Posted Jan. 8, 2015

Sep 6, 2011

Thoughts From The Valley: Immediacy and Whiplash



HOW I AM FEELING: Generally whiplashed. One of the many beauties of college football is its immediacy; it simply arrives. One day we have no college football; the next, we do. Which means we are ultimately and immediately thrown directly into all of the things that make this sport The Single Greatest Thing About America. The first weekend comes and goes, and then we are left to recalibrate—recalibrate, that is, to being in the moment of the best four months of the year. To be honest, I almost cannot believe the season is actually here; yet it is. Which means I must now get serious about enjoying it, and must also get serious about spending countless hours writing about it (but hey, I ain’t complaining*).  Oh, also, Penn State won a ridiculous and meaningless game over a completely overmatched opponent. Good job, Nits. Bring on ‘Bama.

WHAT I AM DRINKING: Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA. It is crushingly potent, wonderfully flavorful, and immeasurably useful when one is attempting to calibrate to the return of college football season. It centers you by knocking you off center.

WHAT I AM LISTENING TO: You mean besides The TCFA Podcast, the world’s most trusted source for sound wave-delivered college football news and wit? Yeah, that's what I thought. Well, because I am getting old and because I enjoy a nice heavy dose of nostalgia from time to time, I have been mainlining of late on mid-1990s Wilco. Specifically, all of the great stuff from the Being There years. Such as this. RIP Jay Bennett. RIP My Youth.

VILLA UPDATE: The World’s Most Beautifully Named Football Club has officially abandoned any hope of achieving a place in the Champions League and has instead settled for a much more humble goal: Doing whatever it takes to avoid relegation. Meanwhile, former TCFA (English) Footballing Favorite Ashley Young has moved on to Old Tarafford, where he is going about the work of establishing himself as one of the best wingers in The Beautiful Game. Villa will play ugly football all year and settle for a 10th place finish. Then they do it all again next year. It is what it is. Up The Villa.


We saw plenty this weekend.

We saw the SEC prove its worth once again (LSU) and we saw the SEC prove that it’s not as good as people in SEC country say it is (Georgia, Auburn).

We saw Oregon prove that they can’t physically compete with teams that are bigger and stronger up front than they are. I didn't necessarily want to believe that, but it's quite clearly true.

We saw Robert Griffin III catapult himself into the Suzuki Heisman Trophy discussion.

We saw TCU’s defense utterly and completely implode—a confounding and confusing occurrence, given that this team ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense last season.

We saw a bunch of big-time teams beat up on a bunch of FCS schools in games that could not really be called games at all. But we also saw something called Sacramento State beat Oregon State.

We saw Notre Dame deliver one of the ugliest and most damning perfomances in recent Notre Dame history (which is saying a lot).

We saw lightning.

But mostly, we saw … uniforms. Bad uniforms.

I am not quite sure when our beloved college football culture gave up on tradition, folks. I am not sure who decided that it would be OK for historic powerhouses with perfectly fine uniforms to dress their teams in Glorified Marketing Materials and abandon the uniforms that had previously symbolized everything they held dear. I am not sure who put the design divisions of Nike and Under Armour in charge of the outward visual identity of college football.

All I know is that all of these new-school uniforms, for a lack of a better term, suck. And any school that is wearing them should quite frankly be embarrassed.

This is not the NFL. This is no pro wrestling. This is college football.

History matters here. Respect it or get out.


THREE: A 23-20 loss to an unranked and generally unremarkable South Florida team led by a quarterback known mostly for making heartbreaking errors at the worst possible time. That’s not exactly Believers In Brian Kelly expected the 2011 season to begin in South Bend. And yet, that is exactly how the 2011 season began in South Bend. Look, I have been backing Kelly to deliver big, big results at Notre Dame---like, Lou Holtz results—but games such as this one certainly have a way of making me doubt my faith in the man. The Irish under Charlie Weis, while talented, always seemed to play with a shocking lack of confidence. They looked nervous. They looked terrified in The Big Moments. They looked incapable of delivering when it matter most. I thought Kelly could eradicate that losing culture. But apparently, he hasn’t. I really wonder—and worry—where Notre Dame goes from here.

TWO: Speaking of where Notre Dame goes from here … As you have probably heard by now, dear readers, there have been even further rumblings in The Slow And Inevitable March Toward The Era Of The Superconference. A report from the New York Times this weekend revealed that the Pac-12 could soon grow from 12 teams to 16 teams with the addition of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech. The move, of course, comes on the heels of Texas A&M’s protracted dealings with the SEC—a defection that seems likely to doom Dan Beebe’s Conference In Name Only once and for all. The four-team migration to the Pac-12 is a real possibility, but ultimately hinges (surprise) on Texas, which will have to agree to the kind of “revenue-sharing” policy that it is usually finds repulsive and unacceptable. If the Longhorns do get past their hubris and do accept the deal, then all hell will break loose, with the remaining Big 12 members scrambling for BCS cover and fretting (justifiably so) about the very future of their athletics programs (see: money). You can expect Missouri and Kansas to ring up Jim Delany immediately. You can expect John Marinatto to ring up Missouri and Kansas immediately. You can expect Baylor and Iowa State to sit next their phones, wondering if they should have switched away from AT&T. You can also expect the Notre Dame-Big Ten marriage to be explored one last time time. And I will say this: If the Irish turn down an invite from Delany again, they will have done nothing less than fate themselves to decades of dwindling relevance.

ONE: Doug Lesmerises covers Ohio State football for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Which is to say, Doug Lesmerises heads up the Cleveland office for the Ohio State Division Public Relations. I mean, this guy is every bit as enamored of Ohio State as is Earle Bruce (which is a lot). If you shall choose to doubt me, I present to you this story, wherein This Allegedly Unbiased Reporter has the gumption to write the following: “Right now, the SEC and the Big Ten are the most stable conferences in college football. The SEC holds that place because the league is balanced and stacked with tremendous talent in a part of the country where recruits are plentiful and college football is a way of life. The Big Ten is that way because of the success of the Big Ten Network and because of the Buckeyes.” Everyone in Ann Arbor, Lincoln and Happy Valley just vomited.

TOUCHDOWN: Penn State plays Alabama next week in State College. And yes, this is a great occasion. But I must admit: Given the general malaise surrounding the Penn State program of late, I cannot recall another “big game” that was being treated so unlike a true “big game.” The folks who run Penn State football need to understand that the rank-and-file supporters—the people who, at the end of the day, choose to fill those Beaver Stadium seats when the chips are down and the weather is cold—are beginning to question the ambition of the program. What is the goal these days at Penn State? Is the national championship even in the discussion anymore? Are we aiming for an occasional Big Ten title run? What’s the strategic vision? What’s the plan? And what are you going to do in the days to come to convince us all that we actually have a shot to beat SABAN and gang? I eagerly await your answers, though I certainly do no expect any.

OVERTIME: Co-Host Mike takes almost nothing seriously. But he does take the TCFA Podcast seriously. So please offer us your thoughts on the podcast thus far this season by dropping us a note at

DOUBLE OVERTIME: SABAN Pre-Penn State press conference. YEAH.

* But check back with me in about a month.

For more searing college football insight, please check out my work over at, where you can read my weekly Power Rankings, ponder the Heisman Trophy Watch, get darn-near daily blog updates and more.

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