Commentary

Finality of senior night always hits home

Updated: November 30, 2007, 8:40 AM ET
By Chris Fowler | Special to ESPN.com

I love this time of the college football season for a few reasons.

One: A vacation on a warm beach with a cold margarita is fast approaching.

Two: The national championship chase now is focused on just a few pressure games. It is fascinating to predict and observe how teams handle all that.

Three: College careers are concluding. Senior day (or night) carries a poignance that I remain a sucker for after 20-plus years covering the sport.

[+] EnlargeBrian and Jeff Brohm
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesLouisville has been a family affair for the Brohms, with brother Jeff overseeing Brian.
Players are flanked by their parents and walked out to the appreciative embrace of the home fans one last time. The strong emotions are evident. For almost all of the parents, it is the last time they watch their sons play the sport these young men first loved as Pop Warner tykes who needed help to put on their pads. Most will not play at the next level, of course. It's a big moment for even the seniors who play out their careers in near anonymity, just punching the clock at practice each day and never enjoying much public glory.

I enjoy watching those ceremonies. They still get me a tiny bit choked up sometimes. My dad did not live to see me graduate from the University of Colorado, his alma mater. So, I am filled with just a bit of envy when I see that look in a father's eye as his son gets his final college introduction.

I also find it interesting to watch how players aquire wisdom as the end approaches. Guys who live in the silo of week-to-week focus, where peeking outside to gain perspective is seen as a "distraction," suddenly become reflective. They come to realize how brief and fast-moving their college careers are, how they will miss even some of the tough times, how much they will miss football.

I enjoy hearing Kirk Herbstreit talk about bawling his eyes out as he made the walk out for the last time.

Most guys fail to fully appreciate how precious each game is and each year is, until these things are about to be gone forever. This week, the superb receiver for Louisville, Harry Douglas, reflected that only right before they were about to be taken away from him did he realize how important the brotherhood, the comraderie of the football team are.

And this was from a guy whose team has had a terrible season!

Brian Brohm's senior night Friday ranks as one of the most poignant in college football this season. The quarterback is a once-per-generation type player for Louisville but represents the second generation of Brohms to star there. It's a fairly well-known story. Dad Oscar was a star at the 'Ville, and his three sons -- Jeff, Greg and Brian -- kept the legacy going. Jeff coaches Brian and the other quarterbacks, and Greg is in charge of the program's football operations.

So, Brian's Louisville farewell represents not just the end of a brilliant college career, but the end of the Brohm clan's playing days there. It is the closing of an amazing chapter, capped by Brian's record-setting years, which included the program's zenith: a trip to last season's Orange Bowl.

Brian, of course, will go on to play on Sundays. But he predicted this week how emotional the last walk on to the Cards' field will be. He said he thought Oscar, who had been hanging around watching each practice (each throw!) all week, would be "a mess" during the ceremony. He predicted his mother, Donna, would be more composed.

But wait, what is that video we saw on the local Louisville sports report this week? It was footage of another Brohm running on a football field! A future Cards star!

Could he be the next savior? Louisville fans better hope not. Little Brady Brohm, Jeff's son, won't be 3 years old until December. But hey, he's got great genes and shows a good arm for a toddler. If the Cards' fans can just wait 15 years, another Brohm might be on the way.

Those years, and all the careers that come and go in between, will pass quickly. Faster than any of us want to acknowlege.

Back To The Chase

The fact that Chase Daniel and Missouri figure in the season's most significant game is a fun part of the championship chase. Daniel, back in his home state of Texas, trying to avenge a loss to Oklahoma, is good stuff.

[+] EnlargeChase Daniel
G. Newman Lowrance/Getty ImagesAt first glance Chase Daniel doesn't look like a mobile QB, but the Mizzou signal caller gets the job done.
The point guard of Mizzou's spread is a better athlete than he appears, something that is best appreciated from field level. He looks a little thick to be as quick and elusive as he is. If needed, he can go get 12 yards, but more often, his legs buy him time for someone to break open. Missouri remains the only team to hit the 30-point-plus mark each game, and Daniel is the main reason.

Not many college quarterbacks have the luxury of having their high school coach help teach and install the same offense they ran back at Southlake Carroll High. Todd Dodge took the time out from Carroll High to do just that, before eventually leaving Carroll to take the North Texas job. So Daniel has a command and comfort level rarely seen in a college QB. And he's got another year to play at Mizzou.

The Tigers' win over Kansas was not at all surprising to me, as I indicated here a week ago. But I left Arrowhead even more appreciative of the job Mark Mangino and his staff have done this year. KU is not loaded with special athletes. That much was evident from the warm-ups. Missouri looked much more impressive "on the hoof." And on the field. Todd Reesing looked about 5-foot-7 to me. Maybe an inch taller. No more. But he plays hard and tough and smart. The Jayhawks came up short. That was painful for them. But they certainly earned respect, avoided a bigger drop in the rankings and maybe improved their bowl stock by rallying for four second-half scores. An 11-1 season, even versus a weak schedule, is a tremendous achievement for the group of players I saw in blue last Saturday night.

Missouri now plays as the No. 1 BCS team but as an underdog to Oklahoma. That's not surprising, of course.

A quick review of history: A No. 1 team has been an underdog 12 times since 1985 (using the AP poll). In non-bowl games, it has happened six times.

In five of the six, the No. 1 team has pulled the "upset" over the lower-ranked favorite. It has happened the past four non-bowl meetings.

Ohio State's win at Texas early last year was the most recent top-ranked underdog win. In the late '80s, top-ranked Notre Dame teams pulled mild upsets at Michigan and USC.

It has happened more frequently in bowl games, where the No. 1 team is always playing the No. 2 team. In the BCS era, No. 2's often have had the edge after a month (or more) of hype and media doubting. That's a whole different topic.

No doubt Bob Stoops will have his team feeling like the 'dogs Saturday night, what with all the "media boys" falling in love with Mizzou and Daniel and discounting the Sooners' Oct. 13 home win as a Tigers "self-destruction." Oh, will OU be frothing and foaming and feeling unloved and underappreciated ... even as a favorite over No. 1.

We hope you will remember to join us at the Alamo, a unique backdrop for GameDay this Saturday (ESPN, 10 a.m. ET) . A hearty and sincere thanks to all who helped make last week's edition the highest rated ever.

Random Thoughts
I was deeply saddened by the news of Sean Taylor's death. I didn't know Sean well and have seen only bits of his NFL career. But I admired the way he played ball at Miami. I admired the way he led his teammates and inspired the guys around him to play harder and better. That's what a safety is supposed to do. Sean Taylor was one of best safeties I have seen in my years covering college football. Condolences to Randy Shannon and the Canes family for another painful tragedy.

• Critics of Texas A&M's quick hiring of Mike Sherman are off base. I have been and remain a strong proponent of the Black Coaches Association. The current state of minority representation among I-A head coaches and coordinators is a deep embarrassment to the sport and has been for years. Only very slowly has the BCA moved to make this a front-burner issue. I support the idea of watch lists for candidates and the grading system the association has devised to track schools' hiring practices.

[+] EnlargeMike Sherman
AP Photo/Paul ZoellerWith Texas A&M roots, Mike Sherman was an easy choice for the Aggies.

Texas A&M is a somewhat unique situation, though, because Sherman was a unique sort of candidate and Aggies athletic director Bill Byrne was a search committee of one.

It has been common knowlege for more than a month, maybe longer, that Dennis Franchione is out. Sherman -- as a former A&M assistant (very important there), a former NFL head coach (Green Bay Packers) and a current NFL coordinator (Houston Texans) -- has a resume that no one, regardless of race or anything else, could come close to.

What should A&M be criticzed for? Not bringing in "candidates" of any color for bogus interviews? That's the kind of charade, a faux interest in a minority candidate to satisfy somebody, that the BCA rightfully has spoken out against. Sherman was Byrne's guy from the start, for his resume. Going outside the Ags' family didn't work with Franchione. It was predictable that Byrne would make this move. He kept it quiet and discreet and handled it well, without a PR flourish.

The BCA really can't be too bothered by that.

At the same time, that kind of "inside the family" approach could help Turner Gill land the Nebraska job. If Tom Osborne goes with his former quarterback and former NU assistant, who went to a very tough job at Buffalo to improve his resume, it will be an enormously important hire for the BCA and something to celebrate.

If Bo Pelini gets the job, it will be because Osborne thinks the defensive guru is the better hire at the time, period.

• I have not yet figured out my Heisman ballot and won't tell you when I do. It would be dumb for the host of the show at which the trophy is handed out to reveal that.

I don't know where I will rank Tim Tebow, but I do know it will have nothing to do with the fact that he's a sophomore. Voters who weigh that factor miss the point.

Traditional thinking goes like this: "I will wait until he is a junior or senior to reward him for what he's done." Except, I doubt Tebow will have a year like this again.

His stats can't stay this amazing. To account for 51 touchdowns next year would be startling, as it is this year. At some point, and that should be starting next year, Tebow has to run the ball less, take fewer hits and save himself. The coaches are trying to teach him to slide. He's a slow learner when it comes to that skill alone.

With the hits he takes running between the tackles -- not on the edges like most running quarterbacks -- it is amazing Tebow was seriously banged up for only the Georgia game.

Urban Meyer has to use a tailback more next year, and the Gators have some prospects, like USC transfer Emmanuel Moody.

So, I don't think Tebow's stats will ever look as good as they do now. The voters will have to decide whether his stats are Heisman-worthy. Just don't delay the reward because you think he can produce this kind of year again. No quarterback ever has before.

By the way, isn't it amazing how injuries to QBs have shaped the championhsip chase at almost every turn? Pat White got knocked out in West Virginia's only loss. Nate Longshore got hurt in Cal's win at Oregon and never was the same, leading the Bears' collapse. John David Booty's four picks in the second half versus Stanford and his absence from the Oregon game traced directly to his broken finger. If he stays healthy now, the Trojans could be pointed to New Orleans. Tyrod Taylor was out for Virginia Tech's loss to Boston College, or the Hokies might be a dangerous one-loss team in the mix. Dennis Dixon's sad knee injury obviously changed everything in the Pac-10. Sam Bradford's concussion against Texas Tech helped ruin OU's national title chances. That is an amazing list, one of the things that helped create the blizzard of suprises this season.

• A salute to another really productive QB this year, Paul Smith of Tulsa. The Golden Hurricanes are visiting Central Florida on Saturday for the C-USA title game, thanks to Smith's 4,327 passing yards and 39 TDs. But Paul also is a finalist for the award often labeled the "academic Heisman," the Draddy Trophy. Smith is a 3.84 student at Tulsa and an active role model in the city.

He is joined on the prestigious list of 15 finalists by other top players like J Leman of Illinois and Dixon, who are studs in the classroom, as well as on the field.

The Draddy winner will be announced Tuesday night at the National Football Foundation dinner in New York. That guy will be given an honor he never will forget.

• Finally, on the cuisine caravan this week ... the cannolis at Porcini's in Louisville. The place is a favorite hangout of Rick Pitino's, and he knows Italian food.

The cannolis are an amazing cap to a meal there, made for the restaurant by a woman named Helen. Even a cowpoke like Craig James, who doesn't know a cannoli from tiramisu, was slobbering about those things.

That's it. What can I follow cannolis with?

Chris Fowler is the host of ESPN's "College GameDay." Kick off each Saturday with "College GameDay" at 10 a.m. ET to get the latest news on college football.

Chris Fowler

College Football
Since 1989, Chris Fowler has been ESPN's primary college football and men's college basketball studio host. He's anchored College GameDay, the network's award-winning Saturday morning college football preview show, since 1990.