College football landscape changes by the day

College football landscape changes by the day
Virginia Tech players C.J. Reavis (21) and Melvin Keihn (51) celebrate the Hokies' 35-21 win over Ohio State on Saturday. Despite the win, Virginia Tech is still ranked below the Buckeyes in the USA Today coaches' poll. (Jamie Sabau / Getty Images)

It's good to know there are still some things you can count on.

The USA Today coaches' poll, for example, remains a model of cockeyed consistency.


On Saturday, Virginia Tech improved to 2-0 with an impressive victory at Ohio State.

On Sunday, the coaches' rewarded the Hokies with a No. 19 ranking, one spot behind No. 18 Ohio State.

To think these coaches used to help select national champions.

Everything else made less sense than Lou Holtz in a race to get to commercial break.

On Friday, Pat Haden was a mild-mannered director of athletics at USC, one of the most respected men in his profession.

His reputation made him an unimpeachable pick for the first playoff selection committee.

By Saturday, Haden was running across the field at Stanford to challenge game officials in defense of a penalty called on USC Coach Steve Sarkisian.

By Sunday, Haden was working up an apology in advance of the reprimand and fine he knew was coming down from Pac-12 Conference headquarters.

By Monday, Haden was reprimanded by the Pac-12 and fined $25,000. He was allowed to keep his seat on the new college football selection committee.

Haden's actions were pilloried by outsiders but actually invigorated USC's base, which turned the incident into a reprise of Teddy Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill.

Haden further endeared himself by donating his fine to a great cause (autism research) without having to pour ice water over his head.

Haden, inadvertently, supercharged Trojans fans into an unforeseen level of cohesiveness. This makes up, they say, for Haden not being able to reverse the sanctions handed down by the NCAA.

College football: where passion lives.

On Friday, Penn State football was a scandal-plagued, scholarship-strapped program mired in the depths of probation.


The Nittany Lions faced two more years of bowl probation and the loss of dozens of more scholarships.

By Saturday, Penn State had improved to 2-0 after a nice victory over Akron.

By Sunday, Penn State stood as an unexpected Big Ten Conference shining beacon after the rest of the league collectively collapsed.

On Monday, the NCAA released a statement saying it was lifting its bowl sanctions, effective immediately, and restoring the school's full complement of 85 scholarships in 2015-16.

It was almost a complete reversal of the NCAA's overreach in the ugly Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse case.

Two years ago, NCAA President Mark Emmert named himself czar for a day and took unprecedented action against Penn State. He shunned due process and slammed the school with sanctions intended to decimate the football program. Emmert took a criminal case involving a craven former assistant and punished players that didn't do anything wrong.

Emmert's desire to destroy Penn State didn't work, as resolute players and coaches posted winning records each of the last two seasons.

By Monday afternoon, college football analyst Phil Steele had Penn State projected playing in the Holiday Bowl.

By Monday night, Penn State's football future looked significantly brighter than fortunes at the University of Texas.

By Tuesday, thousands of fans swarmed Penn State's campus to celebrate the good news.

College football: you can't make this stuff up.

On Friday, Texas was 1-0 after a victory over North Texas in Charlie Strong's debut as Longhorns coach.

Strong has established himself as a tough, no-nonsense man who was willing to sacrifice winning (for now) to root the program of undesirables. Strong has dismissed eight players and suspended four.

Despite suspensions and key injuries, Strong expected his team to play well Saturday night at home against Brigham Young. The Cougars embarrassed the Longhorns last year in Provo, Utah.

By Saturday night, Texas was limping off the field after a humiliating 41-7 defeat.

By Monday, Strong had said at his weekly news conference that he told one of his assistants before kickoff, "we're not ready to play yet." Strong wanted to send his team back to the locker room and have them perform a do-over entrance.

"When you're not ready you get embarrassed and you get humiliated, and it's tough, but you move on," Strong said.

By Tuesday, Texas was staring down UCLA this Saturday in Arlington, Texas, and, after a game at Kansas, matchups with Baylor and Oklahoma. The Longhorns could be 2-4 on Oct. 11.

Texas, the state's bell-cow program, finds itself lost on the geopolitical map.

Only four years ago, Texas was barking orders as it toyed with the idea of leading half the Big 12 Conference to the Pac 10 to form a 16-team superconference.

In the 11th hour, though, Texas pulled back and decided to remain in the Big 12.

Was it a mistake?

As Texas sits now it has been shockingly outflanked by Baylor and Texas A&M, both ranked in the top 10. Texas A&M is soaring in the Southeastern Conference under Coach Kevin Sumlin, and Baylor has a new stadium.

"I feel Baylor is the powerhouse in Texas now," former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III told reporters before the Bears' home opener.

Had Texas joined the Pac-16, the Big 12 would have likely folded and Baylor would have been cast adrift.

Instead, Baylor has become a national power that, last year, won the Big 12. Texas A&M fled to the SEC and defeated Alabama on its first try.

Johnny Manziel? Yes, Texas recruited him … as a defensive back.

Texas A&M opened this season by dismantling South Carolina, a preseason top-10 team that was favored to win the SEC East Division.

The Aggies have used the SEC imprint in Texas to suck players and prestige away from Texas. A longtime program follower described Texas football living "in its own private hell," with no immediate indicators it can get bumped up to purgatory.

Saturday's game against UCLA at AT&T Stadium was supposed to be an in-state showcase for the Longhorns.

Instead, "shell-shocked" is Texas' state.

College football: just try figuring it out.