God bless football and its transformative powers over the very face of nature. It turns productive people into pizza stained potato sacks and a Thursday night into that Saturday you wished you hadn't finished the bottle of VSOP on a $7.29 bet with those guys from Argentina. It can turn Vanderbilt into a player in the SEC. It makes BYU look like a decent team, capable of making Brian Kelly turn purple (again). It somehow made me happy to see Matt Millen on the screen because his presence there meant football was being talked about, rather than things far more unseemly.
But these transformations are often deceitful. It makes you think that Washington State might actually be pretty good this season six minutes into a football game. Or convinces you for a quarter that Connor Shaw's body will be able to hold up to the pounding required under Steve Spurrier's offense, and that his throwing shoulder is not, in fact, held together by old pickle relish and goat cheese (because, it is, and much more. I'd fill you in on what, but face it, you don't really want to know where that hamburger or baseball glove comes from, do you?).
As quickly as the spell is cast, giving that gleeful euphoria of a new discovery, it can wear off. I still hate Matt Millen. I imagine hell to be trapped in a 2001 Ford Focus with Millen on an road trip while he tries to describe the type of lunch he'd like to have as you pass turnoff after turnoff for all of eternity.
On this Thursday, however, the transformation was grand. For once, College Football opened with a legitimate football game. Marcus Lattimore emerged from whatever pure oxygen box Carolina's kept him in over the summer to look exactly like the hippopotamus on rocket skates we so loved to watch last season. I absolutely marvel at the punishment he dishes out. To borrow a Fred Jackson-ism, he runs angry.
He is angry at the ground, the ball, the fact that he is required by law to wear pants, the poor bastard in front of him trying to lower his shoulder into Lattimore's school bus sized thighs. I imagine he is often angry at the food he has to eat for not being substantial enough, despite the fact that he probably consumes as much in a day as an adult polar bear in a seal enclosure. The only time his anger seems to dissipate is when he scores touchdowns, but then he seems angry again that the opposition made it so easy.
As all first games are, this one was a tad bit sloppy. Sloppy passing. Sloppy hitting. And most of all, sloppy officiating. I'm convinced at the beginning of each season there's a secret referee's conference in "The Meadows" where they decide whether or not they will call games closely, loosely, sporadically, and whether they will favor the underdog or not. Watching Vanderbilt get jobbed out of a first down in the waning minutes of the game was damn near criminal.
When D.J. Swearinger grabbed, I mean that, grabbed, Jordan Matthews' left arm directly in front of the back judge on that final 4th and 7, preventing Matthews from being able to catch what was by any measure a perfectly thrown ball, I knew what decision the refs had made. Underdogs, you're boned. When you have the chance, put the favorite away early. Otherwise, you're staring down the barrel of a no-call cannon, and that sucker's loaded.
Despite all this, it was entertaining. Screw summer. Fall is so much better. Fall has football. Fall, thanks to ESPN's incessant need to rub its private parts with crisp $100 bill, has college football on Tuesday through Saturday from here out. You'll get all the hot MACtion, the Sun BEAST matchups, the ACC turnover fests, and the Big East "Hi, guys! We footyball too!" games.
God I can't wait.