5-at-10: College football suggestions, Shohei the money, USFL draft thoughts

Staff file photo by Matt Hamilton / Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker


College football changes

So, college football is looking at rules changes in an effort to primarily speed up games.

My first question is, "Why?" With the possible exception of the 3:30 CBS game, which either hits the 4-hour plateau or flirts with the 240-minute mark, has anyone every pondered, "Man, I really love college football, I wish there were less plays and we spent less time watching it, you know?"

My second question is "Why now?" Part of the explanation of the proposed changes is to limit players' exposure.

Side question: Ever noticed that when football wants to change something they always open the 'players safety' umbrella? Yeah me too.

Players safety is the ubiquitous controlling refrain, right there is the halls of "You'll shoot your eye out" when kids ask about BB guns and "Don't swim until 30 minutes after you've eaten" as a rock-solid, unassailable talking point.

But, let's suppose for a second that if players safety was at issue, then why does every Coach, Dick and Harry immediately look at his lamented play card when every red-blooded American with two eyes and football IQ over 75 knows that his RB was just concussed?

America will wait on your response.

Now let's suppose also that the folks that run major college sports in general and major college football in particular are trying every possible way to squeeze every possible dollar out of their product.

So, again, let's suppose that college football's plan to tighten game times may have something to do with the product for consumers, both at home and in person. Hmmmmmm. Crazy I know.

College games in person can slow down. Painfully at times.

Here are the suggested rule changes under review, according to Ross Dellenger's Twitter feed:

-- Prohibiting consecutive timeouts (i.e. icing kicks).

-- No untimed down at end of 1Q/3Q.

-- Clock runs after 1st downs except inside of 2 mins in a half.

-- Clocks runs on incompletions once ball is spotted.

Looking at the line items, this should be like a 15-second conversation.

Icing the kicker? Fine. Approved.

No untimed downs? Fine. Like that matters.

As for the changes in the clock procedures, well, I think that gives college football an edge over the way NFL teams approach 'five-minute offenses' late in each half.

Big-picture, I understand the thought process, but man, how refreshing would it be for any leadership group to come out and be transparent with its motives and its path.

Rather than "player exposure" -- something the college football powers that be poo-pooed when Nick Saban made a similar suggestion a decade ago in terms of pace and number of plays -- why not just walk to the mic, clear your throat, and drop this.

"Thanks for coming to this news conference, Joe Scribe, Jane Reporter and the rest of the trusted and respected members of the media."

(Editor's note here: No one behind the microphone really trusts or respects Joe or Jane or Jay or Spy or the rest of us. But offering the flag of friendship -- and pulling a Mickleson, who has become the best in sports at using a reporter's first name, which makes the reporter feel cool and treat insider-traders like Philly Mick with kid golf gloves -- is always a good start.)

"We love college football, and I mean all of us. It's America's No. 2 most-popular sports choice on a weekly basis, behind only the mighty NFL.

"We do not take that love for granted and are trying to find ways to make the game we love better for the fans, the future and the financial partners that depend on it. Partners like our TV broadcasters, and partners like the rest of the sports and things on campus that count on the overflowing millions that convey our love for this grand ol' game.

"With that, we are looking move game lengths closer to that 3-hour, 3:15 window. Our goal in this is to add an extra broadcast window for our partners -- think GameDay starting at 11:30, and rolling into the night on quicker and tiger windows -- and to make the game-experience for in-person fans as action-packed as possible.

"Rather than changing some hinky rule or using the player safety parasol, we will tighten commercials and encourage our TV partners that the money will be made up and revenue actually increased with an extra window of games to show and the increased fees that can be charged by the ever-growing popularity of this great game.

"I was full prepared to take questions, but Joe, Jane and everyone if you will excuse me, I have been told there is an orphanage in town that has caught on fire and I must run there carrying abucket of water to do my civic and rightful best to be of service.

"God bless you all and God bless college football."

Bank breaker

We all watched as Dansby Swanson and Aaron Judge bet on themselves and turned career seasons in 2022 into monster contracts.

It was part of a 2022 free agency cycle -- Swanson left the A-T-L for the Cubs; Judge rode his historic '22 into high nine figures to stay with the Yankees -- that has now caused MLB owners to form an 'economic reform committee,' whatever the heck that is.

Not sure what the exact form the ERC would take, but it's an attempt by the other owners to prevent these monster billionaires like Mets poohbah Steve Cohen from coming in and overpaying for every shiny star on the market.

Good luck with that owners, because the MLBPA would rather cancel baseball for the foreseeable future than agree to an NFL-like salary cap when the current collectively bargained agreement expires after the 2026 season..

And the timing of this may feel apropos after the record-setting free agent spending of the last cycle.

But neither Swanson or Judge has anything on the potential windfall that Shohei Ohtani could see this time next year.

We're talking about a $500 million contract if he can stay healthy and come close to matching his stats of his five years in the bigs. Over 162 games, Ohtani is slashing .267/.354/.532 and averages 34 homers, 98 RBIs, 93 runs and 19 steals. On the mound over 162 splits, Ohtani is 15-8 with a 2.96 ERA and averaging 238 Ks over 189 innings in that sample size.

That's a 3 hitter and no worse than a No. 2 starter by every measure in the same player, so $500 million may be low.

Break out those checkbooks gang.

Say what?

So I was Yesterday Days Old when I learned the USFL will have a draft of college players later today.

I love the draft. You know this.

I also love this move for the USFL, which is not fighting the NFL or even major college football for the scraps from Sports Fans' tables.

The USFL and the XFL are spring football leagues entering the Thunderdome of public appeal.

Two leagues enter, one league leaves.

And to schedule a draft two days after the XFL's opening weekend is smart.

Because think of the possibilities.

The order is relatively meaningless I suppose, but Michigan picks first, and according to the Detroit Free Press, the Panthers are promising to pick local players.

Makes fine sense.

But, again, think of the possibilities, because while USFL players are capped at a maximum of a smidge north of $60,000 -- and that's with a championship bonus -- it's not like Michigan can walk to the podium and hand over the card "Bryce Young, QB, Alabama" you know?

But wouldn't you want to be creative here?

For instance, shouldn't the league encourage teams to think big, especially in the first round, and find ways to potentially add names we know and players who may or may not have an NFL future.

What if Michigan walked to the stage and selected Stetson Bennett No. 1 overall?

Do I think Stetson will get an NFL chance? Yes, I do. But he would be the face of the USFL, right? And if he took the pitiful Panthers anywhere in his one season of the USFL, it certainly would silence the "Yeah, but anyone could have won as QB1 with those last two Georgia teams" critics.

(Side question: Plus, Stetson really only needs about five years of gainful employment and then his Social Security kicks in, right? Morning, Bearddawg.)

Imagine then at No. 7 Birmingham selected Cam Newton, who currently does not have a team. Yes, you would have to gauge his interest first, but think if the Son of a Preacher Man wanted one more season in the sun. I'd watch that.

Someone get Mel Kiper on the blower. I need a full USFL mock draft STAT. (Or at least before it starts today at 1 p.m. That should be on ESPN the Ocho, with Cotton and Pepper.)

This and that

— OK, gang, the talented folks here at the TFP promotion department have another set of tickets to give away. This time, they are offering seats for Thursday’s visit to Knoxville from the top-ranked South Carolina women’s team. Should be a barn burner, and for the love of Pat Summitt, the environment could be a ton of fun. Here’s the link to sign up and good luck friends.

— Speaking of drafts and QBs -- yes, I love the draft; you know this -- Kentucky's Will Levis has been the fastest-rising prospect on the looming draft boards in the eyes of gamblers. Yes, Bryce Young is still the betting favorite to go No. 1 overall at minus-120 (bet $120 to win $100), but Levis has been one of the most popular bets being made by gamblers. The former UK standout's odds have dropped from 10-to-1 (bet $100, win $1,000) to plus-750.

—  We frequently discuss headlines that do a great job of turning heads, well add this one into the team picture: "Incredibly intelligent, highly elusive' -- US faces new threat from Candian 'super pig.' Oh my.

—  Keith Mitchell's torrid start to the season has him all the way up to 44th in the World Golf Rankings. In his last seven starts, Keith has three top-10s and six made cuts. The first thing all golf fans will recognize is players in the top-50 in the OWGR heading into the Masters will get an invite to play at Augusta National. Extending this streak and adding a win somewhere along the way makes the phrase, "Keith Mitchell, Ryder Cup candidate" a very real possibility later this summer too.

— Jim Bob Cooter has been named the OC in Indianapolis. So there's that. Side question: Coach Cooter needs to drop the Bob if he wants to be an NFL head coach? Discuss.

Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday. Morning Ernie.

True or false, you'd watch Cotton and Pepper call the USFL Draft on the Ocho.

True or false, you support the changes in college football's clock rules.

True or false, the folks who run any football league above high school care as much about player safety as Chas and Spy (and likely a lot of you) care about the USFL draft.

True or false -- and you only get one -- you would rather play for USA in the Ryder Cup than play the Masters.

True or false, the image of a super pig is terrifying.

As for today, Feb. 21, let's review.

Bill Maher's HBO talk show debuted on this day 20 years ago. Yes, two full decades. Wow.

Alan Rickman would have been 77 today. Rest easy Hans Gruber.

Malcolm X died on this day in 1965.

It's also the start of Mardi Gras with Fat Tuesday.

Rushmore of 'Fat' and have a little fun will you?