The Top Whatever: Well, that was something!!

Each week, the Top Whatever ranks only the college football things that must be ranked.

Hey what’s up pals, it’s time for a Speedrunner Edition of the Top Whatever, since we have folks sidelined with illness and duty and so forth. (Everybody’s fine!)

We’ll try and do another TW after bowl season, and then we’ll do something else with this newsletter in the offseason. Thank you for reading! See the bottom of this newsletter for an important note about a potentially great holiday gift!

1. Bullshit

What a strong conclusion this was for perpetual preseason favorite Bullshit.

College football has never not been bullshit, but this was a bumper crop of the stuff. A season that was asymmetrically canceled and un-canceled — then reconstituted in random chunks while already airborne, all without any central-nervous oversight whatsoever — ends the only way it could’ve.

The dumbest year in the history of the dumbest country’s dumbest sport is going out strong with its dumbest finish ever, and this is saying a lot, because it includes split titles, LSU having to give Alabama a rematch, those times Big Ten rules blocked championship Rose Bowls, and like every prehistoric Yale-Princeton game.

This year’s Playoff committee — charging itself as always with producing three normie-friendly football games for television — chose to hold back three undefeated conference champions in favor of a team that played six games, plus not just one team that lost by four touchdowns, but two teams that each lost by four touchdowns. And a team that lost twice. And a team that lost thrice. And those are just the powers ranking ahead of Cincinnati. 

Coastal Carolina also ranks behind several other powers, including a team whose best win came against a team that fired Gus Malzahn for, among other things, losing to the likewise fired Will Muschamp. Coastal also ranks behind a three-loss power that went 0-1 against undefeated Coastal’s conference. Indiana might feel underrated, but they too get to enjoy ranking ahead of Coastal despite having almost half as many wins, an infinitely higher rate of losses, and an inferior Best Win. 

And San Jose State suffers the ultimate mark of forgettability in any season: ranking alongside NC State.

It might feel as if Texas A&M missed the Playoff because A&M isn’t a member of the sport’s mystical Big Prestige Club alongside the Famous Helmets of Notre Dame and Ohio State. But A&M gets to enjoy ranking ahead of a superior and undefeated Cincinnati for one reason: A&M is in the Big Prestige Club.

So is Iowa State, which gets to spend 100-year-old power-conference credit (earned by mostly Oklahoma) in order to finish ahead of fellow anomalies like CCU and SJSU. Iowa State gets to finish in a Big Bowl for one reason: even longtime lightweight Iowa State is in the Big Prestige Club, and even former national champion BYU is not.

But hey! We don’t want to be mad at Iowa State! The Clones are happy for like the third time ever. Who would want to ruin that? We’re not mad at Iowa State, technically. We’re mad at the system that sees every team from Alabama through Iowa State as one thing, and every team from Cincinnati through ULM as an opposite thing.

2. Friends

Based on pre-bowl AP Poll votes, the following teams are working on their best seasons ever:

  • Buffalo

  • Coastal Carolina

  • Iowa State

  • Liberty, I guess

  • The Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana

  • San Jose State

The SJSU Spartans in particular flew under the radar for many of us this year. “Oh hey, they’re 3-0? That’s weird.” Yep, one day you look up, and a program that’d only had three winning seasons since 1992 is disappointed about having to cancel a game against Boise State, the conference bully, a team SJSU had never beaten. Why would SJSU ever want to face Boise?

Because SJSU is better at football than Boise State, as proved once the two were able to meet, 34-20. After winning three games in Brent Brennan’s first three years, the Spartans have just won their first conference title since the 1991 Big West.

And then they posted my favorite non-shoe-throwing thing of the season. No, not the one dunking on like three internet commenters, though that was fine. This one, this little slice of middle school summer camp (it’ll load in your browser, if you click in the email version of this post):

3. LIVE - BRET BIELEMA’S CAR

Hi, I’m new Illinois head coach Bret Bielema. And we’re rolling out, looking for America’s greatest diners, drive-ins, and fullback dives.

4. Tall tales

“No team in SEC history has ever lost but one game and not been in [the Playoff],” said A&M coach Jimbo Fisher after completing an impressive regular season. That one loss was by 28 to Alabama, the team his Aggies would’ve had to face if the committee had ranked them #4.

They did not make the top four, because Notre Dame had the exact same season A&M had, albeit with a win over Clemson. And if playing eight games is the Aggies’ argument, well, the Irish played more.

Aggies, my friends, I know it won’t do any good to ask you to sit down. I know you have six and a half different sitting-related Traditions that prohibit such an action unless a man with a sword has sprinkled the entrails of a specific porcupine upon the altar before Miss Rev at exactly 1:26 a.m. So you will keep standing and singing hymns at the moon, and that’s fine.

But Aggies, if I may: It’s good to find yourself lacking Bama problems. You gave Bama a decent game. Outrushed ‘em! Maybe came a couple turnovers away from something interesting! You did your best. Now you don’t have to play Bama again for roughly 11 months. That rules!

All this hollerin’ calls to mind a group that knew it wouldn’t have to face Bama again, no matter how hard it hollered. It’s hollerin’ for the sake of hollerin’, and that I can respect, but it’s OK to be honest. Do you really wanna give Nick Saban a chance right between National Signing Days to double down against you, further deleting any infinitesimal doubts in the minds of potential future Aggies about the distance between these programs?

It’s better outside the Playoff! You had a great season and now get to face your old pal Mack Brown! You can beat him, maybe by a lot, if you play your cards right! That’ll be fun, and you can take pride in a top-four finish. It’s better to finish in the top four, rather than rank there on Selection Sunday, because the latter requires you to play Bama again, in my opinion. 

It ain’t even that you don’t want Bama. Aggies ain’t cowards. It’s that you already had Bama! You’ve done your part, Aggies. You occupied Bama for a week, meaning nobody else had to do it. You can rest now. You stood the line.

Now let someone else* get Bama for a change.

* Someone like Notre Dame lmaoooo

5. Alabama receivers scaring Florida defenders so much that the defenders just decide to leave Alabama receivers alone, by Alex Kirshner

In the first quarter, Florida’s Trey Dean intercepted Mac Jones and took off on a return. That return ended when Alabama receiver John Metchie did the following to Dean: 

With Bama once again holding possession, see how Florida covered DeVonta Smith on the subsequent snap: 

Survival is the strongest instinct. 

Also, Bama might’ve ultimately lost the SEC Championship if not for Metchie’s hit.

6. Hotel points

Did you like those rankings? Did the committee do a good job? Did they watch every game? Did they factor top-25 wins, a measure of wins over teams they’ve ranked? Did they feel strongly about bodies of work, which range in size between a half-dozen games and nearly a full-dozen games? Did they do the eye test? Did they balance best and most-deserving?

Either way, never forget the amount of pandemic logistics that had to be orchestrated in order for the committee to accomplish what it accomplished.

They did all that in person, for one reason: College football must always make the weirdest choice possible.

7. The CFP Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Capital One and Arlington, Texas’ many fine strip malls

It’s usually here …

… but this season, it’s in the building on the upper left …

… and I think both of these things are perfect.

Oh, right: The Pac-12

The Pac-12 in a normal year is like Mr. Bean wandering through a movie that is not about Mr. Bean. The Pac-12 this year was like Mr. Bean wandering through the Book of Revelation.

Nothing the Pac-12 did during the Bad Year was of any consequence, in ways that went beyond the conference’s standard irrelevance. The semi-power failed for the fourth time in a row to make the Playoff, registering nary a peep. Its season ended with three nearly entirely ignored shootouts and a counterproductive conference title game.

And now you can buy this shirt …

… and also this shirt …

… despite both teams appearing in the same division. The conference could’ve canceled its conference title game as soon as Washington was unable to play, handing the league to a USC with a respectable record and ranking. Or it could’ve tagged in Colorado, a somewhat respectable one-loss team from USC’s division.

Or it could’ve just skipped this whole season, like it’d originally planned, and played in the spring! Someone might’ve noticed!!

Bonus: Friends

After an intense weekend full of big feelings and sports injustices, let’s dial it down. Aight? Let’s bring everybody back into the circle. Aight. Everybody grab a hand.

We’re gonna sing one more verse.

Thanks for reading this newsletter. If you liked it, we think you’ll also like our ebook, The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA. Thousands of people have read it and told us they liked it, and its Goodreads rating is 4.55, which puts it well ahead of The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Hobbit.

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