What would a four-team playoff look like this year?

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As you’ve no doubt seen by now, all five BCS games have been filled. There was no drama when it came to selecting the championship game between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama, but Northern Illinois crashing the BCS at-large party set off more than a few complaints.

Two years from now the college football world will finally rid itself of the preposterous postseason selection process code-named “BCS” and will be replaced with a slightly less preposterous selection process code named “playoff.” Or, BCS 2.0 for the more cynical bunch out there.

But who wants to wait for that? Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated put together a mock selection committee of university admins to determine, on a simplified basis comparatively, what a four-team playoff would look like following the 2012 football season. As you can imagine, it was no easy task. UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood even said “The thing that jumps out at me is that there are just four teams, it’s not enough of a sample. I was not a proponent of going larger than four, and this changed my mind totally.”

With those daunting words in mind, we here at CFT have decided to form our own two-member mock selection committee and choose four teams to compete for our inaugural Kercheval-Taylor Coaches’ Trophy.

(For those wondering, it’s a bowling trophy with a tennis ball attached to the top. Still, very prestigious.) 

First thing’s first: Notre Dame and Alabama are in. There’s no discussion about that. Those two have without a doubt earned the right to compete for a championship. But which teams fill the other two spots? That’s a bit cloudier. We’ve selected five that we feel should at least be in consideration and stated what we feel helps or hurts their cause.

So check out our picks and let us know what you think below. Also, remember that we deliberately left certain teams out because we hate them. You know, the ones we’re biased against. Yeah, those teams.

WHO’S IN:

Alabama
Believe it or not, there is good football outside of the SEC. You just don’t hear about it since the SEC has won six straight BCS championships and hacks like us won’t stop shoving that little factoid down y’all’s throats. Anyway, the Tide finished the season 12-1 with a dramatic win in the SEC championship game over Georgia. Other than that, the Tide’s only real sensational victory was against LSU. Michigan and Mississippi State turned out to be farces and Nick Saban’s team was upset at home by Texas A&M. Still, Alabama has two wins over current top-10 teams. That’s more than good enough to put them in a four-team playoff without complaints.

Notre Dame
Like the Irish or hate ‘em, Notre Dame has earned its right to be in the BCS championship game. There’s really no debate here, at least not as it pertains to Notre Dame being worthy of one of four spots. Go undefeated in any conference – or, Independent, as this case would have it – and a team should have a shot to compete for the whole enchilada.

WHO NEEDS THE SELECTION COMMITTEE’S HELP:

Florida
This would be the most difficult selection by far even though Florida has the best résumé in college football. The Gators stand against everything expanding the championship field was supposed to correct (or, at least help correct). Will Muschamp’s team didn’t win its own division, let alone its own conference, nor did it win the head-to-head matchup with Georgia. But Florida does have wins over Florida State, LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M. All are 10-win teams.

When someone says the regular season needs to matter, it can be viewed two ways. On one hand, that argument should favor the Bulldogs for the reasons mentioned above even though the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party turned into the World’s Largest Turnover Festival. On the other hand, if we’re talking about what a team did during the season, and not what it didn’t do, then it’s tough not to name Florida one of the four best teams in the country. No, it hasn’t always looked good for the Gators, but if the so-called “eye test” was the overriding consideration, Oregon would be a lock.

Georgia
The other side of the cocktail glass. What’s a Bulldog have to do to get a little respect, anyway? Georgia has the head-to-head against Florida and came thisclose to winning the SEC. Unfortunately, an ill-fated pitch and catch may be the difference between a shot at a national title and being left to wonder what could have been.

There’s no doubt Georgia’s a good team, but are they a final four team? Ask yourself this: do final four teams get beat 35-7 by South Carolina? If head-to-head battles mattered as much as Georgia might argue, what would be the cost of a loss like that one? Kansas State faces a similar situation with its loss to Baylor, which you’ll read below. Losses happen, but blowouts? The only way UGA gets the benefit here is that it happened early enough in the season that the Bulldogs could point to how well they’ve played since. Like Alabama though, Georgia’s overall schedule is so-so. Of its seven conference wins, only two came against opponents with winning records.

Kansas State
If there’s one thing holding the Wildcats back from being a lock for a four-playoff, it’s Baylor. It’s tough to remain perfect every single week. Individuals, teams have off days. It happens. So my general rule is to penalize teams less for losing and reward them more for winning, but it’s impossible to ignore the whipping K-State took in Waco at the hands of a team that didn’t even have a .500 record at the time. Granted, that started a three-game winning streak for the now-bowl eligible Bears, but the Wildcats were outmatched – dominated up front, really — by statistically one of the worst defenses in the country (123rd in yards per game; 122nd in passing yards; 117 in points per game).

K-State’s best win came on the road against Oklahoma in late September, but the rest of KSU’s wins are a bit deceiving. The Wildcats played four AP top-25 teams this year, but only two (Oklahoma and Texas) actually finished in the AP top 25. The reason? Tremendous parity in the league. Half of the Big 12 finished with a 7-5 overall record and a 4-5 conference record this year. Still, there are nine bowl-eligible teams from the Big 12 this season with a round-robin schedule.

Oregon
The Ducks are in a similar boat (so to speak) as Florida. Oregon did not win its division nor did it win its head-to-head game with Stanford. Oregon’s schedule is a bit like Kansas State’s too in that it played five ranked teams this year, but only two – Stanford and Oregon State – ended the season ranked by the AP. Prior to Oregon winning the Civil War last week, its best “W” was against a USC team that was on the verge of a late-season slide.

What the Ducks need from a selection committee is faith in how they look. Oregon is flashy and scores a lot in a hurry. The general curiosity about Chip Kelly’s team is whether it could score like that against a defense from Florida or Notre Dame. However, Oregon couldn’t do much at all against the Cardinal, statistically one of the best run defenses in college football. The Ducks could make an argument that loss was a fluke – it wasn’t – but it may have answered that curiosity.

Stanford
Stanford might be the hottest team in college football with seven straight wins. Not only that, the Cardinal had three consecutive wins over top 25 teams (four if you count UCLA twice; once in the regular season and once in the Pac-12 championship) to end the season, so David Shaw’s group is playing well at the right time too. That win over Oregon in Eugene is one of the best of the year.

But Stanford’s body of work isn’t spotless. An early-season upset over USC gives the Cardinal two wins against top-five teams, but the Trojans have fallen hard in the past month. Still, USC was highly-regarded at the time. The following week, however, Stanford fell flat on its face and was upset by a Washington team that finished 7-5. Overall, the Cardinal has most of what a selection committee would look for: a conference championship and a handful of quality wins.

SELECTIONS

Ben’s four: Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Stanford

John’s four: Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Stanford

Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis potentially out for spring

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Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was optimistic about wide receiver Kyle Davis returning to the team at some point this spring, but the tune has changed regarding his future. Malzahn is now saying Davis may be out for the remainder of Auburn’s spring practices due to personal reasons.

“Kyle Davis is still taking care of some personal business,” Malzahn said, according to SEC Country. “I’m not for sure if he’s going to be back before the end of the spring. He will be back for the fall, just taking a little bit longer than we initially thought.”

It was just a few weeks ago Malzahn said Davis was going to be out for the start of spring practices, which are now close to half over. For now, the plan is simply to have him return over the summer in preparation for the fall.

In the meantime, Malzahn confirmed John Franklin III is working primarily as a wide receiver, which had previously been suspected to be the case.

Penn State announces three captains for 2017 season

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With Penn State just about to get started with spring football practices, head coach James Franklin wasted no time in naming his captains for the 2017 season. Quarterback Trace McSorley, linebacker Jason Cabinda, and safety Nick Scott have been voted captains by their peers on the team.

“These three young men have been leaders in our program, on and off the field,” Franklin said in a released statement. “They live our four core values and act with the program’s best interest in mind. Our team is in good hands with these guys!”

McSorley took over the offense as Penn State’s starting quarterback in 2016. A bit of a mystery to most entering the season after being the backup to Christian Hackenberg, McSorley ended his 2016 season with a Big Ten-leading 3,614 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes with eight interceptions and played a key role in guiding Penn State to a late run to a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. He enters the 2017 season as one of the top quarterbacks returning to the Big Ten, along with Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett.

Cabinda, an All-Big Ten third team player in 2016, was Penn State’s third-leading tackler last season with 81 tackles. He accumulated that many tackles despite missing five games due to injury. He is slated to be the leader in the middle of the Penn State defense with a starting role already locked down and will look to help guide some younger linebackers stepping into key roles in the defense this upcoming season, such as Manny Bowen and Koa Farmer.

Scott has been a special teams leader for Penn State and is expected to continue to lead the special teams effort once again this season.

New Arkansas house bill will allow some concealed guns at football games

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill regarding a person’s ability to carry a concealed handgun into various buildings at a public university or college into state law. However, House Bill 1249 will not allow all legal gun owners to carry a gun to a football game in the state of Arkansas.

Football games will be considered a “sensitive area,” which require enhanced training in order to be allowed to carry a gun into a football stadium. The law supposedly trumps any provisions already in place to prevent guns from being allowed on the premises.

“The enhanced level of training is very important, and I am convinced the public will be more safe,” Governor Hutchinson said. “This bill, in my view, reflects the view of the general assembly.”

The bill has received praise from Arkansas Republican state representative Charlie Collins and the NRA.

While the bill has now become an act in the state, it will not go into effect until January 2018, so guns will still not be allowed in football games where Arkansas, Arkansas State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, or Central Arkansas during the 2017 season.

The news of the new Arkansas state law comes on the same day the SEC has just unveiled a new clear bag policy for football games in the 2017 season. How the SEC handles this latest state law within its footprint remains to be seen (as well as the Sun Belt Conference). The bigger question will be where the SEC stands on this law considered the law is designed to overrule any stadium policies. The way the law is written, the SEC may not be able to do much to stand in the way, but the conference has those clear bag policies hammered down, rest assured.

Kentucky hands Mark Stoops a two-year contract extension

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After guiding Kentucky through its best season in nearly a decade, Mark Stoops has been rewarded.

Kentucky announced Wednesday afternoon that Stoops’ contract has been extended by two years.  The head coach’s previous deal had been set to run through June 30, 2020; the extension pushes that date out to June 30, 2020.

Stoops will earn $3.5 million in 2017, with the new contract calling for annual $250,000 raises.  In the last year of the contract extension, and barring any additional tweaking, Stoops could earn $4.75 million.

Additionally, if the Wildcats win at least seven games but no more than nine in a season, the contract automatically extends by one year.  If the team wins 10-plus games, it extends by two years. “Stoops will continue to receive $250,000 for each win beginning with the seventh win of each season and $50,000 per semester in which the team grade-point average is 2.75 or higher,” the release stated.

Participation in an SEC-affiliated bowl will net Stoops a $100,000 bonus, provided the Wildcats win at least six games that season.  There’s also a $50,000 bonus for earning a spot in a non-SEC bowl game, with the same six-win threshold.  Last season, UK qualified for a bowl game for the first time under Stoops and the first time under anyone since 2010.

“The last four years have been a grind for Mark and his staff, but he has never wavered in his commitment to building Kentucky football into a consistent winner,” a statement from athletic director Mitch Barnhart began. “While the work isn’t close to finished, we believe Mark is the coach to take us there. We are thankful to Mark and Chantel for all they have done to this point and we look forward to our program’s bright future under his leadership.”

The Wildcats’ 7-6 record last season was the program’s best since hitting the same mark in the last season under Rich Brooks in 2009.  The first three seasons with Stoops in control, UK posted a 12-24 mark.

In SEC play, they are just 8-24 since 2013, although they were 4-4 in conference play this past season.  The Wildcats have finished seventh (2013), sixth (2014), tied-fourth (2015) and tied-second (2016) in league play with Stoops as head coach.

“I want to thank Dr. (Eli) Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and the Board of Trustees for their continued support,” Stoops said. “When we came here, doing a rebuild in a challenging situation, I said that full support from everyone involved was imperative and we have always received that. We needed great commitment, we’ve had great commitment and we’re continuing to get great commitment.”

If Stoops is fired by UK, he’s entitled to receive 75 percent of the remaining guaranteed compensation on the contract.  If Stoops leaves of his own accord, he’d owe the university $1 million regardless of how many years are left on the deal.