(In this, the seventh installment of "The Quiet Guy in the Sports Bar," Dr. Bricker gives extra credit on the final day of his summer English Lit section for those students who simply remain in class during a discussion of three 2011 preseason college football polls.)
I survey the classroom, giving each student The Glance. It is The Glance of a Ph. D., always delivered to mark the beginning of the day's lecture whether they like it or not.
Mostly not. It's summer.
"Top five of the three polls. Coaches: Oklahoma, Alabama, Oregon, Louisiana State and Florida State. The Vegas composite: Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana State, Florida State and Boise State. And, the Lucky 19 by GQ, my friend the 'Quiet Guy' at Two Dozen Plus One sports garden: Texas Christian, Boise State, Oklahoma, Oregon and Stanford."
"Okay," I say, "this is the way it's going to be today."
"George Atkinson, Oakland Raiders, in the 1976 playoff game with the New England Patriots, explaining why he forearmed tight end Russ Francis' face. The actual quote is, 'I just wanted to let him know that this is the way it's going to be today.'"
The voice was female and came from the rear right corner. She's a black-haired beauty with deep brown soulful eyes set above milky cheeks. Her limbs stretch out to remind us all she's very hip, knowing 'pale is the new tan.'
Despite not missing one class and possessing a borderline B plus/A minus with her quintessential killer essay on Shakespeare's Othello, those words were the first she emitted during this entire summer term.
"Thanks," I say.
"You're welcome," she says.
What's her name? I should know.
"The coaches and the bookies," she says, "two entities who know more about the college game than anyone. I'll go with them. So, what's the deal with your buddy GQ and his number one and number two?" she says. "What is he thinking?"
"We've talked about that," I say. "I can see his point. GQ says polls in the recent past have lined up these two non-AQ powerhouses in the second five at the highest. They thereby are forced into a season-long pursuit of the BCS Holy Grail, and are almost guaranteed to fall short."
"So," she says, "your buddy puts TCU and Boise State at the top with the presumptive berths in the BCS championship game, giving both of them the opportunity to defend instead of crawl."
I make the arms-spread gesture, the I-just-won look. "That's it!" I say.
"Three things," she says. "First, Boise State could be for real. The Broncs have that middle-of-the-road schedule that's tough enough to respect but not so difficult that they are slapped around silly. Gotta watch the Georgia opener. Second, TCU is suspect this year, and that's being kind. Even with half the lineup being seniors, the Frogs are not natty material."
"What's third," I ask as she pauses.
"GQ's just wrong. They're both not going to make it anyway."
"They play each other Saturday November 12 on the blue turf."
My adversary has a gorgeous smile. I lost that one, so I take this time to check out the room. Lots of clock watching.
"Okay," I say. "Everyone gets the A for the day, stay or no-stay." Both men are gone in seconds. The three co-eds remain seated, including the female personification of Lou Holtz.
"So," I say, "before you take GQ to the hoop, ask yourself why the Southeastern Conference schools are always exalted, even before they break a sweat."
"Results, Dr. Bricker," she says.
"Results?" I ask. "True, they don't lie, but just how are Alabama, second with the coaches and the bookies, and top five LSU going to make it together? They're both SEC West, and will see each other in Tuscaloosa the week before the Frogs and the Broncs!"
Louise Holtz juts out her pretty chin. "Any one-loss SEC team will play for the title long before a one-and-done TCU and Boise State," she says, "maybe even before an undefeated non-AQ powerhouse, and especially before a one-and-done Stanford!"
"How did the Cardinal get in this debate?"
"If this is a debate," she says, "you're dead, and Stanford's in because I want to get the riff-raff out! With a well-deserved exception to the Oregon Ducks, a team possessing an overdrive running game and a decent enough schedule to be a BCS champ, the Pac-12 is almost as pathetic as the Big East."
I pause. If she weren't so lovely, I'd call it. "Okay, your riff-raff's out, so what's wrong with GQ's Alabama/LSU premise, the one that forces you to look into the possibility of making the SEC climb?"
"One," she begins. "the Tide has almost everyone back from a team that beat up on No. 7 Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl. Two, LSU took an impressive Texas A&M team downtown in the Cotton Bowl. Four O-line starters are back, large and in charge in Baton Rouge. But, three, Dr. Bricker? The main thing that's wrong is that you and GQ are the only people who actually believe the SEC should be handicapped."
"Second five," I say, defeated. "Vegas: Oregon, Florida, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and the dreaded Stanford. Coaches: Stanford again, Boise State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. And GQ, the sports bar expert: Florida State, Nebraska, LSU, Alabama and Texas."
"Well," says my new 'girlfriend,' "GQ we've already rolled and smoked, except for that pretty good Florida State pick. We'll find out how good they are when they host the Sooners in Week 3. Win or lose, the Seminoles will be Atlantic Coast champions."
"Good point," I say.
"Now," she says, ignoring me. "the 'Huskers could pull GQ out of purgatory if they handle quarterback Russell Wilson's Wisconsin at Camp Randall the first day of October. This may be a great ride on October 1. Russell's never played with, or against, so much talent."
"Yet another fine call," I say.
"Please, don't patronize me, Dr. Bricker. Back to the Badgers. The bookies are calling Whisky champs of the Leaders Division, which by the way is a ridiculous name for serious college football. And, speaking of betting, looking who's sticking the neck out for the Hokies! Virginia Tech, number eight, a perennially tough team with a natty schedule! All those Krispy Kremes!"
"Okay, Louise Holtz," I say. That got a friendly grin out of her. "Back to the field generals. The coaches just love the new and improved ten-team Big-12. Oklahoma, first, Oklahoma State, eighth, and Texas A&M ninth. There's your answer to the SEC. Texas A&M? Every Aggie is back, smarting from the pounding LSU put on them. Oklahoma State finished No. 13 and the offensive talent returns. Even if Boise State and Stanford go your way, you could still be watching two Big-12 teams playing in BCS bowls after New Year's Day."
"Just because you got a friendly grin out of me doesn't mean I think your analysis makes any sense," she says. Interestingly, the other two women have been stoic, until now. They just traded high fives.
"Okay," I say.
"I'll tell you what would be completely awesome," the sports babe says. "Florida. The coaches don't like them, but the bookies do, even with their new head coach who has no head coaching experience, and even with their thin lineup after an 8-5 season, Florida could rule the SEC East and end up in the SEC title game. With a BCS computers-friendly schedule, the Gators just might sneak up on Georgia and South Carolina as the 'Dogs and the Gamecocks stare each other down. If they play for the SEC championship, they won't be inexperienced. One game in a football season, anything can happen. An upset of the West champion would give the Gators an outside chance to garner one of the BCS championship slots.'
"You're crazy, lady," I say. "Florida has to get by Georgia and South Carolina. There are two established coaches in Mr. Ol' Ball Coach and the handsome Mr. Richt, with enough experienced athletes to make it a tight race."
"Do you know what this means?" Louise asks.
"What does this mean, Louise."
"The Southeastern Conference dominates. In this conversation, we talked at length about 'Bama, LSU, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, and the three polls added Arkansas, Mississippi State, and even Auburn to the mix. That's eight poll slots out of around thirty or so. That, my man, is most significant! So, Florida's my brazen-doesn't-make-sense natty game crazy pick. What's yours?"
"Well," I say, trying to fight the urge to launch into a soliloquy. "Let's get provincial, Ms Holtz. Check out the bookies and look at their 13th slot. West Virginia! Mountain Mama! The coaches have them as an also-ran, probably a little miffed at the treatment of Bill Stewart, one of their favorite brethren. GQ's got them low, too. The guys who run the book have taken all the emotion out of the equation and are looking at how successful Dana Holgorsen has been, especially at Oklahoma State. The key there is Week Four, September 24, that's the SEC's big gun, Louisiana State, in Morgantown. If the Mountaineers win, all bets are on for WVU as a threat for a BCS title berth."
"Now, that's brazen."
"I call it moronic."
"So," the young woman says. "We're bowing to Vegas and calling it Florida and West Virginia for the BCS title?"
"Strange, yet true," I say.
"I like it," she says.
"Even considering how you roasted my carcass today, we still agree?"
"The Gators and the Mountaineers, replay of the Florida Slaughter in the 1994 Sugar Bowl. Now, there's your scary."
"You want to publish these picks on your blog?" she asks.
"Can I credit you for the Florida pick?"
"And, your name?"
"But, of course."