NCAA Football With Shobe: Week 4
This week's posting is much abbreviated due to the fact that I didn't get in front of a TV until the 2nd quarter of Notre Dame/MSU. Busy weekend overall.
WHAT HAPPENED TO WEEK 3?
First, a bit of housekeeping. I've been posting these updates with a numbering scheme that ran along with the Purdue/Big Ten schedule, so I pretty much dropped an entirely valid August week of college football. Thus, like many fine software applications, I've decided consistent versioning doesn't matter and this week's entry jumps to Week 4.
SO, WHAT ABOUT NOTRE DAME
A number of Michigan boosters I've chosen to associate myself with, for better or worse, preached to me their strong belief in the ultimate iffyness of Notre Dame's real character on both sides of the ball. I think that's a required going-in position to start each season if you're a Michigan fan, but no matter: there was plenty of evidence to back it up during week 2's humbling at the hands of BYU. That Michigan fell to the Irish in South Bend had everything to do with Michigan's own shortcomings this season, they reasoned, not so much because the Domers have suddenly figured it all out.
6 MSU turnovers, gold hats flying to the ball, and much Spartan home crowd silence later, it's apparent to me that ND is very much in the process of figuring something out, and Purdue better keep focused on the Illini this weekend before pondering what should be a premier early season matchup with the Irish on October 2nd. (I'm lucky enough to have a ticket to the game, so I'll post some cameraphone images with my week 6 update). Even ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit noted in the closing minutes of MSU's failed comeback bid that the Purdue-ND matchup should be a real proving ground for both teams. (College Gameday in South Bend twice this year?) Even still, some of my maize-and-blue facepainted associates would have me think the Boilers have too many offensive options to consider losing. They haven't seen how mightily we've struggled in South Bend since, oh, Nixon was in office.
The ND fans I know are remaining suspiciously, disturbingly quiet on the entire issue. I think they realize this is just as big for them as it is for us, and maybe any Purdue fan should see that as real program progress.
BALANCE IN ALL THINGS
There's plenty of anger in the Florida ranks over officiating and stadium clock control during this weekend's blood feud with Tennessee at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. As Michael Hickerson over at Fanblogs.com points out,
"As a Tennessee fan, all I can say is--now you know how we all felt in 2000 when a clearly dropped pass was called a touchdown and the Gators won. Certainly I don't want to see a game decided by officials, but the ball bounced in the Vols favor and we got the win. I think both sides are now even on the "getting the short end of the stick on bad calls in Neyland Stadium rule."
I say this sort of thing always cuts both ways and it's a maddening yet essential part of the game, much like the umpire with the shoebox-sized strike zone for your favorite pitcher. Big Ten replay experiment aside, part of the charm of the college game, especially compared with the NFL, is its varsity fallibility. Young players make more mistakes at this level, leading to more drama for the fans and heightened danger of costly penalties. Officials also blow makeable calls, especially in lynchpin games within a conference or national title hunt. As you work your way through each autumn, each game means more and the pressure mounts, and it's invariably a bold combination of discipline and talent that comes out on top on New Year's Day. You just hope your side gets a few calls, and your opponents don't get as many charitable whistles on their home turf. It all has a cosmic way of evening out over a few years, and it's just something any long-term college football has to accept in order to stay focused on things that really matter, like scoring elite season parking passes and bitching about special teams gaffes.