So after Dr. Saturday and I riffed on the idea that parity may or may not have left the SEC, we had an offering by Stewart Mandel that this season promises to be a return to parity. I'd be interested to see if Mandel can square a return to parity with the fact that most members of the media are predicting Alabama and Florida to win their divisions again, as well as Ohio State winning the Big Ten, Oregon winning the Pac Ten, Texas and Oklahoma duking it out in the Big XII, and TCU and Boise State positioning themselves as the gate-crashers. I'd also be interested to see Mandel address this issue: if 2007 was the year of parity and it started with USC as a massive favorite, then doesn't that indicate that the it's hard to tell before the season whether we are going to see a season of parity (or at least that the herd that forms conventional wisdom has a hard time seeing an unstable season).
Personally, I agree with Mandel that this year shapes up to be unpredictable because I don't see a single team that has the makings of a dominant team. But then again, all that means is that every team has question marks. It's possible that two or three teams will see all of those question marks answered with positive answers and we'll end up with another year like last year. Maybe Florida's young defenders mesh from the outset. Maybe Landry Jones turns into Sam Bradford 2.0. Maybe Virginia Tech's offensive stirrings last year are paired with a typically excellent Hokie defense. Maybe Ricky Stanzi will learn to throw to the guys on his team. There are more maybes this year about the major contenders this year than what we would normally expect and that indicates an unpredictable season, but we're only talking about probability here.
Another interesting question about parity is this: will we see a relatively new champion this year? After all, if an NFL season of crazy upsets ended with the Patriots or Steelers winning the Super Bowl, that wouldn't feel like a crazy, unpredictable result, would it? 2007 is the gold standard for a year of parity, but in the end, the national championship game was contested between the teams that had won the national title four and five years previously. Likewise, if we have a crazy year and then Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, or Ohio State end up with the crystal ball, then that won't exactly be a glowing endorsement for the topsy turvy nature of the sport because every one of those teams won a title last decade. I'm thinking out loud here, but maybe we should be rooting for someone truly out of left field? Wouldn't that be a nice antidote to the relatively staid 2009 season?