Rankman's 2017 "skinny reveal" national college football preview

Reviewing a frenetic off season while singing bible hymns with Hugh Freeze:


Just a closer walk with thee, Michael Oher he can't save me. Houston Nutt is man guilty, oh Lord, please dial my cell for me.

Man of God, or fraud?

Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops unexpectedly retired and handed the Cadillac keys to a new-car smell Lincoln (Riley), who is now trying to become the youngest coach to win a national title with the championship-material roster he inherited. If Riley can't handle it, Phil Jackson said he can take it from here.

Barry Switzer, also, if he can fit into his old spandex coaching shorts, says he's got one more cattle drive in him.

"I don't want to seem like I'm just trying to be Bob Stoops 2.0," Riley, 33, said this summer.

He wouldn't mind being Stoops 2000, the year Bob won his only title in Norman.

The NCAA killed two-a-day practices. That's right, the same year Frank Kush died. Channeling Kush here "what a bunch of cream-puffed, yogurt-eating pansies. Next thing you know they'll be cutting out salt tablets." Kush is the former Arizona State coach who staged "three-a-days" and once turned his watch back three hours just to start practice over. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

O.J. Simpson won early release from prison for good behavior, telling the parole board he has basically lived a "conflict-free life." Just like John Dillinger and Justin Bieber. Simpson won’t be invited to USC practices, however, because Pete Carroll now coaches in Seattle. Reggie Bush, who gave USC five years of hard NCAA time, also won’t be invited to Trojan practices. Only one of these Heisman Trophy winners was ever wanted by the law but, in the end, neither was wanted by the Buffalo Bills.

Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher declared the Atlantic Coast Conference had surpassed the Southeastern as the nation’s best football league.

The SEC agreed, in part, conceding March, April, May, June and the second week in July.

Ohio State, word has it, is completely over last year’s College Football Playoff semifinal drubbing by Clemson.

“That ship has sailed, it’s gone," Rear Admiral Urban Meyer reported from the wheel house at Big Ten media days. “And we’re not addressing it.”

Iron horse announcer Brent Musburger retired to run a gambling operation in Las Vegas—gee, what were the odds on that?

And Saturday on CBS won’t be the same without venerable Verne Lundquist, who was to SEC promotion what Bear Bryant was to Golden Flake snacks.

Jim Harbaugh took Michigan on a European trip and lost more starters than any team in the nation. Wait, that’s not quite right. Harbaugh lost the starters before the field trip to Rome. The highlight was a religious, convivial experience in Vatican City with Rick Steves, who presented Michigan’s coach with a book: “Big Ten through the back door.”

Two Big 12 powers—Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder and Baylor—return to the sidelines after battles with cancers. Our five-year remission money is squarely on Snyder.

Two off-season words that blind-sided some of us were “moral turpitude,” the phrase used in Oxford to describe the questionable behavior of Mississippi Coach Hugh Freeze, a guy many of us thought was a phony hiding behind beatitudes so he could cheat at recruiting.

And then came this thunderbolt: Thou shalt not coach no more at Ole Miss.

Freeze chose resignation over ouster after the school discovered a troubling pattern of phone calls along with last year’s SEC West standings. Meanwhile, the NCAA has operators standing by, ready to throw the book of Revelations at the Rebels, for any number of seemingly legitimate reasons.

The Waffle House grease fire turned to stop, drop and roll after former coach Houston Nutt alleged Freeze used a secret smear campaign to blame some of the infractions on him.

There was no better, in-house cat-fight this summer outside of the White House communications office.

There was a lot of fiddling and meddling with things. The NCAA altered the early-signing rules (snore), while the Pac 12 announced it will experiment to reduce game lengths by cutting halftime from 20, to 15, minutes.

If you do the math on this, lopping five minutes off means conference games could now end at 2:55 a.m. in New Haven instead of 3 a.m. That should help increase exposure to the biased east coast.

One of the problems in cutting halftime, seriously, was explaining it to the marching band directors.

“That’s been part of the discussion,” Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott explained to me at media day last week.

Here are some ideas being tossed around:

--USC shortens “Conquest” to “Temporary Military Occupation.”

--UCLA drops three claps from “Eight Clap.”

--Stanford Band chops “potato famine” opus ode to Notre Dame for a cryptic, death-bed homage to George Gipp.

Meanwhile, as the Pac 12 works to shorten games, the practice season got longer.

The NCAA’s decision to do away with two-a-day practices, but keeping the number of practices at 29, means schools are starting the season in July.

This is not going over well with Chris Petersen’s tan.

“I think it’s bad it’s bad we’re bringing our guys in earlier now to have less time off,” the Washington coach said.

As if Petersen needs more practice days for his non-conference schedule—Rutgers, Montana, Fresno State.

Enough of that, let’s move to the “on-season.”

This could be the best opening ever with games like Florida v. Michigan, LSU v. BYU, and Texas A&M at UCLA.

The showstopper is Alabama vs. Florida State, a jump-start match up of two heavy-hitter national title contenders.

Ready for it?

“Well, I scheduled it,” Fisher said, “so I’d better be ready for it.”

These are the kind of pairings that make college football what it is: a start-to-finish scavenger hunt--the "Amazing Race" with helmets.

Check out the weekend of Sept. 9: Georgia at Notre Dame, Auburn at Clemson, Oklahoma at Ohio State, TCU at Arkansas.

The beleaguered Big 12 should get a boost this year with the return of a conference title game. The 10-team league will not split into divisions but rather match the top two finishers for the title.

This will provide a quality data point entry for the only conference that plays a true round-robin format.

Part of the problem with expansion and divisions is it created key regular-season schedule misses.

These schools will NOT be playing this year:

ACC: Clemson-Miami

Big Ten: Michigan-Nebraska, Michigan-Northwestern, Michigan-Iowa, Ohio State-Nebraska, Wisconsin-Ohio State.

Pac 12: USC-Washington, USC-Oregon, Stanford-Colorado.

SEC: Florida-Alabama, Florida-Auburn, Georgia-Alabama, Georgia-LSU, Tennessee-Auburn.

As camp moves on, follow the bouncing quarterback transfers. This important get-out-of-jail card could be the difference in a team’s fortunes…or not.

Malik Zaire (Notre Dame to Florida), Brandon Harris (LSU to North Carolina), Will Grier (Florida to West Virginia), Jarret Stidham (Baylor to Auburn), Max Browne (USC to Pitt).

Zaire and Stidham, added to a league with unusual quarterback strength this year, could mean the difference between a good bowl and maybe the national title (especially for Auburn).

So, let’s sit back, buckle down and get ready for an exciting ride. The season culminates with the national title in Atlanta.

The contenders are, you know, the usual suspects: Florida State, Alabama, USC, Oklahoma, Ohio State. We know there are liars out there, but what about outliers?

This is only a table setter...the first course. Things always change. Teams you thought would be good last year (Oregon, Notre Dame) can go bust. And teams picked to finish last in the Pac 12 South (Colorado) can sometimes win it.

The smart bet, though, is always Alabama. Call Brent Musburger in Las Vegas. He'll set you straight.