There is college football being played as we speak, so it’s time I got down to business. I’ve taken you around the S.E.C. and laid out the national games of interest, so the time has come for what is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated component of that weekly exercise in exposing my ignorance which we call . . . Don’t Bet On It!
This is a segment we like to call the national game of disinterest.
That’s right, disinterest. Listen, I, like you, love college football to an extent many would consider unhealthy and some trained medical professionals would diagnose as psychotic. Heck, right now, I’m watching South Carolina, and not just because Erin Andrews is looking particularly fetching this evening in her "blackout" attire. Accordingly, I can find a way to make myself care about almost any game . . . almost any game.
Each week, however, there is one game so lacking in intrigue, so bereft of excitement, so incapable of piquing my curiosity that I cannot regard it with anything other than utter indifference. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the national game of disinterest.
This week’s national game of disinterest is . . .
On paper, this looks like a meaningful matchup. It pits two B.C.S. conference teams, each of whom won at least nine games and attended a January bowl last season. The Trojans, who always boast a more than merely respectable non-conference slate, will be traveling to the opposite edge of the continent, from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and you never know what the scrappy Cavaliers might be able to do against a jet-lagged U.S.C. club.
I don’t care how many starters the Wahoos return (it’s in the ballpark of eleven, incidentally) or how healthy the U.S.C. quarterback is. I’m not even terribly concerned about Virginia’s loss of two first-round N.F.L. draft picks in Branden Albert and Chris Long.
None of that matters. Here’s all the analysis that counts:
U.S.C. is U.S.C. Virginia is Virginia.
In 1984, the Men of Troy capped off the season with a win in the Granddaddy of ‘Em All. That marked the occasion of Southern California’s 24th Rose Bowl appearance. That same season, the Cavs received a Peach Bowl invitation. It was the V-Men’s first postseason appearance ever, in spite of the fact that Virginia had been playing football since 1888.
The talent differential is huge. The divide in coaching quality between the two teams’ respective N.F.L. retreads is enormous. The gap between one of the sport’s richest traditions and one of its weakest is embarrassing.
If all 22 Trojan starters turn an ankle getting off of the team bus, that will represent a freakishly improbable coincidence, but it will not affect the outcome of the game. The only intrigue this game offers is the question whether the Trojan warrior rides over on Traveler and plays Preston Brooks to the Cavalier mascot’s Charles Sumner or decides to leave the poor schlep alone and allow him to cling to as much of his dignity as it is possible for a college student to retain while wearing a plumed hat and a cape to a football game. (He comes from Old Virginia, where all is bright and suchlike. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
Accordingly, U.S.C. at Virginia is your national game of disinterest. I’m not picking it because there’s no chance of it ever appearing to be anything other than a Trojan blowout.