Rankman's wrap: USC vs. UCLA, Alabama\Clemson cupcakes and Baker's Mine Field.

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Here’s what we know after ESPN sent its first team, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit, all the way across the country to cover the second-rate Pac 12.

Fowler thinks USC plays its fight song A LOT in the fourth quarter, while Herbie clearly gives UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen the nod over Sam Darnold as a ready-made NFL prospect.

It was nice to have ESPN, which doesn’t gas up many diesel trucks headed West, roll in for a visit. I used to get a kick when local papers would do a four-part series whenever Monday Night Football was coming in for a broadcast.

Friday: “Where does Don Meredith eat when he comes to town?”

Thank goodness Los Angeles doesn’t fawn like that because we’re a big city that is two-deep again with NFL teams and just advanced a baseball squad to the seventh game of the World Series.

At least this ESPN crew didn’t break out “cupcakes” to illustrate the weak schedules Pac 12 "contenders" often play out here.

Fowler and Herbie prepared well and a gave a pretty good rivalry game their two-half, divided attention.

Many of us locals were just happy to see Darnold vs. Rosen play each other at least once. There seemed a chance, when Rosen got knocked woozy at Washington a few weeks back, that the two stars would move on to the NFL without ever exchanging glances.

Rosen played two years ago, while Darnold was a redshirt, and Darnold played last year while Rosen was out with an injury.

It went as you might imagine. Darnold won the game, but Rosen won the praise. Darnold gutted out “winning” football, while Rosen tossed poetic passes for a program seemingly going nowhere.

Darnold has led his team to one victory from winning the Pac 12, but Rosen passed for 421 yards and three TDs on his way to the next level.

Also make no mistake: The Pac 12 and USC were not going to get the “announcers’” bounce most conferences and teams used to get when Brent Musburger was on the call.

Brent was brilliant at making the game he was doing the most stakes-filled game on Earth. Teams on his watch always got talked up four-to-five spots higher than their actual poll ranking, while no Heisman candidate EVER got left behind.

Fowler and Herbstreit offered no such favors or salutations. They played it honest and straight—something local fans never wants to hear.

Neither was overly impressed with USC’s 28-23 win because it came against the nation’s worst-ranked run defense.

The crew also made clear two-loss USC was, in no way, involved in the playoff discussion even if it ended up in a two-loss discussion with Ohio State, the school Herbstreit attended.

Fowler noted, late in the game, a Nate Silver poll gave USC a 25% chance of making the playoff.

That basically meant “zero” to Herbie and Fowler.

It was irritating, if not accurate.

November Cupcakes

Jacob Godek kicked a 30-yard field goal with 2:50 left on Saturday to spare poor, poor Citadel a 61-0 loss to Clemson.

That should take the cold, hard sting out of defeat, right?

Good for Jacob, though, who had made only 5 of 13 attempts entering the game. Cole Fisher had no such luck, as he missed his only attempt in Mercer’s 56-0 loss at Alabama.

Too bad. Think of the memories, for years to come, a 56-3 loss would have brought Fisher and his family.

All told, Alabama and Clemson won by the combined score of 117-3. The top two teams in last week’s College Football Playoff ranking, however, should not be proud of these outcomes—they should be embarrassed.

College football deserves better than this on the third Saturday in November. Scheduling FCS (formerly 1-AA) schools in the heat of a pennant race is a disservice to the sport, its fans, and competitive balance.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Alabama and Clemson have already had their bye weeks this season--they shouldn't get two. The Crimson Tide got to rest up a few weeks ago in advance of a key game against Louisiana State, while Clemson got a huge week off after a Friday night loss at Syracuse.

That bye was critical for Clemson as it allowed starting quarterback Kelly Bryant, knocked out of the Syracuse game, two weeks to recover for the team’s next game against Georgia Tech.

Bryant suffered a concussion and might not have played the next week, and Clemson might have very well suffered a second loss.

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Jacob Godek tallied the only Citadel points, on a late 30-yard FG, in a 61-3 loss at Clemson

Instead, the bye allowed Clemson to get a free pass, by the selection committee, for the Syracuse mishap. Bryant returned the next week and beat Georgia Tech, 24-10 and Clemson debuted at No. 4 in the first CFP ranking. It was like Syracuse never happened.

“Clemson’s one loss came when their quarterback had to leave the game,” committee chair Kirby Hocutt noted at the time. “He returned for their next game and was back at full speed.”

That’s fine--Clemson caught a break.

But why do Alabama and Clemson deserve a second bye, essentially, this late in the season, while all the other contenders are out there playing major-level competition?

I’m Ok with playing cupcakes early, if you must, while young teams and opinions are being formed.

I’m even Ok with Auburn playing Mercer this season, on Sept. 16. Auburn was coming off a tough loss against Clemson and was still finding its way with new quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

That left Mercer coach Bobby Lamb in the unique position, having faced both teams, to handicap next week’s Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn.

Except it’s a dumb comparison, as Lamb duly noted.

“I don’t really think Auburn had found themselves yet,” Lamb told the Anniston Star. “They were kind of spinning. They didn’t know which way they were going.”

Auburn has stopped spinning and found its way back into the four-team playoff picture.

Contending teams in mid-November are, aside from injuries, fully formed.

Alabama and Clemson learn nothing from playing body-bag games this time of year. They are strictly money-making events and a chance to rest starters in advance of key rivalry games. Alabama plays at Auburn next week; Clemson plays at South Carolina.

College football is never going to be fair. Schools with traditions, especially in densely-populated urban areas, are always going to have recruiting advantages.

The state of Oregon, for example, only produces 10 FBS-level players a year.

The SEC plays eight league games, in a 14-team league, while the four other Power 5 leagues play nine-game schedules. Cry about that all you want.

College football can, however, be fairer. The selection committee should go out of its way, when it can, to hammer schools that play 1-AA schools in November.

Anyone with a brain knows Alabama and Clemson are championship-worthy teams this year. But that doesn’t make what happened Saturday--beating two hapless schools by 114 points, right or respectable.

It should be noted three schools—USC, UCLA and Notre Dame—have never scheduled a FCS or 1-AA school. Not in August, September, October, November or December.

USC's yearly non-conference schedule, no doubt, puts it at a competitive disadvantage. Notre Dame hasn't won it all since 1988, but the Irish also haven't dodged anyone in 100 years. You won't find the t-shirt: "Catholics vs. 1-AA Presbyterian".

UCLA hasn’t claimed a share of a national title since 1954 but has always maintained its schedule dignity.

NO BAKER, DON'T STRIKE THAT POSE

Bakerpose

Sometimes, in a Heisman race, you just have to hold your nose and vote.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is probably going to win this year’s coveted trophy despite displaying boorish behavior.

Hey, we’ve been through this before with Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston.

The Heisman Trophy is supposed to represent character and sportsmanship—but doesn’t always live up to it.

Mayfield entered the season as a hot-headed contender despite an off-season arrest in which he was chased down by a cop in Fayetteville.

Then the season started. Mayfield has so far planted the Oklahoma flag on Ohio State’s field and insulted Baylor players with a taunt “You forgot who Daddy is, I’m going to have to spank you today.”

He lowered his own bar Saturday during a wipeout win at Kansas. After a third-quarter touchdown, Mayfield could be seen on camera grabbing his nut sack while mouthing “F-you” to the Kansas sideline.

Mayfield was obviously still miffed that Kansas players refused to shake his hand during the pregame coin flip. Mayfield had some harmless fun with Kansas fans during the game, noting this might be a good time to gear up for the basketball season. But what Mayfield did later, grabbing his crotch while screaming the F-word, is not acceptable.

Don’t worry, though. All of Mayfield’s flaws will be scrubbed and polished by ESPN's editing team during the Heisman ceremony show.

They turned Manziel into an altar boy and Winston into a Peace Corps volunteer. Maybe, during the broadcast, they'll only film Mayfield above the waist.

I can’t wait. On second thought--yes I can.

(Update): Mayfield apologized after the Kansas game for his actions: : "I am a competitive player but what I did is unacceptable," he said. "So I apologize. It's disrespectful and not the example I want to set and it's not the legacy I want to leave at OU."

Mayfield is a great player who also apologizes a lot. Let's hope this is the last one. Remember, in less than a month, he could be holding the Heisman Trophy. [/membership]

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