Harvey Perlman

Winners & losers: post-playoff edition


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…


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…

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.)

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.

Penn State fires offensive coordinator John Donovan

Penn State football practice, Sept 9, 2015

Penn State has fired offensive coordinator John Donovan, the program announced Sunday.

“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in the last five years,” head coach James Franklin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Donovan originally hooked up with Franklin when the two were at Maryland, then coordinated his offenses at Vanderbilt and later Penn State.

Despite playing with what many project to be a future first-round pick in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ranked 101st nationally in scoring, 108th in total offense and 80th in yards per play.

Penn State dropped its final three games of the regular season and averaged only 14.6 points in its five losses.

Purdue retains head coach Darrell Hazell, fires both coordinators

Markell Jones
AP Photo

It’s never a good thing when a head coach has to fire both of his coordinators on the same day. Of course, it’s never a good thing to be 6-30, either.

Both are realities at Purdue, as the Boilers announced Sunday head coach Darrell Hazell will return for a fourth season in 2016, but offensive coordinator John Shoop, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and defensive line coach Rubin Carter will not.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in a statement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

Purdue, 2-10 in 2015, ranked 115th nationally in yards per play and 112th in yards per play allowed.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

Associated Press

Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.