The 2012 NCAA Division 1A football season will be remembered for Alabama winning the National Championship over an outmanned and somewhat distracted Notre Dame team that featured LB Mantei Teo and his off-field problems with an alledged on-line girlfriend.
What will also be remembered about the 2012 season? The return of Southern California to bowl eligibilty and the absence of Penn State and Ohio State from bowl games. Both teams were placed on probation and basically put in the NCAA’s equivilant to “time out” with Penn State on probation for the misdoings of former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky was tried and convicted of molesting 20 boys in his care in 2001, while Ohio State’s misdoings involved exchanging jerseys for tattoos, cash and other improper benefits. Both teams had successful seasons under new coaches but were not eligible to play in a bowl or win a Big 10 title. The Trojans returned to the bowl party under a cloud of controversy when they put up a billboard telling all of Los Angeles that this was their town. The problem? The billboard was near their inter-city and Pac 12 rival UCLA. The Bruins quickly let them know who was king of Tinseltown and beat the Trojans in the final game of the Pac 12 regular season in Pasadena.
2012 saw a once strong Auburn program under Gene Chizik fall flat on their faces and the Tigers failed to win a single game in the SEC. The nail in the coffin for the Tigers, two years removed from winning a national title themselves, was a blowout loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa. A few weeks later, Chizik was basically thrown under the Auburn bus.
2012 also introduced us to Missouri and Texas A&M joining the Southeastern Conference. Both the Tigers and the Aggies had decent seasons in their new conferences, with A&M giving us “Johnny Football” in the form of Johnny Manzel, who picked up football’s biggest prize, the Heisman Trophy. It was also a pretty good year for Vanderbilt, who for years was the laughing stock of the conference, as they went to their second bowl game in as many years for the first time in a long time.
Speaking of teams not seeing a bowl game in a long time, there’s Duke. Yes. That Duke. The one that plays that other ball. The round one with Coach K. They made their first trip to a bowl game since the Clinton adminstration by beating North Carolina on the last day of the season at home before losing in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. Another team not exactly known for making it a bowl (Vanderbilt) went to their second bowl in as many years and had their second winning season for the first time since they went 7-3-2 in 1974 and 7-4 in 1975. It would have been nice if these two could have met in a bowl game in 2012. After all, this is Vandy and Duke we’re talking about. Two schools that aren’t exactly football powers that you have to make at least a 1600 on the SAT just to get looked at with somewhat hefty price tags playing in a bowl game. Kind of strange, ya think?
2012 was a good year for some teams, a bad year for others. It brought controversy but it also had excitment and thrills and a suprise or two. What will 2013 bring? Can Auburn rebound from their dismal season? Can the Crimson Tide repeat as national champions? Can Johnny Football be the first two-time Heisman winner since Archie Griffin pulled it off? There are more questions than answers and the 2013 season has yet to see the light of day.
But as ESPN’s Chris Berman once said, “That’s why they play the games.”