Disclaimer: I originally wrote and posted this in August of 2018, so parts of this are outdated and no longer accurate. But it is worth reposting.
In case you haven’t heard, College Football is back this week. It hits full force next week. It’s a great time of year for us as fans of the sport, as anticipation and excitement levels are at an all-time high and have been since August when fall camp started.
It’s no different for me. Although I wasn’t much of a football fan growing up, I got into it more in high school. By the time college rolled around, I was pretty hooked. While I watch both CFB and the NFL, I get more enjoyment out of CFB. I can watch almost any college football game, no matter the team, while the NFL I really only follow the Packers and the Bears (a by-product of living in Illinois, can’t help but have knowledge of the team). I highlighted some of these reasons in a post I wrote last January.
Last year I woke up on the first day of the season and watched the first episode of Friday Night Lights. This year I’ve been watching some select episodes. Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose. Were his eyes open or closed? Watching Matt Saracen and Vince Howard led their teams while battling their own inner turmoils. Hearing Coach Taylor firing off some awesome lines “Stay away from dumb gentlemen”, “That’s what character is, it’s in the try”, “It could be worse, it could be a 47-yard field goal”. The thrill of watching a group of young men work hard, complete, overcome, and win never gets old.
I’ve been tempering my anticipation by playing NCAA as well. My edition is the archaic 2008 version and I still love it. Running the option. Going the length of the field with 45 seconds left, even as the announcers continue to chastise me for not calling a timeout. Running twin tight-end formations and the defense has no answer. Playing with randomly generated names like QB Mickey Peterson, LB Kingsley Bell, and DE Champ Medlock.
Game days are some of my favorite days in the fall. Waking up in the morning and eating breakfast while watching College Game Days. The predictions are interesting and guest pickers are intriguing, even if I don’t take the picks as fact. Though it’s ridiculous, I still like to see what mascot head Lee Corso puts on to end the show.
Even though I rarely care about the early 11am (central time) game, unless it’s Wisconsin, I find myself watching one of them anyway. To see how bad Illinois is this year or the one time I get to see Texas State on tv or to see how many points Michigan scores playing 11 on 2 against poor William & Mary.
The afternoon games usually bring a bit more interest, although there’s always a one-sided SEC game mixed in there. Of course, we can’t go a Saturday in the fall without talking about Notre Dame. Will they be relevant and when will their annual loss while ranked in the top 10 take place? I have to tune in to find out.
Sometimes I find myself getting irrationally emotionally involved in a random game like UConn against South Florida. I don’t know any names on the team and I couldn’t even tell you what styles and schemes they run on either side of the ball. But there I am with my eyes glued to the TV on every play as they go back and forth, matching each other blow for blow. Or perhaps a running back on one team just explodes and completely takes over the game and the team rides them to victory. All of a sudden a nothing game becomes the talk of the week. Finding the hidden gem game of the day is usually a highlight of the week.
Along with this, because it’s 2018, it’s also the social media conversations throughout the day. Whether it’s debates with complete strangers or fun talks all day with friends. the social component enhances watching all the games. It’s interesting to see who is watching which games, especially early in the day before the big games are on. Then out of nowhere, a barrage of tweets will come on and the rest of the world switches over to that game to watch the replay from the big play or see a surprising and college landscape-altering type of upset.
It’s the simple things I notice as well. The chill of the afternoon autumn air, coming through the windows as the sounds and sights of the game continue on. Breathing it in, holding my breath with every big third down play. Being amazed at a pick-six or a perfect pass that goes for a touchdown. Catching the end of a thrilling victory that comes down to the last play. Feeling the agony of a loss that breaks the hearts of the players and fans as their conference championship dreams are crushed.
As we all know, Mountain West games usually get started in the late afternoon and at night. Of course writing on here, these games have a different significance when I watch. Now there is the chance to see if all of our thoughts and predictions from the week have come true or if they got blown up right back in our faces.
The MWC offers some of the most unique versions of playing college football as one can get in the country. It’s a conference that includes the run-and-shoot, the air-raid, two (or is it one now?) triple option styles, two teams that play most of their snaps with a full-back, and a team that will line up 2-3 TEs and move them all over the line of scrimmage before the snap. It’s filled with up-the-gut running games and high-flying passing passing attacks. The defenses are varied as well, with 4-3, 3-4, 3-3-5, and 4-2-5 formations. Some teams have under-sized players in the trenches, where others have 300+ guys on both the first and second strings. The conference is filled with big-time NFL prospects and short and scrappy overachievers. To me, this is what college football is all about. Diversity, variety, and a mixed bag of measurables and talent all coming together to put a fun and at times unpredictable product on the field for our enjoyment.
And we get to watch it on Saturday. And every week for the next 20 or so weeks. Enjoy every second of it and don’t take it for granted. The season will be gone before we know it; ever-fleeting, but full of magic and wonder. And maybe a trick play or two.