Let's not quibble. College football is a multibillion-dollar business and it looks and acts like a business. So, how do teams keep winning in a grind-it-out environment?
Andy Grove, who started Intel, had a favorite saying: "Only the paranoid survive." The more success you have in business, the more others want a chunk of it. If you don't watch out and plan ahead, then your business will be sold, absorbed or eliminated with a "here lies" epitaph.
|How does South Florida coach Jim Leavitt attract speedy in-state recruits? Running a spread offense helps. (Getty Images)|
That exact point at which the line begins to move upward is the "inflection" point. We're at that juncture in college football.
The "upsets" we're seeing in college football now aren't upsets. This isn't a cycle. It is a sea change, the rise of once-unknowns, the invisible, and the decline and fall of the big dogs that once ruled with an iron hand.
Consider the following: Only half of the AP's current top 10 were ranked in the preseason. Top-ranked Ohio State started 11th; No. 4 Oklahoma was 10th; No. 5 LSU was second; No. 9 West Virginia was fifth; and No. 10 Cal started 13th.
Second-ranked South Florida, No. 3 Boston College, No. 6 South Carolina, No. 7 Oregon and eighth-ranked Kentucky started the season out of the Top 25.
Of the seven remaining unbeaten teams in the Bowl Subdivision (I-A), only one of them -- Ohio State -- has ever played in a BCS bowl game. LSU, West Virginia and Oklahoma are the only preseason top 10 teams currently in the top 10, and they have one loss apiece -- Oklahoma to unranked Colorado, West Virginia to South Florida and LSU to Kentucky.
No highly ranked team seems to be safe in this season of surprises. It started with Appalachian State knocking off then-No. 5 Michigan in Week 1. In the past two weeks, nine teams ranked in the top 10 have lost, including No. 2 USC falling 24-23 to Stanford. In addition to LSU's loss on Saturday, No. 2 California lost to unranked Oregon State 31-28. This marked the first time the top two teams lost on the same day since Sept. 21, 1996, when No. 1 Nebraska lost 19-0 at Arizona State and No. 2 Tennessee fell 35-29 to Florida.
Football, like life and business, is chock full of irony.
Thirteen years ago, South Florida's program didn't exist. Now it's ranked No. 2 and unbeaten after six games. I heard a commentator refer to USF as "small." (It has 45,000 students and an annual budget of $1.6 billion.) Kansas, known for its wheat fields and being a football slacker, is 6-0. Eighth-ranked Kentucky was an SEC doormat until Rich Brooks started rebuilding the program.
This isn't your run-of-the-mill, topsy-turvy, in-and-out results. What will it take to compete and survive in this cauldron of confusion?
Coaches are the CEOs of football. When the profits go down the tubes, the top guy takes the hit. So, football coaches are like politicians. Fans, media and the powers that be want to know "what have you done for me lately?"