An off-the-field win for Coach Khaki
The spinning soap opera that is college football rotates around the axis of a forever unimaginable hybrid combination of things.
We are in a place that Oregon State and Washington State have been legally granted control of the Pac-12's bank accounts. They are the last two conference members standing after this school year after all in the aftermath of the realignment craze that set up border wars of Stanford vs. Miami and USC vs. Rutgers.
We are in a place that NIL is so commonplace, no one really refutes the report that Tennessee's back-up QB allegedly signed a deal worth $8 million over his career. (And while we're discussing NIL, that thing has mushroom-clouded to the point that an LSU gymnast makes 10 times what the president of these Unites States does for being a social media influencer.)
We are in a place that Nick Saban has made well north of $120-plus million in his career in Tuscaloosa, and he has been criminally underpaid.
We are in a place that Jimbo Fisher is being paid $77 million not to coach Texas A&M any more because he criminally underachieved.
And yet, arguably the biggest story off the field in this college football campaign has been Jim Harbaugh and the unbeaten Michigan Wolves-in-sign-stealing-sheep's clothing.
(Side question: If Harbaugh's Wolves dress in sheep's clothing, they have to be khaki right? Would that make them preppy sheep or just casually clad cattle? Could they be laid-back lambs or a J Crew ewe? Discuss.)
Well, amid all the distractions -- remember Harbaugh was suspended for the first three games of the season for an NCAA issue about food payments and honesty -- Michigan has been right there with the best teams in the country all season.
Over the past month, the sign-stealing allegations have offered almost a daily headline.
It's how we met Conor Stallions without having to use the private browser on your internet.
It's how we were made aware Jim McElwain took his love for deep sea fishing to a directional Michigan outpost.
Through it all, Harbaugh has denied knowing of the deal. I find it hard to believe any hyper-competitive, control-freakish college HC at an uber program like Michigan -- or like Pitino at Louisville for example -- is unaware of such shenanigans.
First, who would operate a covert deal like black-ops Stallions without some sign-off above?
Second, when they have team meetings and the OC or the DC offers, "Yeah Coach Harbaugh, we feel really good about knowing Opponent X's signs) about every third meeting" at some point Coach Khaki would be asking "And how is this so" no?
But what I believe and what can be proven to uphold allegations of wrongdoing against Harbaugh are different things. And Coach Khaki got some of the best news he and his program have enjoyed in the last month or so.
The AP filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Michigan's records, and specifically Conor Stallions' expenses. Because since he was photographed at multiple games on the opposing sidelines allegedly filming signs -- big no-nos across the board there -- it's kind of hard to think a GA making $50K a year is going to cover those bills on his own, no?
So the Maize and Blue spin of Stallions being a rogue agent has way more merit this morning than previously.
And we all know that because of the money at stake everyone involved — the NCAA, the Big Ten, FOX (which has THE OSU-Michigan game as well as the Big Ten title game I believe, even ESPN (which has the CFP games), et al. — are desperate to find a scapegoat and the most easy, sweep-this-under-the-rug solution possible.
So Gerrit Cole and Blake Snell won the Cy Youngs in the AL and the NL respectively.
I'm fine with that.
They gave out the rookies of the year earlier this week, and two dudes won with unanimous totals. Again, I'm fine with that.
Heck, hard to argue with the managers in Baltimore and Miami getting top honors as managers of the year.
(That said, man the manager/coach of the year voting is the biggest sports-writer/media backtrack on botched preseason predictions as there is in all of sports. Did the Miami guy do that much of a better job than say, Brian Snitker, who led the Braves to the most wins in the MLB despite a slew of injuries to a pitching staff and also made the astute lineup changes to drop Olson to the 4 hole and stuck with Marcel Ozuna when every Braves fan from Buckhead to Bradley University wanted him cut? No, I don't think so. It's just that all of us knucklehead sports writers picked the Braves to win the division and the Marlin sot finish at or near the bottom. So let's vote about much the Miami manager overachieved because we had no idea how good they were going to be. Cool.)
The big ones will be announced today, and those are the MVPs.
I am vested in the NL announcement as we picked Ronald Acuña Jr. to win the NL MVP at plus-875 to start the season. He's a finalist, and in truth, he should be a near-unanimous choice considering the numbers:
Check these and tell me who you vote for:
Player A: Slashed .307/.408/.579 with 39 HRs, 126 runs, 107 RBIs and 14 SBs with a WAR of 8.3.
Player B: Slashed .331/.410/.567 with 29 homers, 131 runs, 103 RBIs and 23 steals with a WAR of 6.5.
Player C: Slashed .337/.416/.596 with 41 homers, 149 runs, 106 RBIs and 73 steals with a WAR of 8.2.
Player C is Acuña who led Mookie Betts (Player A) in each of the above categories other than 1 RBI and 0.1 WAR. And Acuña led Freddie Freeman (Player B) in each of the meaningful categories above.
In the AL, it has to be Shohei Ohtani's to lose right?
Sign of the times, future
So we all are open to the importance of franchise QB1s. Heck, a rare desirable Thursday night game — Cincinnati v Baltimore tonight — shows that.
The Bengals were dreck, then Joe Burrow comes to town, and they are a contender.
The Ravens were built on defense forever and a day, then Lamar Jackson comes to town, and they are a contender again.
Both of those dues — like the litany of bona fide QB1s across the league — were drafted by those teams and most were first rounders. (Jalen Hurts and Dak Prescott were not but they are outliers.)
Look at the top tier: Mahomes, Josh Allen, the dudes above, Justin Herbert, even guys like Tua and the meteoric rise of CJ Stroud.
Sure there are outliers and system folks, and sure, none of this is rather ground-breaking.
But in a copycat league in which one GM decided RBs were overvalued and now all RBs are (rightly?) viewed through a pricey prism, the evidence of moving massive amounts of draft capital for a wishful QB1 to pick or worse yet, an establish QB1 with skeletons in his closet is looking more and more franchise crippling.
DeShaun Watson and that monster contract -- as well as the multiple first-round and other picks -- will have Cleveland in a hole for the rest of the decade.
Anyone doubt that the Seahawks won big in the Russell Wilson deal?
And while they are winning right now, the 49ers are going to be paying well into the future because of the bust that Trey Lance became.
About the best one of these trades for a current player is either Brett Favre (who the new Packers GM was familiar with in Atlanta) or maybe Steve Young (who was dealt from Tamp Bay because Tampa Bay at that time was run by idiots.
This and that
-- We mentioned some of the biggest names who have been formally asked about the Texas A&M opening, but here's an interesting list from USAToday of some of the assistant coaches who will become more known during the coach-search season. And I have to concur that the dude calling Dan Lanning's offense in Oregon -- the Ducks average more than six TDs a game and he turned Bo NIx into a Heisman contender -- assuredly deserves to be on that list.
— Speaking of Shohei, arguably the most coveted free agent of all time and his agent are telling bidding teams to keep everything on the downlow. Makes sense.
— Draymond Green was suspended for five games for his chokehold on Rudy Gobert. Anyone else ready for Draymond to go away?
— I get rules being rules, and I hate the NCAA (shocker) just in principle, but if you let James Madison through a loophole, what do you say to Tulane or the others vying for that spot, you know? Thoughts?
Hey, it's an anything goes Thursday — the ol' AGT as the kids like to call it — so shoot. And remember the mailbag.
AGT for us starts here: Do you think Jim Harbaugh knew of the sign-stealing and Conor Stallions' antics?
And AGT will continue herre: Is there anyway Harbaugh is not on the sideline when Michigan plays THE Ohio State?
Can anyone make a case for Betts or Freeman over Acuña?
As for today, Nov. 16, let's review.
This dude should be celebrated and honored by all of us of a certain age.
Shigeru Miyamoto is 71 today and the video-game master designer invented Mario and The Legend of Zelda. Wow, that's a career.
Burgess Meredith would have been 116 today.
Does his turn as Mick make the Rushmore of sports coaches in non-traditional sports? Go, and if you need clarification, I will be around.