If, and it's a big one, we accept the premise that the participants in the College Football Playoff recoups college football's model schools AT WINNING FOOTBALL GAMES (and nothing else but that), then it follows that other FBS schools will look to emulate the four participants in the CFP each year. If you can't be the beat the big boys at the dance, you emulate their dance.
Blake Anderson Is Mark Helfrich
...In the sense that they are both relative small names at schools where there were bigger names (i.e. Chip Kelly at Oregon, pick a coach from A-State's "one and done" era) only recently. Also, both Anderson and Helfrich will come into the 2015 season facing important questions: can the Oregon leader shed the notion that Oregon is a little too soft around the edges and, most importantly, is he just a byproduct of the Marcus Mariota era?
Nevermind that, no, the Ducks aren't too soft and proved as much when they mocked Florida State and Jameis Winston. Since 2013, Helfrich has won a whole lot of games with Mariota at the helm but he also was the offensive coordinator for teams that went a combined 36-6 between 2009 and 2012 with quarterbacks Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas. Mariota is in the NFL, sure, but Masoli and Thomas aren't; the former is with the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the latter, with the AFL's Portland Thunder.
Anderson, meanwhile, faces a much more cynical questioning of his abilities: after so many coaches had left Jonesboro for bigger and greener pastures before him, why is he different? Why is he back for another season? (Because the Red Wolves' job is a good one, that's why.)
Kidding: Anderson is universally beloved.
Their Trick Plays Are the Oregon Uniforms
This one is pretty straightforward. Boise State has the blue turf, Oregon has the uniforms and Arkansas State has the trick plays.
Arkansas State just hit a goal line fade on 4th down, they are officially the devil— OLIVER STACKS (@edsbs) October 22, 2014
Whoever said that the only bad press is no press must have been talking about college football, because a college football team only needs to find one way to stay relevant, and then keep going to that well until there is nothing left. That relevancy may be related to how well the team performs on the football field, but it doesn't have to be.
Shout out to Arkansas State for that fake punt from their own six.— OLIVER STACKS (@edsbs) October 22, 2014
It's not only that the Red Wolves pulled trick play after trick play in Blake Anderson's first season on the job. Because he also had an erratic kicking unit (or big cojones, you choose), he also went for it on fourth down more than every team in the FBS except for Washington State and Massachusetts. But of course, no one will ever forget the "Fainting Goat."
Meanwhile, Oregon's calling card has traditionally been the Nike money and all the new uniforms it could buy. They have donned so many different colors over the years that the Huffington Post can write a post with the headline "50 Oregon Football Uniforms That Changed The Way We See College Football" and we all just nod and agree that, "Yeah, that's Oregon alright."
They Are New to the Elite
Oregon and Arkansas State share a similar history dating back to, respectively, 1894 and 1911. They both play in a relatively small stadium built around the same time period (1967 for Autzen Stadium and 1974 for Centennial Bank Stadium). Oregon has 12 conference titles to Arkansas State's 10 and its overall record isn't quite that different: at 628-475-46 (for a .567 winning percentage), Oregon is a tad better than A-State (i.e. 451-470-37 for a .490 winning percentage) but the difference isn't that notable. Finally, the Ducks are 14-17 in the postseason while the Red Wolves are only 2-2, for two overall winning percentages that aren't too dissimilar.
Also important, both Oregon and A-State have competed for titles in their respective conference for the better part of the past five years.
Each Has A Formidable Foe
Their track record in that department of winning conference titles, however, isn't immaculate, and the narrative will say that it is because they each have a rival that "just knows how to beat them": the Stanford Cardinal for the Ducks, and the Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns for the Red Wolves.
But is that overplayed? Since 2009, the Ducks have a 3-3 record against Stanford and the Red Wolves are 2-4 against Lafayette. It isn't a great record, but it also isn't a doomsday scenario either.
So how about it, A-State (and Ducks) fans? Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below and vote in our poll. Read the rest of the series here.