A lot of ground to cover today. I’m sure you won’t be surprised that it was well after 2AM before I was finally able to relax and go to sleep last night. It didn’t help that literally the moment the Orange Bowl ended, C. started her mid-night act.

So forgive me if this is even more disjointed than usual.

The Game: I have spent the last month reminding myself that this was a great, great season for KU football, the bowl game was a reward for what happened over the first 12 games and an exhibition, and that no matter what happened against Virginia Tech, it would not change how I feel about this team or what they accomplished this year.

That said, there was a little extra riding on this game. The need to silence the doubters who knocked KU because of the schedule (And as all KU fans must note, have said nary a word about Ohio State’s schedule). The need to prove ourselves worthy of a BCS bid, even more so after Missouri’s destruction of Arkansas (As nice as it was to be the team that kept MU out of the BCS, and add another notch to Mizzou Fan’s belief that the sports gods really do hate him, to be fair, it was the corrupt BCS system that screwed Mizzou. Illinois and Hawaii were far less deserving than KU to be in the BCS, but because the conference commissioners and university presidents who control the BCS don’t want anyone getting a competitive advantage, they put the two teams per conference rule in, which requires that someone gets screwed rather than rewarded in a year like this.). And, frankly, despite the way we played in the second half against Missouri, there were the lingering doubts from that first half that had to be addressed.

So while I tried to stay mellow and enjoy the game for what it was, I couldn’t help but work up some nerves as we stretched out the lead, then looked utterly hopeless for about 20 minutes in the middle, and then worked up my usual football watching lather for the fourth quarter. By the time we scored our final touchdown, I was thinking, “Exhibition game my ass,” as I hopped around the room and silently celebrated.

It was a strange and fascinating game. Why Tech didn’t run the ball down our throats the entire game I can’t understand. Perhaps Beamer, seeing his receivers were getting downfield on our secondary, wanted one quick score to take the lead and then sit on the ball and run out the clock. Or maybe he was setting things up for next year. Or maybe he’s just dumb. I don’t know. Our defense did adjust and was much better against the run late, but I have to think giving the ball to Ore about 25 more times in the third and fourth quarters might have changed the result.

The strangest sequence ever just about killed me. In the third quarter, a dubious, as best, pass interference call against KU. A sure interception gets taken away as teammates fight for the ball, only to see Tech come out with the ball inside the 10. Keeping Ore out of the endzone followed by the easiest block of a kick you’ll ever see. The long drive down the field on KU’s resulting drive, including a fake punt for a first down, that landed us inside the one, only to have 25 yards in penalties assessed against us. And, finally, the merciful interception when Todd Reesing attempted to force the ball into traffic. Despair, excitement, disbelief, elation, anger. All in the course of about five minutes.

In the end, KU got a gutty, defensive-fueled victory over a team that was bigger, faster, more talented, and had a better pedigree (Virginia Tech is scary talented. All the hype about their speed was accurate. Admittedly, I’ve mostly seen Oklahoma this year when they’re mildly interested, but Virginia Tech looked a lot better on defense than OU. Which, of course, leads to more thoughts of what we could have done if we got a few breaks in the first half at Arrowhead…). In short, everything that KU was criticized for not playing/beating this season. It truly was redemption, even if it came in a game that didn’t matter much. The Missouri game was far bigger, as a chance to play for a conference and national title would come from a win there, but this win was a hell of a lot of fun. It cemented this year as the greatest in KU football history, made a statement to the country about the quality of this team and the program as a whole, and left a fantastic foundation to build on. This was a great season and it was the perfect ending to it.
Oh, and Fox sucked ass.

One more time, Rock Chalk, bitches.

Now, to Iowa. I was pleased my man won. That’s right, I’m a huge Mike Huckabee fan! I’ve been saying for years this country needed an evangelical socialist in the White House. Now if New Hampshire can get on board, we might get somewhere…

I kid, of course. I was not terribly surprised by the results. Huckabee and Obama seemed to have all the momentum, and on the Dem side, Obama seemed well positioned to win the votes of those who supported the unviable candidates (or is it non-viable?). I’m not sure how much we learn from Iowa. It does set the tone for the next week before New Hampshire, but all the blowhards who were drawing hard conclusions last night need to relax a bit.

I found it hilarious that, at least on MSNBC, the coverage focused on the spin factor. All the talking heads prattled on about how each campaign would spin the result to their favor (See Clinton, Bill, New Hampshire 1992). Their tone was mocking and cynical, but, over the course of the night, those same talking heads accepted the spin as fact. It’s amazing how lazy the “experts” can be.

Now we launch into the real guts of the campaign, a sprint over the next 5-6 weeks that should leave us with two candidates that we get to pick apart for the next nine months. I’m having trouble (especially this morning) separating heart from mind, but I think an Obama-McCain matchup is the most likely. Defeating Hillary is going to be very difficult, but Obama has shown himself to be more than capable at every step of the process so far. His win last night is a sign for people who want to vote Democratic but are having trouble supporting Hillary (I counted myself in that camp until not too long ago, although Barack has always been my first choice) that he is worthy of their votes. John Edwards ran a valiant campaign, but if he can’t win Iowa, he’s done. It’s time for him to move on and do good things outside of government.

On the Republican side, it’s a mess. Where Democrats seem energized and excited, I don’t sense that R’s are in love with their candidates. They’ll circle around whoever gets the nomination, but there doesn’t seem to be one person who is poised to take control of the contest. The secular folks can’t stand Huckabee. The evangelicals have issues with Romney, Giuliani, and McCain. I think Fred Thompson may actually be dead. Huckabee can’t last, Romney is too damaged, and Giuliani is waiting too long. McCain will win by default and assume the old warhorse role that Bob Dole played in 1996.

Of course, that could all change next week after New Hampshire. Don’t hold me to any of it.