Before the king cedes control to a Viking at the next turn of the calendar, he can gaze fondly across the sweeping empire he expanded in 30-plus years on his ergonomic throne. His kingdom reaches as far east as Piscataway, N.J., and as far west as Lincoln, Neb. His is a kingdom high on fiduciary services bordered by amber waves of grain and turnpikes. Moats are a touch too archaic for this king. He prefers his nostalgia from some of his fiefdom’s offensive attacks. 

He’s accomplished a lot, made his kingdom more money than two-and-a-half Antoine Walker’s can spend and negotiated deals to fix all eyes on his kingdom in prime-time time slots. Things are good. He’s left his kingdom in a better place than he found it, even with eastward expansion to include the House of Inept Ball Matriculation. He’s left his kingdom in a good spot. 

The lords of the fiefdoms that make up his kingdom should bestow upon him whatever sort of over-sized ax, oaken bucket, bronze swine or other debris left in a Cracker Barrel gift shop to show the king their appreciation. His total efforts and long-reaching geographical vision qualifies him for Alaskan politics. He’s done an exemplary job, so why does it feel like he’s bickering instead of celebrating? 

****

When Jim Delany delivered his last address as Big Ten Commissioner at the conference’s media days in July he lauded the Big Ten’s potential as a national force in the sport while he defended its absence from the College Football Playoff each of the last two seasons. 

An optimistic outlook, one full of hope and far-flung aspirations are ideal when it comes to prognosticating. The commissioner did not spit hyperbole when he tried his hand at clairvoyance. The Big Ten shapes up to be a balanced group of teams and well-regarded coaches, even with Urban Meyer’s venture into the world of podcasting and frequent refreshes of USC’s online job board. Things look good, though they haven’t ended well the last two seasons. No invitation to the College Football Playoff will force any commissioner’s back to the wall. 

People would harrumph at golf-whisper level if the conference missed out on the playoffs just one time. Besides the SEC, a one-year absence as one of the final four fails to muster the energy necessary to coordinate emergency meetings in bunkers and coded messages in disappearing ink. The second year of exclusion is the bother.

Delany deflected the questions by citing the Big Ten’s tweaks to every team’s schedule. Each member institution plays nine conference games opposed to the eight conference games played by ACC and SEC schools. Point taken, though the kissing cousins routine with Notre Dame and ACC teams for football makes it seem like some teams play an extra conference game even if the standings do not recognize it. 

Trumpeting one more conference game coincides with the rules to schedule FCS schools, even though the conference attempted to over-correct that in the last few years. Delany tried to curry favor with the College Football Playoff selection committee by ruling that each school in the conference no longer schedule FCS schools, only to reverse course two years later when Big Ten schools with four conference home games were allowed to put FCS schools on the schedule. 

While Alabama and Clemson schedule the likes of Western Carolina and Wofford, the Big Ten’s extra game allows for Ohio State to play Rutgers and Michigan to play Rutgers and Illinois. The conversion rate isn’t exactly the same but the extra little something means next to nothing, cryptocurrency with more self-acclaim.  

Delany needed to defend the honor of his conference, but counting conference games and a kinda-sorta prohibition of scheduling FCS schools are not enough to excuse the two-year absence. The conference’s failure to land a representative in the playoff casts an early pall over the season. 

Maybe he thought his July talking points would seep into the committee’s mindset come December after fatigue from battling the gnat-like demands from the UCF faithful. His efforts to absolve his premiere teams from the major toe-stubbings they inflict on themselves each year comes off as petty. It’s time to listen to post-game press conferences from losing coaches and move on to the next one. Preach immediate in the form of Michigan and Ohio State. 

The conference has two potential playoff teams in its stable. Sure, the mix of untimely turnovers and last-second touchdowns might throw another team in the mix, but two potential playoff teams is a healthy outlook for any conference. The SEC has two, the ACC has only one. We haven’t said anything about either Big Ten team winning a playoff game or scoring a point, but exclusion induces the conference sciatica as of late. Success in the playoff is the next step in the rehabilitation process.

One more conference game and one less FCS opponent won’t be enough to bring back the playoff selections of the last two seasons. Take the swine and the ax. Time to look to the 2019 season.