Posted: Wednesday August 31, 2005 11:19AM; Updated: Wednesday August 31, 2005 12:43PM
Would you rather watch college football ...
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
... or a bunch of horses?
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Do you realize it is no longer possible to write a single, published sentence without it offending someone, somewhere? I came to this conclusion after last week's Mailbag -- by any reasonable standard, a rather innocuous, controversy-free column -- managed to garner impassioned, angry e-mails from a veritable potpourri of constituents. Among the offended:
Syracuse fans. Some did not take too kindly to my characterization of the Orange as a "perennial 6-6 football team that plays its games in a garage," despite the fact the 'Cuse has gone 6-6 the past two seasons (and 4-8 the year before that) and does in fact play its games inside a garage (albeit a slightly more charming garage than, say, the Metrodome or Superdome). This of course elicited all kinds of unsolicited history lessons about Jim Brown, Don McPherson, etc., etc., all of whom I'm well aware of, but -- sorry to be the one to tell you this, guys -- they carry about as much relevance to today's typical 17-year-old recruit as a Sony WalkMan.
Horse racing fans. One innocent, little line that said I was looking forward to Saturday's Boise State-Georgia game far more than the races ESPN was broadcasting last Saturday afternoon elicited all kinds of outrage from the horse-racing community, their proponents telling me, "I'd rather read the Racing Form than your trashy column" (which, of course, begs the question, "Then why are you reading it?") and "give me a losing day at a lower-tier track over free tickets and accommodations to the Super Bowl" (which is certainly Cathy of Midway Park's prerogative, but I never said anything about the Super Bowl -- we're talking Boise State-Georgia here!).
Auburn fans. I know what you're thinking -- ticked-off Auburn fans, what else is new, right? Tigers fans didn't take kindly to the fact I neglected to mention Terry Bowden's 11-0 1993 team as an example of successful first-year SEC coaches, which was particularly startling to me seeing as I was under the impression most Auburn fans have gone to great lengths not to be reminded of Terry Bowden.
It should be noted that much of this seemingly excessive outrage can be attributed to the fact that many of this column's readers have had way too much time on their hands the past eight months, all of which is about to change this weekend. We're finally kicking things off for real, which inevitably means that half of the nation's teams are about to lose a football game, which means by this time next week, at least those teams' fans will have something legitimate to complain about.
Since nearly every sports analyst is almost assuring us that USC will three-peat, can you offer your reason why you think USC and Ohio State will meet for the title? --Michael, Baton Rouge, La.
I actually don't hear a whole lot of analysts "assuring" anyone that USC will win the national title again. I think we all agree the Trojans unquestionably are the nation's most talented team. But they, like everyone else, have their share of question marks, and it may take just one lousy week to derail a title pursuit. You won't see too many people, however, myself included, going out on a limb and picking someone else No. 1 because, quite frankly, there's no one else I feel that strongly about. USC is the only team, after looking at its schedule, I can foresee going undefeated, and even if the Trojans do lose once, it likely will be early enough (either Sept. 24 at Oregon or Oct. 1 at Arizona State) that they could still rise back up to No. 1 or 2.
As for the other side of the equation, there are eight teams -- Texas, Tennessee, Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, Miami, LSU and Iowa -- that I see as being on roughly the same footing. Of those, however, the Buckeyes are the only ones who possess all of the key ingredients I feel are necessary for a title run: veteran offensive and defensive lines (OSU trots out four returning starters on the O-line, three on the D-line), gamebreakers on both sides of the ball (Ted Ginn Jr. and Santonio Holmes on offense, A.J. Hawk and Donte Whitner on defense) and, perhaps most important of all, a favorable schedule (only four road games all season, the first three of which are against Penn State, Indiana and Minnesota).
All of this is moot, of course, because inevitably either USC or Ohio State will lose at least four games to make me look stupid, and, as has been the case almost every year recently, a team from the preseason low teens or 20s will rise up and contend for the national title. So, I'd probably be just as well off dismissing logic altogether and throwing darts. How about Iowa vs. Texas A&M?