Posted on: September 14, 2008 1:19 am
Pen it in now. Jot it down. Permanent ink. It's not going to change.
Oklahoma will play Southern California for the national title. It's set. Plan your trip to Miami.
Not Georgia, not Florida, not Wake Forest, not Wisconsin. Not East Carolina or Fresno State, not Boise State or Brigham Young.
Oklahoma and Southern California. No point to play it out. It's set.
I'm not saying these are the two best teams in the country. They might be, although I doubt it. I still hold that Georgia is more talented and more deep than either could dream of being. But it does not matter.
After everything else has settled.
After conference play and conference championship games, rivalry week and the upsets.
After Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Washington, and Clemson are looking for new head coaches.
After Larry Munson has uttered what may be his final words as Georgia play-by-play announcer.
After Tim Tebow wins his second Heisman Trophy, maybe.
We will have Oklahoma and Southern California, one and two, not necessarily in that order, but both in the BCS National Championship Game. Both playing for all the marbles.
Who is going to beat Oklahoma? Who?
Maybe Missouri, maybe, if the Tigers can reach the conference title game.
Texas is too fragile and unproven in the secondary and too weak at linebacker to stop the Oklahoma assault that has already hung 50 on Chattanooga, Cincinnati, and Washington.
Texas Tech, well, this is possible. The Red Raiders are more talented defensively than any team Mike Leach has ever coached, but they're not that talented. Not talented enough to go to Norman and slow Oklahoma, that's for sure.
Besides that, there aren't really any games that should even cause the Sooners to blink. Bob Stoops is not going to let Colorado happen again. There are not going to be any 27-24 stunners. He's too good of a coach.
Who is going to beat Southern California? Who?
Talk about an advantageous schedule. California, Oregon, and Arizona State, the three-best teams in the PAC-10 besides the Trojans, all come to the Coliseum.
No PAC-10 team other than Stanford has defeated Southern California in the Coliseum under Pete Carroll. That's a scary thought. Why should that change now?
California's defense should be much better than the injured squad that surrendered its most points per game since 2001. Heck, besides its no-show Saturday in what was a 9 A.M. kickoff pacific time at Maryland, the team has been in synch on both sides of the ball.
Oregon has overachieved so far. Can Nathan Costa be ready for a defense with the size, speed, depth, and skill of Southern California the first Saturday in October?
And Arizona State? No way. Dennis Erickson single-handedly coached this team to 10 wins last year. Still, the team was run out of Tempe when Southern California came to town, 44-24.
The only challenging road game is the finale at UCLA. There is no telling what UCLA will show up on any given weekend, whether it will be the team that takes down Tennessee or the laughingstock that goes down 59-0 to Brigham Young.
So mark it in.
Oklahoma and Southern California. Southern California and Oklahoma. Undefeated, one and two. All the way.
Who else will run the table?
Georgia? Too unlikely. Look at the depth in the SEC. Georgia struggled to beat Steve Spurrier's South Carolina squad, the same South Carolina squad that went down to Vanderbilt nine days earlier.
Florida? Too many questions. How will the defense handle SEC speed? Will Tim Tebow avoid injury? Can Urban Meyer outcoach his colleagues out of halftime?
LSU? Auburn? Alabama? They all have to beat up on each other.
Texas? The defense is too shaky.
Missouri? What defense?
Wisconsin? First, the Badgers have to beat Fresno State. Then they have to take care of Ohio State and Penn State consecutive Saturdays in Madison.
South Florida? Wake Forest? Does it matter if they go undefeated? It does not.
Sure, one of these teams could run the table. One of these teams could jump into the title picture if it does. But it is not likely. It's almost as unlikely as Southern California or Oklahoma losing any of its remaining games.
They just have too much more talent than any of the teams they're scheduled to play.
It is not their fault. They are just better.
Looking at the schedules, looking at the rosters, there is only one game for each team that there's more than a possibility that they'll lose: January 8 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Nowhere else can either of these two schools lose. Not this year.
So jot it down in permanent ink. There won't be any need to change it.
Right or wrong, it is all we are left with.
Posted on: August 8, 2008 3:40 pm
I missed this story. Completely. Had no idea about it. And in some way, I'm glad I did. It's just so inconceivable, so inhuman that I would rather not even know about it.
He won't, but he should.
And now I never want to think of this story again. I never want to think of this story again.
Please, never again.
Twenty days until college football season starts. That's my mind-set. Twenty days. Stories like this make those twenty days seem so much longer.
Stories like this make sports seem so unnecessary.
Posted on: June 13, 2008 3:10 pm
If you are going to spend time reading my work, then I believe that it is important that you know who I am. This is most likely the last time I write about myself, but I feel that it is an important introduction to my column.
I am a sports fan. I enjoy the competition, not just against other people but against yourself. Sports is, as Yogi Berra said, “90 percent half mental.” If you don't win over your mind, you cannot beat anyone else.
I am a sports fan. I relish in the satisfaction I get when my team wins, everytime my team wins. But it is a two-edged sword. When the University of Florida loses in football, I go crazy. I cannot watch a game with anything but socks near me because I will throw whatever I have at the television when something goes wrong.
I am a sports fan. I'll watch any sport once. Curling? Put it on. Badminton? Why not? Sure, I have preferences, but I'm not going to say no to a sport just because of its reputation. Every society has its games and each one is thrilling, I just don't have the time to learn each one. But I will give it a shot.
Finally, I am a sports fan. Nothing is more entertaining to me than the history of each sport. The records, the coaches, the players, the television contracts, everything deserves its story. Nothing is more beautiful than opening a book or going to baseball-reference.com and just soaking in the past. I know much more about baseball in 1960 than I do today, even though I wasn't born until 1988, and that is the way I want it to be.
Of course, as I said, I do have favorites. My life revolves around college football. With the exclusion of the sullen months from the middle of January until the middle of August, college football is all that is on my mind. Even on Sunday, when the NFL is playing, I'm working on my poll for bcsfanpoll.com or doing homework, the NFL existing as background noise. It should be noted that I haven't played organized football since first grade, although I did lead my team in tackles that year.
The rest of the year, I have four sports to carry me.
My second love is tennis. I was never very good at tennis, although I did make my middle school team in eighth grade, but that didn't stop me from becoming attached to the sport.
It really shouldn't be surprising that I adopted Wayne Arthurs as my hero. He was an underachieving lefty who struggled to overcome himself until he was already in his mid-30s, well past his tennis prime. When he finally gained the confidence, it was too late, but not too late to provide some of the most thrilling comebacks I have ever seen.
His heart defined sports. His energy, going out there every match and leaving his entire soul on the court drove me in my endeavors. When he retired last year, I cried, even though I knew for months that it was coming.
Next is golf. I love to watch golf. I know that that sounds strange, but I enjoy it unlike much else. I don't only watch the major tournaments; I watch weekend coverage of just about every PGA stop until college football rolls along. I love the stories, Robert Gamez winning for the first time in 15 years, Jose Maria Olazabal coming back from a knee injury to win the Masters Tournament, David Duval fighting on despite his free-fall from number one in the world to outside the top 500. No mainstream sport is more of a mental battle than golf, with the possible exception of tennis.
Look at Woody Austin in the 2007 PGA Championship. Or Bob May in the same event in 2000? Neither had any business going shot-for-shot with Tiger Woods, but on each respective Sunday each player believed that he was the best. Tiger struggled to prevail each time.
My fourth love is horse racing. The thrill of equines running is unbeatable. Even if I don't have money on a race, I love the site and the excitement.
Finally, I should discuss the one sport that I played in high school.
I was a wrestler, although I was never that good. By my senior year, I was competitive with the best kids in my county, the best wrestling county in the state. But competitive is about as far as I can go.
While wrestling appears to be an individual sport, it wasn't to me. I always knew what the team score was and what I needed to do to secure a win for my side. My senior year, we went 17-1, losing our one match 32-28. Six times that year I won a match that if I lost, my team would have lost. Most of those times, I was wrestling an inferior opponent. There is one exception.
To say I hated Commack would be an understatement. I was 0-3 lifetime against Commack, getting pinned all three times. I hadn't wrestled the school since my sophomore year (we were put in a different league for my Junior year), but I did wrestle it twice my freshman year on junior varsity.
My opponent had just beaten the fourth-ranked person at my weight in the county, although it is likely that that person had been overrated. The entire week, all I thought about was the match. Not once did the notion of defeat ever enter my mind. My team on the other hand started in a funk and we were down 6-3, having just lost the previous match in overtime.
Entering the third and final period, I trailed 4-2, a normal position for me entering the final period. I had taken him down for two points in the first period but he quickly reversed me, gaining the two right back. He chose neutral in the second period and took me down, giving him the lead. Knowing that he would most likely take me down if I escaped, I spent the rest of the period trying to reverse him to even the match. No luck.
But there I was, third period. My team needed me to win. I did not even look to my coach before I chose bottom. I talked to him after the match and he said he would have suggested neutral considering I failed to get out in either of the first two periods. I knew I would get out in the third.
Halfway through the two-minute period, I caught my opponent riding high and turned him to his back. I held him there for a five-count, meaning I would get two points for a reversal and three for near-fall. He fought off his back, but I turned him again, gaining three more points in the process. The final score was 10-4. My team came back and won 28-24. If I lost, we would have lost 27-25.
I told you this story because that is me. I don't take kindly to people who don't go out there and leave it all on the field. I like the little man, even if he's a tall, overpowering lefty like Wayne Arthurs. I like Zach Thomas and Alge Crumpler, Julio Franco and Pete Rose, Tim Duncan and Tyler Hansbrough, Tiger Woods and Kenny Perry. I like anyone who is willing to leave his or her body of work on the sporting surface, even if he or she comes up short.
I don't root for the underdog just because there is an underdog; I root for the underdog if the underdog gives me a reason to root for him.
Wayne Arthurs might have come out flat sometimes, but he still gave his entire self to the match. That's why I rooted for him. I would like to think I gave the same of myself.