Mike Slive

Only conference champs not the way Slive wants playoff to go

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By the time the 2012 season kicks off — give or take a month either way — a decision should be made on what shape major college football’s postseason will take beginning in 2014.  What that shape will be, though, remains to be seen.

The Big Ten reportedly favors a four-team playoff in which the semifinal games are played on campus.  Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott publicly acknowledged earlier this month that he too favors a four-team playoff, with the berths consisting of only conference champions.

It’s that latter stipulation being tossed around as a possibility that could cause consternation among some conference commissioners and school presidents as the game’s leaders attempt to reshape the postseason.  Simply put, the “conference champions-only” idea is viewed as an anti-SEC tack, a knee-jerk reaction to the all-SEC Alabama-LSU title game following the 2011 season.

Suffice to say, the SEC — and possibly even a conference like the Big Ten — would not be in favor of any format that could potentially limit the number of teams the conference could put into a playoff.  And, in an interview with Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News, SEC commissioner Mike Slive did not shy away from the fact that, while he’s open to talks on any concept, limiting a playoff to league title winners is not something he — and presumably the presidents he serves — is prepared to get behind.

“I’m willing to have a conversation about (only conference champions), but if you were going to ask me today, that would not be the way I want to go,” Slive told. “It really is early in the discussions, notwithstanding what some commissioners say publicly. There’s still a lot of information that needs to be generated.”

Taking such a stance would certainly make sense as limiting a playoff to conference champs would’ve impacted the SEC on a couple of occasions the past few years.  In addition to last year’s title game, the SEC has finished a regular season with two teams inside the top four in the BcS rankings — 2008 (Florida No. 2, Alabama No. 4) and 2006 (Florida No. 2), LSU No. 4).

Of course, it remains unclear whether BcS-type rankings will be a part of any type of playoff that may be instituted, but the point remains the same: the SEC, the strongest football conference in the country, especially in the top half of the league, will not go easily into any system that could potentially limit its opportunities.

As for the Big Ten floating the possibility of on-campus playoff games, Slive seems to be more open to that than the idea of only conference champions making up a playoff field.  He is, though, concerned about the competitive advantage — one translation: SEC teams being forced to travel north and play games in open-air stadiums in, say, Ann Arbor or Columbus in December — having a home playoff game would entail.

“There are plusses and minuses to that concept,” Slive said. “One is that you’re playing a couple games to determine the national champion and to make it a home game for somebody has always been perceived as a competitive advantage. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is not played at the homes of the higher seeds. So you have to look at that.

“The other side is there would be the question of fan travel and the ability to travel to one or more games. You guarantee good attendance (at a campus stadium) — for one team. It needs to be looked at carefully. It’s on the table and it should be on the table.”

Personally, I like the idea of on-campus games for a college football playoff, although I would prefer an eight-team seeded playoff with all non-title game contests played at the home stadium of the higher seed.  I also have warmed up to the idea of the top four conference champions making the field — rankings to be determined, although the coaches’ poll should in no way, shape or form be part of any playoff system — but only if it’s an eight-team playoff; the other four spots, if I were CFB commissioner, would be the four highest-ranked teams that didn’t win its league.

Here’s how such a scenario would’ve played out last year, with the conference champions earning the first four seeds because I’m the commish in this fantasy, dammit:

Boise St. (No. 7 in final regular-season BcS rankings) at LSU (No. 1, SEC champs)
Arkansas (No. 6) at Oklahoma State (No. 3, Big 12 champs)
Stanford (No. 4) at Oregon (No. 5, Pac-12 champs)
Alabama (No. 2) at Wisconsin (No. 10, Big Ten champs)

I don’t know about you, but that’s a whole helluva lot more appealing than what the current system offers, which is two teams arbitrarily vying in a one-game “playoff” for a pseudo crown.  There’s also the added bonus that it keeps “the best regular season in sports” intact and places significant value on winning your respective conference, which in turn serves to protect the regular season as well.

Is it fair?  Of course not; no system would or will be.  It is, though, a helluva lot more equitable than what we currently have, and that should be at least part of the reason behind the whole exercise currently being undertaken.  (Writer’s note: it’s not; money is, but this would be a nice repercussion of the greed.)

All that said, the above is nothing more than a pipe dream.  When all of the dust settles — probably by the end of summer — Div. 1-A football will choose to dip its collective toes into the proverbial playoff pool with four teams as anything beyond that has little support for the moment.

That’s not optimal, but, hey, at least it’s a start.

Which gets this back to the whole point of the post before I veered off on my personal playoff tangent: should the field for a four-team playoff system include only schools that have won its conference?  Slive has made the SEC’s opinion perfectly clear; now it’s your turn.

Vote below, and sound off in the comments section below that.

 

Longtime starting WKU safety likely out for remainder of 2016

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 10:  Calvin Ridley #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes away from Marcus Ward #8 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Like they have the last couple of weeks, Western Kentucky will have to get used to Marcus Ward not patrolling its defensive secondary on game days.

Ward (pictured, left) injured his knee in Week 2 and has not returned to the playing field.  Unfortunately for the player and the football program, that absence will continue as the safety underwent surgery on the knee, which is expected to sideline him for the remainder of the 2016 season.

This may not be the last of the fourth-year senior in a Hilltopper uniform, though, as Ward has yet to use his redshirt season and would have a medical waiver at his disposal even if he had.  It’s unclear, however, if Ward will return for another season or rather make himself available for the 2017 NFL draft.

Ward has started a total of 31 games since his true freshman season in 2013, including 26 the previous two seasons.  He was named preseason second-team All-Conference USA prior to the start of the 2016 season.

Perhaps more importantly, he was named a semifinalist earlier this month as a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the Academic Heisman.

No. 10 Washington becomes Pac-12 front-runner after Friday night thrashing of No. 7 Stanford

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Quarterback Keller Chryst #10 of the Stanford Cardinal is hit as he throws by linebacker Connor O'Brien #29 and linebacker Psalm Wooching #28 of the Washington Huskies on September 30, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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All summer long, people wondered why Washington was getting so much preseason love.

After Friday night’s 44-6 thrashing of Stanford in front of a national audience, nobody is wondering anymore about the Huskies.

The sophomore backfield combo of quarterback Jake Browning (210 yards, three touchdowns) and Myles Gaskin (an even 100 yards rushing, two scores) once again powered Washington to a big win, with the offense scoring on all but two full drives on a night where everything went right for the purple and gold.

Defensively is where the Huskies really impressed though. The team swarmed to the ball on every snap, forced two fumbles, racked up eight sacks and kept Stanford under three yards a play for most of the night. The normally reliable Christian McCaffrey was kept in check in remarkable fashion, rushing for just 49 yards on 12 carries.

Just six days after a remarkable comeback win at UCLA, there wasn’t much left in the tank for a Stanford team that was missing two starting cornerbacks and just couldn’t get anything going offensively on the road in a hostile environment. Quarterback Ryan Burns did throw for 151 yards and a touchdown but was under siege most of the night thanks to some shaky play up front from the normally reliable Cardinal offensive line.

The win by Washington certainly establishes Chris Petersen’s team as the Pac-12 favorite — at the very minimum — with a chance to all but punch their ticket to the conference title game next week at Pacific Northwest rival Oregon. If the Huskies continue to look like they did on Friday in Seattle though, a berth in the College Football Playoff is certainly going to be in the cards as well.

No. 10 Washington putting on a show with big first half against No. 7 Stanford

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Head coach David Shaw of the Stanford Cardinal looks on prior to the game against the Washington Huskies on September 30, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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On the first offensive play of the night for Stanford, the Cardinal picked up a first down thanks to a face mask penalty.

It was all downhill from there for the Cardinal.

No. 10 Washington lived up to their high preseason billing on Friday night by manhandling the defending Pac-12 champions in just about every way possible to jump out to a 23-0 halftime lead.

Quarterback Jake Browning threw just three incompletions on his way to 167 yards and two touchdowns and the Huskies looked every bit the part of a top five team in a wild, vintage atmosphere on Montlake. While the offense was impressive, the Washington defense was swarming as well, racking up six sacks in the game so far.

Stanford couldn’t get anything going offensively, averaging just 2.8 yards per play in the first half. Superstar Christian McCaffrey was held mostly in check, with just eight yards receiving and 31 on the ground.

To add injury to the insult of that first half, the Cardinal’s best defender — defensive lineman Solomon Thomas — was injured in the second quarter with a lower leg injury. The team is already without both its starting cornerbacks for the game so it could be a long second half for the visitors.

The game isn’t over yet and there’s plenty of #Pac12AfterDark potential but that was quite a statement made by Chris Petersen’s Huskies in the first half in establishing their credentials for the College Football Playoff.

Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes reportedly dealing with shoulder sprain

LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: Patrick Mahomes II #5 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders stiff arms Daniel Wise #96 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the first half on September 29, 2016 at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
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Texas Tech may be without its starting quarterback just as Big 12 play is picking up.

Patrick Mahomes II injured his shoulder on a scramble in the third quarter of the team’s romp over Kansas on Thursday night and did not return to the game. While he was shown on television attempting to throw on the sidelines after returning to the sidelines, he watched the rest of the second half with a headset on instead of a helmet.

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports there’s a reason Mahomes didn’t return: he’s dealing with an AC joint sprain in the shoulder of his throwing arm. Mahomes’ father posted on social media that the quarterback would not need surgery to correct the injury but it’s still something that could sideline the Red Raiders’ signal-caller for a few games.

Texas Tech does get a little extra rest before traveling to Kansas State next week on Saturday and then host West Virginia at home the following week.

Mahomes entered the week second in the country in passing, third in passing efficiency, and first in total offense. If there is any positive for Tech it’s that there might not be such a huge drop off to backup Nic Shimonek considering the junior came in and threw four touchdown passes in relief of Mahomes in a little over a quarter’s work against the Jayhawks.

Still, Mahomes is one of the most dynamic players in the country at the quarterback position and they’ll certainly need him back behind center if they stand any chance at beating some of the upper tier Big 12 teams to close out the month of October.