NEW YORK -- Has it been three months already?
Apparently it has, but after more than 90 days on the road, we still can't get enough of college football. That's because we touched down at New York's LaGuardia Airport just moments before the BCS matchups were announced. And before I get to my list of the best things I saw on Going Big, I figured I should chime in on the the latest BCS bowl pairings.
I know you've been waiting with bated breath.
Readers of this blog should know that I'm one of the BCS' few defenders. It's not that I think it is a good system, but that it's what makes college football unique.
A big part of being a fan is the debate with fellow fans about the sports you love. Nothing creates more debate than college football, and from that perspective, I really enjoy the BCS. And for the record, this doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy a playoff, because it would be stupendous.
With the way everything has shaken out, I felt as though there were three teams with legitimate claims for the title game, and Ohio State and LSU are two of those three. I'm probably a little biased because I saw Oklahoma twice in person and thought they were the most well-rounded team we watched on Going Big, but they seemed like the most deserving to me.
On the plus side, this sombrero will serve this OU fan well at the Fiesta Bowl.
For better or worse, OSU was a lock for the title game, so it really came down to LSU and OU as the only two of the remaining teams with a legitimate claim. So in that sense, I'm glad the BCS got that right. Georgia and Kansas should be excluded for not winning their conference, USC should be excluded for losing to Stanford, and you can't take Virginia Tech over LSU since they were smoked by the Tigers.
LSU ended up getting the title shot, but considering how good OU looked on Saturday, and that LSU almost lost to Tennessee, I thought it would be the Sooners. But hey, what do I know?
More than anything, I'm shocked that Illinois is going to a BCS game. But that's an entirely different story.
For the last Odometer of the season, I've decided to do a seasonal ranking, as opposed to breaking down the weekend. Please keep in mind that when I say "best," I really mean, "what I think was the best."
And if you want to see it all crammed into two minutes (give or take), check out our final video, which is called "Two-Minute Drill."
(Note: If you're a Mac user having trouble viewing this video, click here to download a program called Flip4Mac that will allow you watch it.)
Days on the Road for Going Big: 95
Miles Driven in the Grey Ghost: 11,408
States Visited: 17 (Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska).
Points We Saw Scored on the Field: 805 in 15 games (including one high school game).
Now, my take on the best of the best from this season of Going Big.
Best Tailgating: I'm not saying this was where we found the best food and beverage set-up, but the hours before the Ohio State-Michigan game were definitely the most fun I had at a pregame. There was tons of enthusiasm and electricity, and it was everything I hoped it would be. And no, I'm not talking about the actual game, because that was lackluster.
Best Student Section/Crowd: This is definitely Wisconsin, and only Penn State was close. For pure volume, I might actually choose Penn State, but Wisconsin wins for their combination of fun-loving rituals as well as intensity. Seriously, you can go to Camp Randall and just watch the students, and you'll probably get your money's worth. Whether they're jumping around, dancing to "Shout," or giving their patented "Eat *&%$" "#%*& You" call-and-response, it's always a good time.
Nope, this isn't at Ohio State. This is the "O" section at Wisconsin.
Best Band: They don't call Ohio State's band "the best damn band in the land" for nothing. Not only is the script "Ohio" as good as advertised, but they bring the ruckus two hours before every home game at their Skull Session.
Best Mascot We spent a lot of time with mascots, so I feel as though I can speak authoritatively. I enjoyed getting a one-armed push-up lesson from the Nittany Lion, and our afternoon with Iowa's Herky Hawk was a trip. But when all is said and done, I have to give it up for Bucky Badger. Not only is he generally amusing, but he also let us ride along on his wagon. I realize that sounds like some sort of creepy euphemism, but it's not.
Best Cheerleaders/Dance Team: Even though I'm sure they could tell me the difference, it's often hard to differentiate between dance teams and cheerleaders. Therefore, I'm grouping them into one category, and I'm torn. Due to their chaptastic outfits and fantastic performance at the pep rally before the Red River Shootout, I'm tempted to give it up for the Texas dance team. However, I feel like I'd be shortchanging the Iowa dance team after they took the time to give me a dance lesson.
College football may not have ties anymore, but that isn't going to stop Going Big. Consider this a push.
It's been two months, but I still remember these unis from the UT dancers.
Best Non-Division I Stop: This really comes down to two schools, Grand Valley State and Northwest Missouri State. We gave NMSU running back Xavier Omon (a broadcast journalism major) journalism lessons in exchange for running back lessons, and that was cool. It just wasn't quite as amusing as our Newlywed Game with Grand Valley State's linebackers.
Real supremacy will be determined on the field this Saturday, however, as the two square off in the D-II semifinals. I have no idea who to root for.
Best College Town: I said it before, and I'll say it again, Iowa City is awesome. I will qualify this by saying that we were there in October, and I might feel different if I had to brave the winter there. Then again, that applies to a number of Going Big stops.
Austin is obviously amazing, but I think of it as more than just a college town.
Best Tradition: This might not be as high-profile as some other traditions, but my favorite was seeing the Penn State players dressed in uniform pull up to Beaver Stadium in school buses painted PSU blue. Coach Joe Paterno is pretty much the definition of old school, and when you toss in thousands of rabid Nittany Lions greeting them with shrieks of delights, you know why I am saying this was the best.
The wheels on the bus go P-S-U.
Best Fight Song: As I've admitted, I'm a Michigan guy. However, I'm not going to say "The Victors." For my money, hearing 80,000 Longhorn fanatics singing "Texas Fight" in Darrell K Royal Stadium is what it's all about.
Best Player: If Missouri's Chase Daniel had played better last night in the Big 12 title game, this would have been his. But since he played what was probably his worst game of the year, I'm giving this to Ohio State running back Beanie Wells. In games against Wisconsin and Michigan, we saw Wells rush for 391 yards on 60 carries. He also added five touchdowns to go with it.
Best Stadium: This is definitely an off-the-board choice, but I'm going with Iowa's Kinnick Stadium. For starters, the stands are right up on the field, which makes it incredibly loud. And with its capacity roughly 70,000, it has a cozy feel. A lot of college stadiums have been renovated many times over, and this often makes them a little awkward and oddly shaped. Kinnick recently underwent renovations, but it still maintained its old-time feel. Also, the visiting locker rooms are pink, and that's amusing.
Even the urinals are pink in Kinnick's visiting locker room.
Game: As far as the actual game, my favorite was Illinois-Iowa. With a score of 13-10, it was the closest game we saw, and it was also true Big Ten football. It was gray day with a slight rain all afternoon, and both teams were just grinding it out.
But as far as overall game experience, nothing beats Penn State-Notre Dame. To be honest, it was a night I will remember for as long as I live. This was the second week of the season, so the Irish had yet to reveal themselves as total frauds. And at that point, Penn State was feeling pretty good about their Big Ten title hopes. It was a night game, and Happy Valley was delirious.
The Nittany Lions were honoring their 1982 National Title team that night, and instead of just a "White Out" in the student section, Beaver Stadium had a full-on "White House."
For further proof on how this game affected me, just ask Sas. That game was almost three months ago, and not a day goes by where I'm not humming the "We Are Penn State" chant to the tune of "Zombie Nation" at some point everyday. And I mean, every . . . single . . . day. And if you haven't heard this chant before, it's in today's video.
Overall: Not really much else to say. It's been a blast, and I feel privileged to have gotten to take another magnificent college sports road trip for CSTV.com.
Best of all, there's still more to come. Sas and I are Going Bowling (and yes, that's a three-week bowl trip starting in a couple of weeks), and unlike Walter Sobchak, we roll on Shabbos.