quite warmly by Boise State, BYU, TCU and all the other non-AQ schools that feel disenfranchised by the current system. Of course, we also know they're not the ones making that decision. The BCS conferences are.
So ask yourself: Of the 67 schools that control the BCS, how many would actually benefit from a playoff? I.e., how many programs realistically compete on a regular basis for national championships? Ten? Maybe 15? At the very most, 20. But if you're at Michigan State, Ole Miss, Oregon State or any other rank-and-file BCS program, the current system is far preferable. You get to mooch financially off the two or three elite teams in your conference while at the same time competing for more realistic goals (an occasional conference title, decent bowl games) that keep your fans engaged and encouraged.
Reasonable minds may disagree as to whether a playoff would devalue the regular season, but the reality is, a playoff would completely alter fans' standards for success. Just like with any other sport, any season in which your team doesn't qualify for the playoffs would be deemed a failure. Which means, even with a 16-team playoff, roughly 85 percent of the country will be disappointed every season. And if you happen to be a fan of a team that perennially misses the playoff -- which, within some BCS conferences, might be eight out of 12 teams -- it stands to reason that your interest in the sport would wane.
Conference commissioners must look out for the welfare of all their teams, not just the elite ones. They know they'll never have it better than they do with the current system, which creates (mostly) meaningful postseason opportunities -- and thus, maintains seasonlong interest -- for the vast majority of their teams. Playoff or no playoff, Texas will be fine. Texas Tech will not. In fact, in a true March Madness-style playoff, in which every conference gets a berth, it's not inconceivable that Boise State, much like Memphis or Gonzaga in basketball, would become a more lucrative property to television networks than two-thirds of the current BCS-conference members.
So you can guess who's fighting the hardest to keep the current structure intact -- the same type of schools that stood to lose the most had the Pac-16 gone down.
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I much prefer to watch a good spread-rushing offense over a traditional Power-I offense, and Oregon's has been the most fun by far for the past several years. It's fast, its precise, and when
With defense, I'm probably not astute enough to pick up on the various nuances that make one 4-3 defense more fun than another. All you can ask for is a defense full of athletes that blitzes a lot and flies to the ball. Therefore, it changes from year to year -- the 2008 USC defense was incredible and
All of the above.
According to the
Season tickets are the ultimate pledge of loyalty. A school is asking you to invest a considerable amount of money (oftentimes a significant donation is required just for the right to purchase tickets) for the privilege of being part of its game-day experience, no matter the opponent, no matter the team's record that year. Yet Vols fans have been subjected to a particularly unusual test of their loyalty over the past two years, as the school first ran off a legendary coach (admittedly, one whom many had grown tired of), then replaced him with a renegade young outsider who bolted after a single season, leaving the program in disarray. Things will get better, but considering the circumstances, it's hard to blame those 2,800 fans for throwing in the towel, especially if they were already pushing their economic or health limits just to attend the games.
Indeed, that may be the lone aspect of the game that World Cup referees haven't managed to screw up.
No kidding. The World Cup has illuminated just how plain, uncreative and controversy-shy most American sportscasters can be. How many times have you watched a college football game where the replay shows a blatantly atrocious call and
And then he would work in some reference to a Rolling Stones album.
Great question. I think you have to consider two major changes that coincided almost exactly with the period in question, and which have directly influenced the national championship: the increased importance of conference affiliation, and, of course, the creation of the BCS.
Of the teams Michael mentioned, Penn State, Miami and Florida State all built themselves up while still independents. With the freedom to create national schedules, they built up credibility by playing and beating the big boys on a consistent basis. Obviously, that start-up route is no longer possible. A program like Boise State only gets to play one or two such games a year and therefore has taken much longer to gain the respect of pollsters.
And then there's the fact that none of those teams actually played in a BCS Championship Game. With all due respect to Georgia Tech, its championship path in 1990 involved playing a seven-game ACC schedule, non-conference games against 6-5 South Carolina, 6-5 Virginia Tech and 5-6 Georgia, and a Citrus Bowl win over No. 19 Nebraska. BYU not only played in the WAC but finished its season in the Holiday Bowl facing 6-5 Michigan. I don't bring this up to denigrate these teams, but there's no denying that the path to a national championship for most teams today -- a 12-game regular season in a major conference, a possible conference title game and then a 1 vs. 2 bowl game -- is significantly harder than 20 years ago.
I'm not sure the folks at Texas know for themselves yet what exactly the Bevo Network (or whatever it will be called) will comprise, but I don't think it would affect national networks' packages. It would probably closely follow the Big Ten's model. Live game broadcasts account for a relatively small percentage of that network's overall programming. It's built an array of studio shows and other original features, airs reruns of classic games, etc. The live games it does show are generally those that don't get picked up by ABC or ESPN and which, in the past, would have either been syndicated on local channels or not televised at all.
I assume the same would be true for Texas. Most of its football games get picked up by ABC/ESPN or Fox Sports Net, but there will still always be one or two a year that slip through. Last year, for instance, its season-opener against Louisiana Monroe was shown on Pay Per View, while four of its non-conference men's basketball games were syndicated locally. Realistically, Texas' network would only get to show those few leftover games while perhaps re-running more prominent games the next day or later in the week. It would also presumably air more non-revenue sports, produce coaches shows, nightly highlight shows and other Longhorn-related programming.
Time will tell whether it's a feasible venture. The
I'm telling you, the universe hasn't been righted yet. As long as Argentina's still alive, so, too, is my World Cup interest. (After that, admittedly, I will probably lose interest until 2014.)
But look, it's been an unusual summer already. There was expansion mania. There was an 11-hour tennis match. A bunch of pitchers made America's most boring pastime that much more boring by getting all 27 batters out. And now we've got the
There will be plenty more reasons to avoid doing work. For instance, try reading every word of Phil Steele's preview. You won't get an iota of work done before October.