College Football playoff Expansion

The College Football Playoff expansion: Money & transparency

A college football season filled with more questions than answers. A selection committee that makes decisions with less transparency than the Free Masons. A coast-to-coast chant to make like the Louisiana Purchase and double the size of the playoffs.

This four-year-old child has been immature in the sense that it has replaced some of the problems from the BCS computer system, but we cannot complain with the football that has been played over the past four seasons. The argument of the BCS system being better than the College Football Playoff is null and void. Especially, when the two teams who would have been selected in the old BCS system (No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Oklahoma) lost in their first-round contests for the 2017 College Football Playoff.

In the old system, Alabama would have been hung out to dry instead of looking to crown themselves champions for the fifth time in the past nine years. Furthermore, Georgia’s fans would have been stuck with only watching the Atlanta Falcons try to avenge their Super Bowl loss.

The main argument stems from the ever-changing guidelines that constitute admittance to the four-team playoff bracket. The committee sits high atop their ivory tower looking as 130 teams battle week in and week out determining who is the best in all of the land. This committee consists of 13 members, three of which had to recuse themselves from final votes due to conflicts of interest. These conflicts of interest range from Frank Beamer’s son being the special teams coach for the Georgia Bulldogs to the Clemson and Ohio State athletic directors being on the committee itself.

In the past, the notion of winning a Power Five conference championship was the golden ticket to get the inside track to the playoff bracket. The Big 12 typically found themselves with the most difficult path in, but this year, we were faced with an even more difficult decision with the  Big 12 championship being installed for the 2017 season. Before this year, the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC had uncontested seats at the table because of the leverage they had over the Big 12 and its regular season champion. Even though we saw Oklahoma get in two years ago, they had the most difficult path out of the five major conferences.

This addition of a Big 12 champion muddied the waters for two conferences this season. With Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia winning their conference championships in dominating fashion, there was no question as to who the top three teams would be.

However, issues arose at the No. 4 spot unlike any of the problems seen in the previous three seasons. We had a conference champion with two terrible losses in the Ohio State Buckeyes and a Nick Saban led Crimson Tide with one loss and an eye test that wasn’t 20/20.

At the end of the day, and to the dismay of Buckeye Nation, Alabama’s loss to Auburn reflected better than a championship in a conference of teams who beat each other up all year. As we saw in their game against Clemson, it seems to be that Alabama was the correct choice.

Now fast forward to 10 seconds after Alabama was named No. 4 and we see the Ohio State fans looking to burn the 13-person committee at the stake. The entire city of Columbus began to cry out for an eight-team playoff, an argument started prior the commencement of the College Football Playoff in 2013.

After a UCF win in the Peach Bowl over the Auburn Tigers, this pulse for an eight-team playoff reached both ends of I-75. UCF will be pushing a few extra chips to the middle of the table with the “National Championship” banner they will be raising in Spectrum Stadium.

College Football Playoff expansion

Photo by ALYSSA POINTER

The initial goal for the College Football Playoff was to put fate into the hands of the players, coaches and schools rather than in an algorithm. The College Football Playoff, for the most part, has relinquished some of the authority from the college football powers that be, but it has not been perfect.

An expansion of four teams will negate some of the issues that are seen in the covert decisions made with the four-team blue print now, but we still have the potential of the trials and tribulations surrounding the No. 4 spot translating to the No. 8 spot. Even with an eight-team playoff this year, the UCF Knights would have been on the outside looking in as the playoff committee listed them at No. 12 in the final poll.

Ohio State has been batted around like a tennis ball between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for each year of the College Football Playoff. Ohio State has been the perfect example of the lack of guidelines the playoff committee has with the pushing of each poll, and these guidelines have changed with each season.

Each season is unique, and no cookie cutter set of regulations will satisfy the problems we have had throughout the first four years of the playoffs. We are looking for transparency and consistency, and the narrative as to how the committee reached their four-team bracket has changed year in and year out.

Last year, Ohio State was not a conference champion, but they made it to the No. 3 seed over a two-loss, conference champion Penn State. This year, Alabama gained the No. 4 spot over Ohio State, who won their conference championship. Alabama was left out of the SEC championship after their loss to Auburn.

Alabama’s Nick Saban said that you should win your conference championship to be eligible for the College Football Playoff last year, and he had to put on a different hat as he campaigned for the Crimson Tide to be admitted over the Big Ten champions. If anything, the committee has been consistent in their search for the four best teams, but their basis for choosing the four best teams needs to be translated to fans.

Logistically, it would be very difficult for an eight-team expansion to occur. Exhibit A for almost every lawn chair Stan with an expansion plan is the idea of reducing the regular season to 11 games, so teams wouldn’t have to add another game to physically demanding schedule. Why play the Little Sisters of the Poor or Orphan Annie and the Misfits? Without the big dogs playing these teams, we will see better football, and no one wants to see Alabama beat up on Buddy the Baker’s Cupcakes, and we don’t want teams to risk injury against a school who would need more than divine intervention to beat them. These arguments hold water and represent legitimate gripes, but trimming the fat won’t make this playoff conundrum fit into a glass slipper.

College Football Playoff Expansion

Photo from SI.com

On the surface, this is the simple way of solving the main gripe fans have with the College Football Playoff. We get better football, and teams don’t have to risk injury and waste their time.

However, the regular season has too many hands dipping into the honey jar. Businesses, restaurants, fans and schools have too much invested into the college football regular season for it to shrink to anything less than 12 games. Each home game attributes to millions of dollars accrued in each school’s local economy during college football weekends. The local community loses profits in contingency with schools losing profit margins. This isn’t just a deterrent for the top tier teams, but it has consequences for the small programs, which round out the rest of the NCAA.

An eight-team playoff will result in monetary benefits for the eight teams making the playoffs, but the other 122 teams lose either a potential home game or a huge pay day from one of the larger teams. In the 2017 season, there were 26 games which had payouts of $1 million dollars or more just to show up and play. Over $150 million in guaranteed payouts circulated throughout college football this season. These payouts include big-time neutral site matchups, but the majority are accumulated in big schools paying smaller programs to play at their stadium. It’s the reason we see the games such as Kent State vs. Clemson or Appalachian State vs. Georgia.

The “show up” payouts allow for small programs to build facilities and stadium additions that allow smaller schools to remain competitive in a college football landscape that is top heavy. Many of these smaller programs depend on this money to stay afloat, and it also serves to finance other sports within a school. The largest payout for just showing up this season was the $1.65 million sent to Arkansas State for playing at Nebraska. There are other intangible benefits to getting the snot kicked out of you for these teams, but nothing speaks louder than money.

The path to an eight-team playoff won’t travel the way of a shortened regular season because people won’t lean where there ain’t green. The goal of the committee is to “increase revenue for all conferences and independent institutions,” but the expansion to eight teams will cause another hitch in the College Football Playoff that we live and die with each week.

We need to see transparency in the playoff committee if we want to see any productive changes in the near future. Eight-teams seems like a great idea until the economic logistics strike a nerve with each school in Division I football. Shortening the season will not benefit anyone, and the four-team, full regular season format we have now is the best we have.

Keeping the 12 game regular season and expanding to an eight-team playoff is a can of worms dealing with player safety that will be opened one day. But for now, transparency between schools, fans and the committee is the answer to the debacle we’ve seen in the four-team playoff.

 

Featured image from SI.com

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

The Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl has a three loss team and a team from a group of five conference, but there will be a lot of talent on the field. Both UCF and Auburn have a lot of players who can make it in the NFL. Here are the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl:

UCF Golden Knights

Mike Hughes, CB

NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

Mike Hughes (Photo by twitter.com)

Hughes is in his first year with UCF after transferring from UNC and has produced. The junior has had a great season with 44 total tackles, four interceptions and 11 passes defended. He was able to play against some great offenses in the American in Memphis and USF.

He is 5’11” and 185 pounds, which is a good enough start for the NFL, but he’ll need to add some strength. Hughes will likely get selected on day two or early on day three in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round

Shaquem Griffin, LB

Griffin’s brother, Shaquill, is already an NFL corner back with the Seahawks. Shaquem has been an impact player for UCF for the past two seasons. In his career he has 183 total tackles, 30 tackles for loss and 17 sacks. Griffin only has one hand, which could give some NFL teams some questions, but he has played well and deserves some NFL Draft consideration.

At 6’1″ and 221 pounds, he is a little undersized for a linebacker. He has produced really well for the Golden Knights and should be expected to do so again in the Peach Bowl.

Projected draft range: 6th round-undrafted free agent

Auburn Tigers

Carlton Davis, CB

Davis is a junior who has gotten significant playing time since his first season at Auburn. He has 136 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions in his career. NFL scouts like the fact that he is a lanky corner who has athleticism to match up with good receivers.

He is 6’1″ and 203 pounds, which is solid size for an NFL corner. Davis will be picked in the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Kerryon Johnson, RB

NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

Kerryon Johnson (Photo by al.com)

Johnson battled early in his career for more playing time, but shined this season as the SEC’s leading rusher. He has 2,423 rushing yards and 31 rushing touchdowns in his career. Most of his production is from this season, but it has averaged 4.9 yards per carry throughout his career.

At 6’0″ and 212 pounds, Johnson is a decent size for an NFL running back. He will be appealing to teams for his ability to run physically and also catch passes out of the backfield. He won’t go in the first round, but shouldn’t have to wait too long to hear his name after that.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round

Dontavius Russell, DT

Russell is just a junior and because he isn’t a top-tier prospect, might choose to go back to school. This season he has 41 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. As with most defensive tackles, their impact on the game is more than what shows up on the stat sheet.

He has great size at 6’3″ and 310 pounds. Russell will fit best as a 4-3 defensive tackle and should be good at stopping the run for an NFL team.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round

Other notable Auburn prospects: QB Jarrett Stidham (3rd round-5th round), G Braden Smith (3rd round-5th round), G Will Bell (7th round-undrafted free agent), C Austin Golson (4th round-6th round), LB Jeff Holland (3rd round-5th round), LB Tre’ Williams (4th round-6th round)

 

 

2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl preview

The last New Year’s Six bowl game before the College Football Playoff is the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Undefeated UCF and battle-tested Auburn will go head to head. Here is the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl preview:

12 UCF Golden Knights (12-0)

2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

McKenzie Milton (Photo by rivals.com)

UCF completed an undefeated season, but was unable to get anywhere close to the CFP. They had their game against Georgia Tech cancelled, but that wouldn’t have done much to help their resume. The Golden Knights beat six bowl eligible teams, including Memphis twice to get to their twelve wins.

The offense scores 49.4 points per game with the running game averaging over 200 yards per game. Adrian Killins Jr. averages 6.8 yards per carry with 762 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. His backup, Otis Anderson, has 456 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback McKenzie Milton is a threat with his legs too, with 497 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

Milton also operates a good passing offense with 3,795 passing yards, 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 69.2% completion. He has generated a lot of offense this season for the Golden Knights. His leading receiver is Tre’Quan Smith, who has 1,082 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

They have an average scoring defense that allows 25.2 points per game. UCF ranks 68th against the run and 110th against the pass. Linebacker Shaquem Griffin has been a star for the Golden Knights with 62 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks this season.

7 Auburn Tigers (10-3)

2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl preview

Kerryon Johnson (Photo by al.com)

The Tigers would’ve been in the CFP had they won the SEC Championship Game, but lost to Georgia. Their other losses were to Clemson and LSU. They beat five bowl eligible teams, which includes their big wins over Alabama and Georgia.

Offensively, Auburn scores 34.4 points per game and does a lot of damage on the ground. Kerryon Johnson was the SEC’s leading rusher with 1,320 yards and 17 touchdowns. Kam Martin and Kamryn Pettway also get some work, but Johnson gets the bulk of it with 236 carries.

Jarrett Stidham has been efficient at quarterback for Auburn, completing 66.7% of his passes. They don’t throw the most, but he has 2,827 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Ryan Davis is the leading receiver with 76 receptions for 768 yards and five touchdowns.

The defense ranks 10th in the country, allowing 17.3 points per game. They rank 31st against the run and 15th against the pass. Corner Carlton Davis has shut down opposing receivers this season. He has 34 total tackles, one interception and 10 passes defended.

Prediction

UCF’s defense is going to be gashed by the Auburn running game. Johnson will have a big game, which will set up Stidham in the passing game. While the UCF offense is good, Auburn’s defense will get enough stops to in the game.

Auburn Tigers 48 UCF Golden Knights 27

 

 

College Football Playoff Bracketology 12/3/17

The season is over and all that is left is for the committee selecting the teams for the College Football Playoff (CFP). Here is how the committee should rank the teams in their final rankings of the season:

In the playoff:

1. Clemson Tigers (13-0)

The Tigers won the ACC yet again. This time they beat Miami to secure the ACC crown. They were ranked first last week by the committee and that shouldn’t change in the final rankings.

Clemson has a great resume and beat nine teams who are playing in bowls this winter. The loss to Syracuse happened when Kelly Bryant wasn’t healthy and didn’t play the full game. If the Tigers aren’t ranked first by the committee it would be a surprise.

2. Oklahoma Sooners (12-1)

Oklahoma locked up a spot in the CFP with their 41-17 win over TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game. Winning would’ve been enough, but they really put their stamp on this game and proved to the committee that they belong in the CFP.

The Sooners have the one blemish on their record that came at the hands of Iowa State. Their resume is great outside the loss. They beat Ohio State, Oklahoma State and TCU twice. With the second best strength of record at the completion of their game, Oklahoma doesn’t have much to worry about.

Can the Sooners’ defense step up in the College Football Playoff?

3. Georgia Bulldogs (12-1)

Georgia avenged their only loss of the season with a big win in the SEC Championship over Auburn. This was a play-in game for the CFP, so Georgia is in.

The Bulldogs tested themselves with a game at Notre Dame and passed the test. Adding that game to their wins over Mississipi State and Auburn, along with the fact that they are the SEC Champions, puts them in the CFP.

Georgia finally has the chance to play for a national title, but what can they do now that they have the chance?

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2)

College Football Playoff Bracketology

J.T. Barrett (Photo by espn.com)

Ohio State was able to hold on in the Big Ten Championship and beat Wisconsin 27-21. The Buckeyes will now be hoping their resume looks better to the committee than Alabama’s does.

The Buckeyes have a lot of solid wins, which puts them in the conversation to be in the CFP. They beat Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Michigan. Three of these teams will be in or around the top 15 in the CFP committee’s final rankings. Alabama will have one team beat near the top 15, being LSU. I’ll take Ohio State beating three top 15 teams over, Albama’s possible one.

A Big Ten Championship is nice, but the Buckeyes feel they deserve to make the CFP.

First four out:

5. Auburn Tigers (10-3)

The Tigers lost in the SEC Championship Game. They would have been in had they won, but since they didn’t they will have to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Auburn lost three games, all coming to good teams, but was the only team to beat Alabama. They also beat Mississippi State and Auburn in their first meeting. At the end of the day, Auburn was in the position they wanted to be in at the end of the season, but failed to execute.

6. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)

College football playoff bracketology

Nick Saban (Photo by usatoday.com)

Alabama was the only team with realistic CFP chances that was idle this weekend. The Crimson Tide will be hoping that their metrics and resume can get them into the playoff.

The strength of record was sixth in the country heading into the weekend, but likely will drop when all the metrics are updated. They beat LSU, Mississippi State and Fresno State for solid wins, but other than that their resume isn’t great. They failed to beat an elite team all season (unless LSU is considered elite) and are paying for it now.

Had Florida State been as good as expected the resume might have had the necessary boost to get Alabama in the CFP.

7. Wisconsin Badgers (12-1)

Wisconsin lost in the Big Ten Championship and lost their chance to play in the CFP. It was a well fought game, but they ultimately fell short.

The Badgers didn’t play a great schedule, which meant they had no room for error this year. Wins over Northwestern and Michigan are nice, but won’t get anyone in the playoff without a conference championship.

It isn’t what Wisconsin fans wanted, but the team will still get to play in a big time bowl game.

8. USC Trojans (11-2)

USC won the Pac-12 Championship over Stanford in a 31-28 win. It’s a too little too late for the Trojans, but they have secured a second straight New Year’s Six bowl.

The Trojans beat Stanford twice and Arizona for their best wins of the season. Their losses to Washington State and Notre Dame aren’t bad, but they haven’t beaten enough good teams to warrant a higher ranking than this.

Next four out:

9. Miami Hurricanes (10-2)

Miami got off to a slow start against Clemson and were never able to recover in the ACC Championship Game. They had a great season, but came up just short of the CFP. A New Year’s Six Bowl game is not a bad result for Mark Richt in his second season.

The Hurricanes successfully beat Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, but were unable to accrue any other great victories. The loss at Pittsburgh, who didn’t qualify for a bowl game, really hurt Miami’s chances. If they were undefeated heading into the ACC Championship Game, they may have been able to afford a loss.

Mark Richt has started to bring the “U” back, but they haven’t gotten all the way back.

10. UCF Golden Knights (12-0)

UCF completed the undefeated record heading into the bowl games. They beat Memphis in a double overtime thriller 62-55 to win the AAC Championship.

It’s a shame that UCF, isn’t getting more recognition for the CFP, but they did lock up a chance to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Their two wins over Memphis are great and they also beat a Power 5 conference team in Maryland. If their game against Georgia Tech wasn’t cancelled due to a hurricane, they would’ve gotten much more love from the committee.

Scott Frost is reportedly out, so how will UCF respond in their big bowl game?

11. Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2)

Penn State did not play this weekend, but drop in the rankings as a result of other teams winning conference championships.

The Nittany Lions only have two solid wins, one over Michigan and one coming at the expense of Northwestern. They lost in both games in which they had a chance to really impress the committee. Had they beaten Ohio State and/or Michigan State, they would rightfully be in the CFP talk. They’ll have to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl.

Might we see another Penn State vs. USC matchup?

12. Washington Huskies (10-2)

Like Penn State, the Huskies didn’t play anyone this week. They benefit from teams losing in conference championship games though.

The Huskies couldn’t put it all together this season against good competition. Their best wins were over Fresno State and Washington State, but had a horrid schedule outside of those games.

Washington will also have to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl game.

 

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Five things we learned from conference championship week

Teams are preparing for bowl season or for next season depending on how their season finished. Heading into bowl games, more coaching carousel drama, here is what we learned:

1. Oklahoma locks up CFP, Baker Mayfield locks up the Heisman

Conference Championship week

Baker Mayfield (usatoday.com)

Oklahoma dominated in the Big 12 Championship, beating TCU 41-17. The Sooners were ranked third in the most recent College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings, so this win virtually locks up their CFP spot. With a record of 12-1 and a Big 12 Championship at hand, Oklahoma will be watching the selection show just to see who they are playing in the first round of the CFP.

On top of the Sooners winning the Big 12, their quarterback, Baker Mayfield, has cemented himself as the Heisman winner. In the Big 12 Championship Game, he threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns. With over 4,000 yards passing and 40 total touchdowns on the season, Mayfield is the obvious choice.

2. UCF has completed a great turnaround, but lose coach

Scott Frost was announced as the new head coach of the UCF Golden Knights after the 2015 season. UCF had just gone 0-12 and needed a lot of work. In his first season as head coach, Frost led the team to a 6-7 record, which included an appearance in the Cure Bowl. It was a great start to the turnaround, but Frost wasn’t done yet.

This season, UCF was not favored to win the conference, with teams like USF and Houston stealing the headlines. They were expected to take another step forward, however. They surprised everyone and ripped off 12 wins (one was cancelled due to a hurricane) and won the AAC Championship. The Golden Knights have earned the right to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl. The complete turnaround has been completed.

Unfortunately for UCF, Frost has reportedly taken the job at Nebraska. While it is a bittersweet moment for the Golden Knights, I don’t think they would trade the undefeated season and AAC Championship.

3. Georgia fans can relax….for now

Conference Championship week

D’Andre Swift (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

Georgia has been a team that looks like a contender early in the season, but nearly always blows it. The administration fired Mark Richt for his failures to compete at the highest levels. They hired Kirby Smart, who in his second season, has led the Bulldogs to a SEC Championship and the chance to win the whole thing.

The Bulldogs will be in the CFP and will be waiting to see how they play. They may have overcome the thought that they would choke, but they have to prepare for more big games if they want to win it all. Their wins over Auburn and at Notre Dame prove they can play with anyone in the country.

4. Clemson is battle tested

Clemson has put together another great season. They won the ACC Championship Game and are going to be in the CFP. Can the Tigers repeat as champs?

While the Tigers did lose to Syracuse, they beat a lot of good football teams this year. They won nine games against bowl eligible teams, including big wins over Auburn, Louisville, Miami, Virginia Tech and N.C. State. There were questions to start the season about Clemson, but they have answered most of those questions.

Does anyone want to play Clemson in the first round of the CFP?

5. J.T. Barrett is one of the toughest players of all time

J.T. Barrett re-aggravated a knee injury against Michigan and had to exit the game. Dwayne Haskins Jr. was able to take over and lead the team to victory. Barrett had surgery on his knee on the day after the Michigan game and was questionable to play in the Big Ten Championship.

He was able to start and play the whole game against Wisconsin. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but he once again got the job done and led the Buckeyes to victory. He had 271 total yards and three touchdowns while playing so banged up. While he may not go down as one of the greatest players in the history of Ohio State, he certainly is one of the toughest.

 

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College football conference championship week picks

Conference championship week is here, which means less games to pick. Joe DiTullio and Rob Doerger pick their conference champions and more!

Away Home Location Rob Joe
#12 Stanford #10 USC Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA Stanford USC
#20 Memphis #14 UCF Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, FL UCF UCF
Akron Toledo Ford Field, Detroit, MI Toledo Toledo
North Texas Florida Atlantic FAU Football Stadium, Boca Raton, FL FAU FAU
UMass Florida Intl FIU Stadium, Miami, FL FIU FIU
Louisiana Monroe Florida State Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL FSU FSU
#11 TCU #3 Oklahoma AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX Oklahoma Oklahoma
Georgia Southern Coastal Carolina Brooks Stadium, Conway, SC Georgia Southern Georgia Southern
Idaho Georgia State Georgia State Stadium, Atlanta, GA Georgia St Georgia St.
Louisiana Appalachian State Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone, NC App St App St
#6 Georgia #2 Auburn Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA Auburn Auburn
South Alabama New Mexico State Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM USA USA
Troy Arkansas State Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, AR Troy Troy
#25 Fresno State Boise State Albertsons Stadium, Boise, ID Boise Boise
#7 Miami #1 Clemson Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC Clemson Clemson
#8 Ohio State #4 Wisconsin Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN Ohio St Ohio State
Gameday Guest Picker (Charlotte) Michael Jordan Ray Lewis

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Five things to watch for in conference championship week

College football is winding down, but before bowl season comes, conference championships are left. With so much good football this weekend, here are five things to watch:

1. Two great defenses going at it in Atlanta

Conference Championship Week

Jarrett Stidham (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

Georgia and Auburn get a chance to play again in the SEC Championship. It’s not often that a rivalry game ends up happening in the conference championship games, but this one should be exciting. Both teams will be going at it hard to try and clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff (CFP).

The Bulldogs have the fifth best scoring defense in the country and are hoping they can do more to stop Auburn this time around. Georgia allowed 40 points, which is by far the most they have allowed all season. Their front seven is going to need to step up to stop a potent rushing attack. They have the talent, with NFL-bound players like Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter, but they didn’t step up last time.

Auburn ranks ninth in scoring defense. The Tigers run the football and play good defense, much like Georgia, which is usually a good recipe to win a lot of games. They have given up 27 points twice, but that is the most they have allowed in a game all season. For this matchup, they will be tasked with stopping all of Georgia’s great running backs. They should be able to continue doing what they have been doing.

Get ready for yet another defensive and physical game in the SEC Championship.

2. Can Miami dethrone Clemson?

Miami and Clemson meet in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday night. While Clemson’s resume is very impressive, Miami’s leaves a lot to be desired. At the end of the day though, if Miami can win, they are in the CFP.

Clemson is battle-tested, having faced eight teams that will likely get bowl invites. They did lose a game to Syracuse, but their quarterback, Kelly Bryant, wasn’t 100% healthy and had to leave the game. The Tigers have so many other good wins that they have still put themselves in a good position to make the CFP.

The Hurricanes have been one of the best stories in college football this season. Mark Richt has started the process of bringing the “U” mentality back to Coral Gables. They do have a loss to a lackluster Pitt team they suffered this past week, but the main thing that is concerning is their wins. Their wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, which were good wins at the time, look a lot worse now that Notre Dame lost again and the Hokies nearly dropped out of the rankings. To compound some of their concerns, they pulled their starting quarterback, Malik Rosier, near the end of the game against Pitt.

Miami will be the underdog in this game, but usually that’s how it works until the top dog is knocked off.

3. Wisconsin’s perfect season on the line

Conference Championship Week

Jonathan Taylor (Photo by dailycardinal.com)

Wisconsin is another team that has been criticized for not playing a very difficult schedule. They are undefeated and now will get their chance to prove to the world, and more importantly the committee, that they can beat a good team. Ohio State still has a chance to make the CFP, with some help, so a lot is at stake here.

The Badgers need to win to make the CFP, just like every other team playing this weekend. They haven’t played any premier teams and are doubted by a lot of people. Wisconsin can run the ball and play defense like most years. In what should be a low-scoring game, Jonathan Taylor will need to make big plays in the running game to set up Alex Hornibrook in good situations to throw the ball downfield. If Taylor can’t, Wisconsin will not be able to move the football.

Ohio State has been up and down all season. Their inconsistencies are in all three phases of the game. There are a lot of questions surrounding this team, especially after J.T. Barrett went down with an injury against Michigan. Dwayne Haskins came in and made some good throws to help keep Ohio State in this position. No matter who the quarterback is, the Buckeyes are favored and should be able to run the ball well.

Another conference championship game that should be low-scoring, the Big Ten Championship Game, will ultimately let everyone know if Wisconsin is for real or not?

4. Oklahoma’s potent offense vs. TCU’s balanced team

The Oklahoma Sooners and TCU Horned Frogs will have a rematch in the Big 12 Championship Game. The Big 12 moved to a championship game to get a better chance of having a team in the CFP, but this year it can backfire on them if TCU pulls off an upset.

Oklahoma will have Baker Mayfield for the full game this weekend, and he won’t disappoint. The Sooners’ offense has scored 45.3 points per game, with the fewest in a single game being 29. There will be fireworks when Mayfield and the offense take the field. He is still trying to pad his stats to win the Heisman Trophy, but already has over 4,000 yards passing.

TCU, on the other hand, has a top ten defense and a top 30 offense in terms of points allowed and points scored. Their offense won’t be explosive, but will take what the Oklahoma defense gives them. The defense will be tasked with slowing down Mayfield, something they failed to do in the first meeting.

The only question that remains is: Can TCU play spoiler for the whole Big 12 conference?

5. Offense, offense and more offense in the AAC Championship Game

The AAC Championship Game is going to be one of the more entertaining games to watch this weekend. Not only will the winner likely go to a New Year’s Six bowl game, but it will have a lot of offense and scoring along the way.

UCF is undefeated, and quite honestly, should be way higher up in the CFP standings. They have the highest scoring offense in the country, averaging 47.6 points per game. McKenzie Milton has been able to spread the ball around from his quarterback position, to get the Golden Knights to such a good standing. It’s only Scott Frost’s second year and he is already playing in the league title game with a lot on the line.

Memphis has lost only one game, coming at the hands of UCF. While the offense is only the fourth best in terms of scoring, they probably have bigger stars than UCF. Riley Ferguson has thrown for 3,500 yards in just 11 games. His top receiver, Anthony Miller, has made so many highlight plays and has 1,212 receiving yards. Look for Ferguson and Miller to connect a lot in this game.

 

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College Football Playoff bracketology 11/26/17

Conference championship games are set. There is still a lot of different scenarios that can happen, which will make the next week in football, on the field and off, fun to watch. Here are how the teams should be ranked after rivalry week (rankings of opponents are based off last week’s CFP rankings):

Playoff teams

1. Clemson Tigers (11-1)

College football bracketology

Kelly Bryant (Photo by greenvilleonline.com)

The Tigers beat yet another ranked team, South Carolina, to finish the regular season 11-1. With other teams ahead of them losing, they move up to the top spot of these rankings.

Clemson has beaten so many quality teams this season it is almost impossible to keep them out of the top spot. Their win against Auburn looks really good after the Tigers were able to beat Alabama. With other wins over Louisville, Virginia Tech, N.C. State and South Carolina, Clemson is sitting pretty entering the ACC Championship Game. The knock on them is their loss to Syracuse, but because they didn’t have their starting quarterback healthy for the game, the committee gives them a slight pass.

Ultimately, if Clemson wins in the ACC Championship Game, they are in.

This week: vs. 2 Miami Hurricanes

2. Oklahoma Sooners (11-1)

Baker Mayfield was suspended for two plays, but it didn’t matter. Oklahoma outscored another Big 12 team in West Virginia. They too benefit from teams ahead of them losing and are now in a great spot.

Oklahoma has big wins over TCU, Oklahoma State and Ohio State, making their resume really impressive. The loss to Iowa State isn’t that bad. With so many wins over great teams, including over a top ten team in Ohio State, Oklahoma controls their own destiny.

There haven’t been too many upsets in conference championships during the CFP era, but Oklahoma needs to stay focused against a tough opponent.

This week: vs. 12 TCU Horned Frogs

3. Auburn Tigers (10-2)

Auburn knocked off a number one team for the second time this season when they beat Alabama by 12. The Tigers played a physical and defensive game to beat Alabama and will get one more chance to prove what they can do to the committee.

The Tigers have beaten Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi State for a list of really good wins. They do have two losses, to Clemson and LSU, but the wins make up for it. At this point the committee can’t put Alabama or Georgia over them, so by virtue of winning their tough games, they are in the CFP slot at three.

They get a rematch in the SEC Championship Game to solidify their spot in the CFP.

This week: vs. 7 Georgia Bulldogs

4. Wisconsin Badgers (12-0)

The Badgers finished off the regular season undefeated after destroying their rival Minnesota. They may not have played the toughest schedule, but they are undefeated in a power conference, so they should be ranked within the top four this week.

Wisconsin’s big wins are over Northwestern and Michigan. Northwestern has won nine game on the season, while Michigan has won eight. Neither are great wins, but both are solid.

They will need to have their biggest game of the season, but if the Badgers win the Big Ten Championship, they are in the playoff.

This week: vs. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes

Next four out

5. Georgia Bulldogs (11-1)

Georgia didn’t have any trouble with their rival, Georgia Tech, and finished the season at 11-1. They get to move up the rankings slightly, but will need to win the SEC Championship Game to make the CFP.

The win at Notre Dame really helps them, as well as their win over Mississippi State. While they did get blown out by Auburn, they get a chance at revenge against them in the SEC Championship Game.

Basically, if Georgia wins, they are in.

This week: vs. 6 Auburn Tigers

6. Miami Hurricanes (10-1)

In a Friday noon game that was easy to lose in the shuffle of the holiday weekend, Miami lost a road game to Pitt. This was a game they couldn’t get the offense going and suffered their first loss of the season because of it.

Miami blew Notre Dame out and also had a big win over Virginia Tech. They were not able to play a full 12 game schedule due to all of the hurricanes this fall, which hurts them, but only minimally. The Hurricanes lost to Pitt, who is not a good football team. The good news is that they still control their own destiny.

Can the “U” come all the way back and win an ACC Championship Game with so much at stake?

This week: vs. 3 Clemson Tigers

7. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)

Alabama is out of the SEC Championship race after losing to Auburn. It was their first loss of the season, but their offense couldn’t get much done against a stifling Tigers’ defense.

Even though it is their first loss, they have to wait and see how other teams do next weekend to see if they can make the CFP. They have solid wins over LSU and Mississippi State, but have yet to beat an elite team. Their hope is that they can squeeze into the CFP, but they will need help.

The wait and see approach is never fun, but that’s all Alabama fans can do right now.

This week: N/A

8. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2)

College football playoff bracketology

Dwayne Haskins Jr. (Photo by thelantern.com)

The Buckeyes got the win in their big rivalry game over Michigan. They finished with 10 wins in the regular season and now get to play Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship.

The loss to Iowa hurts, while losing to Oklahoma is a little more understandable. For good wins, the Buckeyes bring their wins over Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan to the table.

If they beat Wisconsin, Ohio State will have a shot at the CFP.

This week: vs. 5 Wisconsin Badgers

Next four out

9. Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2)

Penn State beat Maryland this week to finish off a second straight double digit win season. This win will solidify their spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game, but they will not be able to make the CFP.

Their two losses are to Ohio State and Michigan State, but they don’t have many good wins. Their best wins are over Iowa and Michigan, so their resume will not be good enough.

A New Year’s Six Bowl is not a bad finish, but Penn State fans had higher hopes.

This week: N/A

10. USC Trojans (10-2)

USC finished their season a week early and got to watch all of the football unfold this week. They already have 10 wins and qualified for the Pac-12 Championship Game.

The Trojans lost to Notre Dame and Washington State. Those teams are both of good quality, but the wins haven’t made up for the losses. Arizona and Stanford are their best wins and that isn’t good enough to make the CFP. The only way they have a chance is if the committee goes crazy and thinks that the PAC-12 Champion deserves to be in.

They get to try to avenge one of their losses in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but it is likely too little, too late.

This week: vs. 17 Washington Huskies

11. TCU Horned Frogs (10-2)

TCU gets to play in the Big 12 Championship Game as a result of their win over Baylor this week. The Horned Frogs pulled away late to secure the victory.

Unfortunately, even if they win the Big 12 Championship Game over Oklahoma, they likely won’t get in. They do have good wins over Oklahoma State and West Virginia. The losses to Oklahoma and Iowa State aren’t bad, but the resume isn’t good enough to get them in the CFP.

Can the Horned Frogs be the spoiler for Oklahoma’s CFP chances?

This week: vs. 4 Oklahoma Sooners

12. UCF Golden Knights (11-0)

College football playoff bracketology

Shaquem Griffin (Photo by yahoo.com)

The Golden Knights finally find their way to the top 12 after defeating rival USF to finish the season off undefeated. They did lose the opportunity to play 12 games due to a hurricane, but are undefeated nonetheless.

UCF has beaten Memphis and USF who are both quality teams. They also beat a power five team in Maryland. The hurricane canceled a game against Georgia Tech that could have helped their resume, even though the Yellow Jackets are below .500. Their wins over Memphis and USF are better than they’ll ever get credit for, but they don’t play quality teams every week in the AAC.

They play Memphis in the AAC Championship Game this week, which should once again bolster their case to move up the rankings. With other teams losing ahead of them, they could get close to the CFP top four, but will likely be a handful of spots short.

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Five things to watch for in college football week 13

Rivalry week is now upon us, which means good football games are back. While not everyone is playing a rival, week 13 is going to be crazy for all college football fans. Here are five things to watch for in college football week 13:

1. The Iron Bowl

Alabama and Auburn is a great rivalry that has gotten even better over the last ten years. A lot of times at least one team has national title aspirations by the time the game comes around and some times both teams are in that position. This year both teams control their own destiny in terms of making the College Football Playoff.

The Crimson Tide are undefeated and haven’t even really been challenged too many times. This will definitely be a test for Alabama. Nick Saban has tried to get his team away from “rat poison” this season, but the Crimson Tide average the seventh most points per game and allow the least. They are ridiculously good.

Auburn has two losses, one to Clemson and one to LSU. Their season has been so great because of their defense and running game. They have a top ten defense and average 244 yards per game. The Tigers are tough to beat and have really come on the last few weeks.

The winner of this game will come as a result of better quarterback play. Jalen Hurts and Jarrett Stidham will need to make throws in key situations in order to get the win. The running games will be slowed due to the good defenses, so keeping the defense honest will win the game.

2. The Game

College football week 13 preview

Curtis Samuel in 2016 (photo by usatoday.com)

Ohio State and Michigan meet up for their annual game this weekend. The Buckeyes still have a feint hope of making the College Football Playoff and need to win. For Michigan, they don’t have too much to play for, but in this game, they don’t need much.

J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes have been one of the most inconsistent teams in college football, yet they still only have two losses. When the offense is clicking, the team is one of the best in the country. If Barrett and the offense can limit turnovers they will be in a good position to win the game.

Michigan’s strength is its defense. They allow the 11th fewest points per game in the country and are especially tough against the run. They slowed down Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor for most of the game before wearing down in the second half. If Ohio State’s offense shows up, Michigan’s defense will need to have its best game of the season.

3. Running backs in Notre Dame vs. Stanford

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick has decided that one of Notre Dame’s biggest rivals is Stanford. He decided wrong, but it is still a good game. The Fighting Irish still have a very slim chance to make the College Football Playoff, but should be thinking more about a New Year’s Six bowl game.

A week after beating Navy, Notre Dame gets a chance to finish the season with 10 wins. They have a good ground game and are great at causing turnovers. Their running back, Josh Adams, has had a great season behind a great offensive line. He will highlight a matchup of elite college running games.

Bryce Love is the other quality running back in this game. Love actually still has a chance to win the Heisman with his great statistical season. The offense runs through Love and if the Cardinal have any chance of winning, he will need to have a great game.

4. The Apple Cup

College football week 13 preview

(Photo by mercurynews.com)

One of the better emerging rivalries is the Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State. This year the Pac-12 Championship Game is on the line for the Cougars and both teams are ranked to make it a very appealing game.

Mike Leach has turned Washington State’s program completely around. This season they only have two losses and are knocking on the door for the Pac-12 Championship Game. That is something a lot of people would have never expected. A thing most people expect is how much Washington State throws the ball, as they have one of the best passing attacks in the country.

Washington had College Football Playoff hopes entering the season after making it last season. They are out of that picture now due to having two losses and a weak non-conference schedule. The Huskies are still a talented team that could sneak into a New Year’s Six bowl game with a win and some help.

The big matchup to watch is the Cougars’ passing attack against the Washington pass defense. If the Huskies can shut down the passing attack they can win.

5. UCF vs. USF

A couple weeks ago the thought was that this could be a matchup of undefeated teams. Unfortunately USF lost to Houston to ruin that. The Florida teams in the AAC still have a lot to play for. The winner of this game will get to play in the AAC Championship Game and could make a New Year’s Six bowl game.

UCF has had a tremendous turnaround under Scott Frost. The year before he got there, they were 0-12. Last season, Frost’s first year, UCF went 6-6. Now they have a chance to turn it all the way around and finish with a 12-0 regular season record. The Golden Knights will make an exciting game out of this one way or another, as they have the highest scoring offense in the country.

The Bulls were the team that were thought to be undefeated at this point in the season. They had an easy schedule and a lot of players returning from a successful team last year. While they do have a loss, they can still reach a great bowl game, something that was likely their ceiling this year anyways. With Quinton Flowers at quarterback and a good defense, they can spoil UCF’s perfect season.

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Five things we learned from college football week 12

College football week 12 didn’t offer much, but more can still be learned. Here are five things we learned from the games in week 12:

1. USC the much better team, Rosen the better quarterback

college football week 12

Sam Darnold (Photo by nydailynews.com)

USC beat UCLA 28-23 to finish off a 10-2 regular season. The Trojans are in the Pac-12 Championship and are likely at least going to be in a New Year’s Six bowl game. There is no doubt that USC is the better football team, but this game was marketed as a duel between top quarterback prospects, and probably rightfully so.

Josh Rosen had a great game that saw him throw for 421 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He literally had to carry his team to keep them close, something he is very used to. He showed in this game that he is the much more polished quarterback.

Sam Darnold threw for 264 yards and an interception. The most impressive thing he showed off was his scrambling and athletic ability. He may have a higher ceiling than Rosen, but he showed that he has a lot of developing to do before he gets to that point.

2. Jonathan Taylor can produce against good competition

Taylor had a tall task this week going up against the Michigan defense. He started off slowly, but ended up thriving. The freshman finished with 132 rushing yards. He did have a 56 yard run, but in the second half he started running more consistently.

For Wisconsin to have any shot to beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, Taylor has to produce. Taylor should be able to get near 2,000 yards on the season and is a serious Heisman contender, but he had yet to prove it on the big stage. Now, Wisconsin knows they can lean on him in tough games.

3. UCF will a chance to prove themselves

College football week 12

McKenzie Milton (Photo by hawaiiprepworld.com)

The UCF Golden Knights have been snubbed by the College Football Playoff committee with their rankings so far. They are undefeated and actually, up through last week, had a better strength of record than Wisconsin. While they will not make the CFP, they should be getting more serious attention.

For UCF, it all comes down to the last two games of their season. First they get to play their rival USF, who has just one loss on the season. If they win that game, they get to play what will likely be a one loss Memphis team in the AAC Championship Game. Memphis is ranked currently and moving up. This gives UCF two great opportunities to show the world what they’ve got. If they win both, they are going to a New Year’s Six bowl game.

4. Bill Snyder is going bowling again

Kansas State got a big upset win over Oklahoma State this week. Oklahoma State will likely not be in the Big 12 Championship Game because of the loss. Just when everyone starts to doubt Snyder, he gets his team ready to go and they pull off the upset win.

Snyder is now going to his 19th bowl game as the head coach of the Kansas State Wildcats. This is an impressive feat, given that Kansas State was atrocious before he got there and he is in his second stint as head coach for the university at age 78. This year will help him into 12th place all by himself for bowl game appearances by a coach.

5. Late season cupcake games need to end

Yes, playing FCS teams funds their athletic department, but the games are not fun to watch.  College football is in the heat of a great playoff race and it is all interrupted to play FCS teams. The drama that has built up for weeks, just took a pause in week 12 and is expected to pick back up for rivalry week. There should be a way around this, whether it’s hosting the games at another time (early in the season), or just as an exhibition.

All teams in the top ten won this weekend and it has nothing to do with the quality of the teams, it has to do with the quality of the competition. If college football wants to really draw in the most viewers, it can do so by not having its best teams schedule cupcake games in November, a time when fans are supposed to be getting ready for bowl and playoff season. While it likely won’t be fixed for a while, if at all, it made week 12 very mundane and should be corrected for the future.

 

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