BCS Meetings Football

Report: conferences narrow postseason preferences to four

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With the clock ticking toward a resolution to major college football’s postseason future, it appears the men who will make recommendations to their collective bosses have whittled their original to-do list down from what was originally 50-60 possibilities to a manageable handful.

Included in that list?  A format that could include three semifinal games.  And, yes, you read that correctly.

According to Steve Weinberg of USA Today, and based on an outline obtained by the paper, BcS officials and conference commissioners have turned their focus to four options for college football’s postseason beginning in 2014, the season after the current BcS cycles ends.  The two-page summary obtained by the paper, prepared ahead of the next set of scheduled meetings on the issue later this month, states that while no options have been eliminated from consideration, there are four that are currently classified as the preference of the collective.

Below are the four preferences as outlined by the paper, with how each would’ve played out in 2011 as well as the individual format’s viability:

1. Status quo, using the system that’s been in place for a decade to determine a national champion.

Last year: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Alabama, of course.

Viability: The fact it’s even one of the preferences is eyebrow raising to say the least, especially given the comments of late by many in positions of power that they sense a movement to shift away from the BcS and into some type of playoff.  While an unchanged postseason remains a far-fetched proposition, no one should ever put it past the “leaders” in the sport to conclude that all is well with the current system.  Especially when those very same leaders are considering…

2. A four-team playoff consisting of the four highest-ranked teams that would include two semifinal games… unless one or both of the champions from the Big Ten and Pac-12 are among the four highest-ranked teams, at which point the Rose Bowl would become a third semifinal game.  The next highest-ranked team(s) would replace the Big Ten/Pac-12 champs in one of the two true semifinal games, with the title game finalists being determined after those three “semifinals” have been played.  How it would be determined which two of the three winners would play in the title game is unclear.

Last year: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Stanford, No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State.  There would’ve been no third semifinal game as the Cardinal was not the Pac-12 champion; that honor went to Oregon, which won the inaugural conference championship game but was ranked No. 5 in the final regular season BcS rankings.  Whether the format would’ve impacted how the voters ranked Stanford/Oregon at the end of the regular/championship-game season is a matter that’s certainly up for debate.

Viability: ROTFLMAO!!!  LULZ!!!  Or whatever mocking ‘Net shorthand you want to attach to the mere idea that this was something proposed, let alone apparently being seriously considered.  Suffice to say, this proposal has Jim Delany‘s haughty ego written all over it, with a sprinkling of his Pac-12 counterpart, Larry Scott, thrown in for good measure.  In no way, shape or form is a format that includes three semifinal games an acceptable change.  Then again, the Big Ten has 12 members, so that conference has not been historically shy about flouting mathematics.  Based on this proposal, and the fact that the status quo is reportedly a serious consideration, it’s hard to believe the game’s leaders will do anything but — some how, some way — screw-up the future of college football’s postseason.  Short of reverting back to the old bowl system, I didn’t think that was even a remote possibility.

3. A true plus-one format, with the two participants in a title game squaring off after their bowl games have been completed.

Last year: It’s impossible — with any degree of accuracy, anyway — to determine how this format would’ve played out.  It’s fair to say that, if LSU and Alabama had both won their respective BcS bowls, they would’ve met for the crystal under this format.

Viability: This format has long enjoyed significant support among some of those with influence on the game’s future.  It’s far from optimal, but would have to be considered progress when compared to the status quo.  Or a three-semifinal format.

4. A seeded, four-team playoff.

Last year: Assuming the seeding is determined by the highest rankings, and not limited to conference champions-only as some want, the participants would look exactly the same as Option No. 2.

Viability: Common sense would suggest that, short of an eight-team playoff, this would be far and away the best option for getting beyond the current system.  Then again, with two of the options listed above reportedly in play, common sense may not have a seat at the table that will determine the future of the postseason.

As far as the latter proposal is concerned, there are still myriad details to refine if it’s in fact the format that is ultimately agreed upon.  USA Today details some of those too-be-determined issues:

• Fold entirely into existing bowls.

• Stage the semifinals and title game at neutral sites selected through a bidding process. A bowl or bowls could buy in, hosting the games atop their own annual events.

• Place semifinals in bowls, bidding out the championship site.

• Or play semifinals at campus sites, again bidding out the title game.

Also still to be worked out is the team-selection process. Will the BCS let its mathematical rankings — melding polls and computer ratings — determine who makes a four-team playoff cut? Will it change that formula? Could it go to a selection committee instead?

If I were the commissioner of college football, and an eight-team — or six- or 16-team or any other number plucked out of the air– playoff were not part of the equation?  A seeded four-team playoff involving the three highest-ranked conference winners plus the highest-ranked team that did not win its conference — unless the four highest-ranked teams are all conference winners, of course — with the latter team being the lowest seed regardless of its ranking to the other three teams.  Play the semifinal game in the home stadiums of the two top-seeded teams, with the title game bid out to cities on an annual basis.  Such a format would add some needed value to winning your conference and, with just four teams taking out of the selection pool, the bowls — Rose and otherwise — would survive just fine if such a limited playoff were implemented.

Getting back to the idea of an eight-team — or even larger — playoff format, and because I know it will be mentioned in the comments section below this post, anything above a four-team playoff, while it’s not necessarily been issued a death certificate, is on life support and family and friends have been called home to say their final goodbyes.

“The underlying theme of all this,” BcS executive director Bill Hancock (pictured) said, referring to little support for a format that would involve more than four teams, “is to protect the regular season. That keeps coming up and keeps coming up and keeps coming up. We have the best regular season in sports, and we don’t want to mess with it.”

Some would say that argument went out the window with this past season’s title game matchup, but that’s another story for another day.

A final decision from school presidents and conference commissioners on exactly how the postseason will look in 2014 and beyond is expected at some point before the end of summer this year.

Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett officially withdraws from school

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Blake Barnett #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws before the Advocare Classic against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Despite the wishes of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide depth chart officially became a little thinner on Thursday.

After nearly a day of speculation, Alabama announced that quarterback Blake Barnett is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide football team.

“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”

Barnett started the opener against USC and has thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the year. However the redshirt freshman lost the starting job to true freshman Jalen Hurts and has only played sparingly in the first month of the season.

Saban recently said he wanted Barnett to remain with the program but it seems pretty obvious that playing time would be limited as the team’s backup signal-caller and a transfer would be forthcoming. Now it appears the only question is where to for the former five-star recruit, who is a Southern California native and was recruited by nearly everybody coming out of high school.

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez wants changes to Big Ten scheduling

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Acting head coach Barry Alvarez of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on from the bench before the start of the Outback Bowl against the Auburn Tigers on January 1, 2015 during  at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Wisconsin has been one of the pleasant surprises to begin the 2016 season but a lot of folks are not counting on the Badgers to remain in the top 10 of the polls after one of the most brutal schedules in the month of October you can find.

Having already played (and beat) defending conference champion Michigan State last week, Wisconsin travels to No. 4 Michigan, has a bye week, then hosts No. 2 Ohio State. They’re not done after that though, traveling to Iowa and then hosting No. 15 Nebraska in a stretch that should determine the West division champion before the month is up.

Longtime head coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez is well aware of what awaits his team and is no fan of such an unbalanced schedule.

“I remember when that schedule came out (in 2013) and I thought, ‘How the hell did you kick out something looking like that?” Alvarez told CBSSports.com. “I think you could take a look at the general strength of some programs and split them up. Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State have been good for a long time. Penn State Nittany Lions normally is in that group. Just make sure someone doesn’t get all three year in a year. That’s hard to do. That’s something the ADs are going to have to talk about some day.”

The Big Ten recently moved to a nine game conference slate which means an additional crossover game between divisions. Wisconsin has been the beneficiary of some weaker schedules in the past (Rutgers/Maryland in 2014/15) but seem to be the poster child this year for drawing all of the major powers from the East division.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany cautioned against reading too much into the Badgers’ schedule in 2016 and wants to see how the current format works out — but didn’t rule out any future changes.

“If I was an AD, I would probably be saying the same thing (as Alvarez),” Delany said. “If I was a football coach, I know I would.”

The conference has released the league schedule through 2019 but you can bet the next set of Big Ten games will likely break up some of the more historically successful programs a little more when it comes to division crossover games. Until then though, ‘On Wisconsin’ will have to be more than the school motto in October for Alvarez and his Badgers.

Pick problems lead Bowling Green to make a change at QB

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 3:  James Knapke #3 of the Bowling Green Falcons is sacked by Nick Bosa #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the fourth quarter on September 3, 2016 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Bowling Green 77-10. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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In 118 pass attempts this season, James Knapke has tossed nine interceptions, the most of any FBS quarterback through Week 4.  Entering Week 5, Bowling Green isn’t planning on allowing the senior quarterback to add to that total.

In a brief statement Thursday morning, BGSU head coach Mike Jinks announced that redshirt freshman James Morgan will start at quarterback Saturday against Eastern Michigan.  Morgan replaced Knapke in the loss to Memphis last week after the starter tossed three interceptions.

Morgan himself hasn’t been averse to turnovers, however, as he has thrown three in 46 attempts.

After Matt Johnson went down with a season-ending injury in the 2014 opener, Knapke took over as the starter and threw for 3,173 yards, 15 and 12 interceptions.  A healthy Johnson (shut it, 12-year-olds) reclaimed his job in 2015, but Knapke took over again in 2016 as Johnson’s eligibility expired.

Not only are Knapke’s interceptions the most in the country, but his pass efficiency rating of 88.4 is the worst of the 121 FBS quarterbacks listed on the NCAA.com stats page.

Wisconsin loses kicker Rafael Gaglianone to season-ending surgery

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 03:  Rafael Gaglianone #27 of the Wisconsin Badgers makes a field goal during the first half against the LSU Tigers at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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As far as kickers go, this is a rather significant development.

Last week, Wisconsin’s Rafael Gaglianone did not make the trip to East Lansing for the Michigan State game because of a back issue.  Not only will the placekicker miss this Saturday’s game against No. 4 Michigan, he will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2016 season after undergoing back surgery.

According to the school, Gaglianone’s condition improved Sunday but subsequently worsened.  It was then decided that the junior would undergo the medical procedure.

A similar back injury, the school said, led Gaglianone to miss spring practice last year.

“You’re disappointed for Rafael because of all the work he’s put in and how well he was playing,” head coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. “From a football perspective, I’ve appreciated the way the other guys in that unit have responded this week.”

This season, Gaglianone has connected on seven of eight field goal attempts and all 10 extra points.  Included in that total was what turned out to be the game-winning field goal in the opener against LSU at Lambeau Field.

Including this season, Gaglianone, who will be eligible for a medical hardship waiver, has been good on 44-57 field goals in his career and all but two of his 111 point afters.

With Gaglianone sidelined, the Badgers will turn to Andrew Endicott.  The senior, who hadn’t previously attempted a field goal or extra point at the collegiate level, made 1-1 of the former and 3-4 of the latter in replacing Gaglianone against MSU.