Before you watch a single game of college football this Saturday, consider the Kansas State Wildcats. Really consider them.
Tyler Lockett, their primary offensive threat, was a three-star prospect. Curry Sexton, the next leading receiver, turned down Harvard to play football in Manhattan, Kansas. (His K-State bio still proudly lists him as "Rated the 14th-best prospect in the state of Kansas by Rivals.com in 2009".) Leading tackler Jonathan Truman is a former walk-on whose high school focus was wrestling and who could barely hang clean 200 pounds as a freshman. Their sole instantly recognizable name is Glenn Gronkowski, brother of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, and even he was a two-star wide receiver coming into the program.*
*He is now playing fullback, because Bill Snyder can make a banana out of a pear and a pear out of a banana, if needed. And he needed a fullback and made one out of a wide receiver.
Their quarterback is an Iowa community college's finest, and their coach is a 75-year-old man obsessed with Pinocchio.
The Wildcats should not work, and yet do. Same for the Auburn Tigers, the only team to defeat Kansas State this year. Their coach is a former high school coach who literally learned his offense from a book. (This one, to be specific.) Their quarterback is a converted DB, and their defensive coordinator coached one of the worst teams in modern college football history. Their last four conference games have been "NFL Blitz" adapted for the college game, breakneck sprints to 30 points and desperate lunges for the finish. If Gus Malzahn were not a rigidly programmed football-bot, you would suspect him of having "The Bomb" somewhere in his playbook under that exact name.
KSU vs. TCU may be best game of a loaded day
Expect fun tactics and tight matchups when No. 6 TCU and No. 9 Kansas State square off to decide who will become the Big 12's favorite down the stretch.
Lane Kiffin is still the offensive coordinator at Alabama, and things are still going smoothly so far. Ohio State has rolled to 7-1 with its backup quarterback starting, LSU is back to 7-2 without really even using a forward pass, and Utah still has a chance to contend for a national title. That's a real thing on November 7th, 2014, and despite what anatomists and physiologists tell you about the limits of the human body, so is Marcus Mariota.
Those are just a few of the really good teams in college football right now. Stranger things lie further down the tables. Memphis has a winning record and is a contender in the American. Indiana has the nation's leading rusher, Tevin Coleman. Duke's 7-1 and, in some variant of a future universe much like ours, could be the ACC champion. Thursday night, Wake Forest competed with Clemson for three quarters or so. I'm not telling you this is merely remarkable for being possible, but that it's remarkable that it was even attempted in the first place.
Just watch Arkansas every week. The Razorbacks are not going to win a game, and yet act like no one told them that the punch their co-star will throw is going to be real.*
*Does this make Arkansas 2014 sound like a sinister David Fincher movie? Good, that's entirely appropriate.
So just a word of advice from someone who nearly wasted an opportunity to live in the moment during a mayfly-short season. Georgia should have flattened Florida. For larger plot purposes, a Florida loss would have been tidy, making the firing of Will Muschamp and the total collapse of the program under his watch a more defined fact. It would have been so much easier in other ways, too, because hope is sometimes great, and is sometimes the blanket you cling to as the ground rushes to the window of your crashing plane.
That did not happen, and Florida staged a one-sided, Paleolithic hammering of Georgia in a game the Gators had no business winning. (A hilarious hammering, running the same play over and over because the Bulldogs could not and would not block so much as a stiff fart on the perimeter.) On the flip side, Florida State fans probably hated every second of the Louisville game, even with the madcap comeback, because it makes FSU look like an unfocused team clearly lacking several important parts from last year's world-crushing championship team.
This is the first year of the Playoff, and the entire apparatus of the college football media Borg is already focused on the battle for the four available slots and the teams fighting for them, and that's fine. It's a new toy, and one with a trophy that looks like the bottle for Iggy Azalea's future drugstore perfume "Authenticity." It's what a lot of people wanted for a long time, and we should be happy for that.
The Playoff isn't the problem at all. The culprit is the same stupid finger on the fast-forward button in the brain, the irrational urge to come to a result larger than the result itself. It's what I do, at least, spinning through a game's actual events to the sum without considering how fantastic its parts are.
That's not a college football problem; that's a life issue. You see a big shiny thing at one end, and miss the particulate glory along the way. You miss Diamond Gillis of Colorado School of Mines, and it would be a shame to blur past something so obscure and good in an irrational chase to get to the end of a season, which is all too brief anyway.