We journalists love storylines, especially sports journalists. They are the backdrop to events, the themes and narratives that frame our writing. Truly, how many times have you read “Against the backdrop of ….” in a story?
Sometimes they are inherent and ready-made. Other times these storylines don’t make themselves so clear until the game is actually underway but, for the most part, you go into each event with at least an inkling of an underlying theme. If you get lucky, if the journalism gods are with you, it plays out.
College football is a storyline heaven, and week to week there are many to choose from. This week is no exception and, with another bevy of good games, there are storylines aplenty. For my money, however, the best storyline is the most basic storyline – the top game of the day is No. 23 Cal vs. No. 5 Utah for the simple reason of, it looks to be the best game of the day.
Mind you, there are some great games and great storylines and we would be remiss not to at least mention them. To wit:
* Oklahoma-Texas – The Red River Rivalry is always a fantastic day, complete with deep-fried Oreos and hard-core fans, but the storyline here is, will OU ring up 50 on the Longhorns … and will Texas coach Charlie Strong be in any more hot water with his job status as a result?
* LSU-South Carolina – Because of the flooding, the game, originally scheduled to be played at South Carolina, is being moved to Baton Rouge.
* Georgia Tech-Clemson – I’ve already expressed my feelings that this isn’t your daddy’s Clemson team, that the Tigers aren’t going to have their annual flop game this season after once again starting out so well and with a signature win. Here comes the first test.
* Northwestern-Michigan – Two nationally ranked teams that, frankly, we still don’t know a lot about and still don’t know if they’re worthy of being ranked.
* Florida State-Miami – One of the greatest rivalries in the sport but reduced to a storyline of whether Al Golden can save his job as Hurricanes coach.
But I love this Cal-Utah matchup and for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is it’s a breath of fresh air on the college scene. Look at those examples I just used above about other great games this week – five games, 10 teams. Seven of them are former national championship winners, all of them are household names.
Despite Utah’s lofty ranking, I’m not completely sold on the Utes. Or the Bears for that matter. But this is a compelling game because both teams match up well with each other.
Utah’s secondary is vulnerable to Cal quarterback Jared Goff and we don’t think Goff will throw three interceptions like the Utes got of Michigan’s Jake Rudock. Goff has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,630 yards – more than 300 per game – and has 15 touchdowns and four interceptions (less than one per game).
That alone is reason to watch.
And, besides, the national barometer for determining what’s a big game and what isn’t – ESPN – has deigned that it is, sending its College GameDay crew there.
What more could you ask for in a storyline?