The SEC is in hot water for their decision to not enforce a pass through provision of the BCS, which could lead to an 8-team playoff. What are the likely outcomes of this? Well, let’s go get some snacks and drink while we figure it out! “Even if Alabama and Georgia feels like the inevitable title game, how we get there will be fun and chaotic.”
“It’s not about getting there; it’s about getting there.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson coined the phrase, which is now emblazoned on innumerable T-shirts and bumper stickers, as well as posted on your mother’s Pinterest page above an artistic picture of an empty road stretching out into the distance.
Well, somewhere in the Great Beyond, ol’ Ralph was relaxing atop a transcendental level of awareness during the first month of the 2021 college football season, and he spent the whole month of September beaming sideburn to sideburn. And it’s not only because his old school, Harvard, is undefeated in the Ivy League and in first place. It’s because he’s pondering something “See what I mean? I warned you!”
When one considers the gridiron over the last five weekends, RWE’s comments have never seemed more true. Sure, the team at the top of the standings is the same one it has always been, and it seems that it will be the same team when we get in Indianapolis on Jan. 10. Because Alabama is a fantastic state. Again. Georgia is the side with the greatest chance to seem to reverse the tide. Again.
Everything else, though, is complete, glorious anarchy behind those two SEC shattered records. The college football version of “Talladega Nights,” when Ricky Bobby and Jean Girard destroyed the whole NASCAR field. That isn’t in the least bit monotonous or repeated. So, in the spirit of Mr. Emerson, let us all take in every single stride of this fall journey, no matter what our final goal may be. And, hey, who knows where we’ll end up with no GPS and no satellite connectivity during this season?
Allow our hearts to vibrate to the iron strings of a weekend like the one that just ended, when nine AP Top 25 teams fell on the same day, bringing this year’s five-week total to a record 34 ranked teams that have lost. And those whose teams have lost — which, let’s face it, is pretty much everyone at this point — may take comfort in Emerson’s remarks.
“There is a scientific value to bad circumstances. These are the kinds of opportunities that a good student would not pass up.”
Or, in the words of Lane Kiffin, another well-known spiritualist, after losing 42-21 in Tuscaloosa: “Your season is not defined by a single game. It does not define you; rather, it shapes you. You have the option of going one way or the other.” (OK, I’m not sure whether Kiff is a transcendentalist, but he did say he goes to hot yoga sessions.)
Let us also delight in those previous also-ran shows who have found out how to tap into Emerson’s call for self-reliance on the subject of the scientific worth of difficult times. Only 17 teams remain unbeaten among the 130 FBS clubs, with Wake Forest, SMU, Wyoming, Kentucky, and Coastal Carolina among them, with Alabama and Georgia. You don’t have to be very old to recall a period when those programs were sure-fire losers — or didn’t exist at all in the case of Coastal — and didn’t exist for two seasons in the case of SMU. Kentucky was one of those teams that touted their bowl defeats as tremendous accomplishments since that was all they had since Bear Bryant’s departure in 1953. The Wildcats now seem to win bowl games every winter. They hope to win games like the one they celebrated Saturday night (for which they were fined $250,000) when they defeated 10th-ranked Florida for the first time at home since 1986.
In an early-season Big Ten battle, No. 4 Penn State visits No. 3 Iowa on Saturday. Icon Sportswire/Gregory Fisher
Let us have a look at Emerson’s individuality.
“Any guy who wants to be a man must be a nonconformist.”
After all, this is a sport in which Coastal Carolina’s mullets are worn on teal grass. This is the sport where a Kentucky rushing back called Kavosiey Smoke becomes a career 1,000-yard rusher, and Auburn teammates Tank Bigsby, Smoke Monday, and Brodarious Hamm, as well as a former teammate currently at UCF named Big Kat Bryant, with names like Tank Bigsby, Smoke Monday, and Brodarious Hamm. Where the Appalachian State Mountaineers have a lineman called Baer Hunter and Arkansas has a linebacker named Bumper Pool who runs about in the backfield like bumper pool. We should all be cheering for a Mountain West Championship matchup between San Diego State and Wyoming because it would imply a quarterback duel between Wyoming’s Buck Coors and the Aztecs’ New Zealand Williams. And in what other sport, during what other season, would we see Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry negotiating a NIL contract with Kool-Aid itself?
“We give no dukedoms to the few,” Emerson stated as well. That was five years before the first collegiate football game, in 1863. Maybe it was a warning to teams like Clemson. 158 years later, a club with two defeats, or Texas A&M, the star of everyone’s “This is finally the year!” 2021 preseason tales, now with two losses as well. Or was it intended to be an example to the likes of Cincinnati and BYU, perennial college football outliers who were forced to play little brother to their higher-profile Power 5 neighbors during their greatest days? They’re currently 9-0 as a team, both rated in the AP Top 10 and heading to the Big 12.
Our son Ralph, on the other hand, said: “Some people will always be better than others. If you don’t eliminate inequity now, it will reappear tomorrow.” To put it another way, the college football route we’re on today may eventually lead to the same old exit ramp, the one that ends in front of a platform where Nick Saban gets confetti-showered.
However, the national championship game is still almost four months away, so let’s not allow the prospect of a potential destination detract from our enjoyment of the trip. The Pac-12 is a contender. The Big Ten is set to host its first non-Ohio State AP Top 5 regular-season game in 59 years, when No. 4 Penn State faces host No. 3 Iowa. Coach Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State and his mullet are in a position to sabotage Oklahoma and Texas’ pre-SEC membership bash. UMass and UConn face off on Saturday in what might be the worst game in college football history. Meanwhile, in the East/West Barbecue Bowl, the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs will meet the Campbell Fighting Camels in a battle for a pig trophy.
Autumn is finally here. The autumn foliage is beginning to change. The landscape of college football is changing. So, go out into the yard, create a leaf angel, and sing those finest of Emerson’s words to yourself. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, not Ralph Waldo.
“Friends, I’m glad to see you again. To the never-ending spectacle We’re thrilled you were able to join us. Please come in! Please come in!”