If you’ve ever taken the time to sit and watch a Real Housewives of – show you know that the drama can at times be seemingly organic (see: New Jersey) or even more fabricated than typical reality programming (see: DC). Sometimes you’re sitting there watching a physical altercation that can’t possibly be fake. Other times you’re watching as show producers are almost on screen coaching these “real” housewives through what drama filled situation they’re supposed to be in this week. Week 3 in college football was very much the same. At times you had legitimate drama (Navy-SC, WVU-Maryland and Penn State-Temple come to mind) that showed how very real the on-field game-by-game stakes can be in college football. At other times you watched as people made an issue over Stanford’s “lackluster” 37-10 win over Arizona and subsequently panicked about conference realignment possibilities that mostly wound up being for naught. Such is the life in college football in 2011, where drama can be as real as actual on-field results and as fake as the Pac-16 and a Big East/Big XII merger. And while I’ll freely admit that I found myself playing out the many conference realignment possibilities in my head (begrudgingly), I would never knock an Andrew Luck stat line that included 325 yards passing and a 2:0 touchdown to interception ratio. In light of that, I’ll try to leave out the extraneous stuff as much as possible, while analyzing the on-field results that make us care about any of it in the first place. Without further ado, here’s what I took away from week 3:
- While Maryland and Navy should be upset over missing out on season changing wins this past weekend, it’s Temple who missed out on a program changing win. For the better part of its long history Temple has been mediocre at best, and down right lousy at worst. The bottoming out came in the early to mid 2000s when the Owls were booted from a lackluster Big East, took on a schedule as an independent that would have given most programs fits (they finished 0-11 in 2005) and transitioned into a new conference (MAC) that largely sucked/s. For a period people were wondering if this small Philadelphia based private school would last in Division IA football for much longer. Then, Temple began one of the best turnarounds of the last 30 or so years. Under Al Golden (now a first year coach at Miami) Temple improved from 1 win in 2006 to a 9-4 record in 2009 that earned them their first bowl bid in 30 years. After finishing 2010 with an 8-4 record (that would have fetched most teams a bowl bid), Temple seems poised to continue its string of success. That success now includes two close losses to the state of Pennsylvania’s resident Big 10 bully, Penn State, a school and team that is the antithesis of Temple. A win over the Nittany Lions would have brought the team full circle from its halcyon days in the 70s, when they stood toe to toe with teams like West Virginia, Syracuse and Cincinnati. Still, while they’ll have to wait at least one year for another shot at PSU, they won’t have to wait long to try for that signature win; they go to Maryland this Saturday for a 12:30 kickoff.
- Oklahoma’s win over Florida State on Saturday was big for obvious reasons. They knocked off a Top-5 opponent, on the road in a big out of conference match up that most teams are afraid to schedule. The game was important though from a much more subtle perspective. Bob Stoops has spent the better part of the last 5 or 6 years defending his “big game Bob” moniker. He rightfully earned that nickname by winning a national title in 2000 and handling Texas in the early part of the last decade. But the story since 2005 has been a far different one. Since that year Texas has beaten the Sooners in 4 out of 6 match ups. We also saw Stoops lose most of his big bowl game opportunities (including the ’08 National Championship) highlighted by Boise State’s signature Fiesta Bowl victory in 2007. If the sooners were going to realistically compete and put themselves in the right mind set for a national title run in 2011, then needed this win. That it wasn’t a blow out actually made it better for the Sooners. They proved to themselves that they can play in a consistently hostile environment while battling adversity in a close contest that the Seminoles could very well have pulled out. Blowouts in a game like this can make a team feel too comfortable this early in the season. By winning a tough and tight contest the Sooners have a mental edge over other squads that haven’t had to prove themselves that way. It’s the same kind of win teams like Texas, Ohio State, and Alabama have recently gotten on their way to the national title game, and it will serve Oklahoma well down the stretch.
- I won’t spend much time on the conference realignment stuff until there’s more tangible movement, but I will say this: if there was ever a reason to disband the NCAA and start over again with a new oversight organization this is it. Actually, if there was ever a reason to disband the NCAA, it’s the Taylor Branch article that was recently published in The Atlantic magazine (titled “The Shame of College Sports”). Still, if there was a second reason to disband the NCAA it is the shameless, greed infused jockeying that the many conferences and college football superpowers went through in the past few weeks. I understand the desire of some conferences to at times add or drop athletic programs that they don’t think fit within in the context of what they’re doing athletically (Temple in the Big East was a good example of this). Still, to sit there and almost blow up two conferences in the name of building three super conferences just exposes the true objectives of most college athletic departments. That there aren’t any NCAA rules to stop it just goes to show you where that organization’s true focus is; lamely calling out minor infractions so as not to truly upset their bread winning conferences as they rake in money they really have no right to. Branch expounds upon all of these things in his expose in a much better way than I ever could, but in my opinion what we just witnessed makes overhauling the NCAA even more urgent and necessary.
- Finally; Andrew Luck. Sit back for a moment and think about what Andrew Luck means right now in the context of the game of football. For parents with budding quarterback tots he defines what they want their child to be; a smart and talented athlete dedicated to finishing out his degree at a prestigious university prior to making it big in the pros. To NFL teams he could be the greatest quarterback prospect since John Elway in the early 1980s, as close to a sure thing at the game’s most important position as it gets. To colleges he is something to be both revered and feared, at least if you have to play him this season. All those superlatives speak of great potential…and reek of far to great expectations. His hype coming into this season has been overwhelming for a young man trying to reproduce the greatest season in Stanford’s history…which he was the catalyst for less than a year ago! That we sit here and pick apart a game 3 performance that most college teams (or pro, or high school, or pee wee, or CFL teams…) would kill for is just the slanted exclamation point on all the pre mature proclamations of football immortality. The point is this; as great as Andrew Luck is at the college level (and leading Stanford to a 12-1 record is nothing short of greatness) we need to stop all of the crazy expectations. Sit back and enjoy him at Stanford for the remaining 10 or 11 games that he’ll be there, and save the over hype for later.
Two big games that you will not miss hearing about this weekend are West Virginia-LSU and Arkansas Alabama. Here are some others flying under the radar that could be huge in a conference title or the national championship picture, or both. Oklahoma State-Texas A&M; a Big XII game that will position the winner to challenge Oklahoma for the conference title and maybe a spot in the national championship game. You can’t sleep on Baylor or Texas in this league, but these two were the most hyped coming in to the season and so far have lived up to expectations. Look for a shootout. Clemson-Florida State; will the Seminoles rebound after that exhausting loss? I think so. Clemson has been a high powered force this year, ending Auburn’s nation leading winning streak last week. Still, Clemson seems to always falter in these games and until they prove otherwise I’ll go with the FSU. Sneaky stat here; FSU hasn’t won in Clemson in their past three tries. San Diego State-Michigan; This is Brady Hoke’s first time playing his former school, where he brought a bowl win last season for the first time since 1969. SDSU has looked great against decent competition, using the talents of Hoke’s recruits to jump to a 3-0 start. I expect them to be excited in the Big House but I don’t they have the talent to contain Denard Robinson. Still, expect a close loss.
That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for; “Remember back in April when I talked about Boston imploding after an 0-5 start? That was at the beginning of the season, it may cease to exist after their current collapse,” “One more game to watch this weekend: Whichever game FIU’s involved in. That team is 3-0 somehow after beating UCF and Louisville. They had their first winning season and bowl game last year and didn’t even have football before 2002 (like, at all). So long as they’re undefeated, they’re the most intriguing story in all of college football this season.”