I know it is May but I want to talk about college football today. I know that I am going to make some derogatory remarks in the upcoming paragraphs so let me begin by saying that I love college football and I watch a whole lot of it. Nevertheless, I am not thrilled in the least by my new opportunity to watch even more college football.
Starting this winter, the number of bowl games will expand by 3 to total 42 bowl games. That means 82 teams will be playing in bowl games in December and January. [Remember, two of the four teams in the College Football Playoff will play twice.] There are 128 schools playing Division 1-A football at the moment meaning 64.1% of those teams will make it to a bowl game. So, on average a 12-team conference might be sending 7 or 8 teams to various bowl games.
Now if that means that I can anticipate watching the seventh place team in the American Athletic Conference take on the eighth place team from the Sun Belt Conference, you will have to pardon me when I do not jump up from my chair and do a happy dance all around Curmudgeon Central.
The three new games for this year will happen in Austin, TX, Orlando, FL and Tucson, AZ. There will be 6 teams participating in those games meaning about 400 student athletes and 50 student team managers/staff will spend at least an extra 3 weeks preparing for the games and then traveling to the games to make them happen. If those footballers and managers put in only 2 hours per day for those extra 3 weeks (that is a generously low estimate), that represents 18,900 “man-hours” devoted to football and not to “school”.
I know that number is low but juxtapose it with this statement from the NCAA website regarding the interweaving of athletics and “school”:
“The NCAA membership has adopted amateurism rules to ensure the students’ priority remains on obtaining a quality educational experience and that all of student-athletes are competing equitably.”
Memo to the NCAA: “Obtaining a quality educational experience” will be enhanced if these people have those 18,900 “man-hours” available to them for classroom pursuits. These three new bowl games mean more student-athletes will miss more class time and one thing is for sure:
A “quality education” involves students spending time in class and in scholarly pursuits.
Oh, and do not get me started on how “obtaining a quality educational experience” plays with the academic frauds perpetrated at UNC and Syracuse…
On a more analytical note, there has always been a significant difference between college football and the NFL. Much of that difference has always been – and will continue to be – the athletic skill level differences in the two games plus the immutable fact that almost everyone in the NFL is older than just about everyone in college football. While indeed those differences will continue to obtain, I think that college football is evolving in a different direction from the NFL. I am not making a value-judgement here; this is not a good thing nor a bad thing; it just is.
The majority of college football today can be summed up in 3 words:
Spread the field…
Many college QBs do not call any plays; the whole team looks to the sidelines for signals that align the players and get them all going in one direction at the snap and after that there are a series of options for all the skill players. In the past, teams put their best athletes and their fastest players on defense; not so anymore.
Yes, some teams in the NFL use the spread formation and a hurry-up offense some of the time but not to the extent that it happens at the college level. So, the impact on the NFL can be seen in several dimensions:
Fewer college QBs are field generals and many have difficulty adapting to the “play in the pocket” style that will keep QBs vertical in the NFL.
Running backs are now going against smaller defenders because the defenders have to be quick – and hopefully fast too – in order to keep up with the spread offenses. When running backs get to the NFL, they are no longer running against “little guys” and for many the difference is quite apparent.
The flip side here is that big defensive linemen who can stop the run and put a little pressure on the QB are becoming harder to find. The big run-stuffer can easily be avoided with spread offenses that run outside almost to the exclusion or running between the tackles.
As I said, I am not putting a value-judgment on this. I do think the two US versions of football are evolving along different paths and it will be interesting to see if the current divergence continues over the next decade.
Finally, here is an NFL note from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:
“Fins had free agent running back Stevan Ridley in for a look. Stevan is best known for wishing his parents had spell-check.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………