The Dash is off and running
Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (Les Miles pop-off puppet  sold separately):Welcome to the last days of August, the last days of pandemic optimism. Every coaching change will result in massive improvement. Every team had a great summer in the weight room. Every locker room is more unified than ever. Every school is ready to prove the haters wrong. Every fan base is envisioning Lee Corso outside the Superdome on Jan. 7, shoving its mascot's headgear on his noggin and declaring his national championship pick. Thursday, the alarm clock goes off. The dreaming ends and the hitting begins and we start keeping score. Enjoy the last few days of undefeated bliss, folks. The calls to fire the coach and bench the starting quarterback aren't far away now.
True Story (For Once)The season began for The Dash in the wee hours of a late-July morning. After attending Pacific-10 media days in Los Angeles, The Dash got on a miserably late red-eye flight home and wound up stuck in a middle seat for four lovely hours. As usual, The Dash was flying incognito to discourage groupies -- Broncos hat pulled low -- but it didn't work. Lo and behold, who should plunk down directly to The Dash's right but actress/model Andrea Harrison (2)? She cleverly concealed her awe over being in The Dash's company by quickly falling asleep and not waking up until the wheels hit pavement. Nice try, hon. You know it's football season when the Dashettes are finding such creative ways to get close to their man.
Fightin' WordsCollege football is the undisputed epicenter of trash-talking fans -- no other group of sports enthusiasts loves tearing down the opposition as much. (Well, maybe soccer hooligans, but violent death takes things a bit far. Even by SEC standards.) With that in mind, The Dash offers some recommended tailgate talking points when visiting the following schools: California (3): "BCS bowl games are so much fun. You really should try it sometime."
How's this for openersIf you're like The Dash, you've scanned the array of uninspiring mismatches dotting the Labor Day weekend landscape and wondered where the onions have gone in scheduling. Teams spend more time than ever in offseason conditioning and "voluntary" workouts, yet seem less ready than ever to play a real game to start the season. Strange. For the kids in the audience, scheduling soft-serve season openers against Smalltime State has not always been the norm in college football. Michigan (opener: Appalachian State) began the year with Notre Dame every season during 1985-90. Alabama (opener: Western Carolina) commenced with USC twice and Nebraska once in the 1970s. Texas (opener: Arkansas State) kicked off with Auburn three times and Penn State once between 1983 and '90. To enlighten the young, refresh the aged and shame the cowardly, The Dash offers its list of the most memorable season openers ever. The Start of Something Big, Historic Division (13): Rutgers 6, Princeton 4, Nov. 6, 1869. The opener. USC 42, Alabama 21, Sept. 12, 1970. On a sweaty Birmingham night, this outcome merely forced the South to integrate its major college football teams. All six Trojans touchdowns were scored by African-Americans against the all-white Crimson Tide. Fullback Sam Cunningham was the blunt force of societal change, pounding for 135 yards on 12 carries in his first varsity game, as USC outrushed Alabama 485 yards to 32.
Michigan 1, Racine 0, March 30, 1879. Victory No. 1 for the program that has more of them than any other (849 and counting). Notre Dame 87, Ohio Northern 0, Oct. 4, 1913. Fighting Irish quarterback Gus Dorais and end Knute Rockne spent the summer leading up to this game practicing a newfangled thing called the forward pass. By midseason they upset powerhouse Army with a barrage of them, and the pass was here to stay. Maryland 60, Guilford 6, Sept. 28, 1945. First game as a college head coach for a man named Paul Bryant. Bowling Green 20, Missouri 13, Sept. 1, 2001. The Falcons were 13-point underdogs, but this was more than just a startling upset of a Big 12 opponent. It was the inaugural game as a head coach for Urban Meyer -- which shows you just how quickly the man has rocketed up the food chain. Miami (Ohio) openers from 1949, '51 and '63. Those were the college head-coaching debuts of Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian and Bo Schembechler, respectively. For the record, Woody whomped Wichita 23-6, Ara beat Wichita 21-13 and Bo lost to Xavier 21-12. Immortal upsets (16): Northwestern 17, Notre Dame 15, Sept. 2, 1995. The Wildcats' sublime Rose Bowl run started with this stunner in South Bend, and the surprises never stopped after that. Boston College 14, Texas 13, Sept. 11, 1976. A great indicator that the end of the run had come for legendary Darrell Royal. He retired at the end of a 5-5-1 season. The No. 7 Longhorns remain the third-highest-ranked team BC has beaten.
Dash Numerology115 -- The number of shopping days left 'til the Poinsettia Bowl (18). 491 -- The number of days since former USC hero Reggie Bush (19) said, "When this is all said and done, everybody will see at the end of the day that we've done nothing -- absolutely nothing wrong." That was in regard to his family's extended upscale home stay in Los Angeles as VIP tenants of a spurned fledgling sports agency. Of course, nothing has been said or done since, as all involved parties have refused to cooperate with Pacific-10 and NCAA investigators. Bush has shown no interest in clearing his name, perhaps because he can't. 6 -- The number of interesting openers in the Pac-10 (20), well above the norm for most BCS conferences. Start with Tennessee at Cal, the marquee game of the weekend, but don't stop there. Washington State at Wisconsin, Utah at Oregon State, Arizona at BYU and Washington at Syracuse all are noteworthy nonconference games, and UCLA-Stanford will provide early answers on two fronts: Can the Bruins start 11-0, as The Dash predicts, and how much will new coach Jim Harbaugh (21) improve the Cardinal?
Pravda LivesOne of the best parts of August for The Dash is the mailbox bombardment of school media guides. Actually, "media guides" is an archaic term -- most schools have cannibalized them, tearing out much of the program history in favor of dozens of pages of coach-controlled, unapologetic top spin aimed at recruits. (Minor props to Missouri (22), which at least labels its publication what it is: a recruiting guide.) So The Dash enjoys thumbing through the new crop of guides every year to keep current on the latest propaganda. A few rules of thumb: • Overplay your accomplishments and underplay your pratfalls.
Strength coaches have become the new rock stars of media guides, getting their names and pictures all over the place. They're all short-haired and appear short-tempered, glowering in pictures on pages that declare they will turn any weakling into a Man of Steel. Oklahoma State (31) bestows two pages of praise to assistant athletic director for speed and strength Rob Glass.• Win over the mamas. Include at least one picture of someone in a cap and gown -- even if you had to rent the gown and slip it on a walk-on. Include pictures of the coaches' families -- even if they don't spend any time with their wives and kids from now 'til December. Sprinkle the word "family" liberally throughout the guide. Texas (32) hits you with it 19 times in a four-page spread. • And don't forget the babes. Mississippi (33) knows what it has to sell. That's why the dance team is inside the front cover, some tailgating hotties from The Grove are on the back cover, the school's three Miss Americas are on Page 9 and the 2006 Homecoming queen is on Page 23.
Literary CornerThe Dash has been inundated by interesting books about college football this summer, several of which happen to be written by FODs. So it is The Dash's pleasure to plug their work -- but not without sincerity. Readers of this column would be the logical target audience for: "Meat Market: Inside The Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting," by ESPN.com colleague Bruce Feldman (34). Few people are as good as Feldman at working their way inside a program's guts and reporting how it works, from the inside out. "Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls: Tackling the Chaos and Controversy that Reign Over College Football," by Stewart Mandel (35). A clear, cogent, big-picture look at how the sport became the mess it is today. Why didn't anyone write this sooner? "Saturday Rules: A Season with Trojans and Domers (and Gators and Buckeyes and Wolverines)," by Austin Murphy (36). A third case of a writer doing what he does best: In this case, it's Murphy taking the reader inside a season, week by week, and wryly reporting what he sees.
Putting Out An APB ForFormer LSU running back Charles Alexander (37). Alexander The Great was a Heisman finalist in 1977 when Texas monster stud Earl Campbell (38) won the award, and he remains third on the LSU career rushing list with 4,035 yards gained from 1975-78. Anyone with information on Charles' whereabouts, please apprise The Dash.
Point AfterVeteran readers of this column know The Dash has a proclivity for grilled meat and good beer, and The Dash has made a couple of important (and rhyming) discoveries this offseason. Namely: Grub's (39) and Old Chub (40). The former is an eat-til-it-hurts, wings-and-burgers hangout in Fayetteville, Ark. The latter is a revelatory Scottish Ale brewed in Lyons, Colo., and, heretically, distributed in cans. But don't let the aluminum fool you: It's a fabulously rich ale that would make great tailgate consumption -- especially when the weather turns autumnal and dark beers are more palatable. Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
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2007 College Football Preview
The long wait for the start of the 2007 college football season is finally over. Get ready for the season with an in-depth look at the teams, trends, players and coaches. Index
• Forde: Arkansas' favorite son also rising
• Forde: Welcome to Trickeration Nation
• Albright: Glanville has Portland State all shook up
• Maisel: Boise State part of quiet revolution
• Edwards: BCS system needs update
• Forde: QBs face burden of proof in '07
• Schlabach: Biggest shoes to fill this season
• Maisel: (Southern) State of the Game
• Schlabach: Hot or Not for 2007
• Ivan Maisel's preseason All-America team
• Heisman Watch: Voters go Hog wild
• SportsNation: Rank the Heisman contenders Fearless Forecasts
• Experts: Conference title projections
• Maisel/Schlabach: Bowl predictions
• McShay: Don't sleep on these teams
• Games to watch: National | Conference Campus Confidential
• Forde: Woodson stepping out of the shadow
• Schlabach: Shhhh! Uncovering 2007's secrets
• McShay: Seven secrets from the film room
• Feldman: Saturday's secret agents revealed
• EA Sports: Trick play simulations
• Arkansas: Wildhog formation
• Boise State: Statue of Liberty
• LSU: Flea flicker
• Texas: Wide receiver pass
• USC: Halfback pass ACC Features
• Schlabach: ACC needs quality Miami, FSU
• Schlabach: Wright, Freeman still battling at Miami
• Schlabach: Wake sets bar high for encore
• Schlabach: Five ACC predictions Big East Features
• Maisel: What's next for the Big East?
• Maisel: USF's QB exudes old school cool
• Maisel: Five Big East predictions Big Ten Features
• Schlabach: Michigan seniors return on a mission
• Schlabach: Downsized Hill means supersized play
• Schlabach: Big Ten at the crossroads
• Schlabach: Five Big Ten predictions Pac-10 Features
• Forde: Now is the time for UCLA
• Forde: Five Pac-10 predictions
• Maisel: After long wait, Turner ready for stardom
• Maisel: Ten Little Trojans running backs
• Feldman: DeSean Jackson's born identity SEC Features
• Maisel: Saban snapshot reveals double feature
• Higgins: Spurrier, Gamecocks thinking big
• Schlabach: SEC balance of power shifts East
• Schlabach: Five SEC predictions Coaching Corner
• Schlabach: Coaches on the hot seat
• Schlabach: Rise of the assistants
• McShay: Assistant coaches on the rise
• McShay: Position coaches who deliver Rule Changes
• Kickoffs, timing rules highlight changes
• McShay: Changes put premium on specialists
• College Football Live: Impact of kickoff rule
• Joe Tiller: Kickoff changes raise safety issues
• College Football Live: Matter of time Campus Call
ESPN.com will hit eight practice sessions to get an early pulse on the season. Check out what's happening on campus.
• Aug. 7: Gators looking for bite on D
• Aug. 6: ND's Weis plays respect card |
McKnight makes USC debut
• Aug. 5: Brown resolute in face of Texas' troubles
• Aug. 4: WVU has speed to burn
• Aug. 3: Taylor made Jacket
• Aug. 2: Hokies begin road back to normalcy
• Aug. 1: Report day is still a thrill for Tuberville