- Ivan Maisel, ESPN Senior Writer
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St. Patrick's Day is for the wearing of the green. But not just any green. Not the green in East Lansing or the green in Pete Carroll's pocket. We're talking about the green that Carroll and the USC Trojans see in the eyes of their opponents every autumn Saturday.
Not the environmental green, which has its good points, or the Tulane Green Wave, who haven't scored enough points, or the North Texas Mean Green, who can't stop anyone from scoring points.
No, this is about the green that connotes jealousy, the dirt-dishing emotion embodied in the aphorism of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the Washington grande dame who said, "If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me."
Come sit next to me and the ESPN.com bloggers and read our St. Paddy's ode to the grass on the other side of the fence. What could be greener than that?
It ain't easy being green
Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford should be jealous of Colt McCoy. Not for the Texas quarterback's ability to play or lead -- Bradford should be jealous of his offensive line. Sooners quarterbacks, with four seniors blocking in front of them last season, got sacked only 13 times in 14 games.
This season, OU gets a new line. McCoy has four returning starters, three of them fifth-year seniors, on an offensive line that will begin the season with 89 returning starts. Any amount higher than 75 is golden.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt should be jealous of -- Houston Nutt, circa 2008. Think back -- did anyone expect the Rebels to do anything last fall? Nutt took over a program that had talent but didn't know how to win. That's like having Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. Nutt and his staff came south from Arkansas and provided confidence and structure to a team unburdened by expectations. Ole Miss went 9-4, including the only defeat of national champion Florida and a Cotton Bowl rout of Texas Tech.
But the moment that 47-34 victory ended, the Rebels began to learn what it's like to prepare while carrying the expectations of adoring fans and impatient media. Even without the two linemen (offensive tackle Michael Oher, defensive tackle Peria Jerry) projected to go in the first round of the NFL draft, the Rebels have as many as 17 returning starters this year. Get on with the winning already.
In other words, Nutt is searching for that cloak.
Grass is greener
The Big Ten is Michigan State green with envy when it looks south. The SEC has established itself as the strongest conference on the field, the strongest at the ticket office and -- let's face it -- the most relevant. The SEC leads in top recruit signings. It leads in NFL draftees. It leads in national championships -- three straight, four in six years, seven in the 17 seasons since the SEC expanded to 12 teams. The Big Ten has two in that time. The upper Midwest, home of the brawn that spawned so many tough, physical Big Ten players for decades, is an economic shell of its former self. College football is one more industry that has moved to the Sun Belt.
Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton is jealous of how clear the desk is of every athletic director who didn't hire Lane Kiffin. Do you think that the Vols' football office has a sign up like the signs that factories post to promote worker safety?
Today it would say: 32 DAYS WITHOUT AN NCAA VIOLATION.
The sign next to it would say: 8 DAYS WITHOUT BAD KIFFIN PRESS.
Project green light
Who isn't jealous of Penn State's nonconference schedule? It's even softer than the Dux bed that the Nittany Lions relaxed in last fall. Temple (5-7) and Syracuse (3-9) return, while the Nittany Lions swap out Oregon State (9-4) and FCS Coastal Carolina (6-6) for Akron (5-7) and FCS Eastern Illinois (5-7).
Nine teams in the Pac-10 should be jealous of 11 teams in the ACC. Florida State committed academic fraud in 2006 and 2007 and has already been tried and convicted by the NCAA. Reggie Bush has been out of USC since 2005 and still no indication, vindication, victimization or any kind of adjudication on the charges that the former Heisman winner received improper benefits.
Chasing the green
The Big East is jealous of every other automatic-bid conference, all of which have at least one traditional power carrying the league flag into the national championship picture. The SEC has Florida and Alabama. The Big Ten has Ohio State. The Pac-10 has USC, now and forever (or so it seems). Texas and Oklahoma continue to dominate the Big 12. In the ACC, Virginia Tech has established its bona fides, and Miami and Florida State are showing signs of life.
And in the Big East, Syracuse has a faint pulse and Pittsburgh continues to sputter. College football needs its history. In the Big East, that resides in Syracuse, which won a national championship 50 years ago, and in Pittsburgh, a power in the 1930s and again in the 1970s and 1980s. No offense toward West Virginia and Cincinnati, but the Big East won't assert itself until Syracuse and Pittsburgh do.
In the green room
Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson looks with longing toward the Big East Conference, which has the automatic BCS bid that Thompson is convinced his league deserves. What he has failed to recognize is that the Big East isn't getting an automatic bid because of its football. The Big East gets an automatic bid because of the number of viewers in the Big East TV-watching area. You could fit the MWC viewers into the Big East universe five times and still have room for, oh, half the Pac-10.
I wonder if Steve Spurrier is jealous of his friend Tommy Tuberville. Spurrier has done well at South Carolina, if measured by Gamecocks history. Spurrier has been at .500 or better in each of his four seasons, the first time that has happened at South Carolina since Joe Morrison and Sparky Woods combined to do so from 1987 to 1990. But Spurrier isn't wired to be satisfied with a four-year record of 28-22. Spurrier will turn 64 next month. Tuberville left Auburn with his reputation intact and can play as much golf as his body will allow.
If college football isn't jealous of college basketball, it should be. The latter swelled its postseason to 64 a quarter-century or so ago and became a national phenomenon. The former increased its postseason invitations from 56 to 64 last season and only invited more abuse. The bowls' 64 teams represent quantity, not quality.
But college football fans who believe that December Madness would rival March Madness should think again. A big part of what makes March so much fun is the buildup. Every night of Championship Week, a couple more schools get bids. Every morning, those teams and their chances in the tournament are dissected on talk radio.
A college football playoff wouldn't produce the same level of anticipation. Games wouldn't be played every night. If and when the playoff arrives -- and you and I both should live so long -- it's not going to equal March Madness.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at Ivan.Maisel@ESPN3.com. His book, "The Maisel Report: College Football's Most Overrated & Underrated Players, Coaches, Teams, and Traditions," is on sale now. For more information, go to TheMaiselReport.com.
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