Fan Interference
What This College Football Season Has Taught Us... So Far
By Bob Plain
Oct 27, 2005

The college football season is half over. Here's what we've learned.

Reggie Bush is a generational player.

You won't see another player like him until today's preschoolers are doing keg stands at the Delta house. Enjoy him now, because you won't see the likes of him for a long, long time. Reggie Bush has six games left in his USC career, including a bowl, and then he's off to collect an eight-figure signing bonus in the NFL.

Bush is one of those rare superstars who can will his team to victory. Against Virginia Tech and UCLA last season, Notre Dame this season, USC loses by 10 or more points without him. With him, they've won 29 straight and are in the hunt for a third straight national championship. Without his unique blend of moves, speed, hands and power, Bush is the ultimate difference-maker, game breaker, big-play threat, whatever cliché you want to use. He is about to make an awful pro team a whole lot better. His departure makes USC mortal.

The Notre Dame-USC classic is exactly the reason why Matt Leinart came back.

The Notre Dame-USC game was probably the most exciting football game I've ever seen. Not the best played, mind you; for much of the game 'SC played terribly and kept the game closer than it had any right to be. The biggest culprit was Leinart, who for 95 percent of the game, frankly, played like crap.

At the most tense moment, though, when everything was riding on his arm, when it was fourth and nine backed up in no-man's-land, Leinart stepped up and cemented his legend. Placing the ball perfectly between two defenders into the waiting arms of Dwayne Jarrett, Leinart made the big-time throw.

And that's why he came back. To become a legend (and to rest his sore elbow which would have killed him in the combine and lowered his draft stock, but let's ignore that little detail).

With that pass and his Reggie Bush-aided tumble into the end zone, Leinart achieved his goal. He might not have the best arm, might not be very fast or graceful, he might even turn out to be a crappy pro, but he'll always be remembered for his heroics on that autumn night in South Bend.

And I think that is worth delaying an eight-figure check for, don't you?

Rumors sure travel faster than they used to.

Charlie Weis hasn't even finished his first season at Notre Dame and already reporters like Adam Schefter of NFL.com are floating rumors that the South Bend savior is ready to pack his bags for the NFL.

A small request: Could we please have a moratorium on coaching-change gossip until the season is over, please? It's not fair to the coaches, it's not fair to the schools, and it certainly isn't fair to the fans.

The whole idea of Charlie Weis pulling a Carmello Anthony-inspired one-and-done stint in college is stupid, anyway. There is no chance that Weis is going to dump his beloved alma mater after one season so he can coach the Houston Texans or some other NFL bottom feeder. Yes, I know that NFL guys believe that their league is the be-all, end-all of football and in many respects it is. In other ways, though, it can't hold a candle to the college game. Sure there are some nice rivalries in the league (Bears-Packers, Raiders-Chiefs, Raiders-Broncos, Raiders-Oakland Police Department), but none of them have even an ounce of passion that the Notre Dame-Michigan or Notre Dame-USC rivalries contain. Do you really think Weis is going to pass up a chance to settle the score against USC so he can teach David Carr how to avoid a sack?

I don't either.

Beating up on wimps is not helpful.

Let's see, Texas Tech's out-of-conference schedule reads as follows: Florida International, Sam Houston State, Indiana State. Unfortunately for the winless Sycamores, Larry Bird didn't come out of retirement to sling the rock around for his hapless alma mater. All three opponents are a combined three-and-21. Most loses came to really bad competition. Yup, that sounds like a team that deserves to be ranked seven in the polls.

By playing such a gutless out-of-conference schedule, Texas Tech is at a huge disadvantage when it actually has to play a decent football team. Texas, battle tested after beating Ohio State on the road, wiped the floor with Texas Tech last weekend in a grossly over-hyped game.

When you beat up on patsies, it's got to be a real kick in the teeth when you meet a team that can kick back. Cal has run into the same problem. With a non-conference schedule of Sacramento State, Illinois, and New Mexico State, Cal beat up on three of the worst teams in college football. When the Bears got into the meat of the Pac-10 schedule, however, they collapsed, losing to UCLA and Oregon State in tight, closely contested games. Cal is arguably more talented than both UCLA and OSU but folded when the game was on the line. Playing and beating a decent out-of-conference opponent might have helped a young Cal team learn how to win the tough, tight games. Instead, the Bears chose to beat up on sissies and now have two loses on their resume.

Dirk Koetter should be fired immediately.

ASU has quit, again, on its head coach. After giving both LSU and USC huge scares at the beginning of the season, ASU has gone straight into the tank, losing to Oregon and Stanford. Yes, ASU was beat, soundly, by a team that lost to Division I-AA UC Davis. For a team that many pundits picked second in the Pac-10, this isn't good. Fans in Tempe have to be fed up with Koetter's habitual underachieving by now. He better get his team back on track, quick. With tough games against Washington State, UCLA, and improving rival Arizona, this talented ASU team could easily go 4-7 this year.

So should Ron Zook.

Yeah, Illinois is bad, real bad, but losing 56-3 to Penn State at halftime bad? Penn State essentially took a knee after the half to lessen the humiliation and make it a somewhat mundane 63-10 shellacking, instead of a 112-3 beating. Ron Turner might have left the program in shambles but there's no excuse for such a complete, humiliating loss.

Zook has the reputation for being a great recruiter. He better be because he doesn't have much to sell except early playing time and ... early playing time.

Don't sweat that the BCS is a mess ... yet.

USC has only won 29 games in a row, won two national championships and beat two pretty good teams (Oregon, Notre Dame) and one good team that is about to begin its annual implosion (ASU). Apparently, that isn't quite good enough for the BCS computers, which downgraded USC after pummeling Washington 51-24 in favor of Texas and its "big" victory over ridiculously over-rated Texas Tech. It's impossible to say which of these teams is best until it's settled on the field.

If it's allowed to be settled on the field.

Right now there are six undefeated teams: USC, Virginia Tech, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and UCLA. Of these, two have to lose: USC and UCLA because they play each other, Alabama and Georgia because they most likely will meet in the SEC title game. Virginia Tech, though, has to play a really good Miami team, a decent Boston College, an upset-minded Virginia. Texas plays a bunch of Big-12 garbage from here on out.

Let the system play out, which of course will go badly and most likely end with SEC fans clamoring with pitchforks and torches outside Miles Brand's office after getting the shaft for a second straight year. Not that they have any right to complain: Texas scheduled Ohio State at Ohio State. USC played Notre Dame in South Bend. Alabama scheduled Utah State. At home. Sorry SEC, but it might be back to the drawing board. Remember: Beating up on wimps is simply not helpful.

The SEC is really, really boring.

I know the victory over Tennessee meant the world to Alabama fans. Finally, Alabama could stick a big middle finger in the face of hated Volunteers coach "Fat" Phil Fulmer. But still, 6 to 3? The final score was really 6 to 3? Let's not get carried away with the national championship talk quite yet, Tide fans.

All over the SEC, games are just about as low scoring and, in the eyes of this West Coast football fan, boring. Later that night I watched two more offensive juggernauts, LSU and Auburn, square off on ESPN. With an Arena Football Leauge-like explosion of points, the two Tiger teams combined for 37 points. In overtime.

Oh yeah, but in the SEC they play real football. Smash mouth football. With suffocating defenses. It's been said in some quarters that if you look their linebackers in the eye, you'll die of fear.

Which is funny because in watching those games, I saw some decent defenses. I also saw catchable balls bounce off receivers' chests, quarterbacks over-throwing wide open receivers, and running backs coughing up the ball.

These are not good offenses. At all. They are poorly coached and filled with pre-historic schemes. Are the defenses above average? Of course, they are filled with incredibly fast athletes that can feast off these rudimentary offenses.

One of my most anticipated remaining games of the year is Notre Dame vs. Tennessee. Phil Fulmer isn't going to know what hit him after a quarter of defending Notre Dame's high-flying offense. If watching Charlie Weis and Pete Carroll match wits was high drama, watching Weis take apart a half-wit like Phil Fulmer should be high comedy indeed.

College football games are way too long.

I was on a cruise up to Canada a few weekends ago. Luckily, I was able to find a bar broadcasting the 'SC-ASU game in a bar on a small Victoria Island outpost. The game started at 12:30. We had to be back on the ship by 4:45. No problem, the game should be over by 3:30, 3:45 at the latest. I'd have a good hour to explore the beautiful Canadian countryside before setting sail.

Not quite. The game finally ended around 4:40, giving us about five minutes to scramble to the ship. The game was over four hours long. With no overtime. Now, I love college football, but four hours worth is just too much of a good thing.

What's to blame for the bloated games? Instant replay. There needs to be some type of time limit on the official's review. The way the system stands now, the officials will request a second look at a questionable call. Then everybody stands around and waits. And waits. And waits some more. Then the official looking at the replay comes back with a call that is so completely wrong it makes you wonder if they were looking at the same play as everyone else.

While the NFL system is far from perfect, at least they have a two-minute time limit on its reviews. In the interest of moving the games along and making sure all tourists make it back to shore safely, I would highly recommend implementing this rule.

Fan Interference is a biweekly sports column.



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