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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.

ECU transfer QB Kurt Benkert moves on to Virginia

In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 East Carolina quarterback Kurt Benkert rolls out to pass during NCAA college football practice in Greenville, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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On April 25, East Carolina announced that Kurt Benkert had decided to transfer out of the Pirates football program.  Less than a week later, the quarterback has found himself a new football home.

On Twitter Sunday afternoon, Benkert confirmed that he will be enrolling at Virginia and continuing his collegiate playing career with the Cavaliers.  Beckert also acknowledged his decision in a text message to 247Sports.com.

“I’m really excited to be here,” Beckert said in a portion of the brief text.

As Beckert is headed to UVa. as a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play for the Hoos immediately in 2016.  Not only that, but he will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Beckert was named the Pirates’ starter in early August of 2015, but sustained a right knee injury a couple of weeks later that knocked him out for the entire season.  In Charlottesville, Beckert will join a competition that includes returning starter Matt Johns and Texas/Arizona transfer Connor Brewer.

Mark Richt continues to be the classiest of acts in college football

Mark Richt gestures after being introduced as the new University of Miami NCAA college football head coach, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015,  in Coral Gables, Fla.  (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
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In my seven-plus years at CFT, I’ve never been shy in expressing my absolute and utter respect for Mark Richt, whether it was for an honorable against-the-grain stance on transfers or honoring a high school football player who tragically drowned before he could become a walk-on at Georgia or myriad other things.  Sunday, Richt solidified that respect.

As you may know, Richt and UGA parted ways this offseason, with the head coach ultimately moving on to Miami to take over his alma mater’s football program.  As expected, his departure from Athens was classy.

Just as expected, one of Richt’s returns to his old stomping grounds further showed his class.

Not to be outdone, Richt’s replacement showed his class as well.

Bravo to both head coaches.  Sometimes, most times, being classy is the absolute right move — even as Richt’s successor could take some lessons from his predecessor when it comes to transfers.

Ohio State draftees to sign contracts worth in excess of $110 million

Urban Meyer
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Forget about going shirtless at a satellite camp or a sleepover or climbing up a tree or any of the like; this is what you call a recruiting pitch.

During the course of the three-day NFL draft, a dozen former Ohio State Buckeyes were drafted.  While OSU failed to break its own record for most picks in a single draft, the 12 selections in the first four rounds were the most ever.

And, not surprisingly, those players are going to get paid.

According to PennLive.com‘s David Jones, those players will sign contracts that could be worth a total of $120 million.  Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch has the number pegged slightly lower at $111,462,707.  Either way, that’s a lot of cash — and a lot dollar signs for Urban Meyer to flout in front of potential recruits.

Of course, not all of that money is guaranteed, although the guaranteed dollars involved aren’t too shabby either.  From the Dispatch:

Just the signing bonuses alone, which range from Bosa’s projected $17,017,226 to Jones’ $383,393, have an expected total of $60,526,660. Unless a player does something to cause his contract to be voided, signing bonuses are theirs to keep.

Regardless of how you spin it, former Buckeyes did quite well financially the last couple of days.  And, as Jones alludes to when it comes to James Franklin and Penn State specifically and the Big Ten in general, Meyer and the Buckeyes are in an entirely different zip code than the rest of the conference — a fact that will no doubt come up on the vast expanses of the recruiting trail.

The good news for Franklin and Penn State: They had three of those 11. The bad news for them and everyone else in the league: Urban Meyer is probably preparing a recruiting flyer right now with a 9-figure dollar amount printed in big bold numbers.

Veteran NFL assistant reportedly to fill Alabama’s coaching vacancy

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Buffalo Bills
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On the same day some details emerged on an Alabama assistant’s “resignation,” that assistant’s potential replacement has been identified.

Citing unnamed sources, al.com is reporting that Karl Dunbar is expected to be hired as the Tide’s new defensive line coach.  Dunbar would replace Bo Davis, who “resigned” Friday amidst allegations of potential NCAA violations.

Dunbar served as Nick Saban‘s strength & conditioning coach at LSU from 2001-02, and then returned to Baton Rouge as Les Miles‘ line coach in 2005 after spending two years (2003-04) in the same position at Oklahoma State.

Most of Dunbar’s coaching career, though, especially recently, has come at the NFL level.

From 2006-11, Dunbar was the line coach for the Minnesota Vikings, and then held the same job with the New York Jets from 2012-2014.  Hired by Rex Ryan to coach the Buffalo Bills’ line in 2015, Dunbar was fired in March of this year.

Dunbar is a former NFL defensive lineman who played for Arizona in 1994-95, when Ryan was one of his Cardinals assistant.