Take out a map, locate Florida and circle Tallahassee.
That’s college football’s top shelf this week, the upper crust.
No. 1 Oklahoma plays at No. 5 Florida State in a game with national title implications. ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be there. Last century, Lee Corso played football at Florida State. His roommate was Burt Reynolds. There’s a good chance ESPN will do a “Smokey and the Bandit” bit that ends with Corso objectively picking his alma mater.
Now, head south on your Florida map and circle the greater Miami area.
This is college’s bottom shelf — Ohio State at Miami.
Reynolds has no ties, except he once starred in “The Longest Yard.”
Florida is back as football’s epicenter, for better and for worse.
Cheery types will look to Tallahassee.
Bob Stoops, in his second season in 2000, coached Oklahoma to the Bowl Championship Series national title with a win over Florida State. It was an ugly 13-2 game, but no one complained back in Norman.
Florida State went to Oklahoma last year seeking revenge and came up only 30 points short.
There is an ongoing family saga. Stoops’ brother Mark is Florida State’s defensive coordinator.
Bob reflected this week about torching his brother’s defense in last year’s 47-17 victory, saying, “I’ve never been so conflicted and miserable about winning a game.”
That said, Bob can’t wait to be so conflicted and miserable again.
Dee Stoops, the boys’ mother, won’t attend. It’s too hard. Anyway, it’s already going to be a long day. Late Saturday night, her other son, Mike, and his team, Arizona, face No. 6 Stanford in Tucson.
“We all suffer the weekends,” Dee told columnist Berry Trammel of the Oklahoman.
Florida State used to go through this. In 1999, Bobby Bowden’s run to the national title necessitated a win at Clemson over a team coached by his son Tommy.
Ann Bowden, Bobby’s wife and Tommy’s mother, made clear she was rooting for her husband. She sat at midfield, though, wearing a split FSU/Clemson jersey.
Florida State won a 17-14 thriller.
Gloomy types will focus on Ohio State at Miami.
The irony of these schools meeting after the off-seasons they had is almost too rich.
Blogosphere had an informal contest to find an appropriate tag line for the game. The winner was “Ineligi-Bowl.”
The game represents what people think is wrong with college football.
In 2002, the schools played for the national title in the Fiesta Bowl and gave the public one of football’s games of the decade.
Today, both programs are closer to decay. Both are awaiting major sanctions from the NCAA. Ohio State’s off-season from hell was topped only by Miami’s.
Ohio State lost its coach on Memorial Day when Jim Tressel resigned in the wake of covering up an NCAA violation that involved some of his players and a tattoo parlor. Miami topped that when a former booster sitting in jail for his role in a Ponzi scheme said he had supplied improper benefits to dozens of Hurricanes players.
Keeping track of the eligible players is a game in itself.
Ohio State will play without four players suspended five games for their role in trading memorabilia for tattoos. Star quarterback Terrelle Pryor was part of that suspension, but he left early for the NFL.
In a separate case, three other Buckeyes players were reinstated this week after paying restitution for receiving $200 to attend a charity event.
Eight Miami players sat out the opener against Maryland for receiving benefits from booster Nevin Shapiro. Five of those players, including starting quarterback Jacory Harris, return for Saturday’s game.
“Clearly, we’ve both had some missteps here that we’re trying to overcome,” Miami first-year Coach Al Golden said. “But that’s not going to erase the tradition, that’s not going to erase all the great players who have played here, that’s not going to erase what the institutions mean.”
The upside of this game is that it might end up counting.
The NCAA, though, doesn’t “erase” traditions or players or what institutions mean.
“Vacate” is the word it uses.