When you only have four years to leave a legacy or make a mark (and sometimes less time than that if you’re a player planning on declaring for the NFL Draft early), there’s a sense of urgency in everything you do. And an extra gravity to decisions, individual moments, or unfortunate injuries.
That’s what makes it so hard to see a player like Josh Doctson go down with a wrist injury. Not only does it have the potential to upend a spectacular individual season, but it impacts TCU’s season as a whole. (Doctson got hurt during the Horned Frogs’ loss to Oklahoma State last Saturday, but may be playing this weekend). TCU was able to win despite injury after injury earlier this season, and eventually the magic ran out. But for Doctson, a senior, the risk of missing time makes you realize how rare those collegiate moments really are. (Even if he is on track to play again this weekend.)
If a team plays in 12 regular season and a bowl game for four-straight years, not counting any sort of redshirt action, a four-year player gets just 52 games. 52 chances. That’s a year’s worth of weekends, and nothing else. And that’s just another reason college football stands out relative to any other sport.
Here’s this week’s mailbag.
@sideoutpar: Who would be the funniest realistically possible playoff four? The most boring? The best football? The most exciting? Etc.
You’re going to make me go full apocalypse here. Okay the first thing that needs to happen is Stanford beats Notre Dame. But then Stanford has to lose the Pac-12 title game. As for SEC, you want Alabama to win the West, but then lose to Florida in the SEC Championship game. Then you have to root for the winner of the Coastal (let’s say UNC) to beat Clemson in the ACC Championship. Michigan State needs to win out (including beating Ohio State), and then lose to Iowa in the Big Ten title. And the Big 12 just has to do what it does, and have everyone beat each other. Baylor beats Oklahoma, Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State, Oklahoma State beats Baylor, TCU does… well something. And you want Houston to win out in the AAC the rest of the way.
So, who are we left with at this point?
Well, Iowa’s in! Then probably Florida? And oh my goodness. Does the committee put a two-loss team in anywhere? Not Bama, not Stanford. Clemson has a shot still. If the Big 12 has a one-loss left, they could get the nod. And a one-loss Michigan State team has an outside shot as well. If Utah is the team that comes out of the Pac-12 and gets that win over Stanford, it would be hard to leave the Utes out. What if LSU wins out the rest of the way and just has that loss to Alabama, but didn’t win the West? And then what do you do with Houston? From a hilarity standpoint, making the committee’s job as hard as possible also leads to all the potential talking points and arguments and controversies. Honestly, a playoff of Iowa, Florida, Clemson and Utah would be a lot of fun, but could you imagine actually seeing it happen?
As for most boring, well, it’s the same as the best football. And that’d be the Top 4 as already constructed – Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame. These are your name brands. Two of them were in the playoff last year, the other two are huge names. But it’s also going to be awesome if it plays out this way. A Clemson-Notre Dame rematch to start the playoff would be amazing. Then you get an Alabama-Ohio State rematch too from last year’s playoff. And a potential Clemson-Alabama or Clemson-Ohio State (a rematch of that Orange Bowl from a copule years ago) would be insane for the national title. We’d yawn a bit when they got announced, but when the games were actually played, we’d lose our minds.
Most exciting? This is probably the toughest to answer. I want Clemson in, if only because Deshaun Watson deserves to have that big stage. One of those high-octane Big 12 offenses deserves a shot, whether it’s Baylor, Oklahoma State, or Oklahoma, so let’s hope one of the unbeatens makes it through, or Oklahoma plows through the rest of its schedule and has just the one loss. Ohio State is still just super fun, regardless of who is playing quarterback, and the intrigue of the Buckeyes defending their title is worth it. And that leaves one more spot. The most exciting thing to happen overall would be the SEC being left out (although I really can’t see that happening unless Florida loses to FSU and then beats Bama in the SEC title game). And hey, let’s put Stanford in. They’re a really fun team not enough people watch from week to week.
@chip_patterson: Who would be the apparel sponsor for your university if given the power to be an AD, and what would you want out of the deal?
Chip asks this question coming off the heels of N.C. State’s new deal with adidas. And it’s a tough one. The default answer would be Nike – every kid grows up wanting to have that Nike shoe deal, and to be special. The pull of Michael Jordan is that strong. And if you’re Oregon, Nike’s a good gig. You get all sorts of customization and limited release stuff. But adidas is quickly moving up. Sure, wannabe apparel critics want to hate on all the crazy stuff adidas does, but those uniforms wouldn’t see the light of day if players weren’t excited about them.
Let’s just say if I’m an elite school – and good enough to get that moniker – I’m going with Nike. But if I’m on that tier right below, I’m running with adidas. They give you that premium feel as a sponsor without necessarily having the name brand recognition of some of the other blue bloods. If I’m a slightly smaller school looking to make a difference, maybe I consider Under Armour. Although I’d have to be convinced I’ll get that personal touch.
@ChrisMottram: My 1.5-year-old son took four 3-hour naps last week. Can you imagine taking a 3-hour nap?
Unless I’m really sick, no. I can’t remember the last time I slept for three hours-straight even at night. I still am a strong believer in naps. I love them. I used to take them all the time in college, and even now during the season if I am really running low, I’ll try and lay down for about 45 minutes. I usually don’t sleep, but it helps significantly. But three hours? For a nap? Think of all the things you can do with that time if you really had that amount of freedom in the middle of the day. That’s cleaning the whole house. Getting a run in, and showering, and cooking dinner. That’s like eight episodes of The Office. That’s valuable, and a nap isn’t giving me enough return on investment there.
@themantz: Why don’t more restaurants offer Arnold Palmers as a beverage option?
You know, I’m really not sure about that one. (I want to say anti-Wake Forest bias, although that’s laughable to even consider.) Pretty much every restaurant has lemonade and iced tea separately. Which would mean just about every restaurant could offer an Arnold Palmer. But you don’t see the Arnold Palmers explicitly named on the menu. And that’s a dang shame because it’s a delicious and refreshing beverage that probably would be more popular if it had widespread distribution.
Here’s the thing: You can still order an Arnold Palmer even if you don’t see it on a menu. The worst thing that can happen is they give you a side-eyed look, or say no. Your life won’t be any worse than before – when you thought you couldn’t get an Arnold Palmer at all – and it might just be better if you do acquire said Arnold Palmer. That’s a pretty good lesson in general. If you are unsure about something, just ask, and hope for the best result. We can’t be deterred by the possibility of failure or the power of the word “No.”
@MR_Yoho: I watch Clemson games alone in excruciating anxiety. Is this normal? Or would it be healthier to show my nerves in public?
Finally, a chance to get my Dear Abbey on. I wish you all would ask me for advice more often. Seriously. Okay, now onto Miller’s question. You shouldn’t force yourself to feel that anxiety by yourself. I know the natural tendency is to wrap yourself up and hide from the world, but all you are doing is allowing a negative cycle to perpetuate. Anxiety feeds anxiety, and even in a win, you’re left exhausted and tired. It never truly goes away, and you can’t even enjoy the win.
Try going out with friends. You don’t have to do a big group setting, but there will be other games on, you will be distracted from your nerves with food, and drinks, and conversation. And when Clemson wins, you’ll be able to share in that with others. Positive energy will not only sustain itself, but grow when met with similar positive energy. And my guess is you’ll feel better overall about not just Clemson football, but about life itself.
@furrer4heisman: If you were a MAC team, what MAC team would you be?
For those who forgot, here is a list of all the teams in the MAC: Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Bowling Green, Ohio, Kent State, Toledo, Northern Illinois, Buffalo, Miami (Ohio), UMass (but not much longer), TK, TK. If I had to pick from all of those, I’m probably going with Northern Illinois and that’s just because of its adorable Husky mascot. Although I have to say I feel a strange sort of bond with Bowling Green, Ohio, Toledo, and Buffalo, as well. I love the MAC so much.
@goosesroost: How far should you drive to see the No. 1 team in the country play? No allegiances, but just out of curiosity?
Without any sort of context, I’m going to open this up a bit. The first question is, who is the No. 1 team in the country playing? If it’s a Top Ten matchup or something similar (like a rivalry game), I could see driving up to 12 hours or so and making a weekend of it. Especially if the No.1 team is also your favorite team. If the No. 1 team is playing an opponent they’re probably going to steamroll, I wouldn’t go more than six on that one, unless said opponent plays at a stadium you’ve always wanted to visit. If the No. 1 team is just a novelty to you, the halo rule is in effect, and that’s any stadium you can get there and back from in the same day. For me, that’s usually three-plus hours or less depending on when kickoff is.
I hope that helps. And please make sure to not text and drive.
@adamturer: Optimal food/drink pairings based on kickoff time: 12, 3:30, primetime, after dark?
Noon is the perfect time for a golden or a pale ale. You don’t want to get too heavy too early, and risk having a headache by the primetime games. As for food, this is kind of the same deal – eat light, go with sandwiches, or dips, or even some fruits and veggies. I’m not against people brunching it if they feel like it – breakfast sandwiches, eggs, muffins, bagels, grits, whatever makes you happy.
When it comes to 3:30, this is my money meal. Some sort of hearty soup or stew, chili, ribs, wings, or really any smoked meat in general works here. Craft your entire menu around the 3:30 slot. It’s the headliner at a festival. You want it to be remembered. Plus you can use the noon games to finish your preparation. This is when you want to start easing into your IPAs and heavier session ales and saisons if you’ve got them. Hard liquor is encouraged, but please be safe here. Again, you’ve got a lot of day left.
A primetime game is begging for stouts and porters, and I’m all about having Mexican food with these time slots. Nachos and tacos are good all day, but they’re a good portion control item if you’re still full from your 3:30 feast. Plus, you can use the meat you already had made from 3:30 and repurpose it anyway you see fit.
After dark is for bad decisions – so get yourself some delivery pizza, drink whatever’s left in the cabinet (the less recognizable the name on the bottle, the better), and try to supplement it with the beers in the back of the fridge. I know I left a couple shandys and Busch Lights back there.
But really, eat and drink whatever you want throughout the day. Saturdays are supposed to be fun, and don’t let anybody tell you what you can and can’t do or try to make you feel guilty for liking what you like. This is your day.