Winners & losers: post-playoff edition

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And, yes, hours after the official announcement, it still feels good — perhaps even drop-dead sexy — to use the words “playoff” and “major college football” in the same sentence without it veering toward an Onion-worthy post.

Of course, there are still issues that need hashed out.  Yes, even this four-team baby step is being met with scorn by the more-more-more crowd failing to realize that, even in its infancy, this just-birthed format is already infinitesimally better than what the BcS has wrought over the past decade-plus.

Even with a selection committee involved in the process… even with a way-too-limited field… even with every single argument against the specific playoff wheels that officially hit the pavement Tuesday, the game will be better off because of this first step.  Those who thought the powerbrokers would cannonball right into the deep end of an eight- or 16-team playoff pool?  They’ll eventually get over themselves and realize what a monumental day this was for college football and its fans.

Speaking of which, there were certainly some (a lot of) winners with the announcement of a four-team seeded playoff beginning after the 2014 regular season, and (not as many) losers stemming from the same glorious event.  So, well, here are but a few of them…

WINNERS

— THE FANS
When it came to a playoff poll on this site, you could count on anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of our readers being in favor of a change to the current system used to determine a “national champion.”  Other polls would range from 65-70 percent to, well, well above that mark.  The fans have clamored for it for years and, while it may not be what the majority wants, it’s certainly a day when the sport gave the fans that support it exactly what was wanted, regardless of the motive$ behind it.  Which, of course, leads us to…

— EVERY FBS* FOOTBALL PROGRAM
Will a four-team playoff likely exclude the non-power conferences to a greater degree than it had in the previous system?  It very well could.  With $500 million annually at stake — nearly triple of what was paid out under the old system — the members of those non-power conferences, diluted already thanks in large part to expansion wrought by the BcS, will be able to wash away their collective exclusion angst with crisp $100 bills.  As for the power conferences?  The rich merely got richer today — and separated themselves further from the have-nots.

— MIKE SLIVE & JOHN SWOFFORD
The commissioners of the SEC and ACC, respectively, were at the forefront of a push several years ago to implement some type of playoff, only to be rebuffed by the Jim Delanys of the college football world.  Even as they may not have gotten exactly what they wanted this go ’round, each of those two men and their staunch pro-playoff stances were vindicated.  And the sport is all the better for their collective and unwavering approaches to the offseason.

— THE BOWLS
We touched on this earlier but it bears repeating: the fact that, after there had been some level of discussion of hosting pre-title games at on-campus or neutral-site venues, the semifinals will be hosted by existing bowls on a rotating basis is a huge win for the Football Bowl Association.  The inclusion of six upper-echelon bowls in the playoff process is significant for the FBA, although raising the bar on bowl eligibility could be the death knell for postseason games that almost no one will miss.

— THE ACC
There are currently four “power conferences” in major college football: the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.  With just four precious playoff spots available over each of the next 12 years, that would seem to be a rough deal for a conference like the ACC, especially based on how this exact playoff format would’ve played out if it were in place over the past decade.  This conference, though, has four things in its favor when it comes to the future format: Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech, football-rich traditions which, while in “down cycles” at the moment nationally, give the ACC more than enough opportunity for its playoff water to find its level.

— DAN WETZEL & PLAYOFF PAC
Enough.  Said.  Other than there’s a fairly good chance that the sport wouldn’t be where it’s at right now, playoff-wise, without those two and the pressure they, and by extension the fans, exerted on the process.

LOSERS

— THE BIG EAST
Given the whole television contract negotiating thing, I should probably tread carefully here, but there’s really no gray area when it comes to this.  The Big East signed off on a deal that will likely preclude that conference, given the recent defections generally and specifically if Boise State reneges on its expected future move, from being a major or even minor playoff player for the foreseeable future.  If the Broncos follow through on their move, or if another Louisville circa 2006 is in the offing, the Big East may find a spot at a corner table, even if it’s just occasionally.  Other than that?  They should’ve been the loudest voices at the table for an expanded playoff field.  Or merely be satisfied with cashing that lucrative postseason check.

— HARVEY PERLMAN
The Nebraska chancellor and staunch anti-playoff intellectual (pictured) would’ve been fine with the status quo.  Or a Plus-One abomination.  He got neither.  Life is good.

— THE ANTI-PLAYOFF “CROWD”
Their stance is not one I could even begin to fathom let alone start to wrap my head around, yet the presence of that sentiment kept the sport from taking the righteous path for years or even decades.  The fact that some of the staunchest anti-playoff proponents were part of the group that actually implemented a playoff induces mild chuckling… and hope that those very people are actually beginning to “get it” when it comes to an issue that’s vitally important for the future of the game.

(*with the official death to the BcS, I’ve decided to officially retire the “Div. 1-A (FBS)” designation.  It’s the least I could do.)

Danny Etling holds off true freshman, named LSU’s starting QB

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Myles Brennan is, more than likely, the future at the quarterback position for LSU.  In the here and now, however, the precocious true freshman will have to bide his time — at least for now.

After a significant, and maybe unexpected, push from the true freshman Brennan, Danny Etling Tuesday was officially named as the Tigers’ starting quarterback in a battle that Ed Orgeron described as “very close.”  Etling, a transfer from Purdue, came into the competition as the incumbent, starting the last 10 games of the 2016 season after taking over the job from Brandon Harris.

“We believe in Danny. We hope he has a great year,” the head coach said according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

In his first season at LSU, Etling completed 160-of-269 passes (59.5%) for 2,123 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.  In his 10 starts, the Tigers went 7-3 in a season that saw them finish 8-4.

Brennan was a four-star 2017 signee, rated as the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the country.

Etling’s first start in his second season with the team will come Sept. 2 against BYU in the neutral-site opener.

UTSA-Texas State series rebranded H-E-B I-35 Showdown

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For those not familiar with HEB Grocery Company, it’s a grocery giant founded in Kerrville, Texas, in 1905 by a man named Florence Butt. H-E-B now owns nearly 400 stores stretching across south and central Texas and central Mexico. H-E-B essentially owns the San Antonio area and leases back to its million-plus residents, so it makes sense that when UTSA and Texas State wanted to brand their rivalry, they turned to H-E-B.

Starting this season, the UTSA-Texas State series will now be known as the H-E-B I-35 Showdown

Cue the AD boilerplate!

“We’re thrilled that H-E-B has become the title sponsor for the I-35 rivalry football games between UTSA and Texas State,” UTSA Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Lynn Hickey said. “No matter the sport, both fan bases always show up in strong support when the Roadrunners and the Bobcats get together on the playing fields. This newly-branded name for the football games this season and next will only add to the rich history between the two schools.”
 
“It is great to have H-E-B supporting the I-35 football series between Texas State and UTSA,” Texas State Director of Athletics Larry Teis said. “H-E-B has a great relationship with the state of Texas and both universities. We have continued to play UTSA in other sports and the rivalry is strong for our student-athletes and fans.”

The two schools are natural gridiron rivals. They sit just 50 miles apart — connected by Interstate 35, of course — and compete for athletes and regular students alike. The Roadrunners and Bobcats have been Olympics sports rivals for years, primarily as members of the Southland Conference. Each football program is (obviously) in FBS now and have met only once, a 38-31 UTSA win in 2012, since the Roadrunners’ program launched in 2011.

The series will resume Sept. 23 in San Marcos, with Texas State making a return visit to San Antonio on Sept. 22, 2018.

Hugh Freeze reportedly made at least a dozen calls to escort services as Ole Miss coach

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Former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze dialed “at least 12” numbers associated with escort services through online advertisements, according to a review of open records obtained by ESPN.com. The calls took place over a 33-month period, stretching from April 2014 through January 2017, and typically lasted two minutes or less.

Those calls appear to be what Ole Miss chancellor Jeffrey Vitter referenced as “a pattern of personal misconduct” on the night he resigned. The calls are the second phone related-issue connected to Freeze’s dismissal. He also made at least 200 calls to a booster that is under NCAA investigation.

There are two puzzling aspects to Freeze’s calls to escort services: A) that he made the calls on a university-owned cell phone in the first place, and B) that Freeze did not redact the calls from the records request, since other private calls were removed from the public review of his 39,000 calls as the Rebels’ head coach.

“Any personal calls having no relation to UM business are not public records,” Ole Miss attorney Robert T. Jolly wrote in an email to ESPN. “Personal calls will be clearly marked and redacted from the documents released.”

Freeze went 39-25 in five seasons as the Ole Miss head coach, peaking with back-to-back wins over Alabama and a long-awaited Sugar Bowl victory to close the 2015 season but ending with a 5-7 mark and a self-imposed bowl ban for the 2017 season, which will be coached by interim Matt Luke. Ole Miss will sit before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions on Sept. 11, with Freeze’s character and strict adherence to NCAA recruiting rules a cornerstone of the school’s defense.

Reports: Oklahoma State RB Jeff Carr to transfer

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Jeff Carr is planning to transfer from Oklahoma State, according to a report from Pokes sidelines reporter Robert Allen. That report has since been confirmed by the Tulsa World and The Oklahoman. Carr has since been removed from Oklahoma State’s online roster.

A junior, Carr was Oklahoma State’s most experienced running back but was passed on the depth chart by sophomore Justice Hill. Hill ran the ball 206 times for 1,142 yards and six touchdowns a year ago, while Carr rushed 12 times for 83 yards and one score. His 6.92 yards per carry average led the team. Carr rushed 36 times for 142 yards and one score as a freshman in 2015. Carr also saw his touches as a kickoff returner (29 returns to three) and a receiver (11 catches to one) fall from 2015 to ’16.

After losing the Temple, Texas, native, Oklahoma State will have five running backs on scholarship — four freshmen and one sophomore, Hill.

Multiple outlets have reported Carr is headed to Texas A&M-Kingsville, a Division II school that will permit Carr to play immediately.