10 Things We Learned This Weekend: The Big 12 and Big East are in trouble, Verlander is MVP, and George Lucas was right!

If you spent the weekend enjoying a double sunset on one of the moons of Kepler-16b, here’s what you missed:

1. I will probably be wrong about the survival of the Big 12.

Three weeks ago, I predicted that the Big 12 conference would survive. But yesterday the Austin American-Statesman reported on a plan to bring Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech into what would become the Pac-16 conference.

The plan involves dividing the league into 4 4-team divisions (presumably one with the Texas and Oklahoma schools, one with the Washington and Oregon schools, one with the California schools, and one with Utah, Colorado, and the Arizona schools). More importantly, the plan allows Texas to keep the Longhorn Network by turning it into one of the Pac-12 regional networks.

The Pac-16 is far from a done deal. There’s still a chance that Pac-12 presidents won’t approve the plan. But it could be hard for existing schools to turn down the addition of Texas television money and the potential to recruit more effectively in the Lone Star State.

2. The Big East, as a football conference, is in big trouble.

The Big East has spent the last 6 years trying to justify (not very successfully) its BCS automatic bid. Last year the conference added TCU to improve its football profile. And, before this weekend, it stood to gain its choice of Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State, and Baylor in the event of a Big 12 catastrophe.

Then Pitt and Syracuse decided to leave for the ACC. (And UConn is begging to join them.) Pitt and Syracuse aren’t exactly Miami and Virginia Tech, but their exit will leave the Big East with 7 football schools (8 if it decides to add Villanova when Nova makes the jump from the FCS), 4 of which were in Conference USA a decade ago.

Kansas, Missouri, and company may be better off keeping a version of the Big 12 alive—or hoping for an invitation from the Big Ten—than moving east and joining a dying conference. Perhaps they could even play the aggressor, and talk to West Virginia, Louisville, and TCU about forming a new league. Who knows?

3. The ACC has reaffirmed its identity as a basketball conference.

In 2004 and 2005 the ACC added Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College in hopes of becoming a football power conference. That never happened. Only Virginia Tech remained a relevant football power. Meanwhile, all three schools suddenly got much better at men’s basketball. While Pittsburgh and Syracuse both have rich football traditions (Dan Marino, Jim Brown, and so forth), both are currently basketball-first schools. By adding Syracuse and Pitt (and potentially UConn), the ACC likely will overtake the Big East as the best basketball conference (and, as Clay Travis pointed out, the ACC will own women’s lacrosse), but the league’s football product will not improve.

4. Cam Newton will break Peyton Manning’s rookie passing records.

In two games Cam Newton has thrown for a total of 854 yards. That’s more than Alex Smith, Donovan McNabb, and Matt Cassell combined. Newton is on pace to surpass the 3,739 yards that Peyton Manning threw for in 1998, an NFL record for rookies. Keep in mind that, despite Manning’s impressive stats, the 1998 Colts were 3-13.

5. The transitive property doesn’t apply to football.

If you have forgotten the transitive property, here is a refresher. The transitive property of equality says that, if a = b and b = c, then a = c. The transitive property of inequality says that, if a > b and b > c, then a > c; and, if a < b and b < c, then a < c.

This week the Tennessee Titans beat the Baltimore Ravens 26-13. Last week the Titans lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 16-14. By the transitive property, Jaguars > Titans and Titans > Ravens; therefore, Jaguars > Ravens. We can disprove the transitive property of football by saying that anyone who thinks the Jaguars—who lost to the Jets 32-3 on Sunday and boast a quarterback tandem of Luke McCown and Blaine Gabbert—are better than the Ravens (and, by extension, the Steelers, who lost 35-7 to the Ravens in week 1) is clinically insane.

6. Preseason and early season rankings are meaningless.

You should have known this already, but this truth has been especially obvious so far in the 2011 college football season. Auburn dropped from the rankings when the Tigers nearly lost to Utah State in week 1. But Auburn climbed back into the rankings after defeating Mississippi State—a ranked team. But Mississippi State has thus far done nothing to justify its preseason ranking; Auburn, for its part, gave up an early lead and got thumped by unranked Clemson Saturday.

Saturday morning, analysts were giving Boise State props for the Broncos’ 25-point take-down of Toledo, a team that had nearly beaten #17 Ohio State in the Horseshoe. Saturday afternoon, Ohio State showed, in a 24-6 loss to Miami (FL), that its top-20 ranking probably wasn’t justified. (I hope that people’s opinions of Boise State don’t suffer as a result.) Curiously, the coaches who vote in the USA Today poll gave Ohio State 92 votes and Miami only 39. Apparently preseason assumptions matter more than actual on-the-field results.

Notre Dame opened the season ranked #16 in the AP Poll and #18 in the coaches’ poll then lost to two unranked teams. Both of those teams (#18/#17 South Florida and #22/#21 Michigan) are now ranked, thanks largely to their upsets of Notre Dame. The Irish acquitted themselves this weekend by beating #15 Michigan State 31-13. State had ascended from its preseason #17 ranking to #15 after defeats of FCS Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic. The Spartans are now #23 according to the coaches and #26 according to the AP. (In both polls State received several times more votes than Notre Dame. Those wins over Youngstown State and FAU must have meant a lot to voters.)

College football is the only major sport in which polls help determine the national champion. But the polls are obviously flawed, largely because they rely so heavily on preseason assumptions. Even voters in the Harris Interactive Poll, which doesn’t come out until late September, are influenced by the late-summer assumptions of their colleagues. Alas, there is no way to prevent the AP, or any other media outlet, from releasing a preseason poll; so there’s really no use complaining about it.

7. Jay Cutler still dominates.

This has been established beyond a reasonable doubt. His teammates must have let him down against the Saints. I don’t know, I didn’t catch that game. (On a serious note, keep the Urlacher family in your prayers.) Cutler’s dominance has rubbed off on his alma mater. 3-0 Vandy, after consecutive wins over UConn and Ole Miss, this week received 8 votes in the AP Poll and 11 in the coaches’ poll.

8. Justin Verlander should be the AL MVP.

Verlander yesterday won his 12th straight game, improving his record to 24-5. Verlander is only the seventh pitcher since World War II to reach the arbitrary milestone of 24 wins and 240 strikeouts (and the first since Ron Guidry in 1978). It’s obvious that Verlander is more valuable to the Tigers than any other American League player is to his team. The only thing standing between him and a Most Valuable Player Award is anti-pitcher bias.

Luke Skywalker is real. Science says so.

9. George Lucas was right: It is possible for a planet to orbit two stars.

George Lucas hasn’t been right about much these days. But he deserves credit for introducing moviegoers to the idea that a planet could orbit two stars. Late last week astronomers announced the discovery of a planet that, like Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine, has two suns. Kepler-16b is a “Saturn-like world” that orbits two stars in a binary system.

10. iCarly may have jumped the shark.

If you watch Nickelodeon and Disney Channel as much as I do, you know that iCarly has long been the class of the tween sitcom genre. But the new season is off to a rough start. While I like the idea of a Sam-Freddie relationship, the execution has been poor. It just happened way too fast, with no build-up. Yes, Sam and Freddie kissed in Season 2. And Sam walked in on Freddie and Carly dancing and appeared to be jealous early in Season 3. But nothing has happened between then and now to make their current relationship seem believable.

Creator Dan Schneider also hasn’t figured out how to use Noah Munck, Gibby, as a full cast member. While I appreciate that Schneider hasn’t allowed Gibby to take over the show Steve Erkel-style, Gibby right now feels like a recurring character who makes way too many appearances. Schneider gave Gibby a major role in this weekend’s episode. But his reason for wanting to break-up Sam and Freddie wasn’t convincing, nor was his sudden change of heart.

My hope is that iCarly will get through this funk and return to tween sitcom dominance. But I’m not optimistic.

About Josh Tinley

Josh Tinley writes the Away From The Action column at Midwest Sports Fans, covering all aspects of sport aside from what actually happens on the field, court, or track. Josh grew up in Indianapolis and graduated from the University of Evansville and Vanderbilt Divinity School. He is the author of Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports and the managing editor of LinC, a weekly curriculum for teens that explores the intersection of faith and culture. Josh lives outside Nashville with his wife, Ashlee, and children, Meyer (7), Resha Kate (5), and Malachi (3). He will not allow himself to die before the Evansville Purple Aces make another trip to the NCAA Tournament. Follow him on Twitter @joshtinley or send him an e-mail.


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