With the playing of the BCS National Championship game last night — and congratulations to the Alabama Crimson Tide on their win, by the way — the college football season has come to an end, four-and-a-half months after it began. If you are a college football fan, it is a wistful time. This past season was an exciting one, and now we have to wait for months until the first game of the next season is to be played. For Ohio State, the next game will be against the Marshall Thundering Herd on September 4, 2010, almost eight months away. Much as I enjoy the NFL playoffs, college basketball, and following the Tribe, the absence of college football leaves a gaping, aching void.
Fortunately, these days you can still follow college football even when no games are imminent because other activities have expanded to fill the empty months. First, we have the news about whether juniors who might have a shot at the pros have decided to stay or go. For the Buckeyes, Thad Gibson has decided to enter the draft (a real loss), but Cameron Heyward, Ross Homan, and Chimdi Chekwa have decided to stay in school and play their senior years. The decisions by Heyward, Homan and Chekwa are very good news for Buckeye fans because senior leadership is crucial to a good team. Ohio State fans learned that first-hand when Mike Doss decided to skip the draft and stay in school after his junior year, and he ended up leading the Buckeyes to the national championship the next year.
Next up on the college football calendar is national letter of intent signing day, when incoming recruits formally commit to schools and experts analyze whether schools have stocked up on studs or duds. (Whether the experts ultimately are wrong in their analysis, as often happens, is not really relevant and in any case doesn’t become apparent for years.) Sometimes highly touted freshmen have an immediate and important impact, as happened with the star-crossed and ultimately doomed Maurice Clarett, but usually they don’t. Either way, it is fun to speculate about it during the long winter and spring months.
Then we’ve got spring practice and spring depth charts, and the NFL draft where you look to see how the players from your team have fared, and always there are reports about off-season workouts and off-season troubles. Who’s hitting the weight room hard? Who allegedly is having trouble with their grades? Has anyone had any unfortunate brushes with the law? And then, finally, the players arrive on campus again, during the dog days of summer, to began fall training camp and their preparations for the looming season to come, and you begin to get the feel of college football in the air again.
Still, it will be a long eight months.