Dear Clemson, You know I don’t like writing these letters right? Really, I hate seeing teams like you lose. See, I would much rather have 15 teams finish undefeated and cause every college football fan to collectively lose their BCS related shit over this convoluted system we’re subjected to each year. But no. You, like Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Michigan and Oklahoma before you (and Kansas State with you…), decided you just couldn’t keep winning anymore. You had to take a loss, and pretty much guarantee yourself out of the national title picture entirely. Granted either you or Georgia Tech would’ve had to lose eventually (you know, because you just played each other and everything) but at least one of you could’ve kept this interesting long into December and January. Now I’m stuck rooting for Stanford (we’ll get to you Andrew Luck), Oklahoma State (god help me), Boise and Houston (this isn’t actually a serious statement…) to all win out (mind you, with pretty much all of their toughest games left in front of them) so that we can properly start reigning down holy flames of blog related fire on some BCS ass (holes). Unfortunately, this is now like occupying BCS Street for the rest of the regular season with half a veggie sprouts sandwich, a teaspoon of petrulli oil and a stack of newspapers to sleep under. Don’t believe me? Let me walk you (and the other slackers) through what you’ve left BCS haters with:
Oklahoma State: This program may or may not be the biggest red headed step child in college football…and no, that is not a jab at Brandon Wheeden. They constantly live in the shadow of one of the 5 most successful college football programs ever and have spent decades trying to compete in a relatively barren state when it comes to recruiting (even many of Oklahoma’s players come from Texas). The few times OSU held the national spotlight over the Sooners they’ve routinely blown it (including Barry Sander’s Heisman Trophy winning season and the 2009 and 2010 seasons), and have generally just existed in a consistent malaise of mediocrity. But over the past six or seven seasons the Cowboys have steadily improved under Mike “I’m A MAN, I’m 40!” Gundy and worked themselves into national title contenders. This has culminated in an 8-0 start to this season where they’ve dismantled most everyone. With Kansas State (I can’t emphasis the O in Overrated enough), Texas Tech and Iowa State left before their game with the Sooners they should (I can’t italicize should enough) be 11-0 heading into a game that only back woods ancestors of the “Trail of Tears” could seriously coin as “Bedlam” (which, of course, they did). That the rivalry hasn’t exactly been close pretty much goes without saying. OSU last won in 2002 (prior to Gundy) and has watched their many disappointing campaigns symbolically culminate in a loss in this game. That OSU will probably have an undefeated season, first Big XII Championship and first spot in a national title game on the line here just makes the nervousness in Stillwater that much more palpable.
Boise State: If I thought these guys actually had a legitimate shot at making the title game I’d be a lot happier with our group of BCS f***ers. Out of all of the teams here I have the most confidence in Boise to go up against LSBama and knock either one off their lofty perch. Boise’s entire history has been filled with success. Since moving up to Divison I they’ve had two losing seasons, and both of them came when they first became and FBS team in 1996 and 1997. Since then? 140-26. I can say with 99% certainty that no other team has done that in the same time frame. When you consider that this team has only been in the NCAA since 1969 and only in Division I at any level since 1978 the success becomes even more astonishing. I have no doubt these guys could compete in a BCS national championship game if given the opportunity. Considering their pedigree and basic inability to lose (as compared to all of the others here…), they’re actually the team most suited to really shaking things up and ending the nauseating SEC dominance. Too bad they won’t get a shot.
Houston: Just stop.
Stanford: I saved Stanford for last because out of all of these teams (yes, even Houston) they were the farthest away from this point 3 seasons ago. Remember last week when I said that prior to last year making a bowl game at Stanford was a big deal? I wasn’t kidding. The Cardinal spent the better part of the aughts bottom feeding in a top heavy Pac-10 and only remained relevant by occasionally paying ESPN to play the “trumpet player game” (which they lost…) as a random highlight. Now? They’ve gone 28-6 since the beginning of 2009 and won a BCS Bowl game by like 50 points. That’s downright impressive for the Cardinal. It’s also ridiculously rarified air for this program.
No program in recent memory has quite done what the Cardinal have done since the start of 2009. Sure we’ve had some very interesting teams seemingly come out of nowhere. Cincinnati had that cool two year run under Brian Kelly (remember 13-0?!). Kansas inexplicably went 12-1 a few years back. Michigan State’s 11-2 season last year was pretty out of the ordinary. Hawaii made a BCS Bowl in 2006 (Colt Brennan anyone?). Texas Tech had the Michael Crabtree year (goddamnit…). All those teams had the same things in common. They were generally terrible to decent football programs that broke through for one truly magical year where everyone in the country stopped and said, “what in the f*** is going on?!” The closest doppleganger for the Cardinal though isn’t any of the above. It’s 2006 Rutgers.
For people not from the Tri State area (or the Northeast for that matter) 2006 Rutgers was a really big deal. It was a relevant college football team from a place whose most significant college football moment before that had been Donovan McNabb’s senior year at Syracuse. Rutgers rose to 9-0 and number 7 in the country before inexplicably dropping a 30-11 decision to a decent 8-5 Cincy squad led by Mark Dantonio. They’d still finish 11-2, barely losing the Big East Championship to West Virginia in an epic 41-39 triple OT season finale before winning their first bowl game ever (seriously). Prior to the game, Rutgers’ had been around forever (the first somewhat modern football game was played there in the 1800s) and yet never done anything even remotely remarkable besides be a doormat for some great Big East teams (which has pretty much been the case with Stanford for decades). That year they quietly gained national title game talk out of seemingly nowhere before settling down a bit and having a historic year. So really they’re a good doppleganger for 2010 Stanford. 2011 Stanford? We’re kind of in uncharted waters here…
For one thing Stanford won that BCS Bowl Game last year (something only Kansas, out of the schools above, can say). For another they kept the party going. All of these other schools had let downs following their golden year or two. And while most of them didn’t completely fall off the map, none of them got to 8-0 the next season, or number 4 in the country, or had anyone remotely like Andrew Luck. It’s what sets Stanford apart from all of them, but also makes Stanford an unlikely candidate to keep it all going and wreak some havoc on the system. This is not typical Stanford territory and like the schools before it we have no idea how much the team can handle.
Last year they lost their one game pretty early on to Oregon and from there somewhat understatedly got to 12-1. Sure everyone was freaking out about Andrew Luck but the limited west coast college football media attention was almost wholly focused on whether Oregon could actually stay undefeated and then compete in the national championship game (which they did, admirably). Now Stanford is dealing with mounting pressure and an undefeated campaign that has to get through four more regular season games (including Oregon…) plus a first ever Pac-12 Championship Game to have any shot at the national title. Then they have to win the stupid game for anyone to actually say “oh wait, I guess one of these teams can win a national championship.” And make no mistake, Stanford is one of those (read: middle of the pack or worse) programs. Oregon could have done that last year, but they blew it to Auburn. Now it may be Stanford’s turn, and while I love Andrew Luck and the Stanford story, I’m just not sure how much faith I have. Shit, now I’m depressed.
In terms of games this week I’m just going to skip LSU-Alabama. It is the biggest regular season game of the last 5 years (Michigan-OSU in 2006 had similar hype, but for some reason isn’t being talked about at all) and has completely dwarfed the other 118 teams in the FBS. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said. With that, I’ll only say that I’m rooting for LSU. After reading the Outside The Lines piece on Les Miles this week I love the guy, which from the sound of it is pretty typical. He’s a loose coach, he runs a relatively loose program, and with the build up to this kind of game you have to have some small sense of, well, looseness. Plus, I once called Nick Saban a soulless ass. So…yeah.
There are a couple of other somewhat less small games this weekend though. Most notably…Oklahoma State-Kansas State: All that stuff I just talked about above regarding this team and breaking hearts? It could very well happen as soon as tomorrow against a Kansas State team that was thoroughly embarrassed last week. Still, something feels different about the Cowboys this year. If it’s going to end, it won’t happen here. South Carolina-Arkansas: If you BCS haters give two shits about Boise State squeaking into that national title game you will root for Arkansas (and Georgia). Damnit.
That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “I’m slipping this post in under the radar and subsequently watching Brian Wilson on College Game Day as I finish. Seriously, he should quite baseball and do this permanently. He just told Corso not to ‘point his Ticonderoga at him.’ Hilarious.”