This Thanksgiving weekend, two in-state Big 12 rivalry games mean more than just bragging rights.
The one-loss Oklahoma Sooners will face the one-loss Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Bedlam series in Stillwater. In Fort Worth, Texas, one-loss Baylor looks to make a statement on the road against TCU, 9–2 and coming off of a one-point loss to Oklahoma.
What are already important games for each team have become significant nationwide, as the winners of these two games will have a huge impact on who makes the second annual College Football Playoff.
My dad, an Ohio State graduate and fan, went to take down his Buckeye inflatable after OSU’s 17–14 loss to Michigan State Saturday and found it had fallen on its side and was buried in three inches of snow. That image was a fitting metaphor for Ohio State’s performance. The Buckeyes have been ridiculed as frauds all year by many, including their own fans. And they finally showed their weakness in falling to the Spartans.
Ezekiel Elliot was underused and ineffective, rushing 12 times for just 33 yards. Quarterback J.T. Barrett was just 9 of 16 passing for 46 yards. This led to multiple missed opportunities that, combined with stifling defense by Michigan State, knocked Ohio State from the ranks of the unbeaten and vaulted the Spartans into an already-crowded field of one-loss teams.
Fans and athletes in college sports share a special bond: school pride. At no event is that pride more evident than at an old-fashioned rivalry game.
Each portion of the U.S. has its own intense college football rivalries: The Southeast hosts Alabama-LSU; the Midwest is home to Michigan-Ohio State; and the West Coast has Washington-Oregon.
On October 17, the newest installment of the battle between the Washington Huskies and the Oregon Ducks took place in front of more than 69,700 fans at Husky Stadium in Seattle. This was the 108th time the two sides had faced each other in a rivalry that dates back to 1900 and has been played nearly every year since.
In just their fifth season of playing football, the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners are already one of the most successful start-up football programs in the NCAA. They’ve gone from not having a team at all to playing some of the top teams in the country. UTSA has put itself on the map nationally and has brought together a university and a city craving a football team to call its own.
The long road started well before the Roadrunners ran on the Alamodome field in front of a crowd of 56,743 in their inaugural game against Northeastern State in 2011. In fact, two years before that, all the program had was one helmet and one jersey.
Back in 2001, athletic director Lynn Hickey, along with senior associate athletic director Brad Parrott, started talking about a football program’s potential at the school. At that time, it was just, what if?
For years, the gold standard in Big House crowd-silencing was held by a man named Kordell Stewart.
On September 24, 1994, Stewart was the quarterback of then-fourth-ranked Colorado. He heaved the pigskin almost 75 yards in the air into the arms of teammate Michael Westbrook for a touchdown as time expired to beat the seventh-ranked Michigan Wolverines, 27-26. The “Miracle at Michigan” still astonishes 21 years later and often appears on lists of college football’s greatest finishes.
But on Saturday, the Michigan State Spartans might have topped that.
Last season, quarterback Cardale Jones helped the Ohio State Buckeyes win one of the most unlikely national titles in college football history. Unlikely because he was the third quarterback to play under center for the Buckeyes that season. First there was Braxton Miller, who went down with an injury. J.T. Barrett stepped in and helped OSU climb the AP and College Football Playoff rankings. And then he was injured, opening the door for Jones.
In a matter of months, Jones went from an unknown to a man being referred to by his nickname of “12 Gauge” in official State of Ohio documents. And as soon as the Buckeyes won the national title, everyone knew what Ohio State faced. Namely, the quarterback controversy to end all quarterback controversies come next season.
Well, next season is here. And as the Buckeyes’ good-but-not-great wins so far have proven, the battle is far from over.
Once upon a time, boys and girls, college football was stable. The Big Ten had 10 teams, as did the Pac-10. The Big Eight had eight teams, and the Southwest and Atlantic Coast conferences truly focused on the Southwest and the Atlantic Coast.
But college football has done its best in the last three decades — the last five years specifically — to blow that stability to smithereens.
Conference realignment is the art of conference commissioners sitting down and rearranging college football’s carefully crafted order. And in recent years it has dominated the headlines. It seems to be quieting down, with only two teams (Navy and Charlotte) moving leagues this season. But, just for fun, let’s stroll down memory lane and remember the joy (and sadness) conference realignment brought us.