Yesterday was the start of what might be the best weekend of the year. This is better than the lead up to Christmas, better than Thanksgiving, perhaps even better than the return of the sandhill crane to Othello. I know you're asking yourself, what could possibly be better than that?
It's the opening weekend for college football, and even though there may not be a game in Pullman until Saturday afternoon, I can tell college football is here: the motor homes are in the parking lots surrounding campus. The air smells a little different; the light seems a little brighter when college football is underway.
The NCAA might be a bit corrupt in their handling of endorsements and money-making, the same basic principle still remains: the players aren't being paid. Although "student-athlete" is a relatively loose term (especially at USC) these men are students just like many of the fans rooting them on in the stands. They are fighting every weekend for the chance to play in a bowl game and a little more national respect.
There is no sport like college football. Alright, there is professional football. But the college atmosphere can't be beat anywhere. Before the game, there's tailgating everywhere, friends and family mingling all around. The marching band trots around campus playing the fight song and other beautiful, docile tones. Then there's something you can't touch, can't replace. There is the tradition. No matter the history of football at your school, there is tradition. There's the ringing of the bell after every Cougar victory. There's the Sooner Schooner at Oklahoma and the "Go Blue" sign grab at Michigan. College football sweats and bleeds tradition.
It's hard to imagine a sport where the Wide World of Sports saying "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" is now appropriate for a player, coach or fan. If your team is down two points and within field goal range, there is no guarantee. You'll sweat it out and if the ball finds the space between the uprights, you jump as high as the sky. If it sails right, you hurry home to your half-rack of Pabst Blue Ribbon and listen to a Lionel Richie album on repeat. Multiply these emotions by a factor of at least 10 when the game involves a rival.
Which brings me to another point: what other sport has rivalries as intense as this one. There is no such thing as rivalry in the professional realm as compared to the college game. The players get chippy with each other on the field and in their opponent's face. The fans have to be separated by the National Guard to keep them from quite literally killing each other. Governors usually hand out trophies to the winning team and the celebration will ensue.
This is what all the preparation has led up to. The countless hours in the film room. The far more countless hours in the weight room. The crack of helmets on pads in practice and the buckets of sweat. The coach's hoarse voices after three straight weeks of practice. All of that leads up to Saturday afternoon in the locker room. The pads go on and you walk out of the tunnel to hoards of screaming fans.
It's the start of something great. For the next three months, the game will be on your television sets just about every night of the week. And in early January, it will all culminate with a national championship where we crown the greatest team in the college football world. We'll discover Heisman Trophy darkhorses, diamond in the rough players who will take their team to the top. We'll watch teams exceed all expectations and others fall well short of their goals. We'll find our new favorite team that isn't our own and discover a team we can't stand, sometimes for any discernable reason.
College football is back. And I could not be happier.
Quickly, before we get to the picks: Happy Birthday Mom!
Last Week: 0-1 (Damn Smurfs)
Yearly round of cupcake games for the Pac-10, Oregon State starts off no differently. Luckily their opponent doesn't have to travel far.
Dag and Norberts 42, The Jerry Glanvilles 10
In ancient times, a battle between Spartans and Trojans (although not from the same time period) would've been epic. Not so much here.
We Pay Our Players 52, San Francisco South 10
Nice gesture by UCLA to give free tickets to firefighters and their families to their game against SDSU. Not that they needed the extra goodwill to sway me.
We Miss Troy Aikman 24, All We Have At Our School Is Attractive Women 7
I'm a big fan of Central Michigan's nickname: the Chippewas. Not such a big fan of their football team.
Redhead's Squad 35, We're In a Town Smaller Than Pullman 7
There's an Idaho STATE? Well……news to some of us.
Dennis Erickson's Latest Musing 34, I'll Poke Your Tello 6
Second best team in the conference against a team that might be alright in the ACC. Plus, Jahvid Best probably won't lose his lunch in this one.
The Hippies 28, A Turtle Is All We Got 10
LSU has offensive lineman faster than many of the Huskies secondary. 'Nough Said.
Geaux Tigers 38, We Drink The Sark Kool-Aid 10
And now, to the Cougar picks.
Stanford 24, Washington State 14 says current roommate David Akers. Not the Eagles kicker. If my roommate that amount of coin, I wouldn't be drinking Busch Light.
Washington State 24, Stanford 17 says Erik Strom, a man whose partially in charge of my grade in one of my classes so this one is absolute GENIUS!
Stanford 24, Washington State 10 says Eagles fan and all-around awesome dude Tom Brooks.
This team is improved. The offense function more efficiently and crisply, the defense is playing much better. But Stanford is still the far superior team. It won't be 58-0 like last year but it still won't be a win.
Stanford 37, Washington State 13
Dunderhead of the Week: Oregon running back LaGarrette Blount after getting smack talked after the Boise State game, punches Bronco player Byron Hout in the face then tries to get into the stands to beat up a couple Bronco fans. Mature attitude young man. Way to show the class of Oregon to a nation full of people watching your football game.
+++++++sponsored by Greg Davis Sports Photography+++++++++
Summer is almost over…and you know what that means…It's time for a whole new season of Cougar Athletics! Football, soccer, volleyball, men's & women's basketball, baseball, track & field and tennis, just to name a few, are coming up right around the corner. If you need "game action" photographs for your newspaper, magazine, web site, blog, etc., then Greg Davis Sports Photography should be your choice for all things "Cougar" and "Pac-10 Conference"! Coverage for specific athletes or upcoming events is also available. Check out the images from games, practices and events from last season, and be sure to come back often for uploads from all of this season's action.