Commentary

Ready for the games to start again

After a traumatic offseason, getting back to football will be a relief

Originally Published: August 13, 2012
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

Where's Aug. 30 when you really need it? Because after one of the most news-filled, often depressing offseasons in the history of college football, I'm ready to watch anything that doesn't involve a Freeh report, a police report or a hospital report.

South Carolina at Vandy? Never been happier to see the Head Ball Coach throw his visor.

UTSA at South Alabama? At this point I'd watch the USDA play football.

Eastern Washington at Idaho? I couldn't name you one player on either roster -- and that's OK.

[+] EnlargeBill O'Brien
Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times/MCT/Getty Images Bill O'Brien's undeniable message to those associated with Penn State: "Keep moving forward."

What matters is that actual football is actually going to be played. And that means a welcome respite, however brief, from the mind-numbing news of the day.

It's like when someone recently asked Bill O'Brien whether he was counting the nanoseconds until his Penn State coaching debut: a Sept. 1 home game against Ohio.

He could do you one better than that.

"A practice," said O'Brien, who couldn't wait to be on a football field -- any football field -- instead of answering questions about the tragedy, aftermath and collateral damage of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

The best thing about this offseason is that it's about to become the regular season -- and just in time.

Never has a quarterback controversy or a detailed discussion of 3-technique sounded so wonderful. I'm even looking forward to another year of the BCS (and the year after this) -- and I'd rather eat green flies than say something nice about the BCS.

But anything is better than this past offseason. It was so off-the-charts miserable that a historic decision destined to forever change the topography of a major college football -- a four-team seeded playoff system -- became a news afterthought.

Instead, the Sandusky child sexual abuse trial, and the 45 convictions that came with it, overpowered anything and everything in its way -- as it should have. A judge is expected to send Sandusky to prison for the remainder of his life. And the NCAA sent Penn State to football hell for at least the next four years, probably longer.

Just eight months ago, Bama beat LSU in New Orleans for a national championship. It seems longer, though, doesn't it?

The Sandusky-Penn State-Joe Paterno saga aged us -- and college football. Not even the momentous playoff vote could reverse the negative mojo.

[+] EnlargeJoe Paterno
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarJoe Paterno's statue is gone, but the effects of the Jerry Sandusky scandal remain.

There was very little to love about this offseason. It was filled with scandal, allegations, investigations, cover-ups, disbelief and dismissals.

And that was just Bobby Petrino and Arkansas.

Meanwhile …

LSU dismissed cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, a Heisman Trophy finalist last season.

Notre Dame suspended its starting quarterback, Tommy Rees. Clemson suspended its Heisman candidate, Sammy Watkins.

Running back Michael Dyer, the former MVP of the BCS championship, was kicked off not one but two teams (Auburn and Arkansas State) in a seven-month span.

Star cornerback/returner Greg Reid is now a former Florida State player. He was jettisoned from the FSU roster for the all-encompassing "violation of team rules."

Same goes for Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell.

Heisman candidate Montee Ball of Wisconsin was attacked and beaten.

Miami, already ineligible for a 2012 bowl game, awaits its NCAA sanctions fate.

Florida assistant Aubrey Hill, a former Miami assistant linked to the Nevin Shapiro scandal, resigned suddenly and without explanation.

The NCAA banned North Carolina from playing in the postseason this year.

TCU quarterback Casey Pachall failed a drug test.

And a gift certificate for something fried at the State Fair of Texas to anyone who can correctly list, without cheating, all conference realignment changes. (Hint: In 2013, you could see that traditional Big East matchup -- Temple versus San Diego State!)

Should I keep going?

We need the regular season to begin. We need to wash the taste of this offseason out of our mouths.

Yes, college football is stuck with the BCS for two more years. It can't be helped.

But at least we get Michigan versus Bama at Jerry's World on Sept. 1, and Bama at Arkansas on Sept. 15 and Bama at LSU on Nov. 3. If that doesn't make you reach for a foam finger, nothing will.

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley
AP Photo/Jae HongMatt Barkley's quest to bring USC a national title will be one of the season's top storylines.

We get USC quarterback Matt Barkley and a Trojans team finally eligible and good enough to win a national title.

In fact, we get all sorts of quarterbacks worth watching: Oklahoma's Landry Jones, UGA's Aaron Murray, FSU's EJ Manuel, Michigan's Denard Robinson, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, West Virginia's Geno Smith, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, Kansas State's Collin Klein, Clemson's Tajh Boyd and Bama's AJ McCarron. Just typing their names makes me feel better about life.

Welcome back, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. We missed you during your ACL rehab. Opposing defenses didn't.

And while on the subject of running backs, I'd pay cash just to watch the electrifying De'Anthony Thomas of Oregon jog back to the huddle. His jog is everyone else's sprint.

"He makes it look so easy," Wisconsin's Ball said.

I want to see how many ankles Robinson can break this year, how many times Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones can make me jump out of my seat and how many times USC wide receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods can defy gravity.

I want to see LSU's Brad Wing punt, Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei hit and LSU's purple and gold M&Ms -- defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo -- terrorize offensive lines.

Can Bama repeat? Can Texas be Texas again? Will anyone miss Bobby Petrino?

Is there football life at Stanford after Andrew Luck? Or at Boise State after Kellen Moore? What new and bizarre uni combo will Oregon unveil this season? Will I need retina replacement if I get too close to the Ducks' fluorescent green?

Those are the questions that matter. They matter because we need a break from the real-life stuff.

Aug. 30, hurry up.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter