There is usually a lot on the line when LSU and Arkansas meet up on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
The battle for the Golden Boot typically carries major post season ramifications. National title hopes have been shattered and bowl bids have been gained or bettered in this border state rivalry.
This year, however, carries a little different meaning for both teams.
With apologies to Notre Dame and its faithful followers, especially those who believe a bias exists against their beloved Irish, the reality heading into Week 13 of the college football season is that the top-ranked team in the nation’s game at four-loss Southern California isn’t all that enticing in the grand scheme of things.
At best, that contest ranks – at best – seventh on the “must see” list, considering five other matchups pit ranked squads against one another and unbeaten, but BCS-banned Ohio State takes on No. 19 Michigan.
Now, if the Irish should lose to the Trojans, that’s another story … to pick up on later.
For now, though, we look at the true No. 1 storyline entering the weekend, and while it isn’t crystal clear to most, it should be. Treated like the little brothers in the backyard trying to hang with the cool teenagers when it came to respect and rankings, Florida State and Clemson get cracks to show they belong, facing in-state “big brothers” Florida and South Carolina.
He’s not going to win the Heisman. Let’s get that out in the open right from the get-go.
Playing for an unranked, underachieving team that has gone south faster than “snow birds” trek to Florida the first sign of sub-50 temps in their native Northeast abode, Marqise Lee has that inoperable obstacle in his path to college football’s highest individual honor as is.
In a true testament to irony, the Southern California receiver/return man has become the marquee attraction to one of the nation’s most recognized programs and that connection only serves to hurt – heck, kill – his chances.
The video-game numbers Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel puts up every week in proving the Aggies-will-bomb doomsayers wrong during an initial foray into SEC play hasn’t helped, either. Nor has skill and leadership displayed by Braxton Miller and Manti Te’o in spearheading unbeaten seasons at Ohio State and Notre Dame, either.
But, push comes to shove, do you really want to argue who the best player in the sport happens to be?
Biases, allegiances and affiliations aside, anyone would be hard pressed to trump a case for Lee holding that title.
The University of Maryland’s Board of Trustees voted to accept an invitation to become the Big Ten’s 13th member on Monday. Rutgers is then expected to announce their move to the Big Ten on Tuesday, which will round out the conference with 14 schools. From the moment the rumors of a potential move from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten began about a week ago, Maryland fans were starting to form their opinions about leaving their beloved ACC.
On paper, the move to the Big Ten makes perfect sense for Maryland. Their athletic program has been bleeding cash in recent years, and the Big Ten offers far more revenue for the school then the ACC does. The Big Ten also has the added luxury of the Big Ten Network to further increase revenue, and that their other TV deals expire in 2017, giving them a chance to negotiate a new deal far sooner than any other conference can.
It’s reached the point of some street game in New York City. Flip a card here, show its match over there. Have a cup with a ball in it, mix with two cups that don’t, shuffle ’em around and then have your, um, patron pick up where it is.
Pretty soon, the nation’s college sports fan base will be about as clueless as a hoodwinked tourist with knowing where the ball is.
Just when it seems the landscape of conference affiliations has settled somewhat, another continental shift kicks in.
This has gone beyond ridiculous. It has surpassed sublime. At this point, it defies description … if not sanity.
OK, we get it. Maryland felt like an outsider in a circuit it helped to create, so university regents voted Monday to jump off the ACC wagon and hitch itself to the Big Ten. Not that it will have any more cachet with its new companions in the Midwest, but at least that bigger paycheck will help sooth any hurt, or left-out, feelings now.