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SEC unanimously supports top-four playoff model

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The postseason battle lines have officially been drawn.

In one corner of the future playoff ring is the Big Ten and Pac-12, which, along with the ACC and Big East, publicly favors a postseason model in which conference champions-only make the field, although the two heavyweight conferences appear willing to compromise by ensuring that the league winners are ranked in the top six or are replaced by a wildcard or wildcards if not.

In the other corner is the Big 12, which officially confirmed yesterday that it favors the highest-ranked teams, regardless of their conference standing, qualifying for what’s expected to be a four-team field.  Friday, and as expected, the SEC locked arms with its new postseason partner.

Commissioner Mike Slive confirmed at the close of his conference’s annual meetings that the SEC’s presidents/chancellors, athletic directors and head coaches unanimously support a playoff system that includes the four highest-ranked teams in the field.  That will be the conference’s official stance heading into a series of meetings this month, culminating with a meeting June 26 in Washington D.C. that’s expected to include an announcement for the postseason beginning in 2014.

How the SEC/Big 12 and Big Ten/Pac-12 will bridge their differences of opinion remains to be seen, although the reality is there isn’t that much of a gap between the the two favored models over the past decade.

As you can see by clicking HERE, in five of the 10 past 10 years — 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003, 2002 — the same four teams would’ve been involved in a playoff regardless of which of the two formats — and, yes, we’re assuming that the final playoff model will be one of the two — would’ve been utilized.  In another of those years (2011), the same conferences would’ve been represented, with the Pac-12 flipping between Stanford and Oregon depending on the model.

In the model favored by the SEC and Big 12, each conference would’ve placed 12 and eight teams, respectively, in the playoffs the past 10 years.  In the champs-only scenario, the SEC would’ve dropped by two teams to 10 — losing Alabama in 2008 and LSU in 2006 — while the Big 12 would’ve remained steady at eight playoff qualifiers.  Just once in the past decade — 2005 — would the SEC had no teams qualify under either format.

When it comes to the Big Ten and Pac-12, the two models ostensibly cancel out each other’s gains/losses.  In the model with the top four teams qualifying regardless, the Big Ten would’ve placed eight teams in the field and the Pac-12 seven.  In the model favored by the two conferences, the Big Ten gains one team and the Pac-12 loses one, with Wisconsin as conference champ replacing Stanford as a wildcard in 2010.

The Big East and ACC are essentially non-factors, with the former qualifying three teams — one of those, Miami, is now in the ACC — in their favored champs-only model and the latter just one team regardless of the model — Virginia Tech in 2007.

Four times in the past decade, a team from a non-Big Six conference would’ve qualified at least one of the formats, and neither answers to the name “Boise State”: TCU as winners of the Mountain West in 2009 and 2010, and Utah as winners of the same conference in 2004 and 2008.  Ironically enough, TCU is leaving the MWC for the Big 12 this year, while Utah left for the Pac-12 last year.

Obviously, and as we stated previously, there’s not a significant difference between the two models favored by the four most powerful conferences in college football, at least in the past decade.  At least publicly, however, the “c-word” is not yet part of the discussion.

We won’t compromise on (1-2-3-4),” Florida president Bernie Machen said Thursday. “I think the public wants the top four. I think almost everybody wants the top four.”

“You understand the Korean War is still on,” interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas bluntly stated today when asked if there could be a compromise in the postseason talks.

Despite the saber-rattling, we’re of the opinion, as are a lot of folks a helluva lot smarter than we are, that when it’s all said and done, the so-called 3-1 format — take the four highest-ranked conference champs provided they’re ranked in the top six, replace as many as necessary with wildcard selections — will be officially implemented at some point before the calendar turns to July.  Unless the college versions of Seoul and Pyongyang can’t come to their collective senses, of course.

Hip issue forces Mizzou RB Morgan Steward to retire

Morgan Steward
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Thomas Tyner isn’t the only Power Five running back forced to step away from the sport because of injury.

Back in November of 2014, Morgan Steward sustained a hip injury during the early portion of Missouri’s summer camp.  Specifically, the running back said at the time, “[m]y hip joint popped out of place, tore things around, pulled off some of the bone.”

Surgery that November sidelined him until camp the following year, but Steward managed to play the first three games of the 2015 season. Unfortunately, the back was shut down in late September for the remainder of the year; five months later, he’s being shut down permanently as Mizzou officials have confirmed that Steward will be forced to retire from the sport and end the playing portion of his football career.

A three-star member of the Tigers’ 2012 recruiting class, Steward ran for 84 yards and a touchdown as a redshirt freshman. Prior to the hip injury the following year, Steward was viewed as a back who could potentially shoulder a significant portion of the running-game load, rushing for 117 yards and three touchdowns in a scrimmage during spring practice in 2014. Post-injury, he ran for 18 yards in the three 2015 games.

The good news for Steward is that he has his degree from Mizzou in business communications.

Ole Miss QB Ryan Buchanan opts to quit football

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 22:  Ryan Buchanan #9 of the Ole Miss Rebels throws a pass in the fourth quarter of a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 22, 2014 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Razorbacks defeated the Rebels 30-0.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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Ole Miss had already lost one quarterback to a transfer the past couple of months.  Now, the Rebels are losing another via different means but essentially for the same reason.

In an interview with Scout.com, Ryan Buchanan confirmed that not only is he leaving the Ole Miss football team, but he’s leaving the sport, period.  Buchanan’s decision to step away from the game is actually the culmination of a process that began midway through a 2015 season that would see the Rebels win 10 games and a Sugar Bowl title.

“I came to the conclusion a few months ago that football would not be my future and it was time to start applying myself 100% to my future,” he said. “It’s time for me to find my passion beyond football.”

Buchanan, who said he briefly flirted with transferring to another school, informed head coach Hugh Freeze and his position coach, Dan Werner, of his decision a couple of weeks ago.

If Buchanan had decided to return to Oxford, he would’ve been no better than third on the depth chart. All-SEC quarterback Chad Kelly is firmly entrenched as the starter, while five-star 2015 signee and future at the position Shea Patterson is poised to be Kelly’s backup for a season before taking over the reins in 2017. There’s also no guarantee that the sophomore could beat out redshirt freshman Jason Pellerin for the No. 3 spot.

A four-star member of the Rebels’ 2013 recruiting class, Buchanan was rated as the No. 19 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Mississippi.  After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Buchanan attempted 22 passes and served as Ole Miss’ holder on kick attempts in 2014.  This past season, he attempted 13 passes, two of which went for touchdowns.

In early December, DeVante Kincade, a three-star recruit in Buchanan’s class, announced his decision to transfer from the Rebels.

Arkansas loses RBs coach to NFL for second straight year

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - SEPTEMBER 5:  Head Coach Bret Bielema of the Arkansas Razorbacks talks with a official during a game against the UTEP Miners at Razorback Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Razorbacks defeated the Miners 48-13.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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Whatever the reason, the big boy league of football has taken a shining to one particular position on Bret Bielema‘s Arkansas coaching staff.

On Instagram Friday night, Jemal Singleton confirmed that he will be leaving Bielema’s football program.  While he didn’t specify it in his post, the running backs coach will be leaving for the same job with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

The 40-year-old Singleton had spent just one season coaching that same position with the Razorbacks.

A photo posted by coachsings (@coachsings) on Feb 5, 2016 at 5:23pm PST

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This marks the second straight year that Bielema will be forced to replace a running backs coach to the NFL.  Almost a year to the day, Joel Thomas left Fayetteville for the same position with the New Orleans Saints.

Thomas owed the university $50,000 as part of his buyout last year; Singleton will owe $100,000, per the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  If Singleton had waited until Feb. 16, that buyout figure would’ve been halved.

Unlike the post right before this one, there were signs of an impending on and around National Signing Day earlier this week.

He was notably absent from a signing day event at Walton Arena on Wednesday, and he did not attend another event to discuss the signing class Thursday in Little Rock, fueling speculation he was being courted by another program.

Singleton’s job with the Colts will be the Air Force graduate’s first at the NFL level.

Nebraska ‘parts ways’ with DL coach Hank Hughes

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 5: Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Mike Riley points out a missed call during their game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Memorial Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Surprisingly, Mike Riley has a self-made hole on his Nebraska coaching staff.

In a move that wasn’t on most if any radars, Hank Hughes will not return in 2016 as NU’s defensive line coach, Riley revealed Friday.  No reason was given for the the departure of the assistant.

“I want to thank Hank for his hard work and contributions to our football program over the past year,” Riley said in a statement. “We continue to build our program with the pursuit of championships always at the forefront of everything we do, and we will look for a great coach, teacher and recruiter to enhance our defense.”

Regardless of the reason or reasons — and the fact that Riley made certain to note that a replacement would be “a great coach, teacher and recruiter” points to at least a couple — it wasn’t an expected development. From the Lincoln Journal Star:

There was no sign of such a move Thursday night, with Hughes present at the Big Red Bash that celebrated the 2016 recruiting class.

Hughes had just completed his first season with the Cornhuskers. Additionally, it was his first season as an assistant on a Riley-led coaching staff.

As the Journal Star notes, Hughes was in the midst of a two-year deal that was to pay him $300,000 annually.