Why college ball rules, another Crush e-mail and more
Posted: Wednesday August 30, 2006 12:57PM; Updated: Thursday August 31, 2006 8:55PM
You won't see Chief Osceola and Renegade at a professional football game.
Paul Chapman/US Presswire
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It occurred to me this week that college football is one of the only sports that doesn't have some sort of season kickoff extravaganza/spectacle, like college basketball's Midnight Madness, the NFL's annual Bon Jovi or Sheryl Crow concert, baseball's Opening Day festivities and hockey's ... actually, it's usually weeks before I realize the hockey season has started. Anyway, I'm instituting my own.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby proclaim this to be the Mailbag's first College Football Appreciation Week, as inspired by this question from Steve Ulrey of Nashville:
You made a reference in the most recent Mailbag to the "vastly inferior NFL," an opinion I happen to share. There has been a lot of debate on sports talk radio here in Nashville lately about which is better, college football or the NFL. Could you please share your reasons?
1) Fight songs performed by actual, live bands and written prior to 2003.
2) Tailgating at The Grove rather than some municipal parking lot.
3) Cheerleaders without silicone.
4) Stadiums without retractable roofs.
5) Players who actually make mistakes sometimes.
6) Star players who actually care about practices.
7) Coaches who actually talk about things other than safety blitzes from time to time.
8) Coaches who go for it on fourth-and-2.
9) Rivals that only play each other once a year.
10) Teams that still run the option.
11) Mobile quarterbacks who are actually allowed to run.
13) Students who dress up to go to the games.
14) Students who can roll out of bed and walk to the stadium.
15) Games with national-title implications in September.
16) Games with national-title implications in October.
17) Bear Bryant barking from a JumboTron seconds before Alabama takes the field.
18) A Seminole on a horse riding to midfield and throwing a flaming spear.
19) The Vol Walk, The Tiger Walk, the Dawg Walk, et al.
20) Every other tradition at every other school I haven't already mentioned.
It seems like every year a Big Ten team from the lower echelon ends up fighting for the league title. Is there any such team that could put a decent season together and beat Ohio State or Michigan? --Larry Hammons II, Sylvania, Ohio
That team, this year, is Michigan State. I realize it's a risky thing to say, what with the Spartans' long and illustrious history of choke-jobs, but there are several reasons to believe this could be the Spartans' year. First of all, Drew Stanton is still Drew Stanton. He fell off the map the second half of last season when he and his team imploded, but few people realize he was hurt so badly down the stretch that he was barely practicing. The guy is a phenomenal, dual-threat QB whose supporting cast -- led by sophomore running back Javon Ringer -- should be a lot stronger this year.
Obviously, offense wasn't the cause of MSU's undoing last season. That would be their dreadful defense and special teams. In an effort to upgrade the defense, the Spartans have plugged three juco transfers into the starting lineup -- strong safety Nehemiah Warrick (who observers believe will be an All-Big Ten type player) and D-linemen Ervin Baldwin and Ogemdi Nwagbuo. The most important newcomer, however, may be freshman kicker Brett Swenson, who, if he hits just half his field goals, will already be a dramatic improvement over the Spartans' 5-of-16 performance last season.
Will a receiver who doesn't return kicks and punts ever win the Heisman? If Larry Fitzgerald didn't win it with the year he had for Pittsburgh in 2003 then I don't see how many would have a shot. --Eric Howard, Pittsburgh
It's true Fitzgerald had about as productive a season as a receiver could possibly have (92 catches, 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns), but he made two costly mistakes: a) He flopped in the one game when most voters were watching (a nationally televised season finale against Miami on Thanksgiving weekend); and b) He played for Pitt. Now don't get on my case, Panthers fans, I'm just stating the obvious -- nearly every Heisman winner this decade has played for a big-name, BCS-contending team and saved his best performances for the big, nationally televised games.
So, is it impossible for a true receiver to win the Heisman? No. This season, USC's Dwayne Jarrett and Notre Dame's Jeff Samardzija fit the profile perfectly. Of course, that brings up another Heisman truism, which is the long-time bias toward quarterbacks. If those two have huge years, one can safely surmise that their QBs, John David Booty and Brady Quinn, will have huge years, too, and, being as they are the quarterbacks for USC or Notre Dame, get automatically handed the Heisman if they reach a certain statistical threshold. So in conclusion, a receiver's best chance is to play for a big-name, national title contender, perform well in big games ... and have their quarterback get hurt halfway through the year.