By Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Under the heading, “Old, But Not Dead”, and at the risk of being Brent Musburgered, what I noticed about the Alabama-Auburn “Iron Bowl” last Saturday was the plethora of absolutely drop dead beautiful women in the Auburn student section. Do you have to be a beauty pageant winner to sit there? I don’t know about that, but if they need a 67-year old retired teacher and cub reporter for “The Fernley Reporter” to be an usher or chaperone in that section, I’m available. My wife says she’ll even let them have me, as long as she gets to keep my PERS checks.
Many will remember Brent Musburger as being the last old guy to publicly praise a woman’s beauty during an Alabama football game. That Musburger praise resulted in ABC/ESPN dropping Musburger as its lead broadcaster for college football games and the veteran broadcaster falling to being the voice of the Las Vegas Raiders. I guess a similar punishment for me would be going from covering the NFL for “The Fernley Reporter” to covering middle school volleyball matches for the school newspaper. I have to admit that although I think he carried it on for too long, at the time I thought what Musburger said was fine and even funny in the context, and was surprised at the consequence. Similarly, I think my observation is also fine, although you might not think it’s funny.
Surprisingly, I did also watch the football game, and it got me thinking. Thanks to some, ahh, not very smart play by Auburn and some very clutch play by Alabama, the game went into overtime. The NCAA has some new rules for overtime in 2021 that I did not know about, including teams must go for two point conversions after touchdowns in the second overtime, and, beginning with the third overtime, each team rotates going only for a two-yard two-point conversion until the game is decided. The NCAA made this change to try to avoid a repeat of the 2018 Texas A&M/LSU seven overtime game that featured more than 200 total snaps.
I like this change. I hate that so many NFL games are decided by field goals at the end. The college overtime rules seem much more fair to me, and the 2021 rule changes seem to be both fair and achieve the NCAA’s stated goal of shortening the games for player safety.
But aside from ogling at the women, I also thought about other changes that I believe would help college football.
The first is to not stop the clock, except in the final two minutes of each half, for a first down. College football games are WAY TOO LONG, over a half hour longer than pro games, according to sportsfanfocus.com, and I think that one big reason for this is the pros do not stop the clock for first downs.
A second is to limit who is allowed to be on the sidelines during games. Besides the obvious danger to players and sideline standers, I see these sideline standers harassing referees on a regular basis. What is the purpose of hundreds of people standing on the sidelines, anyway?
Finally, (for now) there is the College Football Playoff. I would really like to see a tournament like the NCAA’s basketball tournament in football as well, even if it took the whole season. I can understand that schools would never go for this, though, considering half the teams would only have a one game season.
Realizing that football is a different sport than basketball and all teams want a complete season, but that all teams deserve a shot at a national championship, here’s my proposal.
There are 10 FBS (Football Bowl Championship) conferences right now, according to espn.com: The American; the ACC; the Big 12; the Big 10; Conference USA; the Mid-American; the Mountain West; the Pac 12; the SEC; the Sun Belt. I think all these conferences should send their champions to the tournament, and only conference champions would qualify for the new tournament. Independents either join a conference or be left out. The teams would be seeded 1 through 10, and the bottom 4 teams would have to play a play in game. That would leave 8 teams to play in a three-week tournament.
To satisfy the bowls, all these games could be the old bowl games, and the team that did not qualify could play in the other bowls. The only drawback I see is that teams then would have to give up one early season game. To rectify this, teams could schedule a “conditional” game that could be played after the regular season in the event those teams are not a part of the National Tournament.
It seems so simple to me. If college football is willing to seriously adjust overtime and safety rules, I would think the idea of settling the question of who has the best team on the field is a no brainer. But, just as Brent Musburger discovered, pointing out something obvious like beauty can have bad consequences.
My picks are either getting better, or the old saying, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes” proves true again. Whatever, I’ll take anything I can get. Here are my picks for this week against the point spread. Lines are from sportsline.com on Tuesday, Nov. 30.
Miami Dolphins (-3) vs New York Giants: The Dolphins are hot. Brian Flores seems really good at bringing his team through tough times and coming out the other side better than ever.
Cincinnati Bengals (-3) vs San Diego Chargers: I don’t get what’s going on with the Chargers, but the Bengals look good, at least against the AFC North.
San Francisco 49ers (-3) at Seattle Seahawks: After not winning a single 49ers game for 2 YEARS (??!!) I’ve won three in a row with my new buds, the Niners! I don’t think Seattle can stop the 49ers running game, no matter where they play this one.
Baltimore Ravens (-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers: Not to pick on the Steelers, but their offense stinks. Baltimore has holes, too, so be careful.
Denver Broncos (+10) at Kansas City Chiefs: Too many points.
New England Patriots (+3) at Buffalo Bills: The Pats are hot, the Bills too much dependent on Josh Allen.
Last week: 4-3
Western Kentucky (-1) over Texas-San Antonio: When these two teams met in the regular season, it was 52-46 UTSA. The Hilltoppers have won seven straight since, and quarterback Bailey Zappe has become the nation’s leading passer with 52 touchdowns and 4,968 passing yards. UTSA almost lost to UAB two weeks ago and then got their doors blown off last week by North Texas. This looks like a team that’s peaking now against one that peaked about three or four weeks ago.
Baylor (+5) over Oklahoma St.: Oklahoma St.’s win over Oklahoma in Bedlam last week was epic. There’s one problem with that. It’s very difficult to come back with a top effort after that kind of epic game – win or lose. Need proof? Look at what happened to the Chargers and Steelers last week, respectively, after their epic battle on Sunday Night Football a couple weeks ago. I’m not saying Oklahoma St. will come out flat for a conference championship game, but it’s incredibly difficult to get back to that emotional or physical peak after that kind of game. The Cowboys’ spirit will be willing. Doesn’t mean the flesh will be able.
Houston (+10 ½) over Cincinnati: Near the end of the Cincinnati-East Carolina game last Friday night, the ABC television crew put up a graphic comparing Cincinnati with Houston, and the announcers seemed stunned to see how evenly matched these teams are statistically. Cincinnati is noted for its defense, but the Bearcats actually allow six more points per game this season than Houston, while scoring five points per game more. Houston can stand up to the Bearcats in the trenches and is a veteran team with a steady quarterback. I don’t think Houston wins the game, but they are a live dog.
USC (+4) vs. Cal: There’s a lot going on at USC right now, with all the hoopla about Lincoln Riley coming from Oklahoma to take the head coaching job. Riley won’t coach this game, but Donte Williams will, and he’s beloved by the USC players. They came back with a very strong effort in the loss to BYU after their blowout loss in a rivalry game against UCLA, and if they play like that, they can handle a limited Cal team that’s 2-4 against the spread as a favorite this year and has lost 15 of the last 16 against USC.
Chargers (+3) at Bengals: I fully expected the Chargers to struggle last week in Denver following that Sunday night game against Pittsburgh, but I couldn’t bring myself to bet the Broncos. I did finally decide to play the under, and I was lucky that only one of Justin Herbert’s interceptions was returned for a touchdown. But I expect to see the prolific Herbert again this week, matching throw for throw with Joe Burrow. And since the Bengals manhandled the Steelers last week, we also get a case of what went up, coming back down.