Big Ten kicking around idea of on-campus playoff games

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When it comes to the current system to determine a national champion in major college football, there appears to be just one certainty: come 2014, after the current BcS cycle ends, the postseason will look vastly different than it has for the past decade-plus.

What that look will be remains to be seen, although it will very likely involve what would technically be called a “plus-one” format, but in reality is merely a four-team playoff.  If one of the power conferences gets its way, any playoff system will have a very local flavor to it.

Citing conference sources, the Chicago Tribune‘s Teddy Greenstein reported Monday evening that the Big Ten has discussed a plan that entails taking the top four teams from the BcS bowl pool and, in a twist, have the two semifinal games played on the campus of the higher seed.  Commissioner Jim Delany would not confirm to Greenstein that such discussion has taken place, but Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips hinted that something of significance has been kicked around.

“We have to listen to the fans; we cannot be tone-deaf,” Phillips said. “The Big Ten is open and curious. …

“There has been a lot of bantering and rhetoric, but no one has come up with a formal plan.”

Rightly so, the Big Ten has caught a lot of flack for some of the decisions they have made in the recent past — “Leaders” and “Legends”, anyone — but on-campus postseason games would be a home run of a proposal, regardless of what the conference’s real motive is behind it.

Given the lag in attendance for BcS bowls in recent years, suggesting the games be played at the home stadiums of higher seeds takes on the look of a no-brainer proposal.  Last season, for example, the top four teams in the final BcS standings prior to the start of bowl season were, from No. 1 through No. 4, LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Stanford.  If the Big Ten’s idea was in place for the 2011 season, the Cardinal would’ve traveled to Baton Rouge to take on the Tigers, while the Tide would’ve hosted the Cowboys in Tuscaloosa.

The title game, like the Super Bowl the Tribune notes, would then be bid out to a host city.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of on-campus playoff games would be a team from the SEC being forced to travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., or Columbus, Ohio, in late December or early January.  The fact that playing in an open-air stadium in Midwestern winter weather would be a very real possibility could lead to push-back from some conference if the Big Ten’s idea were to come up for a vote, as would dissent from current BcS bowls losing out on marquee games.

Speaking of timing, Delany said there could be a change in when the major bowl games/playoffs would be played.  Alabama’s win over LSU in the BcS title game was played Jan. 9, nearly six weeks after the conference championship games had been played.  That game was one of the lowest-rated in the BcS era, and not all of that dip could be attributed to it being a rematch or televised on cable.

“There is a very strong sense that we have missed the boat and are playing games too late,” Delany told the paper. “Students are back in class, people are back at work.”

While 2013 is the final year of the current BcS cycle, it’s expected that a new system for crowning a national champion — whether it utilizes the BcS or not — is expected to be announced perhaps as early as this coming fall.

Iowa LB Aaron Mends to miss extended time with injury

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Talk about a hard-luck story.

After never starting a game at Iowa, Aaron Mends (pictured, blocking punt) had earned a starting job at outside linebacker during practice this spring.  With football being the cruel mistress that it can be at times, the Hawkeyes announced Friday night that Mends “will miss an extended period of time due to injury.” The program offered no details as to the specific nature of the injury, although it’s believed to involve the knee.

According to the school’s release, the fifth-year senior suffered the injury during the final week of Iowa’s spring drills.

Mends was a three-star member of the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class.  He was the highest-rated linebacker in Iowa’s class that year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Mends has played in 38 games the past three seasons.  A baker’s dozen of those appearances came during the 2017 season.

Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, James Franklin and Clay Helton among 15 CFB coaches attending NFL Draft

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We’re less than a week away from former college players officially finding out their new homes with the start of the 2018 NFL Draft and the excitement is palpable no matter if you’re a Cleveland Browns fan or somebody who dons the cardinal and gold of USC.

Naturally this is a big deal for the players’ former programs as well and their recent head coaches will be taking full advantage of the marketing opportunity to future recruits by stopping by the draft itself at AT&T Stadium for the festivities. The NFL released a list of 14 college football coaches and one recent one on Friday as being confirmed to attend the event and there are a few notable names beyond the big ones we’re used to seeing every year:

In addition, Stanford head coach David Shaw will serve as a draft analyst on NFL Network for a seventh year in a row and even ESPN’s College GameDay is getting involved with a pregame show outside the stadium they are quite familiar with from big games over the years.

Georgia DB Mark Webb tears meniscus in practice but expected back before fall camp

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Georgia’s injury luck this spring isn’t getting much better as the defending SEC champions move toward their annual G-Day spring game over the weekend.

Head coach Kirby Smart confirmed with reporters after Thursday’s practice that sophomore defensive back Mark Webb suffered a knee injury earlier in the week and tore his meniscus. He already had the knee scoped and is expected back before fall camp after the rather minor procedure.

Webb originally landed in Athens as a wideout but made the move to the secondary just as the season was getting going. He appeared in 13 games in 2017, mostly on special teams, but was expected to challenge for one of the starting spots at cornerback heading into the upcoming campaign.

The absence of Webb in the lineup for the final week of spring adds to a growing list of injuries for the team during practice as they do a little bit of roster building toward the future. Receiver Michael Chigbu’s career may be over due to lingering injuries and defensive back Divaad Wilson tore his ACL not long after enrolling this semester.

Safe to say that G-Day on Saturday might not be as physical as Smart and the coaching staff would otherwise like as a result of trying to keep the team healthy as they prepare to head into a big offseason.

Old Dominion announces remodel, expansion plans for S.B. Ballard Stadium

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Old Dominion is making sure the first word in the school’s name is not the first thing you think of when you are playing against the Monarchs, joining a long list of their FBS peers with some significant upgrades for their home venue over the coming years. In plans approved this week by the university, ODU released renderings and an updated timeline on a $65 million remodel of S.B. Ballard Stadium that is set to begin as soon as this summer.

“We are excited to begin Phase 1 reconstruction,” said Greg DuBois, the school’s vice president for administration and finance. “Fan comfort and high-quality amenities are the primary focus of this phase. The project will help us create the type of game-day experience fans want and will set us up for future expansions.”

The stadium, some 81-years-old, will undergo a nearly complete teardown over the next two years in order to transform the place most know as Foreman Field. Both the east and west stands will be demolished and rebuilt, complete with new seating and a new press box. There will naturally be more restrooms and concession stands as part of the plan that includes plenty more bells and whistles for the Conference USA program. Seating is expected to grow beyond 21,000 or so capacity the current venue seats.

While construction will get started in the coming months, the bulk of activity will take place after the 2018 campaign is wrapped up at home and before kickoff of the opener in 2019. The Virginian-Pilot reports that funding will not utilize state funds but that the school is requesting that the legislature approve an added $10 million to the cost structure as a result of rising prices beyond the original $55 million forecasted.

2018 will be just the 10th season for the Monarchs (and fifth in FBS) since the football program was reinstated and it goes without saying that the new digs will be some of the nicest in CUSA when all is said and done. Few programs have been able to successfully navigate the transition as well as ODU has and it seems an updated stadium in the near future is the reward for head coach Bobby Wilder and others in Norfolk.