Sunday, October 14, 2007

Parity isn't just the NFL's recipe


Saturday night was a "Bar Night."

As in find a large bar with at least 31 TVs displaying multiple college football games and give your neck a workout straining to watch 14 games simultaneously — while drinking a beer and eating some chicken wings.

It's not quite heavy lifting, but it ain't exactly a relaxing night on the town either.

On this particular Saturday, the workout was well worth it. And if Saturday's results were any indication, each afternoon/night of college football the rest of this season will be just as intriguing.

OK, a quick rundown is in order:

Before Saturday's slate, the top two teams in the country were LSU and California. Ohio State was No. 3

By the end of the night, the Buckeyes were back on their 2006 regular season perch — the top spot in the country. The Tigers and Bears had both lost, but here's the caveat — neither can be ruled out of the national championship race.

LSU is ranked No. 4 in Sunday's first rendition of the BCS Standings. While Cal is a distant 12th, what's to say that 10 of the teams in front of it won't loss in the next seven weeks? Heck, just six of the preseason's top 12 remain in the current top 12. Michigan, the preseason No. 5, just returned to the No. 25 spot after four weeks in purgatory.

Any one-loss team from a major conference has a right to think it's in the national title hunt. Two weeks ago Sooners fans were devastated after an upset loss to Colorado — which began the cavalcade of surprises we've witnessed the past three weeks — dropped Oklahoma to No. 1 in the AP Top 25 and basically, they thought, out of the national title race.

Um, two Sundays later the Sooners are ranked No. 4 by the Associated Press and are No. 5 in the BCS. If they win out, I'm saying they're in the BCS title game.

As a Michigander, I have to consider where the Wolverines would be had they beaten Oregon — their second loss. If, let's hypothesize, their only loss was to Appalachian State. As crazy as this sounds, I think they'd be in the thick of this national title race called "Survivor: On college campuses nationwide."

The feel-good story of this mess is the Bulls. No, not the Chicago Bulls — although they're looking good this preseason. If you're unfamiliar with them, you need to Wikipedia the "South Florida Bulls" because they're your No. 2 team in the BCS.

Note: As much as I enjoy spewing humor out the left side of my mouth, the above is a true statement.

In the preseason, the Bulls (6-0) were ranked 35th by the AP behind teams such as Miami and Georgia Tech (4-3) and Oregon State (3-3 after its 31-28 shocker at Cal). Now they are — for the sake of redundancy and emphasis — No. 2 in the BCS as well as the AP.

In case you are wondering, South Florida had never been ranked in the BCS' top 25 before Sunday.

Not to be overlooked is Boston College, which stands at No. 3 in the BCS and No. 2 — ahead of the Bulls — in the USA Today/Coaches Poll. The Eagles (7-0) were No. 28 in the first AP poll.

Let's make this educational. Let's dissect the data, if you will:

1. In case we weren't sure, it is now quite transparent that the preseason polls (I mean lazy predictions by writers who haven't done any research) are garbage. And that's being kind. Want an example? Wisconsin was No. 7 in the AP poll back in August. After getting embarrassed 38-7 by offensively challenged Penn State Saturday, the Badgers (5-2) aren't getting any love from the voters.

2. Like in the NFL, parity now rules college football. Any team can play with any team. And I don't care if it's a Division I-AA school vs. a Super Subdivision superpower (or whatever teams are characterized these complicated days).

Two Sundays ago Michigan fans were displeased with several aspects of the Wolverines' ugly 28-16 victory over Northwestern, which just two weeks earlier had lost to dismal Duke, giving the Blue Devils their first win over a major college team in 28 tries and their first road victory since 2003.

I had a different take on the win. Yes, it was as ugly as Drew Gooden's hair puff on the back of his neck. But it was a win. Take it and move on. The past few weeks have proved that now, more than ever, no games are played before they're, err, played.

As Chris Berman might say, "That's why you play the game."

Anything — like, say, Stanford winning at mighty USC — is plausible. Powerhouse teams can no longer show up at a stadium, get dressed and go whoop their opponent. Everyone — even Florida International and its NCAA-leading 18 consecutive losses — can win any particular game.

Don't believe me? Fine. Just wait until the next David stones Goliath. It'll happen, probably sooner rather than later. In this age of reduced scholarships and kids wanting to "prove" themselves and make a name for themselves at smaller, less talent-heavy schools, upsets are inevitable.

Will we have more Saturdays like the past three, ripe with upsets galore? Maybe not. It'd be hard to facsimile the craziness we've seen.

But the esoteric will happen. I'll bet my Rolex on that. Never like before, teams need to remain level-headed. Bulls' fans should leave the goalposts alone for now. Because before they know it, they could be straddled with two losses and back out of the rankings.

Just visit a cavernous sports bar next Saturday, stretch your neck, and witness the madness.


twins15 said...

And down goes #1 South Florida! What a wild, wild college football season this has been.

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