We live in a college football land where Condoleeza Rice will help select a championship playoff field, and the kicker on a national championship-reigning team is considered a better player than dozens of quarterbacks -- 16 of which play for teams in the preseason Top 25.
We've come so far ...
Regardless, this isn't to take tired, easy shots at the College Football Playoff Selection Committee or to disparage Florida State's Roberto Aguayo, who is good at his craft and had no say in absurdly being included on ESPN.com's #cfbrank list of the 100 top football players.*
*An unimportant note: If you count, there are actually 102 names on the list thanks to a tie at the bottom. Moving on ...
Instead, it's worth a look at the list itself because, if the 32 writers and editors who voted are correct, then there are discussion pearls in here. I've highlighted a few talking points I found relative to local and semi-local interests, and I'm sure there are plenty more, like, say, how some guys weren't among the top five selections in ESPN's own staffers' conference breakdowns, but somehow graded top-five overall by the entire voting group (Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun). There are examples of the opposite being true as well (such as Tyler Lockett being ranked the second-best player in the Big 12 by Jake Trotter, and he's tied for 47th overall by the entire voting group. Say what?).
Here we go ...
- Florida State has 11 of the top 100 players in the nation. Considering the high degree of success recently, this seems reasonable enough, I suppose, until I reach the list's description, which states this ranking is "based on their expected contribution" metric. Contribution compared to what, exactly? As talented as the players are, it's hard for me to believe that two corners, a third defensive back, wide receiver, two offensive linemen, defensive end, tight end, Jameis Winston AND the kicker are all going to find enough time and opportunity to put up the kind of stats necessary to grade out as a Top 100 player.
Why are stats important here? Because there are plenty of good players on mediocre teams who will put up fantastic individual numbers -- numbers that would seem to fit neatly into a ranking system built on "expected contribution." If I'm one of those types of players and I account for 20 or 30-percent of my team's production, and/or I set records, I'm mystified how I don't make this list.
- Texas is vastly underrated. Talent has never been the issue in Austin. How's that for a bold and enlightening statement?
The list has four Longhorns among the top 100. Again, the "expected contribution" element muddles things, but having four players on this list immediately sticks out for a team picked fourth in its own conference and No. 21 in the USA Today poll.
Does first-year coach Charlie Strong have other issues to deal with on this team? Sure, he does. But, college football is such that having that amount of recognized elite talent should pay off; especially when one considers what the three teams picked ahead of Texas have -- Big 12 favorite Oklahoma (two players), Baylor (three players), Kansas State (one player).
- Debunked: The Big 12 has no talent. This false, horribly ugly baby was borne from two parents: 1) The Big 12 hasn't won a national title since 2006, and 2) A little dirty politicking from conferences constantly trying to one-up the others in a continued, weird power-pissing contest that has no real substantive grand-scheme meaning (unless you live in places where your rival poisons trees).
Five schools -- Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State and TCU -- provided 11 players in all, and I'm willing to concede that total number is fair, even if I think it's low (and, who says we can't think so if the rules are based on that vague "expected contribution" thing). It seems paltry compared to FSU's 11 by itself, but the overall averages say the Big 12 fared just fine -- sticking within a reasonable range of the Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC (which would be in dire straits without FSU's insane total).
SEC (14 teams): 30, 2.14/team
ACC (14 teams): 20, 1.43/team
Pac-12 (12 teams): 20 1.67/team
Big Ten (14 teams): 19, 1.36/team
Big 12 (10 teams): 11, 1.1/team*
*Remember when I said there were 102 names on the list? The two extras were from a mid-major (Utah St.) and Notre Dame. The rest were all from the Power 5 conferences. Interesting. I bet the 2015 draft doesn't reflect the impression that the top players only come from those conferences.
Does the Big 12 rank the lowest based on a straight count? Yes. Is it a barren wasteland in desperate need of high-level talent as some have proclaim? No. Keep an eye on this as ESPN.com updates its list moving forward, presumably adding productive players on winning teams, which could include OU, BU, K-State, Texas or another surprise team.
Which, lastly, brings me to ...
- Oklahoma State's absence means what, exactly? The Cowboys have had double-digit win totals three of the past four years and recruiting classes ranked in the top third of D-I every year since 2010. Yet, nobody from Mike Gundy's program made the Top 100 in a year where the Cowboys barely stayed in the top half of the Big 12's preseason rankings.
While everyone outside of Tuscaloosa is allowed a rebuild once in awhile, it still is a little surprising the Cowboys apparently are seemingly so thin as the program enters Gundy's 10th season and searches for its ninth-straight bowl appearance.
Okay, those are a few of my takeaways. What do you see?