We awoke to some snow in the great state of Oklahoma on Tuesday morning, but “Frozen” was not the Disney musical that came to mind. “Aladdin” rules the day.
Shining, shimmering, splendid. Magic carpet ride. Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling. An endless diamond sky.
I don’t know if Tim Rice can write up a Bedlam game that ends 10 minutes before deadline, but he can spin a lyric or two.
And when the Michigan Wolverines, out of victory formation, took the final snap of the 2023 season Monday night in Houston, we arrived at a very strange place.
A whole new world.
Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling. Doesn’t that sound like what awaits us in this 2024 college football season? The future is now.
The Bedlam rivals are not in the same league, for the first time since 1959.
The next college football playoff game will be the first of 11 from December 20 through January 20. Step aside, National Football League. You’ve got some competition for games that matter.
OU now is an SEC football team; the official join date is July 1, but pay no attention to the calendar. You can hear the chants now, coming from the Switzer Center to the Campus Corner bars to the homes in rural Oklahoma to the boardrooms in downtown OKC and Tulsa.
OSU now is part of a 16-team Big 12. Only five of the Cowboys’ partners were in the conference in 2011. Big 12 Media Days will be more of a social mixer than a press event. Introductions will rule the day, except everyone will know Deion Sanders.
This will be like the advent of cable television, where at least at 1223 East Boyd Street we went from four channels to six to 30something in a couple of years.
This will be like the pizza revolution. I swear, Norman in the mid-1970s had four or five pizza joints. What is there today? Forty? Fifty?
College football 2024 will be no less transformative.
Here’s what 2024 could hold and will hold:
A playoff game on Oklahoma soil. If the Sooners and/or Cowboys finish fifth through eighth in the College Football Playoff committee seedings, they will host a playoff game the weekend of December 20-21.
And it’s not a pipe dream. In ESPN’s Way-Too-Early preseason rankings, released about the time of that Michigan victory formation, the Sooners are No. 15, the Cowboys No. 18. Both have a shot. Heck, both could host. Even better, one could host the other.
Playoff games before Christmas. Except for Army-Navy and some hapless bowl games that we watch because of addiction, college football takes a three- or four-week break at the end of the regular season.
Who concocted that goofy calendar?
On the 2023 weekend before Christmas, the best games were Central Florida-Georgia Tech and Utah-Northwestern.
Those will be replaced by four playoff games. One Friday night, three Saturday. Just using the Way Too Early list, those matchups will include something like Notre Dame at Alabama, Missouri at Ohio State, Ole Miss at Michigan and a mid-major (Boise State?) at Texas.
Not exactly the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
The toughest schedule in modern OU history. The Sooners are coming off what might have been the easiest schedule in Sooner history. Why not transition to the toughest?
OU plays six opponents ranked in the Way Too Early top 17. Texas, Alabama, Ole Miss, Missouri, Louisiana State and Tennessee. Only two in Norman.
OSU will play in games in Provo, Utah, and Boulder, Colorado. And the Cowboys aren’t just going to the mountains. The mountains are coming to the Cowboys — home games against Utah (Rockies), Arkansas (Ozarks) and West Virginia (Appalachian).
Man, this is going to be strange.
More parity. Michigan just won its first outright national title since 1948.
Maryland, Syracuse, Michigan State and Minnesota had won outright national titles since Michigan.
My pal Paul Finebaum fell on his sword Tuesday morning and declared Michigan better than Georgia. Even the SEC seems to sense that times have changed.
The Power Five designation is dead. We are down to four power conferences. The Pac-12 is gone in football. It will live another few months in other sports. But in football, the Pac-12 died with Michigan’s victory formation.
As recently as 1995, not that long ago in my mind, college football had seven major conferences.
Then the Southwest Conference died, its shiny members swallowed up by the Big Eight. Big East football died; the league of Miami, Virginia Tech and West Virginia had lost most of its marquee members to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Now the Pac-12 is gone, scattered mostly to the Big Ten and Big 12.
The mom-and-pop shops are closing. Main Street is staggered. The SEC is Wal-Mart. The Big Ten is Target.
We could be back to four coaches — or even fewer — who have won a national title. If Jim Harbaugh jumps to the Chargers or Bears or some pro football port where he doesn’t feel like he’s being persecuted like he’s starring in Les’ Miserables, only Kirby Smart, Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney and Mack Brown will comprise the champions club.
How long will Brown hold on, considering he’ll be 73 when North Carolina opens the 2024 season? How long will Saban, who turns 73 on Halloween?
College football could have room for new coaches to become the face of the sport.
A 16-team game season for at least two teams. Michigan just finished off a 15-0 record, matching 2022 Georgia, 2019 LSU and 2018 Clemson as the lone 15-0 teams in major-college history.
Next year, the road to the title gets even longer. Twelve regular-season games. A possible conference championship matchup. At least three playoff games, could be four for an upstart.
But it’s OK. The players now are getting paid.
A Cinderella story.
The only way that college basketball trumps college football is the postseason. Basketball allows for the little guy to make a run. Basketball allows for legitimate upsets.
When fourth-seeded Ohio State beats No. 1 Alabama, that’s not an upset. When Florida Atlantic or George Mason makes the Final Four, when Davidson or St. Peter’s or Virginia Commonwealth get close, that’s a fairy tale.
College football has no fairy tales. The closest, I guess, was Texas Christian stunning Michigan a year ago in the semifinals.
Seventeen years ago, when Boise State upset the Sooners in that wild Fiesta Bowl, that ended the Broncos’ run. Now, such a victory extends the story.
Now we’ve got the chance at a Cinderella and getting to know a Cinderella. The chance at a magic carpet ride of Fresno State over Penn State, or Memphis over Tennessee, or James Madison over Notre Dame.
It’s a whole new world, and it is here.