What In The World…
This college football season has been the absolute strangest on record. It might also be said to be the most exciting on record. Of the Preseason Top 10, none of them are currently unbeaten after Kentucky’s 43-37 upset of top-ranked LSU last night.
Defense seems to have been largely forgotten all over the land, and no example has been more glaring than Louisville’s inexplicable inability to stop opposing teams on defense. Louisville should be contending for that #1 ranking. Instead they are 4-3 after losses to Kentucky, Syracuse (who was a 47-point underdog), and Utah. UL could very easily have been 7-0 and taking over the top spot LSU will vacate when the rankings come out tonight or tomorrow.
No team has been safe. Southern Cal was beaten by an equally as huge underdog as Syracuse was. California lost after losing their starting quarterback and their backup made critical mistakes. Oklahoma and Texas have stumbled. Florida is proving that last year’s national championship was a fluke and that Tim Tebow is overrated. (Now, I say “fluke,” but we all know that SEC football is the best in the land. We all also know Florida could easily have lost 5 or 6 games last year. They were lucky.) The only “traditional” power left without a loss is Ohio State, who did not start the season in the Top 10.
How odd has this season been? We are talking about the possibility of Boston College and South Florida playing for the national title. One team known mainly for Doug Flutie and the other who has only played Division 1-A football for 7 years. Preposterous. Even more strangely, there is the very distinct possibility that a 2-loss team could win the SEC East and West and possibly the SEC Championship. That hasn’t happened on a regular basis around here. Used to be you could only afford to lose once. What would really put us in a mental institution is that Kentucky now has a legitimate shot to with the SEC. Break out the straitjackets!
The absolute worst oddity has been the inability of Notre Dame to play anything resembling football. They can’t play offense. They can’t play defense. They are terrible. I am just as bewildered as you are. I expected them to struggle, with new personnel on both sides of the ball and their traditionally insanely-tough schedule, but this is ridiculous. If not for that freak win a couple of weeks ago, they could have gone winless. That, in and of itself, tells you something isn’t quite right about NCAA football 2007. But I am resting very happily on the knowledge that Jimmy Clausen isn’t playing for Tennessee. The Notre Dame fans are now learning what we learned from two Clausens — they simply aren’t worth the frustration. I see Clausen quickly becoming forgotten on Charlie Weis’ bench.
A season like this is probably not going to happen again. Kentucky will not duplicate their efforts next year. Andre Woodson will be gone, as will the core of a team that endured incredible gridiron hardship to forge what is quickly becoming a stellar season. Defense will return, especially as teams adjust to this new spread offense fad sweeping the nation. Tennessee will start to play the type of football they became known for in the ’90s, now that David Cutcliffe has been able to recruit for a couple of years. Alabama may well start to become a power again under Nick Saban. Order will quickly be restored in 2008.
One thing that I expect to continue is the futility of Nebraska under Bill Callahan. My friend Ryan (who is usually if not always right about such things) recently wrote that Nebraska football is synonymous with mediocre. I agree. Firing Frank Solich was the worst thing Nebraska could possibly have done. They don’t play “Nebraska football” anymore, and until they get back to that, Nebraska will continue to be an also-ran.
In addition, Florida State and Miami will continue to stink. That’s right, stink. They are reaping the harvest of playing in lesser conferences for the past decade, and until they see the light and come to a conference like the SEC, their downgrade will continue until they are irrelevant.
That’s one of the truly sad stories about college football these days, the utter lack of respect for tradition, and the downgrade of tradition. No one gives coaches time to build a program anymore. No one respects the tried and true axioms of football, favoring gimmick offenses and fads. They will quickly learn their place. Even Steve Spurrier, returning to the college game, has learned to respect that tradition — he runs the football a lot more now, for one thing.
But this year, “tradition” has been soundly disrespected, and the new rankings tonight or tomorrow will show just how badly. As strange as this season has been, it has been a fun one to watch. As for me, I’m pulling for my Vols to come out on top of the chaos.