Mike Kays

Mike Kays, Phoenix Sports Editor

READER NOTE: The original version of this coliumn was written and filed Thursday prior to the announcement that the Sun Belt Conference title game was being canceled. It has since been revised to acknowledge that.

Well, while Oklahoma made it through high school football season to crown legitimate champions in eight classifications with Saturday’s final two contests, the “next level” as high school players aspire to be a part of, is again making us wonder what makes us call these collections “institutions of higher learning.”

First, the handling of the virus.

It appears pretty consistent from coast to coast that colleges which took care to test and exercise caution canceled games at a rate similar to that of our own Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association. Furthermore, they did so harboring fewer fans percentage wise than the high schools did hosting games.

Some colleges were attended only by cardboard cutouts posing as fans.

Many colleges did the same dance of balancing distance learning with in-class instruction and yet, both found themselves wondering weekly what their roster would look like come the weekend.

The clock-punching pros wondered that weekly as well. 

In September, when the weather and numbers of afflicted was so much more favorable, multiple conferences weren’t playing.

None of this is normal.

But now, thanks to the learned, we’re back to normal, the politics and inconsistent logic of the College Football Playoff committee.

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco called the College Football Playoff selection committee’s decision to drop Cincinnati to No. 8 in its latest rankings “indefensible.”

The 13-member selection committee on Tuesday elected to replace the 8-0 Bearcats with 8-2 Iowa State at No. 7. Cincy was lodged in the No. 7 slot in the previous three playoff rankings.

No team outside of the Power Five conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) and independent Notre Dame has received a top-four ranking to be eligible for the playoff since the format was introduced in 2014.

Hey Mike, good for you, but don’t assume that even in a perfect world, the AAC would get a deserved break.

Consider the plight of the Sun Belt Conference. 

Never before had the 20-year-old Group of Five league beaten three Power Five opponents on the same day like it did in mid-September. Louisiana rallied from down two touchdowns to win at then-No. 18 Iowa State. Kansas lost at home for the second straight year to Coastal Carolina, and Arkansas State beat Kansas State in the final minute.

All of this to the same conference that handed OU two losses — Iowa State and Kansas State.  

OK, sure, Coastal Carolina’s win over hardly mighty KU draws little more than a yawn in and of itself. But the Chanticleers’ 11-0 mark heading into the weekend includes a three-point win over then No. 21 Louisiana, a week after beating Arkansas State by four touchdowns.

Most recently, the Coastals invited No. 13 BYU to fill a free schedule slot in less than 48 hours until kickoff and won the Mullets vs. Mormons showdown in arguably the best college football game of the year, 22-17 in a game that BYU lost on the last play, literally by a yard or so.

CCU was to play Louisiana in a rematch today for the Sun Belt crown. Louisiana still has one loss. It’s No. 12 versus No. 19. Except -- it got canceled due to COVID, just like Ohio State's qualifying game.

Cincinnati’s crowning achievement so far? Beating 16th-ranked SMU in October. They do match Coastal Carolina for wins against top 25 teams going into tonight’s matchup against Tulsa — of which, however,  I think will be their first loss.

But Aresco has a point, speaking for the Cincys and the Coastals and the Tulsas and such.

Ohio State needs to beat Northwestern today to go to 6-0 on the year. That’s the halfway point of a typical schedule, but when the SEC, ACC and Big 12 courageously pushed ahead with a legitimate football schedule this fall, the Big Ten along with the Pac-12, Mountain West and Mid-American Conference all decided to recreate the definition of spring football.

If the Buckeyes are allowed in the playoff with a conference title, they should give the their hardware to President Trump — who played a role in encouraging the conference to buck people like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, one of the more strong-armed state leaders taking aim and shame against people trying to find a way to live normal lives in the pandemic. 

Likely unable to do it on the field, Michigan tried to thwart their arch-rival by withdrawing from their Dec. 12 game due to quarantined players — that decision put Ohio State below the conference’s number of required games to play in order to qualify for the conference title game.

But as the Big Ten showed, what’s a rule when a cash payout for making the playoff is at stake?

Fact is, they were late to the game. So let the Big Ten and Pac-12 go play their champs in a Rose Bowl 2.0, or as predicted since the Rose is slated to be part of the semifinal picture, the Fiesta.

Sooner fans, yes, OU may well be the hottest team at this point of the year than anyone. But all the games do count, and the early part of your journey wasn’t pretty for you. Not even a win over a team strapped by the Sun Belt makes that any different.

Alabama, well, as usual, they’re Alabama.

Clemson will get to prove today how much they missed COVID-inflicted QB sensation Trevor Lawrence in its 47-40 double-overtime loss to Notre Dame. If not, the Irish will get to prove that it wasn’t a fluke.

So long as Bama dusts the floor with the Gators today, the Tide is in. Put the ACC winner in, and maybe the Irish if they’re close to Clemson today.

The other spot? Cincinnati has an argument. Coastal Carolina has a bigger argument. Southern Cal? An unbeaten Pac-12 champ also gets a tardy slip and sent to the office.

Sadly, the reality of these outcomes will probably still be a mix of the Power 5, sadly, no matter how loud Terry Mohajir, the Arkansas State athletic director and member of the selection committee and Sun Belt contingent, yells.

But he knows, like Aresco knows. The system is rigged.

Soon, and real soon, the playoff needs to expand to eight teams. Put in five Power 5 conference champions, and at least the highest ranked Group of 5 conference champion. Then, if it is part of the last Top 25 of both AP and Amway Coaches poll, add another Group of 5 champ. The remaining spot would go to the Power 5 wildcard, with a second one going their way if no other Group of 5 champ is ranked in the top 25.

But let’s not get greedy.

To ask for a 16-team playoff is like asking your spouse for a car for Christmas when you’ve been lining up for for free food, broke and jobless in a pandemic.

This committee hasn’t missed a check, but once again, they’re missing the point: The system is rigged and intentionally so.

And in a COVID-crazy year, they’re missing a chance to give America something different.

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