A national affair

On December 6, 2012

College football is built on its traditional rivalries.

Ohio State-Michigan, Florida-Florida State, Alabama-Auburn, USC-UCLA - these are but a few of the marquee match-ups that are part of the allure of tradition in college football.

Every fan looks forward to the weekend after Thanksgiving - when their team takes on its arch nemesis - as one of the most important of the season. Regardless of your team's record, rivalry weekend means something. These games transcend college football.

But this year, some particularly brutal rivalries were missing from the lineup: Texas-Texas A&M and Missouri-Kansas. These two longstanding rivalries are just the first casualties of conference realignment, which is in full swing.

As conferences are fumbling teams, the traditions that make college football so great are in jeopardy.

While the rest of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) was busy playing longtime traditional rivals on Thanksgiving weekend, Missouri and Texas A&M - the two newest members - were forced to play each other. The result was one of the most boring "rivalry" games I have ever seen.

The realignment controversy that many anticipated in the summer of 2010 is finally upon us.

This new world of college football features such oddities as the 14-team Big 10, the 10-team Big 12, the Big East featuring San Diego State and Boise State and the Atlantic Coast Conference with landlocked schools like Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville.

No school, no state and no conference appear to be safe from greedy administrators and commissioners that can only see the zeros lining up on their paychecks with each additional big-name school they allow into their conference.

But there are two teams that play every year without fail. Teams that will continue to play regardless of the harsh conference landscape around them.

It's likely they would continue playing even if college football were to collapse around itself and no structure remained. Who are these heroic schools, which rise above the chaos around them to play a majestic game?

They are not just the heroes of Saturdays; they are America's heroes in training: the Cadets of West Point and the Midshipmen of Annapolis. Regardless of how much other teams may claim to hate their rivals, Army-Navy is in a league of its own.

The teams and fans are connected by a love for their country, but - for one day - are divided by a love for brother. If you are watching, you have to pick a side. No exceptions. My choice was easy; my best friend goes to West Point.

What makes this rivalry so unique is how isolated it is from the rest of the season. A win in this game makes the season - it is the only thing that matters for these schools.

This year, both team's postseason fates are already determined. Navy sits at a bowl-eligible 7-4 and Army is 2-9. But something much bigger than a bowl berth is on the line.

For the first time since 2005, the winner of Army-Navy will gain possession of the Commander-in-Chief's trophy, given to the school with the best record against the other service academies.

The CIC is the BCS bowl for the three service academies (Air Force is the third).

It has been two seasons since Navy has held the trophy. It has been nearly two decades since Army has.

Regardless of Army's 1-9 record against all other opponents, if it goes 2-0 against Air Force and Navy, the season will be considered a success.

This game is more than a rivalry game; it is a glimpse into college football's past. It is a flashback to a time when young men fought each other on the field of play for each other and for love of the game.

So if you have lost faith in college football - the coaching carousels, the player scandals and the conference juggling - tune into Army-Navy on Saturday and see who gets to sing second this year.

Go Army. Beat Navy.


Email: ben.tarhan@ubspectrum.com

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