College Football Fans' Patience Tested

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College football fans have a few weeks to wait to find out who'll be the national champion — Auburn or Oregon. It can be a touchy time for some diehard supporters.

GUY RAZ, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block. This weekend in college footballs top division, Army plays Navy in one of the great, traditional games of the year. On the rest of the schedule? There is no rest of the schedule.

After an intense and often controversial regular season, the action has come to a screeching halt. If youre a college football fan waiting for the big event -the national championship game - be patient. Its a month away. NPRs Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN: Actually, the wait is only eight days until the first of 35 bowl games - all due respect to the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, and San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. But for most college football fans, theres only one game that really matters, big picture: the BCS National Championship between number-one-ranked Auburn and number-two Oregon - coming not so soon to a TV near you, January 10th.

Until then, what to do? If youre Auburn wide receiver Emory Blake, you keep catching balls, whether theyre thrown by star quarterback Cam Newton or a machine.

Mr. EMORY BLAKE (Student, Auburn; Football Player): If Cam wants to keep his arm loose and he wants to call me then, you know, Ill be more than happy to go out there and catch some balls for him. But all I need is a jug machine to keep my hands, you know, ready to go.

GOLDMAN: If youre the Oregon Duck mascot, you relax. The duck did push-ups every time Oregon scored. Poor, tired duck - Oregon was the top-scoring team in the nation. The duck doesnt speak in public. Instead, through his interpreter, Oregon head cheerleading adviser Dana Guthrie:

Ms. DANA GUTHRIE (Head Cheerleading Adviser, Oregon University): He said: Im really looking forward to this time off to let my feathers down, and I can prepare myself for the natty.

GOLDMAN: Natty - meaning, national championship?

Ms. GUTHRIE: Yup, yup.

GOLDMAN: Wow, hes even got some duck-speak there.

Ms. GUTHRIE: Oh, yeah.

GOLDMAN: And if youre Peter Schrager from Foxsports.com, you complain - like many sportswriters do - when the subject is post-season college football.

Mr. PETER SCHRAGER (Foxsports.com): You know, you cant blame a sports fan for thinking, oh yeah, college football, forgot about that, when on January 10th suddenly theres a game of importance - when youre really worked up in early December for it.

GOLDMAN: All worked up and nowhere to go? Sports fans will fill their viewing time with the NFL, NBA, college basketball. And Bill Hancock isnt worried one bit.

Mr. BILL HANCOCK (Executive Director, Bowl Championship Series): Oh yes, theyll be back.

GOLDMAN: Hancock is executive director of the BCS, comprised of the top bowl games, including the natty. His confidence is backed by numbers. With the same dead period last year, the average TV rating for all the bowl games - 34 of them - rose 8 percent from the year before.

Hancock says the biggest reason for the long layoff is so not to interfere with final exams on campus. And who, he asks, can argue with that? You cant, but Auburn and Oregon finish their finals today. It seems like the championship game, at least, could be moved forward a couple of weeks?

That sounds about right to Marcus Freeman. He was a linebacker on the Ohio State team that lost consecutive BCS title games in 2007 and 2008. In 07, Freeman says his team had 41 days off - a great time to heal bodies and get in lots of practice; which is good, says Freeman, to a point.

Mr. MARCUS FREEMAN (Former Football Player, Ohio State): I remember we did tackle a few times, but it still - its not game speed. You cant use that as an excuse for losing those games, but I can see that as a disadvantage.

GOLDMAN: Putting in a playoff system could eradicate the long delay, and guarantee meaningful games in mid-December. But with TV contracts set and enough fans enjoying the holiday bowl status quo, the wait for a playoff could make the current break in the action seem like the blink of an eye.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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