Selection committee still a giant question mark for College Football Playoff

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Coming out of playoff meetings this week, we now know what college football’s new postseason will be called — College Football Playoff, as it turns out — and where the major games will take place. That’s all well and good, but the biggest factor for CFP’s success over its 12-year agreement remains unclear:

Who is going to select the four teams to participate? And how?

CFP’s executive director, Bill Hancock, didn’t have much in the way of answers on Thursday. When asked how much time BCS commissioners spent discussing the selection committee this week, Hancock said “probably two or three hours.” As perspective, Sports Illustrated‘s Stewart Mandel remarks “This after spending nearly 20 hours in meeting rooms.”

Mandel goes on to write:

They don’t know what the size of the committee will be. The latest reported number was “14 to 20,” but that’s far from a guarantee. “I think there’s honest disagreement in the room,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said of the group’s talks.

They don’t know whether the committee members will be current administrators, ex-coaches and athletic directors, former media members or some combination of the above. They don’t know whether the group will be divided geographically, by conference affiliation or something else. They don’t know which sets of data the members will utilize, and they don’t know whether the committee will issue an official poll late in the season, a la the BCS standings.

Ten months into the playoff deal, it would appear that the same questions asked about the selection committee on Day 1 are still being asked today. “We have time on our side,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive has insisted. Be that as it may — the playoff doesn’t begin until after the 2014 season, giving decision-makers another year to figure out specifics — this isn’t exactly a textbook definition of progress on CFP’s most important, and undoubtedly controversial, area. Naming the postseason “College Football Playoff” may allow for future changes, but it means nothing if no one can decide who plays in it. And people won’t care which city hosts the championship game or which teams have “home field advantage” if they don’t understand how the four teams were selected.

Make no mistake: this is an enormously difficult task that demands time and attention to detail. As Mandel notes, there’s really no precedence for how to put together a selection committee outside of the one used to determine college basketball’s tournament field. Of course, the difference between choosing almost 40 at-large spots and four teams is beyond noticed. Still, a selection committee seems like the best option. If subjectivity in selecting teams is largely unavoidable, at least make it transparent. That was among the biggest, if not the biggest, gripe about the BCS.

Consequently, anyone serving on CFP’s selection committee is a brave soul who will no doubt be subject to an intense amount of criticism. Next to NCAA president, being a member of CFP’s selection committee might be the most thankless public job in college athletics. Some people in the game, like Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, have already admitted they want no part of it. At least the BCS didn’t have feelings, and if it did, we have bigger problems than who makes up a playoff field.

How the committee comes up with the four teams is equally important, yet just as unclear at the moment. Word out of Pasadena this week is that the committee would release its own poll a handful of times through the season and then make its decision following the end of the season. Would the top four teams in the final CFP poll be the four teams selected for the playoff? That seems like a logical conclusion, otherwise the rankings would seem arbitrary and pointless.

There’s a lot to figure out over the next year or so when it comes to a selection committee. Here’s hoping it goes better than the first 10 months.

Division II, Division III and NAIA title games set while FCS heads into semifinals

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Outside of a thrilling Army-Navy game and the Heisman ceremony, it was an empty Saturday at the highest level of college football.

But no so at the lower levels.

The divisional playoffs are cranked into high gear. Let’s take a brief look at where everything stands in each division.

FCS

Top-seeded and defending champion James Madison needed a last-second field goal to survive visiting Weber State, 31-28, on Friday night, while No. 5 seed South Dakota State routed New Hampshire, 55-14.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed and winner of five of the last six national titles North Dakota State walloped Wofford, 42-10 in Fargo. No. 6 seed Sam Houston State outlasted upstart Kennesaw State, 34-27, to send the Bearkats into their fifth semifinal game in the last seven years.

Semifinals: No. 5 South Dakota State at No. 1 James Madison — 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPNU; No. 6 Sam Houston State at No. 2 North Dakota State — 8 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN2.

Division II

No. 4 seed West Florida traveled north and upset top-seeded Indiana (Pa.), 27-17 on Saturday, to send the Argonauts into their first championship game. No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Commerce fended off the option attack of No. 3 Harding (Ark.), 31-17, putting the Lions in their first title game as well.

National championship: No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce vs. No. 4 West Florida — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Division III

In a similar dynamic to FCS, the defending champion is on a collision course with the traditional champion. In the first semifinal, defending champion Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) blanked Brockport (N.Y.), 24-0. The Crusaders will make their third trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, looking to win their second title.

In the other semifinal, Mount Union (Ohio) overcame a 21-10 deficit to beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 43-40. The Purple Raiders will play in their 20th Stagg Bowl — all of them coming since 1993, and 19 of them since ’96 — with a shot at their 13th national championship. However, Mount Union has won just — “just” — two national championships since 2009.

National championship: Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) vs. Mount Union (Ohio) — 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN at Salem Stadium in Salem Va.

NAIA

The NAIA was off this weekend, taking a break in between last week’s semifinals and Saturday’s national championship. Defending champion Saint Francis (Ind.) out-gunned previously-undefeated Morningside (Iowa) 43-36 in the first semifinal, while Reinhardt (Ga.) held off undefeated Southern Oregon, 37-34 in double overtime.

National championship: Saint Francis (Ind.) vs. Reinhardt (Ga.) — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3 at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Minnesota lands commitment from 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle

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P.J. Fleck is going to need a bigger boat.

Minnesota has landed a commitment from the largest recruit on record, as 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle Daniel Faalele has committed to the Gophers. Faalele made the announcement on his Twitter page on Saturday night.

A 3-star recruit, Faalele is rated as the No. 29 offensive tackle in the country, according to 247Sports. He listed 20 offers, including from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and LSU.

As the story goes, Faalele did not find football; football found him. He was discovered by a recruiter from Hawaii working out at a gym in his native Melbourne, Australia. He attended a Michigan satellite camp in Australia and played this season — his first season in pads — at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

In making the trip from the Land Down Under to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Faalele will be joined by a pair of IMG Academy teammates in offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap, Jr., and quarterback Zack Annexstad, who also committed to Minnesota on Saturday.

Those pledges now give Minnesota the 26th best recruiting class in the country and the sixth best in the Big Ten — but the No. 1 class in the Big Ten West — in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Minnesota’s class may not be the best in the country, but it’s among the biggest — both in size (the Gophers have 25 pledges thus far) and stature.

Texas A&M suspends DT Zaycoven Henderson amid felony gun charges

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Texas A&M defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson was suspended amid multiple felony charges on Saturday.

As detailed by Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News, witnesses say Henderson pointed a rifle at one person outside College Station’s Campus Village Apartments and threatened to kill two others and allegedly threw the gun out of a fleeing car as police arrived on the scene. The car was later tracked down by College Station officers, who discovered marijuana in the car.

He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, tampering with evidence and marijuana possession. The first charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in a prison. The second is a third-degree felony and the third is a misdemeanor.

He was booked into the Brazos County (Texas) jail at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Texas A&M has suspended Henderson indefinitely, which really only lasts one game as the senior from Longview, Texas, was set to close his Aggies career in the Belk Bowl against Wake Forest on Dec. 29 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Henderson made 35 tackles with five TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 12 starts this season. He was honored as a member of Texas A&M’s senior class at the annual team banquet earlier this weekend.

UCLA reportedly hires Paul Rhoads as defensive backs coach

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Chip Kelly has reportedly hired one of the most respected men in the business to his staff. According to a report from Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman, Paul Rhoads is on his way to Westwood to coach UCLA’s defensive backs.

Rhoads spent the past two seasons at Arkansas, the first as defensive backs coach and the second as defensive coordinator in addition to his duties with the secondary. He’s best known, of course, for his 7-year run as the head coach at Iowa State, where he took the Cyclones to three bowl games and created this viral moment before any of us knew what “going viral” went.

In addition to Arkansas, Rhoads also owns defensive experience at Auburn, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, Pacific, Ohio State and Utah State.

UCLA finished last season ranked 74th in pass efficiency defense, yielding a 57.1 percent completion rate for 7.3 yards per attempt with seven interceptions against 18 touchdowns.