This weekend, the transitive property of equality made its annual appearance in college sports. What's that? Team A upsets Team B, which takes out Team C, which stomps Team D. Therefore, Team A is better than Team D.
Nobody believes this, it's a lousy property for everyday use, but it's always fun. Remember in 2015 when the University of Sciences was better than Duke in hoops? … The difference this year, the transitive property came into play in college football on Sept. 15. It usually doesn't hit by the third week.
Also, local colleges are right in the middle of this year's craziness.
The 2018 version: Villanova beat Temple, which just clobbered Maryland, which already had beaten Texas, which just manhandled USC.
That's right: Villanova is better than USC.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they're not better than Towson, which now takes this particular transitive crown. (Except, Towson lost to Wake Forest, which lost to Boston College …)
The point of all this? Once you get beyond the very top ranks of college football, the parity is almost astounding. Parity isn't quite the right word — unevenness. Almost like a group of 20-year-olds can play wildly different one week from another.
It's certainly true that a veteran team can pull off an early-season upset by punching above its weight. That doesn't explain, however, how the Maryland Terps could look so legit against Texas and then get swamped at home by Temple. The Owls were more-than-two-touchdown underdogs and won by 35-14.
Before the season, maybe you'd have believed that — and if you're a Terps fan, you definitely believe it — but Texas showed up in Landover, Md., and got beaten, then took out USC, 37-14? That's weird, which is the point. These teams aren't the same week to week.
A big takeaway from the weekend was that the lower half of the Big Ten isn't strong by any standard. Maryland's going down big wasn't close to the worst loss by a Big Ten East team. Congratulations to Rutgers, which showed up at Kansas, a group that had already lost at home to FCS Nicholls. You don't even need the transitive property to now believe Nicholls is better than Rutgers after Kansas, which won five games in the previous four years, embarrassed the Scarlet Knights, 55-14.
After Saturday, the Big Ten might need to consider a name change. There's nothing big about losing at home to the American Athletic Conference (Maryland, to Temple; Illinois, to South Florida), the Mid-American (Northwestern, to Akron), and the Sun Belt (Nebraska, to Troy). Wisconsin, favored in the Big Ten West, didn't help things by losing at home to Brigham Young, suggesting that even the top of the league isn't that strong.
The only good news: Wait a week; life can change. Just when it seemed as if Temple might not win this season, the Owls proved it's way too soon to give up on them. Saturday was every bit a season-saver.
Also, the top of the AAC is simply better than the bottom of the Big Ten. USF is a fine squad but one of a number of them in the AAC, picked to finish second in the East. Central Florida is favored in the East. Cincinnati, picked fourth in the East behind those two and Temple, already notched its own Power Five upset, taking out UCLA the opening weekend in the Rose Bowl. (Eagles fans know that already, following Chip Kelly as he racks up losses at his latest stop.)
Around the country, you saw more craziness. Florida State lost at Syracuse? Florida State lost, 30-7, at Syracuse.
Of course, the rich are still rich. Nobody will be surprised if Alabama, Clemson and Georgia make the playoffs. Why do the rich stay rich in college football? Simple: There's no draft. If Vanderbilt finishes last in the SEC, the Commodores don't get the first pick. Alabama still picks first, and second and third and 20th.
It's the next level down that has proven fun, which tells us an eight- or 16-team playoff would be more fun, even if the same two teams end up playing for the title in the end.
Also, the parity extends deep. Just when you wondered how good Villanova is — could the Wildcats actually be better than Texas? — the Colonial Athletic Association season began, Towson came to the Main Line, and the visitors pulled off the upset. Where had Towson been picked preseason in the CAA? Tenth. Villanova was tabbed seventh. The vote was taken by league coaches and sports information directors.
The only conclusion: Nobody knows anything. Enjoy the season.