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2006 Final College Futility Rankings
Losers deserve respect. Without them, Nebraska’s Cornhucksters would have no schedule. Eastern, Western, Southern, Central, Lower and Upper Michigans would have no way to fund their sports programs. The Sage suspects that Troy State (who?) financed a good chunk of its athletic budget by sending eleven poor sods to Lincoln in September to bend over for a 56-0 pasting by the Big Red. Nebraska charged admission for this. Big Red fans actually paid.
The Sage Tries to Understand Baseball
The Sage has tried to understand the allure baseball has over the great US of A. After all, we are a society of doers and thinkers. Baseball makes us sitters and drinkers. Baseball players then are combinations of the sitters and drinkers that want to be the doers but don’t have the life skills most of us have – like for cutting grass. Running around on a lush grass surface that one doesn’t have mow is simply Nirvana. And, if you can solidly connect wood with cowhide one time in three turns, you will never have to do your own yard work again.
College Football 2007 Preseason Notes
Anticipating possible losses and wipe out games has the Sage looking right past the 4th of July into the Autumn. There are so many smears and creamings just waiting to happen! There are also some real possibilities for dashing the hopes of so many over-dedicated fans out there.
Top-Ten Worst Early Season Games

The Worst of College Football's Early Season - August 17, 2007
At last! The 2007 college football season is about to burst upon all those new wide-screen televisions! Although we are about a week to the summer side of Labor Day, why not get excited now? After all, our treasured autumn pastime is about to launch it’s annual smear/wipeout/butt-kicking season.

Schools are looking at their 2007 schedules with anticipation and dread. Winning and losing in the first few weeks of the season can make or break one’s chances in the BCS. This year, perennial FirstWorst favorite Duke has taken losing to a brand new level by losing the ACC Championship – for 1965. Owing to a fluke of scheduling and some kind of previous misapplication of the rules, the Conference this week awarded the 1965 title exclusively to South Carolina – stripping Duke of it’s share of the ACC crown. It isn’t bad enough that Duke can’t kick an extra point and save a game against another dog team, it can’t even hang onto a success from when the biggest off-field concern was one’s draft number.

Since that time, the college football season has evolved into a three-part series of events. The Bowl season concludes the annual gridiron campaigns, the conference season determines who attends which bowl games, and the season-opening “games” are designed to – well – who knows what they are designed to do. Although it escapes understanding how Nebraska improves its performance on the field by wiping out Ball State, these games actually count in poll calculations. It is equally curious why a program like Ball State would acquiesce to visiting Lincoln in September to receive the abuse. Perhaps the promise of a big paycheck helps.

Some schools don’t think beating anyone 56-0 is any fun. Their fans don’t either. For others, these early games may be their only wins. Notre Dame boasts an incredibly difficult schedule this year. In their quest for the national championship, the Irish are rolling out some of the top football schools – not including poor Navy and Air Force – to convince the BCS gurus that they are indeed the best. ND leads with an opening game at home against Georgia Tech, hits the road against Penn State and follows that up with a pleasure trip to Ann Arbor for a date with Michigan. Kudos to the Irish for leading with tough games!

On the other end, Duke University – champion of the 2006 FirstWorst poll and fresh off a stellar 0-12 season - also confronts a very difficult schedule. Of course any game Duke schedules will be difficult, but the Devils set themselves up with a tough road by most standards in 2007. If it wasn’t enough to face Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami the wizards of Duke scheduling threw in Notre Dame and Northwestern! Duke has the right idea for scheduling - if it was Notre Dame. Unfortunately, they need Nebraska’s idea of scheduling to get back on their feet. Duke recently hired a new head coach and might not have accomplished much recruiting this year. They are just trying to put a team on the field. Look for the Bleu Devils to make another run at the 2007 FirstWorst Championship but give ‘em credit for putting themselves on the field against opponents that people want to see.

Why do so many top tier schools put dog games on their schedule? Of course they want to avoid injuries, but a better course of action to accomplish that would be to ban beer in the athletic dorm to keep kids from falling down the stairs or tripping over cheerleaders. Perhaps Ohio State wants to practice their second and third strings against teams that don’t have matching uniforms. The reasons for these games are anyone’s guess. But why a fan would pay attention to one is beyond comprehension.

It is without shame that our premier universities are charging admission to dedicated fans to watch some incredibly lopsided games. These are simply embarrassing events masquerading as football games. As a public service, The Scholarly Sages of Sport at FirstWorst present the early season's worst ten football games.

1. Appalachian State at Michigan. Saturday, September 1.
Mercy…why would a perennial powerhouse stoop to this? And what does Michigan expect to learn by playing this game? (and can the players spell “Appalachian?”) Maybe this is a warm up primarily for the grounds crew and stadium staff, but the Michigan football team could get more experience playing against itself.

Appalachian State finished a very respectable 13 – 1 in 2006… in what was then Division I-AA. The Mountaineers apparently want to dip their big toe in big time college football. Chances are that they will not only lose those big toes, but lose the legs they are attached to as well as other vital body parts. Adding to the tragedy of this game even being played, the thing is actually going to be televised - probably to the Maize and Blue fans who burned all their money on beer and didn’t have enough left over for a ticket.

2. Western Kentucky at Florida – Saturday, September 1.
How can this possibly be entertaining? The Gators bring their usual first-rate team to the field to take on the Hilltopers in what is sure to be a total thriller – primarily for the vendors. The stadium staff better lay in extra beer for this one. This may be a warm up for Gator fans to strengthen their arms doing the Gator-chomp and singing “Go Gators!” while juiced up on barley beverages warmed to 100 degrees inside their collective noggins.

3. Murray State at Louisville – Saturday, September 1.
Mark your calendars for this one folks. It is slated for ESPN coverage! But where is Murray State and what are they doing playing football? Murray State actually does field a football team and is located in Murray, KY. The school is proud to have finished the 2006 season a perfect 0-8 in whatever lower level division they play in. And now they are headed to play a hungry Louisville team anxious to break into the ranks of consistent top football performers? Does Louisville have enough money to pay a school like this to show up? The Cardinals posted a fab 12-1 record in the 2006 season including wins over some decent schools.

It took the crack team at FirstWorst some extra research to determine that the team name for Murray State is the ‘Racers’. (This is normally a quick task, but the MSU -not Michigan State - website apparently lives on someone’s dad’s ancient PC in the freshman dorm. The thing took forever.) We would be hard-pressed to judge the quality of the remainder of the Murray State schedule, as it includes schools most of us have never heard of – including Lambuth.

4. Ohio State (weeks 1 and 2) versus Youngstown State and Akron.
The storied Buckeyes are to be commended for at least keeping the embarrassment in-state. OSU scores a big double-header win in the FirstWorst blowout lineup this year with two sure-to-be-butt-kickings at home.

OSU Alums must be paying travel expenses for these poor schools, so they also want to keep expenses down. Even though there are a couple of in state schools willing to show up in Columbus for a complete public flogging, it amazes most scholarly readers that anyone – including the OSU fans and Alums – would agree to be a part of it. It adds to the embarrassment that the opponent monikers are the 'Penguins' and ‘Zips’ respectively. You just can’t make this stuff up.

5. Florida International at Penn State – September 1.
FI finished a perfect 0-12 last season, including an 0-7 mark in the mighty Sun Belt Conference. Florida International must be looking for recognition to aid in it’s recruiting efforts. Unfortunately, this one is for comic relief only. The Nittany Lions will be sure to look past FI to their date with Notre Dame at home in week 2, but State should be able to send out their freshman squad and still hit triple digits. Football scholars recommend keeping the clock moving at all times.

6. Troy at Florida – September 8.
Troy had the honor of handing Nebraska a 56-0 victory last September in Lincoln. It is part of the Troy Trojan Tradition (T3) to send a bunch of guys to a big school to take pictures from the field and get whacked by the opposition’s second and third strings. And God Bless ‘em, The Trojans are kicking off their 2007 season against the Razorbacks in Fayetteville on Sept. 1. These Trojans believe in themselves, however. With a Sun Belt Conference title to their names in 06, these guys think they can compete. Well… they certainly threw their helmets into the right ring to find out. The line separating courage and stupidity is impossible to distinguish at Troy. In fact, the Psych TAs offer a workshop on the topic right after each game.

We really want to know what Troy head coach Larry Blakeney will say prior to kick off against Florida. “Protect yourself at all times?,” or “keep on believing?” He has plenty of wins at Troy. Unfortunately, not many are against teams that put more than 15,000 people in their stadiums. One of these years though, Troy is gonna break through with a huge win against a top tier school. You can’t say they don’t try. After all, you have to be in ‘em to win ‘em. But then again, if a Lion invites you to lunch, make sure he has eaten before you arrive.

7. Samford at Georgia Tech – September 1.
Samford (not Stanford) finished 1-7 in the Ohio Valley Conference in 06 and is primed to open the season against the G Tech Wrecks in Atlanta. Does Samford give out football scholarships? Is there any provision for not showing up?

How can this be enjoyable for a small school team? The team gets to fly on a plane, but has to go to Atlanta and play outside before Labor Day. Someone is getting a whole bunch of money for this.

8. Idaho at USC – September 1.
Having the Vandals invited to LA seems redundant. Does Idaho show up with paint cans hidden in their equipment bags? So. Cal may have its own problems, but winning isn’t going to be a concern for the Trojans. Why did USC set this thing up? The boys from the wild northwest get a trip to the big city, perhaps free tickets to Disneyland and lunch with a great big mouse in exchange for agreeing to be on the same field at the same time as the vaunted Trojans.

Besides a rout, what are USC or football fans in general getting out of this deal? This game won’t be much of a challenge or provide any kind of learning experience. But someone has got to warm up the band and the USC Cheerleaders and it might as well be another set of Vandals.

9. Citadel at Wisconsin – September 15
Who is the Citadel? No one outside of the school really knows for sure, but seems that they play in the Southern Conference along side such traditional winners as Appalachian State and Elon. And now these guys want to go up to Madison on the 15th to try and derail the Badgers? The Citadel is a military school, but one doubts that among the institutional values is the concept of suicide. So why in the world would Citadel participate in this?

10 Rotten Game of the Week – Buffalo at Temple – September 8 The #10 spot in the FirstWorst game schedule is reserved for the rotten game of the week. And this one is a rotten game each year. In 2006, these two juggernauts slugged it out for a full 60 minutes without either team scoring a touchdown. Buffalo turned in a stirring 1-7 conference mark, and looks poised to repeat in the MAC cellar. Instead of recruiting, Temple used their off-season to design new uniforms to lose in.

So mark your calendars football fans! The bend-over season is upon us. And check back with the FirstWorst for reviews, embarrassing moments and the weekly FirstWorst Futility Rankings.

The FirstWorst Futility Rankings appear each Thursday in this space. Check out the final 2006 rankings or look for the 2007 preseason notes. If you would like to suggest a topic or think the Scholarly Sages of Sport at FirstWorst have missed something, please send us a note! If your question is printable and interesting, check for it on the soon-to-be-appearing comments page.

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