First a short lead-in. If you put up with my massive tweeting on the web or deal with me in person you know that I take college football way too serious. Sorry. I live by the rule that any third down with one or two yards to go should be a fullback run. Always.
I don’t fancy gimmick plays. I love watching a pulling guard (when the offensive guard sprints to the outside of an offensive tackle, becoming lead blocker on a run designed to be bounced outside) get to the second level and lay out smaller guys to spring a 23 yard rush.
Part of the thrill is that the smallest of plays most people take for granted is a potential game changer. On first down your middlelinebacker fills the A-Gap and stops a tailback after a gain of two. All of a sudden second and eight turns into third and eight. That third down limits the offensive playbook. Maybe the quarterback takes a chance fifteen yards down field. He throws a second-quarter interception down seven points. Then your team eats 5:30 off the clock, goes up fourteen to zero and the opponents gameplan alters to an unforeseen, uncomfortable game situation. Half-time adjustments don’t work. Your team wins a September game 20-10 . That win puts you into a conference title game, you win and play in a BCS bowl. Great season, right? I like to look back at the first and ten where the linebacker stopped a designed four to six yard run for two. Every play means something. We just take it for granted.
Now a few Week 1 things to watch outside of the deservedly hyped Oregon vs LSU, Georgia vs Boise State games Saturday night. (Who the hell scheduled those to be on simultaneously anyway?)
Villanova vs Temple: Thursday Night 7pm ESPN3.
Temple’s premier tailback, Bernard Pierce, had a solid seventy-five yards for the Owls in last years 31-24 win between the regional Philadelphia schools. After rushing for 1361 yards in 2009 injuries bit him starting in the Penn State game last year, limiting his potential. But he’s back and hopefully back to the form that had him scamper for 169 yards and two touchdowns in a victory over Big East Champion UConn last season. Maybe he takes that first and ten yard run to the house tonight.
UNLV vs Wisconsin: Thursday Night 8pm ESPN/ESPN3.
The big story is NC State transfer Russell Wilson who people call a Heisman dark horse. Except me. He’ll be playing a better overall defensive conference in the Big Ten and Wisconsin’s strength will be Montee Ball and James White pounding the rock. They will rush successfully on that first and ten.
South Florida vs Notre Dame: Saturday 3:30 NBC.
Skip Holtz and his USF Bulls come to South Bend to see his dad’s statue. If Lou Holtz could make a deal with the devil for Touchdown Jesus to beat his son in game one, leading the Irish to an unpredicted run for a National Championship he would. That’s highly unlikely, but the Irish need to build on last seasons 8-5 record. Meanwhile USF is gaining momentum in Florida recruiting thanks to Miami and U of Florida changing coaches. A question mark goes next to the Irish on running plays, but the defensive line should be strong this year along with All-American linebacker candidate Manti Te’o.
Enjoy the games, the season, and the gap filling linebackers. And, of course, JoePA forever.