The most cynical critic of the college football machine couldn’t have devised a more perfect punishment for Johnny Manziel to crystallize the hypocrisy and blatant corruptness of the NCAA.
Two quarters? Manziel gave the NCAA grief all summer long and he’s suspended for only two quarters? Against Rice?
In other words, welcome back, college football, the greatest sport in America.
You just have to laugh at this kid, the NCAA and everything about this sport right now, because, if you think too hard about what it all represents, it will make you furious. If ever there was a living, breathing example of everything wrong with college football, it’s Johnny Football.
First, there’s that nickname. Yes, he’s the archetype. It’s as if ESPN designed Manziel in a test tube and birthed J.F.F. on national television. He was arrested for a bar fight in the summer of 2012 and went on to win the Heisman Trophy. What’s next? Clearly, Manziel and Texas A&M are destined to win the final (thank goodness) BCS national championship in January.
Financially for the NCAA, it turns out, Manziel was too big to fail and what he did this summer — trade autographs for thousands of dollars — was simply too egregious to even consider. He didn’t just allegedly break one of the NCAA’s supposedly most sacred tenets (amateurism). He shattered its kneecaps, eloped with its daughter and sent it a TwitPic from Tahiti.
And, apparently to rub the University of Miami’s noses in it, the NCAA accepted A&M’s suggested half-game suspension without delay. So wrong. So perfect. So sad. Miami is doomed.
Moments after winning his third national championship in four years, Alabama coach Nick Saban vowed to celebrate the Crimson Tide’s BCS championship repeat for just one day before getting back to work and getting on with “the process” of shaping prized recruits into top-flight players. When you’re chasing the Bear, there’s no time to rest.
Saban already has built one of the college game’s greatest dynasties in Tuscaloosa, Ala., but locally, he’s still overshadowed by the memory of Bear Bryant, the legendary coach who won six national championships for the Crimson Tide. Three championships in a row, however, might be enough to push Saban above Bryant in the eyes of some Alabama football fans.
Only two schools (Minnesota and Army) can claim three consecutive national championships in college football and the most recent three-peat occurred almost 70 years ago. Unfortunately for Saban, it’s not happening this year, either.
Alabama had five players taken in the first 35 picks of the 2012 NFL Draft, but still reloaded to win back-to-back championships. This season is different. Saban must replace arguably the best offensive line he has ever coached.
The new line will crumple in the third week of the season when the Tide plays Texas A&M in College Station.
So there’s my bold prediction of the season. If it happens, we’ll call it the Curse of the Bear, who won a Southwest Conference championship in 1956 while coaching A&M. Of course, a loss to A&M wasn’t enough to keep the Tide out of the championship game last season, so who knows?
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney became one of the poster boys of college football after his helmet-compromising backfield tackle of Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl. The hit was world class and will go down as one of the best highlights in recent college football memory, but this season a similar blow might earn Clowney an immediate ejection.
Safeties beware: A new guideline this season aimed at limiting the amount of concussions in college football will call for the ejection of a player who draws a penalty flag for a hit above the shoulders to a defenseless player. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to see how this could affect the outcome of a football game. Here’s one example of a memorable helmet-to-helmet hit in a big game that would now warrant an ejection:
In the 2009 Rose Bowl, Southern Cal safety Taylor Mays leveled defenseless Penn State receiver Jordan Norwood on a route over the middle. Mays was penalized with a personal foul for leading with his head. This season, Mays would have been ejected from the Rose Bowl for the hit.
Obviously, this new rule has the potential to create some controversy on the field. An ejection could change the outcome of a game. On the other hand, if officials fail to do their jobs properly (you know, out of pressure for having to eject a player), headhunters could go unpunished entirely. One such example comes to mind (also from the 2009 postseason):
• In the BCS National Championship Game at then-Dolphin Stadium, Florida safety Major Wright devastated Oklahoma receiver Manny Johnson with a helmet-to-helmet blow near the sidelines but wasn’t flagged.
Of course, so much of this new rule is about protecting the NCAA from future potential lawsuits rather than actually protecting its players. As the season begins, lawsuits are pending against the NCAA for the alleged lifelong effects concussions have had on former players. Keep an eye this season on three of the most likely headhunters to be ejected for illegal hits: 3. C.J. Barnett, Ohio State strong safety; 2. Karlos Williams, FSU free safety; 1. Jonathan Mincy, the Auburn defensive back who was ejected from the Tigers’ spring game for an illegal hit on a teammate.