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DEAR MICHIGAN STATE/OREGON

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A LETTER FROM SOMEONE WHO’S BEEN THERE

NCAA Football: Oregon at Oregon State Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Entering 2016, Oregon had made a bowl eleven consecutive times and won at least nine regular season games for eight straight years. Michigan State’s bowl streak was at nine, and the Spartans had ten regular season wins in five of their last six seasons.

Last weekend, both teams finished with their fewest wins in a season since 1991. Say, I remember another year where a typically successful school blew a tire and swerved directly into a ditch full of discarded needles and fireworks!

So let’s talk about what happens next. I’m going to help you process this and come out the other side ready to face the 2017 season in a healthy way.

(Notre Dame, this letter is not addressed to you because you have a .591 winning percentage over the last decade. I’m not about to pretend like 4-8 is that shocking when every coach you’ve had since Dan Devine has had at least one losing season.)

1. Nobody else cares why this happened.

You’ve calculated exactly how many games your team lost to injury. You’ve noted that if they’d only made X many more stops on third down or converted these Y red zone possessions into touchdowns instead of field goals, they’d be 7-5 and merely disappointing instead of shockingly disappointing. A few specific recruiting misses in year Z came to unpleasant fruition.

Make no mistake, these are not excuses. They’re valid, thoughtful reasons that explain a short-term disaster. If we were talking about the meltdown of a nuclear power plant, your search for answers would be in the public interest. Unfortunately, those of us who aren’t Oregon or Michigan State fans watched the radiation meters spike this year, and we either laughed or stood gaping in confusion or both.

Florida lost 178* players to injury in 2013. The only numbers anybody else cares about are 4 wins, 8 losses.

*estimated

2. Don’t point to past achievements as a counterpoint.

That’s right, you are two of the only seven teams to ever make the nascient College Football Playoff! Michigan hasn’t done that! None of the other Pac 12 schools have, either! Don’t they appreciate the accomplishments you’ve racked up in recent years? Don’t those insulate you from this criticism and mockery??

No, stupid. Illinois went 3-9 this season and Duke went 4-8. Nobody’s giving them shit because those programs haven’t done enough recently to justify significantly loftier expectations. Duke and Illinois tripped this year. You fell off the roof, and that roof was high because of all the good things you’ve done in the past.

Nothing’s sadder than leaning on your history to ignore your present. Tennessee lays a claim to 13 SEC titles. 11 of those took place before Sonic The Hedgehog was released. Once you start down this road, you start having to wrestle with things like “Pitt has more national titles than Ohio State.” You don’t want to do that, do you? (Ok, you might want to do that, but only at Ohio State’s expense.)

3. Think of the future - both your own and that of those you hate.

College football is a torture device that moves in a circle. Few teams stay attached to it for a long time, and everyone else is just trying to delay their turn. Let’s go back to the end of 2008. Texas was a powerhouse that always had reliable quarterbacks. Florida had the championship formula perfected. USC was lapping the rest of the Pac 12. Texas Tech was one win from playing for a national title. Boston College made the ACC Championship.

Washington went 0-12. Michigan went 3-9. Louisville went 5-7, including a 49 point loss to Rutgers. Clemson fired a coach halfway through the season and barely made a bowl game. Auburn missed a bowl game for the first time in nine years.

So yeah, Oregon and Michigan State. 2016 tipped over the porta-potty while you were inside. And I can’t promise you, or Florida, for that matter, are ever going to get back to the lofty heights you once occupied. But I can tell you that, eventually, someone you hate is going to wind up covered in blue poop without ever seeing it coming.