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Feast, Not Famine: Do You Believe In (College Football) Miracles?
September 5, 2010  | By Gerald Jordan
 

Arkansas-ryan-mallett_1_2.jpgBurp.

Goodness! Pardon me. Did Thanksgiving come early? Even Canadian T-day?

The feast has been on since Thursday night, and college football fans across the land have been stuffing themselves with a cable TV cornucopia of football from colleges large and small, prominent and obscure (how else can Elon be described?).

This time of year is precious if you care anything about college football. And notice the repeated adjective -- college.

Those who play football on Sundays in the National Football League are professionals. They're the best of the best, which in simple terms means that they're so big, fast and strong -- even on the least accomplished NFL teams -- that the game moves at a pace that's often too hard to fathom.

The college game is different. True, there are scores of NFL players-in-waiting in academic citadels whose athletic departments are much better known than their arts & sciences colleges. But because several hundred schools field football teams (the top-ranked Division I has about 120 teams), the skills vary vastly. And that drives the fun.

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College football audiences can see the disparity in talent from the teams that earn New Year's Day bowl bids and those whose story is wrapped in obscurity. And that's why college football, notably the season kickoff, is so entertaining. On this first weekend of the season, many viewers likely will see those Davids cast off their obscurity for just a few hours to take on the Bowl Championship Series-bound Goliaths.

For just a few hours, teams will meet on the cliched "level playing field." After all, if a coach tells a team that they can shock the world by beating (fill in the blank with your favorite big-time team), the field has to be level. How else could Jacksonville State beat Mississippi in double-overtime?

Some sports experts criticize college football schedules that put so-called "cream puffs" on the schedules of monstrously good teams. But is that any worse than following the dictum that "Life is short; eat dessert first"? To those who don't want to see Ohio State beat Marshall or Florida whip Miami of Ohio, or other similarly mismatched teams, well, you may eat cake. (It's difficult to muster the appropriate righteous indignation when ESPN scrolls a score across the bottom of the TV screen: Oregon 72, New Mexico 0).

But miracles happen. Ask newcomer Coach Turner Gill at Kansas. North Dakota State is a team you schedule to guarantee the visitors bigger gate receipts than they can muster in their small, home stadium, and to guarantee your team a 'W.' NDSU 6, Kansas 3. Ooops.

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And it is precisely that "they don't have a chance" conventional thinking which vaulted Boise State to national prominence. In the last decade, the Mustangs have emerged from Rocky Mountain obscurity to flim-flamming the Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl on a Statue of Liberty play a couple of years back. Now Boise is ranked No. 3 in the nation and will face No. 10 Virginia Tech at 8 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN in the concluding game of this delicious Labor Day weekend feast.

Think about it. This is the only weekend of the season when fans will be able to watch Ohio State on a Thursday night, or see Arizona play at Toledo (the Wildcats wouldn't dare show up in northern Ohio in November!).

And this kickoff weekend has all the hopes and excitement that have built over weeks of two-a-day practices, supported by all the dreams of winning a championship. For a weekend, with every team going into the stadium undefeated, the playing field is level. What more could a college football fan want?

 
 
 
 
 
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