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It’s time for college football again!

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Today is an exciting day for college football fans.  If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of the pre-season hype from ESPN and other media as the professional analysts attempt to be prophetic about the outcome of the season.  I had to laugh recently when I watched Lou Holtz and others attempting to make a prediction about who would win the national championship game between USC and LSU, as if the game between the two teams was already scheduled.  The national championship game is four months away. With a full season of football ahead of us, anything can happen.  The outcome of the college football  season is a permutation that includes so many unmeasureable and unpredictable factors,  such as a team’s motivation for any particular game, injuries, clutch coaching decisions, referee calls, and so much more. One of the most inviting aspects of college football is the understanding that fans and participants alike are going for a ride that has more question marks than ready answers.

Here are some of my thoughts on some of the issues and highlights of the 2007 college football season.

Conferences – How do they compare?
It’s pretty well understood in the college football world that the SEC fields the best teams and players Saturday after Saturday.  Florida proved last year that the best of the SEC was way too much for the best of the Big 10.  It would have been interesting to see USC compete for the national title with the Gators last year, but they lost to UCLA, who then went on to get handled by Florida State, who last season was not even an also-ran in the ACC.

A recent MSN poll had 50% of respondents choosing the SEC as the best conference, followed by the Big 10 (17%), Big 12 (11%), the PAC-10 (9.2%), the Big East (7.6%), and lastly the ACC (5.4%).  As a Florida State fan, it’s difficult for me to see our conference perceived so lowly.  The inclusion of Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Miami a few seasons ago into an already somewhat competitive conference was supposed to put the ACC on the same level as the SEC, but Miami and Florida State have been major disappointments recently, and other ACC teams haven’t performed well out of conference either.  I expect that to change this year, with Miami and Florida State regaining their places in the Top 10, and the competitive level of the whole conference moving up a few notches.  By the way, how did the Mountain West Conference get left out of that poll?

Heisman Race
As a former defensive player, it’s difficult for me to concede that the Heisman Trophy is supposedly given to the “best” college football player, but scoring and offense make the highlight films more than hard hits and tough defense.  True to tradition, the top contenders for the Heisman this year are all running backs and quarterbacks.  Over the past twenty years, 11 times the Heisman was given to a quarterback, 6 times it was awarded to a running back, twice a wide receiver got it.  So, quick trivia question:  Who was the only defender to receive the award in the past twenty years?  Answer:  Charles Woodson won it as a cornerback at Michigan in 1997.  Good luck to the guys on the tougher side of the ball, but I’m predicting a quarterback will win it this year – either John David Booty or Colt Brennan.

Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno
The battle continues this year between these two great-grandpas.  I guess something has to be said about their competitive natures, but on the other hand their programs are both suffering because Bowden and Paterno haven’t learned how to find hobbies that are as fulfilling as walking the sidelines during major college football games (And heck, Paterno can’t even walk the sidelines anymore).  Apparently neither of these coaches intend to stop coaching until 1) the other one retires, or 2) he dies of old age.  I personally think that they could learn a lesson from LaVell Edwards.  By the time he retired, there were Cougar fans who thought his time had passed, but the fatigue was nothing like what has been experienced at FSU and Penn State over the past five or six years.  Bowden’s relations with disgruntled Florida State fans and, most importantly, financial supporters have soured as legitimate accusations of nepotism have been made.  However, he has a new supporting staff that appears much more likely to effectively use the talent that has been loitering around Florida State the past few seasons.  Paterno’s health is in obvious decline, and his team isn’t predicted to pick up any wins on Bowden.  The race to the finish for these two may come down to wins and losses (wins essentially – same difference) this season, and it will be difficult for Paterno to overcome the three-game defficiency.  I’m hoping that Paterno will announce his retirement this year, and that Bowden will follow shortly after.

Find a good seat on the couch…
College football looks to be as exciting this year as it ever has been.  As of April, we’ve recovered the 14 plays that were taken away from each game last year.  That will mean we get to see more late-game rallies and more football generally.  Coverage of games continues to be broadened so that a fan almost has to discipline himself to keep from overdosing on the game throughout the week.  College football fans everywhere now have a fresh 0-0 start for their favorite teams.  It will be quite the roller coaster ride between now and January.

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