Saturday, November 7, 2009

Smashmouth Saturday

I spent much of today watching grown men hit each other. Having loved this time of year all my life for the pleasant weather and wall-to-wall football, I can now kick back with a sense of gratitude for the warrior culture that resonates throughout our great society.

College football is the sport I follow most, so much that I didn't settle on an undisputed favorite until my mid-20s, eventually giving my allegiance to Tennessee (with Ole Miss coming in a close second). Watching my Volunteers improve each week has become reassuring, especially now that the oft-maligned Jonathan "Straight Outta" Crompton appears more comfortable than ever behind center.

An occasional cheer for the underdog to which I have no tangible affiliation is inevitable when one closely follows a sport that has been an ambiance-laden part of the national landscape for about 140 years. Seeing mid-majors like Houston, Cincinnati and Texas Christian continue their respective runs for a BCS bowl game is both satisfying and increasingly typical of everything fans have come to expect from the highest level of college football.

Heck I was downright jubilant when Navy beat Notre Dame for the second straight year after the Midshipmen had previously suffered through a record-setting 43 consecutive defeats to the Irish, but it was also disappointing somehow to see Iowa's 13-game win streak (dating back to last season) come to an end against a bottom dweller like Northwestern, thanks in no small part to quarterback Rick Stanzi's ankle injury.

Then there's Boise State -- the team nobody wants to play. Having established itself as a legitimate national contender over the better part of this decade, Boise St. Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier has thrown down the gauntlet and made, perhaps by necessity, an almost unheard of offer:

BSU will play at the home field of any big name school at the start of the 2011 season, and their opponent will not have to return the favor by playing in Idaho the next year. However intriguing, not a single big time school has stepped up. Not even one.

For such a rarity, a dominant school located in a remote region better known for potatoes than pigskin, this is the kind of story that could only come from college football. And that's why we love it.

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