I have often heard and read this particular Thursday and Friday of March described as the best sports days of the year. I’m hard-pressed to disagree.
But, as someone whose love of college football and college basketball are about on equal footing, I get the same joy from a stacked college football Saturday that I do from the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
And, really, the occasions are similar.
March Madness is beloved for its buzzer beaters. Moments like Bryce Drew’s 3-pointer to sink Ole Miss in 1998, Christian Laettner’s turnaround from the elbow in the 1992 Elite Eight and Tate George’s leaner from the baseline in 1990 live on in college basketball lore.
In three consecutive weeks in the Pac-12 last season, halves ended on Hail Mary plays. Two were game-winners, literal buzzer beaters in their own right.
Raucous rallies in March defy all expectations and logic and keep viewers enthralled. Likewise, the past college football season included such remarkable comebacks as Baylor’s 21-point, 11-minute run to down TCU.
Seemingly the entirety of Arizona’s season was one, on-going comeback — even in losses. The Wildcats completed torrid rallies to beat Cal and Washington, but lost at the shadow of the end zone to USC and Boise State.
Odds are if you have ever participated in an NCAA Tournament bracket pool, the winner was someone who wore crazy sweaters, didn’t follow the game but chose improbable upsets based on arbitrary metrics — like, say a friend attended that university.
Well, college football Saturday has you covered:
Speaking of upsets, what would March Madness be without them? Chances are when you hear the names Richmond, Santa Clara, Hampton, Florida Gulf Coast and Lehigh, you think of earth-shattering upsets.
How about Appalachian State?
North Dakota State is so adept at taking down the big boys, it’s no longer a shocker when the Bison upend someone from the Big Ten or Big 12.
Basketball programs once considered mid-majors have parlayed runs in the NCAA Tournament into perennial strength. No longer are VCU, Davidson or Butler considered underdogs; these are teams that all cracked the Top 25 in the past basketball season.
No one is surprised to see Boise State in football’s Top 25, either. The Broncos built on high-profile wins over Fresno State, Oklahoma, Oregon and Georgia to turn a former Div. I-AA program known primarily for its field turf into a football powerhouse.
March Madness and college football Saturday aren’t just about memorable moments or unlikely underdogs, though. No drama is complete without worthy villains, and cheering against Alabama on the gridiron and Duke on the hardwood is one in the same.
If Nick Saban is Emperor Palpatine, Mike Krzyzewski is Sarumon.
Just know, that adrenaline you feel coursing through your veins for this and the next two weekends isn’t out of supply when the final notes of “One Shining Moment” play.
In five short months, the intensity and excitement of March Madness and its action-packed opening days are back with each college football Saturday.