Schools are running off rails all over

In the interest of full disclosure, a confession is in order before moving on to the subject of college football.

I have spent a considerable amount of time watching train crashes on YouTube. Enough to become an unwitting connoisseur of the genre.

My son is a train-obsessed first grader. The word obsessed only barely covers it. Roughly a third of the disk space on our DVR recorder is dedicated to any show about trains that comes through in a 250-channel satellite package. Another third involves Winnie the Pooh, but that's another story about another child.

Anyway, the discovery of train videos on YouTube opened up a whole new world in our house. As macabre as it may seem, train crashes enhance reading and writing skills more than any amount of homework ever could. Scattered everywhere around the home computer are scraps of paper with words scribbled in crayon all over them so my son can remember how to type them into the search box - runaway trains, collisions, derailments, disasters, tank engines, CSX, Union Pacific, etc. Hopefully the Department of Homeland Security never comes snooping around.

What I'm getting at are two things. First, I know a train crash when I see it. Second, I understand that even though you might truly love something, seeing it reduced to a heap of twisted wreckage can be disturbingly enjoyable.

Here is where college football comes in. Watching wall-to-wall games on the big tube Saturday was like watching a slow-motion train wreck. And it was beautiful.

Well, at least it was if you were not a fan of most of the teams around here. First Georgia Tech, then Georgia and finally Clemson skipped the tracks at breakneck speed, reducing the remainder of the season to glorified salvage efforts. It was not a pretty picture.

The big picture, however, was simply glorious to watch. A week before the first BCS rankings come out, the collegiate landscape was scrambled by a second consecutive weekend of seismic disruptions. Suddenly, the countdown toward the national championship game pitting South Florida against Boston College is on. Can you not hear the BCS brakes squealing?

Saturday night came to a momentous conclusion with both presumed No. 1 teams rolling toward giant crashes on their home fields.

Southern Cal was in desperation mode against a 41-point underdog. Stanford came not one, but two critical fourth-down plays from being extinguished as nothing more than a pesky California brush fire, but the Cardinal raised an inferno with season-altering plays made against the program Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh had previously referred to as "the greatest of all time."

The aftershocks from that upset result were felt all the way to Baton Rouge, La., where the other No. 1, Louisiana State University, was on the verge of being dispatched by the serial national champion Florida Gators. Like Jason Vorhees, the Gators have proven tough to kill. Here they were in the so-called toughest football environment holding a 10-point lead on their unbeaten hosts.

But Les Miles coached the fourth-quarter as if his $5 million-a-year job offer from Michigan depended on it. He pulled out every trick, went for it on every fourth down and the Tigers covered every necessary inch to pull off the victory and keep at least one recognizable engine on the title tracks.

But hopes of determining two qualified unbeatens for a championship showdown are slim. Ohio State has cache in name only. California has to run a gauntlet that includes Southern Cal. South Florida and Boston College are the cream in weak conference crops. The five other remaining unbeatens have fan bases more likely to be looking forward to basketball season - Kansas, Missouri, Cincinnati, Arizona State and Hawaii.

What a delicious assortment of train wreck possibilities remain.

If there was any consolation in the weekend's events, it's that finally, Florida's basketball/football title supremacy is dead. At least that seemed a good reason to celebrate in Athens on a day when Tennessee had exposed the Bulldogs as SEC East pretenders. But unfortunately, college football is more complicated than that.

When a season has derailed from its initial hopes, one of the great pleasures fans have is trying to inflict their pain on others. But even Georgia's hopes of playing spoilers to hated rivals like Florida and Georgia Tech have already been doused by those team's already being broken beyond satisfactory repair.

And what's worse, Florida's demise potentially greases the rails for South Carolina to fire up the Cockaboose Railroad and carry Steve Spurrier back to the championship stage being heralded as the greatest rebuilding ball coach in the history of the game.

What a collision that would be.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.

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