Times have changed, making blowouts necessary
As soon as Kirk Herbstreit said it, I knew Neil and I had our point-counterpoint topic for this week.
“The best thing that Penn State can do is blow people out … by 40 or 50 points if they can,” Herbstreit said on the College Football Playoff ranking show Tuesday.
For many years, Neil and I have had discussions about whether or not it’s in a team’s best interests to try and blow out opponents. Neil covered the bulk of the Joe Paterno era, and since Joe made a career out of purposefully trying not to destroy — and thereby embarrass — teams, it’s only natural that my colleague had his opinion shaped by that.
That opinion, however, is outdated.
Style points matter in college football, especially nowadays. It’s a sport that’s predominantly subjective and one where the eye test plays a big role in how teams are judged and rankings are formed.
It stinks to have to write this because I care deeply about sportsmanship. But when it comes to college football, sportsmanship has long been more of a romantic notion than something that can actually be achieved all the time.
It’s because college football is a haves vs. have nots sport. Big boys vs. little guys. Lopsided scores are inevitable if you simply just keep playing the game and taking advantage of your advantages, as opposed to letting up simply for the sake of not trying to humiliate the other guy.
Now, there’s great irony in the numbers game for Penn State.
The No. 7 Nittany Lions lost by a single point at Ohio State. And because of that, now the talk is about how they need to crush their remaining opponents so they can impress the CFP committee enough to get into the Final Four.
Hey, that’s reality. It may not be nice. It may not be great sportsmanship. But if the Lions beat Michigan State 50-10 this week as opposed to 30-17, it would send a much stronger message to the committee. And since this is the last decent opponent PSU will play, this is its last chance to send such a message.
You don’t want to teach your kids to run up the score on opponents. That’s wrong. But it has become a commonly accepted practice in the big business world of college football, and if doing so helps you achieve things at the highest level, then you have to adjust your thinking.
Don’t try to force sportsmanship values from past eras or coaches or philosophies onto today’s game. You’ve got to blow people out. You’ve got to run up the score — within reason — to impress the human beings on that committee.
It stinks. But that’s just the way it is. And Herbstreit was correct in pointing out that’s probably Penn State’s best chance at this point.
Cory Giger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org