You can’t take foot­ball out of foot­ball; Week 1 col­lege picks

Calhoun Times - - SPORTS SATURDAY -

Hello, all. It’s been a while.

I hon­estly can’t re­mem­ber the last time I wrote a col­umn with so many things go­ing on and my weekly col­umn get­ting lost in the shuf­fle. But now that we’re back to foot­ball sea­son, I’m go­ing to try my best to get my rou­tine restarted with one per week.

I’ve got a lot to vent about since I’ve gone a long time with­out do­ing it, but for the pur­poses of this col­umn I’ll stick with a foot­ball theme. Here is some­thing I’ve been think­ing a lot about as well as my Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off Picks and picks for the open­ing week­end of col­lege foot­ball. (Man, it feels good to say that. Foot­ball’s back!)

There is only so much safety to go around in foot­ball

The hot topic (or at least the one I want to talk about) in the NFL pre­sea­son has been the new crack­down on de­fen­sive hits as well as of­fen­sive play­ers be­ing pe­nal­ized for low­er­ing their hel­met. Here’s my take­away from it… enough is enough.

There have been flags on hits that lit­er­ally were text­book tack­les. There have been flags on of­fen­sive play­ers pro­tect­ing them­selves by low­er­ing their pad level to try to ab­sorb a hit or gain a few ex­tra yards. There have been flags for high hits, low hits and ev­ery­thing in be­tween.

Here’s the re­al­ity. I know that player safety has been at the fore­front for the past few years at all lev­els. And I’m not bash­ing that thought in any way that we should do what we can to make the game a lit­tle safer. But a phrase I’ve been us­ing a lot, in­clud­ing in my head­line above, is “you can’t take foot­ball out of foot­ball.” By that, I mean that foot­ball at its core is a haz­ardous game to a player’s health. You can make all the new rules, all the new safety reg­u­la­tions and teach all the new tech­niques you want. And I en­cour­age that to a point. But when it comes down to it, the game will never be com­pletely safe.

It’s sim­ple bi­ol­ogy that it’s prob­a­bly not the best idea to run your body full speed into some­thing, es­pe­cially an­other hu­man who is also go­ing full speed the op­po­site direc­tion. I’ve loved foot­ball for as long as I can re­mem­ber, but it hon­estly just hit me one day a few years ago that it’s in­cred­i­ble that some­one doesn’t get hurt on ev­ery sin­gle play. You’ve got 22 guys on a field all fo­cus­ing on do­ing their spe­cific job, and that makes for a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion. It’s sim­ply the truth.

With that said, the game has got­ten some­what safer with the new rules and tech­niques im­ple­mented at all lev­els. I be­lieve there is a ceil­ing to that though. The game will never be com­pletely safe, and those who want a com­pletely safe game should look for a dif­fer­ent sport. And I’m not say­ing that as a rude, stub­born foot­ball fan. I’m say­ing that as a re­al­is­tic, un­der­stand­ing per­son. There is no shame in en­cour­ag­ing your kids or grand­kids to play an­other sport. But if you are go­ing to play foot­ball, it’s go­ing to be dan­ger­ous. There are go­ing to be risks that are never elim­i­nated no mat­ter how many tech­niques, rules or strate­gies are used in the aim of mak­ing the game safer.

I’m afraid if some­one im­por­tant doesn’t step up and tells the truth about this and it con­tin­ues to go down the road we’re on at the mo­ment of try­ing to take all dan­ger out of foot­ball, the game it­self won’t be around in the next 10 or 20 years or at least it will be so dif­fer­ent we won’t rec­og­nize it. That makes me very sad. Hope­fully, it’s not the case. Only time will tell.

Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off picks

I’ve seen all the an­a­lysts throw­ing around their Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off Picks lately so it’s my turn to give an opin­ion on it. There are a lot of good teams with a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence at key po­si­tions go­ing into the 2018 sea­son, but there is a clear top eight or 10 clear con­tenders for the whole ball of wax.

As far as I’m con­cerned, un­til Nick Sa­ban re­tires or passes on from this life, Alabama will be a play­off pick of mine ev­ery sin­gle year. They are just an un­stop­pable ma­chine cur­rently, and in my opin­ion, he is the great­est col­lege foot­ball coach of all time. So there’s one.

I also think that Clemson has built a pro­gram with stay­ing power un­der Dabo Swin­ney, and by stay­ing power, I mean top five ev­ery sea­son. This year is no dif­fer­ent as they have one of the top de­fen­sive line groups in col­lege foot­ball in the last few decades. I’ll put them in the quar­tet as well.

My last two picks aren’t as clear to me, but I think Wis­con­sin is go­ing to take ad­van­tage of a lit­tle bit of a down year in the Big Ten and rep­re­sent that con­fer­ence in the Play­off, and Ok­la­homa rounds out the group as they are clearly the class of the Big 12 still.

When it’s all said and done, I’ve got Alabama and Clemson meet­ing once again for the na­tional ti­tle ( seems like we’ve seen that matchup a few times over the past few years), and the Crim­son Tide once again will reign as the kings of col­lege foot­ball. They are just too tal­ented, too deep and too well-coached.

I know the Ge­or­gia fans are won­der­ing where they are in the mix. They will be a con­tender for most of the sea­son, but I be­lieve too many big-time play­ers from last sea­son that were lost to grad­u­a­tion or the NFL will cause them to take a slight step back. But the way Kirby Smart is re­cruit­ing, they will be a peren­nial Play­off con­tender in a few years.

I also left the Pac 12 out of the mix be­cause de­spite Stan­ford, USC and Wash­ing­ton all hav­ing re­ally tal­ented teams this year, I be­lieve that strong com­pe­ti­tion will cause those teams to beat up on each other and elim­i­nate a true Play­off con­tender.

Week 1 col­lege picks

There are a few big matchups on the sched­ule on open­ing week­end so I’ll hit just a few. ( Ge­or­gia and Ge­or­gia Tech aren’t in­cluded be­cause they have a cou­ple warm-up games against lesser op­po­nents.)

In the mar­quee matchups of the week­end, I’ll take Wash­ing­ton over Auburn, Alabama over Louisville, West Vir­ginia over Ten­nessee, Michi­gan over Notre Dame, LSU over Mi­ami ( up­set spe­cial) and Florida State over Vir­ginia Tech.

Happy foot­ball sea­son, ev­ery­one. En­joy it!

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