Friday, November 17, 2006

The Table is Set

Just when you think there's enough on your plate for Ohio State-Michigan, Bo Shcembechler dies, and now there's no threat of ESPN running out of ways to breakdown the game they've been working on for a solid month.

Often times you get the overhyped game (Florida State-Miami FULL CIRCLE anyone?) that can't meet expectations. Sometimes the networks are guilty of that, but sometimes the game creates itself like this one with 11-0 Ohio State and 11-0 Michigan. But even that doesn't guarantee greatness (USC-Oklahoma two years ago instantly comes to mind). And what's more, it seems like the college football karma is due to swing back the other way after providing exactly the classic everyone was looking for in last year's National Championship. Ohio State and Texas earlier this year didn't quite live up to the hype, because OSU was simply better.

In 1 vs. 2 or National Championship showdowns, the batting average is still less than .500. Of the BCS National Championship Games, only 02 Miami-Ohio State and 05 USC-Texas have lived up to their billing. In the regular season in the last few years, only a handful of "armageddon" games have lived up to it - one Nebraska-Oklahoma showdown, the 2001 Tennessee-Florida game, and last year's Ohio State/Texas and USC-Notre Dame games come to mind, but that's about it. For every one of those, there are double the anticipated, national attention grabbing showdowns that turn into letdowns, blowouts, or sloppy football. So now, the table is set for Ohio State and Michigan, with greater intangibles than any regular season matchup that I can ever, ever remember...will the game come through? Will it live up to the expectations?

Even for the Vols, the games that are mammothly hyped usually have a hard time living up to it. I've never seen something hyped the way the 96 UT-Florida game was, and remember what happened? 35-0 Gators in the second quarter. Those two schools have come through twice in our own version of "the game" - in 1999 and 2001 - but those two years seem to me to be the only example in recent memory where the Vols and an opponent lined it up in a Top 5, much anticipated, super-hyped showdown...and the game actually lived up to the billing.

So is it too much to ask tomorrow for a one possession game? Is it too much to ask for drama in the 4th quarter? I think it'll be close (the official predicition is Ohio State 21-20), but can college football produce the expected "Game of the Century" four times in fifteen months?

For me, I'm going to try not to worry about the expectations, hopefully enjoy watching the Vols earn revenge on the Dores earlier in the day, and then just try to watch and enjoy. Even if it's a letdown or blowout...it should still be good television.

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