As August comes to a merciful end, college football fans countrywide can feel the anticipation of another campaign that promises to be full of highs, lows and surprises. From California to New York, 120 teams are ending their long summer training and preparing to battle for the ultimate prize; a national championship.
The same can be said for the two Oregon schools.
Oregon, coming off of three straight Pac-12 titles, returns a plethora of talent, an easy schedule and a wave of momentum unlike any the program has seen before.
Oregon State, entering the season on the opposite end of the spectrum, looks to rebound from two disappointing seasons that have seen the program go from Rose Bowl contenders to North Division dwellers. The beauty of college football, however, is that everything can change in an instant. A 3-9 season can transform into a ten-win season, and vice versa.
The typical college season is 12 games. After all the off-season training, the recruiting and anticipation, these are the limited chances teams have to prove their mettle. There is no room for error. One loss and the dream season can come to a crashing end. The NFL? No thank you. Eight-win teams capturing the Super Bowl title? Not for me.
I want greatness. I want the best of the best, and that is what college football promises.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Alabama, Oregon or Baylor. Every team gets a chance at redemption on September 1. Washington State has the same odds of winning it all as Oklahoma. Fans in West Virginia have the same hopes as those in South Bend.
Saturdays in fall, there’s a passion for football that cannot be denied. Families and friends huddle around a fire in the heart of the tailgate. Strangers who are brought together by an unshakeable bond share barbecue. A love and commitment to a school unites us all, rekindling childhood memories and sparking a hope of future glories. The scene plays out in Tallahassee the same as in Berkley. Conferences may change, rivalries may change, but the song remains the same … when your team exits the tunnel and runs on the field on game day, you feel a sense of pride that is indescribable to someone on the outside.
Last year’s record is inconsequential. No amount of losses can dampen the feeling that comes with the dawn of a new season. Fates can change in a heartbeat. College football is a cyclical sport. Down one minute, up the next. The high that Oregon, Alabama and LSU are on can be gone in the blink of an eye. In the NFL, you know the story before the season begins…Patriots and Steelers. Ravens and Packers. Rarely does a team rise from the ashes and captivate; there is no Phoenix once you go pro. In college, a Texas Tech can topple Oklahoma one week and validate their entire season, while derailing the title hopes of another. That type of feeling cannot be replicated in any capacity.
So, next Saturday when your team laces up, just before that first kickoff, take a moment. Look around the stadium. Pause the TV. Soak in the atmosphere. The hope of another season, and the pageantry of America’s greatest treasure are back. It’s Musberger and Herbstreit. Bratwursts and beer. Ducks, Beavers, Trojans and Horned Frogs. Song Girls and Puddles.
College Football is back. And not a moment too soon.