Cavalcade Of Whimsy: Urban & Nick's Brilliance, Big 12, Saving The Rankings

From the greatness of two legends in their prime, to diving into how to make the rankings matter again, it’s a rigged Cavalcade of Whimsy.

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Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault …

I applied to be a part of the Big 12 expansion consideration and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

In case you missed it, here in its entirety, is a replay of the Big 12 press conference to announce that after months of discussion, hundreds of thousands spent by the prospective schools creating pitches, and lots of excitement and speculation for a stronger, better, more influential league, the conference has decided to not expand and stay put with its current ten members …

After this next blurb, if you don’t run screaming to the window for Texas A&M and Penn State, I can’t help you

It was my quirky, winking, hardy-har-har comment all throughout the offseason.

“Considering all the rebuilding they have to do, if Alabama and Ohio State play for the national title, everyone else needs to quit playing college football until Nick Saban and Urban Meyer move on.”

With the possible exception of Michigan, this year, everyone needs to quit playing college football until Nick Saban and Urban Meyer move on.

Do you fully appreciate the historic nature of what just happened?

The top two teams in college football each went on the road as double-digit favorites against opponents that will end up playing in their respective conference championship games.

The Crimson Tide were breathtaking in their dismantling of Tennessee, while Ohio State was terrific at fighting through the adversity and the toughness of the gutcheck of all gutcheck games at Wisconsin.

Don’t tell me it’s just about the talent.

No one has more NFL-ready players than LSU and Florida State, and they each have two losses and will probably have new head coaches next year at this time.

Don’t tell me it’s just about the infrastructure of operating at a college football powerhouse.

No one has more money than Texas or Notre Dame, and they both suck at playing college football.

Until Jim Harbaugh actually does it, don’t tell me that Saban and Meyer have peers at the college level.

There’s no one smarter or sharper than Mark Dantonio, and his Michigan State team is a disaster in an aberration of a season.

Of course Bob Stoops is fantastic. Of course Les Miles can still coach. Of course David Shaw is outstanding, Kirk Ferentz is a legend, and Gary Patterson is special. But they’re all having down years, at least the ones still serving as a head coach.

Urban Meyer and Nick Saban don’t have those down year thingys, even though they had every reasonable excuse to assume that 2016 was going to be a relative clunker.

With the Crimson Tide replacing their entire backfield and losing seven key players to the NFL – all going within the first 73 picks – and with the Buckeyes returning just six starters after losing a record-setting ten players to the first three rounds of the draft – and 12 players who went in the first four rounds – this was supposed to be when everyone could catch the two superpowers.

Instead, they’re two of the three best teams in college football – again, keeping Michigan in the discussion for now – and they’re playing even better than the ones that won the last two national titles.

I know it’s impossible to root for the evil empires and the Masters of Darkness who run them – although they’re both good dudes outside of the media faces they have to put on – but considering how this season is going, try to at least appreciate that we’re all in the middle of something special.

These two historic college football coaches are careening towards, if we’re lucky, an all-timer of a national title showdown.

Who’s presenting the trophy? Jason White. Of course.

The Johnny Unitas Award Midseason Watch List was just announced. Congratulations, you senior or fourth-year option – you might win this prestigious honor, but if you’re really that good, you probably biffed and should’ve gone to the NFL early.

But here’s the ironic issue with the criteria – Unitas was awful in his senior year at Louisville.

He got hurt, the team was miserable, and he WASN’T EVEN THE BEST QUARTERBACK ON HIS TEAM. Jim Houser led the 1954 Louisville Cardinals in passing, not Unitas.

It’s a terrific list, but in today’s day and age, there will always be a few glaring underclassmen not on a list of top quarterbacks: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State; Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee; Luke Falk, Washington State; Chad Kelly, Ole Miss; Trevor Knight, Texas A&M; Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech; Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State; Seth Russell, Baylor; Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina; Deshaun Watson, Clemson; Davis Webb, California.

Barrett, Knight and Watson are obviously having special seasons, but DeShone Kizer might be the No. 1 pick in the draft, Brad Kaaya will go top ten, and Lamar Jackson – the PERFECT guy to win the award for the best quarterback in college football, considering he goes to the same school Unitas did – is probably going to win the Heisman.

And Jackson might just finish as the greatest Cardinal quarterback ever.

For his next trick, he’ll try to get his message out to the world using Semaphore flags.

Could Wisconsin basketball guy Nigel Hayes have used a less effective way to try to generate a movement? He stood in the crowd at ESPN GameDay holding a sign that read “Broke College Athlete … Anything Helps.”

Point understood – college athletes deserve a piece of the revenue they generate – but it’s not like the guy doesn’t have a voice, and it’s not like dozens of media types wouldn’t have loved to have jumped at a chance to interview him on this before the basketball season.

Nigel, I’m with you. We’re all with you. But you’re a basketball player, not a football player. The system isn’t fair, but if you don’t like it, if you’re good enough, you can go turn pro.

”Then I knew it from the start/This friend of mine would fall apart”

Ready for the 2016 college football kiss of death? Any ACC team I’m about to take up the cause for.

Just when I was about to get fired up and write a big thing about North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky a few weeks ago – making the case that he should be put in the Deshaun, LJack, Kaaya level of ACC quarterbacks – Virginia Tech happened.

Just when I was about to gush all over Virginia Tech as a real, live, sleeper playoff option, the inexplicable Syracuse braincramp happened.

So pick Miami this week, because I still believe in the Hokies. If they beat the Canes – and I think they will, next week I’ll go all in a week later than planned because of …

Does the stadium without air conditioning named after an air conditioner company at least provide fans for the locker room?

Syracuse is half-full way a top recruit would look at this video following the terrific upset win over Virginia Tech …

“Cool. Dino Babers looks like a fun, energetic head coach with a great offense that’s about to be a really big deal in the ACC.”

Syracuse is half-empty way a top recruit would look at that video following the terrific upset win over Virginia Tech …

“Nice high school locker room. I’m going to Oregon.”

Voting electronically? What could possibly go wrong?

Along with Pakistan and Aleppo, apparently, this is President Obama’s answer to the “what keeps you up at night” question.

A desperate Trump screamed that they’re rigged. Russian hackers are trying like mad to screw things up by influencing the process, and Gary Johnson has no idea what they are.

They’re the AP and USA Today Coaches polls and rankings.

They’re fun, they’re part of the weekly fabric of the college football culture, and as said in a qualifier before everyone and anyone now uses them in an attempt to make a point, they no longer matter.

No, the College Football Playoff committee isn’t influenced by them even a little bit. The CFP rankings process is about as strong as it gets – the members actually have to fine-tooth analyze the merits of each prospective team – and as the first two years have shown, the traditional rankings don’t really matchup with what the CFP comes out with.

And, of course, the CFP rankings don’t matter all that much, either, until the very end, since they throw out the previous week’s exercise and start over until the all-determining final ones come out. But at least the weekly CFP list of teams provides a look into where everyone stands, at least until the conference championships are decided.

So what can we do about the AP and Coaches Polls to make them matter again? These are living, breathing, college football historical markers that are quickly becoming obsolete, and that’s not okay.

We can’t go into a purely analytical, data-driven metric ranking, because eye-test does matter, but we can’t go on anymore with rankings that can’t tell the difference between a team that plays a real schedule and a team that’s played no one.

Look, if Baylor and Nebraska had played Michigan and Ohio State, instead of six games against warm bowls of pudding, they’d have two losses like the lower-ranked Wisconsin has.

If West Virginia and Boise State had played Alabama and Texas A&M, they’d have two losses like the lower-ranked Arkansas has.

Houston lost to a mediocre Navy team and held on for dear life against Tulsa, but one win over Oklahoma appears to be enough to justify a No. 11 ranking in both polls.

Meanwhile, pretentiousness flew right out the window in the AP and its North Dakota State love after one loss to South Dakota State. If the APers really did care about this, the Bison – who didn’t receive a single vote – would’ve still been ranked ahead of a seven-vote Iowa.

Just like there’s no nobility in getting a call wrong and not utilizing all the available technology – I’m looking at you, MLB umpires – it’s not cute anymore to get the rankings functionally wrong.

This was triple-bad when the polls were a part of the BCS process, but going forward, if the AP and Coaches ranking systems want to exist and continue to be relevant – and not be as useless to a new generation as a Playboy print subscription – something’s got to change.

So here’s my suggestion to make these rankings work and be a real, live difference-maker again.

1. Quit using voters who don’t know enough about the national landscape.

The AP writers know the areas they’re covering. Coaches know whatever they see in their own conferences. Don’t make the ACC guy try to rank Pac-12 teams that play until 2 a.m. EST.

2. Rank conferences, and then use those rankings to create the national Top 25.

Let the Pac-12 guys vote on the Pac-12 rankings, SEC the SEC, and so on. Let the voters vote on what they know, not what they have to guess on. Then use those rankings to put together the big list using a panel of national experts – the FWAA/National Football Foundation group would do just fine – going off the lists coming from the ones with boots on the ground.

3. Work with the system so that these rankings – once you start voting conference by conference – determine the non-New Year’s Six bowl pecking order.

The standings and CFP committee obviously determine where the top teams go, but figure out a way to work with the bowl system to make these rankings relevant – but only if they’re done correctly. In an effort to create the best bowl matchups, let these be used to help create the bowl games outside of the CFP and NY6.

You’re welcome, America.

This week’s reason why the Big 12 should’ve considered me for expansion …

Apparently, I’m a heck of a lot more attractive than the uggos that just got the finger swipe from the Big 12.

The sure-thing, 100%, rock-solid lock, sell the house, sell the kids, no doubt about it picks of the century for this week

Really? UCF? You HAD Temple done, but couldn’t close?! At least the Nebraska -4 over Indiana was nice and easy … YEEEEESH. Pitt, Wisconsin, Central Michigan – how much more love can one man provide? We’re about to find out.

Straight Up: 15-8, Against the Spread: 14-8-1

1. Virginia Tech -4 over Miami
2. North Texas +18 over Army (but Army SU)
3. Purdue +24 over Nebraska (but Nebraska SU)
4. Arkansas +9.5 over Auburn

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item …

The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world

1) Overrated: RPO
Underrated: The totally new, never-before-considered idea that a quarterback has the option to run OR pass

2) Overrated: Waiting in line to vote (unless you’re an idiot, in which case the lines are too long and there’s a shiny ball of tin foil somewhere that needs playing with)
Underrated: Mailing in your ballot early (unless you’re an idiot, in which case there’s no need to put a stamp on it since, of course, voting postage costs are covered by the USPS)

3) Overrated: Phi Slama Jama (not really, but compared to …)
Underrated: 1983 Final Four: Louisville vs. Houston (Believe me, it’s worth the next 90 minutes of your life to watch the most amazing college basketball game of the 1980s)

4) Overrated: All things Commodores, especially Lionel Richie DirecTV ads
Underrated: LB Zach Cunningham

5) Overrated: 35 overtime games last season
Underrated: 29 so far this season

Sorry if this column sucked, I wasn’t my fault …

I got pulled for Malik Zaire halfway through the column to try to create some sort of a spark. Obviously, it didn’t work.