Old Glory

Should one-loss SEC champ jump unbeaten Buckeyes?

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It began quickly, perhaps even before the first fan’s foot hit the Jordan-Hare turf en route to celebrating yet another miraculous finish. “One-loss Auburn should get the nod ahead of undefeated Ohio State for a BCS title game slot because, well, S-E-C!!!  S-E-C!!!”

One-loss Missouri was soon added to the mix, with AU athletic director Jay Jacobs ever-so-swiftly going on the offensive by playing what amounts to the “do you know who I am?” card.

“An SEC team can’t get left out of the (championship game) with one loss,” Jacobs told USA Today in the afterglow of the Tigers’ upset win of top-ranked Alabama. “We just beat the No. 1 team in the nation, and a team ahead of us struggled today, I understand,” the AD said, referring to Ohio State’s one-point win over hated rival Michigan on the road.

“And a one-loss SEC team that wins in Atlanta — if it’s us or Missouri — you can’t get left out of the BCS after you beat the No. 1 team. We have a better argument because we beat the No. 1 team. … It’s already happened in 2004, and it would be a disservice to the nation if we got left out.”

On ESPN‘s SportsCenter Sunday morning, he called such an outcome “un-American.”

Just a couple of things before moving on.

One, Auburn was unbeaten when it got left out in 2004, so that’s an apples-to-carrots argument.  Two, I’ve scoured the BCS rulebook and failed to find any stipulation which states a one-loss SEC champion is automatically guaranteed a spot in the title game.  And, three, it’s unclear if, as Jacobs was stating his case, there was a video monitor just over his shoulder showing a father having a catch with his son as the sun set on a freshly-plowed field, an American flag wafting in the background.

This, though, is what the whole of college football will be facing over the next six days: Ohio State, assuming it passes what will be a tough test against one-loss Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, of the plodding and downtrodden Big Ten vs. the SEC and its seven consecutive BCS titles.  The SEC office is already in full campaign mode.  So is a certain regional-radio-host-turned-ESPN-personality.

I’ve already made my opinion very clear on the matter.  Now it’s your turn to vent and vote your conscience/conference allegiance.  But, before we get to that, here are the respective résumés of Auburn, Missouri and Ohio State; I would’ve included Florida State but, when you’re waylaying opponents by an average score of 54-11, you’re recused from these proceedings based on a preponderance of the evidence that you’re hands down the best damn football team in the land.

Anyway, here’s a snapshot look at the résumés of each of the three teams, which includes this week’s conference championship opponents when applicable:

AU-Mizzou-OSU

Before getting to the poll, here are a few notes that didn’t fit neatly into the chart:

  • Florida State’s strength of schedule is ranked 85th by the NCAA and 66th by Sagarin.
  • Ohio State had Vanderbilt scheduled for a 2013 game before the Commodores backed out, with OSU replacing them with San Diego State.  Vandy is Sagarin’s 45th-ranked team, SDSU 96th.
  • Auburn’s lone loss was by 14 on the road to LSU.  Missouri’s lone loss was at home in double overtime against South Carolina.
  • Much like the SEC’s seven straight BCS titles, the fact that Ohio State has won 24 straight dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season is a non-factor.  This is about 2013 and 2013 alone.
  • Current conference championship lines, per Danny Sheridan: Ohio State -6 vs. Michigan State; Auburn -2.5 vs. Missouri; Florida State -29.5 vs. Duke.
  • As it constitutes one-third of the BCS rankings, the coaches’ poll released today was utilized for this endeavor.

Now, onto the our little poll…

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield takes home second straight Burlsworth Award

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 5: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the Akron Zips September 5, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Akron 41-3.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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For the second straight season, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has been named the recipient of the Burlsworth Award. Mayfield is now the first player to win the award two times.

The award is given to college football’s top player who began his career as a walk-on player. Mayfield was originally a walk-on player at Texas Tech before eventually transferring to Oklahoma, where he has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate and led the Sooners to two consecutive Big 12 championships and one appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Mayfield beat out Washington State quarterback Luke Falk and Northwestern wide receiver Austin Carr for the award. Mayfield will also have a chance to add one more Burlsworth Award to his name next season, as the Sooners passer has already said he will return to Oklahoma for the 2017 season.

The old BCS computers would have served you the same College Football Playoff lineup

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 03:  The official Bowl Championship Series logo is seen painted on the turf in the end zone as the Virginia Tech Hokies play against the Michigan Wolverines during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 3, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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If there is one common criticism of the College Football Playoff model it is that it is left up to humans to determine who should play for the national championship. Bias and allegiances can interfere with the decision-making, unless you believe there really is no bias within the board room when the committee gets together in Dallas every week. Some would prefer the playoff model use some sort of computer system, perhaps one similar to the makeup of the old BCS computer. Well, the BCS computers would have come to the same conclusion for the College Football Playoff if it was used.

The seeding may have been slightly different, with Ohio State staying ahead of Clemson, but the matchups would have been the same as this year’s playoff. Alabama would be the top seed and face Pac-12 champion Washington and Ohio State would have faced Clemson. The Buckeyes would have been the “home” team, although the 2-3 matchup really means nothing other than who gets to decide what uniform color to wear and which team calls heads or tails at the coin flip. Of course, under the old BCS model, there would be just two teams selected to play for the national championship, and that would paired the last two national champions against each other; Alabama and Ohio State. Clemson was the second-ranked team in the final College Football Playoff ranking, with Ohio state finishing third.

It is also worth recognizing the BCS computers would also have awarded Western Michigan the highest-ranking among Group of Five schools, thus sending them to the Cotton Bowl. Western Michigan also would have qualified for a spot in the BCS lineup with the No. 12 ranking in the computer model. Finishing in the top 12 qualified the champion from either Conference USA, the MAC, Mountain West Conference or the Sun Belt for an automatic BCS berth.

Forever a Tiger, LSU RB Leonard Fournette declares for NFL Draft

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 12:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers runs the ball during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 38-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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In one of the least surprising announcements from the world of college football, LSU running back Leonard Fournette has announced he will be heading to the NFL in 2017. Fournette announced with a statement on Twitter he will play in LSU’s bowl game matchup against Louisville and then begin preparing for the NFL.

In his statement, Fournette said he chose to make this decision now as a way to avoid potential distractions leading up to LSU’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl appearance.

Fournette has rushed for 843 yards and eight touchdowns this season in just seven games. Injuries got in the way of Fournette’s big hopes for the 2016 season after rushing for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns a year ago. Fournette was among the preseason Heisman Trophy favorites. Fournette was a First-Team All-SEC pick in 2015 and a consensus All-American. could the New Orleans native be drafted by the New Orleans Saints? That would be something.

He will now be largely considered one of the top potential draft picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, even though he will head to the NFL coming off some injury concerns and the stock for running backs at the next level has trended downward.

That said, there are going to be some fantastic running backs out there to draft next spring. Fournette joins a running back class that includes Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, and D'Onta Foreman.

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

EL PASO, TX - DECEMBER 30:  The Miami Hurricanes kick off to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sun Bowl on December 30, 2010 in El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.