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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.

Is this the year? Army jumps out to two-score halftime lead over No. 25 Navy

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 10: Army cadets take the field before the start of the Army Black Knights and Navy Midshipman game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 10, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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There are few traditions in college football quite like the annual Army-Navy game and the pageantry was in full force once again on Saturday afternoon from Baltimore.

Army kicked off the scoring for the third season in a row in this rivalry game after recovering a Navy fumble and marching right down the field with a 14 play, 66 yard drive that culminated in a touchdown.

While the early score was notable, turnovers dominated first quarter play with three of the first four drives from the teams ending in a giveaway. The quarterbacks combined to complete just a single pass to their own team all half but completed three to the opposing defenses in the form of three ugly interceptions. Army’s Xavier Moss forced the first fumble of the season from Navy fullback Shawn White for the first quarter’s other turnover as well.

Army’s triple option looked to be the superior attack for most of the half, with the Black Knights picking up six of their seven third downs and converting the other on fourth down. Andy Davidson punched it into the end zone both times and finished with 15 carries for 50 yards.

There’s still a lot of football left to be played but the best Army team in nearly a decade certainly is looking primed to end Navy’s long winning streak in convincing fashion based on how the first half went.

Texas HS coaches reportedly favored Major Applewhite over Lane Kiffin at Houston

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Offensive Cooridator Major Applewhite of the Houston Cougars looks on during warm ups before the game against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles on September 5, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Texas high school coaches are a powerful lot. Tom Herman has one on his staff, Charlie Strong had one on his, and new Baylor head coach Matt Rhule‘s first hire in Waco was the president of the Texas high school coaches’ association.

Lone Star high school coaches’ power stretches even beyond simply getting on college staffs, however. They have the power to scuttle prospective coaching tenures before they happen.

That’s according to Houston board chairman/Cougars booster Tilman Fertitta. Speaking to KILT-AM in Houston on Friday night, Fertitta said high school coaches’ push for Major Applewhite is what put the Coogs’ offensive coordinator over the top of Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

“The Texas high school football coaches bombarded our athletic director (Hunter Yurachek) and said: We want our kids to play for Major Applewhite,” Fertitta said, via ESPN. “Here’s a guy that’s been on the big stage, he was the quarterback at the University of Texas, he has a great relationship with the coaches and high school football in Texas. Lane does not. That was an ‘X’ against Lane compared to Major.

“Continuity in the program, the kids, the recruits today playing wanted Major Applewhite. They let it be known. It was just one thing after another that had steamrolled to Major.”

Judging by Applewhite’s Twitter feed, it was hard to argue against that logic. The new Houston head coach tweeted support from two key Cougars recruits and a current Houston player who, incidentally, were rumored targets of Herman at Texas.

“I’ll be 100 percent honest with you. When this started, I thought that we needed to go out and get a name-brand coach, because, to me, it’s all about brands,” Fertitta said. “Nobody understands that better than me. And I wanted the University of Houston to stay relevant, OK? I think Les Miles is a fine coach and he’s going to be a great coach for somebody, and I think the same thing of Lane Kiffin. I was very impressed. But when I looked at the whole picture and totality, I truly think in my heart — and so did everybody else on the committee think — that Major Applewhite was the right fit.”

Pitt RB James Conner declares for NFL Draft

STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 17 : Running back James Conner #24 of the Pittsburgh Panthers is pursued by linebacker Devante Averette #40 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys September 17, 2016 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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James Conner is taking his inspirational story and frightening running back skills to the NFL.

The Pittsburgh running back made the announcement Saturday afternoon through his Twitter account.

The Panthers immediately released a statement blessing the move.

Conner burst on the scene as a freshman, leading the Panthers with 799 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. He exploded as a sophomore for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns before missing his junior season due to Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He returned to the field this fall with a body free of cancer and promptly returned to form, carrying a team-leading 208 times for 1,060 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Conner was named the winner of the Disney Spirit Award on Thursday night.

The Pitt running back will join a growing list of running back early entrants, including D'Onta ForemanLeonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey.

Cincinnati formally announces Luke Fickell as new head coach

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 15:  Head coach Luke Fickell of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches as his team takes on the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 17-7.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The worst-kept secret in college football is no longer a secret. Luke Fickell is Cincinnati’s new head coach.

The school made the announcement Saturday afternoon after word had begun trickling in the Buckeye State since last night.

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Fickell is a true son of Ohio State. Born in Columbus, he graduated from high school there, attended and met his wife at Ohio State, began his coaching career there and spent all but two seasons as a Buckeye — and those two seasons were at Akron.

Now he’ll move down state to a program that has placed Mark Dantonio at Michigan State, Brian Kelly at Notre Dame and Butch Jones at Tennessee.

The current occupier of the job Fickell surely wants announced his blessing of the move shortly after it went official.

As Tom Herman and Kirby Smart did before him, Fickell will remain with the Buckeyes through their College Football Playoff run.

“It’s with much pride and humility that I accept the awesome honor of becoming the head coach at the University of Cincinnati,” Fickell said in a statement. This city, this school and my family are all Ohio. It’s a tough blue-collar state with hard-working, blue-collar people that respect an honest and complete effort. That’s what they will get from me personally and what they should expect from this football program. This team belongs to this city and we will make you proud.”