Friday, September 14, 2007

College football Week 3 preview: Stop the booing

ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

I didn't see it live, but I sure heard about it later. And, sadly, it's not that surprising.

Not only did Michigan fans boo the Wolverines on a handful of occasions during last Saturday's 39-7 thumping at the hands of Oregon. Certain "fans" shouted obscenities at players as the student-athletes hurried into the tunnel after the game.

I don't care how badly Michigan got beat. Cursing the 18- and 19-year-olds who played their hearts out in front of 110,000 spectators is ludicrous, ridiculous... sad.

As a lifelong Ann Arbor resident and Michigan supporter, I was just as disappointed as everyone else by the duck-thrashing. Michigan's 0-2 start has been stunning, shocking, bitterly disappointing. But as I've come to grasp over the years — and, believe me, it hasn't been easy — especially at the college level, it's just a game.

I find it downright hypocritical how people can lambaste these athletes for struggling with their schoolwork (and occasionally getting into trouble off the field) and then place tremendous pressure on them before games only to rip them to shreds after a bad football game. As someone who recently graduated from college, I can't imagine trying to focus on a test or paper while being ridiculed daily by my own fans — not to mention avoiding ESPN cameras invading campus.

Of course there's the other side. Any realist knows many of these kids, who major in "General Studies," aren't exactly normal students. Any realist must admit that college football is a business, what with the shoe deals and TV contracts. All this does is put more pressure on young men at universities such as Michigan to succeed on the football field at all costs.

It's hard enough for them to try to focus on schoolwork (or, heck, enjoy their college experience) when they're thinking about their nationally televised game upcoming. And, yes, I know, that's why many of the players choose Michigan — for the bright lights, for the exposure.

But the fans — of all people — should know. The 110,000 people who pack the Big House on autumn Saturdays, many of whom (like myself) have never stepped foot on a football field, should be able to keep things in perspective.

Boo Lloyd Carr and his fellow coaches, the guys making hundreds of thousands of dollars to coach football. But don't criticize the players, and especially lay off them after a difficult afternoon on the field.

As long as they're trying their hardest — as hokey as it sounds — that's all that should matter in a fan's eye.

MY BIG TEN PICKS
Michigan 24, Notre Dame 14: Not time to start thinking bowel game, but it's a start.
No. 7 Wisconsin 38, Citadel 10: Badgers take a breath after scare last week.
Indians 27, Akron 21: Close call, but Hoosiers prevail.
Michigan State 31, Pittsburgh 13: Coming-out party for the Spartans.
Syracuse 21, Illinois 20: Sorry, Ron Zook, you haven't convinced me otherwise.
Purdue 28, Central Michigan 17: Closer than people expect.
No. 12 Penn State 49, Buffalo 3: Still waiting for the Nittany Lions to play somebody.
Minnesota 24, Florida Atlantic 10: Enjoy the winning record while it lasts, Gophers.
Iowa 27, Iowa State 14: Under-the-radar Hawkeyes make it 3-0.
No. 10 Ohio State 14, Washington 13: This will be a test for Buckeyes.
Northwest 31, Duke 13: A Duke win would be worse than Appalachian State beating Michigan.

MY TOP 25 PICKS
No. 1 USC 31, No. 14 Nebraska 21: Trojans too much for upstart Huskers.
No. 2 LSU 51, Middle Tennessee 3: Ouch!
No. 3 Oklahoma 49, Utah State 6: Sooners now get to coast until Texas.
No. 5 Florida 21, No. 22 Tennessee 17: One-loss Vols will be desperate, but Gators are a solid bunch.
No. 6 Texas 55, Central Florida 7: Horns no longer messing around with teams.
No. 8 Cal 31, Louisiana Tech 10: Not as lopsided as it should be.
No. 9 Louisville 38, Kentucky 29: This should be very entertaining (and high-scoring).
No. 11 UCLA 24, Utah 17: Bruins survive in Provo.
No. 13 Rutgers 42, Norfolk State 7: Ray Rice runs wild
No. 21 Boston College 30, No. 15 Georgia Tech 17: No one's talking about the Eagles, but they're for real.
No. 16 Arkansas 13, Alabama 10: Um, this will be a hard-hitting SEC battle.
No. 17 South Carolina 34, South Carolina State 3: The Gamecocks, riding high, keep their momentum.
No. 18 Virginia Tech 24, Ohio 3: Back on the winning track, but offense continues to struggle.
No. 19 Oregon 37, Fresno State 20: Believe it — that Ducks' offense is scary.
No. 20 Clemson 45, Furman 7: Who really cares?
No. 23 Georgia 45, Western Carolina 7: See above.
No. 24 Hawaii 45, UNLV 21: Watching Colt Brennan is always fun.
No. 25 Texas A&M 32, Louisiana-Monroe 10: Blah, blah, blah.

Enjoy the games, but cut the damn booing. Reserve that for Sunday.

I'm out. Feedback on my picks is always welcome.

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