That's how long it's been since we watched LSU manhandle Ohio State 38-24 (it wasn't as close as the score indicated) in the BCS Championship game, concluding the 2007 college football season. Sure, the NFL playoffs lasted until early February and the 2008 NFL preseason has been underway since early August, but it's been 234 days since we've had college football.
The long drought ends on this holiday weekend, with a schedule beginning on Thursday and continuing through Monday evening. There aren’t any blockbuster games on the schedule, but there are some interesting matchups.
Both of Arkansas’ Division I teams begin new eras on Saturday.
After decades as “Indians,” Arkansas State will take the field as the Red Wolves for the first time. “The Wolves” will be in College Station, Texas, to take on the Texas A & M Aggies. I expect Steve Roberts’ crew to put up a good fight, but I can’t see them pulling off the upset. It’s going to be hard getting used to calling them the Red Wolves. Can I at least call them the WolfTribe?
In Fayetteville, the Bobby Petrino era begins at the University of Arkansas when the Razorbacks take on Western Illinois. After a decade of Houston Nutt’s conservative run-oriented offense, Petrino brings a more balanced offensive attack to the Hogs. It will be interesting to see how the players, most of whom were recruited for Nutt’s system, will adjust to the new offense. As for Western Illinois, the Leathernecks are ranked 13th in a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA) preseason poll by The Sporting News, so this may not be the cakewalk many fans are expecting. (By the way, Central Arkansas was ranked 25th in the same poll.)
Elsewhere around the nation:
Perhaps the most interesting matchup of the weekend will take place when Appalachian State visits No. 7 LSU. Appy State pulled of one of the biggest upsets in college football history when they knocked off Michigan on last year's opening weekend. The Mountaineers won’t sneak up on the Tigers, like they did Michigan, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can keep it close.
Vanderbilt visits Miami (OH) tonight and Mississippi State travels to Louisiana Tech on Saturday, which means that the SEC could open with a couple of embarrassing non-conference losses.
In Oxford, Miss., Houston Nutt’s Mississippi Rebels host the Memphis Tigers. This rivalry usually produces close games and this year should be no different. Ole Miss fans are excited to have Nutt as their coach. Most Arkansas fans are also glad that Nutt is the Ole Miss coach.
Missouri versus Illinois is another rivalry that usually produces a good game. Mizzou brings a #6 preseason ranking into the game, while the Illini are ranked 20th.
Sunday brings a couple of good intra-state matchups, when Louisville hosts Kentucky and Colorado hosts Colorado State.
No. 18 Tennessee plays at UCLA in prime time on Monday.
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Race walking has got to be the most bizarre sport I’ve ever watched.
First, just the concept of “race walking” seems strange. A race is supposed to be a contest to see who can travel the fastest. When traveling on foot, this is usually called “running.” So in race walking, are you supposed to go fast, but not too fast? Are there speed limits?
And then there’s the way the competitors look when they’re walking. They keep their backs straight with their arms bent at the elbow, swinging from side to side. It appears that they hardly bend their knees. It’s not really walking or running. It’s more like “waddling.” Actually, they all looked like they needed to go to the bathroom really badly.
During the race I saw, there were several contestants bunched together in a pack. They looked like a bunch of penguins. Penguins that needed to go to the bathroom. I’m sure it was an intense competition, but I couldn’t help but laugh.
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Random thoughts on the Olympics:
It’s funny how during the Olympics, we get excited about sports that we couldn’t care less about at any other time. Like swimming, for example. Does anyone watch swimming any other time? I don’t. But it has always been one of my favorite events of the summer games.
I never knew badminton could be so exciting, especially doubles competition. More high schools should play badminton. The equipment is probably fairly inexpensive and it can be played indoors or outdoors.
Table tennis can also be amazing to watch. Table tennis players have got to have the best hand-eye coordination and quickest reactions of any athletes.
Is there a more boring event to watch than rowing? This is not to be confused with kayaking, which can be pretty entertaining.
There are several events that I never would have considered as Olympic events. Like trap shooting and skeet shooting, bouncing on a trampoline and walking.
The judging in boxing is even screwier than it is in gymnastics. There’s always been an element of shadiness when it came to judging Olympic boxing. Until they can come up with a better system, boxing should be dropped from the Olympics and replaced with Mixed Martial Arts. Very few MMA contests go the distance, so judging is rarely an issue. Most bouts end with a tapout or when one competitor is not able to defend himself. All you need is a competent referee.
This appears to be the best USA basketball team we’ve had in years. More often than not in recent years, the United States has been a disappointment in international hoops competition. This year should be different, though. I’ll be surprised if any team stays within 20 points of Kobe & Company.
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The 2008 Summer Olympics are finally underway. There are several events I like to watch - track and field and gymnastics are my favorites, but the rest don’t really interest me.
There are some sports (if you can call them that) that I cannot believe they have made into Olympic events. To me, they are a joke, I mean Badminton – come on! There are a few others I feel this way about, but I’ll leave it at that.
On the other side, I’ve found that I can’t stop watching the “real” sports. I have watched some of the basketball and gymnastic preliminaries, but I have really been drawn to the swimming – which I have never really enjoyed watching.
I even found myself jumping out of my seat and cheering last night as the USA men’s 4x100 relay swim team came from behind to beat France for the Gold, setting a new world record. It was amazing… especially after the French said the only reason they were there was to “smash the Americans” in this race.
Is anyone else out there watching? What are some of your favorite events?
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August is finally here and that means one thing (besides triple-digit temperatures) — football season is just around the corner. NFL teams are in training camp, while college and high school teams have begun their summer practices. There’s already been an NFL preseason game on television.
However, something is a little different this year, at least locally. There will be no Walnut Ridge – Hoxie game this year. For the past several years, when the Mustangs and Bobcats met on the football field, not only did it signify the beginning of a new football season, but also the beginning of a new school year. Despite what the thermometers read, summer was pretty much over.
That wasn’t always the case, though. When I was in high school at Walnut Ridge many years ago, the two schools were in the same conference and always played in the final game of the regular season.
Then, for a number of years in the 80s and 90s (I’m not sure of the exact years), the two rivals played each other twice each season, in the first game and then again in the final game. I never cared for that arrangement. I always felt that playing twice a season slightly diminished the “specialness” of the rivalry. One of the things that makes a rivalry game so important is that they are only played once a season. The winners get an entire year to brag, while the losing team has to wait a year for a chance at revenge.
The Hoxie senior Mustangs open the 2008 season on Thursday, Sept. 4, against Heber Springs. The game will be played at Harding University in Searcy.
The Walnut Ridge senior Bobcats open their season on Sept. 5 at Cave City.
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