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SILLY SEASON, BEGIN

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Before we write anything else today:

The silly season is the British term for the portion of the year--usually the first half of the summer--where stories about dogs that can type and wacky German festivals involving beer, marksmanship, and tragic combinations thereof make up the majority of the stories you see in the news. That is because, in lieu of actual events, you are fed fake ones.


We call this image "the 2005 Orange Bowl."

A very legitimate event occurred this weekend: the Rutgers/Cincinnati game, where the Bearcats mauled (get it! silly season punnery begins!) the Scarlet Knights and thus ended the possibility of the Big East having an undefeated team. Oh, and that Ohio State-Michigan game, too, which in pre-BCS days would have qualified as the national championship game. This would have sucked of course: the Big Ten champ would have gone to the Rose Bowl, faced USC, and likely beaten them in a largely meaningless game that would have ended up with a crap split national championship, or even worse, a spuriously claimed single champion with one loss.

The real storylines end in early December with the conference championship games if your conference has one; if not, sadly, your season of actual relevant events is almost over or is in fact completely done. The brief window of addicted and happy is closing, and nothing but cold winter and the warm, woozy embrace of scotch on the sofa waits to comfort you. Good luck with that: college football is a short vacation from the rest of the year, a three to four month window of sudden, relentless competition with no preseason and a convoluted exhibition at its conclusion. The rest is silence...


That's you around January 6th.

The silly season may begin, though, where marketeers take over and rig up a ramshackle fix of a playoff where once there were only fluffy exhibition games. These exhibition games occasionally take the form of meaningful games, as in last year's mindbending Rose Bowl between Texas and USC, where the two best teams just happened to meet up in a stadium and play a football game.

Then there are years where math, human foibles, and fate refuse to cooperate and reduce the silly season to an event worthy of its name: something truly silly like this year's impending matchup between USC and Ohio State, or Notre Dame and Ohio State, or even the much-touted rematch of Ohio State and Michigan.

Your absurdity in quintuplicate:

USC/Ohio State. USC has one loss to a mediocre Oregon State team, a loss which put them out of national title contention in the minds of anyone with half an iota of reason in their souls.

Notre Dame/Ohio State. The team who was beaten dizzy by Michigan will play the team that just beat Michigan and who strutted through their bowl game last year by beating...Notre Dame, the team we started out talking about in this very elliptical sentence. If this makes sense to you, you are on peyote, and it is working.

Florida/Ohio State. Murder. Simple murder. No one wants to see this, unless they take joy from the details of killing as told by the killer. Which no one likes, right?

Arkansas/Ohio State. Another profoundly silly scenario, since you bump a team that simply molested Arkansas in a game earlier this season.

Michigan/Ohio State. A rematch! The people's choice! Drama! Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Except the Michigan/OSU game was in retrospect not even that close, with a pair of gift-wrapped turnovers keeping Michigan in the game. Even with those TOs, only a last minute TD and 2 point conversion turned it into the +3 win you would expect by the home team in an even matchup. It's not a blowout, but OSU's been the consistently superior team between the two for the past five years. Nothing changes in a rematch.

It's not the pure beauty contest of the past system, but it's not in a different zip code, either. Whatever happens will be messy, stupid, poorly governed, and loaded with advertising. This describes most sport, sure; after all, the hamfisted blind ogres who run NASCAR would kill to have something that ran as "efficiently" as college football does. The guys from the NHL would probably have to be talked off the ledges if they really thought about it in comparison.

Yet it's not anything close to logical or systematic. For a fan with even a faint loyalty to logic, clinging to the primacy of the conference championships as a system of valuation remains your only hope at seeing something resembling clarity. (You think we're gonna run out of modifiers here? Got a whole bag waiting, man.) The rest, BCS or no, is silly season. And if you enjoy squirrels on waterskis, you're in luck, because after Dec 3rd or so, that's all you're getting.


How bad is it going to get in February? Two words: Mel Kiper.