Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Between the weeks

With our outmatched president looking feckless, part of me feels like I should be opining about his mishandling of reality in Syria, but I don't really have anything to add that isn't already being said ad nauseam by commentators on both the Right and the Left. Therefore I am doing what I really want to do: Follow up on my previous post by offering some more thoughts about college football.

The Elongation
I don't mind the fact that the season's opening weekend was drawn out -- in fact, I rather enjoyed being able to watch some pigskin every day from Thursday to Monday -- but in general I am opposed to the prolonging of college football weekends that has been going on for some time now.

I liked it way back when every game was on Saturday. Then, when TV money dictated the addition of one special Thursday night game every week, I thought it was fabulous. We as fans got to enjoy a game two days earlier than normal, while the schools competing in that game got to have the national spotlight all to themselves.

But now multiple games are on every Thursday, with more taking place on Friday; and in seemingly random fashion, yet more games occasionally kick off on days other than Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Making the sport this ubiquitous dims the special appeal that was inherent when you had to wait for Saturday and one slot on Thursday to see its contests play out. Plus, I think that on some level it's not good that college games are being held on a night (Friday) that has traditionally been reserved for high school football to receive all the focus.

I hope this genie gets put back in the bottle, though I know it probably won't because it probably can't.

Speaking of which
I also do not like the way the big bowl games are now dragged out across a week's time. The bowl system as we know it will be no more after this year, but some version of it will still exist and I hope it goes back to the way it was before the advent of the BCS. Though most of us failed to realize it at the time, there was something ineffably perfect about every single game taking place on New Year's Day, forcing you to prioritize what to watch and thereby making you sacrifice some of the games due to conflicting rooting interests.

The Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl took place simultaneously, and it was not unusual for participants in both games to have a legitimate chance to secure the national championship if they won. This made both players and fans struggle against the instinct to scoreboard-watch, since the events happening in each game were affecting what was at stake in the other. A big part of me regrets that those days, much like the man in that Grateful Dead song, are gone like a steam locomotive rollin' down the track and nothin's gonna bring them back.

Georgia-South Carolina
This showdown illustrates what is superior about college football's regular season; namely, that every game not only counts but can greatly determine the success or failure of your campaign. Georgia entered this season with national championship aspirations, yet if they lose on Saturday those aspirations will be dead only two weeks into the season.

It was not a surprise that the Bulldogs fell at Clemson last Saturday, but if they lose at home to the Gamecocks this Saturday, they will be 0-2 -- and no team has ever won the national championship with two losses. In the minds of their fans and players alike, the only way for the Bulldogs to salvage the season would be to go undefeated the rest of the way.

My Auburn Indulgence
Expectations are a bitch, and what I just wrote about Georgia shows how true that is. The Bulldogs lost lots of defensive starters, yet entered the season with a tantalizing abundance of returning stars on offense, hence the talk of a run at the national title. Nonetheless, by losing a mere two games that there is no shame in losing (for Clemson and South Carolina are both ranked in the top ten and coming off eleven-win seasons) they would already be thought of as having fallen short of their potential. Large swaths of their fan base would start grumbling for heads to roll.

Which brings me to my alma matter. Auburn was 3-9 last year and has a new head coach who turned the keys to the offense over to a 29-year-old coordinator. This clearly illustrates why I and my fellow alums should not expect much this season. However, we continue to expect a great deal for no other reason than we are Auburn and our players have that interlocking AU on their helmet. I was cussing at the TV on Saturday night when we didn't put more than seven points between us and Washington State late in the game -- even though Washington State is a tough opponent to open with; and even though our team had scored 31 points, which was more than they scored in any game last year; and even though our defense had three interceptions, which was more than they had in all of last year's games combined.

This coming week we face Arkansas State, which sounds like a game we should win -- until I remember that the Red Wolves went 10-3 last year, and have recruited strongly of late, and played well against us during our undefeated season in 2010. In other words, if we beat them it should be considered a good win, but instead, simply because we are Auburn, it will be considered something we should have done automatically. If we win narrowly, it will be remembered more as a negative than as a positive.

Expectations. I hate them and know they are not fair, but I have them anyway, and every fan base in America has thousands upon thousands of others who feel the same. This is something else that makes college football great.

"Big Game" predictions
Michigan-Notre Dame:  Notre Dame is perennially overrated. Michigan is ascendant...Brady Hoke is a better coach than Brian Kelly...Character generates wins, and while there is evidence that Brady Hoke has character, there is evidence that Brian Kelly does not....Notre Dame had a fine season in 2012, but much like the fine season they had under Tyrone Willingham ten years before, it felt like an interlude rather than a new norm...And for that matter, Willingham had more character than Kelly and was a better coach than Kelly...Prediction: Wolverines 30-24.

Miami-Florida:  This used to be one of college football's best annual rivalries, especially among those that do not occur in the final week, until the Gators famously dropped it when the Hurricanes were dominating them at the height of the Jimmy Johnson era. Although I am an SEC partisan, I will be cheering wholeheartedly for Miami, not only because Florida's unilateral termination of this series smacked of cowardice but also because the arrogance of Florida fans rivals even that of Notre Dame and Alabama fans. Unfortunately, my brain tells me that my heart is in over its head, and it tells me to predict this: Gators 23-12.

Georgia-South Carolina:  Every ounce of logic tells me South Carolina should win. They have by far the better defense, and it is defense that wins big games and championships. Their confidence has yet to be chipped, while Georgia's must surely be shaken simply because they dropped Game One and are staring at an 0-2 hole...But another part of my brain believes the old adage that a good team with its back against the wall will find a way to win regardless of the odds. That same part of my brain tells me that Aaron Murray is destined to disprove his doubters who say he can't defeat a top-tier opponent...Prediction: Bulldogs 31-28.

Until next time: Adios, as they say south of our border.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

S Car is gonna roll the Murray-led small-d dawgs--he stinks in big games. Plus, I hate to say it, but once-Gator Spurrier will lap once-Cane Richt in the coaching chess match. Cocks. Huge.

But that's the ugly side of the coin. It's sensible to pick UF, sure. However, as the seminole sunshine scooter chirps every sixty seconds, not so fast my friend! As you mentioned, the Gator nation fled the JJ Era with its putrid reptilian tail between its legs, but let's not forget--let's not forget--they are doing it again. Now. Blaming finances. Citing an extra home game would be nice, not a home-and-home w/ UM. Intangibles thereby go Miami--history repeats. canes not big, but they get the W and the gators fall nonetheless.