Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

December 16, 2012

College football has its own silly season, and it’s begun

BLUEFIELD — Golf has its silly season, those few weeks after the final major when all that matters is accumulating more money and winning something called the Fed-Ex Cup, which has caught on about as well as Donald Fehr with NHL management.

As baseball fans will tell you, when Fehr is in charge, sports fans have nothing to fear, but Fehr himself.

College football is now in its silly season, from the bowl games that began on Saturday to the numerous coaching changes that have taken place since the regular season came to an end.

Northern Illinois becomes the BCS buster and makes the Orange Bowl, but their coach is now at N.C. State, while Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez is back on the sidelines after Bret Beilema surprised everyone and bolted for Arkansas, where pretty blonde volleyball players and motorcycles will be off limits.

There has also been the never-ending conference realignment, with Maryland and Rutgers improving women’s basketball in the Big 10, and now the seven Big East basketball schools are going to take their ball and run. Who can blame them?

As for on the field,  three months and a week of non-stop football fun will be followed by 35 games in 24 days, but only one will really matter.

Honestly, who, other than West Virginia and Syracuse fans, will remember who won the Pinstripe Bowl? Ditto for Virginia Tech and Rutgers, and the Russell Athletic Bowl.

It is too bad that college football is going to be over in just over a month. At least for football fans in the south especially, there is recruiting and spring football.

Wouldn’t it be nice if college football could have a never-ending season much like baseball, the NBA, hockey (when it is actually played), NASCAR, golf, tennis and soccer. Does qualifying for the World Cup ever end?

I missed college football last week. I went to Salem to watch Honaker play — and fall short — of the Division 1 state title in a 17-10 loss to George Wythe.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Adam Hughes that is an assistant for the Maroons is the same man who played at Princeton and was a long snapper at West Virginia.

 I really missed college football when I got back in my car for the ride home. Other than the Army-Navy game — which, much like the Masters, is a tradition like no other — it wasn’t what I was used to finding on my SiriusXM radio in the fall.

For three months and a week there had been non-stop college football, my favorite brand of football, and suddenly there was none. No cheering for Alabama or keeping up with Virginia Tech or West Virginia.

Somehow that just seemed wrong. I could feel the pangs of disappointment, of realizing another college football season is about to come to an end with the most anti-climatic of all sports postseasons.  

Salem Stadium was busy two nights ago too, with Mount Union continuing its dynasty by winning another Division III national crown. The NAIA and Division II playoffs are now over, and the FCS — or Division 1-AA — title game will be played on Jan. 5.

 The difference in the playoffs at the lower level is every game counts. You win and move on, lose and you are done. At least the only teams still playing have a chance to win a national championship.

 Not so at the highest levels of college football. Yes, there will be a four-team playoff beginning in 2014, but there will be plenty of other games that will give you that empty feeling you get when the season is about to come to an end.

Beginning with two games on Saturday and continuing until Alabama wins its third national championship in four seasons against Notre Dame on Jan. 7, college football will be all about the bowls.

Some bowls are meaningful and have history, such as the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Gator, Capital One (no wonder the interest rates on my credit card are so high), Fiesta and Chick-fil-A Bowl, formerly the Peach.  

The rest could go away and who would miss them other than the 11 6-6 teams, one 6-7 club, and 14 7-5 schools that are still playing football. Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech (9-3) is nowhere to be found because their athletic director dared hope for something better than the Independence Bowl.

Don’t we all?

Over the next 22 days there will be some good games, and lots of duds. Most will be celebrating something, such as restaurants (Beef O’Brady, Little’s Caesars, Buffalo Wild Wings), states (New Mexico, Hawaii), cities (New Orleans, Nashville, and Heart of Dallas, which sounds more like a soup)), car parts (MAACO, Meineke Car Care), freedom (Independence, Liberty, Alamo, or is that a rental car) and department stores (Belk, Russell Athletic and whatever a BBVA Compass is).  

All that must be endured to reach the one game that counts. In two years, there will be three games that count, but the controversy will continue. Who was the fifth team that should have gotten in?

College football fans will have a difficult time deciding who to cheer for on Jan. 7. If you’re not a fan of Notre Dame or Alabama, which way do you go?

I would suggest Alabama, as you well know, but I would be for anyone playing Notre Dame. We all have sports teams that we don’t like for any number of reasons. My short list includes the Yankees, Cowboys, Lakers … and Notre Dame. I have added Tennessee and Auburn over the years because of my allegiance to the Crimson Tide, but I would cheer for them against the Irish.

 It’s been years since the Irish mattered, and I have enjoyed their demise. There are so many reasons not to like Notre Dame. There has never been a time when I cheered them on and that won’t ever end. It is the same with the other teams I mentioned. The more they lose the better I like it.

Problem is, there are fans across the country who feel much the same as me, but they’re also tired of Alabama and weary of the SEC, which has won six straight national titles and heading for a seventh in three more weeks and a day.

Who do you cheer for? Is it the legend and lore of Notre Dame or the legend and lore of Alabama?

To me, it’s an easy decision. For those of you who don’t like either school, you have to pick the lesser of two evils, like many folks apparently felt when they flipped a coin and voted for president a few weeks ago.

Which way will you go?

Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He can be contacted at bwoodson@bdtonline.

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