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.

 

No. 7 Washington wins Pac-12 title game rematch with Colorado thanks to stifling second half defense

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For a half, Colorado had No. 7 Washington just where they wanted in a Pac-12 Championship Game rematch from a year ago. Just like in that matchup in Santa Clara 10 months ago, the Buffs trailed by just a score going into halftime and looked surprisingly sharp against their highly ranked opponents from Seattle.

Just like it did last December though, the third quarter rolled around and Huskies reminded everybody why they reign supreme in the Pac-12 until further notice, capping off a dominant second half to capture a key road win in Boulder 37-10 over the Buffs.

While Jake Browning still didn’t seem to figure out Mike MacIntyre‘s defense the second time around (11/21, 160 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), it’s not like the UW signal-caller needed to with the effort his run game and defense were able to provide on a rainy night under the Flatirons. Tailback Myles Gaskin had no problem shouldering more of the load with his backup out, rushing for 202 yards and two scores while breaking off big run after big run to slowly crush the home crowd’s spirits. If there was anything that did really go wrong for the offense in the second half, it was the fact that wide receiver Chico McClatcher was carted off after a gruesome ankle injury that figures to sideline him for some time to come.

Still, the impressive performance on the scoreboard was really the result of the Huskies’ stifling defense coming to play after some adjustments in the locker room. Linebacker Azeem Victor hit the double-digit mark for tackles and corner Myles Bryant pulled down a pick-six — one of three interceptions on the night. As a result, what was a close game for about two and a half quarters, ended up turning into a runaway win for the defending Pac-12 North champs.

While it was a tough night on the scoreboard with nothing going in the second half, there were some positives for the Buffs early on. Quarterback Steven Montez did look sharp working the middle of the field until the pressure was turned up and running back Phillip Lindsay managed 68 yards and a touchdown against one of the stiffer run defenses in the country. Given some of USC’s early struggles, it’s pretty clear that Colorado will remain a factor in the Pac-12 South battle if nothing else.

In the end though, it was the same ol’ same ol’ out West as Washington remained unbeaten and looking again like a College Football Playoff contender once again.

Jim Harbaugh advises President Trump to ‘check the Constitution’

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The latest controversy surrounding President Donald Trump has reached college football.  And, of course, it’s Jim Harbaugh doing the reacting.

At a campaign rally in Alabama earlier this past week, the POTUS let loose on those NFL players who have decided to use the National Anthem as a vehicle for protesting social injustice.  In essence, Trump called for those who participate in the demonstrations to be summarily dismissed.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!'” Trump was quoted as saying. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.'”

Suffice to say, that hasn’t even remotely happened as condemnation of the fiery rhetoric has been far and wide from the NFL community and beyond.  It was also condemned by a former member of the NFL community as Harbaugh, whose former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, played a significant role in a story that’s enveloped professional football over the past year, had some choice words on this latest kerfuffle.

“No, I don’t agree with the president,” Harbaugh said following Michigan’s win over Purdue. “Listen, that’s ridiculous. Check the Constitution.”

Harbaugh, who was already at odds with Trump over the slashing of one particular program, also stated initially that he didn’t respect Kaepernick sitting out the anthem before apologizing for misspeaking shortly thereafter.  In the spring, Harbaugh referred to the still-unsigned quarterback as a hero.

Notre Dame has no trouble with mistake-prone Michigan State

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Notre Dame probably would’ve beaten Michigan State on Saturday night if the Spartans pitched a perfect game. But instead the Spartans hit three batters, tossed a handful of wild pitches, aiding the Irish in a 38-18 blowout in Spartan Stadium.

The 20-point margin represents Notre Dame’s largest victory over Michigan State since a 36-14 whipping on Sept. 18, 1993 and the largest win by either team since a 45-23 Spartans win on Sept. 12, 1998. The Irish have now won four of the last five in a series that dates back to 1897.

The Irish (3-1) opened the game with a 7-play, 78-yard touchdown drive punctuated by a 16-yard Brandon Wimbush run, then immediately capitalized on a Michigan State (2-1) mistake as Julian Love returned a Brian Lewerke interception 59 yards for a touchdown.

Michigan State rebounded with its best drive of the night, knifing 75 yards in seven snaps for a touchdown. But another Lewerke turnover, this time a fumble in his own territory, set up Notre Dame with a short field, which Wimbush turned into an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dexter Williams. The Spartans threatened to pull within 21-14 until their third and costliest turnover of the first half, an L.J. Scott fumble at the goal line that took six points off the board and handed Notre Dame the ball at the 20-yard line. Notre Dame needed only five plays to push its lead to 28-7, where it would remain until halftime.

In addition to the three turnovers, Michigan State also committed nine penalties, dropped a handful of passes and lost a possession to a turnover on downs.

Michigan State opened the second half with a Matt Coghlin field goal, but Notre Dame answered that field goal and then some with a 9-yard Deon McIntosh touchdown run. Justin Yoon pushed the lead to 28 with a 46-yard field goal with 4:51 to play.

Michigan State completed the scoring with a cosmetic touchdown — a 25-yard toss from Lewerke to Gerald Holmes — and 2-point conversion with 3:09 remaining.

Wimbush was the star for Notre Dame, hitting 14-of-20 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown with eight carries for 52 yards and a touchdown. Lewerke carried the load for Michigan State, connecting on 31-of-51 passes for 340 yards — many of them junk — with a touchdown and an interception with nine carries for 56 yards and a fumble.

Michigan State will remain in East Lansing next week to host hard luck loser Iowa, while Notre Dame returns home to face Miami (Ohio).

Disaster averted as walk-off TD pushes No. 4 Penn State past Iowa

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Entering Week 4, the last three teams ranked in the Top Five entering Kinnick Stadium had exited with a loss.  In dramatic fashion, No. 4 Penn State flipped that script.

Trailing 15-13, Iowa scored on a 35-yard touchdown run by Akrum Wadley that put Iowa up, after a failed two-point conversion, 19-15 with 1:42 left in the game.  Penn State then proceeded to go 65 yards in 12 plays and 1:42 of game time, with Trace McSorley connecting with Juwan Johnson on a seven-yard touchdown pass with zero ticks left on the clock to secure a wild 21-19 win.

That fourth quarter also featured Penn State blocking a field goal… only to see Iowa return the favor 10 minutes later to set up what would’ve been the game-winning touchdown by Wadley.

If you simply looked at the box score, however, you would’ve thought this was a blowout that swung heavily toward the visitor.

The Nittany Lions outgained the Hawkeyes 579-273.  In fact, Penn State had more yards rushing (295) than Iowa had total offense. First downs?  PSU 29, Iowa 11.  The Nittany Lions held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game for good measure.

In the end, however, it was Penn State that came out on top on both the scoreboard as well as the stat sheet as the Nittany Lions kept their perfect season afloat as, after games against Indiana and Northwestern the next two weeks, they get set for season-defining games against No. 8 Michigan (Oct. 21) and No. 10 Ohio State (Oct. 28).  And Saquon Barkley, who set a single-game school record for all-purpose yards — 211 rushing, 94 receiving, 53 returns — will get to continue to state his case as the best football player in the country and one of a handful of Heisman Trophy front-runners.