Above, Deshaun Watson has led 13-0 Clemson to a No. 1 ranking this season. At right, even Herschel Walker (34) and defending national champ Georgia were no match for the 1981 Tigers during their own national title run.
It remains the best sport to me.
The most fun, the most aesthetically pleasing, the most passionately followed for the goings on between the lines, not the betting lines.
Yet, somehow, in some way, college football is just not what it was for yours truly. Thirty years ago. Twenty years ago. Heck, five years ago.
Perhaps too much has changed in too short a time period.
Maybe all the continental shifting of conferences, the coaching hires and fires, the increasing number of transfers and early entries into the draft, the never-ending array of retina-bleeding uniforms created first by Oregon but now seemingly by countless teams across the country, has watered down the product or made it too confusing for an aging mind to follow.
Whatever the reason, or reasons, the sport, while still great, lacks what it seemed to have before.
Rivalries built on regional proximity, not sky-rocketing budgets.
Traditions built on history, not sneaker company-driven heresy.
Legends built on performance, not public relations campaigns.
Funny thing is, you’d figure the creation of a playoff system at the sport’s highest level – the Football Bowl Subdivision – would be the one shining symbol of improvement, the oasis to take old-timers, or middle-timers such as myself into a nice, cozy landing spot so we could maintain some semblance of that “happy place” we long associated with following the sport.
But, really, honestly, it’s been kind of a letdown. Like watching your team line up to go for it on fourth-and-1 during a crucial part of a game … only to realize it did so merely in a futile attempt to draw the defense offside in order to gain a first down by penalty.
The inaugural foursome of eventual champ Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State and Oregon certainly carried some street cred. But the games were nothing special, aside from awakening the rest of the nation to what Ohio State fans already knew about running back Ezekiel Elliott.
In Year 2 of the College Football Playoff, we actually have the classic David vs. Goliath scenarios set up in the semifinals. Nothing against Clemson or Michigan State, especially since they’re two of my favorite programs and have been for quite some time, but they don’t carry the same cachet as Oklahoma or Alabama – regardless of what the rankings say.
With that, it seems like it should be easy for an underdog lover to get on board and really be excited about what awaits on New Year’s Eve, and, hopefully, by then some of us get there. But, right now, meh.
It’s almost alarming. Wanted to go to Clemson. Love the school, even the school colors – yep, actually quite good with mixing orange with purple, or orange with anything, really. The state (South Carolina) is cool. The town is cute. The campus is gorgeous. The football stadium is spectacular, especially if you like that looking down from the heavens view.
Have followed the Tigers grid program since the days of Steve Fuller in the mid- to late-1970s. Watched Ohio State coach Woody Hayes uppercut a Clemson linebacker after the youngster intercepted a Buckeyes pass attempt to secure the 1978 Gator Bowl for the Tigers, and a victory for Danny Ford in his first game as their head coach. Three years later Ford was putting the finishing touches on a 12-0 season with a 22-15 victory Orange Bowl win against Nebraska to seal Clemson’s first and, so far, only national championship.
Remember watching some great players, such as Terry Kinard, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Levon Kirkland and C.J. Spiller perform. Heck, even my second favorite player of all time for the Eagles, Brian Dawkins, starred there before truly blossoming in Philadelphia.
So, a connection … it’s there. With Clemson, no question, and, really, with Michigan State, too. Even admire the coaches for both programs as well.
But the interest in general, right now, is not … at least not what it should be, for the sport or its featured event.
- Jack Kerwin | email@example.com
AAC ... ouch Arguably the biggest story this side of the power-5 outlets, the American Athletic Conference made major headway on the national scene during the regular season, having four teams earn spots in the top 25 at one point or another, three get off to 7-0 starts and one 10-0. An amazing eight member schools received bowl bids. Then the bowl season started, and, uhh … let’s just say the good words haven’t been spread any further. The circuit took an 0-for through the first five bowls its teams competed in before Navy finally got the AAC off the schneid with a convincing 44-28 victory against Pittsburgh of the ACC Monday afternoon in the Military Bowl. Memphis gets next crack at trying to wipe a little egg off the conference’s face, squaring off with SEC member Auburn in Wednesday’s Birmingham Bowl before AAC champ Houston takes on ACC member Florida State in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
Win bowl, remain a loser In direct contrast to the AAC’s plight, the Big Ten got even more of a boost to its already booming reputation this season as two of its 5-7 teams, Nebraska and Minnesota, not only got bowl bids, but actually showed up and won the damn games, looking pretty good in the process. Not sure how UCLA and Central Michigan try to sell the positives to their administrations and fan bases of going bowling and falling to teams that still have losing records, but, hey, this is the college football world we live in anymore.
Back on track A couple years ago, Jeff Driskell appeared to be another highly touted high school player who somehow played himself out of the spotlight in college. But after bailing on Florida and the sinking ship run by then-Gators coach Will Muschamp, the youngster resurfaced at Louisiana Tech, played well during the season and then just absolutely lit it up in the New Orleans Bowl, throwing for 458 yards and three TDs in a blowout win against Arkansas State to play himself right back into the minds of NFL personnel peeps. Strength in numbers As good as the College Football Playoff semifinals hopefully will be on New Year’s Eve, they still might pale in comparison to the gridiron excellence likely to surface the next day as five bowls will take place with all ranked teams: No. 13 Northwestern vs. No. 23 Tennessee in the Outback Bowl, No. 14 Michigan vs. No. 19 Florida in the Citrus Bowl, No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 8 Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, No. 5 Iowa vs. No. 6 Stanford in the Rose Bowl, and No. 12 Ole Miss vs. No. 16 Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl.