Column: Making a Wake-up call

The Colonials did their best impression of a college football powerhouse last week.

In the process of beating Division III Randolph Macon by eight touchdowns, a field goal and a two-point conversion Wednesday night, GW conjured up glorious images of Oklahoma pounding Bowling Green and Nebraska trouncing Western Illinois.

In this age of college football, classy schools schedule early season games against overmatched opponents. Sometimes, warm-up victories over patsies come back to bite teams in the … ask Florida, which followed a 39-point season opening win over Eastern Michigan with a two-point loss to Tennessee.

For Karl Hobbs’ squad, the discrepancy between two consecutive opponents is even greater than the Gators, Cornhuskers or Sooners had to face early in their seasons.

In tonight’s nationally televised season opener, the Colonials will face No. 2 Wake Forest, a team with a bit more going for it than tiny Randolph Macon, which GW beat by Roger Maris’s home run record. Hopefully for the Colonials, their full-blown track meet of a preseason win will not produce overconfidence.

Beating a team by 61 points will do wonders for anyone’s self-esteem. But this year’s edition of the Colonials seems to understand that taking this game the slightest bit lightly will probably result in a blowout could curl them up into a Randolph Macon-esque fetal position.

Junior forward Mike Hall, for one, has been drinking the big cups of gold and black Kool Aid that Hobbs and the national media have served up in recent months. To remind us all of Wake’s prowess, ESPN The Magazine featured a cover portrait of preseason All-American guard Chris Paul.

“Wake Forest is a special team,” Hall said. “I really don’t think anyone could simulate that.”

Hall is absolutely correct. But even without a team on Wake’s level to face in the preseason, Hobbs has expressed that in the future, he’d like to see his team scrimmage higher profile opponents to prepare for the regular season. The problem lies in the fact that two D-I schools are not permitted to face each other in an open scrimmage. As a result, many big-time teams shy away from scrimmages that will not produce revenue from ticket sales.

The Colonials did have a closed scrimmage at Villanova on Nov. 8 before finishing their preseason against a Division III team. But in reality, no exhibition season is a really an accurate predictor of the upcoming season.

And fans, players and coaches know the deck is stacked against the Colonials. GW is not as talented or experienced as Wake, and under Hobbs, has struggled mightily on the road.

While Hobbs has shown the utmost respect for the Demon Deacons, the Colonials’ justified inferiority complex must be ignored, at least for tonight.

The Colonials must ignore the rabid tobacco-roadies packing the Lawrence Joel Coliseum. They must ignore the scouting reports that say Justin Gray and Chris Paul will run roughshod on them. They must ignore the doubting voices pin-balling around their brains, telling them that they cannot march into the Demon Deacons’ gym and win.

To win, as an assistant coach told me last week, the Colonials must find their “A” game quickly. As is the case against any strong opponent, the margin for error is slim. One sloppy spurt – which the Colonials were susceptible to last season at the beginning of the second half of games – could cost them the chance for a major upset.

But freeze for a moment and understand this is still pure speculation. Win or lose the opener, the Colonial players and coaches are excited for this season. In fact, a major worry for Hobbs is not that his team will come out flat in North Carolina. The major worry is that his players will be “too excited,” just like the media’s mood when talking about the Colonials in recent months.

For the first time in five years, the hype machine has its grip on GW, maybe a little too tightly. If the fans want the hype to build even more, there is only one thing left to do: win tonight (or at least keep it close).

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