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Big Ten kicking around idea of on-campus playoff games


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.

Herm Edwards visits Illini to give pep talk

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Head coach Herm Edwards of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on against the Oakland Raiders during an NFL game on November 30, 2008 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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Former NFL head coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards paid a visit to another former NFL coach on Tuesday. Edwards was in Champaign to visit Lovie Smith and his Illinois football program. While there, Edwards was scheduled to give the Illini a good old-fashioned pep talk. He’s good at that.

This is a reminder that the NFL coaching fraternity remains a strong bond over the years. Smith and Edwards were never a part of the same coaching staff in the NFL, but the two have remained friends over the years. Smith having these types of connections should be exploited at every opportunity to help promote the Illini program and boost it when needed. Edwards has been a vocal supporter of Smith, so it makes sense Smith would have his pal stop by and do what he does best. And he’s done it a number of times…

At Alabama in 2013…

Or the previous year before the Las Vegas Bowl…

Or this past summer with NC State…

Illinois is 2-5 this season and now flirting with the likelihood of not going to a postseason bowl game in Smith’s first season on the job. We’ll see if Edwards is able to give the program the extra juice it needs.

Here’s hoping we get some video footage of Edwards speaking to the Illini.

PJ Fleck tells Cubs to Row the Boat, and a brief look at longest conference title droughts in college football

EVANSTON, IL- SEPTEMBER 03: P.J. Fleck head coach of the Western Michigan Broncos reacts after his teams win against the Northwestern Wildcats on September 3, 2016 at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. the Western Michigan Broncos won 22-21. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The World Series gets underway tonight in Cleveland. The Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs are each looking to bring an end to a championship drought that dates back over 70 years. The Cubs are playing in their first World Series since 1945. The Indians have been back to the Fall Classic a small handful of times since last winning a World Series in 1948. There are three college football programs from the Power Five that have similar droughts they continue to look to end, as far as a conference championship is concerned.

No team has waited as long to win a conference title than Iowa State, who last saw a conference championship in 1912. That came in the old Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association. That conference would pave the path to the old Big Eight Conference, which of course later merged with departing members from the Southwest Conference. As the conference has evolved, Iowa State has struggled to compete for a conference crown.

The only two conference championship droughts comparable to the current droughts of the Cubs and Indians reside in the SEC. Mississippi State has not won a conference championship since 1941 (SEC), and Vanderbilt has to go all the way back to 1923 for its last conference title (Southern Conference). Playing in the same conference as college football powers like Alabama, LSU, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia over the years has not allowed for much opportunity for either SEC program, and that likely will remain the case for many years to come.

While not quite as long of a wait, Western Michigan looks to be on track to snapping their conference championship drought that goes back to 1988. The Broncos are undefeated and have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, aside from a regular season finale against Toledo. Western Michigan head coach PJ Fleck gave the Cubs a pep talk during a stop on SportsCenter this morning.

Row the boat, Cubs (or Indians, depending on your rooting interests)!

Longest Conference Title Droughts By Conference

ACC: North Carolina State (1979)

Big 12: Iowa State (1912)

Big Ten: Minnesota (1967)

Pac-12: Arizona (1993)

SEC: Vanderbilt (1923)

American: Temple (1967)

Conference USA: Rice (1994)

MAC: Ohio (1968)

Mountain West Conference: New Mexico (1964)

Sun Belt Conference: New Mexico State (1978)

Dabo Swinney confirms Wayne Gallman will play vs. FSU

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 07:  Jalen Ramsey #8 of the Florida State Seminoles misses a tackle against Wayne Gallman #9 of the Clemson Tigers during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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It’s now officially official.

In discussing what he described as a “dirty” hit that knocked him out of the North Carolina State game Oct. 15 with a concussion, Wayne Gallman indicated Monday that he would be available and play in Clemson’s huge showdown with Florida State this Saturday.  A day later, the running back’s head coach very emphatically confirmed the back’s availability Saturday coming of the football program’s by weekend.

He’s going to play great,” Dabo Swinney said. “He practiced the whole practice and didn’t miss a rep. He’ll play great on Saturday.”

Gallman currently leads the Tigers in rushing yards (489) and rushing touchdowns (five).  Because of the concussion, Gallman was limited to a season-low 14 yards on two carries.

In last year’s 23-13 win over the Seminoles that clinched the Tigers a berth in the ACC title game, Gallman rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown.  His 25-yard touchdown run with 2:34 remaining iced the win.

Bovada still puts Ohio State second behind Alabama in title odds

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 22:  Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes walk to the field from the locker room before the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 22, 2016 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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I tried (in vain) to explain to my Ohio State-leaning family and friends that Saturday’s loss to Penn State wasn’t the end of the world.  Sunday, Kevin explained as much.

Tuesday, one wagering website revealed it doesn’t see the postseason sky falling on the Buckeyes, either.

In its latest set of odds, has placed the Buckeyes at 9/2 to win the 2016 College Football Playoff.  While that’s longer odds than the 11-4 OSU was getting a week ago, just one team sits ahead of them: Alabama at 8/5, slightly shorter odds than the 9/4 the Tide got last week.

Michigan (6/1), Clemson (7/1), Louisville (9/1) and Washington (9/1) are the only other teams to receive single-digit odds.  The Wolverines, at 7-1 Oct. 18, are the only one of that quartet of teams to see their odds shorten.

Below is the complete set of 2016 College Football Playoff championship odds, again courtesy of