Monday, August 27, 2012

State of College Football Nation

By Jean Neuberger

Ladies and gentlemen, our long national wait is over. Our season has arrived.

The state of the college football nation is, as in most years, an excited one. The SEC looks for its seventh straight national title, while Alabama in particular looks for a repeat and for keeping the crystal football in the state for a fourth consecutive year. Texas A&M and Missouri take the challenge of the SEC into their first year with the conference, while TCU and West Virginia try to take the Big 12 by storm. Southern Cal, damaged by scholarships, looks to be a formidable title contender once more. Michigan is on the rise, as is Florida State. And, for the first time, the thought of a playoff in the upper echelons of the sport finally has a date set in reality.

As the season begins, I hope for the following out of this year...

I urge student sections across the Big Ten to leave Penn State alone. The shame and difficulties of what happened there are not worth the mocking of any other school, period. While I know that there are drunk students everywhere who will yell out a cheap shot, it is the hope that Big Ten students ensure that this nightmare, while never forgotten, can be taken out of thought in the heads of Nittany Lion players for a few hours on Saturdays. The players on this team did nothing wrong; let them play in peace. And let us pray this never happens again.

I hope that the Heisman committee continues the selection of picking the best overall player, rather than the best player on the best team, should they be different. After years of choosing the latter, the committee did a great job in selecting Robert Griffin III to the Heisman family. That was a welcome move. Please continue, Heisman voters.

I'll advise caution and research on what will become a key issue in the near future: uniforms. Without question, Oregon has succeeded not only under Chip Kelly's breakneck system but also with winning recruits with a wide array of uniforms provided by Nike. Maryland would have a similar advantage with Under Armour, but let's face it, the helmets from last year still send a shudder down most people today, so they have no advantage on anyone just yet. However, I wouldn't be surprised if schools started calling for limits on just how many combinations teams can have uniform-wise, calling Oregon's edge an unfair recruiting advantage.

I ask for no injuries and no goats, only heroes. Though I know I'm naive in asking.

I hope that the bowl sets up in the right stadium and helps to lay a format for bowl games, not only as part of the playoff, but the rest of the BCS system, as well (by the way, my money is still on Arlington and the Cotton Bowl grabbing the big prize). I welcome the thought of all conferences pairing conference champions against each other should they not be invited into the playoff. Sure, the MAC and Sun Belt have near zero chance of making the playoff in the next couple of decades, but pair them up in a bowl. It'll make the season that much more interesting.

I'd like to think that we still have some tremendous kickoff returns, despite kickoffs being moved up to the 35-yard line. Given that touchbacks now allow teams to start on their own 25, I think there will be more strategy in kickoffs, which will make special teams more important than ever.

I'd like to have a period of no more suspensions and dismissals for players, for the sake of themselves, coaches and fans. Tyrann Mathieu, Michael Dyer, Da'Rick Rogers ... we don't need to lose any more players. To do that, though, players must remind themselves not to make idiotic decisions. That's asking a lot sometimes. However, the rewards for keeping your nose clean and making it to the NFL are so great that any player should keep his eye on the prize.

I'd say the same about no suspensions and dismissals of coaches. However, these guys make millions of dollars to handle the pressures of the job. How do they sleep at night? On big beds of money, that's how. So, the sympathy for coaches who are terminated is significantly less.

Finally, I wish that, when the final whistle of the season is blown, we find college football in a much stronger position than ever before. We are better and more fortunate for having the sport around, so may the competition be fierce, the fan base be loud but civil and the controversies be at an absolute minimum.

Here's to the start of the season ... with respect to the Olympics, let the games really begin.

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