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The Lie About Being Underrated

Utah is entering this season properly ranked by the national media instead of receiving the usual underrated tag. This is great because being underrated is dumb and teams should hate that label. Every team should strive to be overrated at the beginning of the season.

Washington v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

In January of 2018, there was a cultural and musical moment that overtook the world. On January 18, the rapper Drake released “God’s Plan”, the single for his newest album, Scorpion. The song immediately swept across the nation. Anyone given the AUX chord in a car would always put that song on, it was talked about often on social media, and this Subway I frequented would always have it playing while I ordered my sandwich. The Subway would play it so much that on busy days I would often hear the song twice before getting my sandwich. That’s one play of “God’s Plan” for each piece of bacon Subway puts on your sandwiches.

“God’s Plan” wasn’t just a success among the common folk who are forced to go to Subway when they need food. Drake’s song was also a critical success as it was nominated for three Grammys: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Rap Song. “God’s Plan” ended up winning the award for Bet Rap Song.

The single also broke all sorts of streaming records. It set Spotify’s record for most streams in a single day. It was the most streamed song in the United States in 2018, racking up 1.56 billion streams over the course of the year. “God’s Plan” is a three-minute song, so that’s 4.68 billion minutes spent listening to Drake rap on this one song. That’s the equivalent to 8,904 years. People spent 8,904 years of time in 2018 listening to this one song.

“God’s Plan” is now the sixth-most streamed song of all-time on Spotify with 1.36 billion streams on that service alone. All of this history is designed to point out that Drake’s single was not a failure, it was one of the greatest musical successes in history. It did well commercially and critically, and obviously people loved it based on how much they listened to it. Many would argue that it was a truly great song.

As someone who enjoys Drake’s music and as a healthy consumer of rap, I was pumped to listen to “God’s Plan” after hearing all the buzz about the song. The first moment I had the chance, I threw my headphones on and prepared to be blown away by this legendary song. I listened to it all the way through and it was...fine.

I figured I had missed something, so I listened to it again. It was still just fine.

I listened to it for the third time and the words I would use to describe the song after that would be “aggressively fine”. “God’s Plan” is an aggressively fine song.

It sounds like every other song Drake has ever created. It has a fun beat, Drake says some things he thinks are really deep but definitely aren’t (“Trying to keep it peaceful is a struggle for me” or “I don’t wanna die for them to miss me”), and Drake tries really hard to sound thoughtful. It’s all very fine. To quote another deep line from the song, “I feel good, sometimes I don’t,” when I listen to “God’s Plan”.

None of this is to take away from Drake’s success, which is certainly earned success. Instead it is meant to point out that “God’s Plan” as a song is overrated. There are at least 10 Drake songs I would say are better than “God’s Plan”. There are well over a hundred rap songs from other artists I would claim are superior, such as every song on Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (except for “Blame Game”, which sucks).

“God’s Plan” is not an all-time great song, but the public and the awards responded to it as such. In my estimation, it is highly overrated. However, when I say something is overrated, that is not meant as an insult in the slightest. Our society has a problem with the words overrated and underrated. Whenever we want to show disdain for something or prove to those around us that something is not cool, we claim that thing is overrated. It is meant to insult the thing being discussed as being bad or not worthy of your love. Essentially, being overrated is bad while being underrated is good because it means you deserve more love and acclaim.

Think about it though, “God’s Plan” may be overrated in how good of a song it is, but that doesn’t matter because Drake won a ton of awards and made a ton of money. That one “cool” musician you listen to that no one has heard of may have your respect, but I guarantee they would trade your respect for Drake’s money and awards in a heartbeat.

If anything, calling “God’s Plan” overrated is a sign of respect for it acknowledges that Drake took something that was fine and turned it into a massive success. This shows us to that when one is deemed overrated, this is actually a great thing for those who receive such a notorious label.

(To be thorough, I listened to “God’s Plan” twice more before writing this, it was still just fine. I really like the part where nothing happens for the last minute of the song and the same beat just plays over and over.)

This concept of being overrated and underrated is something that is crucial to college football, and especially relevant to the University of Utah this year. The debate surrounding which teams are overrated and underrated is fundamental to the sport and, in recent years, a crucial part of deciding who gets to play for the National Championship.

Every time a new poll is released anywhere by anyone, countless articles immediately spring up dissecting who was overrated in the poll and who didn’t receive enough respect from the voters. I scoured these articles after the Preseason AP Top 25 was released last week to see which teams were receiving these labels. Some teams that were frequent members of the overrated club were Florida, Texas A&M, Auburn, and Michigan. Teams that were deemed underrated included Iowa State, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, and Memphis. Texas was somehow listed as both underrated and overrated depending on the website. If anything, Texas will be overrated this year.

Now I ask you, dear reader, which teams are more likely to compete for National Championships and sign the best recruits in the country on a year to year basis: the teams on the overrated list or the teams on the underrated list? Recent history tells us that the teams on the overrated list are the ones who sign better recruits and in turn are the ones who have actually been in contention for National Championships this decade.

The benefits of rooting for underrated team include getting to be extra defensive about your team, taking a lot of pride in each win, and railing against every perceived slight. Those can be fun perks for sure, but teams that are often deemed to be overrated receive real benefits such as better recruits, more national media attention, and the chance to play in higher profile games.

That’s simply because being overrated in college football is better. The SEC may be overrated, but they make a lot more money than the Pac-12. The SEC is the only conference to have put two teams in the playoff in the same year. The SEC had four teams in the Top 5 of the national recruiting rankings for 2019. There are real football benefits to being overrated.

Now, in going through all the posts about which teams are overrated and underrated entering this season, one team that has been a mainstay in the underrated category was conspicuously missing this year: The University of Utah. The Utes have basically been the poster child for being underrated since they won the Sugar Bowl back in 2009.

Following that win, Utah became the most prominent example of a mid-major team that could compete with the big boys when given the chance. After making the jump to the Pac-12, the Utes slowly developed a reputation of being tough to play but never really threatening for a Pac-12 title. In 2014-2016, they became the face of underrated teams as the Utes entered each of those seasons unranked but finished the season in the Top 25.

Kyle Whittingham and the entire program have embraced the “nobody believes in us” mentality each season. Whittingham likes pumping up his team by reminding them that they are the underdogs in virtually every situation. That all has to change this year though, because for the first time since joining the Pac-12, Utah is entering a season properly ranked by the national media.

The acclaim has been rolling in since the end of last season, but things have really shifted into gear in the last month for Utah. At Pac-12 Media Day, the Utes were picked as resounding favorites to win the Pac-12 South, and then they were also deemed the favorites to win the Pac-12 over Washington and Oregon. The Preseason Coaches’ Poll had the Utes ranked as the No. 15 team in the country. Utah’s reputation for this season was solidified when the Preseason AP Poll was released, and the Utes came in at No. 14. Not only is this the team’s first time in the preseason poll since joining the Pac-12, it’s the highest preseason ranking in the program’s history.

The national polls are some nice recognition, and this doesn’t even take into account the national writers who have Utah in the Top 10 of their personal preseason polls. Or the fact that several of them are projecting Utah to go to the Rose Bowl. Heck, even the man, the myth, the legend, Lee Corso, picked Utah to play in the National Championship.

With all this praise surrounding the program, I would argue that Utah is officially entering overrated territory at the start of the season.

Before getting mad at me for claiming Utah might be overrated, remember this is a great thing for the program. Utah has never been overrated in the eyes of the national media, but the program has turned a corner this year. While Kyle Whittingham has built his team on the principles of being the underdog, if Utah wants to become true national power, they need to move into the realm that other national powers reside, that of the favorite.

With expectations this high entering the season, it also means that pressure on the team to perform will be high. If Utah stumbles to a mediocre season, the team will return to the reputation it had in previous seasons of being no fun to play but not really competing for anything of value.

But, if Utah can live up to these high expectations, the program could move into a new tier of college football. One where expectations are high every year. One where the team is expected to be in contention for the conference title every year. One where it’s not even a question whether the team should be in the Top 25 to start the season.

Keep in mind, teams that have these expectations are the ones that recruit better. They’re the ones the media talks about most frequently. These are the teams that don’t have to fight for respect because they are given respect automatically. It’s a far better way to live in college football.

So, I am officially proposing that Utah leave the underrated label dead and buried in the past. It is time to embrace a new day, one where occasionally people are calling you overrated, but in reality, they are saying they are jealous of the respect you receive from others based on your successes. There’s no need for modesty in college football, the Utes need all the love and acclaim they can get if they’re going to reach the highest peaks of the sport.

Many people think that being underrated is a good thing, but they are just lying to themselves. Drake would be able to tell that’s not true. He won’t though, because he can just hire thousands of other people to do it for him with all the money he made from “God’s Plan”.

The underrated label served Utah well for the better part of a decade. But the program has grown and become stronger, it has no more need to be underrated. Utah is having their moment of national media attention entering the season. The next step is proving that all the hype was correct. If the Utes can do that, they may be able to shed to the underrated label for good. The program could move to a higher plane of living, that of the blessed souls who have become so powerful they are now overrated. It’s the best way to live. God’s plan.