Oh, college football, how I miss you.

Yes, I realize the best amateur football players in the nation suited up for yet another season this year. This time, though, it just wasn’t the same.

It lacked buzz. The ever-fraudulent national championship game matched up the college football equivalents of the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys, two teams for whom you were raised to begrudge every ounce of success they enjoyed.

It lacked intrigue, too. The Heisman Trophy race, the quest for perhaps the most prestigious individual award in all of sports, put me to sleep — and that’s putting it kindly.

This year, college football was downright boring. And that’s uncharted territory for the couch potato’s sport of choice.

College football was the game I grew up on. College football was Reggie Bush putting the ball behind his back and putting on a clinic against Fresno State. It was DeSean Jackson burning the opposition on punt returns on sun-soaked California afternoons. It was Notre Dame-USC, Alabama-Auburn and Ohio State-Michigan. Simply put, it was must-see TV, the reason you camped out on your coach from noon till midnight every Saturday in the fall.

That electricity in the air, that allure — that’s college football.

Where was that this year?

From afar, 2012 seemed to have been the same old year for college football. It was the year of the swan song of Collin Klein, the emergence of Johnny Manziel, the resurgence of Notre Dame and the continued domination of the sport by the SEC.

A closer look, though, and it’s clear that those storylines weren’t up to college football’s usual standards.

Klein’s tale was a feel-good one, but his stock plummeted as quickly as any in recent memory. In his last five games, he threw seven interceptions and a mere four passing touchdowns, and his rushing average dropped by more than two yards per carry as Kansas State squandered a golden opportunity to play for the national title.

Manziel became the first freshmen to win the Heisman Trophy — a monumental achievement, no doubt. But make no mistake: This was a down year for the coveted bronze statue. Manziel faced little in terms of competition for the award: Klein’s star faded swiftly, and despite putting up another monster year, Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame lineback who’s become the center of perhaps the only interesting college football storyline this year, had no realistic shot at winning the trophy because of what side of the ball he lined up on.

Even standing alone, Manziel’s resume doesn’t jump out as being all that spectacular. For one, Johnny Football was the definite beneficiary of some weak teams on his schedule, and was able to take big advantage of his two games against lesser teams from the Football Championship Subdivision, racking up 10 total touchdowns against Sam Houston State and South Carolina State. Manziel’s performance in SEC play wasn’t flawless, either. In Texas A&M’s two losses, to Florida and LSU, Manziel threw three picks and scored just one touchdown. Even on the biggest stage, in which A&M upset eventual national champion Alabama, Manziel wasn’t at his finest, accounting for just two total touchdowns.

While Manziel was stepping over the rubble of his competitors, Notre Dame triumphantly returned to national relevance in 2012 — if you can say the most noteworthy program in the nation ever really left. Thanks to their status as an independent, the Irish were once more free from the trials and tribulations of conference play. An undefeated season followed this time around, and the Irish surged towards the BCS National Championship Game.

Of course, we all know what happened next: Alabama met Notre Dame in Miami, and ’Bama didn’t waste any time letting people know who the best team in the land really was. After the dust settled, the Crimson Tide were crowned the undisputed champions of college football.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. This was Alabama’s third national title in four years. Overall, the SEC has been home to the BCS champs for the past seven years. The quarterback of the last team to win the championship from outside the SEC was Texas’ Vince Young all the way back in 2005. And Young, a bona fide stud during his days as a Longhorn, is already out of the NFL.

2012 was a down year for college football. Thankfully, though, there is hope. With the BCS slated to be replaced by a four-team playoff for the 2014 season, some much-needed juice will be pumped into the sport in the coming years.

Speaking for all those who love autumn Saturdays, Heisman Moments, explosive plays and unrivaled passion, those playoffs — and hopefully the college football of old — can’t come soon enough.

 

Peter Barston is a freshman in the McDonough School of Business. RAISING THE BAR appears every Friday.

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