Aug 30, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Syracuse will take the field Thursday night against Wake Forest. A couple of days later, most of the rest of college football awakens, too, as LSU-Oregon and Boise State-Georgia give us the best two games in the country. So there’s reason to be excited, right?
Then you remember about the scandal at USC, the scandal at Ohio State, the scandal at North Carolina, the scandal at Miami, and no doubt I’m leaving a few dozen others out. And we could face more conference realignment, another topic of pure delight (yeah, right).
Never before has college football loomed so big in the American sports psyche. And never before has it felt so dirty and soiled to like it.
No matter where you turn, it’s brutal. How could Auburn enjoy its first national championship in 53 years when (1) everyone outside of the Plains thought Cam Newton was bought and (2) a crazed Alabama fan poisoned the famed trees at Toomer’s Corners?
Then there’s Oregon, who lost the BCS title game. It felt the NCAA fire thanks to shady payments to a shady recruitment service, giving Ducks opponents more things to hate other than their spaced-out uniforms. So they start the season with LSU, who just saw its quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, charged with a felony for an alleged role in a bar fight.
Add to it the ouster of Jim Tressel for his less-than-honest approach in Buckeye land, the ouster of Butch Davis in Chapel Hill for far worse deeds, and the cloud over Coral Gables and the U for the tales told by a jailed booster, and it’s easy to see just how deep it smells. And that’s not even mentioning the godforsaken BCS and the corruption surrounding the Fiesta Bowl.
When billions of TV dollars get poured into the Saturday-afternoon obsession of millions of Americans, you’re bound to get rules-bending and rules-breaking. So we really shouldn’t be shocked (shocked!) by the gambling in this establishment, right?
Face it, if you spent enough time obsessing over all the faults of college football, not to mention the conference shuffles starting again (thank you, Texas A&M), the depression might prove clinical. Or it could make you just stick with high school sports – which isn’t a bad thing, you know.
But if you insist on your Saturday jollies, then for once there’s some optimism in the local camp. Doug Marrone’s turnaround at SU, complete with bowl win in the dying days of 2010, hit some snags the last month or so with, you guessed it, off-the-field issues, plus some camp injuries.
Even with that, the Orange are a mark of relative stability in the Big East, which had to extend an invitation to that noted Eastern power, Texas Christian, just to survive. Coaching changes all over the league, from Pitt to West Virginia to UConn (featuring some guy that coached here for a while), and uncertainty everywhere else, gives SU a window to at least think about a conference title run.
We also have to get used to Nebraska in the Big Ten, which is actually 12, plus Utah and Colorado in the Pac-12, which is really 12, and a Big 12 that only has 10 and could get stripped cleaner if the Aggies from A&M stick it to Texas and its Longhorn Network cash cow (pun intended). Not that it’s confusing or anything.
Amid all this, who will reign? The pre-season polls, yet another abomination that handicaps possible underdogs, has Oklahoma in front. Without a title game to worry about, the Sooners should at least claim the Big 12, though that last game at Oklahoma State could cause worry.
The all-powerful SEC has hogged the main crystal football five years straight, and Alabama is best positioned this time, with the troubles at LSU, the letdown at Auburn and an inability to trust Arkansas. Everyone in the East, other than South Carolina, has too many question marks.
To the north, the Big Ten relented to a 12th member and a championship game. The Buckeyes’ fall leaves no clear favorite, though Wisconsin, Michigan State and Nebraska could apply for the job. Brady Hoke will need two years, at least, to get Michigan going again.
An expanded Pac-12 won’t see much of a threat from the newcomers. Oregon has more to worry about from trendy sleeper Arizona State and Stanford, whose main man, Andrew Luck, had the nerve to bypass NFL millions and actually, really, stay in school because he likes it. Oh, the humanity.
Even with Virginia Tech, the ACC remains a wannabe with a lot of messes to clean up. Notre Dame is better, but not quite to the point where the fawning attention is actually merited. Boise State and TCU should both be great again, much to the annoyance of the BCS titans that so clearly want them out.
Expect a lot of fun games in 2011 college football. Also expect the stench to grow more putrid, for a giant, growing industry cannot help but have pains along the way, and thinking that they will dissipate is a wishful dream.