Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Cynic's Guide to College Football, Week 14

Random thoughts from a holiday and football weekend:
  • Football games just feel better when you’re wearing long underwear.
  • Is there some way to amend the Geneva Convention to allow us to bring human rights violations charges against the NFL and TV network gurus who were cruel enough to subject us to Tennessee at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day?
  • At what point did our society become so degraded that we are willing to trample someone to death (literally) to get to Wal-Mart?!?!
  • Someone will have to let me know if anything interesting happens in the world of sports radio. This is the time of year when I turn it off as three out of every four callers, who apparently really like to hear themselves talk, just gripe about the BCS and/or lack of a playoff system. It’s about as productive as me calling in to complain about the law of gravity being biased against us fat guys.
Anyway, on with the countdown.

1. Somewhere, Bob Stoops Has Some Incriminating Photos of Bill Gates

Oklahoma fans have now and forever lost the right to bitch about the BCS. Or their computer tech support. This is the third time in six years that the system, for right or wrong, has given the Sooners a controversial shot at the national championship game. Following the 2003 season, OU was given a title game berth despite being blown out by Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship game (the human voters dropped OU to #3, but they stayed #1 in the computers). The next year, OU was given the nod over an undefeated Auburn to play USC in the title game. And now this year, thanks to some, um, creativity by the Big 12 brain trust, the BCS rankings put OU one win away from another title game, getting the nod over Texas, which beat Oklahoma on a neutral field in October.

I’m not saying that any of these breaks wasn’t necessarily warranted. OU is certainly playing some of the best ball in country right now. But after three times of being the beneficiary of BCS computers, OU fans will have to find something new to gripe about from now until eternity or college football has a playoff (my money’s on eternity).

Texas fans, address your complaints to this guy.

2. Genuine Faux Rivalry Games

Most college football rivalries I get. Sure, the in-state rivalries are a natural. But beyond that, inter-state rivalries that result as being the two biggest kids on a respective block (e.g. Ohio State/Michigan, Florida/Georgia, Oklahoma/Texas, etc.) generally have one thing in common—for the most part they are relatively a battle of equals. Sure, one school may go through a bad stretch and lose a few in a row. But, over the long haul, you don’t often see a one-sided interstate rivalry. That’s why I always find the Colorado/Nebraska game so interesting.

Nebraska leads the all-time series 47-18-2. CU has never won more than two in a row against the Huskers and has just 8 wins in the series since 1962, when Bob Devaney was hired at Nebraska. (Devaney and Tom Osborne were a combined 31-4-1 against CU.) It got so bad that one of America’s great novelists, James A. Michener, went so far as to write about it (see below). Nevertheless, in the 1980’s, then-CU coach Bill McCartney declared it a “rivalry” and went so far as to decree that CU athletic department staff wouldn’t be allowed to wear red or drive red cars. (Check out the Husker blog Double Extra Point for a good history of the series.) And while the rivalry talk hasn’t necessarily translated on the field (NU is 19-7-1 since McCartney was hired in 1982), it definitely brings out something in the CU players. Colorado easily played their best and most physical game of the season last Friday, pushing the Huskers to the limit and only falling when Alex Henery’s school record 57-yard field goal cleared the crossbar.

So is CU/NU a real rivalry? Would it be considered a rivalry if the creation of the Big 12’s divisional alignment hadn’t done away with the annual Thanksgiving weekend clash between Nebraska and Oklahoma? Or is this just a case of TV executives needing to shoehorn a “rivalry” game in a Friday afternoon slot? Whatever the answer, the game was definitely worthy of rivalry status.

“Each Year Colorado enthusiasts vowed that this year they would defeat Nebraska, and each year their hopes were dashed.” --James A. Michener, Centennial

3. Les Miles. International Man of Mystery.

Look, I know he has a national championship and a couple of big wins over Bob Stoops to his credit. But can we still say that the jury is still out on Les Miles? Over the last two months, LSU has lost five of eight games. Their only three wins in that stretch have come against South Carolina, Tulane and Troy. Sure, losing guys like Glenn Dorsey and Bo Pelini hurt, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be losing-to-Ole-Miss-on-Senior-Day bad or losing-four-straight-SEC-games bad. Long term, here is what I mean by the jury still being out—Les Miles has virtually never had to play with his own recruits. He was the head coach at Oklahoma State for four years, going 28-21 courtesy of many of the recruits of former OSU coach Bob Simmons. And now he’s been at LSU four years, winning last year’s national title with mostly Nick Saban recruits. Only once in his life has he been in a job more than five years (offensive line coach at Michigan from 1987-94). So it remains to be seen whether he can actually recruit and be successful with his own recruits.

Look, I’m not saying that he can’t or won’t have long-tern success. Or that this season wouldn’t have been different if Ryan Perriloux’s brain hadn’t been the subject of an FDA recall. I’m just saying that, if Les Miles is going to be recognized as an elite coach in the annals of college football history, he’s going to have to prove that he can recruit and coach.

Wonder if Snoop has any eligibili-bizil left?

4. My, How Time Flies

Remember that time when Georgia was the #1 team in the country? When all you heard was about how many starters the Bulldogs returned from a team whose biggest claim to fame a year ago was beating up on Hawaii? Remember? Yeah, me neither. This week, Georgia was up 28-12 at halftime on archrival Georgia Tech. Then they gave up 26 unanswered points in the third quarter and 409 rushing yards en route to a 45-42 loss to the Yellow Jackets. Get this—the Bulldogs defense gave up 45 points in spite of GT completing only one pass. In their last four games, the Bulldogs were destroyed by Florida (49-10), barely managed to eke out wins over Kentucky and Auburn (42-38 and 17-13, respectively) and now lost to Georgia Tech. Calling this season a disappointment for UGA would be a massive understatement, and limping down the homestretch will leave Bulldog fans wishing they were back at the Cocktail Party.

It’s gonna take more than one to forget this season.

5. The (Black) Eye of the Tiger

And speaking of disappointment, let’s examine Missouri’s season.

National title hopes gone? Check.

Heisman hopes for your star QB gone? Check.

Losing in the snow to your archrival? Check.

Being the fifth straight team to give up 60 to Oklahoma? Check back next week.

Mongo only pawn in game of life.

6. Take a Kid to a Game

And for my one positive note, I just wanted to comment on a personal experience I had last weekend. I’ve been fortunate enough to see some really great college football games over the years. I’ve been there when my favorite team and my alma mater (different schools—it’s a long story) each won national championships. I’ve been there to see them beat their biggest rivals. I’ve seen blowouts, I’ve seen nailbiters and I’ve seen losses. I’ve met many of my football heroes and killed more brain cells at tailgate parties than I care to admit. But I learned something this weekend: there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, that can top the feeling of seeing your son or daughter experience your team’s football game day traditions for the first time. Seeing my daughter high-fiving the mascot, getting her picture taken with the cheerleaders and inhaling her first stadium dog—it just doesn’t get any better than that. Oh, and the game was good, too.

1 comment:

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