Bayou Classic tradition, Iron Bowl bullying...and the Fighting Irish.
After a weekend of madness, college football went chalk this Saturday.
With potential upsets hovering over the premier BCS-altering games, everything went according to plan. Georgia and Alabama, two teams that will meet in the SEC title game for a national championship berth this upcoming weekend, blew out their in-state rivals. No. 1 Notre Dame was thought to be in danger going on the road to USC, but never even trailed Lane Kiffin’s 7-5 team. Florida even beat Florida State to keep their slim national title hopes alive, if only briefly.
The result: The clearest BCS picture possible.
The undefeated Irish are the unquestioned No. 1 team and will play for it all in Miami. Their opponent will be the one-loss winner of the SEC Championship game in Atlanta. And that’s it.
The rest of the pieces — Who plays in the other BCS games? — may be sorted out in the conference championships (notably the Big 10 and Pac-12 title games), but college football knows exactly where it stands.
Of course it isn’t truly fair, but it’s been entertaining nonetheless.
LIKE NO OTHER
Rivalry Week brought national fireworks (or lack thereof) from the usual suspects this weekend: The Iron Bowl, The Civil War, The Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh, among others. Hell, even the Egg Bowl was competitive this season.
But the Bayou Classic, layered in history and steeped in New Orleans still means something on a different level. Sure, the two teams — Grambling State and Southern — are not very competitive on the field, combining for just five wins this season, but there is more, always more. There’s music and history, marching bands and culture. There’s 39 straight years of memories.
There were no BCS implications Saturday, but maybe that’s the point.
Grambling is far removed from the glory days of legendary coach Eddie Robinson, winning just one game this season, but it pushed Southern to the very end in the Jaguars’ 38-33 win, scoring its final touchdown with two minutes remaining. It was Southern’s first win in the rivalry since 2007.
In the world of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, that result means something, perhaps even more than Notre Dame’s resurgence or Alabama’s defensive prowess. Often times, where the talent has shifted to the bigger, more financially affluent national universities, tradition is the saving grace of these schools. And no rivalry on this level offers more tradition than the Bayou Classic; it offered one of the few unforgettable experiences in an otherwise forgettable season.
STARTING TO TURN
The coaching carousel began to pick up steam this week, as programs in major conference began to free themselves of their head coaches.
There is little conference discrimination: Coaches from the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Pac-12, MAC and WAC all let coaches go. In fact, the SEC leads all conferences with four current coaching openings after Auburn’s Gene Chizik joined John L. Smith, Derek Dooley and Joker Phillips in the ranks of unemployed coaches. (Don’t feel bad for Chizik, though, he’s due up to $7.2 million for his trouble.) Overall, 12 coaches will not return for one reason or another in 2013.
In this day and age, especially in the SEC, winning is the end-all. And since there has to be a winner and a loser in every game played, expect that carousel to keep spinning.