We live in the future. Nearly every aspect of every football game now can be charted, graphed, analyzed, and spit out into dozens of variables. Factor in the draw of gambling and fantasy, and the cross-section of sports fans is so much more wildly diverse and intelligent than 30 years ago or so. Countless metrics can be assembled and shaped to fit any need, and as a result we all feel that we have a much better grasp on the future outcome of games. That’s very important to us: to be certain of things. Much of the time all those formulas and pivot tables and all manner of inputs and outputs are mostly accurate predictors. But not all of the time.
Chance and fate are the two timeless aspects of college football. No amount of information or technology will ever control the bounce a football may take on the field, or completely impact the innumerable and simultaneous human efforts that take place on every single play of a game. There is still always that slightest slice of uncertainty that something that seems like it should never happen will indeed happen. That’s what makes watching the damn thing so much fun.
Texas A&M is not supposed to win this thing. That’s fine. No one is ever supposed to win the thing against Nick Saban. But all across the country, every Saturday, people are keeping the corner of an eye on the ticker or the score updates. When Ole Miss scored on the first play last week against The Tide, I know I went straight over to that game and watched until it was clear that it was, yes, another fluke. (So, about ten minutes. Sorry, my Red Cup pals.) People love watching their team more than anything. The only thing they love anywhere near that much is to see the most entrenched dynasty in the game falter from time to time.
This isn’t to say that tomorrow is ripe for an upset. The chances may be slightly better this year simply because Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M is mostly an unknown quantity for Saban. It’s an edge, albeit a very frail one. But sometimes that edge is just enough to gain a foothold in a game. To stay competitive for a quarter or a half. To get people talking about that team that’s hanging with Alabama.
The rest is up to the team. Fate will falter and die out against Alabama, it always does. But if it’s enough to give you an opportunity to let your good football plan and execution have a real chance, then that’s all you can hope for. At 2:30 tomorrow, slide all those crunched numbers and percentages off your desk into a drawer and close it. Let’s have some fun and see how good we really are this year.