College Football 2009…The View from Fargo

College football is into week three and I’ve already fumbled.  In recent years my View of the Season would have been posted weeks ago but the continued adjustment to having a daily radio program, writing a weekly humor column for the newspaper, getting my oldest daughter into her first days of school, trying to rent our home, keeping our cars running and doing all of this while attempting to keep my whine factor to a minimum has proved more difficult than I previously anticipated.

All that aside, pull up a chair, grab your favorite beverage and spend a few moments with me as I take a peek at five side dishes and a little dessert for the 2009 college football season.

Biggest absence

Where have you gone, Phillip Fulmer?  Tennessee’s native son, former Vols player and longtime coach now sits in a Neyland Stadium luxury suite to watch UT games.  After 16 seasons (plus four games in 1992 that led to his replacing Johnny Majors) on the sideline, the most recent ones falling far short of Tennessee’s high expectations, he “stepped down” to give way for the young, aggressive, stir-the-pot former Oakland Raiders head coach and USC assistant coach Lane Kiffin.  It was a much-needed, long-overdue infusion of new blood, energy and excitement into what had become a football program drifting off the radar.  Fulmer has, reportedly, been looking at a few offers to coach again.  Whether or not that happens remains to be seen but for Tennessee fans, there’s reason once again to be excited for fall beyond watching the leaves turn in the Smokey Mountains.

Who’s #1?

The question needs a follow-up:  Who cares!  The annual need to post preseason rankings remains an aspect of this sport I’ll never fully understand.  Watching the overhyped, badly miscast “mighty” fall in the early weeks of the season is a rite of passage in college football.  Apparently the sport won’t survive without allowing sportswriters and coaches to rank teams based upon name recognition, the previous season’s television appearances, returning starters, the recruiting class and how much August coverage they receive from ESPN.  Simply waiting until October 1 would do wonders for actually offering rankings that followed the revolutionary concept of watching teams on the field and then deciding where they should be ranked.

Notre Dame

For a team that did virtually nothing last season, at least by their standards, the coverage they received in the off-season made me wonder “wait – did Notre Dame win the national championship?”  Not that this is unusual, it’s not.  But it gets old.  Really old.  The going theory must be “good or bad, it’s Notre Dame.  The Irish sell.”  But do they?  Do people in the Mountain West Conference really care about Notre Dame?  Do folks outside of USC on the west coast pay much attention to ND?  Do SEC fans live and die with news of Notre Dame?  No, no and no. 

Notre Dame simply does not have the same aura it use to carry.  I believe most fans are far more fascinated by Urban Meyer and Florida, Pete Carroll and SC or Bob Stoops and Oklahoma.  Charlie Weis has not been The Answer for the Irish.  And I admit, when he came to South Bend I believed, as did many, that he would have Notre Dame back in the national championship hunt within a couple of years.  I don’t subscribe to the notion that college football needs a great Notre Dame team.  Why does college football need South Bend to be an epicenter?  There’s great football with marquee programs in every corner of the nation that can capture the imagination of an avid college football fan without much hesitation at all.  If the Irish were to go 0-12, would your life be appreciably better?  Ok, that’s not a fair question.  Obviously it would be better.  But beyond that, after your team has played do you rush to the internet, radio or television to hunt down the Notre Dame score?  Of course you don’t. 

Bowl games

The organizers, the college presidents and the networks can talk all they want but 34 bowl games (that was the total last season) means 68 teams out of 119 in Division 1 go to a postseason bowl game.  What’s the word I’m looking for… Ridiculous.  Do you care about Idaho College of the Potato Mines taking on Arkansas Technical Institute State in the Squibbler Lawn Investment Bowl?  It’s too many bowls and it only promises to get worse in the coming years.  Do I dare use the “P” word?  The day major college football goes to some form of a playoff is the day it becomes the biggest sport on the planet… next to soccer.

Fan paranoia

The time-honored lament of college football fans is deciding that ESPN, ABC or CBS has an agenda against their school.  Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, John Saunders, Tim Brando – pick a broadcaster and you’ll get a quick response telling you why “THAT guy hates us!”  We spend so much time immersed in our own team, and every word spoken or written about our team, we neglect to take note of similar things being written or said about other teams… and subsequently hearing the exact same lament from other fans.  I’ve lived in virtually every region of this country and wherever you go it’s a constant.

A few predictions

  • Florida will try to drop at least 70 on Tennessee in the Swamp
  • If Notre Dame doesn’t go to a BCS bowl game, Charlie Weis will be hiring a moving van
  • USC will lose at Cal
  • Michigan will defeat Ohio State and go to the Rose Bowl
  • A Mountain West Conference team will go undefeated but not play in the BCS Championship

Photo credit Patrick Q

Filed Under: Christopher GabrielCollege football

About the Author: Christopher serves up sports on 940 ESPN in Fresno with a good deal of pop culture, films, music and the quirky side of life mixed in. Distinguished guests and contributors from across the nation and around the world regularly join the program. He tackles the most complex stories to ones slightly off the radar delivering depth and humor with a thoughtful perspective. When he was in Fargo, the city not the movie, the program was nominated for Best Radio Show in the region in 2012, 2013 and 2014 by readers of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. As a writer, Christopher's work has been been published by the Chicago Sun-Times, Sun-Times Network publications, Reuters, USA Volleyball and Team USA, the Official Website of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

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  1. Mike Conway says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t really follow college football as closely as I would like, so I don’t really have anything insightful to contribute here. I’m looking for a good team to follow. Suggestions?
    .-= Mike Conway´s last blog ..UpdateForm =-.


  2. Harrison Clan in MN says:

    “A Mountain West Conference team will go undefeated but not play in the BCS Championship” We’re betting TCU will be that team this year. Nonetheless, Julie is very excited to be a Horned Frog right now! Miss you all!


    Christopher Gabriel Reply:

    Although I went to a BCS school (USC) and have season tickets at another one that I’ve followed most of my life (Tennessee), the BCS is a joke. If TCU does in fact go undefeated, it will be a monumental travesty for the BCS bowls to overlook them. I have a hunch an undefeated Boise State team would get the nod simply because they have been a more appealing, flavor-of-the-month, story over the past few seasons.

    Nevertheless, TCU is a sensational football team; I’m certainly pulling for them! And I’m told Julie has slowly but surely discovered going to a school with major college football can be kind of cool. Go figure. 🙂


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