Most who have read this column over the years know that I am a dyed-in-the-wool college football fan. I have always loved the pageantry of it, the optimism of the early fall and even the “wait-till-next-year” laments at the season’s end when things didn’t go so well. Each year I allow myself one column devoted to the collegiate game, and this is it.

To listen to talk radio in a college/university town this time of year, you would think the home team is headed directly to the four-team national playoff next January. Of course, saying it doesn’t make it so — you still have to win the games on the field. That holds true whether you are at SEMO State or the University of Missouri.

There is one thing you can always say about college football teams without fear of being in an argument. By the end of the season, the average won and lost record across the country will be 50-50. That is, for every game played there will be a winner and a loser. The exception to that is the tie, which one old football sage likened to “kissing your sister.”

It would seem that the talk-radio fans believe that a football team can just pick up where it left off last year and continue to make improvement. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

College football, unlike the pros, brings in a new group of freshmen each year and its seniors disappear to the professional ranks or out into real life. A coach, or his faithful followers, can never know for sure how each new group will weather the schedule.

No, the cupboard is never totally bare. The guarded hope from each campus is that the new group of young players will be talented and that the returners will be improved. And, there is always the hope that the chief rival in the conference or the one down the road will suffer from the plague or some other fate that will allow the “good guys” a win on the Saturday they come to town. For those more fortunate the reward at the end of the season is a bowl game somewhere in the country. In truth, with the proliferation of bowl games about half of the major college football teams in the country will be traveling at the end of the season.

By nature, I like to accentuate the positive. And, for sure, college football will be entertaining to watch this fall. Win or lose, it is always entertaining. The caution for those who are full of talk at this time of the year is to temper their optimism with the reality of the situation. Hopefully, the fans can expect a good year but whether or not we can call it “great” will have to wait until, as some pro coach said, “the fat lady sings.”

Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. You will find Hopkins’ latest book, “Journey to Gettysburg,” on Amazon.com. Contact him at presnet@presnet.net.