Thursday, August 31, 2006

Here's another piece by our resident college football guru PT.
And To Think I Actually Used To Enjoy the Hype

I have spent the past two weeks in Austin without cable, and, on the surface, this period seemed Lenten in terms of its meaningful sacrifices. I mean, I had a schedule similar to many sports enthusiasts, I am sure: ESPNews in the early afternoon, Around the Horn at 4 (begrudgingly), PTI at 4:30 (I was kinda getting used to Dan LeBatard, actually), Sportscenter at 5, then a nightcap of Baseball Tonight whenever it came on, be it 9, 10, or 11. All times Central.


I could recite quotes from Bill Parcells on T.O. and Barbaro’s trainer on his (its?) progress. I knew that ESPN Mobile was now affiliated with Sprint. I knew that there was an unusually long baseball series played in Boston against an archrival. And I knew that Notre Dame was fielding a halfway-decent football team this year.

The equine Terry Schiavo

From what I’ve been able to piece together from radar blips of stolen wireless internet, the sports doldrums of August have begotten a college hype-fest that dwarfs the painful coverage of USC last August through January. In retrospect, last college football season was just one four-month College Gameday outside of the Rose Bowl. We knew which teams would be playing for the Waterford crystal. Thus, ESPN’s relatively tame coverage of Leinart, Bush, and Frostee seemed warranted; any information garnered on a week-to-week basis legitimately affected who’d be remembered as champs.

Yep, all three victims are punking you. Silly Frostee… you’re just Fulmer Cup points to me.

This year couldn’t be more different. I can’t remember the last time there wasn’t a consensus preseason #1, or at least one decidedly superior to #2 on paper. 2003 had Oklahoma. 2001-02 had Miami. 1999-2000, Florida State. This season, it seems as if you could crown any team in the preseason and then spend the next hour convincing yourself they’re not worthy. I’ve already delved through the strengths and weaknesses of every top-15 team (a line had to be drawn at some point)—no team stands out in anyone’s preseason poll.

Which begs the question…

Why isn’t ESPN doing its job?

The Worldwide Leader could be spending the two weeks leading up to kickoff (August 31, South Carolina at Mississippi State, 6:45, only on ESPN!) giving a ten-to-fifteen-minute preview of each contender on Sportscenter, My Wish-style. And, for all I know, that’s what they’ve been doing, but something tells me otherwise. Instead, college football has become less about the sport, more about the individual team for ESPN. This year, there’s no individual team that’s a surefire lock for booking club seats at the Pink Taco in January… so ESPN has just gone ahead and anointed the one with the most marketable fanbase as its Champion. And they’re going to embarrass themselves in the process.

Notre Dame isn’t the best team in the country, and they’re pushing their luck as a top-ten team to boot. They field one recruiting class that broke any mainstream recruiting guru’s top ten. There’s a formidable passing game with Quinn and Samardzija, no doubt, but there’s not much security in, say, thirty points with this defensive backfield. They were torched for three quarters last year in Tempe by a squad that represented how much further they have to go in terms of team speed. Neither line is that solid, and no definable rushing game has been established under Weis.

Jeff, you’re the first white wide receiver in a long time I genuinely dislike.

Additionally, the Irish aren’t helping themselves when it comes to scheduling. Winning in Atlanta then against Michigan at home in a week seems downright impossible to me. I’m guessing they eke out a win at Georgia Tech, then lose a close one to Michigan in South Bend. People forget how predictably unpredictable the Michigan game has been the past ten years. Also, Notre Dame, you have to travel to Los Angeles and beat USC to maintain a title run. That’s one of the last games of the season, if not the last, and its timing would eliminate any Notre Dame biases over similar one-loss teams (there will be plenty).

The Weis Era is no different from the Willingham Era at this point, either. Willingham actually managed to go 8-0 his first year with slower athletes… I can only imagine what the new ESPN would think of Notre Dame’s chances at a 2001 title.

“You play… to win… the game.” Oh, wait, that was the other one.

I’m predicting a 10-3 season for the Irish, two regular season losses and another BCS disappointment. If Weis keeps the Irish in the top ten every season (read: don’t lose more than three games), he’ll continue to land top-ten recruits and establish team speed necessary for conceptions of a title run. Then again, scheduling nightmarish non-Independent games isn’t very conducive. Notre Dame’s bravado might be its undoing yet again.

1 comment:

mikeyanagita said...

nice work. I'm with you on your comments on ESPN's love for Notre Dame. And did you really "predict" ND's win against GT?