Big Ten football last Saturday was all about who was going to win the East. We’re pretty confident who that will be now. But what about the West? Two huge games will sort that out for us — and one is a total surprise. Click onward and let’s get to it.
Well, the landscape of college football has been left in smoldering ruin. Between this insanity and the MLB playoffs, we were treated to one of the most exciting weekends of sports in recent memory, so tip your hat to the Buffalo Wild Wings employee that went rogue and finally hit the big red button.
Week 6 of the 2014 college football season will forever go down as one of the best in the history of the sport, with chaos reigning supreme and ruling with an iron fist. Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA all went down, marking the first time in history that five of the AP Poll’s top eight teams all lost in the same week. This week had everything a fan could want and more, leaving the race for the College Football Playoff wide open and throwing us into an alternate universe where the Egg Bowl might be as highly anticipated as the Iron Bowl.
So without further adieu, let’s take a look back on the sensational games from a memorable weekend that will, from this point forward, be my evidence for why I’ll take college football over the NFL any day of the week.
Big Ten football didn’t have too many shocks last week. There were only two real surprises, one pleasant (Rutgers’ win over Washington State) and one unpleasant but probably not all that surprising (Northwestern’s loss to Cal, which is the fault of everybody but Pat Fitzgerald, to hear him tell it). What’s in store for week two? Click through and see how I’m calling the games this week.
Enjoy watching Michigan and Notre Dame face off this weekend, because you won’t be seeing them tangle again for a long time.
Their opponent? The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame
Michigan couldn’t have asked for a better outcome in the inaugural night game in Ann Arbor, as it was arguably the most exciting contest in the rivalry’s history. The Wolverines overcame a 24-7 deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat their counterparts from South Bend, 35-31. The game was highlighted by an 80-yard drive led by Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who threw a game-winning touchdown pass with two seconds remaining.
Nearly two years later, the second night game in Michigan’s illustrious history will signal the end of an era. After Saturday, the Irish and Wolverines will suspend their annual duel, a decision that was made after Notre Dame decided to join the ACC last Fall.
Recently, Brian Kelly showed little emotion about dropping Michigan from the schedule, stating that it was not one of Notre Dame’s historic rivalry games.
It’s understandable why Notre Dame would part ways with the Michigan rivalry after joining a new conference. The Irish are looking to focus their recruiting efforts towards the southern and eastern parts of the country. In order for this once-storied program to return to national prominence on a recurring basis, Notre Dame will need to lure prospects away from schools like Alabama, LSU and Florida and entice them to make the trip to South Bend.
Certainly, what Notre Dame is doing for recruiting and monetary purposes is something any other school and athletic department would do as the landscape of college football is changing. But for Kelly to argue that the Notre Dame/Michigan game isn’t a national rivalry is idiotic.
In fact, the bout between these two historical programs is more than a game. It even has the two most recognizable fight songs in all of college sports. There’s no better sound on a college football Saturday than to hear the “Notre Dame Victory March,” only to be countered by “Hail! to the Victors.”
This game, though only played 40 times throughout the years, embraces the history of the sport. There are 1,771 college football wins between the two schools. Michigan tops the all-time victories list in FBS history (905) while Notre Dame ranks third (866). Not to mention, the game features two of the best helmets in all the land: the golden plate helmets of the Irish and the winged, maize and blue caps of the Wolverines.
To say that this game isn’t of national prominence is somewhat irresponsible.
Games played in early September rarely have BCS implications attached to them. And yet, Notre Dame and Michigan agreed to play this game on a yearly basis.
True, the game is not as big as the Ohio State/ Michigan game or the USC/Notre Dame game played towards the end of the year. But just because this game isn’t the marquee matchup for each school doesn’t mean it’s not a rivalry and doesn’t mean it’s not of national importance.
ESPN’s College GameDay has been to South Bend and Ann Arbor a combined six times to preview this game. That must make it somewhat relevant, right?
It’s a game that featured 22 total national championships, 11 claimed by each school. It featured great coaches like Bo Schembechler and Lou Holtz. It has also boasted 10 Heisman Trophy winners, seven from Notre Dame and three from Michigan.
It will be hard to find another rivalry that has so much tradition.
College football is losing one of the most anticipated games of the season, at least for the time being. The landscape of this tradition-rich sport is changing, whether it be for better, or in this case, the worse.
This rivalry has endured temporary hiatuses before, so the college football world shouldn’t assume that this game needs a burial plot.
Only time will tell if Notre Dame will decide to skip out on its southern-based recruiting agenda for one week and return to Ann Arbor for another game under the lights at some point in the future.
We all have exciting obligations to look forward to in the fall. A planned trip with your children, nieces or nephews to a pumpkin farm. Some of us take a best Halloween costume contest too seriously. Thanksgiving with family is a must. My best friend’s destination wedding in Key Largo is already on my schedule while before that I move into a new house in September.
That said, you can add some more obligations to your fall schedule. The mantra could be “I cannot call myself a real college football fan if I miss all of the best games.” Best games is a subjective phrase but here we’re looking at atmosphere, tradition, prime-time kickoffs and rivalries with title implications. Make your Saturday afternoons a tailgate-type event with friends and family this fall and have some of these awesome games on your TV as the entertainment.
Here’s a look at our picks for the 10 must-see college football games of the 2013 season:
10. Wisconsin at Ohio State – September 28th, 8 p.m. on ABC
In each of the last two years this game has been too dramatic to miss, plus the Horseshoe at night is always rowdy. If Wisconsin wants to make Ohio State look like pretenders instead of contenders, it must win in Columbus and take the inside track to clinching its third straight B1G Championship Game appearance. If you just want to watch Urban Meyer lose his first game at Ohio State this is your second best chance to see it live. The other option is watching Braxton Miller potentially put himself in the early lead in the Heisman race.
9. Texas vs. Oklahoma in Dallas – October 12th, TBA
I was not going to put this on the list because Oklahoma has won the last three games by an average of 29 points. But you have to watch this because it is a classic rivalry game and I had to put a Big 12 game somewhere on this list. That said, Texas has to be better this year and if the Longhorns don’t show up in this game it might mean the end of the Mack Brown era. Brown should get his kids up to compete and possibly win if there are more years left in his head coaching career. Oklahoma is not particularly strong if you take their Fiesta Bowl no-show against Texas A&M as an indication of where they are on the national scale.
8. South Carolina at Georgia – Sept. 7th, TBA
This is an early SEC game with a lot on the line because the winner will have the inside track at clinching the East Division for an appearance in Atlanta for the the conference championship game. You have to factor in two great players going head to head to watch as well. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina and running back Todd Gurley of Georgia will definitely make this game worth watching.
Clowney is on everyone’s Heisman Trophy radar and many consider him the best player in the nation, while Gurley is a dark horse for the Heisman as well. Georgia has a lot to prove after their 35-7 loss to the Gamecocks in 2012, including Gurley who had his worst rushing performance of the season (39 yards).
7. Notre Dame at Michigan – September 7th, 8 p.m. on ABC
This will be the second-to-last head-to-head game between these two rivals since the Irish have opted out of the game from 2015 through 2017. Tbat’s unfortunate because Brian Kelly against Brady Hoke is turning into a fabulous annual football war. A rare night game in Ann Arbor brings back awesome memories of the 2011 game with Michigan going 80 yards in 28 seconds (right after a Notre Dame score) to win. We would be lucky to get another game where the winner takes it from the other team on the last play. Tommy Rees versus Devin Gardner at the quarterback position will decide the outcome of this game.
6. Texas A&M at LSU – November 23rd, TBA
This is a late November SEC game that could determine the West Division champion and it is in Baton Rouge. But at this point in the season the young Tigers might be ready for everything that A&M has to offer. Even if Johnny Manziel runs wild making it a high scoring affair, new LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron could have the offense capable of winning a shootout. I know Cameron is a joke as a head coach but you cannot deny his ability to coach up an efficient offense. An efficient offense is something LSU fans have not seen since JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn were dumping points on their opponents. Those were some pretty awesome teams.
5. Georgia at Clemson – August 31st, 8 p.m. on ABC
This gets extra points for being the most talented teams going head to head during the first weekend of football. This will be in prime time on ABC, and is the best non-conference game between ranked teams on the 2013 schedule. It might end up being a sloppy contest overall because it’s happening in Week 1, but there will be an incredible atmosphere in Clemson and big play potential with the talent on both sides of the ball for both teams. You don’t need to throw a football viewing party with friends for Elon at Georgia Tech earlier in the day, but tune in for this game in the evening.
4. Oregon at Stanford – Thursday November 7th, 9 p.m. on ESPN
Bad luck for FOX that ESPN already has locked up the PAC 12’s best conference game at the beginning of November. This game should be announced by Gus Johnson. I can’t predict the future, but the winner of this game should be representing the North Division in the PAC 12 Championship Game. In the preseason both teams have goals of reaching the BCS National Championship Game and a victory here would pad the resume for more votes and a higher mathematical probability. It should help provide whatever they need from the BCS computer to be ranked in the top two.
3. Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville – November 7th, 3:30 p.m. on CBS
This is a huge game, just ask a fan of either football squad. These two schools have met in Jacksonville for the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” and an SEC football game annually since 1933. I never considered this a great rivalry game when I grew up in the 1990s because Steve Spurrier and the Gators dominated the Bulldogs almost every year. But now I see it as a game with balance, conference title implications, talent and the November pressure where contenders show their true colors. This game should tip the scales for a lot of potential national title matchups in 2013.
2. Ohio State at Michigan – November 30th, TBA on ABC
The second of what should be many great meetings between Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke has it’s first appearance in Ann Arbor. This game has a really exciting feeling that brings up the back memories from the peak of the Woody vs. Bo “10-year war.” Devin Gardner and Braxton Miller will give fans a great look at their talents at quarterback and Miller’s Heisman hopes will hinge on his performance here. Not to mention the national championship implications that should come into play as well. Chalk has the Buckeyes being undefeated going into this game but Michigan could be in a similar situation since the toughest games on their schedule are at home in 2013.
1. Alabama at Texas A&M – September 14th, 3:30 p.m. on CBS
Less than a month away! Even if Manziel gets popped by the NCAA and suspended for this game, everyone will still watch. The result will either be Kevin Sumlin showing that his system is the true reason for the team’s success as the Aggies win again, or Nick Saban dismantling the only team to beat the Crimson Tide in 2012. That said, if I were a betting man I would put the house on everyone getting to see what we can’t wait to see: McCarron versus Manziel part two. The winner of this game could be playing South Carolina, Florida or Georgia in the SEC title game. Any of those matchups would end up being must see TV in early December.