Don't Let Lack of Upsets Taint The 2009 College Football Season
Before the season, if you'd walk up to any college football fan and said, "Putting aside your bias, Bama and Texas will play for the National Title this season.", they'd have shrugged their shoulders and said, "ok."
Sure, there were some surprises along the way. Washington's early upset of USC was great at the time but lost it's luster as the Trojans limped through the rest of the season.
Most of the time, we look back and define a college football season by the "drama", which is usually directly proportional to the number of upsets and chaos that ensues in a given season. We don't have that this season.
However, I implore you to look back on the 2009 season a little differently. Instead of wishing we had witnessed more upsets and chaos, I choose to be appreciative that I was able to witness so many great players.
If you were one of those people who were lucky enough to watch the NBA in the early 90's when Bird, Magic, and Jordan were all going strong, then you feel for the earlier generations that will never get that privilege.
Personally, I feel lucky that someday, I'll be able to tell a younger generation about a year that no matter what, is marked in history by Mark Ingram's winning of the Heisman Trophy.
Ingram became the first player in Alabama history to win the award, something that is shocking to it's core when you think about the tradition of that powerhouse program. Ingram was also the third straight sophomore to win the award and only the second running back in 10 years.
The amazing story behind Ingram's Heisman success is solidified by the fact that this season, all of college football says goodbye to Florida's Tim Tebow, who finished fifth in this year's voting.
Like Tebow or hate him, Tebow is something college football has never seen, and may never see again. Tebow's statistical accomplishments are way too many to start listing, but the guy changed the way the QB position can be played.
Few players are fortunate enough to come through a sport and show an entirely new way to play a position that has been fielding players since it's inception, but Tebow did just that.
Sure, we've seen mobile QBs who wowed us with their legs. But there has never been a player play the QB position who did as much with both his arm and his legs as Tebow.
It doesn't stop between the lines, Tebow's goodwill gestures are well documented, but I promise you that if you poll every coach in America on who they'd like to see their players follow the example of, 100 percent of them write down Tim Tebow's name.
No, this isn't a Tebow fluff piece, he has plenty. But it would be completely out of line to not pay the man his respect for the amazing career he had. He is simply the most accomplished college football player I've ever seen and I'll always remember 2009 as his final go 'round, which in a way kind of sucks.
Bama's opponent, Texas, has a legend of their own. In case you were napping, Colt McCoy is now the winning-est college QB of all time. McCoy has played at a very high level for four years and is going to be rewarded by making a ton of money in the NFL.
McCoy finished third in the Heisman voting, an award he easily could have won last year as well. He may be piloting the least talented of Texas' teams over the last several years and has them playing for the sport's biggest prize, nothing to shake a stick at.
Ndamukong Suh may not be a household name, but that's only because no one can pronounce it. Suh, a defensive tackle from Nebraska, finished fourth in the Heisman voting.
Suh made his mark, however, in a nationally televised game in the final week of the season when Nebraska almost shocked the world by beating Texas. Suh turned in the most dominant big game performance by a defensive tackle of this generation.
The giant has been at the top of "Kiper's big board" for some time now, but on that Saturday night, showed the world the best player on the field doesn't have to be a pretty, point scoring position.
Then, there's Toby Gerhart of Stanford. Honestly, when was the last time you got home from a football game or party and said, "Hmm, let's turn on Sportscenter and see if we can catch some Stanford highlights!" I'll answer for you, Elway.
Yet, there you were, every week glancing in to see who Toby had run over or away from. Gerhart finished second in the Heisman voting and captured many imaginations as a workhorse back who, at times, looked ugly doing what he did but always seemed to get it done.
For people in my neck of the woods, 2009 will be the year they said goodbye to Eric Berry of Tennessee. Berry wasn't always the poster boy that was flashed on ESPN every five seconds and this season, wasn't the statistical monster he could have been because Monte Kiffin chose to use him a certain way.
But for Vol fans, and anyone who had to play against Berry, it's no secret the impact Berry had on college football during his time.
Unless he breaks it during the Chick Fil-a Bowl, Berry is going to fall nine yards short of Terrell Buckley's career interception return yardage record. Nevertheless, that doesn't cast a shadow of what Berry did at Tennessee as Berry captured the imagination of Vol fans in many ways.
Berry could very well become the highest drafted defensive back in the history of the NFL, as some projections have him going number 2 overall.
Like Tebow, Berry's greatness doesn't stop when he steps outside the lines. Between charity work, leadership, and deeds such as scrubbing and striping helmets with team managers, Berry left his mark in Knoxville and it will never be erased.
The list continues and we could keep going forever. The talent pool in college football this season is ridiculous and every region would have a list and names to contribute. We haven't touched on Jimmy Clausen, Jake Locker, Tony Pike, and many others, but so many names add to the lore of this season.
There are so many others who are underclassmen who emerged and as so many underclassmen are, weren't consistent enough to be elite, yet served notice they soon would be.
The individual performances of the college football season more than make up for the lack of upsets for me. Watching great players do what they do is what it's all about.
For me, it all comes full circle back to Ingram's Heisman. For him to win college football's flagship award with the outstanding individuals we've discussed around him speaks volumes to the season he had.
I know everyone thinks their generation is the best, that the competition so was much better in their day or their region. But today, after reading some people voice disappointment in the level of "excitement" surrounding the season, I urge you to take pause and appreciate greatness.
Many people look back on history and certain seasons and say "that's the year of so and so". Luckily, we don't have to narrow it down to one person or defining event.
This season, I say thank you to Mark Ingram, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, and all the other players who wowed us at some point or another. You guys have showed us that upsets and chaos don't define college football, the players do.
For the rest of you, no matter who you are a fan of, you have to be honest with yourselves and admit you may never see another season with such great individual players.
I know, I know, there are great players all the time. But, will you ever be able to look at an individual season again and point to guys as successful as Tebow, McCoy, Ingram and so on?
Everyone defines greatness differently, but I think we can all agree that college football has some huge shoes to fill in 2010.
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