A few months back, the blog Gunslingers introduced college football's version of The Narrative.
That [media] problem is with "the narrative," which has become the way all news coverage seems to work these days.
In mass media journalism, there is a greater reliance on profit than in the past. And when profit matters more, the corporate heads want to ensure that the journalists stay within bounds - whatever stories are covered need to be more predictable, so the accountants and such know what they can expect. Things are planned out in advance. Storylines are decided upon weeks ahead of time. It's a matter of certainty.
And in the college football journalism world, certainty matters too. As early as the Spring, storylines are developed and plans are set in motion. Gameday knew probably back in January that the Ohio State-Texas game would be a huge matchup, so ESPN started hyping it a month ahead of time. ESPN decided USC would be a big story, so they've had Shelley Smith preparing in depth stories for months.
The key is that they decide upon the story ahead of time, so when something comes up that doesn't fit the parameters of that story, they don't know what to do.
Is there a narrative at work this year? Sure looks like it. And it involves three teams: Notre Dame, Ohio State, and West Virginia.
Notre Dame has a resurgent team, a noticeable coach, the Heisman trophy front-runner and a devout national following. Ohio State beat the living snot out of Notre Dame in last year's Fiesta Bowl and returns a ridiculous offensive. West Virginia shocked the world and beat Georgia behind two precocious freshmen in last year's Sugar Bowl. Several prominent college football writers have already made stops in Morgantown and the season has yet to start---what does that tell you?
Should we be cynical and lash out at the media crush that will circle these teams on their road to a potential national title? Based on last year's Narrative, no. Last year the media grabbed the USC/Texas matchup and ran with it from day one---and they nailed it.
I will, however, get a laugh when annoyed fans forget their screams of
ESUSCPN when there are 24/7 updates for five consecutive months about Brady Quinn's right arm. NDSPN? I have no idea.
Now, for more narrative fun.
Three freshman players most likely to get Ted Ginn type goo goo eyes treatment:
-Myron Rolle, Florida State DB
-Percy Harvin, Florida WR
-Chris 'Beanie' Wells, Ohio State RB
Rolle enrolled early at Florida State and had a great spring camp. Already a starter at safety.
Harvin's a decent receiver but has great athleticism and playmaking ability. He's a great fit for Urban Meyer's offense.
Wells won't unseat Antonio Pittman, but he's considered the second coming of Maurice Clarett, without the baggage. He's a nifty big back with a big personality and a fan website.
Other frosh who can ball and might win media favor with good performances:
-Matt Stafford, Georgia QB
-C.J. Spiller, Clemson RB
-Allen Bradford, USC Athlete
-James Aldridge, Notre Dame RB
-Michael Goodson, Texas A&M RB
-Charles Scott, LSU RB
Stafford won't stay on the bench long behind Joe Tereshinski. Georgia faithful think he's the second coming of Elway (wait, I thought that was Jimmy Clausen?).
Spiller shocked the world and went with Clemson over Florida and Florida State on signing day. He's behind quality backs but neither has his speed and shiftiness.
Bradford needs to find a position, but I like what Lannie Julias had to say about him:
He's the only player I've seen in the last 40 years of doing this that I think could be an All-American-level player at as many as seven positions.
Aldridge is simply Notre Dame's only back with any measurable talent and playmaking skill. Once the lights go on he'll have the faithful wanting to bench Darius Walker.
Goodson is another shifty, speedy back like Spiller. He's got a great feel for playing in space and can catch the ball.
One of my friends who has a better eye for things than myself felt that Scott is a much better 'big back' than Ohio State's Wells. Scott will benefit from a shaky depth chart with Alley Broussard coming off a knee injury and Justin Vincent yet to snap out of his sophomore funk.
There were many other frosh I could have added here. The big trick with freshmen is to mentally adjust to the college game.
I remember asking HP what he thought about USC's incoming stable of backs this year, and he said what matters right now is less about their physical skills and more their ability to realize they can play D-I football. It's the guy who knows he belongs fastest and acts on that who will do well his freshman year.
Look no further than West Virginia, where the unknown Steve Slaton beat out super-recruit Jason Gwaltney for major carries last year. Slaton's physical gifts aren't much better than Gwaltney's, but he simply could wrap his mind around the idea of being a D-I star faster than his more hyped teammate.
Finally, two forgotten sophomores who will star this year:
-Drew Weatherford, Florida State QB
-Antone Smith, Florida State RB
Weatherford will always have to battle the schematic limitations with Florida State's offense, but based on camp reports it sounds like he's cured his penchant for interceptions. He has a good head about him and is well-liked by teammates.
Smith is a bit like Spiller, in that he shocked everyone by spurning Miami for the Seminoles. Lorenzo Booker is the starter, but 1)Florida State's coaching staff has never gotten comfortable in how to utilize him and 2)Smith is a much better complete back. Smith ran wild in the spring, and he looked like he was ready for many more carries last year in limited action. He should take off this time around, especially with FSU's coaches promising to run the ball come hell or high water.