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.

Clemson LB Ben Boulware trolls Desmond Howard with CFP trophy tattoo on his heel

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Linebacker Ben Boulware #10 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates with the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31 to win the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware is the quintessential “player you hate if he’s on the other team and player you love if he’s on your team.” Boulware constantly searches — often times outside the letter of the rule book — to look for an edge, and made no secret of his disdain for ESPN college football analyst Demsond Howard‘s disdain for Clemson’s linebackers.

Howard’s quote that started the one-sided feud, via The Clemson Insider:

“Defensively, when I watch Dalvin Cook, Florida State’s running back do … and he is an elite running back and there is no doubting that. He is a special talent. But they are supposed to have a special defense, too. I think their achilles heel may be their linebackers. They are good straight ahead, but as far as going east and west, sideline to sideline, Dalvin Cook turned the corner whenever he wanted to against that defense. I need to see the linebackers play a little better, too, from Clemson.”

That’s the kind of quote that the average viewer would consume and then never give a second thought, or, if you’re a Boulware, the kind you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.

With Clemson’s national championship now in the bag, Boulware showed off his new strategically-placed tattoo on Twitter, tagging Howard in the process.

(By the way, Cook did rush for 169 yards and four touchdowns that night, though Clemson won the game, 37-34.)

Knowing Boulware, he’ll spend the rest of his days barefoot, hopping with his inked foot splayed in the air, begging each and every passerby to ask him how he got that tattoo.

Arizona State hires former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 07:  Head coach Todd Graham of the Arizona State Sun Devils runs out with teammates before the Pac 12 Championship game against the Stanford Cardinal at Sun Devil Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona. The Carindal defeated the Sun Devils 38-14.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona State has hired former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson to coach its offensive line, the Sun Devils announced Tuesday.

Henson spent seven seasons on staff in Columbia, the last three as offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and/or tight ends coach. His offenses helped the Tigers win the 2013 and ’14 SEC East championships, but their yards per play ranks plummeted from 13th to 125th in yards per play over his three years at the helm. Missouri rebounded to rank 31st in the first year under new coordinator Josh Heupel.

He spent the 2016 season as an offensive analyst at Oklahoma State.

“Josh brings a tremendous background of winning championships at the highest levels,” says Graham.  “He was the offensive coordinator at Missouri and won back-to-back SEC East Championships.  He was the recruiting coordinator at LSU and was recognized as one of the nation’s top recruiters for his accomplishments there.  He helped LSU win the 2008 BCS National Championship.  Josh brings a wealth of knowledge of our system to our staff, in addition to being one of the finest recruiters in the country.  He will blend well with Chip Lindsey and Rob Likens.”

In addition to coaching the offensive line, Henson will serve as assistant head coach and run game coordinator. Former offensive line coach Chris Thomsen left for a position at TCU earlier this week.

“I am so happy to be at Arizona State University,” Henson said in a statement.  “One of the things that attracted me to ASU is that Coach Graham has a track record of winning wherever he’s been.  And he has a track record of developing young men.  Winning is important, but being involved in their lives is also what appeals to me.  I know a lot of members of the current staff and they have great things to say about the university and about the Phoenix area.  I came out here years ago as a guest of former ASU assistant football coach Johnny Barr and found it to be one of the best places in the country to live.  I am very excited to get started.”

Arizona State finished 112th in rushing, 119th in yards per carry and sacks allowed, and tied for 105th in tackles for loss allowed en route to a 5-7 campaign in 2016.

Oregon hires Mario Cristobal away from Alabama

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Assistant Head Coach/Tackles and Tight Ends/Recruiting Coordinator Mario Cristobal of the Alabama Crimson Tide cheers in the first half while taking on the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Oregon has hired Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal to serve as the Ducks’ co-offensive coordinator and run game coordinator, the Ducks announced Tuesday.

Though it was just announced today, this is a move that has been in the works for a while.

Cristobal enjoyed considerable success at Alabama, helping the Tide win the 2015 national title and finish as a runner-up in 2016. The Tide’s offensive line won the inaugural Joe Moore Award — given to the best offensive line unit — in 2015, and left tackle Cam Robinson took home the Outland Trophy this fall.

Cristobal is also known for his 6-year run as head coach at Florida International and is regarded as one of the best recruiters in college football.

The question, beyond if he can quote-unqoute fix a running game that ranked 27th this season after recording top-10 finishes seven of the past eight seasons, is if Cristobal can help Willie Taggart and a staff with a long track record of successfully recruiting Florida and either:

A) translate that success to the West Coast, where Oregon traditionally recruits, or

B) pull Sunshine State kids all the way across the country to Eugene.

Cristobal is listed as a co-offensive coordinator, which assumes Oregon will hire another co-offensive coordinator (and quarterbacks coach) to join Taggart’s staff.

Tuesday’s announcement did not indicate that Cristobal will call plays for the Ducks.

Frank Beamer headlines class of new CFP selection committee members

SHREVEPORT, LA - DECEMBER 26:  Head coach Frank Beamer of the Virginia Tech Hokies takes the field for pregame warmups prior to the Camping World Independence Bowl against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on December 26, 2015 in Shreveport, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Now three years into the new system, the College Football Playoff’s selection committee roster is beginning change.

Gone are Barry AlvarezCondoleezza Rice and Lloyd Carr (Carr had already stepped down for health reasons), and in are Ohio State AD Gene Smith, Robert Morris University president Dr. Chris Howard and former Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, which the CFP made official on Tuesday.

Additionally, Kirby Hocutt had his 2-year stay on the committee extended through the 2017 season, and Bobby Johnson will stay through 2018. Hocutt and Johnson stepped in when Oliver Luck stepped away after taking a job with the NCAA and Archie Manning stepped down due to health reasons. Hocutt will again serve as committee chairman in 2017.

With Rice leaving, the CFP will consist entirely of men for the first time in its history.

“Frank, Chris and Gene will each bring a wealth of knowledge to the selection committee,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. “All three played college football.  And they will continue the CFP tradition of committee members with high integrity and a passion for college football.

“We are also delighted that Kirby will return as chair. He did a tremendous job of leading and facilitating the committee’s deliberations, and he was also an excellent representative with the media and public.  Likewise, we are pleased that Bobby accepted our invitation to return. He is an excellent evaluator of teams and brings a valuable coach’s perspective.”

Smith has served as Ohio State’s AD for 12 years and served on a wealth of NCAA committees in that time, including a run on the Men’s Basketball Selection Committee.

“This is a tremendous honor and privilege to be appointed to this committee,” Smith said in a statement. “The sport of football has given so much to me and I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to be able to give back.”

Howard is a former Air Force player who was named the inaugural Campbell Trophy winner as the nation’s top scholar-athlete in 1990. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in politics from the University of Oxford and an M.B.A. from Harvard. Howard became the president of Hampden-Sydney College in 2009 — he was among the youngest college presidents in the country at the time — and took over at Robert Morris in 2015. Also a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Howard earned a Bronze Star for distinguished service in Afghanistan.

Beamer, of course, is a future College Football Hall of Fame coach who walked away from the game with 280 total victories and a 238-121-2 mark while serving as Virginia Tech’s head coach from 1987-2015. In addition to winning or sharing seven conference championships, seven top-10 finishes and an appearance in the 1999 BCS title game, Beamer shepherded the Hokies from a Division I-AA independent to the ACC.

“College football has been my life’s work, and I’m really humbled that I can still contribute to the game in this role,” Beamer said in a statement. “Hopefully the rest of the committee will be interested in my perspective. To join a group with so many great minds and such a diverse range of experience, I just want to pull my weight. The committee has an important role, and I’ll do everything asked of me to help rank the best teams in America for the right to compete for the national championship.”