BCS shake-up reaches DEFCON 2 proportions

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Amazing how a season of build-up, theories and educated guessing can be nullified in a matter of moments. A missed field goal here, a last-second touchdown there, and just like that, everything we had formulated has changed.

In a matter of 24 hours, four Top 10 teams lost. No. 2 Oklahoma State to Iowa State Friday night; No. 4 Oregon to No. 18 USC, No. 5 Oklahoma to No. 25 Baylor and No. 7 Clemson to North Carolina State today. If the Cyclones’ win last night was a tremor, the upsets today were a full-fledged seismic shift that crumbled dreams of BCS glory among college football’s upper echelon.

No one felt those highs and lows more than Oklahoma, who coincidentally enough had literally experienced earthquakes over the past few weeks. If there was one team who shared the pain of Oklahoma State’s loss Friday night, it was the Sooners. The BCS computers love them some Cowboys, but Bedlam just wasn’t going to carry the same BCS weight now that OK State had a notch in the loss column; beating an undefeated OSU on a Saturday in December would have been far more meaningful for OU.

Think about it: a great showing against an undefeated rival in prime time one day after the Pac-12 championship game could have been enough to sway voters it was OU who deserved to play in the national championship, rather than a rematch.

But that was Saturday morning at just past midnight.

Not a few hours ago, OU got a second chance when Oregon failed to pull off a dramatic comeback against USC, missing what would have been a game-tying field goal with just seconds remaining. The Trojans would leave Autzen Stadium with a 38-35 win. A week ago, the Ducks beat then-No. 4 Stanford at The Farm to re-emerge as a national championship contender, occupying the same spot the Cardinal fell from on last Sunday night when the latest BCS standings were revealed. Come tomorrow, Oregon will be back out of the title picture.

That left the Sooners with a golden opportunity against Baylor. Although down for much of the second half, Oklahoma quickly scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to tie their game at 38 with just under a minute to play. Bob Stoops‘ bunch are frustrating to watch at times given their skill level, but Oregon’s BCS stumble was a gift for the Sooners to take. Win, and the human voters would almost certainly give OU the edge over ‘Bama provided they won Bedlam.

No rematch. Thank ya, Lord!

Then Robert Griffin III happened.

The redshirt junior quarterback needed just 43 seconds to drive 80 yards and throw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams in the right corner of the endzone while on the move.

And, boom. Baylor wins 45-38. Title hopes for Oklahoma? Gone. Griffin’s Heisman campaign? Welcome back. We’ve missed you. And if you think that’s a knee-jerk reaction, consider this: what other Heisman candidate has orchestrated three fourth quarter game-winning or game-tying drives this season?

We’re not giving him the trophy yet. We’re just saying his stock shot back up.

And in the spirit of buying and selling, can anyone get rid of their Clemson shares fast enough? The Tigers got all nostalgic on us Saturday, bringing back shades of old Clemson in a 37-13 loss to NC State that made Dabo Swinney turn a shade of purple that closely resembled the school’s colors. With Oregon, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State all going down, who’s to say Clemson couldn’t have made a late-season surge for a national title spot? A little lobbying with that southern Dabo charm and Clemson could have finally taken their program — and the ACC — to the next level.

Feeling equally bad, if not worse, has to be Boise State. Just make a dang field goal, Broncos, and — ah ha! — the BCS planets would have aligned for you. Those years of winning early-season games and BCS bowls could have finally paid off. A rematch? Pish-posh! Even BCS guru Brad Edwards would have had to concede.

“Eh, let’s see what these kids got.”

After all, could anyone in the right mind really allow a rematch between LSU and either Bama or Oregon when 1) those results were already decided on the field and 2) Boise was untapped and unproven?

Every game matters? BCS, you little minx.

But the reality is that Boise has a loss and their BCS championship hopes are gone, which brings us to this: how far up should undefeated Houston climb? With so many one-loss teams desperately doing everything they can to avoid playing No. 1 LSU, perhaps it’s time we give the non-AQ a shot. Two teams have already shown they couldn’t defeat the Tigers, and a handful of others showed they either can’t get out of their own way, or can’t win their division.

What about No. 9 Virginia Tech? If the Hokies win the ACC with just one loss, should they not be in the discussion? What if LSU folds against No. 6 Arkansas in one week, or No. 13 Georgia in two? Does Arkansas get in the picture? Can two SEC teams who didn’t play in their conference championship play for a BCS title?

(For what it’s worth, Edwards projects the top five BCS teams by tomorrow night will be LSU, Alabama,  Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Stanford) 

By the way, these are real questions to BCS executive director Bill Hancock. I’ll hang up and listen.

Something tells me I’m not going to get a definitive answer. Probably because there isn’t one and the one we’ll get is equally frustrating: “We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out.”

The problem is that I know how I want it to play out, and it’s not this way.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson frowns upon Group of Five playoff idea

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The chances a team from the Group of Five ever gets selected to play in the College Football Playoff range from slim to none. As such, talk from within the Group of Five has kicked up from time to time, especially over the last year, about a possible Group of Five-only version of the College Football Playoff. The reactions to that idea has been mixed, but add Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson to the group of people who thinks that idea should be tossed aside.

While attending meetings for the College Football Playoff, Benson told reporters he would prefer to see conference champions from the Group of Five (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) receive better bowl bids instead of playing in a minor version of the College Football Playoff.

It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told Brett McMurphy, then of ESPN.com, back in December. “Why not?”

Well, there are a number of reasons. First, not everybody seems to be on board with playing the college football version equivalent of the NIT. Sure, it would be on TV and would get ratings, but the reward at the end of the JV playoff would mean little. Nobody would consider it a national championship. That’s what the FCS is for.

Benson is not alone in his anti-Group of Five playoff stance. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also has been on record saying he is not interested in such a plan, and he oversaw a member from his conference go undefeated last season and play in the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan).

My initial reaction is that’s not something I’m interested in,” Steinbrecher said, according to MLive.com in December. “We’re part of the (College Football Playoff) system, and it’s done a lot of very good things for the Mid-American Conference.”

Without the support from two of the Group of Five commissioners (and you can almost be guaranteed you can add Mike Aresco of the American Athletic Conference to the list given the conference’s push to be considered a power conference), this idea is pretty much dead on arrival.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

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After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

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After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

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When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.