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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

P.S.R. Op-Ed

Spring (Football) Is In the Air

Spring is in the air in New York City and elsewhere, as the days grow a bit longer and the temperature a tad more survivable, as yesterday’s fine weather would attest. This annual changing of the meteorological guard send two Neanderthal-like messages to my single-minded consciousness: one, it’s nearing baseball season, which is a nice thing; and two, we’re within a month of entering the heart of spring football, a period that stands as college football’s version of baseball’s spring training.

In other words, everyone’s tied for first place. Hope springs eternal in Bowling Green — Kentucky and Ohio; in Akron, where the hometown Zips hope to locate a pulse in Rob Ianello’s second season; in Alabama, at all four of that state’s F.B.S. stops; from Syracuse to Tampa, Eugene to San Diego and all points in between.

It’s a nice time, if a bit too quiet and uneventful for those of us who lived through 2010′s day-to-day grind. In chronological order — think back: expansion, realignment, the U.S.C. sanctions, the U.N.C. penalties, “Death to the BCS,” Cam Newton and the Ohio State five, among others.

If you’re like me, you’ve spent the last 40 days with your feet up, keeping your eyes on the prize but taking a nice, well-deserved breather. At the same time, if you’re like me, you’ve come to the realization over the last two or three years that college football has rapidly fallen into lockstep with its older brother, the N.F.L., in becoming a year-round game.

Want proof? That sites like this one exist, for starters. That this past week’s slate of posts included two looks at Arizona State’s quarterback competition, amazingly enough, as well as a thorough examination of the Big East’s 2011 schedule — still seven months away, give or take. More proof: we’re all counting down the days to spring ball, are taking deep breaths once green grass reappears in an effort to convince ourselves that yes, football is just around the corner.

That we’re so desperate for real college football news makes Mack Brown’s decision to make his team’s spring practices largely off limits to fans and media all the more disappointing. I understand that Texas is coming off a woefully disappointing 2010 season, and that Brown does believe that taking some daily attention of his team might ultimately be to its benefit; I don’t fault the logic, merely commiserate with a Texas fan base hungry for signs that this year will be better than last. Fans in Austin and elsewhere will have to wait until August, by and large, to see if things have changed.

Some places let you in, others make you stand outside the velvet rope. More often than not, you’ll find the programs either facing the most pressure — Texas would fit in this category — or those run by the most dictatorial and paranoid of coaches close their doors during spring ball. Most, on the other hand, embrace the type of exhibition feel these 15 practices share with baseball’s month-plus of exhibition play prior to the start of the regular season.

I’m rambling. I have time to ramble, then ramble some more: we’re a few weeks away from the point where most of the F.B.S. is on the practice field, and from that date another 180 days until the start of the season, give or take. So how do we fill the days?

By stopping to smell the roses, as most of us have done at one point or another since the season ended on Jan. 10. Some of us turn our attention to other sports; perhaps you’ve been following the N.B.A., even if there’s little more boring than the N.B.A. regular season — just my opinion, of course.

Are you simply twiddling your thumbs, hitting refresh on ESPN.com, Rivals.com, your preferred landing spot for all things your team? You haven’t been here hitting refresh, judging by this site’s numbers since January, but I digress.

Are you the guy with the large wall calendar placing red X’s on each passing day in advance of the 2011 season? If so, you’re not the only one: there are more like you than you would believe, a sizable group actively pursuing college football news from dusk to dawn — often while on the clock — even during the year’s slow days.

Just remember that while college football has become a year-long spectator sport, there remains time to slow down and respect the silence. Still, stop and take in a deep breath of the rapidly-approaching spring air: if you have the nose and a slight imagination, you can smell football in the air.

You can also follow Paul Myerberg and Pre-Snap Read on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. jjtiller says:

    “Fans in Austin and elsewhere will have to wait until August, by and large, to see if things have changed.”

    and what about the spring game on April 3? “I want the largest crowd at our spring game we’ve ever had,” Brown said

  2. WashingtonDCduck says:

    Paul,

    One of the best entries that I’ve read on this site. Great stuff, thanks.

    Yes, college football is now a year round sport. The appetite of rabid fan bases craves college football news, even in the deadest of dead periods, i.e. a gap between national signing day to spring football or the long, dull days of May and June. At least in July most college football preview magazines come out, and we can agree or rip apart the opinions of Athlon or Street & Smith’s pundits.

    Around this time of year, when still living back in Oregon, we would begging about a month or two out, the Spring Game Tailgate menu. It was a big deal, it was the one time all spring and summer that we would get to gather, fly the flags, and spend 8 hours at Autzen Stadium grilling ribs, smelling all the tailgate treats, and watching our young second and third string guys show why optimism flows abundantly throughout the fan base. Within the past few years, Spring Games provide even more excitement, because big time recruits are leaving H.S. early, enrolling in spring term, and participating in spring games – and competing at high levels with older, more seasoned upper classmen when these kids should be renting tuxedos for their prom.

    Confidence is plentiful from Blacksburg to Provo, to Cheyenne, to Muncie, as teams really believe they can improve from last year’s season and just maybe, have that magical run going into the fall.

  3. DMK says:

    … and they’ll soon be laying down crisp white lines on the emerald Stockphoto grass!

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