1. The Atlantic Coast Conference, Greensboro, N.C.
What bothers us most is the growing lack of regard for geography. What bothers us is that there should be some sense, some inherent logic, to the way these things are arranged. There are always anomalies in sports (Does anyone think the Dallas Cowboys belong in the NFC East?) but college sports are defined by conference alignments in ways that professional sports never could be. All those years Pittsburgh and Syracuse seemed perfectly happy in the Big East (a conference that hasn’t been “East” for several years, unless you consider Chicago a suburb of Philadelphia), and then in one weekend, they wind up joining yet another league whose name no longer holds any geographic relevance. (Colorado:Pacific::Texas A&M:Southeast.) We might as well rename them Conference A, B, C and D; it’s all Legends and Leaders now, and no one can tell the difference.
There’s a reason He is here, and that’s because He is an extraterrestrial being sent down to usher us into the future. I mean, His middle initial is X! Is that not enough proof for you? Remember that Twilight Zone episode when the kindly old traveling salesman comes upon a washed-up baseball player in a tavern that suspiciously resembles every tavern in every Twilight Zone episode ever, and the salesman offers him a bus ticket to Scranton, Pa., and then moments later, a phone rings and the baseball player has a job offer in Scranton? That’s Denard. He’s carrying our bus ticket to Scranton. He’s the harbinger of where football is headed, even if we don’t yet realize it, even if He may not be there to lead us.
1. The University of Maryland, College, Park, Md.
OK, so I’m a stodgy white male who is fast approaching middle age, and I get that this college football uniform fetish is not geared toward uptight souls like me, and that it is fueled by apparel companies and the attention economy and all the highfalutin’ sociological jujitsu that corporations utilize to help brainwash large segments of the population into purchasing energy bracelets. But here is a question that should be posted in every high school locker room in America: If a school can only generate interest using togs that resemble the end result of a Project Runway challenge in a Department of Transportation warehouse, is that really a school worth attending? Not every teenager is so capricious that we can only hold their interest by OMG BLAKE LIVELY! I mean, as I was saying — what was I saying?
By all accounts, Arian Foster is something of a new-age goofball. His father actually named him after the Age of Aquarius, he majored in philosophy at Tennessee, he writes poetry, and he named his child Zeniah Egypt, in part because of his high regard for Discovery Channel programming. He is not the prototypical NFL mercenary, and so perhaps we should not have been surprised that Foster tweeted this spiritual observation about a hamstring injury that could keep him from playing in the Houston Texans’ season opener:
1. Ki-Jana Carter, running back
In my mind, Ki-Jana Carter is not who you think he is. In my mind, Ki-Jana Carter is the man in this video, a sculpted 21-year-old who takes a handoff on a sunny day in Pasadena, Calif., stumbles forward, regains his balance, ricochets off a linebacker, changes direction and outruns everyone to the end zone. In my mind, everything in Ki-Jana Carter’s football career that took place after this day doesn’t mean as much as it probably does to you.
1. University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind.
2. Brian Kelly, football coach, University of Notre Dame
Let me just say this first: I've never had a particular affinity for Notre Dame. I believe gold is an overvalued metal and leprechauns are terrifying shoemakers. I believe Sam Gamgee was a subpar defensive end and Qadry was the more talented Ismail brother. It was fun growing up with an irrational hatred of Notre Dame; it's been a lot less fun pitying them for the majority of the past 15 years.
1. Greg Schiano, football coach, Rutgers University
College football is the most compelling sport in America, yet nothing is more torturous than listening to college football coaches speak publicly about their teams. I know this because I spent Tuesday morning standing in a hotel ballroom in Newport, R.I., while eight Big East coaches filibustered for a solid hour. I heard them reminisce about games played in 1991, speak about punters with irrational brightness, thank people who I'm not sure actually exist, and trumpet the competitive supremacy of a conference that has a direct tie-in with the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. I heard one coach chastise a player for going to class too much, which was either the closest thing to joke anyone made or the closest thing to the truth anyone spoke. "That was the most boring hour of my life," one player said, as he headed toward a battery of television interviews. "My god."