Iowa State lost to Oklahoma 34-24 on their home field last night. This is progress for Iowa State, a historically bereft program on the less populous side of Iowa with a history of losing football games, and losing them very, very badly. Matt Campbell, a very good coach, has the Cyclones playing disciplined, organized, and energetic football. Despite being 1-8 on the year, they have taken Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State to the wire in single digit losses.
It’s getting better in Ames. None of this is to make fun of them, but to point out that in the 128 team landscape of college football, there are haves, and have-nots, and then the ain’t-never-had-and-never-will-nots. Iowa State has lost 18 straight to Oklahoma. Their recruiting, while great by the Cyclones’ usual standards, won’t ever rise to what you see in the Big Ten or SEC, or even the top of their conference. Barring corruption on a level so spectacular even college football would be shocked, Iowa State is by design destined for a certain maximum cruising speed.
They are not alone in this. So, if this should ever strike you as unfair, we have a few easy suggestions for leveling the playing field between teams like Oklahoma, whose lackluster years would be Iowa State’s best, and the Iowa States of the world.
- The 12th Man. Texas A&M only talks about it. We would actually do it, and allow the clearly historically disadvantaged team to use a twelfth man on one down per series. Honestly this might not be much of an advantage in some circumstances, since you see at least one play a year where a team has 12 men on the field, and yet still somehow allows a touchdown. Also branding opportunity for the Big 12, where the name of the conference and their trademark defensive formation would share a nice semantic harmony. We’d save it for fourth downs and send an extra rusher on punts and field goal attempts, because very few football things are funnier and more sudden than a blocked kick attempt. (LOOK AT THE BALL, IT’S CLEARLY TRYING TO RUN AWAY FROM THIS SHITSHOW AT HIGH SPEED.)
- Bounce pass legal for underdog team. Just one bounce, though, don’t get greedy.
- Fifth Down. Once a half, your team gets to play its Fifth Down Card. Please imagine the grandeur of humiliating an offense into a.) going for it on fifth down, and still losing and/or b.) going for it on fourth, and then beating someone so decisively they take that fifth down as an opportunity to punt. Kirk Ferentz would be the first man to punt on fifth down. He has been waiting his entire life to do this from the opponent’s 38 down nine with 3:47 to go in the game.
- Red Rover Rule. At the half, the underdog team requests and receives one player of underdog’s choice from the team. To make this a bit more fair to the favorite, they may protect one player as the game’s franchise player. Otherwise we’re just taking your quarterback every game, and letting him play Pokemon Go in the stands for the half.
- One do-over a half. Like that feature in the Forza driving game franchise where you may rewind back a few seconds to prevent a horrific crash, the do-over lets you take a bad play and erase it. Again, this seems unfair until you imagine your opponent doing something even worse on the following play, and the rich, eternal laughter you would make for the rest of your lives thinking about it.
- Multiball. Last two minutes of each half, you get two balls on offensive possessions. Pro: You can score twice on a single possession. Con: You might hand 14 points to the defense, since a lot of bad offenses have trouble moving one ball, much less two at once.
- No offsides on onside kick attempts for the underdog. None. Just turn it off, and post up wherever you like, Iowa States of the world. The ball still has to travel ten yards, mind you, but no one’s saying you can’t just box out and try to Aussie Rules this thing right into the best hands guy on your team.
It’s not an encyclopedic list, but it’s a start to making this a more equitable game for the perennial underdogs of the game, and toward getting Nick Saban to retire. (Because every team would get to use these against Alabama, if we’re being honest.)