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SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
1/08/2007 07:13:00 PM

It's Finally Here

Oakland Arena
Florida QBs Chris Leak (left) and Tim Tebow prepare to take on an opportunistic Ohio State defense.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Greetings from the National Championship Game.

Mercifully, Jan. 8 is finally here. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a wonderful time this week, as I’m sure the fans and teams have, but doesn’t it seem like this game should have been played weeks ago? Like college football season actually ended a week ago and this game is taking place in some sort of Back To The Future-like parallel season? It’s been so long since Florida or Ohio State played a football game that Bobby Petrino has actually changed jobs seven times.

As I write this, a handful of Florida players are going through warm-ups and the first fans are starting to file in to University of Phoenix Stadium. There are enough random people standing on the sideline right now to fill a whole other stadium. Let’s kick this thing off!

∙ The pregame tailgate scene at this stadium has to be one of the most unique in the country. Not only are you in the middle of the desert, but the land immediately around the venue is almost entirely undeveloped, so when we drove in this afternoon, it was literally like coming upon an oasis. Only instead of water, this oasis was filled with blond women doing gator chomps and middle-aged men in Ted Ginn Jr. jerseys.

∙ Congratulations to NCAA president Myles Brand -- this event really marks a high point for his academic reform movement. A team of student-athletes (Ohio State) that hasn’t been in class for a week is playing a “college” football game in a stadium named after a correspondence school -- and when we drove in, the Budweiser Clydsedales were strolling in front of the stadium.

∙ Interesting development regarding Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga flying to Costa Rica to meet with Pete Caroll. I can’t blame him for trying, but Carroll isn’t going anywhere, as much as people might not believe that. (Of course right now I wouldn’t blame anyone for not trusting a single thing any coach says.)

∙ From what I’ve been told, the Steve Kragthorpe-to-Louisville process is moving fairly quickly, but nothing has been finalized yet.

∙ Update: I am now standing on the sideline about 10 feet from Ohio State's receivers. As they run routes even 90 minutes before kickoff, you can feel the electricity in the stadium.

∙ That’s it for now. Look for short Blog entries at halftime and the final gun, and a full column after the game.
posted by Stewart Mandel | View comments |


Posted: 10:22 PM   by Anonymous
Take that, Kirk Herbstreit!
Posted: 10:27 PM   by Anonymous
USC and Florida State proved Ohio State and Michigan were overrated.

Who should be the National Champ? The only team left undefeated: Boise State!

Let the Playoff System begin!!!
Posted: 12:55 PM   by Walt
One of the main themes from the USC fans and alumni is that the OU and USC scandals are comparing "apples and oranges" because they are not at all alike or related.

There must be a course being taught at USC called Apples and Oranges 101 because they whined for a year when they had the same record as LSU and didn't play in the title game but it was somehow different the following year when Auburn was undefeated and USC played. Where was the outcry then?

Oh yes, back to the fruit thing...
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