In 100 days college football is back. (Ok, so technically for some schools like Rice, Stanford, and that little school that no one has really heard of, it’s really only 95 days – this countdown is for the first full weekend of college football.)
On Saturday, September 2nd, countless people in Norman, Oklahoma are going to be woken to the sound of someone in their apartment, dorm or fraternity house blaring the Oklahoma fight song at 8am. Doesn’t matter if the game is at 10am or 7pm, people are serious about their tailgating and their Oklahoma Sooners. And the first game day of each season is spiritualistic.
Obviously, I’m biased when it comes to this whole college football thing. I’m Sooner born and Sooner bred and when I die I’ll be Sooner dead. Do I think the Oklahoma Sooners are going to go into the 2017 season and go 12-0 and beat the Ohio State Buckeyes on the road, in Columbus, after getting embarrassed by them at home last season? I’m not going to say no but I’m not going to say yes, either. Do I have faith that they have it in them? Do I hope it’s them at the end of all of this? You bet I do.
That’s what is so great about college football. People don’t just pick a team at random that they think is the best. (Besides those that are like some residents in Texas, for example – just because they live in Texas, they go to their local Wal-Mart and pick up a UT shirt and suddenly they’re Longhorns.) People spend four years – maybe a little less, maybe a lot more – at these universities and they have a loyalty to uphold. Once you graduate you don’t just forget. You don’t just watch the games on tv or keep up with the score via ESPN’s tweets. You drive three hours from Dallas, Texas to Norman, Oklahoma to see your boys in Crimson and Cream go out there and do their thing at Owen Field.
I know people are serious about the NFL, too. Don’t get me wrong – I love the Dallas Cowboys. I cried when they lost to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs earlier this year. I’m a loyal, loyal Cowboys fan. But OU football? Do. Not. Mess. With. Me. when it comes to OU football. The University of Oklahoma is my alma mater and gave me the four best years of my life. I will never not cheer for my Sooners. Not until the sun dies.
And I can tell you… it doesn’t matter if you’re 24 (like me) or 74, you cheer for your Sooners until the sun dies. Just like any alumni from Ohio State, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, Auburn or Clemson does. That’s the beauty of college football. Everyone cares so much. And it doesn’t matter about pre-season rankings or where Vegas draws the line. In college football, anything can happen.
Do you remember the 2013 Iron Bowl? When Auburn beat Alabama with ONE SECOND left on the clock? If you don’t remember or don’t know what I’m talking about – first, please reevaluate your priorities and next, watch this…
Y’all… this was four years ago and I still get goosebumps watching the end of this game. I don’t care about either of these teams and I literally was jumping up and down in my living room crying when I saw this happen live on my TV. It’s not that I like Auburn better than Alabama. I didn’t care who won either way. But the fact that a team could pull off a miracle like that in the last second of a game blew my mind. It still blows my mind and gets my heart pumping. (Obviously, that really sucked for Alabama players and fans but you can’t deny the fact that it was absolutely wonderful and history before your eyes.)
And my other favorite part about college football? These guys do it because they love the game. They do it for no money. (Yes, many of them have scholarships and other perks but this isn’t the NFL – they aren’t making millions so just stop that argument right there.) I was never a student athlete so I can’t speak from experience but I do know they work so hard. Hell, college is hard enough trying to keep up with classes, your social life and sleep. Imagine throwing a sport in there where people expect you to be your best on the field and every other day outside of football. I can’t imagine how physically and emotionally tough that is.
Now that I’ve rambled on about how much I love this dang sport, I’m going to give my predictions for the season while trying to remain as unbiased as possible. But first, what “the experts” think…
In February 2017, ESPN came out with the pre-season rankings. Here’s the top 10:
- Ohio State
- Alabama (shocker)
- Oklahoma (shout out!!!)
- Florida State
- Auburn (OU 35 – Auburn 19, just saying)
- Penn State
Ok, so I could keep going on and do the top 25 but I don’t want to drag it out that much. Here’s the total list of the rankings for you with FPI numbers and everything else.
So, to get to these pre-season conclusions they (whoever they are – the higher powers at ESPN, the football gods, whoever) look at multiple things. This doesn’t just mean this is who they think is going to have the most wins or who is going to make it to the CFP. They look at things like: Which team has a returning starting quarterback? (For example: Baker Mayfield will be returning to OU and Deshaun Watson obviously will not be returning to Clemson because he was just drafted by the Houston Texans.) Which team has head coaching tenure? (For example: Bob Stoops is entering his 18th season as the Sooners’ head coach and Nick Saban’s contract just got extended through Alabama’s 2024 season *sigh*.) And which team has the most impressive past four seasons in terms of offense, defense and special teams with the most recent season counting the most.
With all of that beings said… ESPN’s reasoning for Ohio State being numero uno: “Ohio State sits at No. 1 in the first iteration of preseason FPI. Entering his sixth season as head coach at Ohio State, Urban Meyer is returning eight offensive starters, including quarterback J.T. Barrett. The Buckeyes are returning seven starters to a defense that finished last season ranked second in defensive efficiency. Meyer again added depth to the team with a top-10 recruiting class for the fifth straight year.”
So, needless to say, I’m pretty nervous for September 9th. Maybe I’ll have to make a trip to Columbus, Ohio to bring a little extra “Sooner Magic” with me.
All in all, I do expect to see my Sooners in the College Football Playoff this year. Will they win it? Only time will tell. Ask me again about half way through the season and I’ll have a better idea for that answer… Last time Oklahoma was in the playoffs we got our you-know-whats handed to us by Clemson in the Orange Bowl. (I flew to Miami and went to that game and just laid in the parking lot afterwards crying until I got the courage to get up and go celebrate New Year’s Eve… which sucked by the way.)
Once the season comes to a close and it’s time for bowl games and playoffs… I think the CFP will look something like this:
- Ohio State
- Oklahoma (even if we lose to Ohio State during the second week of the season, which is likely, we will have time to bounce back by the time CFP rolls around)
Don’t take my word for it. Like I said earlier in this post, anything can happen in college football. In December I may look back at this and cringe and say, “What was I thinking?” or who knows… maybe I am spot on. Regardless of the outcome of the season, I’m so excited for college football to be back in a few short months. I can’t wait to spend my Saturdays cheering on my Oklahoma Sooners and see the football miracles that will come out of the 2017 season.
*disclaimer: this was obviously written before Bob Stoops resigned as OU’s head coach. However, I still have faith in Lincoln Riley and the 2017 Sooners. Boomer!!!!*