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

Florida’s statement on Jim McElwain’s death-threat claim is interesting, to say the least

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Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something.  Regardless, it’s something that bears watching.

Losers of two in a row and off to a 3-3 start to the season,  Florida has underperformed and underwhelmed to say the least.  So much so, in fact, that head coach Jim McElwain indicated Monday that he, his family, his coaching staff and players have been subjected to death threats by unknown individuals.

The head coach went into no detail publicly regarding the nature of the threats.  Apparently, it was the same privately when discussing the situation with his employer.

OK then.

Again, it could be in the same neighborhood as naked shark humping — nothing. Bears watching, though, as one very outspoken member of the Florida media is very much already doing publicly about a situation that was apparently reported to the media before it was reported to the police or even the university.

LOOK: Arizona State to wear Pat Tillman-themed uniforms

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Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.

The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.

Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.

Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

Jim McElwain says family, players have received death threats over 3-3 start

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Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.

How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.

“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”

In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.