Top 20 reasons to be excited for college football - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Top 20 reasons to be excited for college football

New York -- We're less than a week away. College football '07. Here are 20 tiny reasons to be stoked.

1. Love. Joy. Football.
Those are the words imprinted on the T-shirt we saw Georgia Tech tailback Tashard Choice wearing last week. Actually, it said "Lovejoy Football", which is where Choice played high school ball. But "Love Joy Football"? Is there a better mantra to repeat to yourself while your favorite team is still undefeated?

2. 30 is the new 35
Teams will kick off from the 30 this season instead of the 35, which means that you have less time to empty your ureter of processed beer after a touchdown. It also means that there is a greater opportunity for players to be injured on kickoffs, which is different from being injured by your own teammates after you return one for a touchdown, as Ted Ginn, Jr. was last January.

3. "At halftime, Appalachian trails..."
Have you noticed that Michigan has not won a game since Bo Schembechler died? Okay, the streak is but two games long and the losses were at Ohio State and (virtually) at USC.

Michigan, the winningest program of all time, both in terms of percentage and sheer number, looks to return to form on Sept. 1. But it may not be that simple. The opponent in the Big House? Two-time defending I-AA champion Appalachian State.

Meanwhile, we're hoping that at one of the four road games that the Wolverines play this season, after every Michigan miscue, a cheeky sound man plays a track of Ari Gold bellowing, "LLOYD!"

4. Stop us if you've heard this: Wisconsin is loaded at running back
Wait a second. You're telling us that the Badgers have a sophomore running back, P.J. Hill, who led all freshmen in rushing (120.7yards per game) a year ago? That the quarterback is solid but unspectacular? That Wisconsin may just finish atop the Big Ten, but more likely they will lose either at Ohio State or to Michigan, lending legions of Camp Randall fans to ruminate on just how close the Badgers came to a BCS bowl? Where do you find this material???

5. Hawaii 5-0. 6-0? 7-0? Etc., etc.
Do the people who vote in preseason polls ever peruse teams' schedules? The Warriors, whose quarterback, Colt Brennan, tossed an NCAA-record 58 touchdown passes in 2006, may not have top-10 talent. They'd be lucky to make the SEC Championship game, sure. But whom do they play? We'll be mighty surprised if Haka dance-happy Hawaii is not 10-0 when Boise State, who may also be undefeated, visits Aloha Stadium on Nov. 23. We're just wondering if Ian Johnson is using this free flight to the 50th state as his honeymoon.

6. Play it again, Sam
Sam Keller is that rare college quarterback who knows what it feels like to have an 18-point lead on Southern California during the Pete Carroll era. That was two years ago in Tempe, when Keller, then the QB at Arizona State, went into halftime with his Sun Devils up 21-3. The Trojans won, 38-28, in 97-degree heat.

Now Keller, after transferring and sitting out a year, is the starter at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers host USC on Sept. 15.

7. Charlie Weis is behaving a lot like Charlie Weis
Earlier this week the Notre Dame head coach/Robot Genius informed the media that "I'm absolutely sure who the starting quarterback is." That is, he has decided who will line up behind center for the Irish's Sept. 1 opener with Georgia Tech.

"Do you think I'm going to be so fickle that I won't know who the quarterback is going to be?" he asked.

Not that he plans on sharing this information. So, wait. Coach Weis is telling college football followers that he knows something the rest of us don't? What? Huh?

8. Trash talking wideouts don't bother him
Martel Van Zant is not the lost member of Lynyrd Skynyrd. No, he's a second-year starter at cornerback for Oklahoma State who happens to be deaf. Though Van Zant has a built-in excuse for late hits ("I didn't hear the whistle!"), he's never been flagged for one. The 6-1, 210-pound senior was born deaf (his mom contracted chicken pox while she was pregnant with him), which scared a few recruiters away from the Tyler, Texas, gridder. But not then-Cowboy coach Les Miles, who himself has a deaf brother and knows how to sign...whereas most of us can go no further than "You complete me".

9. Cover jinx alive and well
We lost count as to how many regionalized "Year of the Running Back" covers Sports Illustrated put out for its college football preview issue -- we only recall that it was an integer lower than where the magazine has Hawaii ranked (23rd). One cover, however, featured Southern Cal tailback trio Chauncey Gable, Emanuel Moody and C.J. Washington. Moody has already left the team and is considering a transfer to Florida. Washington sprained his shoulder and may miss USC's opener versus Idaho, and Gable is sidelined with the in-vogue injury of 2007, "lingering groin soreness".

The above defection and injuries leaves head coach Pete Carroll with only three to four All-American caliber tailbacks on his roster.

10. And Molly Ringwald will handle the ceremonial coin toss
To raise breast cancer awareness (it is what killed Brian Piccolo, after all), New Mexico State will wear pink socks and pink stickers on their helmets for the Aggies' September 29 game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports, in addition, that Aggie coaches will wear pink golf shirts and the marching band will also wear pink. Shouldn't Pitt have been the first school to get behind this movement? Or at least shouldn't NMSU go pink on the road at Iowa, where the visitor locker rooms used to be painted that color?

11. Notre Dame sweat press box upgraded
80,225 fans right outside your window, and yet nothing but stifling heat where you sit. That was the plight of the media inside the Notre Dame press box, which was without freon for eons. Meteorologists referred to the phenomenon as the "Global Hornung Effect." But now, at last, the saintly priests at Notre Dame, a school that finished second only to Princeton last year in terms of percentage of alumni who donated, have reached into the coffers and installed air-conditioning. Because sportswriters should never strip down to their undershirts in public.

12. This is how you spell o-c-t-o-g-e-n-a-r-I-a-n
Joe Paterno is 80! He's freakin' 80 years old and he's still coaching at Penn State. And the game still has yet to pass him by, though male-pattern baldness syndrome apparently has. JoePa (and why hasn't some Quaker State township renamed itself, Joe, Pa., already?!?) has been the head coach in Happy Valley since 1966. When the Nittany Lions played at Wisconsin last fall, Paterno lost to a counterpart, Bret Bielema, then 36, who had not even been born yet when JoePa was already four seasons into his current job.

13. Names
We love the sublime salmagundi of sobriquets that dot the college football landscape each season. Love that there are two Colts (Brennan and McCoy) being pursued by two Chases (Daniel, Holbrook) for All-American status at quarterback. That there are two more Chases (Coffman and Patton) besides Daniel on Missouri's 2-deep offensive roster alone. A few other name awards:

Best Name For A Defensive Player: Macho Harris, CB, Virginia Tech (runner-up: J.J. Justice, S, Maryland)

Most Reminiscent of a Snapple Flavor: Tonga Tea, DT, Oklahoma State

Sounds Like a Villain In A Dickens Novel: Limas Sweed, WR, Texas

Makes You Want To Rent "Van Wilder": Ryan Reynolds, LB, Oklahoma

Makes You Wonder if There is Such a Medical Condition as Acne-phylactic Shock: Peanut Whitehead, DE, Louisville

Name That Bears Repeating: Joseph Joseph, DT, Miami (runners-up by just one letter): Vince Vance, OT, Georgia; Walter Walker, OT, South Florida

Most Fun For a P.A. Announcer: Yemi Babalola, OT, Texas A&M

Least Fun For a P.A. Announcer: Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, QB, Navy

14. South Florida really is a program on the rise
It's Tampa time in the Big East. The Bulls are every preseason prognosticator's sexy sleeper pick as an "on the rise" program. But if USF really wants to be taken seriously as a big-time Sunshine State program, a la Florida, Florida State and Miami, then they must find new and creative ways to run afoul of the law.

Earlier this summer defensive tackle Woody George took exception to the parking boot that was placed on his vehicle. So, allegedly, the 6-3, 265-pounder ripped the contraption off the tire -- bringing a non-gridiron nuance to the term "bootleg" -- and absconded with it.

But does George's arrest top quarterback Matt Grothe's misdemeanor alcohol-related citation last April? Grothe, 20, was cited not for buying alcohol underage, but for selling it to a minor (who was working undercover!). The Bull quarterback was tending bar at the Bull Ring Sports Bar at the time he was ticketed (somewhere Rhett Bomar is shaking his head in disbelief).

15. "And I'm never going back/To my old school"
New Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh, to get all Latin on you, is persona non grata at his alma mater. Last May Harbaugh, a studly Michigan quarterback in the mid-1980s, told the The San Francisco Examiner, "Michigan is a good school...but the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in, and once they're in, they steer them to courses in sports communications."

In other words, Michigan is no different than most BCS football programs. They may not be Stanford, but then how many games did the Cardinal win last season? Oh, yes, one.

Count attorney James Acho among the many folks back in Ann Arbor upset with Captain Comeback. Acho wrote an article for Sports Review Magazine entitled, "Was Jim Harbaugh Drunk, Or Merely Truculent?" Curiously enough, Acho's wife, Shari, is an assistant athletic director for the Maize and Blue who oversees the football team's academic performance.

16. Money kicker
Joey Ijjas, a senior walk-on kicker at Florida, had already made all five of his field goal attempts in practice. Then he lined up to attempt a 52-yarder. That's when Urban "I'm only one national title behind Billy Donovan here" Meyer slammed his hat to the turf and said, "Free ride!" to Ijjas, in effect offering him a full scholarship if the Clearwater, Fla., native could convert the kick.

Ijjas nailed it.

If we were Meyer, we'd have waited to play the "Free Ride!" card until
Florida was down by one to LSU in Baton Rouge with :03 remaining and Ijjas was about to run on the field for the potential game-winning 27-yarder.

17. We must ignite this couch!
West Virginia may not be number one in the preseason AP or USA Today/Coaches polls (though the Mountaineers are close), but it is the top-ranked party school according to The Princeton Review. And they know from partying at Princeton: If you saw "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle", you'd know that.

Sooooo....West Virginia, nation's top party school. And Pacman Jones, a Mountaineer alum, has the entire autumn free. Hmmm.

18. Miami not scared of the Big 12
We know that we're going to like new Hurricane coach Randy Shannon. He busts his players if their cell phone rings in class, and he was around back when the Hurricanes first hit AP poll landfall back in the 80's by slapping around Notre Dame and Oklahoma. So give it up for the Canes traveling to Norman, Okla., to meet the Sooners on Sept. 8 and for hosting Texas A&M on the 20th.

The latter game features a classic meeting of opposite body-type All-America candidates: watch as 6-8, 280-pound Cane defensive end Calais Campbell bashes helmets with 6-0, 280-pound Aggie running back Jorvorskie Lane.

19. Anyone performing a 'triple lindy' got a second day off
The Hawaii coaching staff gave players a day off from practice earlier this month...but only if they leaped, according to The Honolulu Advertiser from a 30-foot platform (into a pool, we assume). Running back Leon Wright-Jackson, a transfer from Nebraska, made the leap even though he cannot swim.

20. Because, in alpahbetical order, Z comes last
Tom Zbikowski returns for one last year in South Bend. Should either Michigan's Mike Hart or Chad Henne (or, okay, if you insist, Mario Manningham), win the Heisman Trophy this December, do you realize that the Notre Dame safety will have lined up against four Heisman winners (Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Troy Smith) in his career? That he will have played against this year's No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft (JaMarcus Russell), last year's No. 2 (Bush) and 2005's No. 3 (Braylon Edwards)? If you don't like watching Zibby play, you just don't like football.


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