Locker Room: Unpredictable, but not at the top

       There is a lot of unpredictability in college football, but at the top of the food chain, it is very predictable. I’ve  predicted a number of times that little would change in college football this season, and in fact, little has changed the past few years. You have the upper echelon. That group is even smaller this season, and the gap between them and rest of the country is even wider.
      It’s too early to talk about playoffs and such stuff, but how many of you think it will include the group of Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, and possibly a Notre Dame, Penn State, and even West Virginia could find a way, but it is not likely, and shouldn’t even be a point of conversation at this point. Yes, Michigan, Wisconsin, LSU, Auburn, Stanford, and maybe a couple others are still out there, but do you really expect them to be in the mix at the end? I doubt it.
     The conference races are also sorting themselves out quickly. The past couple weeks have been a disaster for the ACC. Frankly, it appears to be Clemson and the rest. Syracuse has been a surprise team, but the Orange plays at Clemson Saturday. Who you betting on? Boston College looked good, but then got thrashed by 0-3 Purdue. NC-State is unbeaten, but since its game with WVU was cancelled, nobody really knows about that team. Louisville suddenly is not good, Georgia Tech doesn’t appear competitive, Florida State is a train wreck, Wake Forest just give up  56 to Notre Dame, Carolina and Pitt appear to be defenseless. It’s a bit ugly.
    And then comes Virginia Tech with the most mind-boggling performance imaginable. Got blown out by 0-3 Old Dominion who lost to Liberty by 42, and allowed almost six and a half football fields on defense. Put the lunch bucket away. On top of that the quarterback is lost indefinitely, the best pass rusher has been dismissed from the team for repeated discipline problems, and the Hokies were so bad they completely fell out of the top 25 rankings.
       Now they play at undefeated Duke Saturday night. How good is Duke? I don’t know, there aren’t any marquee wins on the board, but at this point, what do you expect out of Va. Tech? I think it will be one of two things, very good, or very bad. Likely not too much in between those two things. After suffering such humiliation, these are the times good football programs come together. So don’t be surprised if that happens. Also, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t.  Presently, Virginia is 3-1 and ahead of the Hokies in the conference.
     In short, the ACC is simple to figure out. If Clemson beats Syracuse Saturday, the Atlantic race is history, and this is only the fifth week of the season. Tech vs. Duke is big, because it appears the Coastal race is Miami, the Hokies, and Duke.
      There are matchups that will change things as the season passes, however, I don’t think it will result in much change at the top. For instance Ohio State plays at Penn State Saturday night, and Stanford is at Notre Dame. Both are games of magnitude. Should Penn State and Stanford come out on the short end, their title hopes die. But there are things that will take place, and the conference championships, and when it all washes out, it will be like eating the same thing for dinner all week.
      I don’t think that’s good for the game. But college football is not like pro sports that have drafts. The NFL system would seem to dictate that eventually the Cleveland Browns will be better than the New England Patriots. That may be on the way to happening presently. When you are as good as the Patriots have been for so long, eventually your team gets old, and you are almost always the last team to draft, so the best college players are going to other teams. The system is supposed to work that way so the best teams are not always the best, and the worst are not always the worst.
       College is totally different. It’s about recruiting the best talent coming out of high school for the most part each year. Guess who is having the best recruiting years? How about Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, and so on and so forth. As long as it remain that way, nothing will change.
A Couple of Passing Shots:
        Patience seems to have gone away in college football and in general these days. Lack of patience often turns into mistakes. Wake Forest fired its defensive coordinator following last week’s loss to Notre Dame. Notre Dame has better personnel than Wake. If the two teams play again in 10 years, the Irish just might score 56 again. I doubt the guy forgot how to coach in one afternoon. You see it frequently. The programs, at all levels, that change coaches the most are always the teams that lose the most.
       I’m not a huge NFL fan and I’m becoming less of one all the time, and after watching a couple replays from last Sunday, I think the league has lost its way. You simply cannot tackle the quarterback. Tackle him high it’s a penalty. Tackle him low it’s a penalty. Put a perfect form tackle on the quarterback, face mask on his chest, arms around his waste, perfect, but if you fall on him it’s still a penalty. What is a defensive player to do?
       Do you want to play football, or do you want everybody to stick a flag in their belt? The NFL is doing more damage to the game than anybody else could. It’s football. Is the NFL so worried about rules and regulations and attacks from the timid that they want to take physical activity out of the game? As important as a quarterback is to football, he’s also not the only player on the field. Let all of them play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. Presently, it’s a joke.
      Hopefully they will not rule out a 90 mile per hour fastball in tight in baseball, and take out the dunk in basketball because it’s too aggressive. Timidness kills the very thing that athletic competition is based on. The world of sport needs to stop being timid, and play the games the way they were meant to be.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot