Rivals National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with a handful of excuses that he’s tired of hearing, more program comparisons and another look at his Mount Rushmore series.


Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly (Getty Images)

I’m cranky today and it’s probably because Connecticut is doing it’s best Seattle impression. It’s been raining non-stop for two weeks and this weather is ruining my sunny disposition. So some programs are going to get a taste of my anger as they keep making excuses as to why they don’t break through as a winning program. So the following teams can shove these excuses:

Notre Dame“We need an elite QB to win it all” — I’ll take the academic excuses in recruiting but the fact that no one at Notre Dame can recruit a game-changing quarterback since what, Brady Quinn, is ridiculous. Stop taking chances on players who lack great arm strength (Ian Book, Tyler Buchner) or have very good arms with little accuracy (Brandon Wimbush, DeShone Kizer) and maybe lay off the little guys as well (Drew Pyne, Everett Golson, Malik Zaire) and go out and get a big, strong and elite passer. Enough already.

Miami “Teams focus on South Florida in recruiting too much.” — Waaah. So do something about it. Last year was a good recruiting year for Miami in Dade and Broward and beyond but they got a boost from COVID and the lack of visits. Stop letting South Florida talent like Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy and Patrick Surtain head off to the SEC. Keep most of them home as Butch Davis did and you’ll win it all, I promise.

Florida “We can’t recruit with the big dogs in the SEC.” — Well, change that because Urban Meyer is laughing at you. Heck, even Will Muschamp did a better job recruiting than Dan Mullen and company are doing and it always seems to me they have their jaws locked on a recruit (Walter Nolen) and he always slips away. Stop letting that happen and you’ll win.

Michigan “We can’t compete with the dirty SEC in recruiting.” — First of all, prove that the SEC is cheating and secondly, look at Ohio State. The Buckeyes kick butt in the Southeast and from Jim Tressel to Urban Meyer to Ryan Day they continue to lure top recruits to Columbus. Oh, are they cheating too? Stop making excuses and start winning bigger battles in the Southeast than the occasional four-star.

USC “The Pac-12 doesn’t get enough national attention.” — This I know and you’re the reason why. When Pete Carroll was there recruiting was off the charts and kids became instant superstars locally and nationally. And USC used to be the offer everyone wanted. Now? It’s not even a blip on their radar outside of the locals and a few national players. Oregon is kicking your butt in recruiting and you have all the local advantages.

Oklahoma “The Big 12 takes too much out of our defense.” — This one cracks me up. When you mention how bad the Big 12 is on defense Oklahoma fans immediately point to how their teams do well defensively in bowl games against other teams. But what about your own team. Oklahoma has given up 37, 54, 45 and 63 points in their four playoff appearances. Focus a bit more on defense, perhaps?



Mike Gundy
Mike Gundy (Getty Images)

Let’s continue our look at programs in the same conference and which one is better. There were some surprises the other day like Michigan over Ohio State and there could be a few here as well.

Big Ten: Wisconsin (719–502–53) vs. Penn State (901-402-42)

Head-to-head: Penn State leads 10-9

Lucky for the Badgers, Penn State and Wisconsin only started playing each other regularly after the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1994, well into the Barry Alvarez era. At the moment Penn State actually holds a four-game winning streak against Wisconsin despite the Badgers continued success in the 2010s. Because the Nits were independent for so long, they only have four conference titles to the Badgers’ 14, and actually have fewer Heisman winners (2-1), but outside of that lead Wisconsin in nearly every important category including national championships (2-0), bowl appearances (50-32), weeks ranked (654-405), and consensus All-Americans (43-32).

Verdict: Penn State

SEC: Florida (743-424-40) vs. Georgia (839-427-54)

Head-to-head: Georgia leads 52-44-2

A classic rivalry, there is no love lost between these two SEC East juggernauts, and they are neck and neck in terms of program prestige. The Gators have one more national title (3-2) than the Dawgs do, but UGA has more bowl appearances (57-46), conference titles (14-8), and consensus All-Americans (35-33). Florida, however, has spent way more weeks at No.1 in the polls (41-15), and also has more Heisman winners (3-2), and has produced more NFL first-round picks.

Verdict: Florida – in a tight race, I’ll take the national titles as the deciding factor.

ACC: Miami (636-371-19) vs. Virginia Tech (756-480-46)

Head-to-head: Miami leads 23-15

Former conference foes in the Big East, both teams made the move to the ACC in the early 2000s, and have remained big-time competitors since. But even though the Hokies have more head-to-head victories since they paired up in conference, Miami leads in every major category historically, including national titles (5-0), weeks ranked (506-309), weeks at No. 1 (68-0), Heisman winners (2-0), bowl appearances (42-33) and more.

Verdict: The U in a rout

Big 12: Oklahoma State (617-571-49) vs. TCU (653-549-57)

Head-to-head: Oklahoma State leads 16-13-2

Despite not being in the same conference until 2012 (save for one season where both teams were in the SWAC in the 1920s), these two programs are awfully similar. Both teams actually have national titles, with TCU taking two in the 1930s, and Oklahoma State in 1945, both teams are lead by coaches who have been at the school for a long time (Gary Patterson for 20 years, Mike Gundy for 14), and both have one Heisman winner. The Horned Frogs have more bowl appearances (34-31) and NFL draft picks (204-167), while the Cowboys have more weeks ranked (259-243) and consensus All-Americans (20-18). This is about as close as they come.

Verdict: TCU by the slimmest of margins – the same as with Florida vs. UGA, in a close battle, I’ll take national titles as the deciding factor.

Pac-12: Oregon (668-499-46) vs. Washington (743-454-50)

Head-to-head: Washington leads 60-47-5

Despite the Ducks becoming one of the biggest brands in the country in the 21st century, Washington actually wipes the floor with them in almost every statistical category. Oregon has zero national titles to Washington’s two and the Huskies have more bowl appearances (39-34), draft picks (311-229), weeks ranked (455-319), consensus All-Americans (23-8), and more. Not as close as most people would imagine.

Verdict: Washington



Lorenzo White (No. 34)
Lorenzo White (No. 34) (Getty Images)

Finally, here’s the Mount Rushmore of Michigan State football since 1980.

OT Tony Mandarich — Despite being a legendary NFL bust, you cannot deny how dominant Mandarich was at the college level. The two-time Big Ten offensive lineman of the year, Mandarich was a finalist for the Outland Trophy as a senior, a consensus All-American, and one of the most imposing physical specimens ever to grade the gridiron.

RB Lorenzo White — White’s sophomore season was one of the greatest in the history of the sport – over 2,000 yards rushing and 19 total touchdowns. He was named first-team All-American, and was the first Big Ten back to break the 2,000-yard mark. White was twice a consensus All-American (as both a sophomore and senior), and is still the Spartans’ all-time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns.

LB Greg Jones — Another two-time consensus All-American, Jones was a tackling machine and the heart of some great Mark Dantonio defenses. He led the Spartans in tackles all four years, and was the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year as a junior. A true three-down linebacker, he was able to do almost anything that was asked of him.

LB Percy Snow — The MVP of the 1988 Rose Bowl, Snow is one of only six players in Spartans history with his number retired. Snow accrued 473 tackles over his career, and is one of four players in history who won both the Butkus and Lombardi trophies, which he did in his senior season of 1989. The college football hall of famer embodied everything that a Big Ten linebacker should be – tough, physical, and unafraid of a big collision.

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