Location: Cincinnati, OH
States Visited: Ohio
Over the course of this trip, I have found myself extraordinarily grateful for the hospitality so many people have shown me. From tailgaters who share food and drink to athletic departments who provide learned resources for interviews to bloggers who take time out to speak with me. But I am especially grateful for those who have housed me along the way. Nobody has done this more than my aunt and uncle who are quite literally putting me through college. I am currently in the house where I spent every Thanksgiving as a child, and unfortunately have to hit the road on Thursday morning. But again I am fortunate because I am joining Erik and Chrissy in Atlanta for dinner. Actually, they’ve come darn close to matching the care and support that my aunt and uncle have provided. This will be my third trip to visit them in their new digs. So seriously – a sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone who’s helped me so far. I couldn’t have done this without you.
Back to football… Clearly, this is the most surprising college football year on record. The season began with Appalachian State defeating Michigan and hasn’t been normal since. South Florida beat Auburn, Syracuse upended Louisville, Kansas State throttled Texas as Colorado came back to beat Oklahoma, Stanford won at USC, Vanderbilt surprised South Carolina, and now Arizona topples Oregon and Louisiana Monroe beats Alabama. Meanwhile, Mississippi State is decent and Kansas is the lone undefeated major conference team. What are we to make of all this?
The short answer you hear on ESPN and in various other places is parity. It’s the age of parity, right? Historically, college football is the most static sport in terms of who’s good and who’s not. If you looked at the top teams from 50 years ago, you’d get the same list of teams we expect to be good now. There are certainly exceptions, but for the most part, the teams that can win a national title at the start of any given year are Texas, USC, Florida State, etc. As we know all too well, 2007 is not any given year. This is the rarest of years no matter who you ask (and I’ve asked a lot). The conventional wisdom says that this is a new era of college football where parity will reign on into the future.
Not so fast my friend. Instead of this year being about parity, isn’t it possible that the senior class just isn’t that great? Look at the Heisman race. The only seniors involved at any point have been Dennis Dixon, Matt Ryan, and Mike Hart. Two of those players have sustained injures that affected their teams’ success. It is pretty darn clear that Tim Tebow, a sophomore, is going to win the award. In its 70 year history, that has never happened. But let’s delve deeper. The best receiver in the country is a freshman, Michael Crabtree. The best return man is a freshman, Jeremy Maclin. The best running back? Nobody can definitively say, but odds are he’s not a senior. When 2007 is in the books, we’ll look back on a season where a lot of crazy stuff happened, and there wasn’t any dominant team.* This season is an anomaly and not the sign of a larger trend. Many point to the 85 scholarships as the reason for parity, but we’ve been down to 85 for thirteen years now. Would it really take this long for Appalachian State and Stanford to happen?
The truth is, wild upsets happen every single year. It’s one of the reasons we love this game. We’re just not used to so many of them. The word parity is clearly originating from the NFL, where it’s been a goal of the league for some time now. Teams with good records are penalized the following year with a tougher schedule. The best draft picks go to the worst teams. College football still has its pecking order and nothing’s changed that. The top programs get the best recruits. Teams that go to bowl games get an extra month of practice. The major leagues have more money to throw around for better facilities. None of this has changed. With the minor exception of teams like Boise State and Utah making BCS bowls, none of it is going to change. Kansas’ stadium still only holds 46,000 people. Mangino will eventually be hired away to a big name program if his ticker keeps working. And it will all go back to normal, no matter what they think on PTI.
Whether that’s a good thing is certainly debatable. For now, it’s best to appreciate this crazy season because we’re not going to see anything like it ever again. LSU’s just lucky they’re not playing Troy this week. In 2007, no game is a gimmie.
*If Kansas blows out Missouri, Oklahoma and LSU, I will obviously rescind the above comment.
I’m off to the Iron Bowl which does not take place in Pittsburgh. For a brief overview loaded with highlights, I present a man after my own heart:
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