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Giving Some Thanks for Football in 2011

This is a time to give thanks. Without further ado, 10 things about college football to be thankful for in 2011:

1. That Robert Griffin III chose Baylor Griffin III eschewed offers from Tennessee, Nebraska and Houston, among others, to be the crown jewel of Art Briles’ debut recruiting class — and, more than likely, the jewel recruit of Briles’ career. What Griffin III is doing at Baylor, and how he’s doing it, has rapidly become the stuff of legend. And that he opted to play in Waco, for a program long considered a college football wasteland, has led to near universal praise, not the sort of nitpicking lobbed at the rest of football’s elite quarterbacking class — Andrew Luck, for instance.

2. That there are 14 black head coaches in the F.B.S. And as many as nine might reach bowl eligibility: Mike London, Everett Withers, Charlie Strong, Ruffin McNeill, Darrell Hazell, Ron English, David Shaw, James Franklin and Willie Taggart. The total number of black head coaches, which includes Withers and New Mexico’s George Barlow, is reason for optimism: there’s work still to be done, but there are more black coaches now than ever before. And that there are so many black coaches doing wonderful work in some adverse situations — London and Taggart in particular — only provides further impetus for F.B.S. programs to interview accomplished black coaches for future job openings.

3. That the Sun Belt has never been better Hugh Freeze isn’t long for Jonesboro, but there’s little doubt that he’s going to leave Arkansas State in place for long-term conference contention. The same can be said of Taggart, Louisiana-Lafayette’s Mark Hudspeth and Florida International’s Mario Cristobal. Dan McCarney has North Texas on the right track; despite this year’s stumble, Larry Blakeney will have Troy back in conference title contention in 2012. The Sun Belt has never looked this good.

4. That Ryan Broyles was recognized Broyles, whose season ended after suffering a knee injury against Texas A&M, was named one of the three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s best receiver. He shouldn’t win, but it was a nice — and deserving — move by the selection committee to recognize all that Broyles achieved over his nine games in the lineup for Oklahoma.

5. That Louisiana Tech won the damn thing The storylines centered around the three WAC programs playing out the string before heading to the Mountain West. And to most, those three — Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State — were the clear top dogs in a conference devoid of Boise State, which beat the rush a year early. No one thought of Louisiana Tech, and if they did, it was more in regards to the program’s questionable future in the WAC. That didn’t bother the Bulldogs: after beating the Wolf Pack on Saturday, Tech, of the present and future WAC, took home the conference crown.

6. That some rivalries aren’t going anywhere The longstanding rivalries between Texas and Texas A&M and Kansas and Missouri will go the way of the Dodo in 2012. That’s unfortunate. Some rivalry games aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, however. The Egg Bowl continues to ratchet up the intensity. Army and Navy means more than anything to all involved. West Virginia and Pittsburgh still hate each other’s guts. The Iron Bowl is, and always will be, the Iron Bowl. Perhaps the battle for the Commonwealth Cup is entering a new phase of competitiveness. Ohio State and Michigan. Florida and Florida State. Rivalry makes sports special; no sport does rivalry quite like college football.

7. That the B.C.S. might explode Better yet, that a coach like Stanford’s David Shaw stepped up and called out the whole B.C.S. system: “Bottom line is, the B.C.S. is flawed. All I’ve heard all year is the computers don’t like Stanford. Well, the computers haven’t programmed themselves.” I’m thankful for the chance that no matter what algorithms are in place, the B.C.S. computers might expire in a cloud of smoke. Imagine: L.S.U. loses twice; Auburn beats Alabama; Clemson beats Virginia Tech; Notre Dame beats Stanford; and Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State. Arkansas against Houston, anyone? Boise State against Houston?

8. That we may be seeing an all-time defense How good is Alabama’s defense? The distance between top-ranked Alabama and second-ranked Michigan State, 50 yards, is as wide as the gap between Michigan State and Texas, the nation’s 10th-best defense. That’s incredible. The Tide are allowing nearly a half yard less per play than L.S.U. — 3.47 against 3.94 yards per play. The Tide are giving up less than 11 first downs per play. It’s time to start judging this defense on a historical level.

9. That Michigan is back And that Ohio State, after a one-year lull, will soon be back in its customary place atop the Big Ten. That Alabama is Alabama again. That B.Y.U. has returned to the national conversation. That Pat Fitzgerald is going to stalk the sidelines in Evanston until he retires, and not a day sooner. That Dana Holgorsen continues to fly by the seat of his pants. That Case Keenum has regained his 2009 form. That Illinois might have a new coach in 2012. That Rich Rodriguez is back. And so on and on.

10. That Mike Leach is almost back He’ll be coaching somewhere in 2012. It may be Tulane; that almost makes it more exciting, in a way. It may be U.C.L.A., which would be incredible.

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  1. Josh says:

    I agree wholeheartedly that #2 is a something to be thankful for. Don’t forget about Keivn Sumlin at Houston!

  2. Clayton says:

    Agreed about #2, really like how there are more African American head coaches but there is definitely work still yet to be done in that department. Also really like #7, can’t wait for the BCS to self implode. Really hoping LSU loses for the sake of the BCS having a real dilemma on its hands.

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