There’s a reason college football comes around the same time that school starts.
Every year across the country late August/early September marks the beginning of a new year of education. And despite the fact that many people dislike school, almost without exception people seem to love the first day of school. We get to see our friends again after a long absence. We are excited to see how people have changed. We’re excited to wear our new clothes. We’re excited for a clean slate, to wipe clean the memory of last year. On the first day our school year is a perfect, spotless, window to our—no doubt—wonderful future.
College football is the “back to school” of sports. Fans across the country anxiously await to see their old football friends, debate which teams have changed for good and bad, gawk at the new uniforms and new recruits, and try our very best to forget last year. Right now, a national championship is possible. Right now, the future is limitless.
No other sport compares to college football in terms of early season excitement. This time of year, every team has a perfect record, and in a system where only perfection can guarantee a chance at a championship (and even that isn’t enough sometimes), having a zero in the loss column is a huge deal. Is it a flawed system? Yes, it’s the singularly most flawed system in the entire sporting world. But those flaws help create this back to school excitement. College basketball has March Madness, college football has Fall Fantasy.
Most teams don’t have a realistic shot at the national championship. Mine doesn’t. But that doesn’t prevent me from dreaming. College football fans can’t help it; we’re all a thirteen game winning streak away from the promised land. Dreaming is far more reasonable in college basketball, where no matter how bad things go in the early season schedule, every team has a chance. Not so in college football. This weekend, when the teams meet on the gridiron, they are all playing for the national championship. Because if they lose they can (already) kiss the dream goodbye.
The other (ugly) side of the back to school excitement is the depressing few days that follow it. Not long after the excitement wears off, most students can’t believe they were recently excited to begin school again. Some class is far more difficult than they expected, some jerk asked the girl they like to homecoming before they could, and their “friends” thought it would be funny if they gave them a wedgy so bad that their underwear ripped (I’m just throwing hypotheticals out there).
And so it is in college football. By the end of this weekend, roughly half the nation’s outlook will no longer be spotless. By next weekend, even more schools will have lost hope. And within a month or so, just about every fan base will pretend they like the NFL more than college football anyway, and look forward to next year. The girl they missed out taking to homecoming (the BCS Championship Game) will be flirting with some redneck school from the South, and their ripped up school-colored boxers will be carelessly thrown to the side of the bleachers. That’s just the way it is.
However, while we’re all still excited about the new season, I thought I’d make five bold predictions regarding the 2011 campaign. Here’s hoping your underwear remains unripped.
1) By beating Georgia in the season opener, Boise State will prove it is clearly the best team in the nation, without question. According to everybody in Idaho.
2) Notre Dame will beat Michigan in a close matchup, winning the “’Seriously, we stopped caring ten years ago’ Bowl.” Despite public pleas, the game will be nationally televised.
3) Following the September 17th matchup between Ohio State and Miami, the winner will celebrate by getting tattoos of their favorite boosters on their lower back. At no expense, of course.
4) With a scintillating 7-5 record West Virginia will head to a BCS Bowl game to play the most annoyed team ever. They will then lose by 30 points.
5) Alabama will beat Oregon to become the lowest paid SEC team to ever win a national championship, with the average starter only getting paid $25,500 a year under the table. The following year, SEC players will go on strike demanding more money, with Roger Goodell representing the SEC in the lengthy negotiations. The players’ demands will be met.
Bryson Kearl is a BYU Football fan. If there is a team that has mastered the art of getting their fan base excited at the beginning of the year and then dashing those hopes in some ruthless manner, it’s the BYU Cougars. His favorite BYU team was the 1996 squad led by Steve Sarkisian. A close second is every other team that beat Utah.