Game Time: College Football Week 1 -- Ain't No Party Like a Boise Party
Boise State is ready to rumble
Last night, as Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore gathered the Bronco offense in the huddle to concoct one final haymaker in their prize fight with Virginia Tech, guaranteeing we were going to see some sort of fantastic finish -- either a game-winning touchdown or a game-ending stop -- oddly enough, my thoughts turned to Stripes.
Yes, the classic Bill Murray joint. Those who have seen it know that Stripes is probably best known for three things:
1. The public unveiling of the "Aunt Jemima treatment"
2. The first viewing of a nude shower scene for most males now aged 40-44 (admittedly, Porky's is a possibility for this also)
Rice Owls Football vs. Southern Miss
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3. Chasing perhaps the most quotable, side-splittingly funny first 75 minutes of a movie with a decidedly head-scratching, unfunny last 30 minutes. (For those of you under the age of 30, use Wedding Crashers as your example. Same phenomenon.)
And it's that third one where last night's game comes in.
In short, I was hoping that this heart-pounding opening weekend of college football wasn't the beginning of a set up for a Stripes-esque November, December and bowl season.
Because make no mistake, this was a GREAT weekend of college football, opening or otherwise.
Sure, there was the storyline of the first games of the Landry Jones, Garrett Gilbert and Jon Brantley Eras, all three leading the way in winning efforts that ranged from boring (Florida) to somewhat alarming (OU), although I do like the suspense that Florida has added to the snap from center, not knowing whether it will roll through Brantley's legs or hit the tuba player in the third row. Nice touch.
And there was LSU and Les Miles, treating prosperity like a case of herpes, up 30-10 at halftime before practically allowing a North Carolina team who was about five more suspended players away from having to borrow from the women's soccer team to come within a dropped fourth-down pass of winning the game. The scoreboard says LSU won the game. The big picture says Les Miles is still their coach.
But as you assess the weekend that was, think about these games:
- Jacksonville State's improbable comeback, down 34-13 before going to two overtimes and converting a two-point conversion to beat Ole Miss, 49-48 (karma police out in full force for Jeremiah Masoli's Rebel debut)
- Notre Dame and Michigan both grinding out workmanlike home wins in games where many were picking both to lose (especially Michigan) to set up an old school "Wow, this feels important again!" game in South Bend this weekend.
- North Dakota State (who?) making Kansas coach Turner Gill the first person to long for Buffalo, knocking off the Jayhawks in Gill's KU debut, 6-3.
- Tulsa and East Carolina staging a literal instant classic (the game was on ESPN Classic Monday night) that saw roughly 52 lead changes and 100,000 yards in total offense (at least it felt that way), with the game ending on a Hail Mary touchdown pass for ECU in Ruffin McNeill's debut as Pirate head coach.
- Maryland derailing Navy's magical season before it could even get started (many experts are picking the Middies to win 10 or 11 games this season -- they have work to do now) by stopping the Midshipmen four times inside the five-yard line, including a stop of a potential game-winning run by Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs on a fourth down late in the game.
What do all of those teams in those bullet points have in common? None of them are ranked in the Top 25. Zero. And yet college football fans were riveted all weekend.
The big argument that sane people come up with against a college football playoff is that it would devalue the regular season. I don't agree, but I understand the rationale. (For the record, the argument that dishonest, insane people come up with is that the student-athletes would be away from the classroom longer.) I think Saturday (and Sunday and Monday) proved that as long as two teams hook up in a college stadium and the ball gets kicked off, there's always potential for compelling theater.
Which brings me back to Kellen Moore and Boise State, my preseason picks for the Heisman Trophy and BCS Title respectively -- not because I think either are necessarily "the best" (although both are really good), but because they each have the most "system friendly" path to their goals.
Winning the BCS title typically requires solid leadership (check), experience (Boise returns all but one starter), and most importantly a nice high ranking to start the season (Boise is finally getting some of that respect.). From there, win and win impressively. The Heisman Trophy becomes a mere byproduct for your best player.
Boise State still needs help, but history shows there's a better chance of those in front of them stumbling than their stumbling. 50-4 are the Broncos on Chris Peterson's watch, and they just passed their hardest test of the season.
From a stylistic standpoint, it couldn't have played out any better for the Broncos. They showed enough flashes of dominance in jumping out to a 17-0 lead to make them feel like an elite team, yet showed enough moxie in mounting that game-winning drive to give them a "magical" vibe (not to mention allow Moore to accumulate his first Heisman Moment of the season). That's sort of the messed-up thing about the "system" -- in a weird way, Boise State might have been better off showing off all of its wares in a close win than they would have been throttling Virginia Tech by three touchdowns.
Such is the world we live in when it comes to college football -- part gladiator arena, part beauty pageant. And Boise basically just crushed it on the swimsuit and evening gown contest, and just need to make it through the interview without cussing. If you hate the BCS versus non-BCS conference argument, you may want to go get into an NFL fantasy league or catch up on boxed sets of Dexter or take up knitting. Something.
Because there will be a lot of moving pieces these next few months in college football. Boise ain't one of them.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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