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.

SEC leads NFL Draft for 11th straight year as Alabama and Michigan set school records

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The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again it is the SEC claiming another NFL Draft national championship. A grand total of 53 players from the SEC were drafted by NFL teams. It is the 11th straight year the SEC has had the most players drafted by NFL teams.

The ACC ended the draft with 42 players drafted, followed by the Pac-12 (36) and Big Ten (35). The Big 12 ended the draft with just 14 players drafted.

Helping to contribute to the SEC’s NFL Draft total was Alabama setting a school record with 10 players drafted.

Alabama’s nine players drafted in the first 80 picks was also a new Alabama record.

Michigan ended up having more players drafted than any other Big Ten team, slipping past Ohio State by the time the draft closed up shop this year. For the Wolverines, 11 players ended up being drafted. The previous school record for draft picks was 10, set in 1972 and tied in 1974. Head coach Jim Harbaugh will get plenty of the praise for developing that many players getting a chance to be drafted, but Brady Hoke should be recognized for recruiting those players as well (and blamed for not developing the talent he brought in).

 

Air Force changes rules for football players with NFL aspirations

AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo
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One of the top players from Air Force was ineligible to be drafted by the NFL this weekend, and it had nothing to do with NFL rules. It also had nothing to do with NFL teams backing away from a particular player due to off-field concerns. Instead, a policy at Air Force is what is to blame for wide receiver Jalen Robinette not moving on to the NFL at this time.

The U.S. Air Force will not approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty in order to be allowed to play professional football. Just a year ago, the Department of Defense changed the policy to allow for the possibility, which made it possible for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be allowed to play. Reynolds later joined the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds had received a recommendation to be allowed to play by the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The Air Force notified academy leaders [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military commitments for cadet athletes,” a statement from Air Force read. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve, which would allow their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”

Because of the policy change and confirmation, Robinette was not able to be drafted. He may still have been a long shot to be drafted by an NFL Team, but the policy also means he is unable to be signed as an undrafted free agent as well.

Rawleigh Williams carted off at Arkansas scrimmage

AP Photo/Chris Brashers
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Any time a player that has previously undergone neck surgery goes down on the field and needs to be carted off is quite the scary moment. On Saturday, the Arkansas football program had that exact scare when Rawleigh Williams went down on the field in pain and ended up having to be carted off the practice field during the Arkansas scrimmage.

Williams was placed on a stretcher and taken out of the facility on a cart to receive medical attention. His legs and arms were moving on the ground, a slight sigh of relief given the hit and his injury history. In 2015, Williams was carted off and had to undergo surgery on his neck. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the injury concern on Saturday was apparently not related to the previous neck injury, which was expected to have a full recovery.

It is an unfortunate ending to the spring for Williams, because all indications seemed to be he was certainly improving running the football. Bielema said earlier in the week Williams was running with more patience, which is always a key for a running back.

Arkansas moved its final scrimmage of the spring indoors due to bad weather rolling through the area.

Justin Herbert shines in first Oregon spring game under Willie Taggart

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A glimpse of a brand new era of Oregon football took center stage in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday as the spring football season drew to a close. Willie Taggart showed fans a little bit of what to expect from Oregon in the fall as the program looks to bounce back from a down season under the coach who has shown a knack for improving programs. As is usually the case in a spring game, Oregon’s quarterback situation was under a microscope, and sophomore Justin Herbert took advantage of the opportunity.

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and established a connection with wide receiver Darren Carrington. The two connected for three touchdowns in the game. Sophomore Travis Jonson and early enrollee Braxton Burmeister also saw playing time in the game, but Carrington was confident in saying this is Herbert’s job to lose.

”Our chemistry has definitely improved this spring, and it’ll improve more by the time fall comes, but Herbert, I mean, that’s the guy right now to beat,” Carrington said after the spring game.

As for the team as a whole, Taggert knows there is much still to address as a new system and style are implemented and the roster adjusts physically to the demands of the new coach.

‘We’re still building. We’re nowhere where we need to be as a football team yet. We have some good players. We don’t have a lot of depth that we need to have, that’s going to be a work in progress,” Taggart said. ”The thing for us as coaches is just to make our guys better than they were before. If I guy wasn’t good enough we want to make him look better than he was before. If I guy was good we want to make him great.”

Og course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon spring game without having that typical Oregon uniform flair. Even with a new head coach and with the talk suggesting the Ducks will go for a more traditional approach to uniforms in the fall, the spring game was used for some sizzle on the unis.

Oregon’s spring game crowd of 36,821 assured the Ducks of having the highest spring game attendance among Pac-12 school for a third consecutive year.