Champions model could turn unique sport into NFL clone; more Mailbag
While I'm certainly accustomed to writing things that elicit a split opinion or incense one particular fan base/region, my oft-repeated assertion that a four-team playoff should consist of the four best teams, conference champions or not, is proving particularly unpopular. I'd estimate 80 percent of you disagree, which is genuinely baffling to me since I've long considered this a no-brainer.
At first I chalked it up to SEC backlash, but that's an unfair generalization. I get that there's a general mistrust in the polls and computer ratings, but it's pretty clear the BCS standings as we know them are going away. One particular e-mail helped me better understand the source of the disconnection.
It all comes down to that one word: unique. All this time, I was under the impression that our collective passion for college football went hand-in-hand with its unique quirks. Yes, it drives us crazy at times, but what would college football be without all those oddities -- Top 25 polls, the spread-option, the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Signing Day, War Eagle -- exclusive to the sport? The answer, of course, is that it would be the NFL, but with less talented, unpaid players. Yet what Ian and many, many others (including Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott) are saying is that they WANT the sport to be more like the NFL. That saddens me. Why would we want to turn such a vibrant sport into a clone?
But here's the rub: No matter what method the sport ends up using to select and seed the playoff, the polls aren't going away. Fans will still scour the latest AP poll on Sundays and hit up Andy Staples' Power Rankings on Tuesdays. We'll still see numbers in front of the teams' names during game broadcasts and on the ESPN ticker. Many people say they'd be fine with restricting the field to conference champions because doing so would let the teams qualify by a defined process, but I just don't buy it. There will still be polls, which means we'll still know the general pecking order nationally, which means we'll all be up in arms the first time a perceived inferior team gets in over a more accomplished team.
Case in point: LSU and Georgia last year. The Tigers had by far the most impressive regular season in the country. But what if Georgia had upset them in the SEC title game? Would the Dawgs, 10-2 and ranked 14th going into the game, suddenly be entitled to one of those four spots? Would we really be comfortable leaving out 12-1 LSU (which played an extra game that 11-1 Oklahoma State didn't have to) while including the 11-2 Oregon team it clobbered earlier in the season? I doubt it, and this is precisely why it should be the top four teams. We don't know what unforeseen scenario will arise in a given season, making it dangerous to put preexisting conditions on the field. As I wrote last week, there'll
What I'm not fine with is this budding conformist movement to strip college football of its most identifiable traits. We're already losing century-old rivalries (Texas-Texas A&M, Kansas-Missouri). We're killing off entire conferences. It seems only a matter of time before many established bowls go the same way. Many fans are perfectly fine with all of that, so long as they get a more definitive national champion. I'm all for more clarity too, so long as we can achieve it without sterilizing the sport in the process.
The Big Ten was certainly its leading proponent, and the Pac-12 was initially on board as well. From what I understand, a subcommittee of the 12 commissioners spent a couple of months exploring a playoff model staged outside of the bowl system and brought the results back to the larger group in April. Around that same time, another subcommittee charged with examining the model inside the bowl system came up with the
There's not one overriding reason the Big Ten reversed course, but it's probably a combination of several factors. For one, it saw the Rose Bowl becoming marginalized if the semifinals were pulled out of the bowls entirely, and like it or not, the conference will always be mindful of the Rose Bowl's interests. Secondly, the Big Ten saw campus sites were a losing cause politically. The majority of conferences opposed the idea, in large part because home field is too significant an advantage to afford a No. 2 seed that might barely be more deserving than a No. 3 seed. And finally, all the conferences got spooked once they realized the logistics involved. These would not be normal home games, but rather two of the biggest sporting events of the year, with the potential of being played in a 40,000-seat stadium and/or a rural college town. Obviously the average fan watching at home could care less about those issues, but these guys are hyper-conservative when it comes to change.
I could see that. Split national championships, once considered an abomination, suddenly become chic. More realistically, though, I see a 96-team playoff, with a winner's and loser's bracket and a best two-out-of-three once it gets down to 32. Players who declare for the draft get replaced in February by incoming freshmen.
I did watch a good chunk of the spring game and was very impressed by Mariota. The redshirt freshman looks like the most dangerous runner to play quarterback in Chip Kelly's offense since Dennis Dixon back in 2007. But I also saw Bennett play in actual games last year when Darron Thomas was hurt, and he, too, was noticeably fleet footed (though not as fast as Mariota). Both seem like adequate passers, though Bennett did not have a good spring game. My main takeaway was not that this is some problem for Oregon but rather: wow. Despite losing Thomas and LaMichael James, that offense is going to be even scarier with a true running quarterback, Kenjon Barner and the electrifying De'Anthony Thomas, who will contend for the Heisman this year or next.
Obviously, Kelly has a tough decision to make between Mariota and Bennett (who still left spring as the presumed frontrunner), but Kelly has done pretty well to this point. And a look at Oregon's
I'm not sure we can call it a prediction, per se, but asking if Appalachian State could beat Michigan was certainly the boldest upset premonition to appear in these parts. Of course, I promptly blew it off at the time and came to regret it after Armanti Edwards set foot in the Big House.
Props to you, Kevin, and thank you kindly for that Mailbag 10 Year Anniversary Flashback
The problem with a question like this is that there are many more than five candidates, and, by the definition of breakout, plenty more I don't even know about. So I'll throw out five and then wait to hear from you about all the other names I unforgivably excluded.
1. Oklahoma receiver Trey Metoyer. Not only did the five-star recruit and early enrollee make an immediate impression this spring, but with Bob Stoops indefinitely suspending three returning receivers, Metoyer has no choice but to step up and become a go-to guy right off the bat.
2. Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon. Another early enrollee, he'll get his fair share of carries, and possibly even become the Tide's primary rusher (though Eddie Lacy is the top guy going in) in place of Trent Richardson.
3. USC defensive tackle George Uko. The one concern about an otherwise loaded Trojans lineup is its interior line, but those who attend practice regularly rave about the 6-foot-3, 285-pound sophomore, who became part of the rotation last season and will start this year.
4. Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk. To this point, the Oregon transfer is known primarily for his link to the infamous Willie Lyles. But it looks like Seastrunk has found a home at Baylor, where he'll step in for Terrance Ganaway and provide a big-play threat in Art Briles' reloading offense.
5. Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The 6-6, 242-pound redshirt freshman could be the elite receiver and difference-maker the Seminoles have been missing for years.
It absolutely is ... for the male population of Bangor, Maine. Another big winner: The self-tanning industry.
Seeing as Boise will end up spending a grand total of two years in the Mountain West, I wouldn't be too torn up about it. The prior defections of Utah, BYU and TCU were far more damaging, in my opinion, because the conference was just starting to build credibility nationally. Now, if you're a Wyoming fan, you might as well set your sights on trying to become the next Boise State.
Some program has the chance to fill that void and become the conference's flagship program, and while Air Force (if it doesn't defect, too), Nevada and Fresno State have more recent history of success, any program can make the same climb as Boise with the right coach and institutional support. Granted, it's going to be harder after two rounds of realignment that widened the perceived chasm between the SEC/Big Ten/Big 12/Pac-12/ACC and everyone else. And there will no longer be thresholds that guarantee a Mountain West team a spot in a major bowl game, the way the BCS did. But for Wyoming, just winning the conference would be a major step at this point, and Boise's departure removes a significant impediment.
I couldn't agree more. Absolutely no one is more skilled at rating teams than the Vegas oddsmakers, and their livelihood depends on being completely unbiased. But as you know, casinos have absolutely no place in college athletics, unless of course it's to
And in that game, the Red Raiders knocked off Eli Manning-led Ole Miss, 49-45, in Oxford. Maybe the school decided to quit while it was ahead.
That's pretty astounding, but it's worked out well for Texas Tech. In 2005, it played FIU, Sam Houston State and Indiana State, won nine games and played in the Cotton Bowl. In 2008, it played Eastern Washington, Nevada, SMU and UMass, started 10-0 and advanced to No. 2 in the BCS standings. Had Tech finished undefeated, I have no doubt it would have played for the national championship. The way the BCS and bowls work today, there's really no incentive to play tough nonconference games, especially if the primary goal is simply to get bowl eligible. The most encouraging thing about the current playoff negotiations is the universal desire among the conferences to emphasize schedule strength. While Texas Tech is rarely a national title contender, perhaps postseason reform will incentivize a scheduling change. But as long as fans keep turning out for the cupcake games, it might not.
Well let's see. Joe Tiller brought the spread to Purdue in 1997, and the school has been running it ever since. Northwestern has been running it since 2000. Michigan ran it under Rich Rodriguez. Penn State ran it with quarterbacks Michael Robinson and Daryll Clark. Ohio State will now be running it under Urban Meyer.
I'm not sure you have a clue what the spread offense is.