Jumping for joy

It’s official: presidents approve four-team playoff

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Finally, common sense has prevailed in major college football.

While it’s far from what most fans and even some connected to the sport ultimately want, the BcS Presidential Oversight Committee has given its official stamp of approval for a four-team playoff.  The seeded event will begin following the 2014 regular season, with the current system being utilized this year and next to crown a champion.

The 12-year agreement signed off on by the presidents will consist of six bowl games rotating as hosts of the semifinals.  The championship game will be bid out separate from those two games.

In a joint statement, the committee acknowledged the “controversial” nature of the soon-to-be previous system while seeking to “build an even better college football season” — and possibly pulling a muscle or two congratulating themselves for taking the sensible path for once.

“We recognize that the BCS has been controversial in some years, but we also believe it has turned college football from a regional sport into a wonderfully popular national sport, much to the benefit of our alumni, student-athletes and fans,” the twelve members of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee said in a joint statement.  “We now seek to build an even better college football season by creating a four-team playoff to crown the national champion, while protecting the regular season and the bowl experience.

“We’re delighted to support this format and congratulate the group of conference commissioners who have done so much for college football and who worked so hard to make this happen.”

In its release on the playoff development, the presidents addressed several issues that have been resolved, although at least a couple remain open for discussion.

  • The championship game will be managed by the conferences and will not be branded as a bowl game.
  • Enhance college football by playing the semifinals New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.  The date of the first semifinal games will be either Wednesday, December 31, 2014, or Thursday, January 1, 2015.
  • Create “Championship Monday” by setting the date of the championship game on the first Monday in January that is six or more days after the final semi-final game is played.  As a result, in the first five years the championship game will be played on Monday, January 12, 2015; Monday, January 11, 2016; Monday, January 9, 2017; Monday, January 8, 2018; and Monday, January 7, 2019.
  • Eliminate the “automatic qualification” designation.

Still to be decided?  Access and revenue distribution, the latter of which will likely be a rather significant tussle if rumors of $500 million per season to be divvied out were to come to fruition.

Also to be decided is the makeup and size of a selection committee.  An “agreement in principle” has been reached on a committee, although, as is ofttimes the case in a situation such as this, the devil will be in the details when it comes to signing off on the committee approach.

As it relates to the committee, the release notes that “[a]mong the factors the committee will value are win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and whether a team is a conference champion.”

Despite some questions that still linger, particularly as it relates to the size of the field, the sport feels like it’s gotten things just right on its first attempt.

“A four-team playoff doesn’t go too far; it goes just the right amount,” Virginia Tech president and committee member Charles Sterger said. “We are very pleased with this arrangement, even though some issues … remain to be finalized.”

While a name for the new playoff is one of those that has yet to be decided on, the group as a whole fall right in line with Sterger — this is a red-letter day for the game and a significant step forward for the sport.

“We are very pleased with this new arrangement,” the presidents said in the release.  “College football’s championship game is America’s second most watched sporting event and we’re proud to build on our successes as we grow the sport and hear the voices of everyone who loves college football.”

Report: Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel undergoes surgery, out as long as a month

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:  Sojourn Shelton #8 of the Wisconsin Badgers, Vince Biegel #47 of the Wisconsin Badgers, T.J. Edwards #53 of the Wisconsin Badgers react to a interception during the second half of a game against the USC Trojans in the National University Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Just in time for their toughest stretch of the season, No. 8 Wisconsin may be without one of the team’s most important defensive players.

Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel is set to miss the next several weeks after undergoing surgery to insert a screw in his cracked foot.

“He’s been playing on it for the last couple weeks, and it was bothering him a little bit,” Biegel’s father Rocky told ESPN. “He had X-rays last night and confirmed it was cracked. He either plays on it, and then if he breaks it, then he’s going to be out for eight weeks. Either way, he’s got to have surgery on it. So he can keep playing until it breaks or try to go through the season with it and try to fix it. At any time, he could break it all the way through. It was just a crack and they’re just putting a screw in it. It’s a very, very minor crack.”

No matter how minor it is, losing Biegel for as long as a month is a huge blow to a defense that has been among the best in the country this season. Wisconsin does have a bye week after traveling to No. 4 Michigan on Saturday but also have to play No. 2 Ohio State and division rivals Iowa and Nebraska to close out October.

Biegel has nine tackles on the year and a sack but is among the most experienced players on the team having played in 46 games at Wisconsin, including 32 starts. Redshirt freshman Zack Baun is expected to take his place.

If there is one bright spot for head coach Paul Chryst and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox however, it’s that the Badgers’ linebacking corp is one of the best in the country. Still, as good as Jack Cichy, T.J. Edwards and T.J. Watt have been this year, they’ll have to step up their games with an imposing schedule coming up.

Houston missing four starters for AAC matchup against UConn

SAN MARCOS, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Duke Catalon #2 of the Houston Cougars runs against Brandon McDowell #6 of the Texas State Bobcats at Bobcat Stadium on September 24, 2016 in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Houston is looking to avenge their only loss of the 2015 season on Thursday night against Connecticut but the Cougars will have to do so a little short-handed.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the team is down a whopping four starters and a key backup against the Huskies: starting linebackers Tyus Bowser (head injury) and Matthew Adams (coaches’ decision), running back Duke Catalon (head injury), cornerback Brandon Wilson (lower leg) plus backup tight end Alex Leslie (ankle injury).

Catalon has already missed a game this season and is arguably the biggest loss for the team as that will force them to rely on quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (who missed last year’s game) even more against UConn. The transfer from Texas is averaging 4.7 yards a carry on the year and had a big game against Oklahoma in the opener.

Coach Tom Herman and the sixth-ranked Cougars still should be able handle their business at home against a conference foe but the mounting injuries this early in the season are starting to get a little concerning if you’re a Houston fan.

Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett officially withdraws from school

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Blake Barnett #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws before the Advocare Classic against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Despite the wishes of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide depth chart officially became a little thinner on Thursday.

After nearly a day of speculation, Alabama announced that quarterback Blake Barnett is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide football team.

“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”

Barnett started the opener against USC and has thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the year. However the redshirt freshman lost the starting job to true freshman Jalen Hurts and has only played sparingly in the first month of the season.

Saban recently said he wanted Barnett to remain with the program but it seems pretty obvious that playing time would be limited as the team’s backup signal-caller and a transfer would be forthcoming. Now it appears the only question is where to for the former five-star recruit, who is a Southern California native and was recruited by nearly everybody coming out of high school.

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez wants changes to Big Ten scheduling

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Acting head coach Barry Alvarez of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on from the bench before the start of the Outback Bowl against the Auburn Tigers on January 1, 2015 during  at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Wisconsin has been one of the pleasant surprises to begin the 2016 season but a lot of folks are not counting on the Badgers to remain in the top 10 of the polls after one of the most brutal schedules in the month of October you can find.

Having already played (and beat) defending conference champion Michigan State last week, Wisconsin travels to No. 4 Michigan, has a bye week, then hosts No. 2 Ohio State. They’re not done after that though, traveling to Iowa and then hosting No. 15 Nebraska in a stretch that should determine the West division champion before the month is up.

Longtime head coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez is well aware of what awaits his team and is no fan of such an unbalanced schedule.

“I remember when that schedule came out (in 2013) and I thought, ‘How the hell did you kick out something looking like that?” Alvarez told CBSSports.com. “I think you could take a look at the general strength of some programs and split them up. Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State have been good for a long time. Penn State Nittany Lions normally is in that group. Just make sure someone doesn’t get all three year in a year. That’s hard to do. That’s something the ADs are going to have to talk about some day.”

The Big Ten recently moved to a nine game conference slate which means an additional crossover game between divisions. Wisconsin has been the beneficiary of some weaker schedules in the past (Rutgers/Maryland in 2014/15) but seem to be the poster child this year for drawing all of the major powers from the East division.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany cautioned against reading too much into the Badgers’ schedule in 2016 and wants to see how the current format works out — but didn’t rule out any future changes.

“If I was an AD, I would probably be saying the same thing (as Alvarez),” Delany said. “If I was a football coach, I know I would.”

The conference has released the league schedule through 2019 but you can bet the next set of Big Ten games will likely break up some of the more historically successful programs a little more when it comes to division crossover games. Until then though, ‘On Wisconsin’ will have to be more than the school motto in October for Alvarez and his Badgers.