Sports picksOctober 11, 2007

The role of “Ape” will be played by ESPN

Here we are in week seven of the college football season and I am thoroughly enjoying this season for its ups and downs and for the entertainment value. Betting wise, this season has been an unpredictable mess! Top teams have lost and losing teams are now winners. Up is down, black is white and the whole system as I thought I knew it is breaking down. Here I thought there was no way that tiny Appalachian State would beat mighty Michigan then a blocked field goal later and everyone knew the App. Sate nickname was the…uhh, well whatever it is they still won the game. 

The upsets only continued from there…

 

Struggling Colorado beat then ranked No. 3 Oklahoma in Boulder, and last week we saw the No. 1 ranked team in the land USC drop a home game to 41-point underdog Stanford.  This past week also gave us lowly and (father, forgive me) I do mean lowly Notre Dame getting one in the win column over Pac-10 preseason heavy UCLA. OK, I’ll give you the Stanford win was a little fluky. I mean backup QB, fourth-and-20s aplenty, but a win is a win. But why are there so many upsets this year?

The simple answer is parity spurred on by TV and internet exposure. We have seen parity growing for many years during the college basketball season, particularly during March Madness. Picks have gotten a lot tougher when the mid-major conferences show up and knock off a top seed. We are now seeing more of this in college football.

The grand shift started with teams like Boise State, Rutgers and Louisville. These oft overlooked programs are now starting to get the top blue-chip recruits that had historically shied away from smaller programs, because as the Yankees in MLB have shown us, money doesn’t always talk.  There are fewer scholarships to go around leaving those recruits that are on the verge, going elsewhere. Smaller schools also offer a better shot at playing time and coming in and making a difference right away. I mean look at USC’s stable of 10 or so RBs they have to carry the load. So if you’re trying to go to USC and coach Pete Carroll says “Ok. We want you to come to play in So Cal, but we can’t offer you a scholarship, or guarantee you any playing time. Oh and by the way there are 10 other guys ahead of you at your position.” Competition and depth is good for a program but those are some long odds for an 18-year-old.

Another factor is ESPN and the internet playing the role of giant ape in the room. I remember the day when there were only four or five games on TV per week (of course one was always Notre Dame), per channel and I think Keith Jackson called them all.   Nowadays, you can’t flip through the channels looking for Gilligan’s Island reruns without running into one of ESPN’s college football honks covering one game or another. It could be 3:30 AM on a Tuesday and there’s a live broadcast from an NAIA “Game of the Month.” Small schools are now getting air time and that indeed is attractive to recruits.  The college football blogosphere is now ubiquitous. Today you couldn’t throw a dart out of a third-floor dorm room window without hitting someone that has a web log for their school’s football program. Information is everywhere and potential recruits from thousands of miles away have access to every little detail your program has to offer. A college coach’s recruitment sphere has greatly expanded – almost worldwide. This of course is a simple explanation and just scratching the surface of what is to come.

As for my pick for an upset this weekend? I predict that I will upset my bowl of dip when some team I never thought of is hangin’ an “L” on some giant, visiting school. And yes, I was just kidding, I know App. State is the Mountaineers.