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A tuneful analysis of the state of college football.
"We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" - Taylor Swift
Swift's teen ballad goes out to all of Division I, where conference realignment has caused no end of hurt feelings as seemingly every conference has been flirting with members of the opposition. Earlier this season, the Big East shored up its dwindling membership by raiding Conference USA for Memphis, Houston, Central Florida and SMU followed by Tulane and East Carolina last week. Last month, the Big Ten plucked Maryland from the ACC and, a day later, Rutgers from the Big East. The ACC retaliated by seducing the Louisville Cardinals from the Big East (effective 2014), leaving the old conference maps in utter disarray.
The swelling ranks of the big conferences have also forced the also-rans to cast about wildly for dates to the dance, resulting in mishmash conferences like Conference USA. C-USA, while never a logical combination of schools in the past, better resembles a dartboard than a cohesive group now that it will include Charlotte, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Old Dominion and UT-San Antonio.
For those of you unfamiliar with UT-SA, here is a brief background: the program debuted in August 2010 and accepted an invite to the WAC effective for the 2012 season, with the Roadrunners spending their inaugural season in 2011 playing as an independent in the FCS (i.e. Division I-AA).
The WAC promptly died, leaving the 'Runners temporarily homeless before being accepted by Conference USA beginning in 2013. San Antonio is still a "transitional" FBS team, however, and won't be eligible for bowl games until 2014, putting the over/under on the Roadrunners' first bowl game at 2023.)
Meanwhile, the Sun Belt (generally regarded as the weakest FBS conference) is looking at New Mexico State, Idaho and Georgia Southern to replace Middle Tennessee State and Florida Atlantic, who will be moving to Conference USA, bringing it to 14 teams.
Western Kentucky may also leave the Sun Belt for Conference USA to join rival MTSU, whom the Hilltoppers have played as both a member of the Ohio Valley Conference and the Sun Belt. Apart from sharing the same conference, the exact locations of both schools remain a mystery to those outside of western Kentucky and central Tennessee, making them natural rivals.
Somewhat like the ladies still standing at last call, Idaho and New Mexico State look that much more attractive to conferences casting around for members because both are immediately eligible now that the WAC has disintegrated. Both schools have investigated playing the field by remaining independent next year but this seems like a thin ploy to entice the best offer from the available suitors. We have a hard time believing that if Conference USA came calling with its $2 million to $3 million in TV revenue for member schools, or even the Sun Belt with $1 million, that either team would turn down an offer. Are the Vandals or Aggies in any position to play hard to get? We say no.
While the smaller conferences can dangle a few million dollars, the big leagues play in, well, another league. To take just one example, the ACC instituted a $50 million exit fee to dissuade member schools from fooling around with other conferences, and if that doesn't keep teams at home, the ACC can point to the revenues generated by the new 15-year television deal worth $257 million - about $17 million per team per year.
Incidentally, if you would like a complete update on what the conferences will look like in 2013 and beyond, Jerry Hinnen's recap for CBSSports.com would be a good start, although we think it is already out of date.
"Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" - Motley Crue
This Gen X breakup classic is dedicated to former Southern Miss head coach Ellis Johnson. Southern Miss was so desperate to rid itself of Johnson  that they sold a 2013 home game to Nebraska, moving the game to Lincoln in return for $2,125,000. The payday neatly covers Johnson's$2 million buyout clause, leaving just enough to gas up the team bus for the 16-hour schlep to the Cornhusker State.
UPDATE: Johnson, never one to sit around on millions of dollars of unearned cash, has accepted a job at Auburn as the defensive coordinator under new head coach Gus Malzahn. As of press time, the College Football Report couldn't confirm rumors that Johnson has retained the pop-rock stars Train to reprise their 2012 hit "50 Ways to Say Goodbye" in a song dedicated to Southern Miss: "Two Million Ways to Say Peace Out Bitches."
"Gangnam Style" - Psy
We would send this out to someone, something, some event, or some team, but we don't know what Gangnam Style means. The song feels like an inexplicable pop culture phenomenon a la MC Hammer's "Too Legit to Quit" in the early 1990s. Does anyone understand why it caught on? Not really. Will every celebrity filmed doing the Gangnam Style dance feel ridiculous 10 (two?) years from now? Yes. Has the Gangnam sensation already flamed out? Yes.
In that vein, the Michigan Wolverines may merit the Gangnam Team of the Year. Looking back, no one understands why Michigan was so popular. In the first four games of the season, Michigan (#8, preseason AP Top 25, including vote for #1) lost to Alabama by 27 points and committed six turnovers in an ugly loss to Notre Dame. Quarterback Denard "Shoelaces" Robinson attracted some preseason Heisman hype and followed it up by throwing eight INTs in September. Michigan apologists will cite Robinson's midseason injury as the cause behind the Wolverine's disappointing year, but in truth the 2012 season was over early. A better song for Robinson and company this year may be Elton John's "Candle in the Wind".
"Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepsen
Manti Te'o? Johnny Manziel? Who will get the call on Saturday night? Our money is on Manti in a narrow win.
"Whistle" - Flo Rida
We are unapologetic Flo Rida fans. The man is a genius. He has released 39 songs, 10 of which have peaked at #1 on the charts. His maddeningly catchy single "Right Round," from his sophomore album R.O.O.Ts., sold 636,000 downloads in its first week, breaking the previous record set by his own "Low," and went on to become the fastest single to hit 1 million digital sales. What we like most about Flo (can we call you Flo, Flo?), however, is his sense of fun. He doesn't waste time with angst. He just wants hot girls to blow his whistle.
Speaking of whistle-blowing (hey now!), this is for you, UCLA. The Bruins led the NCAA in penalties (241) and total penalty yards (2,417) in 2012. For sake of comparison, the Washington Huskies finished a distant second (207) in total penalties and Louisiana Tech (at second place with a healthy 2,012 yards) trailed UCLA by four football fields in penalty yardage. Yet somehow rookie head coach Jim Mora tallied nine wins while accruing more than a mile in penalty yardage. No wonder Mora has been the subject of so much speculation on the interwebs. Imagine what he could do at Tennessee if he were to just give up a thousand fewer yards in penalties!
"Don't Wake Me Up" - Chris Brown
Our wish for Northern Illinois: don't wake up before the end of your dream season.
"Clique" - Kanye West, Jay-Z, Big Sean (NSFW)
To the SEC, the in-crowd everyone wants to join. Not only does the Southeastern Conference win, including yet another BCS championship if Vegas is to be believed, but SEC teams take home some pretty sweet swag from bowl games too.
"Too Close" - Alex Clare
To: Alex Clare
Subject: Bowl schedule
Thank you for summing up our thoughts about the impending bowl season. We can't believe it's only a week away! This is where we would say something like "OMG!" but we are adults.
That is, assuming we consider the pair of upcoming games next Saturday as actual bowl games. With all due respect to the Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Nevada vs. Arizona, current line: Arizona -9.5) and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Toledo vs. Utah State, current line: Utah St. -10), we won't get to the meat of the bowl season until late December.
The first few weeks are more like a mountain of delicious crispy spiral-cut russet potato chips, not to be confused with the Potato Twisters at Applebees, which, while tasty, could never last a few weeks . . . although they are served with spicy Queso Blanco and freshly-made pico de gallo, so they have that going for them, which is nice.
The College Football Report
The CFR FRC
To celebrate the end of the regular season, the Free Range Chicken is making the annual (or possibly Inaugural, we haven't checked the record books) two-team tease this weekend:
Wofford at North Dakota State (from -16.5 down to -13.5), 3 p.m. and Illinois State at Eastern Washington (from -5 down to -2), 6 p.m.
The Beachwood Sports Seal
The Seal will stake a portion of his Christmas bonus on the Midshipmen over the Black Knights in the lone Division I game on the final Saturday of the 2012 season. (Provided the book takes action in herring, that is.) Go Navy! Beat Army!
Navy (-7) at Army, 3 p.m.
Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.