Friday, November 21, 2008

Free Kicks- Rivalry Week Edition

Okay, this is Rivalry Week in college football and it is time to gear up for who will play in the conference championships, decide who will win the Big Ten and Big East. In that spirit we have a college football themed free kicks this week to discuss football other than Maryland-FSU (I will save that for Falco this week). Personally I just hope Chris Turner doesn’t wait until 6:30 left in the 4th to start leading this team down the field. Let’s line up for the kick…

Invented Rivalries
Isn’t it funny how when teams are both successful and play each other on a generally regular basis, it all of a sudden constitutes a rivalry? Texas Tech-Oklahoma is now a rivalry. Why? Because they both play in the Big 12 South and are both still in contention for the BCS title game. To go to the NFL, Indy-New England has been considered a rivalry because they both happen to be good and have been put together on the schedule in recent years. True rivalries are bitter regardless of the circumstances. If one team is 11-0 and the other is 2-8 they still come with their highest intensity level. I don’t see Texas Tech and Oklahoma hating each other quite so much if Texas Tech was under .500. Every year we hear about a new rivalry forming, but more often than not these are just temporary shifts in the college football world when two teams are doing well and see each other regularly and will not stand the test of time. Rivalries are based on unabashed disgust with your opponent, not winning any title. The game IS the title. Oh… and Go Blue.

An Inconvenient Truth
How ugly will it be when Ball State goes undefeated and doesn’t make a BCS bowl game. Sure, their opponents are generally awful, and yes they are from the MAC, and no they do not have a history for success. I am all for blaming their AD for not scheduling tougher non-conference opponents or screaming at the university President for not “willing” the team into a major conference 75 years ago or yelling at the coach for not blowing more teams out by even more incredible margins. However, what no one seems to consider are the players. They could not do any more than they have. They were given a situation and have won every game they were give. Look, I don’t think that Ball State is anywhere near the best team in the country and they just might be whooped by a mid-level SEC team. But how do we know? Do they have an “L” anywhere in their record we can point to and be sure they would lose to anyone?

There is no reason why a team should start a season and know it has no chance whatsoever to win it all. Would anyone not give the Arizona Cardinals a shot at the playoffs because they are from the NFC West (or because they are the traditionally hapless Cardinals)? We wouldn’t even consider not letting the Celtics into the NBA playoffs because they are from the East. Likewise, while people ripped the NL West all year, all the Dodgers did was beat the heavily favored Cubs. I don’t know what playoff should be used, or how the system should be changed, but for the sake of the student-athletes they should never go undefeated and still end the season in 2nd place.

Now let’s watch Western Michigan upset Ball State and render all this moot. *Sigh*

The Best Teams No One is Talking About
This is more of a special feature than anything else. It seems like with all the focus on the big rivalry games and national title picture, I wanted to give a rundown of some teams creeping up the rankings that might-just might- be a huge threat in Bowl Season.

Michigan State (9-2): as much as it pains me to say it, this team is really good. Were it not for a beat down at the hands of Ohio State earlier this season, they would be leading the Big Ten and eyeing a Rose Bowl bid with a win over Penn State. As it is, they would need a win and a Michigan upset of the Buckeyes. Like I said, they won’t be going to Pasadena.
Oregon (8-3): the team that limped to the finish line after losing Dennis Dixon last season has found new life with 4 different quarterbacks. The team that relied on only one player last year now has had success while shuffling in players under center. Despite losing Dixon and running back Johnathan Stewart to the draft last season, this offense is still piling on the points this season.
Nebraska (7-4): great start for the Bo Pelini Era in Lincoln. Losses to Va. Tech, Missouri, Texas Tech and Oklahoma show that this team is not ready to take on the upper echelon of college football, but they haven’t lost a game they should have won, and have not been plagued with inconsistency. That is the sign of a well-coached team on the rise.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo: Al Goldis)

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