Soccer was nice but now it's a college football call to arms (and hands)


Last month was all about another kind of football, played in a far-off land, not at all involving Americans.

In the end it was a celebration of the Frogs in Red Square and a French foreign legion that literally rained on Putin’s parade.

Back home in France, a boy named Pascal raised a red balloon as the Burgundy flowed.

To top it all, July 14 also marked Bastille Day.

But enough about that.

Today we celebrate PhilSteele Day.

Futbol had its stage but now it’s our time as we turn full attention to a brand of football that could definitely win a qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago.

Today we celebrate the first day of the 2018 college football season, which must and always be bell rung by the Southeastern Conference.

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The SEC opened FOUR days of pigskin propaganda in Atlanta that will so dominate the news you may not even know the Big 12 is also holding press conferences. Four days? It took only three days for man to get to the moon.

The Pac 12, wisely, has retreated from multi-day, head-on competitions against the SEC and this year has reverted to booking a lovely, one-day meet-and-greet at the butt end of July. We can't wait to hear about the Pac 12's huge national title win over the SEC (in baseball).

One day is perfect because it matches the conference’s bowl wins in 2017.

It was a strange, crazy and sometimes sad off season. We lost a commissioner (Mike Slive) and a quarterback (Tyler Helinski) too soon, but what can you do but soldier on?

Louisville also recently lost Papa John, but that’s a different story.

Alabama won another national championship, on a last-second play to beat Georgia, so you might have been surprised when Central Florida named itself national champions and held a parade. Filed under: only in college football.

It was also the off-season in which Nick Saban and LeBron James, if I read it right, got into fight at a barber shop. Or, maybe it was "over" a barber shop.

We wish Bill Snyder nothing but success in retirement unless he's really serious about coming back to Kansas State. He is?

The 2018 season is bubbling over with possibilities and I think everyone is eternally grateful that Washington State Coach Mike Leach has stopped re-tweeting altered political videos and is back to viral sharing with us the kind of things we love: monkeys attacking people.

Here is the skinny as we look forward. The good news for the Pac 12 is that the West Coast is guaranteed to host two teams in this season’s national title game. But that’s only because the College Football Playoff title game has been awarded to Santa Clara.

The semifinal games this year will be played Dec. 29 in the Cotton and Peach bowls.

Alabama and Clemson are highly favored to meet in the title game and that’s fine by me if the rubber match is as good as the last two games they played.

Some people were also shocked to learn that, before a recent contract tweak, Oklahoma’s quarterback this year was due to make more money than the head coach.

Cynical folk in Nebraska responded, “How is that different from any quarterback who played for Barry Switzer?”

But two-way star Kyler Murray is one of this year’s more intriguing stories, even if Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley insisted Monday that Murray has not locked up the position of starting quarterback.

All together now: yeah, right.

Murray, per one NCAA rule that actually makes sense, is allowed to play professional in one sport and retain amateur status in another. That enabled Murray to sign a $4.9 million bonus in baseball and play quarterback in college.

Oklahoma hopes it works as well as it did for Florida State in 1999, when former pro baseball player Chris Weinke, at that time the school’s richest and oldest player, led the Seminoles to the national title.

There are several coaching moves to watch:

1: Scott Frost at Nebraska. If this doesn’t work the Huskers should drop football and focus 100% on corn.

2: Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M. I still don’t get how Jimbo is worth $75 million, or why he is a better coach for TAMU than Kevin Sumlin. But, hey, it’s your oil money.

3: Kevin Sumlin at Arizona. Sumlin helped Johnny Manziel win a Heisman Trophy at TAMU and may do the same for phenom Khalil Tate, who lived in the national shadows last year despite rushing for 327 yards in one game against Colorado.

4: Herm Edwards at Arizona State. We’re going to take a raincheck on this hire. Wait, it doesn’t rain in Tempe? Ok, then, this looks a lot like Lovie Smith at Illinois.

5: Chip Kelly at UCLA. This would have been, in 2011, the greatest hire in UCLA football history. Actually, it still is the best hire the program has ever made. We know how much Chip has in the bank. But what about the tank?

Notice how three coaching watches are from the Pac 12, which faces the most important season in recent conference history. The conference would have gone winless in the bowls last year had Utah not been invited to the league.

Larry Scott’s league, based on last year’s final AP poll, is barely holding off the American Athletic as the fifth “power league.”

The Pac and AAC each had three teams in the final poll. Pac teams (USC, Washington, Stanford) averaged a final AP ranking of 16, compared to 17.3 for the AAC (UCF, South Florida, Memphis).

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where Pac 12 flagship USC plays, has been taken over by a corporate sponsor, United Airlines. Let's hope no one actually ever mixes "memorial" and "airline" in the same sentence.

It's bad enough that every other airport I fly into (LAX, Las Vegas) descends right over a grave yard.

The Coliseum is also undergoing major renovation this season and so should USC's football team after last year's bowl performance against Ohio State.

A bit of positive news, though. This could be the year a Stanford player doesn’t finish second in the Heisman Trophy balloting. That’s because Bryce Love, who finished second last year behind a player who left (Lamar Jackson), will enter 2018 as a leading candidate.

So, my guess is Love will finish third this year behind Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor.