John U. Bacon's Fourth and Long: The Fight For The Soul Of College Football is a review of the 2012 Big Ten college football season, featuring the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of four various college football teams. From the tragedy at Penn State, to the tribulation of Ohio State not being able to play in a bowl game, to the triumphs of a rising Northwestern program, Bacon whips from State College to Evanston to Columbus to Ann Arbor to beyond, profiling each of these schools on and off the field.
For fans of college football, Bacon provides a thorough critique of the changing face of college sports, with playoff games soon to enter the landscape and the increased focus on marketing; he also refers to college football as a brand and less a tradition while universities increase what they charge fans for tickets and for access to the program. Bacon shuns these tactics and lifts up the ideal of what college sports has been looked to -- the success of student-athletes at Northwestern winning despite having "less" athletic talent, as well as how Bill O'Brien won over a football team...and its fans...in his hard work in saving his roster and rallying his team in light of what occurred in State College and the punishment handed down to Penn State University.
Fourth and Long provides a solid analysis of the state of college football from multiple angles while not tackling too many issues at once. His deft ability to bounce between school, situation, and scenario does not leave any stone unturned, yet leaves the reader easily able to follow along without getting lost in the story. For fans of college football, especially Big 10 Conference football, Bacon's book is a must-read and one that will likely be enjoyed by all.