With camps now beginning to dot the gridiron landscape, signaling the unofficial arrival of fall, it is time to rev up for the upcoming college football season with my comprehensive assembly of things I hope to see (as well as those I could actually do without) between now and January, when a champion will be crowned in Miami—after it beats Ohio State, of course.
—I wish that QB Armanti Edwards and the rest of the Appalachian State squad could give us all
another concerto performance when they venture to Death Valley on Aug. 30 (5 p.m., ESPN ET) to tangle with the defending champion LSU Tigers. It was Appalachian State that sent the college football universe into a tailspin last September with its improbable upset of Michigan at The Big House.
With 13 starters returning from an ’07 squad that captured the Mountaineers’ third consecutive Division I Championship Subdivision title, Appalachian State has more than an ample chance of toppling yet another Goliath on the road, even in Baton Rouge, where the Tigers have been nearly invincible. LSU has lost only three games at home since 2004.
As inspiring as ASU’s win in Ann Arbor was last season, a nationally televised victory over an SEC team that many consider to be in the hunt once again for a national title would be arguably bigger, though slightly less surprising. And with a quarterback the caliber of Edwards, who possesses the arm and athleticism to give the LSU defense fits, the Mountaineers are at least assured of making a game of it.
Side note: Appalachian State is slated to play three top-tier BCS schools in coming seasons, with Florida (2010), Virginia Tech (2011) and Georgia (2013) all appearing on the Mountaineer schedule.
—I wish to see Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and his Nittany Lions throttle tiny Coastal Carolina the first game of the season. In a two-for-one special, I pray Florida State somehow goes belly-up the following week against Western Carolina. Why? Because, this way, both Paterno and Bobby Bowden would be tied with 373 wins, most in college football history. And then, in an attempt to remedy his anemic offense that ranks 119th in the country after one game, Bowden further readies his colleague for an impending retirement by asking Paterno to leave Happy Valley after 42 seasons for the warmer temperatures of Tallahassee to become the new FSU offensive coordinator. Moments later, in an unprecedented move that instantly creates one of the most distinguished hierarchies in college football history, Bowden promotes Paterno to the position of co-head coach. And after a tumultuous 5-6 2008 campaign during which NCAA sanctions take their toll on the Seminole roster, both legends decide to simultaneously hang it up, ensuring the two men will enter immorality with 378 wins apiece.
—I wish to see Missouri wide receiver and return extraordinaire Jeremy Maclin toe the line with a steroid-injected cheetah in a race between the hashes at Faurot Field. Maclin, who burst onto the scene last year in record-breaking fashion after sitting out all of ’06 due to a knee injury, is without question one of the fastest players in the country, as evidenced by his three returns for touchdowns a year ago.
Tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in 7-on-7 drills prior to the 2006 season, the highly touted talent from Kirkwood, Mo. recovered to set an NCAA freshman single-season record for all-purpose yards during his redshirt season in 2007. Now, after putting the nation on notice with his freakish speed, Maclin is revealing his is primed to perform at frightening higher levels this season. Word out of Mizzou camp is that the consensus All-American selection and potential Heisman finalist, who added bulk to his 6′ 1”, 200-lb. frame and increased range in his surgically repaired knee, is quickly grasping the importance of practice and becoming a much more effective route-runner.
And, oh, yeah…he’s faster, too.
Maclin told a local newspaper last month that he has improved his already blistering speed to compliment his newly added muscle. “Yeah, my 40 (yard) time has gotten faster. I ran a 4.3 flat,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Brian Burwell.
Eeeek! Someone call Man vs. Beast. Break out that cheetah.
—I wish to find myself gorging on Ballpark beef franks and cold suds on a crisp Mississippi fall afternoon in The Grove. Annually voted as America’s top tailgating haven, this patch of manicured real estate located on Ole Miss’ campus in Oxford is said to boast some of the best Saturday afternoon fare ever known, not to mention some of the country’s loveliest coeds.
Knowing well that I don’t have the time nowadays to take the excruciatingly boring drive south down I-55, I will also take this chance to lament that I may have missed my most gleaming opportunity to savor this experience when I failed to follow my alma mater to Oxford last September for a 38-25 woodshed beating of the Rebels. As a result, my only hope for fully experiencing all the good-natured fun, intestine-busting gluttony and sorority-member gawking The Grove has to offer lies with the remote possibility that Ole Miss and Mizzou will someday enact another two-year, home-and-home contract…and I zip on down to Oxford with foam tiger paw in one hand and corporate credit card in the other.
—I wish to see Ohio State take it on the chin in the National Championship game for a third consecutive season, but not for reasons one would suspect. Despite my unbridled disdain for the Buckeyes program as a whole, I would rather they continue their BCS futility to inspire head coach Jim Tressel to LOSE THE VEST! As far as I know, the effectiveness of cardigan-influenced garb died out with the last episode of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” in 2001. Besides, one would logically think that another title game thrashing would finally cause Tressel to rethink his appearance. It’s one thing to aspire to get your tail beat senselessly year after year, but it’s entirely different to do so when you look like you just arrived home after a long day of running your own gynecology practice.
May I suggest, Mr. Tressel, you stray a bit from your conservative attire? Try losing the Ben Franklin bifocals, ditch the white oxford for an OSU Under Armor tee, and complete the new you by rustling your side-part hair-helmet and covering it with a Buckeye straw fedora. To be honest, you may look like a fool, but at least you’ll look like a fool who appears more qualified to explain the intricacies of the 3-4 defense than give an anthropology lecture.
—I wish USC would switch time zones. Don’t get me wrong: They don’t have to move geographically, because then we’d miss out on all the southern California beach bunnies bearing mid-drift at the
Coliseum. I am merely suggesting that the Trojans play their contests a wee bit earlier so that die-hard fans the country over wouldn’t have to stay up until the morning hours to see one of college football’s most dynamic teams finish a damn game. Unto this, it would be nice if Pete Carroll and Crew
would accommodate us red-blooded American males who plan our Saturday evenings around getting the chance to take in a performance by the USC Song Girls, who evoke 50s-inspired lust with their old-school long-sleeved tops and matching red Nikes. After all, we would never willingly sacrifice a weekend night if we knew we would have to stare at Mark Sanchez all game, although he is not bad—in his own weird metrosexual rite.
—I wish Florida quarterback Tim Tebow wasn’t the second coming of the Messiah. Needless to say, it’s tough getting acclimated to hating a guy who spends his summers doing missionary work in Southeast Asia, setting an example for our youth and living life as a squeaky clean role-model. Born in the Philippines when his parents were embarked on missions of their own, Tebow has long performed good-will works in his birthplace, often giving up his free time to assist at his father’s orphanage (gag me). The junior signal-caller, who could join Ohio State running back Archie Griffin (1974,75) as the only player to capture the Heisman Trophy twice, has reportedly spent his time overseas speaking to an array of medical patients and even trying his hand, or hands, at circumcising young Filipino boys.
Adding copious amounts of fuel to the fire is the rumor that Tebow’s name has been linked to ESPN sideline stalemate and certifiable stunner Erin Andrews, indicating there may be something more to the couple’s on-air chemistry. I suppose women are attracted to the selfless type who isn’t afraid to show unconditional love for others, but whatever.
At one time, I was jealous of Tebow’s dual-threat abilities, overall athleticism and apparent prowess with the ladies. I say “was,” because now I am forced to withhold all judgment, for I have an unsettling suspicion that it will be none other than St. Timothy deciding whether or not my ticket gets punched at the Gates of Heaven.
—And last but definitely not least, my yearning for a viable solution to the BCS mess forces me to wish that former Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder be subjected to a thorough Chinese water-torture session for popularizing his philosophy of adding cupcakes to the non-conference schedule. He was frequently criticized for his scheduling practices during his tenure, often designating a number of obviously weaker opponents to help balance out a considerably more formidable conference slate.
Prior to Snyder’s arrival in Manhattan, the Kansas State program celebrated only two winning seasons in 34 years, had lost more than 500 games in its existence and was the perennial laughing stock of not only the old Big Eight, but the entire country.
However, between 1993 and 2003, the most successful span of his 17 years at Kansas State, Snyder’s Wildcats posted a 40-1 record in non-conference play and won by an average of nearly 36 points. The victims: Temple, McNeese State, Massachusetts, Louisiana-Monroe, Indiana State and a host of other pastry-puff programs. The lone loss came in 2003 at home against Marshall.
The speed and efficiency with which Snyder conducted his Manhattan vitalization coupled with the fact his winningest years coincided with the birth of the BCS era has led many coaches across the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) to schedule far inferior teams to fill their non-conference slates. What typically equates to four walk-through home games for many teams, the notion of a feather-weight non-conference schedule affords those teams gunning for a national championship the chance to bolster their all-important aggregate poll position—a key component in the BCS calculation process—partially rest key players and experiment with new schemes during live action. And perhaps most crucially, lesser competition in the month of September also means that title contenders can further diminish the odds of losing that one game that can potentially break a season.