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SEC unanimously supports top-four playoff model


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.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.