Commentary

'Unprecedented' 2007 season comes in like a lion, out like a lamb

Updated: January 14, 2008, 12:10 PM ET
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

What bothers me the most about LSU's 38-24 thumping of Ohio State in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game one week ago is that this oh-my-can't-be season ended with a whimper and a reach for the remote.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonLes Miles lost a shot at coaching his alma mater, but got a national championship in return.

If the Tigers and Buckeyes had any sense of proportion, they would have played a triple-overtime thriller that upended every preconception of what a championship game could be. Weeks of hype, loads of excitement -- and the game flat-lined. Does the name Fred Thompson ring a bell?

If any season deserved a sendoff by Widespread Panic on New Year's Eve, it was 2007. Instead of Widespread, we got James Blunt. That's too bad, because the season just concluded defied history, defied logic and, if you believe certain subway alumni, defied religion. It was a year unprecedented in the use of the word unprecedented.

It was a year in which Kansas won more games than Notre Dame and Alabama. Combined.

A revolution took place in the sport. Among the teams that spent time in the top five: California, South Florida, Boston College, Oregon and Arizona State.

The BCS created an uproar by excluding … Missouri?

In what other year would it have been more appropriate for a sophomore to win the Heisman? If you're scoring at home, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is the third Heisman winner in the past five seasons who will return to try to win another one.

And Tebow wasn't even the youngest player to win a major award. Freshman wide receiver Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech won the Biletnikoff.

It was a year in which the national champion lost to Kentucky.

And Arkansas.

It doesn't cheapen LSU's two national championships in five seasons to point out that the Tigers won both in quasi-home games in the Sugar Bowl. No one slapped an asterisk on the three national titles Miami won in the Orange Bowl.

Big Ten Conference commissioner Jim Delany, in the wake of Ohio State's 41-14 loss to Florida, decried the disparity between the academic standards of his universities and those of the Southeastern Conference. Read between the lines, in 36-point type: If we could recruit dumb kids, we would win more, too.

In related news, Stanford beat No. 2 USC.

In the silver anniversary season of The Play, tributes poured forth from TV specials to newspaper stories. None paid greater tribute than Trinity (Tex.), which re-enacted The Play (and then some) to beat Millsaps 28-24.

When Ohio State failed to beat LSU, the Buckeyes saved Michigan from the ignominy of losing to two national champions in one season. Hail, hail to Appy State, champions of the west, east, north and south, I-AA style.

Barring the hiring of a college head coach by an NFL team -- and given the short round trips taken by Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino, the NFL will draft option quarterbacks before it hires any more college head coaches -- the 2007 hiring season has all but drawn to a close.

Rich Rodriguez lost a chance to coach for the national championship, which enabled him to leave West Virginia for Michigan. Les Miles lost a chance to coach at Michigan, which enabled him to win a national championship. Alabama fired Mike Shula because he went 6-7 and paid Nick Saban $4 million to replace him. Saban went 7-6.

Goodbye to text messaging, and to Sonny Lubick and Lloyd Carr. The latter two will be missed.

The question that won't be answered until this fall is whether 2007 was a harbinger of sea change in college football or merely an oddball season. Experience says the latter, but the playing field is as level as it has ever been. The spread offense is an equalizer on the field. The Internet is an equalizer in recruiting.

But for all the new faces that popped onto the Facebook of college football, take a look at the final Associated Press poll. Of the 11 teams in the top 10 (Texas and Boston College tied for 10th), there are only two new faces: Missouri and Kansas.

In 2006, the final top 10 included Boise State.

In 2004, the final top 10 included Utah and Louisville.

In 2003, Miami (Ohio) finished 10th.

For all of the upheaval over the course of the season, playing 13 games is an effective method of revealing impostors. It is another reason college football has the best regular season. Playoff talk continues, as it has for 40 years.

Spring football starts next month. It's about time.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com