The Final Four, one of the most celebrated and loved sports events of the year, is finally here. It’s safe to say this year is going to be just as good, if not better, than previous years. It might also be safe to say that not many people actually believed that these four teams would be here.
Out of the 18,797,085 brackets that were filled out for the ESPN bracket challenge, only 657 had Oregon, UNC, Gonzaga and South Carolina in the Final Four. That’s just 0.00003 percent.
South Carolina and Gonzaga are making their first Final Four appearances in program history. Oregon is also making their first since 1939.
Needless to say, UNC has the upper hand in terms of participation and experience. Roy Williams has coached a total of 520 minutes in the Final Four while Mark Few (Gonzaga), Frank Martin (South Carolina) and Dana Altman (Oregon) all have zero minutes.
Let’s take a closer look at the upcoming Final Four matchups for this weekend.
UNC vs. Oregon
UNC is clearly favored by many to win this game and the championship because of their experience.
North Carolina forward Luke Maye celebrates his game winning shot against Kentucky this past Sunday (Photo/ Brandon Dill).
The Tar Heels are led by coach Roy Williams and ACC player of the year Justin Jackson. They will look to capitalize after their last-second victory over second-seeded Kentucky in the previous round.
The Ducks are led by senior Pac-12 player of the year Dillon Brooks and coach Dana Altman. They will look to keep their hot streak going after a dominant win against first seeded Kansas.
These two teams are very similar on paper. Each rank in the top 20 in offense and defense. UNC has one of the best transition offenses in the NCAA and the Ducks have one of the best transition defenses.
The one thing that may define this game is on the glass. UNC is the best offensive rebounding team in the NCAA. That doesn’t bode well for Oregon, who is one of the worst rebounding teams in the NCAA.
UNC may be the favorite here, but don’t be surprised if the Ducks make something magical happen. It could go either way.
Gonzaga vs. South Carolina
Well this is a first for both teams. It is a tale of two completely different stories: the underdog vs. the favorite.
South Carolina players celebrate their victory over Florida this past weekend to advance to the Final Four (Photo/ Maddie Meyer).
Gonzaga was a heavy favorite coming into the tournament as they are most years. They are led by head coach Mark Few, who became the third fastest coach to reach 500 wins in Division I history early in the tournament.
This game is going to be interesting because the Gamecocks and the Bulldogs preach defense. The Gamecocks defense ranks second in defensive efficiency in the country, and Gonzaga is first.
What many believe to be the deciding factor in this matchup is the offensive efficiency. Gonzaga is top 20 in the country while South Carolina ranks in the bottom portion of the country.
Gonzaga may have the best chance to win on paper. However, if we’ve learned anything from the history of March Madness, it’s that anything can happen.
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Quack quack, the Oregon Ducks are going to Glendale, Arizona to play in the Final Four.
If this feels a little bit weird, it’s because it is. It’s not weird in the fact that Oregon is this far along in the tournament. They’re definitely a good enough team to be here. People may find it weird because the last time the Ducks made the Final Four was before World War II.
Oregon seniors Dillon Brooks and Dylan Ennis celebrate their victory over Kansas Saturday night. (Photo/Charlie Riedel)
The last time Oregon was in the Final Four was in the inaugural NCAA tournament in 1939. You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out that 1939 was a long time ago.
The University of Oregon, which has predominately been a football school, seems to have switched into a basketball-dominate school. The football program still continues to be the main breadwinner of Oregon athletics with their flashy uniforms and electrifying athletes. However, the basketball program has been high above the football program these past couple years in terms of success.
How did this happen? How did Oregon basketball, a rather quiet program up until the 2000s, become such a powerhouse?
It all starts with the coach Dana Altman, who has a program record of 187-69. The Ducks have made five straight NCAA tournament appearances in the last seven years since Altman became head coach. That includes an Elite Eight last year and a Final Four this year. The Ducks have also won two straight regular season Pac-12 titles.
Since Altman took over in 2010 Oregon has made the tournament five out of seven years, including five straigh apperances. (Photo/USA Today)
Ernie Kent was Oregon’s coach before Altman. The Ducks only made the NCAA tournament five times in Kent’s thirteen years with only one regular season conference championship. The Ducks have become supreme under Altman in the ranks of college basketball.
Gonzaga is also making program history with their first Final Four apperance. So what makes Oregon’s run different? Oregon wasn’t picked by many to be here despite their three seed.
Gonzaga was expected to be here as they are almost every year now. Oregon’s road to Arizona was seen as more difficult than most.
The trouble started before the tournament for the Ducks. It was announced before the tournament that senior forward Chris Boucher would be out the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. What was seen as a huge blow to Oregon’s championship chances turned out to be just a bump in their road to the Final Four.
Oregon cruised past their first round opponent Iona 93-77 under the leadership of senior and Pac-12 player of the year Dillon Brooks. The clutch play from junior Jordan Bell and sophomore Tyler Dorsey helped the Ducks squeak by their next opponents. Oregon won their next games against Rhode Island and Michigan by a combined four points. Next in the Elite Eight was the gauntlet: Kansas.
The Ducks handled Kansas 74-60, who many thought to be the tournament favorite rather dominantly Saturday night.
Now the Ducks are in the Final Four, which is an incredible accomplishment for any basketball program. With a rather unusual Final four, the Ducks look to win their first championship since the inaugural tournament in 1939.
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As Dick Vitale would say, “It’s tournament time baby!” I don’t know who is more excited, the fans or the players. Even if your team didn’t make it to the dance, there is still a lot to cheer for.
I know the term bandwagon fan carries a lot of negative connotation, however for bragging rights, you want to be cheering for the right teams. Now fair warning, these might not be the teams that have the best statistics or record. Half of the battle is figuring out how the bracket is set up, which has a large impact on how teams do rather if it is admitted or not. Here are the teams to root for if yours didn’t make the cut.
The underdog: Middle Tennessee State
The beauty of tournament time is that anyone can win on any given day. Pay attention to the season statistics but also expect the unexpected when the final buzzer sounds.
Middle Tennessee State is that Cinderella team that could get out of the first round and surprise us all. The Blue Raiders are 20-1 in its last 21 games and they only have three underclassmen. So if they want it to happen, this is the year to do it.
Their team is ranked in the top 50 for overall defensive efficiency. All four of their losses this season have been relatively close and they only allow 63.3 points per game (ranked 21st). Let’s not forget MTSU beat Michigan State last year and could very well do the same to Minnesota.
Giddy Potts of Middle Tennessee State (DNJ.com)
Giddy Potts is leading the charge for his talented squad. Potts is averaging 15.8 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. What makes him special is his work effort and ability to score at all three levels consistently.
He was named MVP for their conference tournament after putting up 30 points against Marshall. Potts is the guy who will hit contested threes, but burn his opponent with a quick first step if they close out too hard.
Potts may be getting buckets, but he isn’t out on an island. He has the help of JaCorey Williams who is shooting 54.1 percent from the field right now.
Reggie Upshaw and Tyrik Dixon are also contributing large minutes and statistics for the Blue Raiders.
After beating Minnesota, the Blue Raiders will take on either Butler or Winthrop. Butler is a good tournament team and known for upsets in the past, but Middle Tennessee State has proven to be a tough team.
Keep an eye on notre dame
The Irish have proven to be a wholesome team over the duration of this season. They are coming off a close loss to Duke which should propel them throughout the tournament.
The key to success for Notre Dame is sharing the ball. They are 37th in the nation for assists, averaging 16 per game. They have strength at all positions and when they share the ball, they can’t be stopped.
Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame (Photo Credit to Zimbio.com)
If Bonzie Colson is having a game for himself, Notre Dame is just as good as any team in nation. Duke may have won the ACC tournament but Colson put up 29 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a stellar performance.
Colson isn’t putting on a one man show though. Matt Ferrell is a special point guard dishing out 5.5 assists per game and shooting 41.3 percent from behind the arc.
The Irish are killer from behind the arc because of Ferrell and a few other key players. Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem are shooting over 36 percent from three-point range. This will be tough to guard for their opponents.
The Irish often are over looked when it comes to tournament time. Last year they made it to the Elite 8 and lost to UNC. This year they have a better record coming out of regular season play and more experience.
Arizona deserves a lot more respect than they’re getting
All of the talk regarding the PAC-12 has been about UCLA mostly because of Lonzo Ball and his father’s interesting comments. Most recently LaVar Ball said he could’ve beaten Michael Jordan in his hay day and his son is better than Steph Curry. One could see why the press would jump on that. UCLA is also ranked 78th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to pre tourney data (kenpom.com) which is a weakness for sure.
However the real team to watch from the PAC-12 is Arizona. They just won the conference tournament, and beat Oregon and UCLA to do so. They likely won’t see any true competition until the Sweet Sixteen if they play to the best of their ability.
Right now it’s the combination of Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier that are making offense flow for the Wildcats. Markkanen is a freshman with the skills to play inside and out. Trier is basically doing it all from scoring and rebounding to distributing the ball. Both guys are shooting over 40% from behind the arc.
The team itself is highly efficient from three point and on offense in general. Their top five player of Allonzo Trier, Lauri Markkanen, Rawie Alkins, Dusan Ristic and Kadeem Allen are all shooting over 37% from three-point land. They are also all over 44% from the field. Not only that, they also allow only 65.4 points per game on the defensive end.
The west is a tough region but the Wildcats have the personnel to do some damage.
Iowa state could go far in the midwest
Lots of people are saying that Kansas has a cake walk to the National Championship game. Everyone seems to forget that Iowa State has gone 10-2 in its last 12 games including a road win against Kansas.
They beat Miami early on in the regular season. They only lost to Baylor by two early on, then beat them by three in late February. The Cyclones also beat Kansas in overtime in early February as previously mentioned. To sum up, they have the heart and the gumption to beat some high caliber competition.
Monte Morris flexes on the baseline after a big play (Photo Credits to YouTube)
The team itself is comprised of a bunch of guys who put up good numbers. They aren’t anything out of the ordinary, they just get the job done. Monte Morris leads the team with 16.3 points per game but the next few guys are all putting up anywhere from 12-16 points on average.
After a win over Nevada, they will likely see a very good Purdue team.
When it comes down to it, all the statistics in the world can only tell so much. March is the month of madness for a reason.
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There must be an eight team playoff in college football. This college football season has been the best of any in recent history. There is constant rhetoric on who should have been in the playoffs and who shouldn’t. There is constant questions on who is capable of challenging the unbeatable Alabama Crimson Tide.
Alabama has clearly looked like the best team in the country, but games are not won on paper and anything can happen once the ball is kicked off. There are upsets every week and Week 11 showed it more than ever. For the first time since 1985, the second, third and fourth ranked teams all lost on the same day. It was madness and chaotic and we all loved it! College football still has a little guy, Western Michigan, that went undefeated and gets absolutely no love at all. Their schedule is blamed for their low rankings at the end and throughout the year. There is an issue with the current format of a four team playoff.
College football is exciting and a four team playoff system was a great start, but we want, no, we need more. There needs to be an eight team college playoff. Part of the reason the college game went to a playoff system was because the BCS system didn’t allow the nation to see a true champion. There was rarely a year in which the third ranked team in the BCS didn’t have a case to be in the national championship. This year is no different. As mentioned previously, Western Michigan went undefeated and has to settle for playing in the Cotton Bowl. This isn’t the first time a small school had been disrespected by the polls.
The Little Guy
(Photo: Steve Grayson/WireImage)
Why can’t the little guy get a chance to upset Goliath? There are plenty examples of teams who did not have a snowball’s chance in Hell to win against a college football giant, but somehow found a way. In 2006, Boise State won one of the greatest games in college football history.
The 2006 Boise State team was a member of the Western Athletic Conference, which is now extinct in football. It was a conference that was considered one of the worst in the country. Boise State had two big non-conference wins that season. The Broncos beat Oregon State 42-12 and they also won at Utah 36-3. Boise finished the season undefeated, but the BCS only ranked Boise at eighth. Boise State was never considered for the national championship because of their weak conference. They had to settle for playing number 10 ranked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl which became an instant classic.
To sum up the game, with a 1:02 left in a 28-28 tie, Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky threw an interception to Marcus Walker who ran the interception back 34 yards for a touchdown to give Oklahoma a 35-28 lead. Fast forward to Boise State’s next possession with 18 seconds remaining. It was fourth and 18. Boise State ran the famous hook and lateral that worked for a touchdown. The game was tied at 35 with just seven seconds remaining.
Oklahoma got the ball first in overtime and Adrian Peterson ran it in for a 25 yard touchdown to give Oklahoma a 42-35 lead. Boise was able to answer with a touchdown and head coach Chris Petersen decided to go for two. Boise State ran the statue of liberty in for the two-point conversion and the win, 43-42. The Broncos finished the season with a perfect 13-0 record and the only team left undefeated that season.
Continuing with the theme of small conference schools being snubbed, the next example is the 2008 Utah Utes who were in the Mountain West. Utah won at (24) Michigan, then beat (11) TCU and (14) BYU at home. They finished ranked sixth in the final BCS rankings and had to settle for playing in the Sugar Bowl against (4) Alabama. Utah easily won the Sugar Bowl 31-17 even though they were 10 point underdogs. They finished the year as the only undefeated team in the country, but were not the national champions.
(ESPN/The Associated Press)
That same year Boise State finished the regular season undefeated as well, and was ranked ninth in the BCS. The Broncos only had one impressive win that season in which they won at Oregon 37-32. It was the famous LeGarrette Blount punch game. That year Boise didn’t even get to play in a BCS Bowl game. They played TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl and lost 17-16.
2009 left the BCS in chaos at the end of the year as there were five undefeated teams: Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State. The national championship game ended up being Alabama versus Texas. The other three undefeated teams were not given the chance to play for a national championship.
Texas had gone 3-0 against the top 25 with only one of those wins coming on the road. Cincinnati had gone 4-0 against the top 25 with three of those wins coming on the road. Texas was chosen because of their name. The small schools always get the short end of the stick when being listed with the best of the best.
The last example of small schools from small conferences comes from 2010 from TCU. TCU won at (24) Oregon State to open the season. The Horned Frogs only had one other ranked game which came on the road against (6) Utah. TCU demolished the Utes 47-7. In the end their wins weren’t impressive enough as they finished the season in the BCS ranked third. The two teams that finished ahead of them, Auburn and Oregon, were both undefeated as well. TCU ended up in the Rose Bowl against (4) Wisconsin and won 21-19 to finish the season undefeated.
There is a common theme with all these undefeated small schools. Utah, TCU and Boise State were almost always involved. Utah has had two undefeated seasons in the past 13 seasons and accomplished both of their undefeated seasons in the Mountain West Conference. The Utes ended up leaving for the Pac-12 because it is a power five conference. TCU finished with their only undefeated season in the Mountain West as well, but left for the Big 12, a power five conference. They left because of the disrespect year in and year out towards the Mountain West Conference. The last of these three teams, Boise State, has had three undefeated regular seasons in their last 11 seasons.
Typically a program this consistent would have played in a national championship, but Boise has yet to play for one. There is a bias against teams not in the power five and Western Michigan is the snub this season. The most common response from someone who argues that these teams don’t deserve the shot because of their small conferences has one of two responses.
The first is “let’s see if they do this again next year and next year if they are undefeated they should be in.” There are two problems with that reaction and the first is the team that is undefeated this year is a completely different team than they will be the next year. The second issue is that statement has proven to be false because Boise State had three undefeated regular seasons in four years and never got the chance.
Another common response is “Oh they would get blown out by Alabama and other big schools”. That statement is once again false as there are countless examples of smalls schools upsetting the goliath schools. Above there were examples listed, including Utah beating Alabama, and here are some more: In 2010 FCS member Jacksonville State beat Ole Miss 49-48, FCS James Madison won at (13) Virginia Tech 21-16 and perhaps the biggest upset of all time, 2007 Appalachian State beat (5) Michigan 34-32.
All these small schools pulled off what many believed to be impossible but the game is played on the field and not on paper, or by the amount of stars a recruiting class has. Western Michigan might be able to beat Alabama, Clemson, or Ohio State but everyone assumes they have no chance because of history. Yes, these programs have been national powers for decades but that doesn’t mean the little guy can’t hang, or win. An eight team playoff needs to be made with certain requirements similar to the ramifications in college basketball. These requirements are needed because of the mistakes made since the inception of the four team playoff.
The college football playoff started in 2014 and is only entering their third year. In 2014, college football fans were so happy to finally receive the playoff system that they had been so desperately asking for for almost a decade. Fans were so happy in fact, there was no chance it would be criticized in the first year, but they had set precedents in which would eventually make the committee look like hypocrites.
In 2014, heading into conference championship week the rankings were as follows: (1) Alabama 11-1, (2) Oregon 11-1, (3) TCU 11-1, (4) Florida State 12-0, (5) Ohio State 11-1, and (6) Baylor 11-1. All six teams had won their game on championship week by wide margins. The final college football rankings finished with TCU dropping to sixth and Ohio State finishing in fourth, thus knocking TCU out of the college football playoff. The reasoning given by the committee stated that TCU did not win their conference therefore Ohio State deserved to be in. TCU and Baylor were both 8-1 in conference play, but Baylor beat TCU head to head 61-58.
Fast forward to this year where the playoff committee selected Ohio State over Penn State. Ohio State had one loss on the year to Penn State. Penn State had two losses to Pittsburgh and Michigan. Two years earlier the playoff committee favored Ohio State because they won a conference championship and yet this year left Penn State out who won head to head versus Ohio State, won the division in the BIG 10 in which Ohio State is in, and won the BIG 10 Championship. The college football committee that said conference championships matter two years earlier ignored that Ohio State didn’t win their conference.
Essentially the committee is saying head to head wins mean nothing, nor do conference titles after this year’s playoff selection. Subliminally they are saying whoever can bring in the most revenue will make the playoffs if they have a good year. If revenue matters that much then push it to an eight team playoff to create even more dollars.
In the first year, the college football playoff paid out 500 billion dollars to schools which was the largest payout ever, which improved in areas of 200 million from the final BCS season. In total there was a 63 percent increase in postseason revenue. Doubling the amount of teams in the playoff could essentially double the amount of money to be made with extra games of importance.
What Should an 8 Team Playoff Look Like?
If and when college football goes to an eight team playoff, there needs to be a few rules on who can make the playoffs. In the current system a conference championship means nothing and part of what has made college football great for the past 100 years is the thrill of winning the conference. In basketball, winning your conference give you an automatic bid to the tournament. Football should follow that model to an extent. There are 10 conferences plus four independent schools so with a six team playoff not everyone can automatically get a bid. Here is how college football should handle the eight team playoff that would make everyone happy.
If you win the conference championship of a power five conference (BIG 10, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, ACC) you are guaranteed a spot in the eight team playoff. To accommodate for small schools and give them the chance they have earned, the sixth spot goes to the highest ranked team from the group of five conferences (AAC, Conference-USA, MAC, Sun-Belt, Mountain West). There would be two spots remaining and those spots should be At-Large bids given to the best two teams remaining in the country. This is what this year’s eight team playoff would look like in this format:
(1) SEC Champion: Alabama vs. (8) Group of 5: Western Michigan
(2) ACC Champion: Clemson vs. (7) Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma
(3) At-Large Bid: Ohio State vs. (6) At-Large Bid: Michigan
(4) Pac-12 Champion: Washington vs. (5) BIG 10 Champion: Penn State
(David Dermer / Associated Press)
This college football playoff would have the perfect amount of teams. Aside from the two At-Large bids, nobody can argue the selection of the other six teams. There will always be that argument of bubble teams and who is the most deserving bubble team. In this format some people would be mad that USC isn’t in because of how hot they were towards the end of the year. The simple solution is to tell USC, if you win your conference and you’ll be in.
This format doesn’t require a team to go undefeated. An early loss in the season would allow you a second chance to bounce back and win the conference. That can’t be said now. Penn State and Oklahoma won their conference and don’t get a shot to be the national champion. Western Michigan is told good job on going undefeated but your conference is weak, and so is you’re schedule so just take this Cotton Bowl bid. The four team format was a great start, but this eight team format would be the perfect way to crown a champion.
Change. It is a simply spelt and pronounced word, but becomes complex when people start to deal with change. People run away from change out of fear. People usually grimace at the thought of change. Change is often looked at as a bad thing, but change can also be viewed as a great thing. Change is needed for growth and knowledge. Society finds it hard to change things that are long standing traditions, even if they do not work, are outdated, or completely wrong.
(Photo: Daniel Gluskoter, AP)
Take a look at the national anthem controversy for instance. Rather than admit its flaws, people are back-lashing against Colin Kaepernick. Why can’t we admit our faults as people or as a society? Because people hate change, whether it’s for the betterment of society or not. It is so much easier to go with the flow rather than to adapt.
It is time for a change in college football by eliminating any and all conferences. They are unnecessary in this day and age. They serve no purpose other than to please tradition. This is a highly unpopular opinion but hear me out before you grab your pitchforks.
(Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers players celebrate defeating the LSU Tigers by doing the Lambeau Leap following the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY)
The best teams need to play each other weekly regardless of their region or conference. Week one was one of the greatest weeks of college football ever. People are still glamorizing it because it was that epic. We saw great games all over such as (15) Houston defeating (3) Oklahoma. We saw Wisconsin upset (5) LSU. We saw unranked Texas A&M upset (16) UCLA. (18) Georgia beat (22) North Carolina. (2) Clemson had to sneak by unranked Auburn by six points. Fans saw Texas upset (10) Notre Dame in an overtime classic. On a Monday night game, (4) Florida State beat (11) Ole Miss.
Week two also saw some great programs matching up for exciting games. Arkansas was unranked and upset (15) TCU. (17) Tennessee beat Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway in the most attended game in college football history with 156,990 in attendance.
Since the first two weeks there still have been great non-conference games even as teams have gotten into conference scheduling. In week six, Navy upset (6) Houston 46-40 in one of the most exciting back and forth games of the year. Most recently in week 12, the same Houston team that was upset by Navy, and was unranked, ended (5) Louisville’s shot at making the playoffs. They upset the Cardinals 36-10.
All these non conference match-ups with top programs facing off gave us excitement. Fans of football rejoiced over how fun it was to watch these teams play their hearts off to win these big time games. These games mean so much more with the rather new playoff system that determines a true champion in college football. Eliminating conferences would not eliminate rivalries because schools would be able to schedule 10-12 games completely how they want. The only thing each school would have to do is make sure they schedule their rival schools annually.
These huge games are what the fans want to see. It doesn’t have to be just about the fans either. The college football playoff committee highly values a team’s strength of schedule. Nobody wants to see Alabama playing teams like Chattanooga or Kent State, teams in which they manhandled this year. Ohio State shouldn’t be playing teams like Rutgers, who happens to be in their conference, or Tulsa. Clemson games are boring when they play teams like South Carolina State or Syracuse. Imagine Clemson scheduling Alabama, Michigan, and Ohio State. If a team goes undefeated with a non-conference schedule as tough as this, there would be no question they deserve to be in the playoffs.
One of the biggest problems with the state of college football now is that great teams still get snubbed from making the playoffs. We need the best four teams in the country making the playoffs as long as it is a four team format. Maybe one day it will be a six or eight team format to eliminate more doubt, because there will always be a team or two on the bubble.
Currently the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12 and the Big 12 are known as the power five conferences. Most people can agree these are the top five conferences in the country, with each taking turns on where they rank within the power five.
In the current playoff system, one of the power five conferences will not be represented. A champion from one of these conferences will not have the chance to play in the playoffs and prove they are the best team in the country. This doesn’t account for a team without a conference, such as Notre Dame, who could go undefeated and cause two power five conferences to be left out of the playoffs. It also doesn’t account for a year like this one in which Ohio State and Michigan both look like teams capable of winning a national championship.
The first ever college football playoff left out TCU and/or Baylor in favor of Ohio State. The debate raged on about which of these teams should have gotten in. Ohio State then went on to win the National Championship as a four seed to quiet the debate, but how do we know, without a doubt, that TCU or Baylor would not have done the same? How do we know TCU or Baylor would’t have beat Ohio State? This is the problem with conferences. The Big Ten was assumed to be the better conference which is why the playoff committee chose to take Ohio State over one of the Big 12 teams. It was all because the Big 12 conference doesn’t have a conference championship game.
There is another issue at hand when it comes to conferences and the entire playoff format. There is always a talk of two teams getting into the playoffs from the same conference. If that were to happen, two conference champions from a power five conference would be left out. This was the problem with the BCS system that the playoffs were suppose to fix. The question that should be asked is how can you be a champion of the nation if you weren’t a champion of your conference? Essentially that is what happens if two SEC or two Big Ten teams get into a four team playoff. Eliminating conferences erases all the doubt. It makes teams schedule harder competition and creates more exciting games. If a school didn’t do it, they wouldn’t get into the playoffs.
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Conferences started mostly due to how difficult it was to travel when teams were still taking buses. Colleges can afford to fly their teams in today’s sports and traveling is not as hard as it use to be. What is the need for conferences then? The idea of no conferences at all is highly appealing in my eyes, but will not be popular to most. It would be revolutionary to eliminate conferences. The most remarkable changes in the world once were thought to be outlandish. Conferences are a tired idea that is outdated and the sport can become more exciting by eliminating them.
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The UCLA Bruins are on the short list of possible teams to have a big come back in 2016-17. They absolutely should be. The 2015-16 Bruins went 15-17 in a PAC-12 that under performed in the tournament. For that reason, many analysts are writing them off. However, this season will be completely different. From top to bottom of the situation the Bruins will improve in the 2016-17 season.
To begin, the Bruins are led by a coach who has established a culture of winning at each landing spot. He may be on the hot seat this year after a poor performance last season, but there is little to worry about in terms of him turning things around. This was Steve Alford’s first losing season since 1999-00, his first year with Iowa. The following year his team went 23-12 and won the Big 10 tournament. He is in a better situation now than he was then considering the current roster.
UCLA Under Steve Alford
UCLA went 22-14 in 2014-15 and returned majority of their roster for the following year. They did lose Kevon Looney and Norman Powell, each now in the NBA. However they returned starters from both the front court and the back court. UCLA should have been a lot better than 15-17 considering they added two four-star recruits.
This year the only notable losses are big man Tony Parker to graduation and Jonah Bolden. Bolden made the decision to play basketball professionally in Australia. Despite these losses, UCLA still has remaining parts from a 2014-15 winning campaign and the talent on this roster is worth noting.
Bryce Alford was UCLA’s second leading scorer and had a PER of 17.6. (Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com)
Leading scorer Isaac Hamilton showed increases in every major statistical category. He averaged 16.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. Right behind him was Bryce Alford, Steve Alford’s son. Bryce’s totals remained much the same in the Bruins first losing season since 2009-10. Thomas Welsh’s contributions skyrocketed from those of 2014-15. He doubled his rebounding totals from 3.8 per game to 8.5 and tripled his scoring average from 3.8 points per game to 11.2.
In addition to the pieces left over from the previous winning season, the 2015 recruiting class progressed immensely. Aaron Holiday played significant minutes as a freshman and was a main contributor on the offensive end. The freshman led the team in steals as well showing his versatility. Prince Ali also saw more than 10 minutes of floor time each contest with decent returns. Each of these four star recruits is primed to be a contributor in what will be a large turnaround in win totals this season.
There is even more to be excited about in the outlook for UCLA. They add the top rated point guard in the class, Lonzo Ball, as well as 5-star TJ Leaf and 4-star Ike Anigbogu. Ball’s court vision and passing ability should greatly assist in opening up the court for his teammates. So despite the Bruins’ losing two players, this top 10 recruiting class is power-packed with talent and play makers to fill the void.
There is a lot to like about this team. They have a coach that wins. They have remaining pieces and leaders that know how to win. Their young talent showed progression last year. Finally, they add some exciting new pieces. Despite the juggernaut that is Oregon, this is a team that will have a huge turnaround. This is a 25-win team. They should not settle for anything less than that.
Week two of college football is in the books and so much more is known now than a few short weeks ago. Here are four takeaways from this weekend’s action:
1. The Holy War is a very underrated rivalry.
BYU versus Utah always provides great drama and this year was no exception. The Cougars traveled down the field and scored a late touchdown to put themselves within one point of their rivals. Head Coach Kalani Sitake elected to go for a two point conversion after the touchdown to potentially win the game in regulation. A quarterback draw play was called and Taysom Hill was stopped short of the goal line, which sealed a Utah victory. This series was so intense and violent that the schools discontinued the annual game for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The football gods wanted them to play so bad, that they met in the 2015 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl and the annual series was continued this season. Since 2012 all of the games have been decided by one possession. This rivalry is definitely one to keep an eye on into the future, as BYU will be looking for revenge after losing the last six match-ups.
Kalen Ballage had a historic game against Texas Tech. (Courtesy of azfamily.com)
2. Kalen Ballage is a star.
How many people knew the name Kalen Ballage before this weekend? Ballage is the running back for Arizona State who scored eight touchdowns in the Sun Devils’ win over Texas Tech. No defense was played in this game (the final score was 68-55), but Ballage almost outscored the Red Raiders by himself. The eight touchdowns were school and Pac-12 records, but sadly his performance only tied the NCAA record for touchdowns in a game. The most impressive thing about the eight touchdowns is that he only touched the ball fifteen times. After the game Ballage showed his class by bringing his offensive line to the press conference to show the press who helped him achieve such a feat. BWatch out for him to break more records this season, based on his great performance in this game.
Central Michigan pulled off an improbably upset. (Photo courtesy cbssports.com)
3. The Big 12 needs to step up fast.
Oklahoma lost to Houston, who is a good team, but that is not a loss that should happen for a team that was supposed to win the Big 12 and return to the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma State lost to a MAC school, Central Michigan, in a controversial fashion. Even if they should have won, they should have also played better against a team from the MAC. TCU, who was picked by some to make the CFP, lost to Arkansas. Texas Tech just lost a big game on the road too. If the Big 12 wants to have a team represent them in the CFP, they need to have some team step up.
The Broncos aren’t quite ready to leave the national scene. (Courtesy ktvb.com)
4. Don’t sleep on the Mountain West.
The Mountain West notched two big wins this weekend over Pac-12 schools. Boise State defeated Washington State 31-28. The Broncos have a solid team and look to be one of the best group of five conference teams. Washington State was thought to have a breakout year in the Pac-12, and still might, but fell just short of collecting a big win in Boise. San Diego State now has twelve straight wins after beating California this weekend. Cal isn’t the most talented team in the Pac-12, but it is still a big win for SDSU. The Aztecs may be in store for a New Year’s Six Bowl. The only big threat for these teams are each other, in a possible Mountain West Conference Championship Game. Watch out for these two teams to rise in the rankings as the season goes on.
But to be frank it’s a travesty to watch a playoff that is supposed to be all-decisive not include at least one team that was the winner of one of the best conferences. And when you have five conferences that are slated as the “best conferences” (that’s the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC, of course) at least one champion gets left out, which sucks when sometimes they only have one or two losses. I specifically reference a greatly talented one-loss Big 12 champion TCU or Baylor team in 2014.
Throw in your possible non-power five busters, potential deserving conference runner-ups, or Notre Dame, and we’re talking about two power five conference champions not in the hunt for what is supposed to be an all-determining playoff.
Is what we have way better than any two-team championship game system or poll determinant? Yes. But leaping over the hurdle of making a playoff isn’t good enough. Why not go all-in on making the champion truly undisputed? It’s as if a vegetarian came off a 144-year diet of not having the best that food has to offer, but then after doing the hard part and enjoying a Big Mac he says, “Oh no, I can’t get into that five-star quality sirloin.” Just cut into that perfect bit of delectable cow now that you finally will eat something from the four-legged milk producer, college football.
Three other big reasons why the College Football Playoff should be six teams:
Seeding will matter. Did Alabama in 2014 honestly say “YES! We got Ohio State instead of Florida State!”? I highly doubt it. In a six-team playoff, seeds number one and two get first-round byes, adding a bit of intrigue to selection day.
Everyone loves an underdog. Who wouldn’t love to see a team like Western Kentucky go on an undefeated run? Better yet, that team could go beat an Oklahoma or a Clemson. With six teams, those normally mid and lower-tier teams have more of a chance to get in.
Mo’ money. Simple addition kids, two more games equals two more chances at high ratings. Everyone loves a payday. The schools, the NCAA, the TV networks, everyone.
The counterpoint is somewhat supporting evidence of reason three above: two more games equals two more times for players getting hurt, two more sets of travel costs for families and students, and two more times players can’t get their academics as up-to-date as they could. I honestly cannot deny these negatives, but I think the pros of expansion far outweigh the cons.
As far as going to eight teams opposed to the six I suggest, I think four extra games does cause enough con to outweigh pro. Why? Because plain and simple, I think there are plenty of years teams ranked five or six could make a case for being the number one team in the country. But there are very few years number seven or eight could make the same claim.
Look at the teams ranked number seven and eight in the final regular season AP poll over the past seven years. They average 1.6 losses at they end of the regular season, going a combined 7-7 in the following bowl games (polls and records from sports-reference.com). Eventual 2014 champion Ohio State trounced seventh ranked Michigan State during the season. Furthermore, number eight Mississippi State wouldn’t have stood much of a chance against OSU either. In 2013 I doubt Ohio State or South Carolina would have had a shot against Florida State. And in 2012 Kansas State or Stanford against Alabama? Forget about it.
So to me, six is the perfect number for a playoff in college football. No more, no less.
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#8- UCLA’s Josh Rosen- Coming out of high school, Josh Rosen was the number one QB in the Class of 2015. At 6’4″, it seemed as if Rosen was playing a man playing against boys. In high school, he showed great arm talent. He could make every throw and could read defenses like an open book. The most overlooked part of his game is his athleticism. As a kid, he was a very good tennis player and that gave him great footwork. He won’t scramble too much but, he will definitely extend the play from the pocket and make the proper throw. Ever since Rosen signed his letter of intent, he was UCLA’s golden arm. And for the most part he lived up to the bill. He came in his first year and won the starting position making him the first freshman starting QB in Bruin history. In his first season, Rosen threw for over 3600 yards, threw 23 touchdowns and threw 11 interceptions. Rosen’s season started off on fire winning his first four games. His first game showed the nation why Josh Rosen was coveted in the first place.
His three best games were his season opener against Virginia, his game at Arizona, and then his matchup against Jared Goff and the California Bears. Against Virginia, in his first college game ever, he went out there and put on a clinic. He completed 80% of his passes on 35 throws, threw 351 yards, threw 3 passing touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also posted his season’s best passer rating of 192.5 and a QBR of 90.8. Most importantly on that day he got his first college win. On his first snap, he went deep. It was a perfect play action, the defense bit and Kenneth Walker III got open but dropped the sure TD pass. Rosen stayed poised and continued to show of his talents. In this game Rosen got his nickname, Chosen Rosen.
In week four, Rosen experienced his first PAC 12 road game when he played Arizona. It went well. He won the game 56-30. In this game, he posted his season’s best QBR of 96.9. You can also throw in two passing touchdowns and one score on the ground for the talented freshman. What shines brightest about this game was how poised Rosen was. He had just lost his best player on defense and offense in Myles Jack and he came off two horrible games against UNLV and BYU. He went into this game poised as if those two previous games were blur and that week when his team needed him most he delivered. You usual don’t see intangibles like that from a true freshman QB, but that’s why his nickname is Chosen Rosen because he is not like other true freshman QBs. His first half was so great he didn’t need much in the second half. By halftime, he threw for 212 yards on 13 of 17 passes and threw two touchdowns. But after this game, UCLA went on a two game losing streak and on October 22nd to stop the losing streak he would have to beat Jared Goff, the future first number one pick of the 2016 NFL Draft.
It was a showdown between the future and present great PAC 12 QBs when Jared Goff and Josh Rosen faced off. The youngster came out victorious to the tune of 40-24. He went 72.3% on 47 passes, threw a season high 399 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also posted a QBR of 86.1. On this night, Rosen threw for more yards, and had a higher QBR than Goff while also getting the win. He also posted a new school-record of 34 passes completed in one game.
In his first year, Rosen had his ups and downs and that is expected from a freshman QB, but for the most part he showed many signs to believe he is the man for the job at UCLA. He went 8-5 in first year and I expected him to post more wins, yards, touchdowns, and less bad games and less interceptions. A QB of Rosen’s talents matched with a coach like Jim Mora, he will continue to grow as a QB. I could see Rosen and the Bruins posting no less than 10 wins this year and maybe even an appearance in the PAC 12 championship game all because the growth of Josh “Chosen” Rosen.