A College Football Thanksgiving

Growing up in Georgia, one of my favorite sports memories of the Thanksgiving holiday was reading Furman Bisher’s traditional “I’m thankful for …” column. In honor of that Furman Bisher Thanksgiving tradition, this article is written on behalf of college football fans across the nation.

I’m thankful for …

Rivalries … and wow does this week offer a plate full of them. Michigan and Ohio State from the Horseshoe along the banks of the Olentangy River, with the Buckeyes contending for a national title and the Wolverines battling to save head coach Brady Hoke’s job. The Big Ten catches a lot of criticism (much of it deserved perhaps), but this is one of college football’s finest rivalries. The Iron Bowl has become a national championship play-in game the past five years, and this season is no different as Alabama tries to whip Auburn to stay in title contention. The Egg Bowl in Oxford features Mississippi State on the road at Ole Miss trying to nail down a spot in the final four. Oregon travels to Oregon State for the Civil War. The Ducks are in great position for a playoff invitation, but must get past the Beavers and the Pac-12 title game. In Athens, Georgia hosts Georgia Tech in the Clean, Old Fashioned Hate game, both teams with only two losses each. The Battle for Paul Bunyon’s Axe (Minnesota-Wisconsin) will decide the Big Ten West. Clemson-South Carolina, Florida-Florida State, Washington-Washington State, and Notre Dame-USC in a great old intersectional rivalry that retains glamour even when the squads are down. Yes, I’m thankful for rivalries.

Mascots and Nicknames … Ralphie the Buffalo (Colorado), Bevo the Longhorn Steer (Texas), Uga the Bulldog (Georgia), Chief Osceola (FSU), the Sooner Schooner (Oklahoma), Mike the Tiger (LSU), the Oregon Duck (they call him Puddles – did you know that?), Smoky the Blue Tick Hound (Tennessee), Sparty (Michigan State), Brutus the Buckeye (Ohio State), the Rattlers (FAMU), the Vandals (Idaho), the Zips (Akron), the Mule Riders (Southern Arkansas). College football fans are thankful for the pageantry of our nation’s most passion-inducing sport.

The College Campus … having seen many a college campus as a professor over the past quarter century, every one of them is special in its way. Among my personal favorites are North Carolina (Chapel Hill), Virginia (Charlottesville), Kansas (Lawrence), Clemson (Clemson SC), Georgia (Athens), Tennessee (Knoxville), Auburn (Auburn AL), Notre Dame (South Bend IN), Northwestern (Evanston IL), and small college jewels Capital (Columbus OH), and Berry (Rome GA).

Bowl Games … those who love college football cannot get enough of the bowls. The Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta, and Peach are the big six right now (thank goodness for partially doing away with the corporate sponsors in the names), but I will start watching bowl games on December 20th and won’t stop until January 12th. I’m thankful for a whole bowl month.

I hope your college football holiday season provides plenty to be thankful for – Happy Thanksgiving.

Playoff Projection: As we move toward the conference championships next week, I’m sticking with the scenario that no league gets in two teams. Obviously, a lot can change. Alabama, Florida State, and Oregon still control their destinies. Of the four other one-loss teams still in contention (Baylor, Mississippi State, Ohio State, and TCU), I believe Baylor gets in by winning out. Mississippi State was not helped by the thrashing Arkansas gave Ole Miss, nor was Ohio State by Virginia Tech’s loss to Wake Forest. Since TCU lost head-to-head against Baylor, I can’t see the logic in keeping the Frogs ahead of the Bears.

Note – this column originally appeared in The Blitz (Volume 4 Issue 14; Nov 25-29 2014)

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