By Sen. John McCain
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much, America.
My friends, as we look out over the college-football landscape tonight, we see that the preseason is nearly over and the 2008 season is almost upon us. I commend all of Arizona State’s 2008 opponents, particularly the Georgia Bulldogs and the Southern California Trojans, for the fine seasons they had last year, and look forward to facing them this season. (applause)
My friends, it is clear that Division I-A is at a crossroads. Last year we saw a two-loss team from the Southeastern Conference beat Ohio State in the BCS national championship game, the first time in the BCS era that a team with two losses has ever won the national title. This year several teams, including LSU, Georgia, and Florida, are all vying for a national championship.
It is a time at which football fans across the country must ask themselves, do we really want the crystal football to end up in the hands of another team with two losses? Can we really trust these teams to weather an entire SEC season undefeated and represent Division I-A on the world stage?
Over the past few months you’ve heard a lot about the Georgia Bulldogs. Mark Richt is a fine young man who’s been an inspiration for players and fans alike, and I commend him for his contributions to the game of college football. But many Americans still wonder whether he has the experience and the mental fortitude to guide a team through one of the nation’s toughest schedules and bring his team out on top. While he has earned well-deserved praise for his 27-6 record in true road games, he has never played a Pac-10 team, nor has he ever traveled thousands of miles away from Sanford Stadium to play a ranked opponent.
Whereas other teams have shown us senior leadership at quarterback and the critical skill positions, Richt gives us a junior under center and a sophomore and redshirt freshman at tailback, running behind an offensive line that returns only three of five starters. Whereas other teams have given us gutty performances and inspiring triumphs over adversity, Richt has given us end-zone celebrations. And that’s not change we can believe in.
For all the flashy recruits and highlight-reel plays the Georgia Bulldogs have shown us over the course of Richt’s tenure, the Bulldogs have still fallen short of bringing home a national title. Dennis Erickson, however, has the experience necessary to take a team to the national championship game — he won two with the Miami Hurricanes, first as an independent, then as a member of the Big East conference. My friends, when that phone call comes with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, with the team needing a go-ahead touchdown, Coach Erickson is the only one with the judgment we can trust to make the right calls and win the game. Coach Richt has fielded many talented defenses at Georgia, but we cannot be content to simply stay on defense. That’s not change we can believe in.
My friends, we need an offensive game plan now and for the future, and Coach Erickson is not only one of the top offensive game planners in the country, he has implemented some elements of the spread offense in his tenure at Arizona State. I was an early proponent of the spread offense, even when such a solution wasn’t popular, and my friends, I am here to tell you today that the spread is working. (applause) The Sun Devils scored an average of 30 points a game last year and are poised to increase that number in 2008. Our quarterback, Rudy Carpenter, has given three years of brave service to the Sun Devils, and we owe it to Rudy and all of our other brave men in uniform to see this commitment through to a Pac-10 title. (applause)
Now, I know that we face many challenges. One of them is an offensive line that gave up 55 sacks last season and paved the way for only 3.2 yards per carry. This is unacceptable to most football fans, and it is unacceptable to me. To solve this problem, we are bringing in three new starters on the line with the goal of reducing sacks by 50 percent in the coming season. (applause)
We also face a crisis concerning the skyrocketing costs of football tickets. Over in Georgia, tickets are being rationed to the point where people must pay a premium simply for the right to buy them, leaving many families to take their chances out on the black market. Georgia could solve this problem by exploring ways to expand their stadium and put more tickets on the market, but so far they have done nothing to address this growing concern. At Arizona State, however, we have successfully implemented a "ticket-premium holiday" whereby any football fan can simply walk in off the street and purchase a season-ticket package for only $99. My friends, this is a solution that offers real-world benefits not just for Arizona State fans but for football fans across the country, fans of any team who will be playing the Sun Devils in the -- (Joe Lieberman whispers in his ear) I'm sorry, I've just been informed that they don't really want me telling everybody that they can buy season tickets even if they're not ASU fans, so forget I said that.
My friends, college football is a grand American institution, and I cheer for the Sun Devils not for my own personal glory, nor even for that of my home state, but for the glory of a proud conference and, indeed, the stature of all of Division I-A. We need a strong, high-scoring team with proven leadership to represent this grand sport as its champion, and I have the confidence that the Arizona State Sun Devils will defend their turf, win in September, and be a BCS national champion that all of America can believe in. (applause)
Thank you. God bless college football, and God bless America.
-- John McCain served his country proudly in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and Vietnam, in addition to serving as a U.S. Senator from the Arizona Territory, later the state of Arizona. His earlier guest column for the sports blog Sunday Morning Quarterback, “What’s This ‘Forward Pass’ I Keep Hearing So Much About?”, was a finalist for a College Football Blogger Award in 2006.
Next up: An unbiased, spin-free look at the 2008 Alabama Crimson Tide from one of the country’s most popular political commentators.