Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where the shirts came off at Charlotte (1) during the 49ers’ celebration of their first-ever bowl bid:
HATER’S GUIDE TO THE PLAYOFF
We have reached that point of the season where everyone stinks. No teams are actually any good. Nobody has accomplished everything. Every program is a fraud waiting to be exposed.
It’s an inevitable byproduct of a four-team playoff system that excludes at least one Power 5 conference champion and leans upon “eye test” and other subjective analyses. So fans of teams and/or entire conferences in jeopardy of being left out pile on those who are candidates to get in.
Social media and message boards are full of attacks, critiques and schedule deconstructions. Fans who have watched a rival playoff aspirant play one game (or one fragment of one game) declare them unfit for consideration. And of course, conspiracy theories are everywhere (many of them rooted in suspicion that Big Media is out to get their team).
Well, far be it from The Dash to refrain from joining in the bashing. While there’s still time for debate, here is The Hater’s Guide to the 2019 College Football Playoff.
Hate the schedule: Have the Tigers really beaten anyone? Texas is a towering bust, and the rest of the non-conference schedule consisted of Georgia Southern, FCS Northwestern State and Utah State—average Sagarin rank of 122. As for the SEC? That corrupt conference is overrated and owes its entire reputation to ESPN. Paul Finebaum poisoned all the minds in Bristol. And Tua was playing hurt. And of course, the ultimate rallying cry for fans of teams in the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12—only eight conference games. It’s nothing short of criminal.
Hate the team: LSU can’t stop a runny nose. The Tigers are giving up 29.8 points in their last four games and 23.5 for the season, which should have Charlie McClendon rolling over in his grave. Arkansas scored more against LSU than it did against Western Kentucky. Mississippi scored more against LSU than it has against any other SEC opponent. Vanderbilt scored more than it has against any other FBS opponent.
Hate the head coach: Ed Orgeron is the luckiest meathead in football and he will be depantsed in the playoffs by a coach who can actually coach, instead of just growling trash talk at everyone.
Hate the unethical behavior they’re getting away with in broad daylight: Why isn’t the media talking about John Paul Funes, the LSU fan who was sentenced to 33 months in prison last month for embezzling money from the nonprofit fundraising element of Our Lake of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Louisiana? Part of the money he stole was funneled to the families of two LSU players, which means that the entire program is dirty and players have booster money falling out of their socks as they walk across campus. Remember: NCAA president Mark Emmert used to be the LSU president, and his son-in-law Scott Woodward is now the athletic director. Could the fix possibly be more in?
Ohio State (3)
Hate the schedule: Zero Power 5 opponents on the non-conference slate. Of the six Big Ten teams that have losing records, the Buckeyes have played five of them. The toughest road environment they’ve seen was in Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers are 3–3 at home this season. The only good opponents Ohio State has faced have been in Columbus, and everyone knows that Big Ten refs cheat for the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe on direct orders from the league office. Been that way since the Woody Hayes days.
Hate the team: These softies are just now finding out what it’s like to be hit, and they don’t like it. Ohio State has lost 11 fumbles, tied for 125th nationally. They were dropping the ball all over the place against Penn State Saturday. Wait until they play a more physical team than they have in the Big Ten.
Hate the coach: Ryan Day hasn’t done anything yet. What happens when he gets into a close game somewhere other than Columbus? Can he handle it without 105,000 people—and the refs, always the refs—helping him out? He’s going to panic.
Hate the unethical behavior they’re getting away with in broad daylight: The NCAA is in the bag for athletic director Gene Smith. He’s on their committees all the time, so they pay him back by granting Justin Fields a bogus transfer waiver and only declaring Chase Young ineligible for two games. Is there a single soul who didn’t believe Young would be back for the Penn State game? This is the same NCAA that rolled over and let Terrelle Pryor & Co. play in that 2011 Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. Never forget.
Hate the schedule: What’s not to hate about it? Even by abysmal ACC standards, this has been a sorry year in the conference—not a single other team in the league in the Sagarin top 30, and not a single other team in Clemson’s division in the top 45. The non-conference schedule consists of two SEC weak sisters and two even weaker opponents. Three of the four non-conference games were at home, of course, and the fourth is a whopping two hours away in Columbia, S.C. And, shout it from the rooftops, only eight conference games.
Hate the team: The Tigers are so overconfident that they were sloppy on offense for the first half of the season. It may look like they’ve gotten it together now, but that’s only a byproduct of playing bad teams. Wait until someone hangs with them and puts some stress on them; Trevor Lawrence will go back to throwing interceptions and they’ll fold.
Hate the coach: Dabo Swinney is insufferable with the “Little Ol’ Clemson” routine. No program that has a miniature golf course and a barber shop in its football facility can play that card, so quit it already. If he ever lost Brent Venables you’d see how mediocre he really is.
Hate the unethical behavior they’re getting away with in broad daylight: Remember those positive PED tests that sidelined Dexter Lawrence and two other guys from last year’s playoff? Well, where is the follow-up expose? It’s plainly obvious that every Clemson player is ‘roiding and the program is an out-of-control underground pharmacy. But ESPN covered it up because it was launching the ACC Network and needs Clemson to be good, and because Kirk Herbstreit’s kids are on the team. The conspiracy is so obvious.
Hate the schedule: Playing eight conference games and an FCS opponent is a coward’s way out. Every game is either in Georgia or an adjoining state, and they’ve only played in front of two hostile crowds all season (Tennessee when the Volunteers were demoralized, and Auburn). Their last two games are even in Atlanta—Georgia Tech Saturday and the SEC championship game Dec. 7. The cross-division opponents are Auburn and Texas A&M, not LSU and Alabama. Thanks, Sankey.
Hate the team: Have you ever seen anything more boring in your entire life than the Georgia offense? An instructional video on removing back hair would be more interesting. When your most exciting player is a kicker who wears rec specs, that’s a dull offense. Jake Fromm never throws downfield, and coordinator James Coley has somehow made running back D’Andre Swift look ordinary. No way Georgia could match points with any other team in the playoff field.
Hate the coach: Kirby Smart is so risk-averse, he drives 10 miles per hour below all posted speed limits. Until, of course, he loses his mind in a big game and calls a disastrous fake kick. Smart’s in-game work belies his surname.
Hate the unethical behavior they’re getting away with in broad daylight: Did you see the refs swallow their whistles all day Saturday against Texas A&M to make sure the SEC stays alive to get two teams in the playoff? You don’t think that directive came straight from a league office in Birmingham to the officials’ locker room at Sanford Stadium, delivered in a note placed under the bun of a Chik-Fil-A sandwich? Of course you won’t see ESECPN reporting on that known fact.
Hate the schedule: The only more hate-able schedule is Clemson’s—and at least Clemson is winning all its games. The Crimson Tide lost, at home, to the only good team they’ve faced. Duke is the only Power 5 opponent on the non-league slate, and the Blue Devils are ranked behind Southern Mississippi in the Sagarin Ratings. Only playing eight league games, plus scheduling an FCS opponent on the penultimate weekend of the season, is a crime on par with killing an endangered rhino for its horn.
Hate the team: They lost Tua and still didn’t fall in the CFP rankings? Any other team would have been dropped eight places immediately. Alabama’s defense is average at best and now the offense is going to be average at best with Mac Jones at quarterback. The Tide don’t run the ball very well or defend the pass, and we know they can’t make a pressure field goal if their lives depended on it. A quality opponent will expose all of that.
Hate the coach: Nick Saban has lost it and the dynasty is over—and don’t forget, the dynasty was all a media-driven conspiracy to begin with. Saban is showing his age: his teams aren’t as buttoned-up as they used to be. They make more mistakes than ever, and they’ve lost their composure the only two times they’ve played anyone good in calendar year 2019—against Clemson last January and LSU this month.
Hate the unethical behavior they’re getting away with in broad daylight: Alabama is the worst team ever to be ranked in the CFP top five, but the committee is scared to drop the Tide. Because Saban. Every single Alabama player drives a brand new Dodge Charger and gets free suits from a shady clothier dude but the media won’t report on it. Because Saban. The Tide also blatantly gets the calls in big games. Because Saban. Nobody ever rips Alabama for avoiding non-conference road games. Because Saban.
Hate the schedule: This could be the worst Houston team since 2004. UCLA hasn’t had a winning season since 2015, and is 7–16 under Chip Kelly. South Dakota is South Dakota. And then you get into the conference schedule, wherein the Sooners have beaten exactly one team with fewer than three league losses. That team is Baylor, which has played its own shameless schedule.
Hate the team: Have you actually watched Oklahoma the last four games? The Sooners have gone 3–1, with a combined score of 145–144, living dangerously on a weekly basis. They have gotten lucky and gotten sloppy, committing 10 turnovers in that time. They’re also tied for 125th nationally in turnovers forced. All that hoopla about defensive improvement has dissolved as the season has worn on. Do we really want to watch Oklahoma give up a gazillion points in a playoff semifinal loss for the third year in a row?
Hate the coach: Lincoln Riley loves designing those pretty plays, but his defenses are still soft and his teams are prone to wild in-game mood swings. Against TCU Saturday: score 21 straight, then give up 17 straight. Against Baylor on Nov. 16: Fall behind 28–3, then score 31 unanswered. Against Iowa State on Nov. 9: score 28 points in the first 22 minutes of the game, then give up 20 in the fourth quarter. Against Kansas State: give up 24 straight points in less than 15 minutes, then score 18 in less than 12 1/2 minutes. Some consistency would be good.
Hate the unethical behavior they’re getting away with in broad daylight: The fourth-down spot that ended the game against TCU Saturday night was the crime of the century, clearly phoned in by commissioner Bob Bowlsby himself. The only team to not play back-to-back Big 12 road games in the last five years? Oklahoma, naturally. And all the players that have gotten into trouble but stayed on the roster over the years? All they care about in Norman is winning—but the media will never say that about a blueblood program when it’s easier to punch down on an up-and-coming program.
Hate the schedule: When you play in the Pac-12, you have to schedule harder—yet what did the Utes do? They scheduled rival BYU plus Northern Illinois and FCS opponent Idaho State—that’s not hard enough. Plus they are in the Pac-12 South, which is basically the Island of Misfit Toys. And now that Oregon has lessened the showdown potential for the Pac-12 title game, Utah doesn’t even have that going for it.
Hate the team: Playing in the great national void known as the Mountain Time Zone has allowed Utah to hide its pedestrian offense from view. Quarterback Tyler Huntley’s full-game passing stats are basically a solid half for Joe Burrow. The Utes haven’t thrown more than two touchdown passes in a game this season. This team isn’t outscoring a quality opponent without running back Zack Moss dragging the Utes to the end zone.
Hate the coach: Kyle Whittingham could give Kirby Smart a run for his money when it comes to conservative coaching. He switches offensive coordinators like socks, but Utah still hasn’t had a high-flying attack. The Utes’ Pac-12 rank in passing yards per game since joining the league in 2011: last out of 12, last, ninth, last, 11th, ninth, seventh, 11th, ninth. He is who he is: a defense-first guy who still doesn’t trust this whole pyrotechnic offense fad.
Hate the unethical behavior they’re getting away with in broad daylight: This is an admittedly short entry in the Hater’s Guide. But a Utah fan did send a hateful Twitter message to an Arizona State player who was called for a targeting foul on Moss, which led to a flurry of apologies. So the presumption is that the entire fan base is verging on rabid vigilantism and will launch an attack on the CFP committee’s Texas hotel if the Utes are left out.
Hate the schedule: What a joke. The non-con schedule was: Stephen F. Austin (Sagarin rank No. 198), UTSA (No. 155) and Rice (No. 141). That’s right, the Bears somehow scheduled three teams worse than Rutgers. They didn’t leave the state of Texas until October, and didn’t play a current AP Top 20 opponent until November. There should be no playoff reward for easing into a schedule that way.
Hate the team: Baylor beat Rice by eight, Iowa State by two, Texas Tech by three in double overtime, West Virginia by three and TCU by six in triple overtime. The Bears have only won three of their last nine games by more than one score. They’ve teetered on the edge of defeat so many times and walked away victorious that they are seriously overdrawn at the Luck Bank. Nothing about this team brings the word “dominance” to mind.
Hate the coach: Matt Rhule has taken to wearing a very bad vest-hoodie thing that looks ridiculous on the sidelines. He is also an intermittent shaver. He’s probably done something else worthy of hating, but it doesn’t come readily to mind.
Hate the unethical behavior they’re getting away with in broad daylight: It’s too soon for Baylor to be a feel-good story. The echo of the Art Briles Era hasn’t receded completely yet. But influential Baylor alums are undoubtedly spending vast sums behind the scenes to fix games in an effort to accelerate the rehab of the university’s image.
Hate the schedule: Which non-conference victory is supposed to dazzle us—FCS South Dakota State, Fresno State or Georgia Southern? Or how about a conference slate that began with Purdue, Illinois, Rutgers and Maryland—which have a combined Big Ten record of 8–24? The only road opponent with a pulse and a legitimate home field atmosphere was Iowa, and the Hawkeyes beat the Gophers.
Hate the team: Speaking of that non-conference schedule—Minnesota had to rally late to win all three of those games. It wasn’t until October that the Gophers won a game by more than one score. Despite the gift of playing offensive train wrecks Rutgers and Northwestern, Minnesota ranks just sixth in the Big Ten in scoring defense.
Hate the coach: With his Jim Tressel tie and mile-a-minute coachspeak, P.J. Fleck is a lot. When he ran 20 yards onto the field in a crucial situation at Iowa, he looked like a college basketball coach who snapped and was begging to be ejected. Keep the caffeine away from the guy and let’s see if he can coach his way past Wisconsin.
Hate the unethical behavior they’re getting away with in broad daylight: Have you been to Minnesota anytime between November and March? If you have, you’re free to wonder what college kids from warm-weather locales would willingly come to a middling program on the frozen tundra. Thus it’s abundantly clear that boosters are dropping bags of cash in snow banks for recruits to collect on their official visits.