Last week was not as much fun as the week before. BC didn’t win, the biggest game on the SEC’s calendar this year was a snoozer, and Louisiana is now no longer demonstrably ranked higher than LSU (though they received more votes this week). So now we move on to Week 8, and boy there are a lot of games to go over. So let’s dive in.
The Idiot’s Guide To Week 8 in College Football
The Return of the B1G over The Façade of Politic-Neutral Athletics: This offseason was marked by a lot of uncertainty about the fall based on the spread of COVID-19. The uncertainty was hand-in-hand with problems in returning to normalcy in all professional sports, and really all facets of life.
The issue was hardly more pronounced than in the Big Ten. The Big Ten, as you recall, were one of the first major conferences to cancel its football season, part and parcel with the Pac-12. It was amidst conferences more outside of the eye of the national spotlight cancelling their seasons, and it was seen as a potential harbinger.
Of course, history makes fools of us all. The three other major conferences created their own contingency plans including a return to play, and eventually the Big Ten and Pac-12 made the decision, based off advice from doctors, to return to play.
I’m not going to sit here and rant about what I feel is the right move for these institutions to make, I feel like I’ve done that enough on this site, and frankly I feel like it’s a fight I’ve lost. But with the Big Ten’s return, I think it’s important to at least acknowledge how we got here.
The Big Ten has a unique place in the American sports, and day-to-day, landscape. Some of the best public institutions of learning, and also Rutgers, make up the conference’s roster. The institutions also represent fanbases from traditional battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio. Even Iowa is in play this year, and you better believe the state’s pride and joy plays in the Big Ten as well.
This is why the return of the Big Ten has become such a hyper focused issue in our country. It’s why the President of the United States, facing a downturn in the polls, found it important during a nationally televised debate with his opponent to blurt out that he “brought back Big Ten football.” The Big Ten reaaaaaaaaaally wants you to know that, in fact, he didn’t, and the decision was made apolitically, but it should be telling that the President chose to interject that at the time.
The Baffler published a thought-provoking piece about the return of play in college football recently. I encourage you to read it. One important concept to take away from the piece is the discussion of risk tolerance. The reality of the pandemic in the United States brings out the stark problem of exposure. As the chief doctor of the ACC noted, “[y]ou have to feel some level of comfortable playing in a non-zero risk environment,” he said. “You can’t tell me that running onto a football field is supposed to be a zero-risk environment.”
And perhaps that’s true, and we’ve been accepting risk for ages (though perhaps we shouldn’t have). As The Baffler noted, we as fans accepted the risk of issues like CTE without seriously considering the implications for the student-athletes who put their bodies on the line to entertain us. And, like anything, it’s a complicated issue. Yes there’s consent, but would there be consent if there was a more accessible path to higher education from those whom higher education is not so achievable without athletics? Maybe, as I said it’s complicated. But the consent is definitely there, and publicly so. The players wanted to play, and that’s probably worth something.
But the reality we need to confront is this reality of risk tolerance, and perhaps our complicity. The #wewanttoplay movement asked for two things: the ability to play football, and the ability to do so safely. It’s worth discussing whether the latter has been provided whether it’s Ed Orgeron saying that “most” of the team had contracted COVID-19, or Notre Dame having an outbreak that “spread like wildfire.”
The Baffler called it Trumpism—I think it’s a little more complicated than that. What it is, though, is an acceptance of risk tolerance for potential long-term consequences for these student-athletes (and here is a link to a medical journal that no one is going to read). It’s not the first time we’ve accepted that potential, and people like Dan Mullen demanding full stadiums during a pandemic (he doubled down on it too!) is par for the course selfish football behavior (for which the Florida coach paid for). But it is probably worth examining why the Big Ten, after making a decision to not accept the risk, chose to believe it was a risk worth taking.
It’s a complicated decision, and it should be acknowledged as such. But this has never been a benign decision without consequence both in terms of public health, and consequence politically. People who are happy that college football is back (myself included!) need to acknowledge what they’re accepting, and the circumstances in which they’re accepting it.
Being happy college football has made a return is not an apolitical emotion to have.
Thursday, Oct. 22
App. State over Arkansas State
Friday, Oct. 23
FIU over Jacksonville State
Tulsa over USF
Wisconsin over Illinois: The Big Ten could have picked whatever game it wanted to showcase its return on its first night and it chose two teams with a 20 point spread between them? Neat.
Louisiana over @ UAB
Saturday, Oct. 24
Clemson over Syracuse: Give credit to the ACC— they saw how ugly this game was going to be, and thus put it on the ACC Network so no one can see it. Well done ACC!
Ohio State over Nebraska: Way to dispel the fears that the Big Ten returning won't create public health risks by having a large public gathering in an enclosed space guys. (It’s probably worth noting that the event was cancelled, as it should have been.)
North Carolina over NC State: Give UNC credit. A lot of teams would have quit when having a horrendous second quarter like the ‘Heels did. That game really should not have been close, and the ‘Heels made it so.
K-State over Kansas
Coastal Carolina over Georgia Southern
Army over Mercer
Oklahoma over @ TCU
Memphis over Temple
Charlotte over UTEP
Florida State over @ Louisville: Well played Florida State. Well played.
Michigan State over Rutgers: There is no Vegas line for this game, which is fine considering they don’t usually have lines for games involving FCS teams.
Liberty over Southern Mississippi: I swear Southern Miss might be a bigger challenge for Liberty than Syracuse.
UCF over Tulane
Marshall over FAU
Alabama over @ Tennessee: oh hey look the vols were ranked too high again. who could have seen that coming.
Notre Dame over @ Pittsburgh: Notre Dame will lose a game this year. It won’t be this one, but they’re not finishing the season undefeated.
OK State over Iowa State: It’s a good thing the Big Ten is coming back so we can stop pretending the Big 12 is good.
Penn State over @ Indiana: ugh.
Virginia Tech over @ Wake Forest: oh. I guess the Vegas line was right last week after all.
Rice over Middle Tennessee
Houston over @ Navy
Texas over Baylor: Baylor is finally having a game this week! Although, to be fair, the week isn’t over yet, and one thing Baylor has shown is that you can’t be too confident this year.
Purdue over Iowa
Troy over Georgia State
Boston College over Georgia Tech: Tech got Trevor Lawrence to throw a pick last week! Small victories, especially since, well, you have to take something from a 73-7 loss.
Chattanooga over @ Western Kentucky: Chattanooga is only playing one game this year, you better believe they’re gonna have something to say.
Kentucky over @ Missouri: I think we finally found a game I literally could not care less about.
West Virginia over @Texas Tech
LSU over South Carolina: Sorry Gamecocks fans, Will Muschamp only gets one upset a year so he can justify not being fired.
‘Murica over UL Monroe
Boise State’s Field over Our TV’s Tint Controls
Wyoming over @ Nevada
Minnesota over Michigan: Ooh, the Big Ten actually gave us a good matchup the first week out. Hooray!
Fresno State over Hawai’i
Northwestern over Maryland
Miami over Virginia: Remember when we all thought Virginia was good? Wait, yeah, that was just the Hoos being propped up by Coastal Divisional Roulette.
Louisiana Tech over UTSA
Cincinatti over @ SMU: Alright, I’ll bite. SMU being favored is a choice.
BYU over Texas State
San Diego State over UNLV
Air Force over San José State
Not Having To See Steve Addazio This Week over Colorado State: (ppd)