Even in a sport prone to hyperbole the following is true: The coming week may be one of the most extraordinary in the history of college football.
And the fact Alabama and Auburn are holding an Iron Bowl that serves as a knockout game for both the SEC and perhaps even BCS national title chases is just part of it.
In Tallahassee, the local state's attorney, William Meggs, is gathering evidence and considering whether to charge Florida State star quarterback and Heisman frontrunner Jameis Winston with a felony over an allegation of sexual battery that occurred nearly a year ago.
The alleged crime is both serious and ugly and can't be understated. Winston could face up to 15 years in prison, far greater stakes than football glory (both team and individual). There are two young people involved here. No one is forgetting that.
Yet this plays out at the most tense and dramatic week of the football season, and the only reason this story is known nationally is because Winston is the athlete he is. Otherwise, quite sadly, this is just another chapter in the long book on an epidemic of sexual assault that is so common, it's hardly ever reported, let alone prosecuted.
So this is, respectfully, also a football story. And in football terms, we could be facing one of the most difficult questions and another bizarre and unfortunate bruised eye for the sport.
If – and that's a huge if at this point – Winston is charged with a felony and suspended by FSU from competition, what do BCS voters do with a potentially 13-0 Seminole team? Do you drop FSU from the top two because it would be without its best player? Or do you keep the Seminoles there because football is a team game, there is always a next man up, and the entire team earned its spot?
When has a sport – perhaps outside of boxing – had its title game matchup hinge on the decision of a state's attorney?
There is no easy answer here so we brought in Paul Finebaum of ESPN Radio (and other various platforms) to discuss that impossible question, the Winston case in general and plenty of other college football topics on the Dan Wetzel Football Podcast.
Next week could be uncharted waters in a sport that had seemingly seen it all at this point.
Other topics discussed include:
• Paul's time this season on ESPN's GameDay and some behind-the-scene stories and insight on why the show is so successful.
• Could a 12-1 Auburn team jump unbeaten Ohio State in the final BCS rankings, and, perhaps as importantly, how great would the push be from opinion-makers to argue that it should? Generally, such a thing doesn't occur, but voter opinion can shift as a narrative is created.
• Terry Saban's comments this week about being unappreciated by Alabama fans yet vowing that she and husband Nick aren't leaving the Crimson Tide and will retire in Tuscaloosa.
• Whether Saturday's game would represent the worst loss ever for Saban and the greatest win ever for Auburn.
• Exactly what might happen in the aftermath? The last time the Iron Bowl was this big, Auburn won and a man named Harvey Updyke poisoned the trees in Toomer's Corner. This one has even higher stakes.
• And by the way, why does Finebaum have a court-rendered gag-order on discussing publicly his final jailhouse interview with Updyke? At least until • conveniently • Finebaum's book comes out next summer.
It's that kind of a show this week. Check it out here or or on iTunes, it's free and you need something to listen to as you travel around during Thanksgiving weekend.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- college football
- Paul Finebaum