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The day college football’s postseason forever changed

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As someone who has been beating a very loud the drum for a college football playoff since even before I came around these parts more than three years ago, today is a red-letter day.  Something, to be perfectly honest, I never thought I’d see without some type of intervention from the federal government.

In essence, the leaders in college football Thursday formally endorsed a four-team playoff.  And officially placed the Bowl Championship Series on life support, with plans to pull the plug beginning with the 2014 season.

Automatic qualifiers?  Dead, although it’s still to be determined whether that’s good or bad for those outside the power conferences.  A plus-one, in which a title game is held after all of the bowl games have been played?  Dead as well, meaning there will be a true playoff in college football, bringing it in line with every other major sport in the free world, professional, collegiate and otherwise.

Following the end of the meetings in Hollywood, Fla., the commissioners of the 11 Div. 1-A (FBS) conferences as well as Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick issued a statement that read in part that the group “will present to our conferences a very small number of four-team options, each of which could be carried out in a number of ways.” Borrowing from JFK, within that document lies the dawning of a new age in major college football’s postseason.

The impact of today’s developments wasn’t lost on the organization perhaps impacted the most by the tidal wave of postseason discussion that’s swept over the sport the past several months.

“This is a seismic change for college football and commissioners are aware of that,” BcS executive director Bill Hancock candidly and correctly stated.

While it was a great day, a tremendous day, it was far from a perfect one.  In my dream scenario, at least an eight-team playoff would’ve been implemented right off the bat.  Officially, and has been intimated for months, there will be no eight- or 16-team playoffs for the foreseeable future. While far from unexpected, seeing it off the table is more than a little disappointing but far from surprising.

Baby steps, y’all.  Baby steps.

Many questions still remain, however.  The one that has seemingly garnered the most attention is also inconsequential, or close to it: where the games will be played.  Whether it be inside the current bowl structure; outside the bowl structure but utilizing those same host sites; or neutral or on-campus venues — yes, the latter one is still officially on the table, but don’t hold your breath — the two semifinal games (that feels so good to be able to officially type) will be held somewhere.  Again, the where is almost inconsequential.  The how?  Not so much.

The how, of course, is what process the newly-revamped postseason will utilize to determine which teams will qualify for the four spots in a playoff.  Many possible scenarios have been mentioned, from limiting the field to teams that have won conference championships to taking the top four teams in the final rankings — using computers or human polls or some combination of both similar to the current system — to three conference champs and a “wildcard” to just about anything else in between.  Another scenario that’s gaining momentum?  A selection committee, similar to the one utilized in college hoops for its postseason tournaments.

Regardless of how that question is answered when a final decision is rendered in July, this part of the equation is simply something the sport can’t afford to get wrong.

In that vein, here are some helpful hints for the game’s decision makers to help them not get it wrong:

  1. If computers are part of the selection process, make any program utilized open and available for public scrutiny and have strength of schedule as part of the criteria.  The importance of that, especially the latter part, cannot be overstated.
  2. If human polls are part of the selection process, the first poll of a given season should in no way, shape or form be released until at least three weeks of the season have been played, preferably four or five into the new year.  Based on the annual turnover nearly every team in the country experiences, a preseason poll based off the previous year’s results is not only useless but it’s actually damaging to the process of, at the end of the season, determining the four best teams in college football.
  3. If human polls are part of the selection process, the coaches’ poll should not be one of them.  That one should be fairly self explanatory.
  4. If a selection committee is part of the process, make it as close to possible to being a full-time job.  If the sport is hellbent on going in that direction, do it right.  The selection process is not something to be half-assed, and neither should the committment any future committee members make.

Today — and the several months preceding it — was certainly a step in the right direction toward righting the wrongs of the abominable system used to determine a national champion in major college football.  Still, though, there are many more steps to take.  And many, many ways for the leaders of the sport to somehow screw it up.

Keep every available appendage crossed.  These next three months or so are monumental for the sport.

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.