Cavalcade: In Defense Of The Big Ten

Cavalcade: In Defense Of The Big Ten. The impossible argument, Haden, Penn State, and a wild weekend.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

September 9

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- 2013 Cavalcades 
- Aug 26 Josh Shaw, playoff talk, and there's a new network?  
- Sept 2 - College Football's big new problem  

Cavalcade of Whimsy
- Part 2 - Kenny Hill's nickname, Michigan fans telling you they're Michigna fans  

Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I’m really, really, really not in the mood to deal with the JoeBot truther crowd, so halfway through this thing I’m texting Haden to come down and deal.

Nice timing, Big Ten/NCAA, announcing this ten minutes after the Ray Rice story broke … No matter what side you fall on, please take a moment to consider what the NCAA’s repeal of its punishment means, how it must feel, and what it represents to the real victims in the Penn State nightmare. And no, I don’t mean the players who missed out on a bowl appearance.

But they still have to keep several wins vacated in some record book that no one reads, cares about or knows exists … ooooooh, now they know the NCAA means business … A Heisman-caliber running back worked with a marketing company? NO NO NO, BAD BAD BAD BLOW UP THE PROGRAM DEATH! DEATH!! DEATH!!!

A few players sold some of their own personal property and the head coach hid the e-mails about it? HISTORY’S GREATEST MONSTER! KILL! KILL!! KILL!!!

Institutional and systematic disaster and tragedy involving child rape and molestation? AWFUL BAD, DESTROY … uh, oh well. Whatever. Oh, go ahead and go bowling and have your fun again. That’s why pencils have erasers.

And for my next trick: Hangover 3 is this generation's Citizen Kane I’m now going to do the absolute impossible and do what Jim Delany and the Big Ten PR department couldn't - I'm about to show you why the Big Ten isn't as bad as you think. This is where I’m glad we’re going to have a playoff committee - or at least the potential of what a playoff committee can do - that can hopefully get through the lazy mess that is the national media’s analysis of the Big Ten.

Of course the league was a suckfest this weekend, but a one-loss Big Ten champion will end up in the College Football Playoff, especially if it’s Michigan State and the one loss is at Autzen. Remember, it’s a long, long, LONG three months until Selection Sunday, and while Saturday, September 6th will always be the Big Ten’s Day That Will Live In Infamy, all is not totally lost.

No, it’s not okay for a Power 5 conference team to lose to a MAC team, ever – check out the Top 10 Random Acts of Whimsy for more on that – but every conference has that embarrassing uncle who drinks maple syrup right out of the bottle. The Big Ten so far has Purdue, the SEC this year has Vanderbilt. At least Northwestern lost to a Northern Illinois program that’s been phenomenal over the last two years, while Colorado needed a miracle to get by UMass. Washington State is a rough 0-2 with one of those losses coming to Rutgers, Wake Forest has been miserable and Iowa State lost to North Dakota State – I’m aware, but it’s still an FCS program.

Meanwhile, collectively, the Big 12 has combined to play three Power 5 programs – throwing BYU in there even though it’s not – with Alabama beating West Virginia, Florida State beating Oklahoma State, and BYU stomping Texas. Out of the 16 non-conference games the Big 12 has played so far, eight of them came against FCS teams. Go ahead and send any Big 12 team to Oregon or to Houston to play LSU and see what happens.

With the way Notre Dame is playing, outside of Oklahoma – considering the injuries to Bryce Petty and J.W. Walsh – is any other Big 12 team favored in South Bend? With the way Virginia Tech played in Columbus, only OU, Baylor, and maybe Oklahoma State would be favored at home against the Hokies.

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 has been okay overall, but Washington has been a strange mess in its first two games, Oregon State hasn’t been special, Washington State lost to Rutgers and Nevada, Arizona should’ve lost to UTSA, Arizona State played Weber State and New Mexico, Colorado got run over by Colorado State, and almost got tagged by UMass, UCLA was painfully underwhelming against Virginia and Memphis, and Utah has played Idaho State and a Fresno State team that couldn’t stop you and ten friends from hanging up 45.

Take out Florida State, and outside of Virginia Tech’s great win over Ohio State, the ACC collectively in non-conference play have beaten UMass, South Carolina State, Murray State, Georgia Southern, Old Dominion (with NC State looking awful in those last two wins), Villanova (with Syracuse looking punchy and awful), Gardner-Webb (with Wake Forest losing to ULM the week before), Elon, Troy, Wofford, Tulane, Florida A&M, Liberty, San Diego State (okay, so North Carolina’s win over the Aztecs was solid), Delaware, Richmond, and William & Mary. For those keeping score at home, if you then including Florida State’s win over The Citadel, 12 of the league’s 20 non-conference wins came against FCS teams.

With all of that said, though, Big Ten, it’s time to show up and show up huge. When your league’s best win so far is Penn State needing a late comeback to beat UCF, there’s a problem.

This week, Indiana at Bowling Green, West Virginia at Maryland, Illinois at Washington, Iowa State at Iowa, Minnesota at TCU, Nebraska at Fresno State and Purdue vs. Notre Dame (in Indianapolis) are everything to the league’s reputation.

The official text: “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad, these officials are being mean to me” …
Who is the man that would risk his neck for his Sarkisian?
Can ya dig it?
Who's the cat that will jog out
When the text comes all about
Right on
You see this cat, Pat tells the bad refs …

(Shut your mouth)
But I'm talkin' about Pat
(Then we can dig it)
He's a complicated man
But no one understands him but the officials

(Pat ... Haden)

”You're a pretty good fighter back there. I have this idea. Will you be my body guard? I'll pay fifty cents every day. I'll do your homework for you. I'm pretty smart.” … This really isn’t that big a deal.

In the same week that all is stunningly wiped away at Penn State, and with the video of the Ray Rice incident being released, an athletic director running down on the field during a game just doesn’t matter – Pat Haden’s afternoon jog is simply a goofy sidebar that will forever be a part of college football lore. So in terms of potentially embarrassing the College Football Playoff committee process, no, of course isn't important, and it doesn’t and shouldn't do anything to hurt Haden’s integrity or reputation. But here’s the problem when it comes to the inaugural year of the College Football Playoff – appearances actually do matter.

The CFP committee could've been made up of experts who do nothing but research and analyze all the ins and outs of every college football team for 365 days a year – hello! – but instead it's made up of dignitaries, and that's not necessarily a knock. Of course the 13 members chosen know college football, but did they all sit through Boise State's win over Colorado State, and get into the entertaining North Carolina win over San Diego State, and the Kansas State battle with Iowa State? Probably not, but that’s okay since this group – with full-time jobs doing other things - isn’t being sold as a group of wonks. The “mom, the meatloaf!” types who actually do break this all down for a living – seriously, I’m wide open! – might be able to better explain and articulate to the team that finishes fifth in the CFP why it didn’t get in, but it wouldn’t hold anywhere near the same gravitas.

It’s Pat freakin’ Haden – one of the most respected and influential figures in college athletics. So when the fan base of the No. 5 team needs an explanation after the matchups are announced, it’s coming from a Rhodes Scholar and major figure instead of someone who uses the word freakin’ in dopey articles, eats way too much pie, and has to Google Rhodes to make sure it’s spelled correctly. Being a part of the College Football Playoff committee requires a certain distinguished level, and while we can open up the debate again about whether or not sitting athletic directors should be a part of this, they are, and they can’t act like emotional face-painters in such a public way.

It might not be fair, and it might not be right, but yeah, the 13 committee members have to be ambassadors for all of college football no matter what the affiliation and allegiance, and in lieu of that sort of superfandom, they have to be above the sport. Some of them might not be able to break down the Texas offensive line or the revamped Iowa linebacking corps right now, but come December 7th, we have to all believe and buy the four teams they’re going to present to the college football world as the best in the game.

There are plenty of people who’d drop everything for the honor of being a part of creating college football history, but these 13 people, including Haden, were chosen for a reason. Running onto the field to honk at officials doesn't change anything, but it doesn't look the part.

Part One would’ve been better … but like Stanford, I totally dominated in the first half and have nothing to show for it.

- Part 2 - BYU, Kenny Hill, Michigan Fans: Ten Flights Of Whimsy ...  

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