sports (2007-46)

Topsy Turvy


Dissecting a college football season that makes no sense

by Tony Basilo

Letâ’s see if we can figure out this college football season. Close to home, Tennessee is now victories over Vanderbilt and Kentucky away from playing for an SEC Title. Their home game versus Arkansas featured a few thousand empty seats and was upstaged by a full-page ad taken out by former Vol players on behalf of embattled coach Phillip Fulmer the day before the game. The official head coach of the weirdness that is the â’07 college football season, Fulmer is fighting for his coaching life while leading his team on an apparent SEC East Division championship jaunt.

All this while Georgia, a team Tennessee wasted in early October, has found a Known quantity in Knowshon Moreno, who led the â’Dogs to recent wins over the likes of Auburn and Florida. Adding to the oddity, Georgiaâ’s currently ranked in the top 10 while needing a #19 Tennessee team to lose in order to have a chance of getting to Atlanta. Georgia has done it by showing personality under stodgy head coach Mark Richt who sanctioned a classless yet effective pile-on touchdown celebration that jumpstarted Georgiaâ’s win over Florida. For the Auburn win, the ploy was Georgiaâ’s donning of hideous black jerseys that seemed a catalyst. This is the year that Richt resorted to gimmicks to get it done. Whatever it takes. Perhaps the â’Dogs win over the Gators is the decisive result in the conference that allows Tennessee to get to Atlanta.

Or maybe that decisive result was Auburn beating Florida. Yes, that same Auburn team that was beaten early in the season at home by one-time #2 South Florida of the Big East. So Auburn loses to South Florida but defeats the Gators. Of course it only stands to reason that Florida would then turn around later in the year and get hammered by Georgia. Yeah, OK.

Hammer jobs donâ’t mean a thing in â’07. Alabama hammered Tennessee, who beat Mississippi State, then turned around less than a month later and lost to the Bulldogs themselves. The win allowed former Bear Bryant player and â’Bama grad Sylvester Croom to save his job and become officially bowl-eligible. Itâ’s Mississippi Stateâ’s second straight win over Alabama, who now are on track for a worse record than the final season of Shula ball. â“Miss Mistakeâ” is now Alabama State champs with wins over Auburn and UAB as well. Works for me.

Tennessee was hammered by Florida, who scored 59 on the would-be Eastern Division champion only to later lose to LSU. The same LSU Bengal Tigers who lost in Lexington in early October. Yes, Kentucky owns the lone victory over LSU on the season. Thatâ’s #1 in America LSU. Makes sense to me.

California hammered Tennessee to open the season and has since lost four games. The Golden Bears are even sub-.500 in their own conference. Thatâ’s with a win over Oregon (#2 nationally). Embarrassing.

Give it up for Ron Zook, who was exiled from Florida after recruiting the core of the national championship Gators to Champaign, Ill. New recruits Regis Benn and Juice Williams helped Illinois score the schoolâ’s first win over a #1 team since 1956 by beating Ohio State. The Buckeyes had won 20 straight Big Ten games coming into the Illinois game.

Then again, this is the year where the eventual Big 10 champion could be Michigan who started the year getting upset by Division 1-AA Appalachian State. Michigan was thrashed by Oregon in week two before running off seven straight wins. A Michigan win over Ohio State places the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl.

And yes, Tennessee could be BCS bound or at least SEC championship game bound. The Vols, despite losing badly to three teams that have lost a combined 10 games between them, control their own destiny in the East. This is one bandwagon you better climb on before it leaves the station. That is, if it ever leaves the station. This season has proven that just when you think you have the answers, college football changes the questions.


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