Friday, November 10, 2006

 

Putting The GRRRR in Rutgers

Q: Who was the last team to defeat the Rutgers Scarlet Knights?

A: The Arizona State Sun Devils.

I'm just sayin'.

Bravo to the boys from America's armit, and shame on me for leaving a bar with a plasma screen tv just to go to another bar that didn't have a tv at all. I can't believe I missed the second half, but the highlights are fantastic. Be sure to check out lucky-as-hell RU kicker Jeremy Ito point at the camera after his game winning kick. Nothing says "bad karma" like a kicker talking trash after making a kick from 28 yards out from the middle of the field, especially since he missed mere seconds before that and was saved by a defensive offsides penalty. Best of luck overcoming all of that bad juju next Saturday at Cincinnati, Jeremy. The magic 8-ball (is that a drug reference?) says to take the Bearcats and the points.

This brings up an interesting point: just how important is home field advantage in college football? Certainly nothing in the professional ranks comes close save the 1967 ice bowl in Green Bay; I think the only possible challenger is college basketball. (For those in Tempe unaware of this new sport, see link) Basketball is a game of finesse where the crowd can play a factor in disrupting the opponent, but football is an entirely different matter. The gridiron boasts a game played with passion, and 80,000 screaming drunks can inspire amd motivate men to do things that the players themselves might not have even thought possible. The vocal support displayed in a game of great magnitude can will a moderately talented team to victory, and anyone who has been in attendance at that big of a game will attest to this. A smattering of samples includes the 1996 ASU-Nebraska shutout game, Florida State at Virginia in 1995 (sorry Steph), and last night's big upset by Rutgers over Louisville. Any who went to those games will acknowledge an "electric feeling" that seemingly encompassed the stadiums on those magical nights, and they will also note the absence of it during most games.

You can't pull it off every week since an inebriated mass can't defy physics. The human psyche can't motivate in that manner every Saturday, just ask South Carolina. The Cocks are notorious for pulling huge crowds for huge games yet rarely pull it off, although Holtz and now Spurrier have seen the Williams-Brice goalposts tumble at least once. There is a line where on-field talent can't be overcome no matter how raucous the student section may be, which was apparent after the 2005 Arizona State-USC game after Reggie Bush went hogwild rushing for what feels like several thousand yards in the second half. Friends have attested to the aforementioned electric atmosphere that day, but those in attendance weren't able to sustain the mayhem in the 100+ segree heat after the Trojans scored their first touchdown.

Summing up, crowds CAN win college football games. here's a recipe for a successful upset:

1) The teams have to be marginally comparable in talent. No matter how many diehards show up or how motivated the team is, FIU will never beat Miami. We can't break the laws of nature, no matter how many beer bongs we did in the parking lot.

2) There should be an unspoken concensus that it is the biggest game at _______ Stadium since ________, possibly ever. This wil vary based on the program-in-question's stature. Last night, is was the fact that Rutgers was nationally televised and playing a top 5 team. Most teams in the SEC encounter this situation at least once a year, but it's not that big of a departure from their sense of normalcy.

3) Night games significantly help, especially non-Saturday nights. The three aforementioned games: ASU-NU, FSU-UVa, and RU-Louisville were all Thursday night games. The goofy schedule makes it stand out as a big deal, thereby sparking interest. The late kickoff provides plenty of extra time around the keg, adding fuel to the already frenzied fire.

4) Something has to be at stake. It can be national ranking, a bowl berth, saving a coach's job, or simply pride and respect. The players have to have internal motivation to play at a high level, and once they reach that point the crowd has the ability to kick them into another gear they probably didn't know they had. There is a great story about that ASU-Nebraska game when the ASU team bus pulled into the parking lot of Sun Devil Stadium coming back from a pre-game meal. The space where the bus typically parked was filled with red-clad tailgaters talking smack and throwing things at the bus. Pat Tillman had to be physically restrained from leaving the bus and whipping ass (totally true story) and by many accounts that was when the team sensed something brewing within themselves. Add chip on the shoulder from the national ignorance of the team's existance and voila!- 19-0, bitches.

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