Last Friday night I sat down to compose Saturday’s blog. I walked away from the computer and when I came back, the screen was fluttering and there was a small black mark in the shape of a leaf at the top of the screen. While I admit to being computer illiterate, even I knew that wasn’t a good sign. Tried turning it off, then back on - same result.
Since the computer was still under warranty, we were told a computer guru would be dispatched to our house. As soon as the part that was to be ordered came in. Unfortunately, it was Saturday and the part couldn’t be ordered until Monday. The earliest the expert could come out would be Tuesday. In the morning, we asked? No, sorry, not until the afternoon.
Since we were leaving to watch younger son, Alex, play basketball with his Cal State Monterey Bay squad in San Francisco and wouldn’t be returning until around noon on Tuesday, we scheduled a visit at 1:00 pm yesterday. Everything turned out great - Alex, after a scoreless first half due mostly to foul trouble, wound up with 16, including a three pointer in OT with his guys down one to put the Otters ahead to stay, 89-87 (the final score was 91-87).
And . . . the computer is fixed. So let’s get back to blogging.
Life in Fresno, CA (and, I imagine, DeKalb, IL) is getting interesting. Both of the local universities (Fresno State & Northern Illinois) have football teams that are undefeated and members of conferences (Mountain West & Mid-American, respectively) that reside on the outside looking in as far as the mega money that big-time college football generates. Yet, make no mistake about it, each team is having a big-time season. As in undefeated and, in both cases, major favorites to remain that way. Here are the problems they face as they attempt to increase their budget:
For a non-BCS team (like FSU & NIU) to qualify for a “BCS Bowl,” and more importantly for these schools, the big money, it needs to finish in the top 12 in the final poll or finish in the top 16 AND be ranked ahead of one of the BCS’s six conferences. The big six conferences are really the big five conferences plus something called the American Athletic Conference, better known as the teams that were in the Big East before the original Big East either seceded or stayed together because they never were a football conference to begin with (please read blog from 12/6/10 for an enlightening explanation).
Fresno State is 9-0, having lost out on a (sure, if there ever was one) tenth win when its game with Colorado was canceled due to the torrential flooding on the weekend of September 14th in Colorado. After last night’s victory over Toledo, Northern is 11-0. Each has a strong case, with the only negative a weak schedule. Since football schedules are made years in advance, it’s difficult to be prophetic 5-10 years down the road. Fresno State’s two “name” opponents were Colorado and Rutgers. The Bulldogs took out the Scarlett Knights in the season opener, 52-51 in overtime but only after the RU placekicker missed a game-winning field goal on the final play in regulation. NIU’s “name” games were Iowa (currently in fifth place in the Big 10, 6-4, 3-3) whom they beat 30-27 in the season opener and Purdue (last, or 12th, in the Big 10 - there’s an accomplishment - 1-9, 0-6). Bob Griese and Drew Brees evidently left no DNA.
The similarities of the two are they each have a quarterback who is a Heisman Trophy candidate, the Bulldogs’ Derek Carr and the Huskies’ Jordan Lynch. Carr is a prototypical NFL QB while Lynch is most certainly not, although NFL scouts are enchanted with his knowledge of the game, his ability to win and, unlike a former Heisman winner, his willingness to explore playing another position. The teams’ offensive and defensive stats are nearly identical and for those who like to play the “common opponent” game, Fresno won at Idaho 61-14 in week six while Northern beat the Vandals 45-35 in week two. Each team relies on the inability of its opponent to defend a potent offense, while just getting by on defense, i.e. giving up too many points too easily. Against a highly ranked team they undoubtedly will draw in a bowl game (BCS or otherwise), this puts an awful lot of pressure on an offense, no matter how dynamic and explosive it might be.
There’s no question both schools are among the best in the nation. In the most recent AP Top 25, FSU comes in at 15th, NIU at 20th; in the USA Today Poll, they’re 16th and 21st, respectively and in ESPN.com’s Power Rankings it’s 19th for the Bulldogs and 22nd for the Huskies. As far as the all-important BCS Poll, they couldn’t be closer - Fresno State at 15th, one spot ahead of Northern Illinois (all rankings do not include NIU’s 35-17 win over Toledo or Fresno State’s expected thrashing of a 3-7, 1-5 New Mexico team at Bulldog Stadium before a sell out crowd on Senior Day.
Face it, the Mountain West and Mid-American conferences are both better than the AAC - which is composed of schools, before conference-hopping, that were in the same (or lesser) leagues than the MWC and MAC. Central Florida and Louisville were names that were never in any conversation of football powers. What NIU has going for it is that it made it to a BCS bowl last year and was involved in a close contest for the first three quarters. What it has going against it is . . . the fourth quarter. Some may feel it might be better to give Fresno State its shot. Realistically, they both deserve a BCS bowl game - but I’ve always been on David’s side.
There might be a scenario in which, despite both clubs winning out, a team such as Central Florida or Louisville somehow manages to leap frog both in the BCS Poll (UCF is already ranked in front of both in ESPN.com’s Power Rankings) and then the “big boys” keep all the money to themselves. If it comes down to that, Australian novelist Christina Stead will have been proven right because it is she who said:
“If all the rich people in the world divided up their money among themselves, there wouldn’t be enough to go around.”