Allstate BCS National Championship Game - LSU v Alabama

Saban rips ‘self-absorbed people’, their playoff models

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The battle between the SEC and Big Ten: it not’s just for on-field breakfast anymore.

Earlier this month, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, a powerful proponent of a four-team playoff model that would consist of at least three conference winners instead of the four top-ranked teams, appeared to take a shot at Alabama when asked about the future makeup of a college football playoff.

I don’t have a lot of regard for that team,” Delany said when asked about a non-divisional winner qualifying for what will become a revamped postseason in the sport.  While Delany didn’t specifically mention the Tide, and later claimed that he wasn’t anyway, there’s little way around the fact that he was, at least in part, getting a shot in at the Tide; following a 2011 season that saw them fail to win the SEC West let alone the conference, UA beat fellow SEC member LSU in January to claim its second BcS title in three years and the sixth straight overall for the conference.

The combination of that rematch, the overall dominance of the SEC the past several years and the desire to protect the Rose Bowl at all costs has led to a push by Delany and others to limit any four-team playoff to, essentially, only teams that have won their respective conferences — or even a bastardized “playoff” in the form of a plus-one in order to insulate the Granddaddy of Them All.

Such talk has apparently gotten to the head coach of last season’s non-division-winning, BcS-title-winning team.  In his most pointed comments to date, and while not mentioning Delany or the Big Ten/Pac-12 specifically, Nick Saban fired a shot directly across the bow of that rosy entity, ripping unnamed people for what he sees as an effort to do what’s best for themselves and not what’s best for the sport.

“It’s self-absorbed people who are worried about how it affects their circumstance or their league rather than what’s best for college football who would want to do that,” Saban said at the SEC’s annual Destin, Fla., meetings, responding to a question about a conference champs-only playoff. “It’s not what’s best for the fans because they’ve made it very clear what they want it to be.”

To the credit of the Big Ten/Pac-12, though, it seems as if they are willing to “compromise” on a playoff model, with conference champs qualifying for a four-team field only if they’re ranked in the top six, with the other spot or spots being filled by the highest-ranked non-conference-winning team or teams.

Saban specifically and the SEC in general, however, want to see a field that consists of the four highest-ranked teams, period.

“People want to see the best four teams play in a playoff,” he said. “The problem in college football is there’s not equal parity in the leagues. Some leagues are stronger than others in different years. It’s not always going to be where the SEC is stronger than another league. There’s going to be years when other leagues are stronger than the SEC. It’s not an SEC thing. History in recent years would say that, but that’s how it’s been all the way through.

“I think you’re going to get a lot of real complaining if we have a four-team playoff and we go through all this that we’re going through to try to implement this and execute it and, all of a sudden, next year we have the No. 1 team, the No. 3 team, the No. 7 team and the No. 11 team being the four teams in the playoffs. There’s going to be a mutiny on the ship, there’s no question about that.”

Last season, Big Ten champ Wisconsin was the No. 10 team in the final regular season BcS standings and would’ve qualified for a playoff berth — ahead of Alabama and others — if the conference champs-only model had been in place.

By the end of the SEC’s meetings this week, the conference is expected to have an official stance on its vision of what a college football postseason should look like.  Based on precedence, there’s little doubt that vision will consist of taking the four highest-ranked teams regardless of placement in their conference standings.

Arizona State hires former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 07:  Head coach Todd Graham of the Arizona State Sun Devils runs out with teammates before the Pac 12 Championship game against the Stanford Cardinal at Sun Devil Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona. The Carindal defeated the Sun Devils 38-14.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona State has hired former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson to coach its offensive line, the Sun Devils announced Tuesday.

Henson spent seven seasons on staff in Columbia, the last three as offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and/or tight ends coach. His offenses helped the Tigers win the 2013 and ’14 SEC East championships, but their yards per play ranks plummeted from 13th to 125th in yards per play over his three years at the helm. Missouri rebounded to rank 31st in the first year under new coordinator Josh Heupel.

He spent the 2016 season as an offensive analyst at Oklahoma State.

“Josh brings a tremendous background of winning championships at the highest levels,” says Graham.  “He was the offensive coordinator at Missouri and won back-to-back SEC East Championships.  He was the recruiting coordinator at LSU and was recognized as one of the nation’s top recruiters for his accomplishments there.  He helped LSU win the 2008 BCS National Championship.  Josh brings a wealth of knowledge of our system to our staff, in addition to being one of the finest recruiters in the country.  He will blend well with Chip Lindsey and Rob Likens.”

In addition to coaching the offensive line, Henson will serve as assistant head coach and run game coordinator. Former offensive line coach Chris Thomsen left for a position at TCU earlier this week.

“I am so happy to be at Arizona State University,” Henson said in a statement.  “One of the things that attracted me to ASU is that Coach Graham has a track record of winning wherever he’s been.  And he has a track record of developing young men.  Winning is important, but being involved in their lives is also what appeals to me.  I know a lot of members of the current staff and they have great things to say about the university and about the Phoenix area.  I came out here years ago as a guest of former ASU assistant football coach Johnny Barr and found it to be one of the best places in the country to live.  I am very excited to get started.”

Arizona State finished 112th in rushing, 119th in yards per carry and sacks allowed, and tied for 105th in tackles for loss allowed en route to a 5-7 campaign in 2016.

Oregon hires Mario Cristobal away from Alabama

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Assistant Head Coach/Tackles and Tight Ends/Recruiting Coordinator Mario Cristobal of the Alabama Crimson Tide cheers in the first half while taking on the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Oregon has hired Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal to serve as the Ducks’ co-offensive coordinator and run game coordinator, the Ducks announced Tuesday.

Though it was just announced today, this is a move that has been in the works for a while.

Cristobal enjoyed considerable success at Alabama, helping the Tide win the 2015 national title and finish as a runner-up in 2016. The Tide’s offensive line won the inaugural Joe Moore Award — given to the best offensive line unit — in 2015, and left tackle Cam Robinson took home the Outland Trophy this fall.

Cristobal is also known for his 6-year run as head coach at Florida International and is regarded as one of the best recruiters in college football.

The question, beyond if he can quote-unqoute fix a running game that ranked 27th this season after recording top-10 finishes seven of the past eight seasons, is if Cristobal can help Willie Taggart and a staff with a long track record of successfully recruiting Florida and either:

A) translate that success to the West Coast, where Oregon traditionally recruits, or

B) pull Sunshine State kids all the way across the country to Eugene.

Cristobal is listed as a co-offensive coordinator, which assumes Oregon will hire another co-offensive coordinator (and quarterbacks coach) to join Taggart’s staff.

Tuesday’s announcement did not indicate that Cristobal will call plays for the Ducks.

Frank Beamer headlines class of new CFP selection committee members

SHREVEPORT, LA - DECEMBER 26:  Head coach Frank Beamer of the Virginia Tech Hokies takes the field for pregame warmups prior to the Camping World Independence Bowl against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on December 26, 2015 in Shreveport, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Now three years into the new system, the College Football Playoff’s selection committee roster is beginning change.

Gone are Barry AlvarezCondoleezza Rice and Lloyd Carr (Carr had already stepped down for health reasons), and in are Ohio State AD Gene Smith, Robert Morris University president Dr. Chris Howard and former Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, which the CFP made official on Tuesday.

Additionally, Kirby Hocutt had his 2-year stay on the committee extended through the 2017 season, and Bobby Johnson will stay through 2018. Hocutt and Johnson stepped in when Oliver Luck stepped away after taking a job with the NCAA and Archie Manning stepped down due to health reasons. Hocutt will again serve as committee chairman in 2017.

With Rice leaving, the CFP will consist entirely of men for the first time in its history.

“Frank, Chris and Gene will each bring a wealth of knowledge to the selection committee,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. “All three played college football.  And they will continue the CFP tradition of committee members with high integrity and a passion for college football.

“We are also delighted that Kirby will return as chair. He did a tremendous job of leading and facilitating the committee’s deliberations, and he was also an excellent representative with the media and public.  Likewise, we are pleased that Bobby accepted our invitation to return. He is an excellent evaluator of teams and brings a valuable coach’s perspective.”

Smith has served as Ohio State’s AD for 12 years and served on a wealth of NCAA committees in that time, including a run on the Men’s Basketball Selection Committee.

“This is a tremendous honor and privilege to be appointed to this committee,” Smith said in a statement. “The sport of football has given so much to me and I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to be able to give back.”

Howard is a former Air Force player who was named the inaugural Campbell Trophy winner as the nation’s top scholar-athlete in 1990. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in politics from the University of Oxford and an M.B.A. from Harvard. Howard became the president of Hampden-Sydney College in 2009 — he was among the youngest college presidents in the country at the time — and took over at Robert Morris in 2015. Also a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Howard earned a Bronze Star for distinguished service in Afghanistan.

Beamer, of course, is a future College Football Hall of Fame coach who walked away from the game with 280 total victories and a 238-121-2 mark while serving as Virginia Tech’s head coach from 1987-2015. In addition to winning or sharing seven conference championships, seven top-10 finishes and an appearance in the 1999 BCS title game, Beamer shepherded the Hokies from a Division I-AA independent to the ACC.

“College football has been my life’s work, and I’m really humbled that I can still contribute to the game in this role,” Beamer said in a statement. “Hopefully the rest of the committee will be interested in my perspective. To join a group with so many great minds and such a diverse range of experience, I just want to pull my weight. The committee has an important role, and I’ll do everything asked of me to help rank the best teams in America for the right to compete for the national championship.”

Penn State DT Antoine White announces transfer to Albany

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Chris Laviano #5 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights is pressured by Antoine White #93 of the Penn State Nittany Lions in the second half during the game on September 19, 2015 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Penn State defensive tackle Antoine White will plug gaps and chase passers in a new destination next season. White revealed he will leave Happy Valley to play for Albany in 2017. As a redshirt sophomore in 2016, White would lose a year of eligibility if he left for an FBS school.

White announced the transfer on his Twitter account.

“My past 3 years at Penn State have been filled with so many great experiences as a student-athlete, in school, sports, as well as in life,” White wrote.

“I am forever grateful for all of these and I have built relationships that I know will last a life time.”

White collected 17 tackles with 1.5 sacks as a sophomore this fall. He was a second-team tackle for Penn State’s Big Ten championship squad in 2016 and was expected to assume the same role next season.