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.

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield takes home second straight Burlsworth Award

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 5: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the Akron Zips September 5, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Akron 41-3.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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For the second straight season, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has been named the recipient of the Burlsworth Award. Mayfield is now the first player to win the award two times.

The award is given to college football’s top player who began his career as a walk-on player. Mayfield was originally a walk-on player at Texas Tech before eventually transferring to Oklahoma, where he has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate and led the Sooners to two consecutive Big 12 championships and one appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Mayfield beat out Washington State quarterback Luke Falk and Northwestern wide receiver Austin Carr for the award. Mayfield will also have a chance to add one more Burlsworth Award to his name next season, as the Sooners passer has already said he will return to Oklahoma for the 2017 season.

The old BCS computers would have served you the same College Football Playoff lineup

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 03:  The official Bowl Championship Series logo is seen painted on the turf in the end zone as the Virginia Tech Hokies play against the Michigan Wolverines during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 3, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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If there is one common criticism of the College Football Playoff model it is that it is left up to humans to determine who should play for the national championship. Bias and allegiances can interfere with the decision-making, unless you believe there really is no bias within the board room when the committee gets together in Dallas every week. Some would prefer the playoff model use some sort of computer system, perhaps one similar to the makeup of the old BCS computer. Well, the BCS computers would have come to the same conclusion for the College Football Playoff if it was used.

The seeding may have been slightly different, with Ohio State staying ahead of Clemson, but the matchups would have been the same as this year’s playoff. Alabama would be the top seed and face Pac-12 champion Washington and Ohio State would have faced Clemson. The Buckeyes would have been the “home” team, although the 2-3 matchup really means nothing other than who gets to decide what uniform color to wear and which team calls heads or tails at the coin flip. Of course, under the old BCS model, there would be just two teams selected to play for the national championship, and that would paired the last two national champions against each other; Alabama and Ohio State. Clemson was the second-ranked team in the final College Football Playoff ranking, with Ohio state finishing third.

It is also worth recognizing the BCS computers would also have awarded Western Michigan the highest-ranking among Group of Five schools, thus sending them to the Cotton Bowl. Western Michigan also would have qualified for a spot in the BCS lineup with the No. 12 ranking in the computer model. Finishing in the top 12 qualified the champion from either Conference USA, the MAC, Mountain West Conference or the Sun Belt for an automatic BCS berth.

Forever a Tiger, LSU RB Leonard Fournette declares for NFL Draft

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 12:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers runs the ball during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 38-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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In one of the least surprising announcements from the world of college football, LSU running back Leonard Fournette has announced he will be heading to the NFL in 2017. Fournette announced with a statement on Twitter he will play in LSU’s bowl game matchup against Louisville and then begin preparing for the NFL.

In his statement, Fournette said he chose to make this decision now as a way to avoid potential distractions leading up to LSU’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl appearance.

Fournette has rushed for 843 yards and eight touchdowns this season in just seven games. Injuries got in the way of Fournette’s big hopes for the 2016 season after rushing for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns a year ago. Fournette was among the preseason Heisman Trophy favorites. Fournette was a First-Team All-SEC pick in 2015 and a consensus All-American. could the New Orleans native be drafted by the New Orleans Saints? That would be something.

He will now be largely considered one of the top potential draft picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, even though he will head to the NFL coming off some injury concerns and the stock for running backs at the next level has trended downward.

That said, there are going to be some fantastic running backs out there to draft next spring. Fournette joins a running back class that includes Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, and D'Onta Foreman.

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

EL PASO, TX - DECEMBER 30:  The Miami Hurricanes kick off to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sun Bowl on December 30, 2010 in El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.