Rap equivalent: Kendrick Lamar
Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley came out of nowhere—and Lubbock, Texas, is nowhere—to become one of the best football coaches in America. Though when it comes to awards that would name him as such, Sooners fans end up feeling like K. Dot fans after watching Macklemore win four Grammy Awards in 2014. I’m not saying Iowa State coach Matt Campbell didn’t turn the Cyclones around. I’m not saying ISU didn’t beat OU that one time. I am saying Iowa State took five Ls while Riley won 12 games, the conference title and a Rose Bowl berth. Lincoln got robbed, fam.
Rap equivalent: Mac Dre
Like his coaching equivalent, Mac Dre is one of the most criminally underrated innovators of his time. Mac Dre pioneered the Bay Area hyphy style. So don’t y’all try to tell me about E-40 and Too Short without Mac Dre coming out of your mouth first. The same can be said about defense and Gary Patterson.
We have a whole new way of defending high-octane, spread offenses because Patterson gave it to us. In a league billed as the one where ALL THE POINTS are scored, Patterson has built his program on a defense. And not just any defense—a 4-2-5. This is the kind of scheme that looks like it might get destroyed on paper, and all Patterson did was win 11 games with it and a bunch of undersized kids who didn’t get offers to Texas. (Yes, that’s shade. And I’m throwing it. We mollywhopped the TCU Horned Frogs like they stole something—twice. #FightMe)
Rap equivalent: Big Sean
With the hair, the bowed chest to Boone Pickens and the two-time flirtation with a Tennessee program that responds to being a dumpster by backing up a truck full of gasoline, Mike Gundy wants you to know how good Mike Gundy is at being Mike Gundy. So does Big Sean.
And that’s not always a bad thing. Because when Big Sean is on his own, he can prove to be close to incredible with his ability spit-sing-spit over a beat. (I’m talking about “Bounce Back.”) However, make him rap over the same beat as one of the titans of the genre, and he gets bodied. (I’m talking about “Control” when Kendrick Lamar came on in a featured capacity and murdered the track.) What I’m saying is... stay in your lane, Gundy. Stop getting Big Sean’d.
Rap Equivalent: Jidenna
Ain’t nobody ever heard or cared to hear about Jidenna until Janelle Monae found him and gave him some shine. He produced for her, like Campbell produced for Toledo. When Jidenna finally received an opportunity to make music for himself, he dropped “Classic Man” on us. Campbell did likewise at Toledo. Now, at Iowa State, he’s going to try to redefine a perennial Big 12 bottom-dweller into the kind of program that competes for championships. He’s just gotta keep grinding.
Rap equivalent: Dr. Dre
There isn’t a player in the game who has been consistently dropping flame on college football for longer than Kansas State Bill Snyder. And he’s doing it with nothing most college football fans would be thrilled about when we’re talking about talent. What I’m saying is Snyder won five out of eight games last season with a duct tape, super glue and quarterback Alex Delton’s water pistol arm.
Dre has done this and more for more than thirty years. He taught Eazy-E—the most iconic member of Dre’s N.W.A.—how to rap. He found a kid named Marshall Mathers in Detroit who can make bird rhyme with dog and turned him into one of the greatest rappers of all time. And, if you ask him to, Dre can drop a cold 40 bars on you, too.
Rap equivalent: 50 Cent
There was a time when Baylor coach Matt Rhule felt like he was the next big name in coaching. But, like 50 Cent following “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” it’s almost silly to believe he could ever be great.
Rap equivalent: Meek Mill
When Meek Mill came on scene, it was with the knowledge that he was here to rock. Rock the boat. Rock your speakers. Rock your perception of what rap is and what it can be. Texas coach Tom Herman showed he was here to stir the pot and raise expectations from the moment he became the head man at a Houston program that subsisted on Herman’s swag in recruiting and a belief in self that bordered on delusional.
Herman hoped to walk into Austin and crank the volume on the program up to 11. He hasn’t yet. But he’s hoping to by continuing to challenge his players’ perception of what it means to be a Longhorn at the national university of Texas.
Rap equivalent: Drake
Drake shows up everywhere, seemingly out of nowhere, right on time. And it’s not until after he’s left wherever he’s interloped that folks ask, “Ain’t he from Canada?” We could same the same about West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who never seems like he needs to say anything at all about being able to recruit to one of the only major college football programs that are IN THEM WOODS.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the Mountaineers play and ask aloud, “How did Holgo get that kid to live in Morgantown?” Because as many times as Drake talks about being from “The 6,” I still don’t think he appreciates how many of us needed to google “The 6” just to find out he was talking about Toronto. It would not surprise me to know some recruits have had to google “Morgantown” too.
Rap equivalent: Watsky
I found Watsky when someone sent me a YouTube link called “Watsky raps fast.” It opened with a kid sitting in front of a microphone, petting his cat, with a Busta Rhymes beat bumping in the background.
And then Watsky blew my mind. It was the coldest 88 seconds of 2013. Still is. But when you listen closely to the lyrics, you’ll see they’re empty. You recognize his talent. You recognize his gift. You also see he has little to say. That’s how I feel about Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas Tech program.
The offense will unload on any team in the country. Put up 45 without blinking. But that’s all. There is little substance to go with Kingsbury’s high-flying style. Like Watsky, this is why it’s hard to take Kingsbury seriously.
Rap equivalent: Milli Vanilli
Doed he even play a role in constructing his own game plan?