12/14/2019 1 Comment
A season of sports is a trilogy (I apologize in advance for the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars references). The season’s first half is the opening book. Characters are introduced, plotlines are suggested, and the story could belong to anybody…..even the Jets. Just not for very long.
Games, the earliest skirmishes in our tale, start defining the potential for each character. Protagonists develop, villains emerge, while others are demoted to obstacles and spoilers within someone else’s journey. By the middle of the season we know who the contenders are, the characters who will define this year’s fate. For some teams the story is already over, for others it’s just getting good: enter Book Two.
A trilogy’s second installment is often the least consequential, but the most significant. The characters must grapple with the gravity of their position. Sometimes pressure breaks them, like the Panthers or the Golden Gophers. Sometimes it strengthens them, like the Baltimore Ravens or LSU Tigers. Sometimes it even corrupts them (see: Astros, Houston). Like Luke Skywalker’s trip to the Degobah System, Book Two forges the preeminent characters into who they will be for the ultimate conflict. For the purposes of the analogy, this comprises the second half of the season (and we’ll throw in the NFL’s lukewarm wildcard round).
Book Three is, of course, the culmination of all the character development and plot twists. Villains face heroes. Greatness meets its match. Rohan rides against Mordor, and Aragorn trots up to the Black Gate. Some die valiantly, others with a whimper; all in frantic pursuit of that incomparable glory: a championship.
College football fans, at this very moment, are living in the introduction to this Third Book---the calm before the final storm. Everything and nothing is happening. We are Gandalf and Pippin, on the back porch in Minas Tirith, talking of white shores and swift sunrises---the possibilities to come. It’s a quiet and reflective place to wait, before the great forces of this season go to war and complete the trilogy.
I’m hoping this year’s story belongs to Joe Burreax. These are The Things I’m Thinking About:
The Joys of Bowl Season (a good-sized thing)
There’s a long list of sports fans I just don’t very well abide in the course of this life. I’ve got nothing for the guy who thinks I should care more about franchises like the Cowboys, the Eagles, the Knicks, or the Yankees, whose logos are just garish monuments to media bias. There’s also the “watching golf is boring” guy, the “Steph isn’t even that good” guy, and the “SEC actually sucks” guy. I’ll save them for other blogs, because the sports fan drawing the Filch-ire today is the “There are too many bowl games” guy.
What’s this guy’s deal? Does he also complain that there are too many sides at the buffet? Too many girls at the party? Too many accessible cupholders in the mini-van? Who has a problem with more options and opportunities, especially when there’s no edict forcing him turn on his T.V.? If you don’t like ‘em, just watch December basketball, which will supply you with a whole new bevy of complaints to text people who haven’t liked hearing from you since college.
I get the argument that the games feel meaningless. Although they’re of no small importance to the players and fan bases who have pursued them all year, no one’s objectively pumped for the Frisco and Boca Raton bowls. The trick is to add personal investment through one strategy: gambling.
We at WhichCarolina employ a perfect, unimpeachable system for betting on bowl games, guaranteed to infuse your bowl season with thrill and satisfaction. First, find a friend/archnemesis to gamble against. Then, bet every game against the spread (sweethearts bet moneylines). Next, apply your points. This system has gained public momentum over the last few years, but for the uninitiated: assign a point value to every game based on the confidence you have in your pick. There are 40 games (including the championship game). That means you’ll assign a point value, 1-40, to each pick. You can only use each value once. The higher the confidence you have in your pick, the more points you assign to it. Your most confident pick gets 40 points; your least confident, 1. Your second-most confident pick gets 39 points; your second-least confident, 2 points, until each game has a point value between one and forty. If your team covers, you are credited the amount of points you placed on that game. At the end, add ‘em up to see whose total is the highest! Send any questions to WhichCarolina@gmail.com.
Like the bowl season, this system is convoluted, full of strange variables, lengthy, and, ultimately, a wild ride. The Bad Boy Motors Gasparilla Bowl might not look like appointment television, but having Marshall(+7) for 33 points can bring any man to a cold and desperate sweat. We’ll be posting our picks on the next pod, and welcome your competition.
Appalachian State Bowl Tie-ins (A medium-sized thing)
Step aside Pac-12, because the Sun Belt truly gets the rawest deal in college football. Georgia State beat Tennessee, Georgia Southern came within a field goal of Minnesota, and wins over North and South Carolina suggest that Appalachian State could have won the damn ACC Coastal. Despite this success, the mighty Mountaineers, champions of the Sun Belt, are lost to the obscurity of the New Orleans Bowl. There they’ll face the unworthy C-USA runner-up: UAB. This insulting end to a remarkable season is the product of one thing: bogus bowl tie-ins.
I’m no sports historian, but I’m gonna bet that, like every other facet of college football, the Sun Belt’s bowl tie-ins were chiseled in granite around the time the Ten Commandments came down from Mt. Sinai. When these bowl tie-ins were negotiated, the Sun Belt was a Deep South afterthought. UL-Lafayette, Troy, and Arkansas State usually owned the conference, while it was unclear if FBS upstarts like App. State, Georgia State, and Georgia Southern could even compete at this level.
Now, in 2019, these Sun Belt Teams have repeatedly proven themselves worthy of greater postseason competition, especially in a year where the C-USA can only muster a very green (no pun intended) UAB team as their runner-up. At this point, it’s a travesty for the Sun Belt champion to meet a decent C-USA team in the New Orleans Bowl.
There has to be a better way to handle this. As a fan, I wish they’d just put all the non-playoff bowl teams in a pot, pick out the most tantalizing matchups, and assign the bowls based on the quality of each game. Give me App. State vs. Tennessee and Florida vs. Utah, rather than the games we’re stuck with. Changing the status quo, though, is about as likely as me becoming College Football Commissioner. Sorry, Mountaineers.
ACC Basketball Scheduling (a digestible thing)
I’ll break up the flow of football consciousness with a little ACC Basketball minute. I don’t hate change, but I can be skeptical; and the ACC’s decision to play a few conference games last week was downright vexing. I don’t NEED meaningful conference basketball right now. My plate is already too full to fit UNC-UVA into a December Sunday afternoon. Save it for when I have time!
It’s not just rough on my schedule, but also on the product itself. College basketball teams in early December are hardly finished products. The quick incorporation of freshmen and transfers, along with unprecedented roster turnover, makes gelling take longer than ever. UNC and UVA, specifically, just came off jarring losses in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge that have them questioning their direction and identity. This is hardly the moment for a traditional grudge match. Keep this game in January or February, when we’re watching fully constituted, functional versions of these squads. That’s when good basketball happens, and not the 56-47 perversion a couple channel surfers stumbled upon last Sunday afternoon.
At the very least, they could have waited to play those matchups THIS weekend, when the slate is as bereft and wanting as a Joe Buck’s sense of humor.
That moment when…..(a thing requested by the good Stevo)
There were a couple moments this weekend when I dared to hope we might be in the midst of something miraculous. Upsets, as they say, were brewing. Bryce Perkins, deep in Clemson territory, was making the Tigers look vulnerable for the first time since October, and Ohio State-Wisconsin was about to kick off. Although Perkins did end the drive with a gut-punch of an interception, Wisconsin provided reinforcements with an early touchdown. Unlike UVA, Wisconsin seemed for real. When they ended the half up two touchdowns, my stubborn optimism whispered dangerously: “What if Wisconsin actually wins this thing?”
I didn’t have long to ponder. Wisconsin came out of the half flat, and then Ohio State steamrolled them. For two precious quarters, though, I could wallow in the possibility of sweet, sweet chaos.
Ohio State is great, and losing wouldn’t have changed that. Even with a loss by two touchdowns, they’re in the Playoff as the 3-seed, especially since they’d already given Wisconsin the business earlier in the year. The great dilemma would have been Oklahoma vs. Wisconsin for the fourth spot, and I think Wisconsin would have gotten the nod.
Wisconsin has a bad loss at Illinois, but it’s no more damning that Oklahoma’s defeat at the hands of Kansas State. That game wasn’t even as close as its 41-48 final score. That puts Oklahoma’s two wins over Baylor against Wisconsin’s split with the Buckeyes. Sorry Big 12, but I’ll take the team that vanquished Ohio State for a Big Ten Championship. Sure, Wisconsin has one more loss, but who’s blaming them for only taking one of two from the Buckeyes? To put this in Pokemon Card terms (feel free to skip this next sentence), I’ll take one shiny Charizard over two holographic Gyradoses any day. Therefore, Wisconsin goes to the playoff.
The damning piece of evidence against Oklahoma isn’t even this year’s performance. I don’t work for Gallup, but I think people are tired of watching the Sooners get handled in the first round by deeper, more complete teams. If the committee had ANY alternatives, they’d have bounced Oklahoma from the Playoff. Alas, Utah and Oregon faltered, and Ohio State did what Ohio State does. I just hope they start doing it a little earlier against Clemson.
Until next time, readers, keep Carolina on your mind.