SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
1/02/2007 10:29:00 PM
Ohio State-Florida Week Begins
Troy Smith will attempt to finish up Ohio State's second perfect season of the new millennium.
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- You know that feeling when you skip a party or outing you had the opportunity to attend, only to find out after the fact you missed one of the greatest bashes in human history? That’s what it was like to arrive in Phoenix the day after the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl.
The victorious Broncos left out of Sky Harbor Airport before I arrived here from L.A. on Tuesday, but they were still quite clearly the talk of the town here. On the drive from the airport to the Camelback Inn (an absolutely beautiful resort the Fiesta Bowl committee was nice enough to chose as media headquarters this week), one caller after another on the local sports-talk stations raved about the game the night before. And the moment I walked in the door here, I immediately ran into three writers who were already here who politely informed me, “You missed a heck of a game last night.”
Oh, I know. Who would have ever imagined a USC-Michigan Rose Bowl could get trumped by a game involving Boise State?
The Florida Gators arrived here Tuesday as well (their national-title foe, Ohio State, has already been here a few days). At his opening press conference, head coach Urban Meyer reluctantly admitted he fell asleep during the Fiesta Bowl. “My wife [Shelly] kept hitting me,” he said. “She said it was the greatest football game she ever saw.” Nevertheless, Meyer knew well the implications of Boise State’s victory. “The separation of BCS and non-BCS – I think that era is over,” said Meyer. “In coaching circles, everybody knew what Oklahoma was getting into. Everybody that knows football knows Boise State is an excellent team.”
Jim Tressel was asked about the Broncos at his press conference as well. Ohio State’s players actually got to attend the game while Tressel and his staff were holed up working. “[Boise’s win] is a tremendous lesson for football, for life and for everything,” said Tressel. “The game is never over, and that’s the way Boise State played. They just kept playing and playing.”
With that, both coaches headed off to practices for that little thing called the BCS National Championship Game. Ohio State is practicing at Pinnacle High School in North Phoenix, Florida at Scottsdale Community College. Starting Wednesday, there will be news conferences every day but Saturday leading up to the game. It will be interesting to see how the later game date will affect coverage around the country. On the one hand, the five-day gap between the last “regular” BCS game (the Sugar Bowl) and the title game assures the entire college football world will be transfixed on this event. On the other hand, the first weekend of the NFL playoffs take the place the two days immediately preceding the game, and I’m guessing most casual college fans will focus more on that before Monday night.
∙ There is of course one other event scheduled for Wednesday: Nick Saban’s 10 a.m. EST “stay or go” decision. Can you believe it’s come to this? One week he’s telling reporters “I’m not going to be the coach at Alabama” and that they can’t ask him about it anymore; the next he’s asking for more time to make up his mind. I honestly have no idea what he’s going to do. The only thing I’m sure of is whether he’s at Alabama or Miami in two years, we'll be going through this again. That guy is terminally discontent wherever he is.
∙ Finally, sorry to go Peter King on you for a second, but I do have an aggravating travel note to pass along. If you’re flying on the newly merged US Air/America West anytime soon, either get to the airport extremely early or don’t check a bag. It took me an hour-and-a-half – involving two different lines -- to check one bag at LAX. I guess making your airline twice as big means the customers have to wait twice as long.
I hope we have a a great game on Jan. 8 and that my Gator's come out on top. I have see all of the so called favorites from a few weeks ago fall by the wayside. Michigan getting their butts handed to them by USC was a good one. FSU whipping USC beater UCLA was another. Last night seeing Notre Dame slapped around by LSU was also a good one. Huge team speed difference was evident to me. I can only hope my Gator's give the mighty Buckeye's a game. I have read allot of blog's about Florida not deserving their shot and Urban's whining got him in. We shall see if they belonged before long. All the other slighted teams of the BCS have fallen except Boise State. Who would you pick now for the Championship game with OU? Don't say USC either.
Your new article "speed will take center stage on Monday" was pretty good overall but your SEC team comparisons of Capital One (Arkansas-Wisconsin) and Outback (Tennessee-Penn State) was fair but these 2 SEC teams lack something. Offensive balance as they both depend on the run to win games and their passing games are so-so.
There might be another upset come Jan. 8, Gooo Gators