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.

Akron earns second-ever spot in MAC championship game

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Akron came into Week 13 needing to either win or rely on someone else to lose.  In the end, the Zips decided to just go ahead and punch their own ticket to the Motor City, thank you very much.

Jumping out to a 24-7 halftime lead Tuesday night, that margin proved to be more than enough for Akron as they easily cruised past rival Kent State in a 24-14 win.  Kent actually outgained its hosts 246-191, but a fumble return for a touchdown with less than 20 seconds left in the second quarter essentially sealed the win for Akron.

Both Akron and Ohio entered this week tied atop the MAC East at 5-2.  However, the Zips beat the Bobcats in Week 12, meaning Akron is the first MAC team to claim a spot in the conference championship game at Detroit’s Ford Field next weekend.

This will mark the Zips’s second-ever title-game appearance, with the first coming in 2005.  That season, Akron beat Northern Illinois 31-30 for its first-ever conference championship.

Akron will play either NIU (6-1) or Toledo (6-1) in this year’s title game, although it’s trending heavily toward the Rockets as they own the head-to-head with the Huskies.  So, the possibilities?

Toledo wins the West with either a win over Western Michigan OR an NIU loss. Northern Illinois needs to beat Central Michigan AND have Toledo lose to WMU at home to win the division.

Report: Florida appears ready to move on from Chip Kelly pursuit if deal isn’t consummated soon

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Florida’s search for a new head coach could very shortly be ready to take another twist.

Despite a certain former Head Ball Coach saying UF’s new head coach would be a current one, speculation on Jim McElwain‘s replacement has seemingly centered on Chip Kelly over the last few days. In fact, a group of UF officials headed by athletic director Scott Stricklin and president Kent Fuchs visited with Kelly in New Hampshire over the weekend to discuss the job.

While it walks, talks and smells like the university has targeted Kelly as its top choice, it appears they want an answer, one way or the other, from the former Oregon head coach sooner rather than later. From Yahoo! SportsPat Forde:

But with other potential candidates becoming available for discussion this weekend, Florida officials appear to be ready to move on shortly after Thanksgiving if a deal has not been struck with Kelly.

Potentially mucking up the works in Gainesville is UCLA, which fired Jim Mora Sunday and is also said to be targeting Kelly as a replacement.  In fact, it’s being reported that the Bruins’ search contingent has already met with Kelly.

UCF’s Scott Frost, who is believed to be Nebraska’s top choice when/when it moves on from Mike Riley, and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen are thought to be likely targets should either Kelly snub the Gators or they move on.

One very likely reason for UF’s reported urgency for a decision from Kelly is the revamped recruiting calendar. This year marks the first time that there’s an early signing period in football, with Class of 2018 recruits given a 72-hour window from Dec. 20-22 to sign their National Letters of Intent.

The sooner UF can wrap up its search, the sooner its new coach and his staff can try to hold together some semblance of a first recruiting class with the program – especially with two SEC programs, Tennessee and Ole Miss, already looking for a head coach while a couple of others (Arkansas, Texas A&M) could be on the hunt as early as this coming weekend as well.

Miami jumps Clemson, Wisconsin remains No. 5 in latest CFP rankings

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The third-to-last edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, and the only changes in the top 12 came at spot No. 2, where Miami jumped Clemson ahead of the pair’s ACC title clash on Dec. 2.

USC remained the highest-ranked Pac-12 team at No. 11, dimming any hopes the Pac-12 could back-door its way into the top four should chaos reign elsewhere. The Trojans were one spot ahead of TCU and two spots ahead of the Pac-12’s second-highest ranked team in Washington State. Central Florida again led all Group of 5 teams at No. 15.

Virginia Tech re-joined the rankings at No. 25, one spot behind the debut rankings for South Carolina.

The top 25:

1. Alabama
2. Miami
3. Clemson
4. Oklahoma
5. Wisconsin
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Notre Dame
9. Ohio State
10. Penn State
11. USC
12. TCU
13. Washington State
14. Mississippi State
15. Central Florida
16. Michigan State
17. Washington
18. LSU
19. Oklahoma State
20. Memphis
21. Stanford
22. Northwestern
23. Boise State
24. South Carolina
25. Virginia Tech

Report: LSU victory would not save Kevin Sumlin’s job

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Kevin Sumlin said Tuesday afternoon he expects to be Texas A&M’s head coach in 2018. A report Tuesday night says otherwise.

Sumlin will be fired in the day or days following Saturday’s game with No. 20 LSU, win or lose, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle. The Aggies are 0-5 against LSU under Sumlin and double-digit underdogs for Saturday’s game in Baton Rouge. The Chronicle‘s report is not the first to proclaim Sumlin’s future firing, but it is the most definitive.

Sumlin is 7-4 (4-3 SEC) this season and 51-25 overall, a mark that ranks in the top-third of the SEC since joining the league in 2012 — but Sumlin is not paid to deliver top-third results. His program failed to live up to the standard set in that debut campaign, with an 11-2 mark, a win in Tuscaloosa, a Cotton Bowl blowout of Oklahoma and a Heisman Trophy for Johnny Manziel.

The Chronicle reported that Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher will be A&M’s top target to replace Sumlin.