'Once In A Lifetimes' Here To Stay?

Newcomers to scene could be sticking around

Nov. 29, 2007

College Football Preview: Week 14

> The Red Zone  |  Tape It Up  |  Strike The Pose  |  Breaking The Code
> B.J.: A Crazy 2007  |  Sorenson: 10 Questions  |   Braff: Easy Road To The Big Easy For Two
> Trev: Some Coaching Changes Just Ludicrous  |  Best Title Game Matchup   |  Roland: LSU Will Lose
> Palm: A Merciful End To The BCS  |  Blackburn: Here To Stay  |  Hart: Don't Count Out Mizzou
> Caparell: Daniel Driving Missouri On BCS Run  |  Crystal Ball: Weekend Predictions

By Carter Blackburn

Special to CSTV.com



Carter Blackburn covers various sports for CSTV and writes frequently for CSTV.com.
E-mail here!

"And you may ask yourself-well...how did I get here?"


The words are David Byrne's from the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" (picture the giant suit), but they might as well apply to Joe College Football Fan and a handful of programs.  It sure is zany to look at a year when nine different teams have been paired at one point in the top two of the rankings, isn't it?  Who invited USF, UConn, Kansas, Missouri and Cincinnati to the upper echelon of college football?  




"It's one of those things," said Jerry Palm, CSTV BCS expert. "In everything, once in a while, chaos ensues."


Palm's a math whiz, so it shouldn't be a surprise that he points to chaos theory, but is that really how we get here, to the unprecedented parity of the college football 2007 season?


The most common response is pointing to the scholarship limits of 85 for Division I-A (now Bowl Subdivision) teams weakening the likes of Alabama and Texas, known for stockpiling their state's top recruits.


But that rule was instituted in 1994. Ten years later, who was playing for the national championship game? Two of college football's biggest powers, USC and Texas. To say things have suddenly changed in the past three years after a decade-plus of traditional powers dominating sounds like a bunch of hooey to recruiting guru Tom Lemming.


"I don't think that's it. People are looking for excuses," Lemming said. "It has nothing to do with scholarship restrictions."


Look back to the 2004 season for a better clue of the trend toward parity in the game. That was the season the Urban Meyer's Utah team utilized the spread option offense to trounce "BCS-conference" programs Texas A&M and Arizona, and run undefeated through the Mountain West Conference. For the first time, a program from a non-BCS conference cracked the Bowl Championship Series' cabal.


Two years later, Meyer's spread offense ran around Big Ten power Ohio State to capture the national championship for the Florida Gators. This year, Illinois used a similar spread option attack to upset the Buckeyes in Columbus, momentarily knocking them out of a date with the BCS title game. At the same time, Missouri and Kansas have spread the field and fast-breaked their way in to national title contention.  How did Appalachian State beat college football's winningest program, Michigan, at the start of the season?  By spreading speedy offensive players around the field and beating Michigan's more physical defense, in part. 


Should Missouri and West Virginia both win this weekend, Gary Pinkel's version of the spread will match up with one of the originators of the offense, Rich Rodriguez of West Virginia, in the BCS national championship.


"The old theory was, you couldn't win a championship with the spread offense," Rodriguez said. "I think that's been dispelled."


The Mountaineers have also benefited from a healthy Pat White and Steve Slaton, and Chase Daniel has taken all of Missouri's snaps. Palm points out that is a luxury that a lot of the expected title contenders did not have.


"There's no excuse for USC to lose to Stanford," Palm said. "The USC band should be able to go out and beat Stanford, but obviously it's difficult to get in an offensive rhythm when you are replacing a new offensive lineman every week and John David Booty is hurt."


LSU star wide receiver Early Doucet started only six games and Glenn Dorsey was hampered by injuries the second half of the year. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford was knocked out of the Sooners' loss at Texas Tech. Michigan played parts of the season without tailback Mike Hart and quarterback Chad Henne.


"Oregon goes from national championship contender to also-ran when Dennis Dixon goes down with a knee injury," Palm said. 


For all of those reasons, the pre-season favorites have stumbled through the minefield that is the 2007 regular season. Through it all, preseason contenders like Texas and Michigan are looking up at Kansas, Missouri, West Virginia, even BYU and Illinois. USF and Cincinnati are ranked. Bobby Bowden's Seminoles and Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions are nowhere to be found.


"There are a lot of good, young coaches coming up who are hungry," Lemming said. "[Coaches] who know how to recruit, and they know how to win."


A young college football coach who makes any kind of splash can expect to haul in at least  $1 million a year. Maybe the chaos theory is the reason college football has seemingly gone bananas in 2007, but the mathematical principal also says that sometimes numbers that look random are not.


With the benefit of hindsight, we may look back at this season, that we are calling whacky, and recognize it as a turning point in an increasingly higher-stakes, higher-reward college football landscape.


It may not be a `Once in a Lifetime' season for the likes of the Jayhawks and Bearcats, after all.