Mornin’ Y’all. The year of our Lord 2017 is upon us, and the Cleveland Browns 1-15 throwaway season has ended. The 2017 NFL Draft will be covered ad nauseum to some and to great delight for others over the next few months. The Cleveland Indians have their Fanfest later in January, but Spring Training does not start until February. For today, some attention needs to be paid to the college football bowl season.
I hope this Wednesday finds you in the highest of spirits with the wind forever at your back especially given the wintery chill of said wind.
College Football Playoff Future
The college football bowl division currently has a four-game playoff, which is chosen by a selection committee. The teams selected and the process have made for some great barstool debates amongst college football fans. And, the fallout of both the BCS era and this four-team playoff is that fans of college teams will have specific rooting interests in many national games throughout the season. Though the results were a bit anti-climatic in 2016 when the favorites each won their championship games, there were many different iterations that could have unfolded among the many teams vying for a playoff spot all the way through the end.
Undoubtedly though, there will be continued calls to expand the playoff to include more teams. With players such as Leonard Fournette and Justin McCaffrey sitting out the lesser bowls rather than risk injury ahead of the NFL Draft, creating more games that mean something will have an appeal to schools looking to latch onto their money cow. Additionally, having the first non-conference champion get blown out in their playoff game will create some extra leverage for those whose voice is to include a champion from each conference instead.
No matter what is decided, there will be unintended consequences. The risk is destroying the added interest and build-up to the end of the regular season alongside the crazy amount of extra content for ESPN in December from having 39 bowl games. If only winning your conference matters, then teams would not need to fill out their out-of-conference schedule with interesting matchups, and fans wouldn’t care what happens in games outside their conference. If the playoff becomes too big, then there could be teams that clinch a spot before the season ends. Imagine the discussions should Alabama decide to rest starters for an Iron Bowl against Auburn.
The current four-team playoff leaves out a Power Five conference each year, and the barrier for entry from a Group of Five team is nearly impossible. There has been speculation no conference would allow even a six-team playoff to occur without a guarantee of entry (five Power Five schools plus one Group of Five school). An eight-team playoff would allow those guarantees to be supplemented with two wild card entrants, but would diminish the regular season to some degree. Anything bigger and the issue of teams resting down the stretch comes into play as the playoffs creep back towards Thanksgiving and more top teams are locked in.
There is no perfect solution. The current solution is fun though expansion seems inevitable.
College Football Playoff Present
The Washington Huskies hung in there but Bama just doesn’t make mistakes and capitalize on mistakes from other team. Once the Tide returned an interception for a touchdown late in the first half, the game was over.
Nick Saban has built a powerhouse that is even better than those built by Jimmie Johnson, Bobby Bowden, or Butch Davis (I know, weird to include him but the early 00s for the Canes were so ridiculously stacked in talent). The weird part though is that they are built upon straight up discipline and wearing opponents down by being nearly perfect. They have more talent than anybody as well, but I cannot remember another recent college football dynasty whose primary staple was discipline.
Sigh. Josh already covered the main points of this frustrating game. One component that I think has been under-covered during Dabo Swinney’s time at the helm is how the Tigers churn out elite DL and WR that are consistently dominant.
National Championship Game
Swinney is a great coach and here’s hoping that he gets a national championship trophy to put in the case at Clemson next week. Farrell is going to have to get pressure on Hurts, and Watson is going to have to do what he did to Saban’s defense in last year’s game. The Tide offense is not quite on par as what it was last year, but the defense is far better. The main key in this game will be if the Tigers can create big plays without forcing things that cause mistakes. Should be a great game.
Best of the Bowls
A hat-tip to Jim Harbaugh who kept his composure for the most part during the game, and figured out how to make it interesting. But, the Seminoles were clearly the better team, and the Wolverines were part of an underwhelming B1G bowl season that ended 3-7. It was one game I did not mind the B1G losing though.
Given the Rose Parade was Monday morning followed by a late afternoon Rose Bowl, it was hardly noticeable that the New Year’s Day games were on January 2 in 2017. Keith Jackson even made an appearance in the booth for the first time since the epic 2005 National Championship Game between USC and Texas. The 2017 edition decided that it would do it’s best to recreate that masterpiece by giving us another fantastic yet sloppy game.
For Penn State, quarterback Trace McSorley giveth and taketh away with the big play (and it was funny seeing a player named Barkley continually do damage to USC). For USC, Sam Darnold delivered the ball to the Trojan playmakers and let them flourish in the open field. First one to 50 was the cry early in the game, and it ended up being the case as USC sealed it with a last second field goal, 52-49.
Wisconsin controlled this game throughout, but, like Michigan, the Broncos found a way to stay in the game and have a chance near the end. The Badgers controlled the line of scrimmage, especially early, and their quarterbacks went 13-for-14 with the only incompletion a dropped touchdown pass. Remarkable that Western Michigan stayed close.
The entire game was a problematic stage given the Joe Mixon video release and the handling of it by Oklahoma. If head coach Bob Stoops or the university had laid out admission of guilt by Mixon (Mixon had apologized in the past, served a year suspension, as well as served out his court sentence), then the public might have been more willing to allow his story to be about a man seeking redemption for a past horrific sin.1
Instead, all danced around the topic, which only made things worse as the story dominated the game. Mixon was booed anytime he touched the ball. Jeers of “he hits women” were heard on camera. Oklahoma sent out news releases as Mixon broke school records, which did not help. Brent Musberger was left the impossible task of papering over everything, which he failed miserably.
Whether or not you believe Mixon deserves a second chance at football after his incident, most can agree that OU has handled things poorly.
- Not everyone, obviously. [↩]