Death to the BcS

Buh-bye BCS, hello College Football Playoff

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The death Friday night of one system used to determine the best team in college football officially — and thankfully — gave birth to a new one.

Florida State’s thrilling 34-31 win over Auburn closed the book on the 2013 season, bringing with it an end to the controversial 16-year run of the Bowl Championship Series.  In its place beginning with the 2014 season will be the aptly-named College Football Playoff, a system that’s been more than a decade in the making.

For those who are unaware or have simply forgotten, the CFP will feature four teams (for now) that will be selected by a committee consisting of former athletic directors, coaches, a media member — and an ex-Secretary of State.  The championship game will be bid out to different cities — Arlington in 2015 (following 2014 season), Glendale in 2016 and Tampa in 2017 have already been announced — while the two annual semifinal games will rotate among six bowls: the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A.

The Jan. 1, 2015, semifinals will be hosted by the Rose and Sugar Bowls.

While there’s certainly a sense of excitement swirling around the CFP, there’s also, as is ofttimes the case when change is involved, some trepidation.  Below are but a few of the pluses and minuses of the new system that will be used going forward to crown a national champion.

PLUS
Simply put, four teams vying for a national championship is better than just two.  Personally, I’ll feel much more comfortable arguing over which are the fourth-/fifth-best teams than the second-/third-best under the old system.  The more teams you have in the field, the less chance that a deserving team gets snubbed.  At least, in theory that’s the way it works.

MINUS
The fact there are “only” four teams is viewed by some as a negative.  Many people, myself included, thought the field should’ve been pushed to eight teams right out of the gate; still others thought 16 teams was the way to go.  The current contract calls for a four-team playoff through whole of the 12-year agreement.  My guess?  Roughly midway through that 12-year deal, the powers-that-be will realize how much money is being generated by the four-team playoff, will realize how much additional money could be stuffed into its coffers by adding more teams to the playoff, and will increase the field to eight around the year 2020.

PLUS
No current coaches being involved in picking the teams vying for the title of FBS champion may be the single greatest development wrought by the CFP.  One of the most unnecessary injustices of the BCS was including a poll whose voters consisted solely of coaches — or people in the football program voting for their coaches.  With the exception of bye weeks, a head coach’s sole focus on game day is on that day’s opponent. It’s utterly impossible for a head football coach at a major FBS program to be asked to make accurate judgments on which teams should be ranked where.  Add in the inherent biases for teams in their own conference, and the coaches’ poll was rife with inconsistencies and made a further mockery of the easily-mocked BCS.  Good riddance, coaches’ poll; you will not be missed.

MINUS
Out with the coaches, in with a narrower, just-as-human element.  Out of all the issues, pro and con, when it comes to the CFP, the selection committee is the one that will receive the most attention both positively and negatively because it’s the single-most important facet of the playoff, the linchpin for the entire process.  As humans will serve as the sole arbiters of who’s in and who’s out, you have to think that bias, on some level, will still be in play.  Yes, committee members will have the ability to recuse themselves when there’s a conflict of interest on a particular team, but the perception is that “Guy X” — or “Gal X” in the case of Condoleezza Rice — will attempt to impact the process based on previous or current relationships.  How the group will determine the four playoff participants is a work in progress and a source of worry for some.  It’s not all bad when it comes to the selection committee, though.  The select members have either a deep background in the game of football or an in-depth knowledge of it or both.  They will spend hour after hour after hour during the season debating and discussing and, ultimately, selecting the four teams that will qualify for the playoffs.  Best of all, the group won’t release its first set of “rankings” until the midseason; another way the coaches’ poll got it wrong was selecting a preseason Top 25 and adjusting from there.  Still, this selection committee will be among the most scrutinized group in the history of sports, especially during the first year or two as everyone feels their way through what could be an awkward — and controversial — beginning.

PLUS
For those who enjoy postseason college football, the CFP will be a boon.  Of course, you will have the semifinals serving as two games above the previous norm.  Additionally, and as fallout from the creation of the CFP, the five non-power conferences — the AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt — have created their own set of bowl games in addition to the 35 “traditional” bowls.  Essentially, you’ll have upwards of 40 or more postseason games beginning in 2014.  Whether that’s about 15-20 too many is another argument for another day.

MINUS
Pro-BCS folks would argue that a playoff will diminish the importance of what’s easily the most meaningful regular season in all of sports.  Forget the fact that, theoretically, more games during the regular season will become important because four spots will be available in this new format instead of a mere two.  Also forget the fact that there are now seven prime bowl games instead of the five BCS bowls for which to qualify; anti-playoff proponents espouse the fear that the first three months of the season will be watered down because of the CFP.  That won’t happen, but it’s certainly a scare tactic that’s used incessantly — and misguidedly — by the anti-playoff crowd.

Michigan’s Jake Butt named Mackey Award TE of the Year

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26:   Jake Butt #88 of the Michigan Wolverines is tackled by Marshon Lattimore #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes after catching a pass during the first half of their game at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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For the second time today, a Michigan Wolverine has taken home a major college football award.

This morning, the Paul Hornung Award announced Jabrill Peppers as its 2016 winner.  Not long after, the John Mackey Award named Peppers’ teammate Jake Butt as the 2016 recipient of its award, handed out annually to the nation’s top tight end.

Butt was a semifinalist for the 2015 award won by Arkansas’ Hunter Henry.  He’s the first Michigan player to win the Mackey.

“It’s a great honor first and foremost, especially for this team,” a statement from Butt began. “One thing Coach [Jim] Harbaugh says, ‘A rising tide raises all ships.’ So it’s great to win this award. I want to thank the guys in this group; this is our award, really it’s not a one-man award. I really thank everyone on this team, this coaching staff, my position coach Jay Harbaugh, my family and everyone that’s helped me achieve this great award. I’m really appreciative of that.”

Butt’s 3.6 receptions per game tied for 10th amongst tight ends.  he was one of three finalists for the award, and was joined by Alabama’s O.J. Howard and Clemson’s Jordan Leggett.

Christian McCaffrey confirms decision to move on to NFL

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal leaps over the line for a three yard gain and a first down against the Rice Owls in the first quarter of their NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Less than a day later, the reports have been confirmed.

In a move that was expected even before the start of the 2016 season, Christian McCaffrey announced Wednesday that, yes, he will be foregoing his remaining eligibility and making himself available for the 2017 NFL draft. In a lengthy statement, McCaffrey, whose father Ed played for the Denver Broncos, said that “[s]ince I was 6 years old, I’ve wanted to play in the NFL.”

“Now, it’s time to take that step,” the all-purpose Stanford running back said, adding, “There’s nothing more I can put on film.”

Below is McCaffrey’s statement, in its entirety:

After three incredible years at Stanford, I’ve decided the time is right to enter the NFL Draft.

Since I was 6 years old, I’ve wanted to play in the NFL. It’s been on every list of goals that I’ve ever written. Now, it’s time to take that step. There’s nothing more I can put on film.

I love Stanford more than anything. It will be extremely hard to leave. I feel humbled and inspired every day by the peers who surround me. I came to Stanford because I wanted to be challenged more than I ever have in my life. And that desire is shared by everyone who walks on this campus, by people who literally will change the world.

I plan on getting my communication degree in the future. I don’t know when, but I will finish. As soon as my career takes shape, I’ll figure out a plan. Stanford does a great job of encouraging former players to return and graduate. Many come back and walk the same halls after their football careers are over to earn their degrees. I want to be that example for the next generation.

I’ve talked to many in and out of the game and received advice from people whose opinions I greatly respect, including Toby Gerhart, who was here for a game this season. I took their feedback and came to a conclusion: I’m ready.

I talked to Coach Shaw about everything. He completely agreed. Really, it just made sense. The opportunity is right in front of me.

Simply put, this is the best time to live out my dream.

McCaffrey was runner-up in the 2015 Heisman Trophy voting.  While he didn’t have the all-around season he did a year ago — he set the FBS single-season all-purpose yardage record — he averaged more yards rushing per game and more yards per game in 2016.

A triple-threat, McCaffrey is expected to go in the first couple of rounds of the draft.

Matt Rhule takes out full-page newspaper ad thanking Temple fans, city of Philly

ANNAPOLIS, MD - DECEMBER 03: Head coach Matt Rhule of the Temple Owls reacts to a play in the second quarter against the Navy Midshipmen during the AAC Championship game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Thanks to the off-field events of the last few months, the Baylor football program specifically and the university in general could use some class these days.  Fortunately for all involved, it looks as if they’re new head coach is bringing some along with him.

Tuesday, Baylor announced that it had hired Matt Rhule away from Temple to become the permanent replacement to Art Briles.  The move, obviously, didn’t sit well with a sizable portion of the Temple fan base and left some emotions in the area exposed and raw.

In an attempt to assuage the anguish, Rhule went classy and took out a full-page ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer expressing gratitude for the time spent in the football program as well as the city of Philadelphia.

On behalf of Julie and our children, I want to express our sincere gratitude to Temple University, the City of Philadelphia and Owls fans throughout the world,” Rhule wrote. “The passion and pursuit of excellence at Temple allowed for our student-athletes to achieve success on the football field and to develop as young men off of the field. Temple and Philly will always be a part of us and we will be cheering on the Owls from afar.

At the lowest period for the Bears football program, they can certainly use a coach like Rhule. Especially if he can win with the same kind of class he did in Philly.

WMU’s Zach Terrell claims prestigious ‘Academic Heisman’ honor

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 02:  Zach Terrell #11 of the Western Michigan Broncos throws a first half pass while playing the Ohio Bobcats  during the MAC Championship on December 2, 2016 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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It’s been one helluva year for the football program in Kalamazoo.

Not only is Western Michigan undefeated at 13-0, the Broncos are on their way to a New Year’s Six bowl as the Group of Six’s representative. Now Tuesday, one of the biggest factors behind that success has been honored for his individual academic accomplishments.

At the 59th annual National Football Foundation Awards Dinner in New York City Tuesday night, the William V. Campbell Trophy was presented to WMU quarterback Zach Terrell. The Campbell Trophy, often referred to as the “Academic Heisman,” recognizes “an individual [who is] the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership. ”

Terrell is the first-ever Campbell Trophy winner from WMU.

“Zach and his fellow members of the 2016 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class represent more than just the standout athletic ability seen on the field,” said NFF chairman Archie Manning. “Their academic achievements and their contributions as leaders in the community send a powerful message about the young men who play our sport. They have taken full advantage of the educational opportunities created by college football, and they have created a compelling legacy for others to follow.”

Oklahoma’s Ty Darlington was the 2015 winner of the Campbell Trophy.

Terrell was one of 12 finalists for this year’s award. Below are those dozen players, with their GPAs and majors for good measure:

Chris Beaschler, LB, Dayton, 3.72, Mechanical Engineering
Tim Crawley, WR, San Jose State, 3.78, Business Management
DeVon Edwards, S, Duke, 3.35, Psychology
Brooks Ellis, LB, Arkansas, 3.82, Exercise Science
Carter Hanson, LB, St. John’s (Minn.), 4.00, Business Leadership
Taysom Hill, QB, BYU, 3.45, Finance
Ryan Janvion, S, Wake Forest, 3.53, Business Management
Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina, 3.56, Communications
Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan, 3.86, Actuarial Science
Karter Schult, DL, Northern Iowa, 3.87, Exercise Science
Tyler Sullivan, QB, Delta State (Miss.), 3.68, Biology
Zach Terrell, QB, Western Michigan, 3.66, Finance