I was struck this weekend, whilst enjoying a fabulous Saturday of college football goodness, at the ridiculous nature of this thing we call sports. College football is the king of the ridiculous these days. It’s all about arguments for or against a playoff, or players in trouble for hanging out with agents or selling their jerseys for ludicrous amounts of money (I’d have done it too A.J.), or major conference power versus the little guys (Automatic Qualifiers v. non-AQ conferences) and who should get into the BCS title games. Is a one-loss SEC team better than a zero-loss Boise State or TCU?
But here’s the catch—with so much talent being spread out across the country due to scholarship limitations, a little thing called parity is beginning to come into play. For a few years now, non-AQ schools have been getting to the BCS bowls and performing well. Smaller schools are doing a better job of attracting talent away from the big schools, promising playing time, a chance to play in good bowl games, and of course, national TV exposure (thanks to ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, ESPN U, ABC, NBC, and CBS….oh and Versus, Fox Sports and CBS CollegeSports, not to mention all of the satellite services that show pretty much every collegiate game anywhere, the Big Ten network and teams like BYU and Texas that now have their own networks.) Let’s just say that for an athlete to be noticed, going to a top-flight school isn’t quite as imperative as it once was. So what does this mean for the viewer? Well you would think it would mean more games like Boise State versus Virginia Tech, where the underdog (alright, they were ranked number three in the nation, but who’s counting?) can scrap and claw and fight their way to victory against the perennially over-ranked big dog. And you would be right.
But there was an interesting trend or phenomena that I saw this weekend. Maybe it was just a fluke, but this was supposed to be the weekend for the traditional “marquee” powerhouse schools to take the stage. It was going to be full of epic battles of epic proportion with epic programs epically dueling it out to the bitter, and of course, epic end. It just wasn’t to be so.
Let’s re-cap. Alabama and Penn State. Joe Pa and Saban. Classic rivalry (I guess) renewed. Unfortunately for Joe Pa, Bama’s offense was too physical for his puny Big Ten defense and his talented true-freshman quarterback just made too many true-freshman mistakes inside the red-zone. 24-3. Solid victory, just like Saban wants it.
Ohio State and Miami. The dueling cavaliers, Pryor and Harris. Two preseason Heisman candidate quarterbacks ready to air it out and put on a show. Well, Miami only scored touchdowns via their special teams (one kickoff return and one punt return) until a late pass by Harris when the game was already out of reach. Pryor made some good, even great throws, but he still seems more comfortable—and dangerous—running the ball. He’s still a little too inconsistent, only completing 12 of his 27 passes.
Oklahoma and Florida State. Ugh, is this one even worth my time? Oklahoma looked like crap against Utah State. I’ll admit it, I had writ- ten them off as being yet again overrated, but they handled a very athletic and talented Florida State team easily 47-17.
Michigan and Notre Dame played the only close game and it was the one I was least excited about watching. Michigan won on a last-minute touchdown by QB Denard Robinson, who continues to impress.
So, not only did monster v. monster not live up to the hype—in any of the games—but they were yet again overshadowed by those pesky underdogs who just love to steal the show. Even teams like Virginia and Marshall that didn’t beat USC and West Virginia, respectively, certainly made it exciting and worth watching. Marshall had WVU all but beat until a costly fumble late in the fourth quarter, in the red zone, opened the door for WVU to score and make the two-point conversion in the last minute to tie the game, and then win in OT. Virginia continued Hawaii’s work in showing that the Trojans are very susceptible this season, beating two not-so-great opponents in shaky fashion—Virginia by three, and allowing 588 total yards against Hawaii. Kansas cannot beat South Dakota State but can beat fifteenth ranked Georgia Tech? Minnesota lost to that other team from South Dakota, the University of South Dakota of course. South Dakota was beaten by Central Florida 38-7 in Week One by the way. Go Big Ten.
But the real story was James Madison, of the mighty Colonial Athletic Conference, beating up on the Hokies of Virginia Tech. It was a beautiful sight. I was hunched over my computer because the game was only on ESPN3.com. Why on earth would it be televised? Because magical things happen in sports. That, as they say, is why they play the game. 21-16, the Dukes rule the Hokies.
I just don’t get it. How can multiple top 18 match-ups be blowouts while James Madison can topple thirteenth ranked Virginia Tech? One word: parity. The ACC is a joke. And it still makes me laugh. Clemson beat Presbyterian College, Maryland beat Morgan State, NC State beat UCF, Boston College beat Kent State, and Wake Forest beat Duke. Pretty impressive wins, and one of them even counts as an ACC loss. At the end of the day, the ACC went 5-6 with losses to a weak USC team, an Oklahoma team that struggled against Utah State, Kansas who lost to South Dakota State, Wake Forest (I had to), and of course, James Madison. Go Dukes!!
I’d say that’s a pretty good argument for reworking the AQ versus non-AQ conferences—and that’s even without mentioning the abysmal Big East. Looks like you picked the wrong schedule strengthener, Boise State.
Ah well, there’s always the SEC. Oh crap.
Thanks Ole Miss. You really screwed up my argument. Jack State anyone?
John Easterling writes the X’s & O’s blog for Birmingham Weekly. Please send your comments to email@example.com.