College Football 2008: Stories, Non-Stories and Near-Stories

By Christopher Gabriel,

In just a few days, the Beijing Summer Olympics will begin.  Whether or not anyone actually sees who wins events in track and field because of the smog is anyone’s guess.  In just a few weeks, the Democratic and Republican national conventions will commence.  Whether or not anyone actually sees a candidate that can lead this nation is everyone’s hope.

But forget the Olympics and politics.  The most pressing issue this nation has on its collective mind right now is the upcoming college football season, set to begin on August 28.

The pack of preseason favorites to make it to Miami and the BCS championship game are Georgia, USC, Oklahoma and Ohio State.  Close behind, take your pick from LSU, Florida, Texas, West Virginia, Missouri and Clemson.  And then there’s a few darkhorses, teams with talent and favorable schedules like Auburn, Arizona State and Kansas hovering right at the edge of the radar.

But I’m not interested in conference championships, bowl games or who’s going to be playing in Miami on January 8, 2009.  At least not right now.  Instead, I’d like to examine a few items that fall under the category of “Beyond the Fringe.”  Stories, non-stories and near-stories I find compelling in various degrees and for a wide variety of reasons.

With that in mind, join me for a quick spin around the college football block.

  • North Carolina State @ South Carolina, August 28

Opening Night!  And of all the opening night games, this one is the most compelling.  What does that tell you?  Anytime ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, ABC, A&E, Bravo, Lifetime. HGTV or State Television of Cuba can broadcast a game with the Ol’ ball coach on the sideline, you better believe Steve Spurrier and South Carolina will be on television.  I like Spurrier, but if there’s an average program that gets more national exposure than his Gamecocks, I’ve not seen it.

  • “State” university vs. “University of”

Have you ever noticed there’s a pattern in games featuring “State” vs. “University of” match-ups?  There’s a longstanding stereotype that many will say is the shoe that fits.  Think about these examples for a moment: The Universities of Michigan, Oklahoma, Kansas, Washington and Oregon are all thought of as the in-state school that’s a little hipper, a little smarter and a lot more desirable than their counterparts at Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Washington State and Oregon State.  At least that’s what their alums will tell you.  They’ll also say the “States” are little more than agriculture schools with limited academic and social appeal and that their students couldn’t get into the “University of” schools.  Fair or not, it’s a debate that’s raged on for a long time.

  • Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer vs. The State of Alabama

Forget about the Vols hosting ‘Bama at Neyland Stadium on October 25th, the more intriguing battles are the legal ones from folks in Alabama trying to find a way to bring down Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer.  A few years back, Alabama found itself embroiled in a recruiting mess that ended with the school being placed on five years probation and a two-year ban from bowls.  Since then, several other lawsuits have been spawned due to the NCAA investigation and it seems Fulmer’s name arises in each of them.  Whether that’s true or not, one thing is certain: If legal authorities in Alabama could get Fulmer on a parking ticket, they’d go to the ends of the earth to parlay it into life in prison.  Someone should tell Crimson Tide fans their obsession with Fulmer the Evil is akin to hoping the bad guy in a soap opera gets his.  But he never does.  He just goes season-to-season driving fans nuts.

  • Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez needs to brush up on team colors

I was watching the former coach of West Virginia University, now the new coach of the Michigan Wolverines, at the podium during a session with the media.  In the course of one of his answers, he explained that both schools use the same colors.  Uh, coach . . . you need to learn a very important fact of life in Ann Arbor: Your new official colors are Maize and Blue.  Back in your old digs of Morgantown, “Old Gold and Blue” ruled the day.  And make no mistake, Old Gold ain’t Maize.  Hopefully, someone has told Rodriguez the fight song is The Victors, and not The Winners.

  • Ohio State is really starting to annoy me

Although I’m not a Buckeyes fan, I’ve always had a soft spot for them.  If there was a team in the Big Ten I would follow, it’s Ohio State.  My wife’s family is originally from Ohio and many of them are passionate Buckeyes fans.  Ohio Stadium is a terrific place to see a game and in the times I’ve been there, the whole experience was wonderful.  That said, a personal message to Ohio State:  Since you can’t seem to win the BCS championship game, can you give the nation a break and agree to skip it?  Even if you qualify, simply take a pass for a period not less than, say, 10 years.  At what point do you get sick and tired of being a doormat for the SEC?  Honestly, it’s getting ridiculous.  You’re the class of the Big Ten yet lately when you’ve played on the biggest stage, you look more like THE Ohio State School of Mines and Technology.

  • The Lou Holtz Pep Talk on ESPN needs to go away . . . yesterday

I can say without hesitation that ESPN’s Pep Talk segment from Lou Holtz is, without question, the worst idea ever dreamed up at a Monday morning production meeting.  In fact, it may be the most dreadful piece of television, ever.  Lou Holtz was a good coach; no one would ever question his ability on a sideline.  But his presence at ESPN, year after year, boggles the mind.  His love for Notre Dame utterly eclipses his ability to break down a game the Irish are involved in.  And his disdain for certain coaches is rivaled only by his disdain . . . for other coaches.  The Pep Talk is little more than a soporific journey into a black hole of boredom.

Finally, with the season beginning on August 28th, does anybody doubt it will be no later than August 27th when ESPN tells us what we’ve all been waiting for: This year’s favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. 

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Filed Under: College footballESPNNCAASportsUSC


About the Author: Christopher Gabriel is the host of the cleverly named Christopher Gabriel Program on AM 970 WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota. You can hear him weekdays from 9 to Noon. As a writer and humorist, his work has been been published online by the Chicago Sun-Times, Reuters and publications within the Sun-Times News Group.

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  1. TennesseeTuxedo says:

    The worst thing about Lou Holtz’s “pep talk” segment is the sudden urge I have to wipe off my TV screen.

    I bet the cameraman wears a raincoat and feels that he is watching Gallagher smashing watermelons with his Sledge-O-Matic!


  2. Scott A says:

    Ya’ll don’t like the Lou Holtz pep talk? That, in my opinion, is one of the more entertaining aspects of college football that doesn’t actually involve any competitors.

    And with the “State” vs. “University of”, I would also like to through in Texas A&M and Texas, where, although A&M is not a “State” in name, the same stereotype still applies. And, notably, Florida and Florida State do not fit this pattern.

    And as for Steve Spurrier’s squad being over-hyped, the same goes for teams that wear solid gold helmets, teams coached by Nick Saban, and quarterbacks named after firearms. It needs to stop.


  3. Alex says:

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!


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