>Thursday Lunch: The Most Important College Football Month Ever?

Posted: January 6, 2011 in college football, ncaafb
Tags: , , , , , ,

>By Dylan Davis

20100207-214755-pic-105729466_t607Certain moments in sports can change the perception of an athlete, team, or sport forever. Sometimes the players and teams affected have no control over the situation, and sometimes they’re right in the middle of it. When the Indianapolis Colts lined up to receive the second half kickoff against the New Orleans Saints, they were leading 10-6 and had most of the momentum. Peyton Manning was the MVP of the league and was poised to grab the title of greatest quarterback ever. Then the Saints pulled off the gutsiest onside kick ever and it sparked them to a 31-17 victory over the stunned Colts. While it’s great to look at how much this did for New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, history may have been altered even more on the Colts side of things. Indianapolis was the king of the NFL regular season for a better part of a decade, yet they had only once raised the Lombardi trophy at season’s end. Year after year, they had fallen to New England, Pittsburgh, and San Diego along the way, but with a win over the Saints, they could have cemented their legacy as one of the greatest dynasties of all time. Instead, they managed to turn themselves into a 21st century version of the 1990’s Atlanta Braves or Buffalo Bills. Both of those teams had amazing regular season success in the 1990’s but were only to capture one title between them. Manning is now thought of as a great field general and his stats are tremendous, but when fans in 2030 look back, they’ll most likely remember Tom Brady (and possibly Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees) as the quarterbacks who could win when it mattered. If Hank Baskett had been able to hold onto one surprise onside kick that all might have changed.

On August 12th, 1994 Major League Baseball had a work stoppage that lasted all the way until April 2nd, 1995. This included canceling the entire 1994 postseason and a whopping 931 games were not played because of the strike. It may be hard for fans now to believe, but baseball was the second most popular sport in America up until that time, but the greedy owners and players not being able to come to an agreement despite making huge sums of money turned off fans. When baseball came back for the 1995 season, many fans had fled to the NFL or NBA and it’s been difficult sledding for baseball ever since. While steroids and four-hour games are a huge problem, pro football has steroids and college games can take up to four hours and those sports are doing just fine. Baseball took a huge risk when it stopped an entire season and they’ve spent the last 15 years trying to get back into the national conscience. Sports fans will forgive a lot (play-for-pay scandals, arrogant jerk stars, and uneven punishments to name a few), but what MLB did crossed the line for fans and they’re still paying the price.
College football is in the midst of one of the most entertaining seasons in recent memory, but they are at a crossroads in more ways than one. Let’s examine the potential sport-altering events that have been, and will be, happening within the past month.

  • SEC Dominance: Anyone watching bowl games on New Years day knows what this is all about. The first slate of games for the day were three Big 10 vs. SEC showdowns that all went in favor of the SEC schools. Both Alabama and Mississippi State ran roughshod over Michigan State and Michigan respectively. While Penn State kept their game against Florida close, the final score showed a 13-point victory for the Gators and another loss for the schools from up north. While Ohio State was able to save face with a win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, the Razorbacks had a chance to win at the end of the game and many SEC supporters (or Big 10 detractors) will point to that game as the exception that proves the SEC’s rule. Still to play for the SEC are LSU, Kentucky, and Auburn who are either favored or playing a Big East team. What this all means is that, although college football conference domination is cyclical, the SEC remains top dog by a wide margin and looks to do so for the next decade. If the Big 10 had been able to assert their supremacy with some wins on January 1, they would have taken the first step to getting back on top. Now the rest of the nation has to hope for the Ducks to upset the Cam Newton’s unless they want another off-season of SEC hype. This game could give the Pac 10 a recruiting leg up for all schools even though only one of its members is involved.

  • Scandals galore: You all know about the Cam Newton incident and have no doubt heard the talking heads debating the recent Ohio State scandal, but what does it mean for the long term? For casual fans, they may have tuned into the Sugar Bowl to learn more and to see these evil-doing players in action. The publicity Cam Newton has gotten will probably make more people tune into the national title game because of the good vs. evil aspect. So, in the short term, all of this is good for college football, but in the long term it can only hurt the sport. Many fans are becoming jaded that professional sports are all about money and personal glory and saw college sports was the last bastion of glimmering hope for true passion and desire for victory. Now that the Auburn and Ohio State scandals occurred right on the heels of Reggie Bush’s misdeeds, fans all over the country will be taking a long, hard look at why they watch the games. This may be the final tipping point for some in their decision not to attend sporting events. This may point some people to high school athletics where paying players is not a national issue (yet). History will not look kindly on this year in college football, but it is still to be seen if this is just a blip on the radar, or a growing trend.

  • BCS issues: Because I write about college football on the Internet, I am forced by law to write about the BCS at least twice a year. (What? There’s no law that states that? Then why is that all I read about?). This year was no different when it came to screwing over the little guy (in this case TCU), but this specific year may have been another tipping point for the sport. Every single time (except for that overmatched Hawaii team in 2007) a non-BCS team has played in a BCS game against a BCS conference team; they have come out the victor. This year was no different as TCU rode its suffocating defense to a narrow 21-19 victory over Wisconsin. The cries for the death of the BCS have gotten louder and louder every off-season, and this may be the year that they are too deafening to ignore. If the NCAA continues to crown its football champions in such a convoluted and unfair manner, they may lose legions of future fans and participants. They need to act now.

As you can see, the integrity of the sport, along with its hierarchy of teams, has been, and will continue to be, at stake this month. No one knows exactly how history will judge college football, only that it will forever be altered by the events that have just transpired.
That’s all the time for this week, but check back in next week for a special recap of the most anticipated National Title since 2006. Have a great weekend and enjoy the game.


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