One week in and the "include exhibition games in the Top 10" rule is already causing one to overthink the Top 10.

As you likely know, the ballot has been slightly overhauled, with the guidelines as follows.
  • No more former coaches on the panel. Only media and CFL scouts are voting, with the panel pared from 34 to 22;
  • Preseason non-conference games "should be and are now encouraged to be factored into Top 10 voting" although it's not a requirement;
  • Full ballots and names of voters and affiliations will now be transparent and shared with the public when the Top 10 is announced;
  • No more preseason poll (sanity prevailed) and the last one will be taken on the first Tuesday in November, before Conference Championship Weekend.
Calgary and Regina only played their starters for one quarter of an exhibition game which the Rams won 39-3 after their backups ran roughshod over the Dinos' backups. How much stock does one put in that outcome?

Farther down the ballot, there's the matter who slots in as "OUA 3" after Western and Laurier. Three teams went on the road and won over the weekend, while McMaster posted a 12-point non-conference win at home against Saskatchewan.

League play should get preference. Carleton and Ottawa, both with new starting quarterbacks, earned narrow wins over fellow mid-packers Queen's and Guelph. And then there is Waterloo hanging 54 points on Windsor. There's a temptation to give a 10th-place vote to Waterloo, which in 2016, didn't score 54 points until after the calendar hit October.

Forget the old line that in sports, one essentially roots for laundry. What really keeps one hanging on year after year with university football — so exhilarating on the field ... so exasperating everywhere else — is when the results veer off the well-trod path.

If one is going to write about U Sports in 2017, they should at least let the audience add up two plus two, which means pro forma preseason predictions are passé. Yet it's a good exercise to keep fanning that little flame of hope that there might be some twist ending, like 2014, when the national semifinals involved neither Calgary, Laval nor Western. That was refreshing, although those principals would disagree — no judgment; who would not trade it all for just a little more, eh?

Besides, other, better outlets have the whole preseason rigmarole covered very, very well:

I'm also self-aware enough to know people get fatigued about reading another post decrying the severe stasis in the No. 1 and No. 2 university sports, football and men's basketball. The increased opportunities to for Canadians to play professionally and internationally do stem somewhat from Laval and Carleton having spurred the competition to take sports a little more seriously. Yet the general public needs stimulation from seeing new challengers take the summit, so it's a bad look when one football team has won nine national championships in the past 18 seasons and one men's basketball team has won 13 times in 15 years. That's probably exacerbated by the fact that there is little rigorous examination of the factors involved in that beyond the obvious such as "good coaching" and "tradition."

When you live inside your head the way I do, the trade-off is that whatever gain there is in creativity — pffff, probably not much — is offset by the What Should Be blue-sky thinking getting in the way of the What Is reality.

Regarding university football, one should can find a lot of positives with a new season in the offing. There's a small flow of Canadian-trained players to the NFL. One of the two Canadian quarterbacks holding down a CFL roster spot, the Calgary Stampeders' Andrew Buckley, played for the Calgary Dinos. That's an improvement. The calibre of play at the the top tier of the university game, especially at skill positions, is much better than it was a generation ago. More coaches receive full-time wages.

And yet . . . the game still feels beset by an unhealthy imbalance, like that guy in the gym who fails to work out all the muscle groups.

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